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By Ally Blue
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Ally Blue
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAmy pulled Sam aside and quickly showed him how to operate the few pieces of equipment he wasn't already familiar with. Afterward, the group split into two teams to begin their preliminary investigation. Bo took David and Cecile with him to cover the first floor, while the rest of the group headed upstairs.
Sam wished he could've been in Bo's group, but the excitement of beginning the investigation far outweighed that slight disappointment. His heart thudded as he switched on the video camera he'd been assigned and followed Amy and Andre up the wide staircase.
"We'll start with Bo's room," Amy said, pointing toward the room on the left as they reached the top of the stairs. "We'll work our way clockwise. Equipment check first. Honey, you ready with the EMF detector?"
Andre held up the electromagnetic field detector. "Yep. Got the thermometer too."
"Great. Sam, you ready on video?"
"Rolling," Sam answered, pointing the video camera at her. "Got the Polaroid too."
"Okay, good. I'll take notes. And I've got the thirty-five mm camera all loaded up and ready." Amy fixed Sam with a bright blue gaze. "Sam, if we need to get simultaneous shots, I'll let you know."
"All right, you boys got your two-way radios and flashlights?" Amy grinned as Sam and Andre dutifully nodded. "Okay, equipment check's done. Let's go find us a ghost."
Sam found the next couple of hours almost unbearably exciting. The fact that nothing out of the ordinary happened didn't matter. He was taking part in his first professional investigation of a possible haunting, and nothing could diminish the thrill that gave him. Even the sight of the bed where Bo would soon be sleeping didn't distract him for long. For a few seconds, he let himself imagine Bo lying there naked, black satin hair strewn across the pillow, before turning his mind back to his work.
After taking video, some stills and EMF and temperature readings in Bo's room, they went through the same process with each of the other upstairs rooms in turn. Cecile's room, then Amy and Andre's room, David's room, the small parlor opposite the stairwell, the empty bedroom and Sam's room. Other than the unusually high EMF readings, which they already knew about, nothing showed up. They'd just finished the small bathroom tucked into the corner of what used to be a nursery, across the hall from Sam's room, and were about to start taking readings in the nursery itself, when the radios crackled to life. The burst of static made Sam jump.
Bo's voice came over the radio. "Amy, come in."
Amy pulled her radio off the waistband of her shorts and held it to her mouth. "This is Amy."
"We're done and heading to the library. How're y'all doing?"
"We're starting the last room now. We should be down soon enough, if this one goes like the rest of this floor did."
"You could say that. Not a damn thing happening, other than Sam taking video of my ass." She winked at Sam. He blushed. Andre burst out laughing.
Bo's throaty chuckle killed the protest Sam was about to make. "You tell him he better behave, or else."
Sam's mouth went dry at the implications in that silky, sexy voice. He knew he was probably imagining it, but he couldn't help himself. The very idea of Bo punishing him went straight to his crotch. His pulse sped up, pounding in his ears so that he didn't even hear what Amy said, or if Bo said anything else.
"Oh. Oh, man, is it me or did it just get cold in here?" Andre rubbed his arms, dark gaze darting around the room.
Amy snatched her notebook and pen out of her pocket. "Temp?"
Andre swallowed and glanced at the specially made digital thermometer. "Just dropped ten degrees, from seventy-five to sixty-five Fahrenheit."
Amy nodded, scribbling furiously. "EMF?"
"Jumped a little. Four, up from two point seven."
Sam swung the video camera in a slow arc, capturing looks of mingled fear and excitement that mirrored his own feelings. His heart raced and the hairs on his arms stood up as a sense of something utterly alien tingled over his skin.
Amy stuck the notebook back in her pocket and held up the camera. "Sam, let's get a couple of simultaneous shots with Polaroid and thirty-five mm, okay?"
Andre held out a hand. Sam passed the video camera to him and switched on the Polaroid. "Ready."
"Right there beside the rocker, that seems to be the center of the cold spot. On my mark. Three. Two. One. Now."
Lights flashed. Sam blinked, trying to clear the black spots from his vision. He didn't like the way they swarmed around, as if they had a life of their own. The back of his neck twitched. He had to force himself to stay calm.
"Andre?" Amy's voice was sharp and worried. "Baby, you okay?"
Sam turned to stare at Andre. His deep brown skin had taken on an ashen hue and his hands shook. An electric charge ran up Sam's spine as Andre's eyes met his. The expression on Andre's face said he'd felt the same sense of alien presence that Sam had. Then as suddenly as it had appeared, the feeling of a sinister something nearby evaporated. Sam let out a shaky breath.
"Um. Yeah, I'm fine." Andre wiped a dew of sweat from his upper lip. "Just got a little creeped out, I guess. Sorry."
Amy gave him a skeptical look. Andre smiled at her, kissed her forehead and started methodically circling the room. "No change in EMF readings. Temp's come back up."
Sam took the camera back from Andre and resumed filming, but his mind wasn't on the video anymore. All he could think of was that strange sense of something undefinable waiting to make itself known. For one white-hot second, it had been almost close enough to touch. The thought twisted his guts with equal parts dread and curiosity. He couldn't help thinking that this week might turn out to be much more interesting than any of them had ever imagined.
Excerpted from Oleander House by Ally Blue Copyright © 2006 by Ally Blue. Excerpted by permission.
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