(Isla’s Inheritance #1)
Publication date: October 9th 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.
Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.
SHE IS NOT DEAD.
Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.
“Okay.” Emma rolled up her sleeves so they wouldn’t trail on the table. She slid the upturned scotch glass so the pentagram was centred within it. “Everyone put a finger on top of the glass.” We did. “Ready?” Without waiting for a response, Emma tilted her face towards the ceiling. “Is anyone there?”
“Is anyone there?” Emma asked again. She didn’t seem worried. I glanced at Dominic, whose face had fallen.
“Is anyone there?”
The glass began to inch along the surface of the paper, picking up speed as it slid towards the YES. Tamara gasped, going white under the makeup; that pale, she looked like a porcelain doll. Emma smiled, enjoying her moment. The guys watched with wide eyes.
“Welcome.” Emma smiled. “What’s your name?”
I studied the glass in its nest of fingers as it spelled out D-A-N-I-E-L. My eyes narrowed, searching for the whitening around the fingertips that would indicate someone was pushing the glass. Was that why Emma had turned off the light—to hide the tells?
“Hello, Daniel.” Emma smiled again. “Daniel’s my spirit guide,” she added in an aside to the rest of us as the glass slid across to HELLO.
I watched with a frown as the others asked questions of Daniel: where he was born, how he’d died, that sort of thing. I didn’t pay much attention; I was busy trying to see how the trick was being performed. It was a normal scotch glass and, if anyone was pushing it, they were being discrete. Emma was good.
Finally, she looked around the table at us. “Daniel can act as our intermediary to the afterlife, protecting us from evil spirits. Do any of you have relatives who have passed over that you’d like to contact? A grandparent or anything?”
“My grandpop’s dead, but he was an old bastard.” Kurt laughed. “I don’t want to talk to him. Besides, your Daniel wouldn’t let him through if he doesn’t like evil spirits.”
Tamara shook her head; Dominic turned to me. “Isn’t your mother dead?” he asked softly.
“Yes.” I looked away. I’d never known my mother. She’d died giving birth to me. But I didn’t like the idea of turning her into a parlour trick.
Dominic saw my hesitation and looked sheepish. Emma brightened, though. “What was her name?” she asked.
“Melanie,” I said reluctantly. “Melanie Blackman.”
“Hey, we don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” Dominic said.
“It’s all right,” I said. It wasn’t real. It didn’t matter.
“Melanie Blackman, are you there?” Three times Emma repeated the call, and, as before, the glass didn’t move until the third time.
“No?” Emma looked surprised—which was itself surprising, given she was the one moving the glass. “Melanie Blackman, are you there?”
The glass circled away from the word and back again, rattling across the paper.
Obviously that wasn’t meant to happen. “Daniel, are you there?”
There was a long delay while I imagined a sheet-covered ghost handing over the receiver of a telephone. YES.
“Why isn’t Melanie Blackman there?”
It wasn’t real. It didn’t matter. But I still held my breath as I watched the glass spell out the reply.
S-H-E [SPACE] I-S [SPACE] N-O-T [SPACE] D-E-A-D.
“I’m not sure which is worse,” I whispered to Hamish, stroking his fur, “believing I killed my mother, or believing she abandoned me…and Dad lied about it.” Hamish didn’t answer. He was already asleep. “Well, you’re no use.”
Against all odds, the steady rhythm of Hamish’s breathing lulled me into a doze. It seemed like no time had passed when I awoke to a change in light: my father’s large frame was in the doorway, blocking the light.
“Isla? Are you awake?” His voice was tentative.
“Yes.” I sat up, rubbing my eyes. Hamish grumbled a protest.
“Can I turn the light on?”
I blinked and stared at my father. He looked dishevelled and his eyes were wide, like he’d seen a ghost. He was holding the gift bag he’d given me on my birthday. “You left this at the restaurant the other week, when you went out for dessert with that boy,” he said, his voice strained.
As confused and resentful as I was feeling right now, I still loved him, and his appearance worried me. “Dad, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he said. He was an even worse liar than Sarah. He came into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “Here.” He tried to hand me the bag. Vomit burned the back of my throat, and I flinched back.
He saw the flinch, and his face grew even more drawn. “Isla, take it.” There was an urgency in his tone that I neither understood nor liked.
“No. Dad, what’s going on? You’re freaking me out.”
He looked around the room. “Do you have any of my work in here?”
The question confused me. I felt my cheeks warm. “Um, I’m not sure.” The answer was no. Pretty much every piece of ironwork he’d given me was in the shed. The rest I’d given away to friends.
“Here.” He upended the gift bag. The heavy iron circlet tumbled into my lap.
My stomach twisted with nausea so severe I clenched my teeth, afraid I’d throw up. Where the iron touched my thighs through the denim of my jeans it felt ice-cold, and yet it burned at the same time. I gasped, shoving it away from me and onto the floor. It singed my hand.
“What the hell are you doing?” I jumped to my feet. Hamish leapt up too, yapping.
Dad said nothing but the look on his face was wild, despairing.
“You’re crazy,” I cried, fleeing the room.
“Isla, wait,” Dad yelled after me. But I ran, snatching my bag from the hallway before rushing out the front door. I ignored the bite of tiny rocks on the soles of my feet. I had to get away from him, from everything.
“You should not be up here alone,” a voice said.
Heart in my throat, I spun so quickly I nearly fell. Standing a few metres away from me was a figure in baggy jeans and a soft grey jumper. A hood was pulled up to cover his head, casting his face in deep shadow.
“I’m not alone,” I lied, squaring my shoulders and putting one hand on my hip. The other I slipped into my jeans pocket, getting a good grip on my car keys. Natalie had told us after she did a self-defence course that the individual keys, protruding from a clenched fist, could serve as an improvised weapon.
My heart raced so hard I was sure the stranger could hear it.
“You are,” he corrected me. At least, I thought it was a he, judging by the voice.
“My boyfriend has just gone to the bathroom.” Absurd; there were no public bathrooms up here. Before he could call me on it, I added, “It’s none of your business.” He wasn’t tall, which made me feel a little more confident.
“It is not safe for you, lady.”
What? “Who are you?” He hesitated, and I took a step forward. It was foolish, but I’d had enough tonight. “Tell me!”
The stranger pushed his hood back.
His dark eyes, fixed on my face, were the first things I noticed. They were large, like those of a baby animal that hadn’t grown into its skin. In the poor light I couldn’t determine their colour. His nose was small; his chin pointed; his skin pale and covered in delicate wrinkles, especially around the mouth and eyes; and his hair straight, either dark blond or light brown. And his ears….
They protruded from his hair, long and pointed, the tips a good hand span away from his skull.
Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — which is ironic, as she’s allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?