Death Veil: Banshee Series Book 6
Death Veil: Banshee Series Book 6
Death Veil: Banshee Series Book 6

Death Veil: Banshee Series Book 6

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The harvest moon unveils a new terror…

Benton Bertrand is a banshee, a supernatural harbinger of doom. Each night he is plagued by terrifying dreams, prophecies of death seen through the eye of killers. And this time, the face he sees in his nightmare is his own…

After countless brushes with the paranormal, Benton returns home and struggles to reconnect with his parents. But his efforts to build a relationship with his estranged family are quickly overshadowed by another premonition of death. Something evil is stalking him. He can feel it watching, waiting, closing in.

When the vicious spirit attacks his loved ones in their own home, Benton and his parents seek refuge with his friend Nicole, in the sacred lands of the Siksika reservation. There, the two teenagers and their families must confront a horrifying secret from the past, before the deadly ghost strikes again. And they’re running out of time.

When the harvest moon rises, this evil entity will cross over into the land of the living, and take on a physical form. And it only needs one thing to complete its unholy ritual….

Benton Bertrand’s blood.

137 pages

Chapter 1

Soft leather and satin crackled as they stretched. The sound, smell, and sensation of the material melding to his foot opened a floodgate of memories. Not all of them were pleasant, but Benton found himself smiling as he was swept away within the nostalgic undertow. Can something be nostalgic when it happened only a few years ago? Benton decided that the answer wasn’t worth the mental effort to figure it out. Preparing himself for the spike of pain, he drew in a deep breath and pushed up onto his toes, staggering a few steps before regaining his balance. Every joint groaned under the full weight of his body, bringing an ache that cleared his mind.

In the blissful haze, he rose into an attitude, with his right leg supporting his body while his left lifted back, coming to rest at a right angle with his hips. A slight bend in his raised leg brought enough momentum to slowly twirl him around. It was second nature for him to lift his arms over his head. Pretty hands. The thought wasn’t in his own voice, but a perfect replica of Svetlana Maximova’s Russian accent.

For almost four years, the Prima Ballerina had been the only person he had conversed with. At least, the only one with which he had actually wanted to.

Pretty hands!

This time, the thought came with the echoing memory of a swift crack. A crystal-clear recollection of the long, slender reed she never hesitated to turn into a weapon against imperfection. A lot of what people said about Russian ballerinas was complete nonsense. Svetlana’s temper, however, surpassed all the stereotypes. She was the reason he was so good at dodging projectiles hurled at his head.

Smothering a chuckle, he lifted his leg higher, arching his spine until his delicately poised fingers found his ankle. With a slight pull, he managed to fold himself enough to rest the back of his head against his inner knee. Inhumanly flexible. That’s what Nicole liked to call him. In that loving, teasing tone only best friends could muster. She wouldn’t listen to reason. Thousands of people could do exactly what he did. Although, admittedly, he didn’t have to try.

If it’s a side perk for being a Banshee, it’s a weird one. And not worth the dreams.

A fine tremor worked through his supporting leg, causing him to wobble. It would have been barely noticeable, but instantly caused his mind to reproduce that ruler’s sharp crack. He readjusted his weight and quelled the tremor. Holding for a few moments longer, he switched his legs. Now on his right, he rested his left toes against his knee and used the momentum to twirl him around in a tight pirouette, his hands still above his head.

Spinning fast enough to turn the world into a blur allowed him only glimpses of the Rider family living room. Two walls were devoted to properly viewing the large backyard. The night had turned the glass doors into black mirrors. He used his reflection as his anchor point.

A sudden flash of light caught him off guard, burning his eyes and sending him toppling to the side. Muscle memory kicked in, allowing him to twist just in time to land on his butt. It still hurt, but he didn’t injure anything. The back of his head collided with the padded edge of the sofa he had pushed back against the wall. Again, he was spared from injury. But the outside lights were kind enough to choose then to time out, returning the glass to its mirrored state, giving him a reflected view of his failure.

Svetlana would kill me.

His humored smile gave way to a frown of confusion. Nothing had changed that he could point to, but he felt the shift. Something deep within the pit of his stomach twisted. Not pulling tight, more slithering, like something living inside him was starting to stir. He slowly got to his feet, drawn closer to the blackened windows by invisible hands. The sensation in the pit of his stomach increased. Barely able to see past his own reflection, Benton inched closer still, his ballet shoes muffling his footsteps and leaving the entire house silent.

The winter chill reached through the glass to wash over the tip of his nose. He hadn’t known that it could snow in the Alberta prairies. It didn’t get nearly as cold as it did in other parts of Canada. Maybe a few feet in the places where it managed to gather in a snow drift. Other than that, it barely made an inch or so. It was still bitterly cold though. If the wind came from the right direction, the towering buffalo jumps could offer the town some protection. Every other direction only had a sea of towering grass. It allowed the wind to increase in speed, tainting it with the frost that clung to the tips of the swaying reeds.

Benton had lived in every major city in Canada and had never felt anything that could compete with the Fort Wayward winds. Even just hearing it sweep through the night was enough to freeze the blood in his veins. Benton shivered and flicked his eyes over the inky depths beyond the window.

The lights clicked on.

Benton jerked back, the sensation in his stomach thrashing wildly. Something is out there. It wasn’t a question. Just a simple fact that he never thought to dispute. Blinking rapidly to adjust his vision, he snapped his eyes around, trying to search every window at once.

At the time, he was glad that he wasn’t back home. His parents had deliberately picked the most isolated property they could possibly find. A farm home set in a vast field. Sometimes, it could take about an hour to get to the small cluster of buildings that served as the town. Their theory was that no one could be close enough to hear his nightly screams. They had seriously mistaken the capacity of his lungs.

Nicole’s home, meanwhile, was far closer to town. She had neighbors and everything. There wasn’t a house in Fort Wayward that didn’t have a good-sized yard. Instead of a fence, the Rider household had a row of thick pine trees to mark out the property line. The glow of the floodlights reached far enough to illuminate the tips of the lowest branches, leaving the rest in shadows.

Between him and the trees was a flat stretch of grass. A dusting of snow covered the lawn in a thin carpet. Small flecks danced along the wind as it howled past the glass. Despite the serenity of the scene, Benton’s stomach continued to knot. Something’s out there.

The lights timed out. Unable to see anything, his hand slowly reached for the door’s handle. His phone blared to life, making him jump and flinch away from the door. Swallowing thickly, he tried to get his now rapid heartbeat back to some kind of reasonable pace.

Utterly disappointed with himself, he muttered a few curse words and crossed back to the sofa where he had left his phone. He dumped himself onto it. And, since there wasn’t anyone around to comment on his sitting habits, he flopped his back on the seat cushions; head dangling over the edge and legs stretching up along the wall. Finally, he reached blindly to grab his phone. He didn’t bother to check the caller ID. There were only four people in the world that called him anyway, and he had personalized their ringtones. His parents both had organ music befitting Dracula’s rise from the grave. Constable Dorothy Rider of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had the theme music of the old Dudley Do-Right cartoon; all trumpets and galloping of horse hooves. She never admitted out loud that she found it amusing, but she had started ‘accidentally’ calling him more often. In keeping with the theme song trend, Nicole’s was Scooby Doo. The best part was that, by refusing to tell her which character he thought she was like, she was slowly going insane. Which was kind of hilarious. With a flick of his thumb, he answered the call, cutting the person off as they asked, yet again, where Scooby was.

“Aren’t you supposed to be hanging out with your parents?” he asked, lazily flexing and pointing his feet.

“They’re having some time alone,” Nicole replied.

“Already? Didn’t your dad just get back a day ago?”

Benton had never met the soldier. Mr. Rider had been stationed at some distant post for the entire time he had been in Fort Wayward. It was a little intimidating to know that, come morning, he was going to be face-to-face with the man. Everyone else he had met in the Rider family was a force of nature, and he had no reason to doubt that Logan Rider would be any different.

“Yes,” Nicole said slowly, as if she was trying to work the words out in her head first. “They’ve missed each other.”

“Oh,” Benton chuckled. “Gross.”

“In a way, yes. But, I’m also happy for them. I read somewhere that continued physical affection can keep a marriage strong.”

“What were you reading?”

“I can’t remember. But I’m sure I can find it again if you’re interested.”

Benton rolled his eyes, unable to keep the smile off of his face.

“Nah, I’m good. Thanks, though.”

Absentmindedly, he stretched out one foot until it was hovered over his head. They had been a gift from Svetlana. Black as onyx. Dancer or not, he went through an emo, punk, I-hate-the-world, set-everything-on-fire phase. A natural reaction to his friends refusing to believe him about his dreams. Savagely beating him and leaving him for dead in a dark alley had seemed like an overreaction. That kind of anger was exhausting to maintain, and he had more or less learned to swallow it down before coming to Fort Wayward. That time of his life, and the aesthetic he had been sporting at the time, was one of the few secrets he had managed to keep from Nicole.

“So,” Nicole said slowly.

Benton glanced at the phone. He knew that tone. She was trying to be sneaky. Nicole was about as good at that as she was at lying.

“It’s such a pretty night, huh?” she asked.

“What are you after?”

“What? Nothing? How could you even accuse me of –”

“Nic?”

“I’m checking up on you,” she blurted out. The little hiss that followed was a tell-tale sign that she hadn’t meant to admit that.

He chuckled. “I’m fine.”

“Yeah, I’m going to need an in-depth analysis.”

“Of course, you do,” Benton scoffed. “What exactly are you looking for?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Eating habits, homework update, general health. Maybe wax a little poetically about how much you miss me.”

“You’ve been gone twelve hours,” he chuckled.

“That’s plenty of time to start missing me.”

“Not really.”

“Just so you know, I’m offended.”

“Duly noted,” he laughed.

There was really no point in admitting that he actually kind of did. They hadn’t really spent all that much time apart since they had met. Since fleeing his parents’ house to stay with the Riders, that time had dwindled to pretty much nothing, which was something he probably should have caught onto earlier.

“Seriously, though,” she said, drawing him out of his thoughts. “How are you doing? Have you eaten your dinner? Did you remember to put on the security system?”

“Yes, and yes,” Benton said.

“Did you lock all the doors?”

“Um.”

“Benton,” she sighed.

Fort Wayward didn’t have much of a crime rate. The threat of supernatural attack, however, was ridiculously high. For him, at any rate.

“I’m getting up,” he declared over her ramblings.

Flipping his legs over his head, he got up and started to move around the house.

“Is there any particular reason why you’re being extra paranoid tonight?” he asked.

“You know how much evil things like to choke you. You’re very choke-able.”

“That’s still not a word,” he corrected, only to be ignored.

Completing the front and living room doors, he worked his way to the kitchen in the back of the house. There was a small side door that went out through the attached laundry area. In true Nicole fashion, she inexplicitly knew the instant his foot hit the tiles.

“You ate the dinner I left for you, right?”

“Yep.”

“All of it?”

“Yes, Nic.”

Benton closed his eyes and sighed. Only Svetlana had been this obsessed with his eating habits. He was just naturally lanky: broad in the shoulders but closer to a praying mantis than anything alluring. In ballet, his rather androgynous looks made it easier for him to simply take on the traditional female roles than trying to bulk up enough for the males’. Hitting the gym enough to be able to bench-press a human over his head sounded like torture. The struggle had always been trying to keep his bodyweight from slipping too low.

Nicole had almost instantly taken it upon herself to fatten him back up, delighted to have yet another person to fuss over. It was just her nature. Her perfectionist, compulsive, obsessive nature. The annoyance of having someone constantly nagging him to eat more was put off by the decreased hunger pains. Now, he was a few pounds over his ideal performance weight. Given his constant baggy sweaters, no one but her really noticed the change, but Nicole was brimming with quiet pride over it. I’m gonna have to lose it again if I want to get back into training, he thought. Svetlana had beat it into him that Ballet was a passion and a lifestyle, not a hobby. It was a hard mindset to break. Trying to get Nicole on board with this was just asking for an onslaught of hurt-puppy expressions. He wasn’t getting into that anytime soon.

“How about the dessert?” she asked as he locked the laundry room door.

Shifting his phone to his other hand, he curled a finger around the lacy curtain that covered the window, peeling it back an inch. The set-up of the house meant that he now had a view of the shadowy edges of the yard. There wasn’t much to see.

“Benton?”

“Sorry,” he rushed, readjusting the phone against his ear. “I’m still here.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Okay, seriously now, why are you so paranoid tonight?”

Even as he asked, his eyes were drawn back to the darkened window. The gush of wind kicked up the snow, rolling it over the ground while the thick pine branches swayed. Steadily, his stomach began to roll again. What he wouldn’t give for the ambient music of city traffic and aggravated neighbors. Something to break the serenity that covered Fort Wayward. Tonight, it felt smothering.

“Is it so wrong that your best friend takes an interest?” Nicole protested through the speaker.

“Nicole,” he sighed, leaning slightly to the side to continue his search.

“It’s the first time in years that you’ve been left alone.”

He didn’t bother to ask how she knew that. Nicole Rider was scarily good at finding out those sorts of things.

“I can handle my own company.”

“Well, let’s be honest, you’re not that great at surviving without me,” Nicole continued in a rush. “I was worried that you’d set the kitchen on fire, fall down the stairs, or get abducted by fairies. They haven’t tried to kill you yet, so they’ll probably turn out to be real and rudely aggressive soon enough.”

The curtain slipped from Benton’s fingers as he straightened. “Right.”

“I just thought you might be a little on edge,” Nicole said kindly.

“Well, I am now,” he replied. “And that explains the strange lights I’ve been seeing in the back yard.”

The choked sound that came through the phone speaker promised that she had believed him for a second there.

“Don’t joke like that,” she scowled.

“If I can’t laugh, I’d cry. Or become a bitter old man yelling at kids to get off the lawn.”

“You are bitter,” she said flatly. “Your hair is two shades of gray and I’ve seen you yell at kids.”

“I didn’t yell. I was authoritative.”

“There was a definite increase in volume.”

“They were being obnoxious,” he defended. “And I didn’t go anywhere near as loud as I could have.”

Nicole tried her hardest not to sound amused and failed miserably. Smirking to himself, he returned his attention to the window. The rough lace brushed across his fingertips, his gut gave a sharp twist, and the motion-sensor light flooded the small room. Benton jerked back from the door, his shoulder colliding with a hanging shelf. Nothing fell, but the bottles clanked together. The noise instantly drew Nicole’s attention.

“What was that?”

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