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Thanks to the amazing support and efforts of my fans who have been raising the money to publish GHOST HOLD over at my GHOST HOLD KICKSTARTER PROJECT, the first chapter of the book has been unlocked for your reading pleasure.  READ and ENJOY:)


Chapter 1, Almost to Civilization


I had never been so happy to see a barn in my life. Yes, it looked like it was about to fall over, which had me questioning the wisdom of storing all our worldly belongings in it, but the squat red building had a roof and four walls, something I hadn’t seen up close in over two weeks. As our ATVs pulled up to it, I removed my hand from Marcus’s waist and yanked my bandanna over my mouth to keep from inhaling the cloud of dust they always kicked up. I still hadn’t gotten used to the constant grime of camp life, the way my clothes held a layer of dirt, like Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon, or the grit I could always feel between my teeth, no matter how many times I brushed them. They didn’t show you that in the movies; that the life of a fugitive was filthy and sweaty, especially in the middle of an unseasonably-hot Indiana October.
Marcus cut the engine of our wheeler and, one by one, behind us, Yale, Jason, Nose and Passion cut theirs too. We’d replaced Jason’s stolen ATV fifty miles outside of Greenfield and gotten one for Passion while we were at it. Marcus had offered to get me one too, but I’d opted to  ride with him because I was a crap driver, and also because there was just something about wrapping my legs around a thrumming motor while wrapping my arms around Marcus’s waist that had made the two-hundred miles of dust and dirt-eating worth it. Even so, I was really glad to be making it back to civilization.
Marcus was pulling off his helmet, and I pulled mine off as well. He looked over his shoulder at me, and we smiled at one another, not needing to say anything. We were here. We’d made it to Indy, and without any apparent pursuit by Mike Palmer or the CAMFers. Well, we’d almost made it. We still had thirty miles to go, but this was where we’d trade in our wheelers for a comfy rental van. We’d lock away all our camping gear and dirt-stained clothes in the barn and disguise ourselves as wealthy suburban teenagers. This was where the mission to save Samantha James really began.
I slid off the vinyl seat, set my grimy helmet on it, and stretched my legs. My ass hurt more than anything, but I’d learned not to complain about it. It seemed there was nothing in the world teenage boys liked to do more than make sore ass jokes.
 Marcus stepped off the wheeler too and dug in his pocket for the key that would unlock the giant padlock on the chain entwined around the barn’s steel door handles.
Impatient to get out of the mid-day sun, I strode forward and sank my ghost hand into it, feeling the satisfying click as the lock popped open.
“Thanks,” Marcus said, coming alongside me. “You’re sure handy.”
“Ha ha, very funny,” I said, poking him in the ribs with my elbow. “Like I’ve never heard that one before.”
 As Marcus and I pulled the heavy barn doors open together, the others joined us, and we all entered the vaulted, slat-lit interior of the barn. It smelled musty inside, with a slight sweet undertone of rotting hay.
“You’re sure our stuff will be safe here?” Jason asked.
“Pretty sure,” Marcus said, “But if it isn’t, we’ll buy more. Anything personal you should bring in the van though, just in case we don’t make it back.”
Just in case we don’t make it back. There was a subtle message in that statement for all of us. We were heading into danger. We’d been outrunning it, but now we were headed straight into the thick of it, and we had no idea exactly what that would look like, or what the ultimate outcome would be.
I looked around at their faces, these boys who had once been my rescuers. Was this how it had felt when they’d been just outside of Greenfield preparing to come get me? This calculated fear? This tingle of excitement and anticipation?
My eyes fell on Passion, and she stared back at me, her pale face almost glowing in the darkness of the barn. Was she afraid and excited too? I had no idea. She was a complete mystery to me, a mystery I had spent weeks avoiding despite the fact that we’d been living in the same camp together. It hadn’t been that hard to avoid her. She had her own tent, and I’d shared Marcus’s. She tended to keep to herself, just like I did, so we’d mostly seen each other at meals or in the evenings around a low fire on the nights Marcus had deemed it safe enough for one. In the first week or so at camp, Nose had paid her a lot of attention, but she’d given no indication she was interested, and eventually he’d backed off. She hadn’t been mean or anything. She was always nice to everyone. Too nice. Painfully nice. I suddenly realized I was still staring at her, and I glanced away, heat flushing my face, a strange anger rising in me.
What was my problem with Passion? I just didn’t like her, and I had no real reason for it. A couple of days before, Marcus had actually taken me aside and said, “Don’t you think it’s time you had a talk with her?” But that had made me want to talk to her even less. Honestly, Passion should have had a problem with me, not the other way around. I was the one who’d yanked something out of her soul, used it for myself, and then basically handed it to the bad guys. She probably thought I was a complete bitch. And maybe she was right.
“How about if the guys unload the stuff from the trailers into the barn, and we’ll set aside the personal stuff for Olivia and Passion to pack into the van,” Marcus directed us.
“Where’s the van?” I asked.
“It should be out back,” he said.
We all exited the barn and circled around back and there it was, gleaming in the sun like a golden chariot—an extra-long, brand new, white passenger van with bucket seats, tinted windows and a grey leather interior.
It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. My butt could already feel that padded bucket seat. My face could feel the cool, gentle, dustless breeze of the air-conditioner.
Marcus opened the back doors of the van, and started passing out duffle bags for each of us containing a change of new clothes, new shoes, and our fake IDs. Mine said that I was Anne Clawson, 17, and Passion was playing the part of Mirabelle Clawson, also 17 and my cousin who’d come to live with us after her parent’s recent and messy divorce. Anne was my middle name, and Mirabelle was Passion’s. Marcus said it was always better to play close to the truth. It made the lies easier to remember.
I tried not to be disappointed that the clothes in the duffle weren’t my style at all. Apparently, Anne Clawson, a rich girl with rich parents, didn’t have my dark sensibilities.
But the clothes and the cousin thing weren’t the worst of it. Not even close. The worst part was that Marcus would be playing the role of my older brother, Clayton Clawson, a twenty-one year old pre-med student. The story was that our parents were away celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in the Mediterranean while Clayton orchestrated the family move to Indianapolis. Yeah, my boyfriend was going to pretend to be my brother. I was really looking forward to that.
As for Jason, Yale and Nose, they were a little too ethnically diverse to fit in to the Clawson family, so they’d be hiding out in the basement of our new house, running security detail and laying low. But they still got new clothes and fake ID’s casting them as three of Clayton’s college buddies, just in case.
“We can get changed in the barn after we get everything loaded,” Marcus said, handing the last duffle bag to Yale.
And so we got to work, like the well-oiled machine we’d become. The packing was easy compared to setting up and tearing down camp every day. Marcus had us pack the guns and ammo deep under the back seat in case we got pulled over or something, though, according to Jason, Indiana had some of the laxest gun laws in the country, which was the argument he gave for refusing to pack his away.
“Jason,” Marcus said. “”You’re not going to need it in the next thirty miles.”
“You don’t know that,” Jason said, gripping his gun even more tightly, so, in the end, Marcus let him keep it.
After we all got changed, the last thing to go into the back of the van, carefully wrapped in a quilt, was The Other Olivia.
Then Nose called shotgun, and he and Jason fought over who should get to sit in the front. Jason’s argument was that he was carrying a gun; therefore he should get the shotgun position by default without ever having to call it. Nose countered that Jason’s gun was technically a hunting rifle, not a shotgun, therefore his argument was invalid and Nose should get the front seat. Marcus pointed out that neither a guy in a ski mask, or a country boy armed with a rifle, were probably the best choice for most-visible front-seat passenger, and I began to understand why he’d gotten a van with darkened back windows. In the end, he assigned Jason and Nose to sit all the way in the back. Yale and Passion sat in the middle, and Marcus drove with me riding shotgun.
I started nodding off almost as soon as we turned onto the highway. Given normal circumstances, I was a drowsy passenger. One of my dad’s nicknames for me had been Sleepy Gonzales, because I’d always fallen asleep so fast in the car whenever we traveled. It didn’t help the situation that I’d slept like crap the night before, and I also hadn’t sat in a comfy, cushioned, leather anything for way too long. It just felt so damn good. Camp life had definitely worn on me more than I’d realized.
I was just beginning to drool against the window when Marcus suddenly swerved off the interstate onto a dirt road.
“What the hell?” I asked, gripping the dash with my gloved hands and glancing frantically in the side view mirror, expecting to see a caravan of CAMFers in hot pursuit.
“Just a quick stop to pick up some supplies,” Marcus said, avoiding my gaze.
When we passed an old wooden sign that read “Warren Gun Club” I stared at him until he looked at me.
“We all need to know how to protect ourselves,” he said, staring back at the road. “Not just Jason.”
I wanted to argue, but I really couldn’t. I had always disliked guns, but I’d disliked seeing Marcus get shot in Greenfield even more. The CAMFers tended to come well-armed, and who knew what kind of opposition we were going to face in Indy?
Marcus pulled the van up to an old farm house, a long low building next to it stretching into the endless fields of rural Indiana. Just as he shut the ignition off, a thick man in dirty coveralls came out of the long building, shotgun in hand, moving toward u
“As soon as I close my door, lock the van,” Marcus said, handing me the keys, “and get in the driver’s seat. Don’t get out, under any circumstances, unless I tell you to. And, if something goes wrong, drive away.”
“Wait!” I said, but he was already out, slamming the door behind him.
He walked slowly around to the front of the van, arms out to show he had no weapon.
The guy with the shotgun was advancing on him, and two more guys had come out of the farmhouse, guns in hand. Their stance, their mannerisms, their dress, everything about them screamed CAMFers. What the hell was Marcus doing driving us right into the very threat we’d worked so hard to avoid?
“Fuck,” I said, clicking the button on the key ring to lock the van, the little chirp it made completely at odds with the adrenaline and anger surging through me. Marcus could have warned me we were doing something stupid today. I looked back and saw the shock on the other’s faces as they peered out the windows of the van. So, he hadn’t told anyone. Well, he wasn’t the only one who could bark orders.
“Jason, I need you up here, right now, with your weapon,” I said, sliding across to the driver’s seat and putting the keys in the ignition. “Nose, can you reach the other guns?”
“I can try,” Nose said, diving down to rummage for them.
Jason slid into the seat next to me, rifle in hand, and I tried not to show my surprise that he’d actually listened to me.
“Let them see it,” I told him, “but don’t point it at anyone. Yet.”
Jason nodded and made his rifle as visible as possible.
Outside, Marcus had moved further away from the van, still in front of it though.
The three gun-toting country boys were nearly upon him, and I cracked my window just as the one in the front said, “You David?”
That surprised me more than the fact that we had just pulled up to a CAMFer gun club. Why would Marcus give these guys his real name? He always went by Marcus, and he’d obviously gone to the trouble to get us all fake IDs, including himself. Why not use his new identity? What was he thinking?
“I’m David,” he confirmed, “and we’ve come unarmed, as specified.”
“That one has a gun,” Shotgun said, gesturing at Jason.
Marcus turned and looked at us, frowning. He turned back and said, “It’s not loaded. I emptied it myself this morning.”
I looked at Jason, and he looked at me. Then he yanked open the chamber of the gun, and showed it to me. It was empty.
“Do you have any ammo on you?” I asked him.
“No,” Jason shook his head, looking more pissed off than I’d seen him look in a long time, and he usually looked pissed.
Shit. We were screwed. We both turned and looked back out at Marcus.
“How do we know you’re who you say you are?” Shotgun asked, his buddies grunting in Neanderthal agreement behind him.
“Come and see,” Marcus said, gesturing Shotgun forward.
At first, I didn’t understand. I thought Shotgun was just getting a better look at Marcus’s face or something. He walked up to him, his gun held up between them, and gestured at Marcus’s chest with it.
Marcus reached down and began to unbutton his shirt.
Jason went stiff in the seat next to me. You could have heard a pin drop in that van. No, you could have heard a feather drop. This could not be happening. Marcus didn’t reveal his PSS to anyone. He hadn’t even told me about it until I’d seen him come back from the dead, and at that point, he’d pretty much had no choice.
I jammed the keys into the ignition of the van and turned it on. I thrust the stick into drive, and with one foot on the brake and one on the gas, I revved the engine.
Marcus paused in unbuttoning his shirt and glanced at me, looking annoyed. Then he turned back, resuming his little striptease.
Shotgun and his buddies were eyeing me, but they couldn’t seem to keep their eyeballs from straying back to Marcus.
They were all right there in front of me. I could take them out like bowling pins. Yes, Marcus might get hurt in the process, but probably not fatally, and he could always reboot. The hillbilly brothers might get off a shot or two, but Marcus wasn’t a complete idiot. I had noticed earlier that the tiny little labels on the van’s windows indicated they were not only tinted, they were also bulletproof.
I revved the engine again.
Marcus got to the last button at the top of his shirt, and it fell open.

WANT MORE?  The book can be pre-ordered now over at the KICKSTARTER PROJECT, but only until July 1st, so don’t delay. And ALL BACKERS gain instant access to CHAPTER TWO and will receive CHAPTER THREE when the project has reached its final goal.  

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  • Nereid:

    Wow, certainly gets the adrenalin going, no slow start here and just enough to whet the appetite. Looking forward to reading the rest. 🙂

  • Moriah:

    What a great start! Very intriguing, the action also integrates with reminders of the previous book. As always, everything is moving forward without unnecessary talk. One chapter is not enough, I want this book!
    Thanks for making me even more impatient 😛


Ripley Patton lives in a 22-foot camper in the woods of Southern Illinois with a cat named Lemmy. Her two young adult children, a daughter and a son, are her favorite people. When Ripley's not out exploring nature and getting her hands dirty, she's usually reading or writing a book.

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