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Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance
The vengeful ghost of a murdered girl stalks the innocent. A forbidden passion ignites in the dark. Secrets of the past that doom the present rise with the dead at Eden Lake.
For Nikolai and Alexei, their camp counselor jobs were supposed to be a break from real life, a last deep breath of freedom before returning the arranged marriages waiting for them at home. But the peace of the summer is shattered when the ghost of a brutally murdered girl begins to kill.
As the boys struggle to put the spirit to rest before it kills again, they find it harder and harder to deny the passion burning between them.
But Alexei, gifted with the sight, has known since childhood that something dark hunts for Nikolai. Even the ghosts are warning him. Will their love save them or damn them?
The choice may not be theirs to make.
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They’d been on the road all day, driving from Charlotte up to this small Catskill Mountains town. Alexei’s eyelids drooped. A too-sharp tug jerked him out of his near-doze.
“Ow,” he reached up to rub his scalp, but Nikolai batted his hand away.
“Stop, you’ll mess it up.” His fingers moved confidently. “So, now that you’re a respectable engaged man, will Katya be braiding your hair for you when we get back?” His voice was light, as if he didn’t care either way, but the way his braiding faltered told Alexei the answer was important to him.
Alexei held back shudder at the thought of his sham of an engagement, but he frowned at the thought of Katherine’s hands in his hair. “No. You know Katie. She doesn’t have the patience for it.”
“Good, good. So, ah, Mr. Weisman said he’ll introduce us to the other staff after breakfast,” Nikolai said, continuing a conversation they’d been having in the van. “He’ll tell us where we’ll be working. They’re short-handed from the staff quitting, so there should be a few jobs to choose from.” He took Alexei’s grunt as agreement. “So what are you sensing about this place, Miss Cleo?”
“You know I’m not a psychic, right?” He could feel Nikolai rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, no. I know. But you’ve got good instincts. So tell.”
“Nothing concrete. Just, something isn’t right. This place has weird vibes for sure.”
Nikolai snorted and mouthed ‘vibes,’ holding up a hand to forestall Alexei’s complaints. “Yeah, I believe you. Two people died here already this summer.”
“Great place to work you found for us.”
“Yes. Well, we need the money. We’re going to have wives to support when we get back and the pay was decent. And no rent. Beggars can’t be choosers.” Nikolai scooted them both back on the bed and leaned against the wall. His fingers ran through Alexei’s hair for much longer than it should take to do a simple braid, but Alexei would have died before drawing attention to the fact. “Of course, after we make a CD, we won’t have to worry. Jimmy thinks we’ll be big.”
Alexei tried to pull away to look at Nikolai, but Nikolai was ready for him, clamping his thighs around Alexei’s hips. Alexei sank back with a huff. “You got a lot of faith in one random guy.”
He felt Nikolai’s head shake against his. “Hey, it could happen. We’re really good. And Jimmy’s legit. He’s a friend of Maria’s. We’re practically family now. He’s not asking for any money up front, right? Plus he said he can get us some shows. We need a professional manager.”
Alexei was not as sure as Nikolai about any of this. About the guy, about the reality of making money with their music. They come from a long heritage of musicians, but the days of patronage from Russian tsars were two hundred years behind them. At least Jimmy was Rom. “I don’t know, Nikolai. The odds are really against us. Name any Romani musicians making it right now in America.”
“Kesha.” Nikolai tried to hold back a laugh.
Alexei snorted. “Yeah, even if that is true, and she is like one-eighth Rom, I wouldn’t be using her as my example.”
Nikolai’s hand in his hair tightened. Sighing deeply, he loosened his hold. “I know, Lyosha. We’ve had this discussion a million times. It’s not...it’s not just about making a CD.”
Yeah, Alexei knew. It was their chance for freedom. A way for them to have their cake and eat it, too. Alexei hated the way the family kept them at arm’s length because of their suspect parentage. Nikolai felt smothered by the way they live, by the iron walls of tradition and community limiting his every move. But no matter how much or how subtly Alexei tried to get Nikolai to change, to push the boundaries even a little, he wouldn’t rock the boat. He tried to make everyone happy, playing the role dictated for him, even agreeing to the engagements between them and the Demeter sisters.
“If we marry them,” Nikolai had promised, “we’ll be together all the time.” Alexei had agreed, despite knowing that his marriage, at least, would be a sham. Where Nikolai went, he went.