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Authors: Tara Brown

Blackwater

Blackwater

The Blackwater Witches

A Novel

A novel by Tara Brown

Copyright 2012 Tara Brown

This book is dedicated to my fans, thank you so much, the interest and support has been amazing. I also must thank my husband and children. You supported me even when I was in my writer’s frenzy.

Cover Art by Once Upon a Time Covers.

Edited by Andrea Burns

Thank you Nick J

A special thanks to The Nators. Thank you all. Best E-Friends an E-Girl could have!!!

Other books by Tara Brown

Cursed, Book One of the Devil’s Roses

Bane, Book Two of the Devil’s Roses

Hyde, Book Three of the Devil’s Roses

Witch, Book Four of the Devil's Roses

Death, Book Five of the Devil's Roses

Born, Book One of The Born Trilogy

The Light of the World, The Light Series

Vengeance, The Blood Trail Chronicles

The Lonely

Chapter One

Baton Rouge - June 1964

I know fear.

Fear that cripples you.

Fear that takes everything from you.

The loss of my dream in the middle of the night ain't the issue. The warmth of the heavy air don't bother me none. Being woken to the feeling of someone's whispered words on my lips wouldn’t be disturbing, if I knew whose words they was.

But no.

For the third night in a row at 2:47a.m, I'm startled awake by the feel of an icy whisper against my face. Formed words I know I comprehend and yet I can't hear clearly. It's always the same time. I can see the glint of the face of the clock on the wall. The numbers scare me. What do they mean?

As soon as I open my eyes, the words and the person who dares to whisper them, are gone. It's always the same.

That is the fear I know.

I'm left alone in the dank blackness of my room with the horror of whatever, or whoever it is, still there. The only sound in the whole room is the drapes being dragged along the carpets, as if trying to crawl away in protest, as the night air toys with them - as does whoever is waking me with their whispers.

Their whispers that still linger on my lips, like a gloss made of frost. I can feel the words hitting me with their icy-cold breath. I can feel their face next to mine. So close it's as if we are one. So familiar.

If I concentrate and close my eyes, I can hear the mumbles. Every word is drawn out in an exhale that brushes against me softly.

"Now."

"Here."

"They're coming, Lorelei."

It's always the same words. It hasn’t happened since I was a kid. I remember the bad feelings I had then. I would lie frozen, wide-awake and surrounded by the cold.

I stare at the stark white ceiling and wait for my heart to stop pounding. I'm terrified it will give away the fact I'm aware of them being there still. I don’t know where, I just know they are.

I need the light of the lamp next to me to stop the pounding of my heart, but I can't reach my hand to turn it on. I have a fear that my outstretched hand will be met with cold fingers, which will match the temperature of the whispers that woke me. Whatever it is can't touch me in my bed. It's a juvenile thought and yet, I believe it. I always have.

I sigh when the same thing happens that's happened every time the terror hits me - I have to go to the bathroom. However, instead of just reaching for the lamp beside me, I lie stiff as a board.

My body is trembling, as if I can't get warm again, yet I am sweating like a pig at a picnic.

I don’t move in the bed.

I don’t move at all.

I wait.

I listen.

Sometimes, if I'm not careful, it comes back just as I think I'm safe.

I take a breath and listen. My hearing is so sharp that I can hear the creak of the flagpole across the courtyard through my window.

I know I wet the bed as a child, enduring a moment exactly like this one.

Like I said, I know fear.

Fear that grips you and holds you tighter than any other emotion. Fear that takes away every ounce of sense you thought you had.

Slowly, I creep my fingers across the sheets to the resting place of Bunny. My white, stuffed rabbit that has always been my lucky charm. I almost sigh with relief when I touch his furry leg and drag him back to me. I pull him across my throat, just as I always have done. Just as Ramón's grandmamma instructed me to, after she blessed him to keep away the cold whispers. She couldn’t sense them in the room but she said that don’t mean they ain't there.

Bunny's protection gives me the strength to reach my hand out into the abyss and feel for the light switch. I clutch his leg with my right hand and slowly move my left hand across the bed.

My eyes dart around the room. My skin becomes hypersensitive to the feeling of the air around me, checking for the cold breeze.

When my hand reaches the end of the mattress, I stop and wait for my movements to be noticed. Nothing stirs. The icy cold in the air seems gone, but I don’t trust that. I don't make that mistake anymore.

It's come back fast before. In a whoosh it has come back and nearly stopped my heart.

I'm hyperventilating.

In one fast and fluid motion, I reach across the bedside table without knocking over anything. But in the dark, I end up fumbling for the dang switch on the lamp. The lamp is turned and the knob is on the other side. Time stretches, as my panicked hand gropes in the darkness for the small switch. Just as I feel the air growing cold again and my throat filling with a scream, my fingers find it.

I turn the switch making light flood the room. The cold is gone. The movement in the air has died down. It pretends to be part of the hot breeze coming in the windows. But I know better. Since I was a child I've known about the things that hide in the dark. I know it ran from the lights, it fled the window and won't come back until the lights are gone.

In the light of the room, I feel silly with a stuffed white rabbit stretched across my throat and my heart poundin’ in an unnatural way.

I jump up and run to my ensuite to pee. I turn every light switch along the way, filling the room with brightness. I will find a way to sleep with them all on. I always do.

It won't be a great sleep, but I will live through the night without terror and whispers. I lie back in bed with my rabbit safely around my throat. When my head hits the pillow, I feel the heavy weights pulling at my eyelids. I yawn and snuggle back into the covers. I am safe in my bed. The lit room is warm, but I don’t care. I sleep. Somehow I sleep.

I think it's the warmth that's there. I think it's Em. Sometimes she comes when I need her to. The warmth whispers too, it always says nice things.

Things like, 'sleep, my sweet' and such. I like the warmth. I know I sleep better when it's there. Deep down, even in my sleep, I think I know it's not Em.

At finishing school the next day, I yawn in class. I struggle to focus my attention. I haven’t been this tired in a long time. The icy whispers haven’t been back in a long time.

Ms. Mitchell drones on and on. I feel my head getting heavy. I close my eyes tightly and open them again.

Thankfully, she points to the green board and slaps the underlined words with her pointer stick. I am startled awake.

"A lady should be innocent until marriage. She should always ensure her appearance is not only respectable, but also attractive. Having dinner scheduled with the help is obviously important. Freshening up before he arrives home from work is a must. If you ignore everything else, remember this, no man wants to come home from work to find his wife as he left her." Her steel grey eyes float past our faces with severity and judgment.

The girl next to me leans in and whispers, "Sweet Jesus, that woman is a wind bag."

I stifle my giggle and watch as Ms. Mitchell pushes up her horn-rimmed glasses and watches us all like we are criminals. Her severe, bright-red lips are always drawn on, just as her black arched eyebrows are. Everything about her is perfect and cold. She and my momma would be great friends, if my momma could have female friends. They would be amazing friends with the way they talk all snooty, like they don't come from the South. Like they just came across on the Mayflower yesterday, as apposed to the bayou they live in. Just 'cause we filled in the swamp don't mean we ain't swamp folk. I have no illusions about my heritage, regardless of the image I try to portray. I can't talk like a Yankee, but I can act like one.

She whacks the board again like a mistress would with a whip and drones on and on about the gentlemen we will marry.

Angie, my best girlfriend, looks at me and makes a face, "I hope I don't end up with no gentleman. I want someone like James Dean or nothing."

I snicker and yawn again.

Ms. Mitchell crosses the room as if she were walking with books on her head, "Now tomorrow's lesson will be about hiring the help to ensure your home runs smoothly. We will actually have a woman in from an agency to discuss this with us. You may talk quietly amongst yourselves until the bell rings." She walks to her desk and sits with some papers.

Angie leans over and whispers, "Sweet god. If her back was any straighter, they'd be sending a dive team in her ass to get the stick out. That speech was exactly why I am never marrying. I don’t care what tortures they inflict upon my flesh, I will never be some man's slave. Hell no."

I shake my head, "You know what your parents expect. It ain't no different than mine do."

She tilts her head, giving me sass with her look, "Sayin ain't, ain't gonna find you no gentleman." She lifts her face and puckers her lips, "Say, is not." She adds an English accent to it, making it all proper.

I laugh quietly, "You're a bad influence on me. Ramón was right about you."

She looks around us, ignoring me completely, "We need to get away from all this nonsense. Tell Ramón to meet us out back with the bags packed and ready for California. We can bum on the beach and find us some surfers. We can eat hotdogs and drink sodas."

I roll my eyes.

She nods seriously, "I am serious. Why are we here? I was bribed and I'm telling you girl, the car they bought me wasn't worth this."

I shake my head and fight the urge to stretch and snuggle down in the chair. The poor posture comments from the battle-ax aren't worth sleeping.

Instead, I mutter, "Your bank account and mine won't last us a summer in California. That fancy car will be the last fine thing you own. If any of us could leave and be independently wealthy, we would. But to leave and be poor - no, hell no. I'm fixin to marry well."

Her bright-green eyes snap shut, "I can live without money. I think I can. I probably can. What I can't live without is true love. Not debutant love, but real love. Improper lover. Hot, sweaty Mardi Gras love that my momma would kill me for." She says it keeel, instead of kill, the way we do when we're getting all riled up.

I laugh at her. "Yes, well, love may feed the soul Angelina, but we sold our souls a long time ago. You got a Cadillac and I'll be married to the most eligible bachelor in all of Louisiana. Besides, being broke ain't something any of us is capable of. I'm not even gonna try to imagine my life without financial support. Can you imagine having a job, a real job?" I shudder.

Her bright eyes light up, "I can imagine the clothes I would need for my job. Pencil skirts and blouses and maybe glasses. I could get them with just glass in them, to make me look all proper and sharper. I could be a journalist or a top secretary to a president of a company. Oh imagine. We could have a mad love affair. Check into hotels with fake names and pretend to be married, but at the end of the weekend I could go home and enjoy my freedom." She feigns a sigh and holds her hands to her chest.

I put my hand over my mouth to muffle the giggles and another yawn. "You're wicked. I know I'm probably marrying next year. Daddy said I could draw out the engagement and do it the year after if I wanted. But Momma has been seeing to what she calls 'proper suitors' for some time now. She's fixin for me to marry this summer I think."

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