25 New Loves for Valentine’s Day? And all of them FREE!

The Boy in the Sixth Form pt. 1 (aka My First Valentine)


One Valentine’s Day stands out in my memory. I would have been fourteen, and had a HUGE crush on a boy at school. He was two years older than me, and at fourteen, that kinda age difference was crippling. He joined our math class each week, and when I learned his favourite candy was lemon bonbons (a chewy English candy, not unlike bonbonstoffee), I made sure I always took a bag to class with me. I joined the amateur dramatics group, because he was a budding thespian, despite never being interested before. I developed a brief fascination with football when I learned he played for a local team, and I also joined the tennis club. Guess who played tennis there?

After months of talking to him in the math class, spending half my pocket money on candy that I never ate, and watching a sport that I hated, it was finally Valentine’s Day, and I had an excuse to express my teenage devotion. I bought a card for him. I agonized over what to write. How to hint at my identity, without being obvious?

Happy Valentines Day, I wrote. That’s all. SO LAME! Where was the witty line, the inside joke, the freaking giant clue that I was madly in love with him? Where?

I walked past his house ridiculously early, and shoved it through the letter box before running away. Would he like it? Would he connect it with me?

The following day I was on tenterhooks. It was maths, currently my favourite subject. I bought bonbons.

He arrived, hand in hand with another girl from my class.




Romantic heroes are always a safer bet, so how do you fancy meeting 25 of them? Or more?

I’m taking part in the Valentine’s Down Under promo on Instafreebie. You can download scores of FREE romance novels, all set down under, in New Zealand or Australia. One of my wolfie books is featured – Caging the Wolf.

Really. What’s not to like?


The promo runs until 20 Feb, so grab your freebies while you can 🙂


P.S. Come back next week for The Boy in the Sixth Form part 2

Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂

Sofia x

Falling out of love


“I don’t believe it,” I said. “How could you?”

There was no response.

I tried again. “You’re joking. Just messing around.”



My iPhone sat there, looking innocent. All my contacts for the last two years or so… gone. Vanished. Poof! My list of recent calls was just a list of random numbers, each from some weirdo called “unknown”.

Furious woman“Why?”

I clearly hadn’t gone past the pleading / disbelief stage.

“I need to call Jo.”

I called Jo yesterday – along with half a dozen other people – and now I’d no way of knowing which number to dial. Gone are the days of remembering all the phone numbers I ever needed. They were over a long time ago.

Maybe the numbers would still be in the contacts list, and there was just some trickery connecting the dots to recent calls?


Clutching-at-straws time.

Coz you see, the names had disappeared from contacts too. An unknown number of people had been culled – for no reason – without me doing anything. The only time I’ll be able to add them back is if / when they call me, and I have to answer when I haven’t got a freaking clue who’s on the other end of the phone. Don’t know about you, but I HATE that. Hate it with a passion. That’s one thing I love about smartphones – they tell you who’s calling. And that’s fantastic – until they don’t.

After having to go through my email to find Jo’s number (so slooooow), and adding him back as a contact, I had a brainwave. Two, actually.

  1. I asked Google. The answers, while sounding helpful, had no effect.
  2. I spent an hour going through my text messages, figuring out who I was speaking with in each, and recreating some of my contacts list from that. Equally slow. Painfully, tediously slow.


My last ditch attempt is to download the most recent bug-fix-update, and hope it works. If not… the conversation will go something like this.

Me: How can I trust you after this? I can’t. You might do it again.

Me: Don’t look at me like that. It’s not my fault you couldn’t do your job properly.

Me: *sigh* It’s not you, it’s me. Hang on…no, it IS you. I’m sorry, but I’m going to look at an upgrade. *cries*


…The update is still loading. Only time will tell…

Year 2016 written on sand at sunset

* Closes the door on 2016 *

It doesn’t seem almost a year since I woke up to the news that David Bowie had died. I never met him, or even saw him perform live, and yet I felt as saddened by his passing as I would an old friend.

As a teenager, and in my early twenties, I had a number of clear and vivid dreams about him. In those he was a friend, someone who called around to my place and hung out with me, when he wasn’t on tour. There was no concept of Rock Star, he was just David. I don’t recall dreaming about him for years, and then he visited my nocturnal plane the night before he died. Once again we hung out, drank wine and chatted about our lives, and then he was gone. And when I awoke that morning it was to find he’d truly gone.


2016 was a year of oddities. David Bowie was the first of many celebrities and musicians to go. There were political upheavals with Brexit, and much later, The Donald. There were more terrorist atrocities. The weather seemed confused too. Extremes of everything – and the ground shook HARD in New Zealand.

Was anything good this year?

I discovered SUITS on TV and binge-watched my way through all 5 seasons. I ❤ Harvey.

I read some fantastic books. I fell in love with Sarina Bowen’s new romances (True North series), set in Vermont. Also her Ivy Years college romances.

I listened to some awesome music. There was the day-long Homegrown Music Festival in Wellington (in March), featuring the best of New Zealand’s live music. I also discovered Highly Suspect, Kaleo, and Broods.

If you somehow haven’t heard Highly Suspect, you don’t know what you’re missing. And THIS video. It’s just… WOW! Shot entirely underwater, in a single take, she really does hold her breath that long. Incredible!

I hope 2017 is kind to us.

What were your high (low) lights of the year?


5 post-quake behaviours

Living on an active fault line

I’ve experienced a few earthquakes now, two of which were scary. I’m talking huddled-under-the-desk scared, with ten floors of offices above my head, while the building shook like a rattle in a toddler’s fist. Not fun.

Most of them are gentle, varying from a slight jolt to a swaying sensation, much like being on a boat. I’m fine with those, after all, it’s part of the trade-off for living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world: it’s also one of the most seismically active.

Anyway. Most people who live here, certainly those in the vast area from Christchurch through to Wellington, have adopted new behaviours over the past few years.

using smart phone

1. Keep the phone charged

As soon as it drops to half-battery, I whip out my charging cable. It might shave a few months from the expected lifespan of the battery, but it’s better than being caught with no electricity and just a few minutes of power left.

 2. Carry the phone everywhere!

While I’m at work, it goes with me (on silent) to every meeting, every time I venture outside, or go to the bathroom or the kitchen. If I get stuck somewhere, I can use it to call for help (if the phone network is still working), use the flashlight (another reason to always keep the battery full!), or—hopefully—text my family to tell them I’m safe and to ask if they’re okay.

3. Keep the petrol tank in the car at least half full

I might have to evacuate in a hurry, with no time to top up the tank. Also, in the event of a big quake, the power lines will be down and the petrol stations not working.

4. Look out for ‘safe zones’ when out and about

The main shopping street in Wellington is filled with tower blocks and glass. I dread the idea of being caught there if the Big One happened, but I keep an eye on safe zones: doorways and recesses, or areas of open ground well away from the buildings. I’d dive under a café table if it offered me some shelter.

5. Always have trainers / flat shoes / walking boots at hand

Wellingtonians usually wear flat shoes around the city (it’s hilly, with uneven sidewalks), but I now always keep a sturdy pair of comfortable trainers (and socks) under my desk. Not so much for walking the ninety km home, but for walking to a friend’s house if I get stranded in the city.


There are other things I do now, that I never did before (hoard bottled water and muesli bars at home, and always keep a flashlight by the side of my bed), but I might save those for another list.

Did I miss anything? What do you do differently now?


Did the earth move for you? Hell, yes!


Living in the shadow of The Big One

Copyright Maarten Holl / Fairfax NZ

Copyright Maarten Holl / Fairfax NZ


It’s weird to think that earthquakes have become part of our lives. It’s normal to keep food supplies and a pair of sturdy running shoes under my desk in the office, along with a list of friends in the town who I could go to, in the event I couldn’t get home.


Normal too, to have quake supplies at home. Strong plastic boxes with basic foodstuffs. A camping stove. Lots and LOTS of bottled water. Torches in every room, and emergency lights that come on in the event of a power cut. We get some bad storms here in winter, and those babies have been worth their weight in gold.


For as long as we’ve lived in the Wellington region of New Zealand, we’ve been aware of the quake risk, in particular, the Big One that everyone fears will happen. The one in the middle of the day when the offices and shops are all full. The one that cuts off the capital from the rest of the country, with dwindling food and water supplies and no way for aid to come in. The one that generates a deadly tsunami.


Sunday night was our first serious tsunami threat, and believe me, I don’t want a re-run of that. Waking at midnight to a gently rocking bed, I could dismiss it as just-another-quake, but then it rocked a bit harder. I scrambled out as I shouted to Teen Son (already awake) and husband (watching TV), and that’s when the jolt hit. Normally, you get a gentle roll, and then either a jolt or a long rolling motion, but this was different. It jolted. And it JOLTED. And then again. Scared? You bet. The house creaked and rattled, boxes fell over, and the grandfather clock stopped. The furbabies mostly ran for cover, apart from Mitten, settled on a pillow, who just watched me with a baffled expression on her face.


Where the quake was felt (across NZ)

Where the quake was felt (across NZ)

Losing the electricity was no surprise, but our emergency lights kicked in. Then came the guessing game of how-big, and how-far-away? Finding our cellphones still worked was a huge plus. The initial reports looked bad, but not that bad. 6.2, maybe. Or 6.6. It finally settled on M.7.5, in a remote part of South Island some two hundred miles away from us. Holy fuck, we said. We were lucky. Lucky it happened at home, while we were all together. Lucky it wasn’t the middle of the day when we could all become stranded, miles from home.


The power came back on almost two hours after the quake, at which point we scrambled to make tea. Hey, we’re English.  🙂


However, despite our proximity to the beach, we didn’t immediately think tsunami. We were too busy firing off messages and emails to friends and family to check they were okay, and to reassure them of our safety.



It quickly became apparent, this was a real threat, but we saw conflicting updates depending on where we looked. Some sites advised east coast locations at risk, others included Wellington and Kapiti (where we live). If we did have to evacuate, we needed to be ready.


Our earthquake / tsunami plan needs a bit of fine-tuning, but we had the basics nailed down. Loading the cars with prearranged items. Grabbing warm coats and strong shoes. Extra batteries. Getting the cat carriers ready for use. Figuring out where to go.


Somewhere around four in the morning, I whined that while the quake had been scary, the wait-and-see for the tsunami was worse. It shredded every last nerve.


The alerts were called off around five, and we let out a sigh of relief. Finally, we could get some sleep, apart from the aftershocks still vibrating the house of course.


Some ten years ago, while planning our move from the UK to New Zealand, top of our list of decisions was where to live. The bustling city of Auckland, way in the north? The capital, Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island, or Christchurch, halfway down the South Island.


Wellington Cityscape - Oriental Bay


Auckland was out. We were moving to get away from busy cities. Wellington straddles a number of major fault lines and is at risk from earthquakes, so that was also a no. Christchurch, we said. The population is lighter, it’s more rural, but still with a city’s commerce and industry.   As it turned out, I received a job offer in Wellington and that’s where we went.


And in hindsight? Wow. I’m glad we made that decision. The imagery of the Christchurch quake in 2011 still haunts me. The loss of 185 lives. A city centre that has only just re-opened for business in some parts. We are happy with our choice of Wellington for work, and a home in a quiet beachside village an hour north of the capital.


We were lucky again this time. We’ll re-jig our survival kits and evacuation plans, and get back to normal in a few days. We’ll pull faces, and shrug over the aftershocks, and pretend we weren’t scared by them. The offices will re-open for work, and we’ll swap stories over coffee, trading tips for emergency plans, and laughing at our dumb choices. Canned chicken? Great, except none of us actually eat it!


But I know, every time the floor moves beneath my feet, I instantly think: is this the Big One?



Growing up in a Haunted House

#4 in the Spooky October series


Nope, that’s not code for something. I mean properly haunted. With a ghost.


Growing up, I was the youngest of three, and since my brother and sister were much older, I was more like an only child at home. I don’t remember much of the early manifestations, but it’s safe to say they freaked out my parents.


It was an old brick –built house, dating from the late 1890’s, and joined to the house next door, semi-detached style. These were the only two properties at the end of a long country lane.


Picture the scene. Late at night. The household is asleep. My brother is home with a group of friends, and after returning from a night at the pub, they all crash on the living room floor. All is peaceful, until the locked back door makes a banging noise, as though someone threw the door open. Same with the kitchen door. Then the door at the bottom of the stairs. Heavy feet pound up the stairs. Each bedroom door flies opens in turn, and then shuts again. The footsteps hurtle back down, the doors all slam shut. The whole thing was over in less than a minute.



My father was furious. He charged downstairs, ready to take the guys to task, but found then all asleep. Solidly, and drunkenly. They slept through it.


This pattern of doors opening and feet on the stairs was repeated a couple more times, but then stopped. Was it connected to the well-meaning local vicar saying some prayers in the house? We’ll never know. He drew the line at exorcism, you see. Anyway it seemed to work.


Other odd things happened while I was growing up, events that defied science. Strange noises coming from next door, like bowling balls rolling along the floor. When Mum asked the neighbour, he said the sound was coming from our house.


2000px-aceofspades-svgPlaying a card game—Chase the Ace—that relied on the Ace of Spades, and having to stop the game when it went missing. Totally and completely missing, from one hand to the next. The card turned up in the front garden the next morning, lying on the top stone of the rockery.


When I was eight, I was given a proper wristwatch for the first time, as opposed to the cheap ones beforehand. I was thrilled, and vowed to take good care of it, wind it up every day, and take it off at bedtime. Two days later, it vanished from my bedroom overnight. I swore I placed it on the dressing table when I went to bed, but in the morning it was gone. It turned up a week later, lying proudly on the rockery stone—and still keeping time, even though it should have run down days earlier.


The TV being struck by lightning as we watched the Wimbledon finals one year was bad enough. When it happened again a couple of years later—again during the Wimbledon finals—it went beyond coincidence. Our poor next door neighbour had theirs struck by lightning another year. Three strikes on the same building? Seriously?


And yet, even with a plethora of unexplained things happening, we never felt scared or uneasy. Ours was a calm and playful ghost. Rumour had it, a teenage boy that grew up in the house, had died in a road accident at fifteen, and it was his spirit that haunted us.


Years passed. My parents retired to somewhere smaller, and my brother bought the old place and remodelled it. The original staircase was taken out, the upstairs was redesigned. All was going well until the master builder decided to work late one bright, summer evening. He heard a noise behind him, and thought it was his apprentice packing up. “Pass me the hammer,” he said to his boy, but nothing happened. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw a young man looking at him. Even as the builder opened his mouth to speak, the stranger turned on his heel and walked through the new interior wall that had been constructed days earlier.


To my knowledge, the builder is the only person to ever actually see our ghost. The house has been sold on a couple more times, and now lies empty. That’s a shame. I’m sure our friendly ghost preferred to have company.


Have you ever seen or heard a ghost? I’d love to hear from you 🙂



Six Haunted Scottish Castles

~ Spooky October #3 ~


According to The Scotsman Magazine (11 August 2014), the five most haunted castles in Scotland are:

  1. Meggernie Castle (Perthshire)
  2. Ethie Castle (nr Arbroath)
  3. Sanquhar Castle (Dumfries)
  4. Duntrune Castle (Argyll)
  5. Barcaldine Castle (Argyll)

For more on these, read the article here:

I mentioned six castles, but have only listed five. That’s because I want to tell you about a truly spooky experience I had in Elcho Castle, Perthshire.

elcho-1I visited here in September 2004, while on holiday. Elcho was probably the fourth castle I’d visited during that week.

Elcho was mostly empty inside, and in a good state of repair. It was a warm and sunny early autumn day, and the building felt peaceful and calm. Rising from the main floor space were four winding staircases, one of which—according to the information brochure—led to a roofwalk. I visited with my husband, our young son and his friend, and I left them pottering about while I explored the staircases. The first three were fine, and I left the roofwalk-access one until last. I wanted to check how safe the roofwalk was, before I took the children up there.


Half-way up, the staircase widened into a spacious, sun-filled landing, but as soon as I set foot on it I froze. It was as though I’d walked into a wall of icy fog. It looked bright and sunny, but the temperature dropped unbearably. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had the distinct impression of something squeezing me around the chest, tightening and forcing the air out of my lungs.

I broke free and managed to step back. Just two steps down, the temperature leapt back to normal. My heart was still racing. I took a deep breath. My lungs worked again.


Needless to say, I made my way back downstairs. When I caught up with my husband a few minutes later, I suggested he take a look for himself, without telling him what I experienced. He came back shortly after, looking pale and shaken. Yes, he agreed, when we swapped notes. That was WEIRD.

We asked the castle guide if the place was haunted, and she told us there were rumours of a white lady. According to legend, the woman was terribly burned when her dress caught fire, and she died a few days later. This was nowhere near the staircase, though, and so I’m not convinced they are connected.

Unfortunately this was before the days of digital cameras and hundreds of images, and the 35mm shots I took didn’t show anything untoward.

If you’d like to visit a haunted Scottish castle, or watch footage or paranormal investigators doing their thing, you should check out this site:

There is footage of their findings in Elcho Castle, and it’s worth a look:

Do you have any stories about Scottish castles? Have you ever experienced anything you couldn’t explain with science? I’d love to hear from you.

Image of Elcho staircase courtesy of Pinterest:


Why is romance writing seen as a joke?


My close friends all know. My immediate family knows. Some of my workmates (past and present) also know. It’s not like I keep it a secret, so why don’t I make more of a fuss about it?

My name is Sofia, and I write romantic fiction. There, I’ve said it.




Despite its market share, romantic fiction is still seen as a joke. The dweeb at the office party. Not important enough to have an opinion. Not cool enough. The dim-witted fool that nobody takes seriously.

It frustrates the hell out of me.


When I tell someone new, the conversation follows a predictable path.

Me: I’m a writer.

Them: Really? Have you been published?

Me: Yes. Over 20 solo titles, and 11 short stories in anthologies.

Them: That’s exciting. What kinds of books do you write?

Me: Romantic fiction.


* tumbleweed drifts by *


Them: Umm. Like Fifty Shades?

Me: Not really.

Them: * snickering * I wouldn’t have thought you wrote romance.


At this point, I really want to drive home the statistics. Largest share of the genre fiction market. Approximately 15% of the entire adult fiction market. Over 70 million readers in the target market. Over half the mass market paperbacks sold in the USA.

Do I? Nope. I’m usually eyeing up my rapid exit and wishing I’d kept my mouth shut.


The next set of questions are predictable:

Them: How many have you sold?

Me: < Per day? Week? Grand total? > Difficult to calculate. More than I realise, but way less than many others.

Them: How much money have you made?

Me: < This one makes me feel like asking how much they earn. Again, I’m non-committal. > Not enough to give up the day job.

Them: Where do you get your ideas?

Me: < smiling sweetly > The office.

Them: Have you tried everything you’ve written about?

Me: Well of course. <  If I said I wrote sci-fi murders, would they still ask this? >  Yes, I bludgeoned a five-eyed green alien with my blaster on my way in today.

Them: Why don’t you write a proper book?

Me:<  This one stings. I want to stamp my foot and reply, “because romance isn’t ‘proper’, or isn’t a ‘book’?” >


A close family-member recently informed me that I’m not a “real writer”. Not sure what criteria they were using, either.




Romance novels regularly top the major bestseller lists (New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today), and have a large, dedicated audience of readers.

A 2014 report on RICHEST.COM (, looked at genre fiction, and which is the most lucrative. They collated information on leading authors’ earnings and reports of industry trends, to compile a list of the 5 most valuable, highest-earning genres in the book business.


5. Horror ($79.6 million)

4. Science Fiction & Fantasy ($590.2 million)

3. Religious / Inspirational ($720 million)

2. Crime / Mystery ($728.2 million)

1. Romance / Erotica ($1.44 billion)


I’d love to think that next time I tell someone new, I’ll be loud and proud, but I bet I won’t. I might even be vague. Perhaps I’ll say I write contemporary fiction. Does that make me more acceptable?








6 Haunted Air Force Bases in England

~ Spooky October #2 ~


I grew up in a haunted house, and have had a few spooky encounters of my own. It’s no surprise I enjoy writing stories about psychics, and ghosts, and things that go bump in the night.

In the run up to World War 2, hundreds of air force bases were hastily constructed in England and haunted WW2 airfields now litter the English countryside. Most of them have either returned to the farms they were commandeered for, or built over and used for modern purposes. Some still remain, if you want to do some ghost hunting.

  1. RAF Davidstow Moor, Cornwall

Open from late 1942 until 1945. It is the highest airfield in the UK at 294 metres and as such suffered badly with low cloud and fog. There is a superb museum based near the airfield, the Davidstow Moor RAF Memorial Museum, with free admission.

I stumbled on this place years ago, and had my own déjà vu experience. Check out my story here:

  1. RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire

Reports of morse code tapping inside the control tower. The tower was recently put up for sale:

  1. RAF Coleby Grange, Lincolnshire

The derelict control tower is all that’s left of this base, and is said to be haunted by a guilt-ridden RAF officer. The mournful figure has been observed looking sadly from the top floor of the old control tower, his gaze taking in the over grown runway. Mysterious footsteps have also been heard in the top corridor.

  1. RAF Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk

The control tower was restored in 1977 and was turned into the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum. Several World War II era buildings remain in various states of decay. There are several reports of ghost activity here.

  1. RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire

Shadowy figures walking near the runway, people whistling old songs, airmen spotted smoking cigarettes before vanishing, a pilot who walks into the control room and vanishes upstairs, mechanics running towards where the old hangars used to be and vanishing into thin air.

  1. RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire

Today’s visitors to the former wartime airfield at RAF Hemswell report being challenged by sentries who vanish, or have seen men in vintage aircrew uniform walking or hanging around the hangers, and even heard 1940s’ music playing around the buildings.

Have you visited any spooky locations? Gone ghost hunting for yourself? Or do you think it’s a load of old hokum?

Dreaming of ponies and a control tower…

My spooky encounter with RAF Davidstow Moor, in Cornwall

~ Spooky October #1 ~


I dreamed of being inside an empty building. It was small inside, constructed entirely of concrete, and had a sad, abandoned feeling. I kicked my way through dried grass and leaves on the floor, walked up narrow concrete stairs and found myself in a long, thin room with one side open. It overlooked a flat plain of grass, with a road cutting straight through it. It reminded me of a 1960’s construction concrete multi-storey carpark, but I had no other frame of reference for it then. To add to the strangeness of the dream, there were wild ponies gathered around the entrance.


The dream stayed with me, as they sometimes do, but it was lots of years later while on holiday in Cornwall, that I actually found the building. We were exploring one day and stumbled onto a disused World War 2 airfield – RAF Davidstow Moor. And there was an abandoned control tower. I didn’t recognise it at first – remember, I dreamed about being inside – but I knew I had to get closer, to find a way in. Hubby thought I was crazy, but short of locking the car doors and driving away at high speed, he couldn’t stop me.



I knew the minute I stepped inside. The dream flooded back in vivid detail and I made my way upstairs to what was actually the viewing gallery, overlooking what had been the runway. Everything was as I’d dreamed it. To say it sent shivers down my spine was an understatement. The only thing missing was the ponies. Really? Ponies in a control tower. Laughing to myself at the absurdity of the morning, I went back downstairs and out to the sunshine, walking around the other side of the tower… and stopping dead when I saw the dozen or so wild ponies sheltering there from the wind.




Images copyright of Flickr Hive Mind


I finally wrote this fantastic setting into one of my dark paranormal romances, CRAVING (currently on offer for $0.99). Although it’s part of the Talisman series, it can be read as a standalone.


CRAVING (Talisman #2)



A deal with a demon, a biker psychic and the girl who might just be his salvation… if the demon doesn’t get to her first.

Dante isn’t your typical medium. With his leather jacket, tattoos and piercings, he looks more at home on his motorbike than he does holding a séance and Katherine has no intention of getting involved with him. He’s the complete opposite of the kind of man she wants and represents everything she’s tried to leave behind, but she needs a medium and he’s the best one around.

Dante’s never allowed himself to get close to anyone for fear of putting them in danger. His craving for Katherine is about to bring his worst nightmares to life.



Even as I contemplated the impossibility of finding another medium at such short notice, I realized something had changed. I recognized the music instantly. Glen Miller’s Moonlight Serenade. Surely Melissa wasn’t listening to it outside? When the temperature dropped, I felt an icy trickle down my spine. Like an idiot, I held tighter on both sides, Dante and Tristan. Dante’s hand was warm against mine, his palm slightly calloused. The hand of a man who worked for a living. Tristan’s in comparison was smooth and cool.

Dante was speaking, but I didn’t pay any attention. There, flickering in the doorway, like a hologram on a bubble gum card, stood a man in uniform. A Royal Air Force uniform. Oh. My. God. I’d help to set up the room—there was no hidden projection unit, just our own equipment. I hoped to God it all worked. I could see the airman clearly. He was transparent in places, yet parts of him looked solid. I shivered, my breath hanging in front of my face. How could it be so cold, so quickly? I tightened my grip on Dante, excitement coursing through me, the breath catching in my throat.

Tristan stared, his mouth open. Dante’s girl looked mildly interested. Lucy and Chaz, the remaining members of our party gazed with wide eyes, leaning fractionally closer together.

“I thank you for joining us. Please tell us your name.” Dante’s voice, a calming presence, broke through the fear gripping me.

The image shimmered as he took a step closer, tugging off his cap and twisting it in his hands. He frowned, his bushy eyebrows almost meeting in the middle. “I can’t find Emma. Where’s Emma?” His voice was clear and well-spoken, just a hint of a Scottish burr in his accent.

Anticipation bubbled. This was real, tangible proof of the paranormal. Not just a disembodied voice, but a walking and talking apparition. I could never have hoped for such a fantastic success—and in our first session.

Dante spoke, his voice calm and reassuring. “I’m sorry, Emma’s not here. Could you please tell us your name?”

“Sergeant Jackson. Six-one-two Squadron.” He sounded distracted, his eyes darting left and right. He didn’t seem to see us. “Emma said she’d be here for the dance. I know I’m late. Please don’t tell me she’s already left?” His features were blurred: short dark hair, a pale face and dark eyes. I squinted, but he stayed resolutely fuzzy.

“Where are you from, Sergeant Jackson?”

Rubbing the back of his neck, the airman’s mouth twisted. “I need to find her.” Our eyes met. I blinked, turning away, unable to face any more of his pain.

The lamps flickered—I looked back up, but he was gone. Snuffed out as though a light had been turned off. At the same instant, the temperature surged, rose back to normal, and the music stopped. I sucked in an excited breath. Gazing round the table, I looked at Dante and felt a ripple of uncertainty. His head was bowed, shoulders strained, and he was panting—his lungs whistling with each ragged breath. With the damp circles of perspiration on his back, he looked as though he’d run a marathon.



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