Myths & Magic

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Chapter 1


“Welcome to Blackbird Inn, Miss…” Sophia pushed her rain-soaked hair behind her ears and studied the tall man a moment before replying. He stared, probably at the frizz her red hair took on when wet. Either he hadn’t been expecting her, or he wasn’t used to guests at all. Being that this was a popular tourist inn, she assumed the former. With his good looks, he didn’t appear to be the desk clerk type, and he seemed really uncomfortable, picking at pages on the desk and fidgeting as he talked. A chill rolled through her and she stepped up to the small registration desk and stuck her hand out. “Sophia Yates. I’m here to help with the research.


Oh, and I have a reservation.” “Ah, yes.” He grasped her hand and squeezed, his gaze lingering on hers a moment. Lightning flashed outside, illuminating him in blue and searing his image in her mind. Tall, dark, and mysterious didn’t even begin to cover it. Handsome was too common a word. The man was divine, his features aquiline and his hair jet black. She licked her lips and pulled her hand from his, certain he’d felt her palms dampen. “And you?” She fidgeted with the handle of her wheeled suitcase, noting the trail of water she’d brought in with her. The storm hadn’t let up since her bumpy landing in Philly a few hours ago. Good thing the rental car had fog lights because the remote inn had been difficult to find, even after stopping for directions in the tiny town nearby. The man behind the desk wasn’t answering. He smiled, the sort of crooked smile a man might give you before he tied you up and… “Garren.” Thunder boomed outside, and the vibration traveled through the inn, rattling the foyer windows. “Garren Amsel. I’m the owner of the inn, but you probably know that by my name.” He paused. “And I’m the desk clerk, occasionally.” He pushed his hair out of his eyes. You’ve been reading too many scary stories. She shivered. Driving through a thunderstorm to the rocky inn on the side of a mountain in remote Pennsylvania didn’t help. The place looked like something straight out of a horror movie, with its stone façade and overgrown hedges. A movie where the girl dies. “Nice to meet you.” I think. “Likewise. I hope we can get this issue taken care of quickly.” He shuffled a stack of papers then set them aside. “But I can see you’re cold, and probably exhausted from travel. Let me show you to a room. If you want some hot tea, I can have it brought up to you.” She nodded. Cold and tired explained her nervousness.


That, and a day of traveling. Her unease had nothing to do with all the research she’d done about how Blackbird Inn was haunted, or about the disappearance of a young woman almost a hundred years ago. All stories to drive in business to the isolated inn, she was sure of it. She was here now on business, nothing more. Not to solve a mystery or be afraid of a ghost. It didn’t matter that Halloween was in two days. The only sign of decorating she’d seen was a pumpkin and haystack arrangement on the front lawn. The inn didn’t need anything added to be spooky. “Arturo Beck will be in tomorrow night.” She gazed around the small foyer, taking in the dark woodwork and high ceiling. “I hope we can find something useful before he gets here.” The inn was over a hundred-fifty years old, but seemed to have been well maintained. Ancient navy blue silk wallpaper lined the foyer, making it appear smaller than it actually was, and an antique clock rested against one wall. In the center of the tall ceiling, a chandelier draped in small crystals dangled on a lone cord. One bulb was out, and dust concealed the refraction of the prisms. “He told me you’d be here first.”


She jerked her gaze back to Garren. “Yes, of course.” “We can get to work tomorrow. Right now, you need rest.” He filled out notes in a book then pushed it toward her. “Sign your name, please. Here. Mr. Beck is taking care of the bill, but I like to have an accurate ledger of who stays here.” In case they disappear? Sophia studied the guest register. She wasn’t the only visitor at the inn, but that wasn’t surprising. Late October would see the last of the fall tourists traveling through to catch glimpses of nature’s final show before winter. She signed her name, her hands still a bit shaky. “You still do this by hand?” “I find it… practical.” He took the book and snapped it closed. “Besides, there’s no Internet here.” What! She grabbed her phone from her jeans pocket. No service. Garren set the book aside and leaned on the desk. “That’s right, no cell service, either. You’ll have to go into town if you have to get online.” He smiled.


“But every room here has a landline if you need to make a call.” She slipped her phone into her pocket. Anxiety crept up her spine. How would she function without Internet? Sure, it was only for a couple days, but it’d been a long time since she’d had to do without. She wouldn’t miss emails, but how would she do research? “That wasn’t in the brochure,” she muttered. He raised his eyebrows. “You read the brochure?” “Yeah.” She smirked. “Online, ironically. Mr. Beck showed it to me. Beautiful pictures.” Lightning lit the foyer again, followed almost immediately by another clap of thunder. The desk lamp flickered once but stayed on, casting its yellow pall over the room. The clock ticked heavy beats. “Then I guess you know.” Garren stepped from behind the desk and took her suitcase handle. “That’s good.” “Know what?” Sophia reached for her suitcase. “Hey, I can get that.” “Allow me.” He moved his hand on top of hers, his fingers curling gently over her own. “Hotel policy.”


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Kerry Adrienne,