For once, my schedule is pretty clear this entire week for working on my novel (except for that one day that I plan to eat myself into a turkey and pie coma). In order to keep it freed up, I’m limiting the time and brainpower I spend on other things (like this blog) throughout the week. So in lieu of an actual article, here’s another unused scene from Kindred Spirits, written back when it was still called Ghost of a Chance and the male lead was still named Doug. If you missed the deleted scene that precedes this one, you can find it here.
I hope you enjoy this alternate universe peek into what Kindred Spirits might have been. Meanwhile, I’m going to do my level best this week to get the first draft of Bound Spirits in the can.
Between the sake and excitement over this new project, Chris didn’t take much convincing to agree to go back to Doug’s place. Just to finish their discussion and shore up their plans over coffee, he had clarified. Besides, she wanted to meet Jimmy and get the lowdown on his situation first-hand.
His home surprised her, despite Ron having told her what to expect. It was just so Brady Bunch, although it could use a decorator’s touch.
“I’d have pegged you as more of a downtown loft type of guy,” she told him as she strolled past him into the living room.
“I grew up in this house,” he explained. “I inherited it from my parents.” He shrugged. “It’s comfortable enough, not to mention mortgage-free. Make yourself comfortable while I put on some coffee.”
He headed toward the kitchen. She followed him and parked herself at the bar. “Both of your parents are gone?”
“Yeah. Guess that makes me an orphan. If you can still call yourself an orphan at 30.”
“What happened?” At his hesitation, Chris realized she’d overstepped. “I mean, if you don’t want to talk about it . . .”
“No, it’s fine.” He put a kettle of water on the stove before he continued. “I, uh, I had an older brother,” he said as he scooped grounds into a French press. “Jimmy. He was killed.”
Chris tried to sound appropriately shocked as she said, “I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, well, it happened a long time ago. Some robbers busted in here and stabbed him. He was only sixteen.” As he spoke, a figure of a teenage kid appeared next to him, watching him. Chris pretended not to notice. “Anyway, not long after that my mom found out she had cancer. It was inoperable, and she started to go downhill fast. I guess the stress of losing my brother and then watching her die slowly was too much for my dad, and he had a heart attack. Once he was gone, my mom just kind of gave up. She died a couple of months later.”
“Oh, God, Doug.”
“Yeah, well, like I said. It was all a long time ago. I’m used to being on my own by now.” Just then the kettle whistled, and he turned around to pour water on the coffee.
“You’re not alone,” said the kid. “I’ve been right here this whole time.”
Chris looked at him and offered him a reassuring smile, which seemed to startle him. “Are you Ron’s sister?” he asked, and she nodded. He opened his mouth to say something else, but she held up a finger to silence him as Doug turned back around.
“You know, I was only eight when my mom died,” she told Doug. “And you already know what happened to my sister.”
“What happened to your mom?”
“Same thing that happened to Ronnie. She fell down some stairs. Except in her case she tripped on a toy one of us left there.” Chris had always been careful not to specify which one of them had left the Barbie car that killed their mother sitting on the stairs. Lord knew Ron carried enough guilt about it, and their father’s attitude about the whole thing didn’t help.
“That’s weird, that they both died the same way.”
“Yeah. It was a freaky coincidence.” She left out the part where Ron’s neck had already been broken by a ball thrown by a demonic child spirit, which was what caused her to fall. So not exactly the same thing.
Douglas poured their coffee and set a steaming mug in front of her. “You know, I could get used to you bringing me coffee all the time,” she said.
He smiled. “I’ll make a note of that.”
Maybe it was because the sake hadn’t worn off yet. Or maybe it was because she was a sucker for a handsome man with a tragic past. Whatever it was, Chris was warming up to him. Maybe a little too much. A voice of warning spoke up in the back of her mind. If he screws you over again, your heart is going to be so broken.
She sipped her coffee, willing the caffeine to return her to her senses. “So about this pilot. What exactly did you have in mind?”
“Good question. Hang on. I printed off some info about the castle.” He walked around the counter and over to the coffee table, then just stood there and looked around. “That’s weird. I could’ve sworn I left it here.” He scanned the living room, looked under the sofa cushions, even knelt down to look under the sofa. “Maybe it’s still back in my office. Sit tight. I’ll be right back.”
Chris watched him disappear down the hall. As soon as he was gone, one of the French doors leading to the back patio swung open. Chris took the hint and stepped outside to find the kid waiting for her.
He nodded. “Ron said you can help me talk to Doug.”
“That’s right.” She jerked a thumb back over her shoulder. “So did you hide his printout?”
“Yeah. It’s funny. I’ve been here for so long, but I never could figure out how to do stuff like that until your sister showed up.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “So, when can we talk to him?”
The eager anticipation on his face twisted her heart. “I’m sorry, Jimmy, but I think it’s going to take a while. Your brother’s kind of a tough nut to crack.”
His crestfallen look gave her heart another painful twist. “How long?”
“It’s hard to say. But I’m working on it. We’ll do it as soon as we can be sure he’ll actually listen.”
“But I—” He suddenly cut himself off and vanished just as Doug stepped out onto the patio.
“There you are,” he said.
“Hope you don’t mind,” she said. “I wanted some fresh air, and it looked nice out here.” It really did. The sunken patio was surrounded by a rock retaining wall, with a climbing trellis on one side covered with ivy and honeysuckle. Stone steps led up to a manicured lawn enclosed by a tall wooden privacy fence. Another patio, this one made of brick, sat at the back of the yard, and sported a fire pit, a charcoal grill and a pair of lounge chairs. Chris found herself imagining spending summer days camped out on one of those chaises with a glass of lemonade while Doug worked the grill and kids chased each other around the yard. Then she mentally slapped herself and wondered where in the hell that image had come from.
“Why would I mind?” Doug asked. He motioned to the patio table with a hand that clutched a small stack of papers. “We can talk out here if you like.”
Chris nodded at the papers. “Found your printout?”
Doug looked bewilderedly at what he held. “Yeah, it was in my bedroom, lying in the middle of the bed.” He shook his head. “I guess I must’ve been really distracted when I carried it in there.”
“It happens to the best of us,” she said, then made a show of considering an idea. “Although . . .”
“Has there been anything else out of place? Anything that hasn’t quite made sense?”
Something flickered in his expression, just briefly, but Chris got the sense there was something he wanted to tell her. But then he smoothed out his expression and shook his head. “No. Why?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing. It’s just that I see a lot of objects getting mysteriously misplaced in my line of work.”
There was that look again, but then he covered it with a laugh. Chris thought she detected a slight note of derision, which helped to cool those warm feelings she’d been having. “I might be going prematurely senile, but I’m pretty sure I’m not haunted.”
“Okay then,” she said, and pointed at the printout. “So let’s talk about someplace that is.”
He nodded and gestured toward the table. He pulled a chair out for her, continuing his gentlemanly trend and reviving some of the embers of those warm feelings. He slid the papers in front of her and pulled up a chair beside her. “So like I said, I was thinking about investigating Pythian Castle, up in Springfield. Have you been there?”
“No, but it’s on my team’s bucket list. It was a war orphanage, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. Actually, a home for orphans and widows during the second world war. They also kept German POWs there.”
Chris’s eyebrows lifted. “No wonder it’s haunted.”
“Allegedly,” Doug amended. “We’re coming at everything from a skeptical angle, don’t forget. Our job is to gather evidence and see where it leads.”
Chris read through the information he’d printed, the building’s history and notable sightings and activity that had been reported. “Child ghosts,” she murmured, more to herself than to Doug. The thought of kids being trapped in that big, spooky building that had been full of so much sadness broke her heart. She wondered if they even realized they were dead. Whatever kind of show Douglas wanted to do, she’d go along with it if it meant she had a chance to free those kids.
“Ghosts or not,” said Douglas, “the place has a pretty sad history. So, do you think the rest of your team will go for it?”
“They will. I’ll be honest, they won’t be too happy about the idea of working for you. But they’re not going to pass up this opportunity.”
“I sure hope not. This could turn into a career-changer for all of us.”
Chris pushed the paper back toward him and leaned back to regard him. “What makes you think I’m looking for a career change?”
He shrugged. “It’s just a good opportunity. If we all work well together, and the network likes our dynamic—”
“Whoah.” Chris sat up straighter. “I thought this was a one-time deal. So what are you saying?”
“Just that there could be an opportunity for you to become a permanent part of the show. But that’s assuming it even gets picked up. We shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”
“I don’t think I’m the one jumping out ahead.”
He reached for her hand, but stopped just short of grabbing it. Chris felt an annoying stab of disappointment as she stared at his hand resting near hers on the table. “Look, I’m sure you’re very happy, living all alone in that big house and giving ghost tours and reassuring people that they don’t have to be afraid of strange noises.”
“And there’s that condescension again,” she said, inching her hand further away from his.
“That’s not—” He sighed. “I’m really bad at this.”
“No argument here.”
He looked at her then, and he seemed to be struck by something. Judging by the look on his face, it wasn’t anything she’d said. His gaze lingered, and the way he looked at her made those warm feelings Chris had been fighting to ignore all night flare up, spreading heat out from deep in her gut. She felt herself flush as her heart sped up.
Doug tore his gaze away, but it appeared to take some effort. “It’s just,” he began, “you’re special, Christine. I don’t know about what you can or can’t see or hear beyond what’s plainly visible, but I do know that.” He met her gaze again. “You’re meant for greater things than this. It would make me very happy if I could play a part in helping you get there.”
Chris blew out the breath she’d been holding. “Wow. That’s . . . actually really sweet.”
He looked away from her, suddenly bashful, but he didn’t say anything.
“I just don’t know how to take a guy who doesn’t believe in this thing that’s such a big part of who I am.”
“I’m willing to be convinced,” he said. He met her gaze again, and held it. Suddenly he was too far away. Without thinking about it, Chris
leaned in toward him, and he started to meet her halfway.
Just then, his coffee cup flew off of the table and shattered against the retaining wall.
“Damn it!” Douglas shouted as he jumped to his feet. “That’s the second mug today!”
Chris also stood up, and saw Jimmy standing beside the table. “Tell him,” he demanded.
Chris looked at Doug. “This happened before?”
He squeezed his eyes shut with irritation as he said, “This morning. My mug . . . it levitated, then crashed to the floor.”
“And you didn’t think that counted as something out of place?”
He sighed. “I didn’t want to tell you. I just wanted to forget it happened.”
“Tell him!” Jimmy shouted, and she gave him a warning look.
Douglas opened his eyes just in time to catch it. “What are you looking at?”
“Nothing,” she said, making her face neutral.
He eyed her suspiciously, then looked around the patio. “Do you see something? Is there something . . . someone here?”
“Please,” Jimmy pleaded. “Just tell him.”
Chris sighed. She couldn’t lie to him. “Yeah, Doug. There’s someone here with us.”
He looked more intently around the yard as he drew closer to her. She wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be for her protection or his.
She pointed to where Jimmy stood. “Right there.”
Douglas stared at the spot, and his brother looked back at him. “Tell him I’m here,” said Jimmy. “Tell him I’ve always been here.”
“Who . . . what is it?”
“It’s your brother, Doug. It’s Jimmy.”
He continued staring at the spot, his face hardening into a mask of neutrality. Tentatively, Chris placed a hand on his arm. “I know it’s not easy to hear—”
He jerked away from her. “How dare you?”
“It was kind of a big deal for me to open up to you about my brother. I never thought you’d use it like this.”
“Doug! I’m not—”
“It’s late,” he said. “I’d better drive you home.” He grabbed up his papers and headed inside without another word.
Jimmy stared after him. “Listen to her!” he shouted, but he and Chris both knew it was futile. He glanced at her, then hung his head. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “We’ll figure this out. Just, trust me next time, okay? We have to go slow.”
She gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile, then followed Douglas into the house.
Want to read the version that stuck? Click here to find out where you can get Kindred Spirits and the book that started it all, Restless Spirits!