“Vampires, and witches and murder. Oh my!”

SPOOKED

LONDON VAMPIRE SERIES - BOOK 1

Clara Munro is a freak. Or at least that’s what her workmates think. They don’t know the half of it.

 

The difficult truth is that Clara can see the dead which, when you live in London, means that there are ghosts lurking around every corner. Clawing, screaming, desperate for attention. And since no one else can see what Clara can, everyone thinks she’s a bit odd. And it makes dating a nightmare.

 

Then an unexpected tragedy brings a stranger to her door. Alec is intriguing, handsome and, little known to Clara, a 300 year old vampire.

 

As she struggles to come to terms with her new reality Clara is dragged into a previously undreamt of world of power-hungry witches and vicious vampires, and has to question whether Alec is the answer to her dreams, or her worst nightmare.

Spooked is available as ebook and paperback. Free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

Book 1 - SPOOKED

Book 2 - JINXED

Short Story: ENTHRALLED

Click to read the first chapter of Spooked


CHAPTER 1

DAYDREAMING & THE DEAD

“You seem distracted Clara, have we got your full attention?”

Clara Munro dragged her gaze away from the man clawing at the noose around his neck, his legs thrashing as they searched in vain for something to support him. His eyes bulged in panic as he struggled for breath.

She made herself focus.

“Sorry, Evelyn. Could you repeat the question?”

The editor of Capital Life magazine’s eyes narrowed, and she suppressed a sigh. She was getting tired of making allowances for Clara; the girl was always daydreaming.

One of the newer staff members, a smug young man in a shirt with double cuffs, bit back a smile and Clara scowled.

“As I was saying, we’re brainstorming features for the next three issues, do you have any suggestions?”

She quickly ran her eye over the ideas on the whiteboard and drew a blank; it was hard to concentrate. The guy was moving less now, his legs still twitching and jerking but all the fight had ebbed out of him. It was infuriating that everyone else in the meeting was oblivious. Digging her nails into her palm to stop the pull he was exerting on her, she searched for something to say, but came up with nothing.

This was why she preferred working from home.

Evelyn glanced at her watch, her expression pinched.

“Right come back to me by the end of the day with a list of ideas, please.”

She stood, signalling the meeting was over, and the room emptied as everyone hurried back to their desks. None of them wanted to get on the wrong side of Evelyn when her mood was prickly.

Clara shrugged on her coat and slipped her notebook back into her bag. She hadn’t written a single word; the meeting had been pointless. As she glanced back into the room, she could see the man now climbing onto an office chair and slipping his head through the noose once again.

She yearned to tell him not to do it, that things were never that bad. But there was no point. She couldn’t stop him; he was just an echo of something that had happened years ago. She’d seen it play out a dozen times through the course of the meeting and didn’t need to see it again. She turned and walked towards the lift.

Clara envied normal people. They were so blissfully unaware of what surrounded them. They didn’t see ghosts.

She hadn’t always been like this; there was a time when she’d been just the same as everyone else.

If only she could turn back the clock, perhaps her life would have been ordinary too. She might even still have a family. She felt a pang of grief, even after all these years. How different would life have been if they hadn’t gone on that ill-fated holiday?

As she walked out onto the busy London street, Clara slipped her headphones back on and got a pair of sunglasses out of her bag. They were the only barriers she could put up between her and the clamouring dead on her journey home.

Everyone just thought she was weird, she knew that, and she’d long since given up making excuses. And as for trying to explain... she snorted at the thought. What a ridiculous idea.

As always she’d just be grateful to get back home. Her flat was one of the few places in a crowded city where she knew she could escape the dead.

She was fortunate to have a job where she only had to leave the house once a week for an editorial meeting, although if she repeated today’s performance, she might not work there for much longer. She hated Meeting Room 2. But there was no point trying to explain why.

Clara had enjoyed a perfectly run-of-the-mill childhood. It was as a teenager that her life was suddenly turned upside down. She’d been a quiet, sullen fifteen-year-old, who believed everything her parents and younger sister said and did were purely to annoy her. Something she’d had plenty of time to regret since.

You never think anything bad will happen when you’re that age. You feel invincible, untouchable. But she’d learnt the hard way that wasn’t the case.

The four of them had been on a family holiday in the Lake District when a lorry had jackknifed, smashing into their car and sending them flying off a bridge into the icy black waters of the river below. Clara could remember the truck sliding towards them seemingly in slow motion and the shock of the impact, then nothing until weeks later, when she woke from a coma to discover life had changed irrevocably.

She was the only survivor, pulled from the water and dragged to the bank, resuscitated with a feint but faltering heart rate. She’d clung to life and weeks later when she woke it was to find she’d lost everything. The rest of her family sank with the car to the bottom of the river, and by the time they were retrieved, it was too late. They said she was lucky to have survived, but she didn’t feel lucky.

To make matters worse, she’d been plagued with visions on the hospital ward. A woman in the bed next to her struggling for breath, Clara feeling the woman’s fear flood her as she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs until she gradually faded, only to find it happening over and over again. She thought she was going mad, and got so distressed that the doctors were forced to sedate her. The next time she woke, she was in a private room, so there were some benefits to being crazy.

Or at least there should have been. Unfortunately, that room was haunted by a young mother who paced the floor, desperately trying to find her baby. The woman cried and wailed constantly at the injustice of her death as she searched for the husband and newborn daughter who had left the hospital after she died, going home without her. Her spirit remained in that room, trapped in some terrible limbo.

Unlike the gasping old lady on the ward, the mother wasn’t an echo of a death; she was actively refusing to leave. But of course, Clara didn’t understand that. She was in sensory overload and couldn’t comprehend why nobody else could see what she was seeing. Both she and the doctors started to wonder whether she was losing her mind.

All this on top of having to come to terms with the loss of her family. She was sedated again and given psych evaluations. It was only Aunt Liv who had prevented her from being sectioned.

Aunt Liv was her dad’s younger sister and, with her floaty clothes and strange friends, she’d always been a bit of a figure of fun with Clara’s super-conventional parents. Instead of getting a ‘proper job’ and settling down, she ran walking tours of historical London, re-living the Capital’s seedier histories and murder locations for tourists hungry for salacious details. And there were plenty of those.

In a world that was suddenly terrifying for Clara, Aunt Liv had listened, the only person to take her fears and visions seriously rather than dismiss them as some kind of traumatic reaction. Together they’d explored the idea that what Clara was seeing could be real and, while neither of them knew how that could possibly be true, they soon realised that getting Clara discharged from hospital was key to her recovery.

So she’d put on an act. She’d pretended the young mother wasn’t screaming to get her attention whenever the consultants came round, and after a few days of calmer behaviour she was released into her aunt’s care, on copious painkillers and on the understanding that she’d see a psychiatrist twice a week.

Thankfully Aunt Liv’s flat was quiet and empty, the perfect place for her to convalesce. And so she slowly started the process of coming to terms with how life had changed.

After a few months of healing, Clara could no longer ignore the nagging memories of what she’d seen in hospital and felt compelled to find out the truth about her visions. Was she really seeing ghosts? Or were the figures just scars left by trauma on her brain?

So tentatively and with open and curious minds, the two of them started to explore Clara’s new ability. It wasn’t easy. Whenever she left the flat she was bombarded with information, so they started going out at night when the streets were quieter, and there were fewer people around to stop and stare.

Aunt Liv took the task as scientifically as possible, guiding Clara to places where she knew certain events had happened, to see what she could sense. And without fail Clara had confirmed deaths with 100% accuracy, and even discovered a few that they only verified after research later. From a hit and run on a nearby street, to a man dropping dead from a heart attack in the local deli, and the homeless man who died in a doorway a few doors down from theirs.

Her aunt had meticulously checked facts, and together they came to the inescapable conclusion that Clara really could see dead people. Sometimes it was just the imprint of a death - a sort of echo left behind - but other times, and much worse, were spirits that lingered, bewildered or angry, with unfinished business. Once they realised Clara could see them, they refused to leave her alone, desperate to be heard.

Leaving the flat took its toll on her, and they’d briefly considered moving out of London to somewhere quieter. But after a weekend in a small guesthouse by the sea, Clara had been so haunted by the cries of long-dead shipwrecked sailors being dashed on the rocks that they’d headed home early. After all, death happened everywhere, no matter where you lived, there was no escape. And there was a lot to be said for the anonymity of living in a big city. At least the flat was a safe haven.

Clara sat on the bus, staring blankly out of the window as music blared out of her headphones. Drowning out the voices was her best defence when she had no option but to venture out. The number eleven bus was her usual route to and from work and was usually fine, especially since they’d retired the old fleet of Routemasters. The old red busses had looked stylish, but some of them had been in service since the 1960s, and they were packed full of history, which rarely led to a pleasant journey. The new buses had less character, but at least the ride was less eventful.

She glanced up as the doors opened and some new passengers got on. A man wearing jeans and a faded Superman t-shirt smiled at her, but she looked quickly away. He was cute, and she was almost tempted to glance up to see if he was still looking over, but what was the point? She was destined to be alone. After all, who would want a freak like her?

Unwelcome memories of her last date flooded back. Encouraged by Aunt Liv, she’d finally agreed to go for dinner with a guy from work who kept asking her out, only to sit in the restaurant trying to ignore an overweight middle-aged man who had died choking at the next table.

The man kept tapping her on the shoulder with his cold hand, at first politely, then getting angry and shouting at her, frustrated that she was ignoring him. He’d died six long months ago, and she was the first person who’d been able to see him. She battled through the main course, but it had been a real strain, and she started to get indigestion. The whole night was a disaster and the poor guy she was on the date with began to realise why everyone in the office called her Crazy Clara.

To make matters worse, the spirit had somehow drained the battery on her phone, probably in an attempt to amp up his power to strengthen his contact with her. So when she’d made her excuses and run out of the restaurant, she’d had to walk home for half an hour without even any music to block out the world.

The whispering and side looks whenever she walked into the office had increased even more after that. This was why she didn’t date.

She shuddered as an unpleasant shock ran through her as the bus drove over the sight of a recent car accident. Luckily they were travelling fast enough that it was only a momentary sensation. Clara closed her eyes and took a deep breath in through her nose, out through her mouth, keen to get home. Aunt Liv was the only one who understood how traumatic her trips out were and had promised to make her legendary lasagna for dinner.

Even as Clara left earlier, the flat had been filling with the mouthwatering aroma of her slow-cooked Bolognese.

Thank goodness for Aunt Liv and the sanctuary that was their flat.

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