My guest this week is author, Rachel Lynne. She's being very generous in offering a chance to win a PDF version of her latest novel. But to win, you must read her engaging story about a reporter on a date; then leave a comment as instructed below.
A fire blazed in the stacked stone fireplace, the crackle, pop, and hiss of burning logs melding with the mellow jazz coming from the piano in the corner. Couples lounged on the overstuffed sofas, watching the dancing flames while they nursed their drinks.
Small, round tables for two hugged the brick and plaster walls, their centerpiece candles casting flickering polka dots of light onto the low, wooden beamed ceiling. The atmosphere in the basement tavern was warm, hushed, intimate, and clearly a favorite with couples out for a romantic evening.
Paige Stewart’s lips tightened into a thin line. It was the perfect place for a date, with someone else. Her gaze darted to the golden haired god sitting across from her. Clayton Moore was all that a woman could want. Paige snorted. If said woman teetered on the edge of insanity.
She shoved her growing irritation aside and tried to study the shell pink menu in front of her. The array of delectable entrees should have had her mouth watering. She’d anticipated this meal, and this date, for two days yet now, thanks to a walk through Reynolds Square, her stomach felt like it was a hotel for lead balls.
She stifled a sigh and propped her chin in her hand. She stared at the few singles perched around the old wooden bar. Perhaps she should belly up to it and wash away the bitterness of the night.
“What are you staring at, Paige? Has one of the pink house ghosts appeared?”
Paige stiffened and dug her nails into her chin to keep from screaming. Here we go again. Was the man dense? She’d made her feelings on the subject of ghosts perfectly clear when they’d entered the tavern; at least she thought she had. Apparently, lunatics needed things spelled out, in detail.
She straightened and clasped her hands in her lap, in case the urge to slap him overwhelmed her. “Clay. I thought we’d agreed this discussion is closed. If you can’t let it drop you’ll be eating by yourself.”
Anyone else would have heeded the warning in her tone but not Clay. She rolled her eyes as the twinkle in Clay’s grew brighter. She had to hand it to the man he never wavered in his beliefs concerning the supernatural, even when she questioned his sanity. A good trait for the editor of the Paranormal Post. Not a good trait for a potential lover; of hers anyway.
Clay grinned. “Come on Paige, you have to admit the woman in the Square was a ghost. What else explains it? She was there one minute and gone the ne—“
“Good evening and welcome to the old pink house, I’m Jill and I’ll be your server this evening. Have you ever dined with us before?”
Grateful for the timely interruption, Paige smiled at the waitress. “No, this is our first time.” She pointed at the menu lying in front of her. “Everything sounds delicious, what do you recommend?”
Their server launched into an enthusiastic spiel on the delights of the pink house then asked if they needed a few minutes to decide.
Paige started to answer but her mouth snapped shut as Clay did it for her.
“I’m going to have the salmon with mushrooms and capers but, while Paige is deciding, I wonder if I could ask you a few questions about the reported ghost sightings and paranormal activity here at the Pink House?”
Paige glared at Clay then returned to her inner debate between the scored flounder with apricot shallot sauce and the crisp roast duck with wild berry glaze. She was leaning toward the duck but, with Clay droning on about ghosts, she considered ordering the most expensive thing on the menu, whatever it was, or maybe two of everything.
Though she tried to ignore them, the server’s animated tales intruded on her thoughts. Paige decided on the duck and reluctantly tuned in—she did have a story to write after all.
“I’ve never seen anything but I was tending bar one night and this man comes in and orders a drink. I served him and went off to help other patrons. Apparently, the man noticed a guy dressed in period costume sitting at the end of the bar. He assumed the man was one of the local tour guides and raised his glass to him. The guy responded the same way.” She grinned. “A few minutes later the man calls for another drink and starts talking about how good the guy at the end of the bar’s costume is. I’m like, no one in costume has been in here tonight. We both look down the bar—it’s empty of course. You should have seen the look on his face! Then there’s the woman’s bathroom …”
“What happens in there?”
The waitress laughed. “Well, what usually happens in a bathroom. It’s when the ladies try to leave that the problems start. A couple of people have said the ghosts of slave children have been seen in the hallway outside of the restroom—playing dice of all things—and they are believed to be locking the restroom door so women can’t get out.”
Paige blinked. “You mean patrons have been locked in there?”
The server nodded. “Yes ma’am. It got so bad the owner’s removed the lock on the door. But women still report the stall doors getting stuck.” She grinned. “We warn women before they go in but most are eager to see if they’ll encounter the ghosts.”
Clay laughed. “Great stories! Anything else happen around here--”
“Clay …,” Paige frowned at him. “I think we’d better let her place our order or we’ll be here all night.” She smiled up at the server. “I’ll have the duck please.”
“Good choice! I’ll get your orders in right away.” She took their menus and started to walk away before turning back and winking at Clay. “If you like ghosts you should head upstairs. Mr. Habersham can usually be found inspecting things.”
Clay’s eyes widened. “Cool! Who is Haber-“
“Clay. Let her get our food!”
Clay frowned at her. “Lighten up Paige. You act like your starving. We came here for a story—“
“No. You came for a story. I thought we were on a date.”
Entirely unrepentant, Clay grinned. “Well, I’m buying your dinner and don’t forget the palm rose bouquet. That qualifies as date activity, doesn’t it?”
Paige pursed her lips but laughter bubbled out anyway. “Clay, you are hopeless, you know that, right?” She took a sip of water then propped her chin in her hand and assessed him.
“What is that look for? I’m not the one with egg on my face.”
Paige’s eyes widened at his reference, yet again, to their experience in Reynolds Square; so much for her attempt at a truce. “I was going to tell you who James Habersham was—though why you don’t do your research is beyond me—“She held up her hand to stop him from speaking, “I know. That’s what you pay us writers for. Anyway, I was going to tell you the history of this house but, for some perverse reason, you continue to dredge up a subject I’ve already said is finished.”
“I’m sorry Paige,” he sat back in his seat and donned an innocent expression, “please tell me the story of the Pink House.”
Paige decided to let his teasing about their experience in Reynolds Square go; though she didn’t think he looked at all sorry. “James Habersham, a member of the Sons of Liberty, started construction on this house in 1771 but it wasn’t completed until 1789. The British stopped construction during the Revolutionary War and occupied the house when they captured Savannah. The house must appeal to military types because Sherman’s men occupied it when he took Savannah during the War Between the States.”
Paige paused as the waitress brought their salads. She ate most of her Caesar salad then continued her history lesson. “Okay, where was I? Oh, I was going to tell you how the Pink House got its name. Habersham had his mansion constructed of red brick with white plaster over it. Not long after it was finished the bricks began to bleed through the plaster, turning it pink. The Revolutionary War hero did not find a pink house manly enough and ordered it painted.” Paige grinned. “The bricks kept bleeding through and Mr. Habersham kept chasing his tale spreading more white paint. The practice continued with all subsequent owners until 1920 when a woman who ran a tea shop decided it was futile to fight against the bricks and painted it pink – note it was a woman who saw the sense in this.”
Clay smirked and motioned for her to continue.
Paige shrugged. “That’s about it. The house served as the first bank in Savannah.” She pointed to an open door across the room. “That wine cellar was originally a vault. From all accounts, James Habersham was a congenial host who liked to entertain and was very conscious of his guest’s comfort—“
Paige leaned away from the table as their dinners were set before them. She inhaled, enjoying the aroma of herbs and fruit. She picked up her fork and winked at Clay. “If you’re nice, I’ll tell you some ghost stories, but you’ll have to wait until I finish eating.” She tapped the crispy skin of the duck and laughed. “This looks, and smells, way too good to ruin by discussing nonsense.”
Clay snorted and dug in to his meal. When they’re plates were cleared, Paige sat back and smiled. “Since you have refrained from plaguing me about Reynolds Square, I’ll tell you what I’ve heard about the pink house’s former owner. Remember when I said James Habersham liked to be a good host? Well, according to several staff members, he has been seen in the dining rooms upstairs. They say he walks around inspecting and one server swears Habersham relit all of the candles one night after closing.” Paige shrugged. “I don’t see why a ghost, if he existed, would bother over something like that, but that’s the rumor. There is also a face that appears in a door.” She pushed her chair back and gathered her purse. “Was that scary enough for you?” She headed for the hall then turned back to Clay. “I’m going to use the upstairs restroom, just in case you’re tempted to help me experience another ‘ghost’!”
Paige started for the steps but found herself drawn to the bathroom at the end of the hall despite herself. Feeling a bit foolish, she peeked around the door, and laughed. The room was a perfectly ordinary and modern bathroom.
Shaking her head, she climbed to the first floor. It was like another world. Where the Planter’s Tavern was dark and rugged the main restaurant was straight out of the eighteenth century.
A waiter came to stand beside her as she stood wondering if the young man in colonial attire and powdered wig was James Habersham. “Good evening, may I help you with anything?”
Paige smiled. “I just came up from the Tavern to use the restroom but the rooms are so beautiful I had to explore. Is that all right?”
The man nodded. “Of course, feel free to look around. We’re in the process of closing the restaurant down for the night but you’re welcome to tour the rooms while we’re cleaning up.” He pointed toward a hall at the back of the house. “The restrooms are down that hall past the private banquet rooms.”
Paige thanked him and wandered in the direction he’d suggested. The walls were adorned with portraits that she assumed to be members of the Habersham family dressed in colonial and civil war era clothing.
Paige smiled. She knew, from accounts of her own ancestors’, that southern women had not been the frail flowers so often depicted by Hollywood.
She scanned the wall for a name plate but found nothing. Paige sighed. “I bet you would have had a story or two to tell.”
Clinking china and murmured voices coming from the rooms off of the hall reminded Paige that the restaurant was closing. She continued on to the restroom, making a mental note to find out who the woman in the portrait was.
Exiting the restroom, Paige was halted by the sound of a woman crying. She frowned and followed the sound to one of the banquet rooms. She pushed the half opened door wide and peeked inside.
An icy breeze greeted her as she stepped over the threshold and the sound of sobbing increased. Paige peered through the shadow filled room but found nothing to account for the draft or the cries. “Hello? Is anyone here?”
She shivered and used the leather backed chairs to navigate through the wood paneled room. As her hand brushed the fireplace mantel, a heartrending sob tore through the room.
Paige whirled around and squinted into the darkness. A spark of light flashed near a window as one of the drapery panels slid along its rod. A cold wind ruffled her hair. Paige’s heart began to pound. She swallowed past the constriction in her throat but couldn’t force any words to form. She took a hesitant step toward the floor length windows then gasped. Standing beside a billowing curtain, staring out at the street beyond, was a woman.
Her black hair was dressed in an elaborate array of fat sausage curls that cascaded to brush her neck. The full skirt of her green and gold dress glimmered in the moonlight and the white handkerchief she held to her face stood in stark relief to the dark wood of the wall. Paige stepped back and bumped into a table, rattling the place settings.
The woman at the window turned to look at Paige. A fine tremble took over her limbs and her breaths became shallow. Panting for air and shaking from head to toe, Paige forced her legs to move. Gaze locked with the woman at the window, she backed out of the room and slammed the door.
Paige sagged against the wall as spots formed in front of her eyes and a rushing sound filled her ears. She closed her eyes and bent over, fighting to remain conscious. Paige shuddered as an image of the woman’s dark, piercing eyes rose in her mind.
This can’t be happening again. Why are they haunting me?
Another image replaced those of the woman at the window. Paige whimpered as dozens of hands reached for her through the mist. The sound of crashing waves echoed in the darkness, mingling with the murmured chants of the faithful. Lightening ripped through the sky, illuminating the blank faces closing in on her. A glint of steel as the knife—“No!”
Paige gagged and fought to keep her dinner down. She bit her lip until the metallic taste of blood reached her tongue. She would not, could not, face those memories.
“Ma’am? Are you all right?”
Paige jumped and raised her eyes to those of the young waiter standing in front of her. She swallowed and forced her lips into a semblance of a smile. “Yes, I, uh, I’m just feeling a bit – could you go down to the Tavern and tell my date I’ll meet him outside?”
Not waiting for an answer, Paige stumbled down the hall and out the front door.
Vonnie, thank you so much for allowing Paige and me to visit your blog today! Intrepid reporter Paige Stewart may be fictitious but the legends and history of The Olde Pink House are all true … to one degree or another.
I’m mixing it up today and inviting all of you to decide where Paige will go next.
a. Paige will collect herself sufficiently to continue her assignment by exploring Bonaventure Cemetery.
b. Paige will need to collect herself sufficiently so she can continue her assignment by spending some time on St. Simons Island.
Don’t worry, either way the vote goes, poor Paige will have another encounter of the supernatural kind!
You can find me, and my books, at my website http://www.rachellynneauthor.com/.
If you missed Paige’s earlier adventures stop by my Blog; the links and dates of all adventures are posted in the News column. http://wwwrachellynneauthor.blogspot.com/
And, if you can’t wait for another suspenseful tale set amidst the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, may I suggest my romantic suspense novel Ring of Lies? (linked to TWRP http://www.thewildrosepress.com/ring-of-lies-p-4350.html
Secrets, Lies, and Murder surround Ivy Michaels amidst the backdrop of Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities!
Book Trailer for Ring of Lies (http://www.youtube.com/user/rachellynne1?feature=mhum)
A café owner and an ex-cop must solve the mystery of a hot blue diamond to catch a stone cold killer!
Excerpt available at: http://www.rachellynneauthor.com/ringoflies.html#excerpt
One lucky commenter will win a pdf of Ring of Lies. Want to increase your odds of winning? You’ll get an extra entry in the prize drawing if you indicate in your comment that you’ve joined my newsletter and/or Facebook Page. Don’t forget to vote on where I torture Paige next!
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