Seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn wants to escape her drunk mama and her trailer park home life to enjoy a Saturday night off work. Instead, her boyfriend, Hunter, convinces her to go with him and their best friends, Dylan and Keisha, to photograph a desolate tree with an evil past. A terrifying presence chases them from the tree, killing Hunter and Keisha. Left alive with Dylan, Kaitlyn must struggle with her unexpected romantic feelings for him, come to terms with her loss, and face being trapped in a dead-end town. Kaitlyn is desperate to put the past to rest, but when their friends’ spirits begin haunting them, she and Dylan have no choice but to seek help from a Catholic priest and attempt to set the trapped spirits free.
“Susan McCauley delivers a poignant and frightening tale of love and redemption against a backdrop of evil, both supernatural and not. It’s a fast and exciting read filled with demons, ghosts, and stolen kisses, and it does an excellent job of reminding us that both revenge and love can be eternal desires. This is one teens and adults will both enjoy.” ⎯JG Faherty, multiaward- nominated author of Hellrider, The Cure, and Cemetery Club
“Evil is not always the only enemy you should fear . . . Fast-paced and deftly written, with emotional depth from the darkest of characters, this is a ghost story to savor.” ⎯Peter Adam Salomon, Bram Stoker Award® nominated novelist, author of All Those Broken Angels and Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds
Hunter was crumpled against the broken windshield. I reached forward and tried to touch him. Something dark and wet and sticky covered his skin. Blood. I started crying again. I scrabbled for my seat-belt buckle, but couldn’t find it. My hands kept groping. “Dylan? Keisha?” Dylan moaned, but didn’t answer. “We gotta get out of the car.” Away from the fumes. Away from whatever was chasing us. There. My shaky fingers brushed the buckle and I pushed. The seat belt released me and I fell onto the smashed windshield next to Hunter. I let my hand graze his cheek. Still warm. Ragged breathing. Thank God. I reached for my door. Pushed. Being upside down, it was jammed shut. I aimed my heel-less shoed feet toward the passenger-side window and kicked. The glass cracked, but stayed intact. I kicked again and cleared a space, then I twisted around to face the busted-out window and looked into the backseat. “We’ve gotta get out of here.” “Keisha.” Dylan shook her bloody shoulder. “Keisha!” He shook her harder. “She’s not breathing. Kaitlyn, help me!” Panic laced his voice. The smell of gas grew stronger, mingled with the metallic scent of blood. “We’ll go around to the other side of the truck to get them out.” I slithered over broken glass, sharp against my skin. Dylan stopped, eyes wide. Wild. “What—what if it’s out there?” Fear congealed in my veins, and I tried to clear my head. “We don’t have a choice,” I said, sounding way braver than I felt. “We have to get out. Now.” I pulled myself forward, a few shards of metal slicing my palms and shredding my knees. Dylan climbed out after me. Blood smeared his pale face; his normally pristine shirt was torn and dirty. I crawled around the mangled wreck to Hunter’s door, but Dylan pushed past me and grabbed Keisha. Whoosh. A strange sucking wind whipped my hair into my mouth. Salt and blood and smoke. I grabbed Dylan under his arms and yanked him backwards. Hard. We both fell, the pain of the concrete exploding up my tailbone and into my spine. Boom! “Hunter!” I screamed and lurched forward, the heat searing my face. My gut twisting in agony. I crawled toward the twisted, burning heap that had been Hunter’s pride and joy. Tears burned a cut on my face. My legs ached as I dragged them across the ground. Then Dylan’s arms were around me. Solid. Real. Alive. Sirens blared in the distance. Someone must’ve seen. Must’ve called. They were coming. But they were too late. We were all too late.
Susan McCauley was born and raised on the gulf coast of Texas, not far from Houston. She spent several years in Los Angeles, California acting, writing, and teaching college English. In 2002, she moved to London to further explore professional theater. While in London, her stage adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's "The Nose" was performed at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's George Bernard Shaw Theatre; and, scenes from her play The Prisoner: Princess Elizabeth were performed at HMS Tower of London. She returned to the U.S. in 2005. In 2007, she was the line producer of the Emmy Award nominated Civil War short film Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier. She has had short stories published in several anthologies, and her short story, "The Cask," was made into an award winning short film.
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