We’re enamored with this excerpt of Dark Lily by Jenna Ryan. Ghosts + mysterious backgrounds + cute kids with possible powers =a win in our book. We hope you enjoy!
New Orleans, 1993
“I have to do this, Gaby.” The beautiful woman, whose red hair framed pale, perfect features, stared into her daughter’s eyes. “Mama Madeleine says it’s the only way to keep you safe. Do you understand? Can you understand?”
But a child of three wasn’t interested in understanding anything except that her stuffed dog, Mojo, probably shouldn’t get wet. Hard to keep that from happening though, with rain falling in buckets from a sky blacker than the mashed-up beans and dirty rice she’d eaten last night.
“Mojo and me want to go home and watch a scary movie,” Gaby said firmly.
Her mother looked sad, but she smiled. “You can do that another time. Right now, I want you to think about the best adventure ever.”
“Haunted house.” Gaby giggled when thunder shook the train platform under her feet. “Wanna take a ride with a ghost.”
Her mother sighed. “I know. You’ve always loved ghosts. You’ve always seen ghosts. Sometimes real, sometimes not. That’s the problem.”
“Ghosts don’t scare me.” Gaby watched a freckle-faced boy walk past pulling the wrapper off an ice cream bar. “They just want someone to talk to.”
The hands clasping her arms tightened briefly. “That’s what Mama Madeleine says too. Now—” she pressed her lips together, kissed Gaby’s cheek and forehead and hugged her hard before pulling back, “—it’s time. Could be it’s past time. I pray it isn’t, but we’ll see. Remember this, Gabrielle. I love you. I’ll always love you. You’re going on a big adventure tonight.”
Gaby’s eyes brightened. “Mojo too?”
“Of course Mojo too.” Touching her lips to her daughter’s golden hair, she whispered, “You be good, you hear me? You do as you’re told, and you be good. Mama Madeleine says it’s all arranged. I don’t think your—Caleb will give us any trouble.” Her face went cold as stone. “I can’t imagine he’ll give us a second thought.”
Peering down the platform, Gaby wished she could have a Fat Boy ice cream bar like the freckle-faced boy. But maybe on the train, before she brushed her teeth, she could get something like it. “Are Mojo and me going far away?” she asked.
Her mother nodded. “Very far, baby.” She stood and took Gaby’s hand. Beside them, the waiting train sat sleek and silent, except for the puffs of steam that shot from underneath it. “There’s a lady on board. She’ll be taking care of you for a while. You call her Auntie Tallulah.”
“You do whatever she says, you hear me?”
Thunder and lightning clashed wildly around them. “Yes, ma’am.” Gaby glanced sideways. “Will there be ghosts on the train?”
They walked to the nearest car. “There will always be ghosts, Gabrielle, and you’ll probably always see them. But you’ll have to learn not to talk about them. Auntie Tallulah and another lady will help you with that. They’ll help with other things as well.” Tears shimmered in her mother’s eyes as she gave Gaby over to an older woman. One last kiss, and she stepped back.
The older woman had a painted red flower on her hand. Pretty. “Come with me, child,” she said. “We have a long journey ahead of us.”
Gaby cocked her head. “Where are we going?”
“Away from here.”
A cape with a hood hid her face, but she sounded kind, and Gaby thought maybe this woman would buy her that Fat Boy ice cream bar. “Okay.” She looked up into the high shadows between train cars. “Is he coming too?”
The old woman followed her gaze. “Is who coming, child?”
“That boy.” Gaby pointed. “The one with the wooden face.”
“Ah. You see a boy?”
“With a wooden face.” Gaby lowered her arm. “He’s gone now. He put his name in my head. He said he was called Billy, and he smiled at me. He’s not a ghost. Do you know him?”
The woman shook her head inside the hood of her cape. When she spoke, however, her words weren’t for Gaby, but for Gaby’s mother, still standing on the platform. “I think more things than we might wish will travel with us to our destination. We can only hope that the evil foreshadowed by Mama Madeleine will steer itself onto a different path.”
“We can hope.” Tears streamed from her mother’s eyes. “But I’ve never known Mama Madeleine to be wrong. Not ever.” She might have added something to that, but a brilliant streak of lightning forked through the blackened sky. Shaking her head instead, she moved back. And disappeared into the night.
A west coast native, Jenna Ryan grew up reading romances and writing mysteries. Over the years, she has worked in several different industries, including modeling, interior design and travel, however, writing has always been her passion – even if she didn’t go about it in the usual way.
She earned a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria in British Columbia and currently lives in a semi-rural setting fifteen minutes from the city.
She loves the mountains and the ocean, wicked thunderstorms and a good ghost story on a rainy night. She’s been twisting murder plots and blending them with strong romances since the 1980’s and has several awards to show for it, including the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, Romantic Times Certificate of Excellence, and Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. She hopes that means she is doing it right. Visit her on her website, drop by her Facebook page, her author Facebook page, her Amazon Author Page or find her on Twitter!