Book 2: The Possession
Successful in his plan to return to the mortal realm, Jeremy Wickcliff believes he’s found his son, whose body will allow him to continue to live, and he has brought back his sister, Rachel, as part of his resurgence plan for the Wickcliff family. However, the son that he thinks is his isn’t, and Rachel isn’t exactly his ally. Trapped in the Wickcliff mausoleum in the spirit realm, the Wickcliff ancestors have their own plan to return to life in the mortal realm, with or without Jeremy’s help.
As the witches begin to piece together Jeremy’s plan after a visit from his wife, Lucy, in spirit form, they realize that they must band together in an attempt to stop him from bringing his family back and to banish him back to the ghost realm. With a battle between good and evil takes place on the grounds of the Wickcliff cemetery, the outcome will change the lives of the residents of Sleepy Meadows forever.
The concept of time is different in the spirit realm than it is in the mortal one. It’s not measured by hours or even minutes. Although time has gone on, it feels like I’ve been trapped in one long, endless nightmare since my suicide and transition to the spirit realm. I can’t gauge how long it’s been now, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is I’ve found myself trapped in the attic of the Wickcliff mansion, where I ended my life, with no apparent way out.
In an instant, I, Shelly Hawkins-Wickcliff, the younger sister of Ethan Hawkins and daughter to Carol and Jeffrey Hawkins, ceased to exist. I can still connect with my family and friends in my mind. I can see the events of the mortal realm unfolding like a movie. I’ve seen my father murdered by Jeremy Wickcliff, the same evil, vile spirit who’d gotten inside my mind and coerced me into taking my life. He’d returned to the mortal realm using Midnight’s Edge, a time of night where the veil between the living and the dead ceases to exist and inhabited the body of Reed Withers, who soon became trapped in the spirit realm with me after his mind and body were possessed. At the age of twenty-five, the same age as me, it appeared that his life was over just as mine was.
Reed’s a fighter who refuses to accept that his life as he knew it is over. Having him in the spirit realm with me has helped me realize that like him, I can’t sit back and let Jeremy get away with what he’s taken from me. Reed’s determination to reclaim his life has reignited the fighter in me, the person who no longer wishes to be a victim. I’ve become determined to make Jeremy pay for the suffering he’s inflicted on me, my late husband Rory, and the rest of my family, although I’m still figuring out how.
The one connection I still have to the mortal realm is through Kasey Menze, one of my closest friends and my brother’s lover. While no one in the mortal realm knows of my presence there when I go there in my mind, Kasey’s the exception. He has special abilities, psychic abilities. He can hear me when I speak to him. I’ve also been able to give him visions, visions of my death and turmoil that I now face. While he’s doing his best to shut me out, afraid of what I’ve shown him and desperate for a normal life with my brother, I know I’ve got to keep trying to connect with him. He’s the only hope I have of warning my loved ones of the impending danger they face as a result of Jeremy’s presence in their world.
I turned to look out the window, peering out at the town below, before shutting my eyes and attempting to make contact with the mortal realm. I saw Kasey outside his mother Gracey’s house, who’d just encountered Jeremy, who he thought was Reed. He thought the encounter odd, as he couldn’t figure out why Reed was there or why he’d left as suddenly as he’d appeared. He hadn’t known that Jeremy had shown up to coerce Gracey into telling him who his son was, the son he’d blamed her for helping his wife, Lucy, keep from him his son’s entire life. He wouldn’t even have known about his son’s existence if it hadn’t been for his paying off an old gypsy woman that Lucy once knew to tell him the truth.
Kasey hadn't realized the extent of the danger his mother was in as he went up to her kitchen door and entered the house without knocking. She’d told him to come over in a hurry, and while Kasey was only five years older than me, the worry I saw as I studied his face made him appear much older than he was.
“Mom, I got here as quickly as I could. You sounded so strange on the phone. I could tell by the tone in your voice that something’s wrong. What is it?”
Gracey stood up slowly and pointed to Hilda. “Kasey, this is an old friend of mine, Hilda. You remember her.”
Kasey gave Hilda a nod, acknowledging that he did remember her. Hilda was one of Gracey’s dearest friends, but he hadn’t seen her in fifteen years. No one had until recently after she’d taken an extended absence from Sleepy Meadows. Much like his mother, he’d noticed that she hadn’t aged well. Her gray eyes still showed the kindness he’d always remembered she had, but now the shade of her hair, pulled back in a bun, matched. Her skin had withered, and while he hadn’t known what happened in her life while she was away, it was obvious that her experiences had weathered her. She appeared weaker and more frail than he remembered.
“Yes, I do,” Kasey said, smiling. “Mom talks about you all of the time. It’s nice to see you again.”
“I haven’t seen you since you were a teen,” Hilda said, her voice lower and not as feminine as Gracey’s. “I didn’t expect you to remember me at all. Your mother didn’t tell me what a handsome young man you’ve become.”
He blushed. “Thank you.”
“Please sit down,” Gracey said. “I need to talk to you.” He sat. “Would you like something to drink?”
“What I’d like is for you to stop stalling. I know that something’s bothering you, I always know. Just tell me what it is.”
Gracey smiled. “We do have a special connection, don’t we, son?” She lost her smile and winced.
“Are you alright?” Hilda asked.
“My leg’s bothering me,” she said, sitting down. “I’ll be fine.”
Kasey began to stand up. “Where’s your pain medication, Mom?”
Gracey put her hand on his arm, and he sat down again. “Don’t worry about that now. It makes me groggy. I need to talk to you clearly about this. All those years I spent taking care of you as a boy, I never expected that the roles would be reversed. You take such good care of me.”
He patted her on the knee softly. “I figure I owe ya one...or two...or fifty. When Ethan left, and I started drinking more, you were the one that was there for me.”
She rubbed his hand that was still on her knee. “I know what a burden I’ve become.”
He shook his head. “No, you haven’t. I do what I do because I love you.”
“And I love you, son. That’s why I need to tell you the truth now, for your sake.”
He removed his hand. “The truth about what?”
“About your biological parents, and how I became your mother.”
His eyes widened. “I’ve asked about them before, and you never gave me a straight answer. Why do you want to talk about them now?”
She sighed. “I’ve kept the truth from you because it’s what your mother asked me to do. When you were born, she made me promise to take you and keep you safe. However, you’re a man now, Kasey, and you can protect yourself. To do that, you need to know where you come from.”
He turned to Hilda. “Did you know my biological mother too?”
She nodded. “Let your mother finish, Kasey.”
He looked back at Gracey. “What were you keeping me safe from?”
She took his hand. “Not from what. From whom. Your mother was afraid of her husband.”
“Who was she? Why was she so afraid of my father?”
“Your mother’s name was Lucy Sheldon. She married a Wickcliff. He was ruthless.”
“I know the story of Lucy Wickcliff.” He took his hand back, exhaled sharply, and looked away from the women for a moment. He ran his hands through his dark hair, remembering the story he’d heard as a child about how she’d died. “She was married to Jeremy,” he said, meeting eyes with them again. The next thought he had sickened him. “Are you telling me that he’s my father?”
Gracey shook her head. “You aren’t Jeremy’s son. That’s why your mother was afraid for your safety. If Jeremy had discovered that, he would’ve killed you. He would’ve never accepted that his wife had a child with another man.”
He sat back in his chair, relieved. “That’s how I ended up with you?”
She nodded. “Your mother was pregnant with you when she married Jeremy, but he didn’t know that. He went away to Europe for several months and so he never knew about her pregnancy. When she had you, she told no one. I was her midwife, and she asked me to keep you and raise you as my own.”
“Why would you do that for her?”
“I did it for both of you. Lucy, Carol, Hilda and I were sisters in a coven. Lucy was taken in by Jeremy’s charms, but it didn’t take her long to discover what a mistake she’d made in marrying him. She soon realized how despicable he was. Your mother loved you, and she gave you up to save your life.”
“Ethan’s mother was part of your coven?” He looked back and forth between Hilda and Gracey, who gave him another nod. “She’s a witch?”
“You care about Carol’s son a great deal, don’t you?” Hilda said. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“Never mind that now. I want to hear the rest of the story. Did Lucy die in a car accident as the legend says?”
“Our coven was trying to help rid the town of Jeremy’s evil,” Gracey said. “We were unsuccessful. He tried to eliminate us all, and we fought back. That’s how I hurt my leg. Lucy took it upon herself to end his life, but in the end, she lost hers too. They were both killed when their car went over Lover’s Bluff.”
“If he really loved Lucy, he wouldn’t have hurt me. She would’ve had to know that.”
“Jeremy doesn’t know the true meaning of the word. If he finds out that Lucy’s your mother, the ultimate revenge on her would be to have you killed. I’m sure he blames her for the accident that caused his death.”
He rubbed his forehead. “Wait a minute. You’re talking about him as if he were still alive.”
Gracey’s face fell. “We believe that he’s used Midnight’s Edge to return to the mortal world. You must remember the stories I used to tell you about it.”
“That’s exactly what I thought they were. Stories.”
“You have abilities, Kasey. You inherited Lucy’s gifts. You understand that there’s more to this world than what we can see, that’s beyond all logic.”
“And you believe he’s coming after me? How do you know this?”
“Your mother came to Hilda in a vision with a warning. That’s why Hilda’s here.”
He turned his attention to Hilda. “You’ve seen her?”
“I see many spirits,” she said. “It’s part of my gift.”
He stood up. “If Jeremy’s here, it could explain a lot.”
Gracey’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by that?”
He sighed. “I told you about the terrible vision I had in the bar, but that’s not all. After I left you, I had another one about Ethan’s sister, Shelly.”
“What sort of vision?” Hilda asked, intrigued.
“I went up to the Wickcliff’s to check on her after I’d heard that she wasn’t returning any of her family’s calls. I heard her call out to me, and suddenly, I was in a vision. I went up to the attic in the mansion and saw her hanging there. She was dead, and it looked like she’d committed suicide.”
Hilda gasped. “Good heavens. Are you sure?”
He nodded with a grim and remorseful expression on his face.
Gracey turned in her chair to face him. “Oh, darling, how terrible for you. Did you tell anyone else what you saw?”
“I went to Sheriff Withers. I saw his son, Reed, on the Wickcliff grounds with Pit Bowen. They were carrying what looked like a body toward the mausoleum. He said he’d investigate, but I think he thought I was off my rocker, or at the very least drinking again. I don’t blame him.”
“That can’t be. I’ve spoken to Carol since Jeffrey’s wake,” Gracey said. “She mentioned that Shelly showed up and explained her absence.”
He shook his head. “When I touched her, I could feel that she wasn’t the same. I can’t explain it, but she was different. I feel it in my gut. I don’t know who that is, but it isn’t Shelly.”
“That’s quite possible,” Hilda said. “If the real Shelly’s gone, she may have been inhabited by another force, just as Jeremy’s inhabited a mortal.”
“So he’s back, but he couldn’t come back in his own form?” Kasey asked.
“Only his spirit’s remained alive,” Gracey said. “He has no mortal body to come back to, so he had to find a mortal host that he could possess.”
“Reed,” Kasey said in sudden revelation, his eyes shifting away from the ladies.
“I beg your pardon?” Gracey said.
He paused before meeting eyes with her. “Reed’s been acting so strangely. First, I find him creeping around the Wickcliff cemetery in the middle of the night barking orders at Pit Bowen. I thought that strange enough. Then I just ran into him outside right before I came in here. He acted as if he’d never seen me before. What if Reed’s the one that Jeremy’s possessed?”
Hilda turned her attention to Gracey. “If that was Jeremy outside, he may have heard us. He may know that Kasey’s Lucy’s son. I fear that you’re both in more immediate danger than I thought.”
“If Jeremy’s possessed the Withers boy,” Gracey said, “I suppose he was here to seek revenge on me for my part in his destruction. I’m not surprised. I knew it was only a matter of time before he came looking for me. If he heard us, he knows you’re here too, Hilda.”
Kasey rubbed his mother’s arm. “Don’t worry, Mom. I won’t let him get to you as long as I’m still breathing.”
“That’s my greatest fear,” Gracey said, her eyes searching his. “I’m not worried about myself. I’m not without my powers. Even if he did come after me, I’m an old lady, and I’ve had a good life. I wouldn’t hesitate to give up my life if it meant saving yours.”
They hadn’t realized that although Jeremy had overheard their conversation that he’d misunderstood it. He’d assumed he was Kasey’s father because Lucy was his mother. This didn’t keep Kasey out of danger, but Jeremy needed him alive as he needs to inhabit someone of his own bloodline if his spirit’s going to remain in the mortal realm permanently.
“Don’t say that,” Kasey said, holding his hands in front of him as if to stop her. “Don’t even think it. I’ll protect you from him. I promise.” He exhaled. “I’m not even sure that Reed’s the one Jeremy possessed, but it makes the most sense given his behavior. My first instinct is to warn Sheriff Withers about his son, but he’d never believe me, not now that he thinks I was wrong about Shelly’s death. It’s too fantastic of a story.”
“Sit back down,” Gracey said, gesturing to the chair he’d sat in before. “There’s more to the story.”
He sat, and grabbed her hand for emphasis. “Mom, do you know who my father is? Did Lucy tell you?”
She nodded. “Your father was a friend of ours, a mystical teacher named Damon Shields. He was working with us to try to bring down Jeremy as well. Your parents were very much in love.”
I felt that Damon Shields was the same Damon I’d heard my mother talking about. Had Lucy and my mother been in love with the same man? If he’d been in love with Mom, why was he involved with Lucy? I suddenly remembered the bald man in the monk’s habit that Kasey had seen in his vision at The Hook. My instincts told me that the man was Damon reaching out to Kasey. I continued to listen to their conversation, hoping for answers.
“You said he was a friend,” Kasey said. “Does that mean he’s dead?”
“I believe he’s alive,” Gracey said. “But he’s been in seclusion.”
“My father just left me?”
“He doesn’t know about you. He’s a good man. If he’d known about you, things would’ve been different.”
“If he’d known about you,” Hilda said, “he would’ve wanted to be part of your life. He probably still would want to be.”
He stood up, unable to take it all in. He didn’t know if he should be thankful or angry. The woman he’d trusted the most had kept everything about his parents from him. He was silent for a moment before meeting her eyes.
“You should’ve told me who my parents were a long time ago. I had a right to know.”
“As I told you, Lucy asked me to keep your identity secret for your sake. I saw no reason to cause you any more pain by telling you your mother was dead. Things are different now that Jeremy’s back.”
“If this is true, if he’s back, I’ll kill him myself. I swear it.”
“You can’t,” Hilda said. “If you destroy him, whomever he inhabits will parish as well whether it be the Withers boy or another. Our only hope is to exorcise him back to the darkness from where he came.”
“I want you to promise me that you won’t seek him out,” Gracey said. “You don’t know what you’re up against, son. He’s more powerful than you realize.”
He took a deep breath, trying to maintain his composure. “So now what? I can’t stand by and do nothing.”
“You can and you will. I’ve fought him before. I know what to do. You don’t.”
“Mom, you aren’t in any shape to confront him, and you know it.”
“Your mother isn’t alone,” Hilda said. “She has me, and she has Carol. We’re family, and we’ll protect each other just as we always have.”
He bent down so that he was at Gracey’s level and touched her cheek. “You’re the only mother I’ve ever known. If anything were to happen to you, I’d never forgive myself.”
She looked into his eyes. “You have to trust me, Kasey.”
He sighed. He was upset with Gracey for keeping the truth from him, but he understood. In his heart, he knew how much she loved him, and he was convinced she’d done what she thought was best.
He didn’t verbalize it, but he made a vow that he’d stop Jeremy before he could do any damage to anyone he cared about. Gracey had protected him his whole life, and now that she was withered and broken, it was his turn to protect her.
I was worried for Kasey’s safety. Gracey was right, he didn’t know anything about Jeremy. He had no idea of the cruelty that Jeremy was capable of.