"Loved this series!" -Reader
"A very good sequel to Black Bayou. Very scary! All in all, I enjoyed the book and I'm looking forward to the finale." - Reader
"Inherit a title but you also inherit a demon who requires bloody murder sacrifices. This is one severely twisted family that Marigold finds she is part of. Add in ghosts, voodoo, New Orleans and this ride is fleshing out to be quite a story!" - Reader
From the Inside Flap
Long thick strips of blood streaked over the deck, a visible track of every inch the body had travelled. Her ribs throbbed as she stripped off her sweater and hurriedly began to mop up the blood stains. All the thin nylon did was push the crimson liquid around. A car door slammed shut and she flipped her head up. Without thought, she pushed her hand through her hair, only noticing the blood on her hands afterwards. She told herself that it was okay, her natural hair color would hide most of it.
She threw her sweater to the side, as far along the back of the boat as she could. There was some outdoor furniture on the front deck, a little sitting area Louis had arranged in an attempt to make the place seem a bit more welcoming. She made it across the place just as Louis jogged up the makeshift gangplank. He met her eyes and a soft, easy smile spread across his face.
"Well, hey there, cher!" His southern drawl was sweet and husky and soothed the panicked core of her being.
But Louis Dupont was an observant man and it didn't take more than a second for him to notice something was off. He didn't hesitate to rush towards her.
"I'm okay," she said hurriedly. "I just fell over and cracked my head. It's not bad."
He didn't believe her for a second, she could see it in his eyes, but he nodded and forced a smile again. With gentle fingers, he nudged at her chin to get a better look at her temple.
"Did you hit your head on anything metal? We might have to give you a tetanus shot."
"No, it was a table top."
Again, he watched her carefully but didn't comment.
Marigold released his wrist but kept her eyes on him, worried that he might dash off to the side any second to investigate. But she needn't have worried. Louis fell into step behind her and patiently followed her to the lower deck. The kitchen was towards the back of the boat. Even with all the dumbbell waiters that had once lifted the food to the dining hall and further on to the ballroom, it still must have been a pain for anyone who had worked on the ship in its prime. Before a hurricane had promptly relocated it into the inland swamps.
It must have been beautiful when it was first built. A classic paddle streamer designed to let people travel the Mississippi River in style. When the fog thickened and the tide rolled in, it almost looked like it once had. At that time, it looked like it was floating. But eventually the tide receded and the boat was once again left abandoned in the reeds.
Only a few stubborn guests and staff had refused to leave as the storm had brewed. She didn't know the exact number, but she knew that four of them remained here. They couldn't leave, not until they were willing to cross over to whatever existed beyond this world. All things considered, Marigold supposed that they had taken well to her becoming their new shipmate. But that didn't mean that they didn't keep the bowels of the ship as cold as a meat locker. She hunched her shoulders against the chill as Louis followed her to the kitchen.
"So, how are things going?" Louis asked.
Marigold was careful in her answer. Louis had taken her under his wing, partly because of their shared history, and partly because she so desperately needed someone to care for her. Louis had a strong protective instinct and didn't shy away from doing all he could to help her. He was the kind of man who would throw himself towards danger if it would spare someone else from pain.
The paddle steamer had been his idea. The demon that had attached itself to her had been gathering strength and she had needed some place safe. Somewhere the demon couldn't follow. With a few territorial ghosts in residence and the addition of the voodoo charms Louis's mother had placed around the boat, this place was like a walled castle. Not completely impenetrable, but considered safer. Louis wasn't naive by any measure, so she never could decide if he truly believed that the demon would give up if its access was cut off. She didn't believe it, but she never told him that.
"As good as can be expected," she eventually answered.
"And what did you trip over again?"
Marigold smiled over her shoulder. "Okay, okay. One startled me and I tripped. But it was my fault."
Louis grabbed her wrist to make her stop walking. The afternoon light caught his glasses and gave extra light to his hazel eyes.
"None of this is your fault. You don't deserve any of what's happening to you."
She blushed and tried to shrug in his grip. "Well, when you consider my family, this might be karma."
"No, it's not. That's not even how karma works. Unless you're saying that you're a reincarnation of one of your own ancestors."
Sighing dramatically, Marigold rolled her eyes. She should have known better by now. There were a few subjects that you just couldn't take lightly around Louis. Having grown up in a family of voodoo practitioners and paranormal investigators, Louis took certain subjects way too seriously. It was a lesson she had learned after using the terms 'ghost orb' and 'ghost vortex' interchangeably. Louis had enthusiastically explained the vast differences for almost two hours.
She cut him off before he could get started on the finer details of reincarnation. "It's a figure of speech. I just meant that I knew better. Mr. Smash Mouth causes a fuss in the same room, at the same time, every day. I should have just let him do his thing."
"Mr. Smash Mouth?"
Marigold froze for a moment before she entered the kitchen. "After the singer."
She didn't look back to see if he believed the lie. An image of the broken body flashed again in her mind. Blood. Pearly bones cracked through tender flesh. Broken teeth and hanging eyeballs. Each day the ghost's face was pulverized anew, but it was his destroyed mouth that she remembered the most. So, Mr. Smash Mouth it was. It made it easier to deal with the situation. A lot easier than knowing the man's real name. The kitchen had once been a marvel of industrial steel but now only patches of that grandeur remained. She reached into one of the cabinets and groped around for the first aid kit. Its bright red case was probably the only pristine thing in the room, including herself.
Louis looked over the room as he moved to the counter. "What happened to the cabinet doors?"
"Oh," she fixed a smile into place before she turned back again. "One of them really likes banging doors. After the eighth consecutive hour, I decided that it was enough."
He gestured to the pots and pans that littered the floor and threw her a quizzical look. When he knelt down to pick them up she spoke.
"Don't bother," she said.
Curiosity sparked in his eyes, something mischievous and childlike, and it made her smile turn real. "Okay, fine. Pick up a few and put them here." She tapped her fingers against a spot on the counter and retreated to the door. "Then duck."