In the second book of the Spiritus series, Haunted, St. John's Eve plays a critical role that continues to the last book of the series.
St. John's Eve is used in voodoo traditions going back to the famous Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. It is said that she held voodoo ceremonies on the Bayou St. John and the practice continues to this day.
When I began my research for Haunted, I discovered that one of the rituals rumored to be performed was the bringing back of the dead as living and breathing things. Now can you think of anything more perfect for a story about a romance between a living young woman and a one hundred and sixty year old ghost? If I didn't know better, I'd say there was a little voodoo working on me while I was doing my research. What do you think?
Excerpt of Haunted
I clutched his hand as we moved along toward Magnolia Bridge. Still yards away, I could hear the drums as well as feel them vibrating somewhere deep inside the middle of my body. As the bridge came into view, the beat of the drums took over the air and shook the ground beneath my feet.
The crowd kept moving closer and closer to the old wood and metal bridge. As I stepped up on the first creaking wooden plank, I saw eerie drawings of symbols and words in glowing white chalk scratched on its surface.
The air was thick with humidity and noise, too loud to even breathe. It all began to spin, the drums, the wooden planks covered in glowing drawings, and the sickening sweet smell of so many bodies pushed together.
I felt myself staggering, everything going hazy and then coming back to quickly, like a record played at the wrong speed. Before I could recover, I was spinning and the drums became loud booms that shook the ground and far off there was a baby crying.
It wasn't safe here. I had to get away. They were going to find us. They were going to get me.
"Jonah," I pleaded, "I've got to get out of here."
He didn’t hear me. I was clutching at his arm, but he was lost in the sea of bodies. At last, I clasped his hand and jerked him around to face me.
"Now!" I demanded. "I want to go now!"
Jonah was reluctant to leave, but the expression on my face must've convinced him because he guided me through the crowd without complaint.
As we stepped off the bridge, a beautiful woman with deep olive skin stepped into our path. She seemed to glow in her long white dress and white head wrap. There was something pulsating on her shoulders. It took a moment for my eyes to focus enough to see that it was a large snake that slithered about her neck.
"I see that which you want most," she declared, pulling the snake’s head up to hers so that it's forked tongue could flicker across her lips.
I stepped around her, cringing away from the serpent.
The woman laughed, showing a wide mouth of bright white teeth, "He can come back, you know."
The air left my lungs and I stopped short. I couldn't have heard her right. I dropped Jonah's hand and turned around slowly.
"What did you say?" I asked.
She stepped over to me, swaying her hips so that her dress swung like a bell.
"I can bring him back," She whispered as she came within inches of my face. "I know that is the thing that you want most."
There was a surge of air swirling around me and over my head. The woman's eyes focused on it with a knowing smile.
"He will be angry," She said and took a card out of the waistband of her dress. "Come and see me when you can."
I clutched the card in my hand as Jonah led me away. I looked back and watched the woman disappear in the darkening crowd.
Jonah pulled me along, oblivious to the exchange. Once we were safe in a taxi and heading back to the hotel, Jonah put his arm around me and kissed me on my cheek.
"You'll feel better after a long soak in the tub and a little rest." He whispered hot and wet in my ear.
I don't remember saying anything. I just remember the feeling of the card’s sharp edges in my palm. Nothing else in the world mattered except that card.
Late that night, I slipped from the bed were Jonah still lay sleeping. I dressed and went down to the Carousel Bar. Again, the card that I was turning over and over in my fingers held my attention.
MADAME MARIE DESMARAIS’S SHOP OF VOODOO
New Orleans, LA
Could it really be possible? Could Alastor actually come back?
I glanced around at the other patrons of the bar reflected in the many lights and mirrors throughout the room. Were they aware of such possibilities? If so, how could they just sit there and drink the night away?
I sipped at my hurricane cocktail and enjoyed the tingling burn as it went down my throat. I tapped the edge of the card on the table one, two, three times.
The bartender sat another cocktail in front of me. I was already lightheaded, but I took it anyway.
What was I supposed to do now? Could I bring Alastor back and lose Jonah forever? Would I ever be happy with Jonah if I knew there was even the smallest chance that Alastor could come back?
It was just too impossible to sort out. It was easier to just keep drinking and pretend like I didn't already know the answer.
Two more drinks later and I barely recognized Jonah when he took a seat at the bar beside me.
"Why aren’t you upstairs?" He asked, taking the drink from me and pushing it away.
I rubbed my hands over my face, "I couldn't sleep."
"Is anything wrong?"
I looked down at the card on the bar and then covered it with my hands.
"Not really," I said. "Just restless, I guess."
Jonah leaned over and kissed my cheek. He brushed his lips over my ear, "Why don't you come back upstairs?"
I slid off the barstool, struggling to stand on unsteady feet. Jonah's arm went around my waist to steady me.
As I reached back to get the stiff white card from the bar, I saw Alastor’s face reflected in the mirrors surrounding the bar. He glared at me with angry blue eyes as I took the card and slid it into my pocket. I silently dared him to try to stop me.
I glanced back at Alastor's image as I stepped into the elevator with Jonah. He glared at me with hostile eyes until the elevator doors closed and it was just me and my new husband alone in the elevator.
I leaned back and let out a sigh.
Alastor’s secret voice reverberated in my brain, "Becca, throw the card away, no good will come of it."
I can't do that.
"What you’re thinking is impossible," He argued. “I wish it could be different, but it cannot.”
You don't know that.
"Yes, I do and you're not being fair to Jonah."
I glanced over at Jonah. He leaned against the wall, watching the floor numbers change as we went up. He felt me watching him and turned and gave me one of his brilliant smiles.
"I love you." He said simply and looked back up at the numbers.
How could he be so trusting? That familiar stab of guilt hit me in the gut.
"I love you too." I answered.
But I love him more…
Alastor swirled near me, whispering inside my head. "I'm telling you that what you want is impossible."
I can't give up while there is even the slightest chance for you.
"Becca, you have to see that this is a lost cause."
I can't believe that.
"You have to believe it or else you will drive yourself mad."