Some secrets aren't meant to stay buried...
Pia has made a dead girl a promise. One that she is determined to keep. But is she prepared for the nightmare that's about to be unleashed?
When Pia Williams, a gifted psychic medium, is contacted by the traumatized spirit of a young girl, her search to uncover the truth begins. The more Pia learns about the girl's gruesome fate, the more determined she is to bring those responsible to justice. But is she prepared for the shocking truth of what she's about to expose?
Accused of a murder the spirit commits, Pia reaches out to the only man who can help her: ex-Special Forces detective Nate Ryder. A man who is as dangerous to her heart as the situation she seeks his help with. Nate would move mountains for the woman he loves, but how can he protect her against forces he can't even see?
As Pia and Nate are swept into an unpredictable situation brimming with dark, evil intent, they soon discover they have more to fear from the living than they ever did from the dead...
About the Author
Her latest novel The Scream Behind Her Smile won the Silver Medal in the 2019 Readers Favorite® International Book Awards.
Girl Unseen won the Silver Medal in the 2017 Readers' Favorite® International Book Awards and was awarded a Silver Medal in the 2017 Literary Titan Book Awards, and finalist in the TopShelf Book Awards 2018. Girl Unseen is a semi-finalist in The Kindle Book Review Awards, 'Official Selection' in the New Apple Annual book Awards and nominated for 2017 Book of the Year in AusRom Today's Reader's Choice Awards.
When Darkness Follows won the Bronze Medal in the 2018 Readers' Favorite® International Book Awards, Silver Medal in the 2018 Literary Titan Book Awards, and was nominated for the TopShelf Book Awards 2019 and nominated in the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) 2018 awards for Favourite Paranormal Romance.
The Seer's Daughter was the solo Medalist Winner in the Suspense/Thriller category of the 2016 New Apple Annual Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing.
The Seer's Daughter was also a finalist in the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards in Suspense and in the 2016 Readers' Favorite® International Book Awards. Additionally, The Seer's Daughter was nominated for 2016 Book of the Year and 2016 Cover of the Year in AusRom Today's Reader's Choice Awards.
Girl Unseen and The Seer's Daughter are both 5-star Top Picks at The Romance Reviews.
Athena holds several qualifications in metaphysics and natural therapies. She is a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, life coach, and feng shui specialist.
Athena lives on the northern beaches of sunny Western Australia. Follow her on Twitter @AthenaDaniels11 and on Facebook at /AthenaDaniels11.
Read an Excerpt
Two a.m. Lighthouse keeper's cottage Leeuwin Road, Limestone Coast Western Australia
Soft footsteps crossed the timber floor overhead. Pia Williams, psychic medium for the paranormal-investigations TV show, Debunking Reality, looked up at the rough-hewn ceiling.
Are you the one trying to reach me?
There was no answer, just as there was no one in the attic. No one in the house, other than her and the team.
The footsteps were the first sign of paranormal activity. Well, the first sign the others would have picked up on. Ever since Pia had entered the house, something, someone, had been trying to reach her, snatching at her with wispy fingers, trying to pierce the veil that separated the living from the dead.
A gust of wind whipped against the weathered wooden exterior of the 1896 timber cottage before dropping off abruptly. Like the slap of an angry hand.
Across a small cove, a short distance away, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse stood, proud and tall, glowing stark white against the stormy black of the unsettled sky.
Many memories were buried within the walls of this haunted old cottage. Few of them good.
Tonight, however, they were of little interest to Pia.
There was something else she was supposed to see ... something that fluttered just out of reach.
Pia was sitting and staring out the window of the recently renovated lighthouse keeper's cottage when she and the entity finally connected.
Though Pia's physical body was in the room, her mind was elsewhere, listening to a tragic echo from long ago. Images, objects, places, were coming to her. She strained to listen, struggled to find coherence in the disjointed pictures pressing into her mind.
Reaching out through an otherworldly resonance, a hazy imprint of souls departed, Pia found a clarity. The spirit who sought her. As though it were her own, anguish tore through Pia's body. Such heartbreaking despair. A sense of hopelessness, bitter loneliness. Abject misery.
Who was calling out to her? A woman? No, younger ... a girl.
The footsteps crossing the attic were hers.
There was something important, something urgent, the girl wanted Pia to know. The cause of her pain.
What is it? Tell me.
Concentrating harder, Pia pressed her fingertips over her eyes. Her chest squeezed, and she felt overwhelmed with suffering not her own. She had to push through the thick saturation of emotion, reach out through the anguish with her mind.
The girl was crying. Not a trickle of tears, but huge, gut-wrenching sobs, the kind that ripped your heart out.
What happened to you?
A door slammed, and Pia jumped, the sound coming from overhead momentarily confusing the past and present.
Lowering her head into her hands, Pia retrained her focus. Ignored the pain she felt as keenly as though it were her own.
Show me a little more. Just enough to see.
The blade of a knife, an ornate wooden handle carved into the shape of an eagle. A mouse. A filthy, soiled mattress. A doll with long blonde hair. Shackles and chains.
And blood, so much blood.
What are you showing me? Pia asked without words. Who are you?
"Pia?" Someone was shaking her. Shouting in her ear.
"Go away!" She threw out an arm. She wanted to see. To understand.
"Pia!" Someone slapped her face. Her eyes sprang open, the sting jarring her back into the present.
"Damn it, Pia. Look at me." Mark Collins, Debunking Reality's lead investigator, was staring into her eyes, his hand warm and firm against her stinging cheek. "You're scaring me."
Pia brushed away a rush of annoyance. Mark had every right to be concerned. She took a series of deep breaths and got herself under control. The fragments of herself began to regather as she shrugged off the heavy sadness of the past.
"I'm good," she said.
Mark's brows drew together into a frown, his eyes scanning her face.
"I heard activity in the attic," Pia said. "Shouldn't you be checking out the slamming door and the footsteps?"
Debunking Reality had been hired by Chad and Monique Reynolds to investigate claims of possible poltergeist activity in the house. The Reynolds had two daughters, Cassandra, nine years old, and Rebecca, who was only seven. The activity had increased to such a degree that the parents were concerned about their girls' safety.
The team could now remove "possible" from that statement. Something was definitely sharing this house with the family. It was the team's job to investigate what. And, if possible, cleanse it from the Reynolds' home.
"I was on my way up when I saw you with your head in your hands," Mark said. "You almost fell off the chair."
"I did?" She must have been more out of it than she'd realized.
Overhead, the floor creaked, and a muffled cry seemed to reverberate out of the ceiling.
"Oh, for heaven's sake. Stop fretting about me and get up there."
"I'm still worried about you."
Pia stood, wiped her damp palms down the sides of her jeans, and gave him a brief smile. "I'm fine. Now go."
As a team of seasoned investigators, it was rare for one of them to be overcome or affected during an investigation. But it had happened on occasion. And Pia's abilities made her more susceptible to certain energies than the others were. Mark had mistaken her deep concentration for something more sinister, and after a particularly terrifying experience the team had had six months ago, he had good reason.
Something shattered and broke upstairs. Like glass being dropped on the floor. No, it was angrier. Like glass being hurled against a wall.
Mark briefly touched Pia's shoulder. "That's my cue. Shout if you need me." He rushed to the stairs, signaling for Ryan Donovan, the team's cameraman, to resume focusing the handheld night-vision video recorder on him.
"The time is two-thirty a.m.," Mark spoke to the camera, "and we're heading upstairs to investigate a series of unexplained crashes and doors slamming coming from the attic. The house has been in complete lockdown since eight p.m. and is still secure. As you can see, we are all present and accounted for, here on the first floor."
Ryan panned the camera, showing the positions of Mark, Pia, and Joe Clarke, their electronics whiz, monitoring the various static night-vision cameras positioned around the house. "Joe, grab that spare camera and join us," Mark said. "I want to maximize our chances to capture everything possible tonight."
"Coming, Tom?" Mark called from the stairs.
With a nod, Tom Kelly followed the team upstairs. Sixty-five years old, with leathery skin, a white beard, and hard eyes, Tom looked every inch the weathered rock lobster fisherman he'd once been. Tom had stayed in the cottage on occasion with the original owners, Simon and Meg Farrell, thirty-plus years ago. Rock lobster, or crayfish or crays, as the locals liked to call the tasty saltwater shellfish, was a profitable business, and Tom had been part of Simon Farrell's cray-fishing crew.
Mark had talked Tom into doing a set of pre-investigation interviews to add a little background to tonight's show. Pia wasn't sure why Tom was still here; it was rare for Mark to allow others to stay after the lockdown, not wanting to risk interference or contamination of evidence.
Something about Tom Kelly raised the hairs on the back of Pia's neck. Survival instinct. And Pia trusted hers implicitly. She just didn't know why Tom Kelly stirred hers. Yet.
The team's voices faded away as they moved upstairs with Tom. Pia stayed by herself on the ground floor, grateful for the moment alone. The truth was, she was still shaken from what she had seen in the vision.
What she had felt.
The girl had reached out to her, tried to give her a message.
The air in the room turned still.
Something was ... off.
Muted sounds of talking and movement filtered down from the guys upstairs. Pia's stomach clenched. With every breath she took, her sense of unease increased.
A tingle slid across the skin of her cheek and over the back of her neck. Pia let out a breath. The connection she'd made with the girl had not been fully severed.
Not one to tolerate failure, Pia wouldn't leave tonight without understanding not only who was at unrest in the house, but why.
Breathing deeply, Pia once again reached out with her mind and opened herself up. She likened the process to becoming a receiver of a radio station, tuning herself in to a frequency slightly out of phase with normal reality.
Feeling herself being called toward something, she followed her intuition. She picked up a night-vision camcorder and used its greenish-hued viewer to navigate the dark room. She found herself standing in the doorway to Cassandra Reynolds' bedroom. The room was typical of your average nine-year-old girl — stuffed toys and dolls everywhere. Why was Pia being drawn here?
The team had been in the house for over six hours so far, video rolling continuously from seven separate units and eight audio recorders. Tomorrow, Joe and Mark would begin the arduous task of replaying the footage, editing it down, and overlaying the highlights with Mark's commentary to create a concise, fortyminute episode for the television network.
There had been lots of activity tonight, much of it captured on film. Mark would be pleased, but to Pia these investigations were more personal. It wasn't enough to simply capture evidence of the paranormal. Considering Pia's abilities, she didn't need proof of that.
There were reasons so-called "hauntings" occurred. Reasons a spirit remained trapped on earth. Sometimes it was due to a sudden violent death, like a car accident or a murder. And sometimes spirits didn't realize they were dead. Pia could often help those lost souls to find the light and the peace waiting for them on the other side. Some spirits knew they were dead but were unwilling to leave loved ones.
And some stayed because they had unfinished business.
Despite the danger of being a sensitive in this line of work, Pia had never considered doing anything else. The spirits she could help were what compelled her to keep investigating with Mark and the team.
So few true mediums existed in the world. Even fewer were willing to take the risks she did to reach the dead. Often, she was the only hope for many of these trapped and wandering spirits, and the only one who could — or would — give them peace. How could she possibly turn her back and walk away? For better or worse, she'd been given her abilities for a reason, and she put her heart and soul into helping the ones she could.
What am I dealing with tonight?
Pia pushed off from the doorframe, stepped into Cassandra's room, and instantly sensed she wasn't alone. The temperature in the room plunged, and Pia pulled the sides of her jacket closed. Ice trickled down her spine and spread through her body, a bone-aching chill seeping into her marrow. Her heart raced, and she was instantly alert and on edge.
The room smelled of strawberry lip gloss.
Something moved in the far corner of the room. Pia resisted the impulse to turn on the light and instead pressed Record on the camcorder and peered through the night-vision viewfinder.
On a wicker chair was a carelessly tossed cardigan.
And a doll in a long white dress.
Was that what she'd seen in her vision? She thought she'd seen a girl, not a doll. But the two looked identical. Pia moved deeper into the room, careful not to trip over the corner of the bed.
The strangely intelligent eyes of the doll tracked her every move.
Pia's heart pounded in her chest and sweat prickled across her forehead. Steeling herself to remain calm, she sat on the ruffled pink bedspread, lifted the doll off the chair, and held it out at arm's length. The doll was large, surprisingly heavy, and emitted the aroma of laundry detergent and disinfectant. But then that scent faded, and Pia psychically picked up something that turned her stomach. The sharp, ammonia-like smell indicative of mice. And beneath that, the hint of something putrid. Fresh blood and the pervasive odor of death.
What was this disturbing doll doing in Cassandra's room?
Pia placed the camera on the bed and used two hands to examine the strangely lifelike toy. Delicate features etched the face, the head fashioned out of porcelain, not the lightweight plastic used in factory-made dolls. The hair was blonde and so silky soft it had to have been real. The dress consisted of flowing layers of intricately delicate lace, in a style of years gone by. A machine had no part in the making of this doll. Every inch of it had been crafted by hand. Out of love. It also hadn't been made for the girl who slept in this room.
This doll was not Cassandra's.
Yet it belonged in this house, just the same.
A music box turned on in the corner, and Pia almost dropped the doll. Lights in the ornate wooden box flickered, and a ballerina began twirling to the melodic notes of a piano, the tune's tempo a fraction too fast.
The air vibrated, crackling with the tension that precedes a destructive storm. Mark's muffled voice through the overhead floorboards sounded even farther away.
Pia didn't yet know what type of entity she was dealing with. Or what it wanted. Setting down the doll, she curled her fingers around the black tourmaline crystal pendant she wore for protection and cautiously picked her way across the room. The music box was ice cold, and when she turned it over, she discovered the bottom panel was missing, revealing an empty battery compartment.
But the music continued to play, eerily out of tune. Pia wouldn't be shocked to learn that the song playing wasn't even the one that came with the jewelry box.
Her heart fluttering wildly, Pia shivered against an arctic chill. Tiny hairs on her arms stood on end, her chest tightened, and she sensed she wasn't alone.
Something was behind her, its eyes boring holes into the back of her head.
Show no fear.
Evil entities fed off fear and could attach themselves to the weak and vulnerable, leading to oppression, or worse, possession. Until Pia knew what this entity was, she could reveal nothing, not even a hint of her nerves.
"Who is here?" Thank God her voice came out loud and clear, projecting a confidence she didn't feel. To the untrained eye, Pia would appear visually alone in the room, but the space around her was anything but empty. The air was thick and heavy, depleted of oxygen, and seemed stale, as if she were trapped in a tiny closet.
Her knees turned to water, and she quickly sat down on the bed. The mattress next to her dipped. Pia's throat closed over, and her fingers gripped the quilt.
Something Pia couldn't see, and still couldn't get a read on, had sat down beside her. The doll rolled away from Pia, seemingly of its own accord.
Something didn't like her touching the doll.
The owner of the object?
"Who are you?" Pia asked, softer this time, her tone cajoling. "Don't be scared of me. You can talk to me. Tell me who you are."
Sarah. The name pressed into Pia's mind.
"Hello, Sarah." Pia sensed this was the same girl she'd seen in her visions. The girl who had reached out to her. "What are you doing here, Sarah?"
Can you see me? the entity asked.
"No." Pia concentrated. She could often see those who had died, but this time no images formed.
A rush of highly charged energy blasted her, and Pia instinctively gripped the bed to brace herself. Her head spinning from dizziness, she clutched the black tourmaline pendant and visualized surrounding herself in a protective white light.
What the hell is this entity? Pia's answer, that she couldn't see the entity, had triggered a flood of rage from her unseen companion. Why?
Show no fear.
Pia stood, her fingers tightening on the tourmaline. Keep me safe. Keep me strong. She chanted the words in her mind.
"Don't," Pia said firmly, addressing the entity. "Don't do that." The energy blast had hit like a physical blow. What was she actually communicating with? A young girl who'd died long ago?
Or is this entity demonic?
Demons were masters of manipulation and often disguised themselves as children. Such a ruse frequently allowed them to get close to humans, to infiltrate the lives of the living before they realized what had happened.
Pia tugged her jacket tightly closed and glanced around the room warily.
You can't see me, the entity claiming to be Sarah said. It doesn't matter. No one ever did.
Deep sadness had replaced the abrupt flood of anger, the complete swing unnaturally immediate, like shutting off one tap and turning on another.
"Who didn't see you?" Pia asked, striving for this to make sense. Hoping to keep this entity calm until she worked out who — or what — she was dealing with.
No one saw me.
"Who? Who didn't see you?"
Excerpted from "Girl Unseen"
Copyright © 2017 Athena Daniels.
Excerpted by permission of Sunset Coast Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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