Introducing He Thought He Saw

First Love is over. It got such a good response, I thought I’d share another of my young adult novels. He Thought He Saw is a step in a different direction for me. I’ve written Young Adult novels First Love coverand I’ve written some with fantasy elements, but this is the first time I ever wrote a Young Adult Fantasy. I wrote this for my NaNoWriMo novel in 2012 – when the world was going to end in December. I got to thinking, What if it was really was going to end, but somehow someone stopped it? This story grew from there. It’s set in my fictitious small town of Miracle, Mississippi, somewhere near Natchez.

The title, He Thought He Saw comes from a poem by Lewis Carroll called The Mad Gardener’s Song.  Honestly, I had to look up the title, because I could remember only this stanza and nothing more:


He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four

That stood beside his bed:

He looked again, and found it was

A Bear without a Head.

“Poor thing,” he said, “poor silly thing!

It’s waiting to be fed!”

The story has nothing to do with the poem, except that I borrowed a line from it. And there’s a bear. But shush, no spoilers! He Thought He Saw begins Wednesday, July 27. Look for it every Sunday and Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time here on my blog.

He Thought He Saw red

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First Love – Conclusion

First Love coverHome again, the teens all go home. After dinner, Maddie gets a phone call.

Maddie picked up the extension and waited for her brother to hang up. “Hello?”

“Hey,” it was Clayton.

“Hey, yourself.”

“Weird being home, huh?”

“Very. My mom is still in freak mode. She doesn’t want me to go next summer. That’s okay, Dad is on my side.”

“Same here. She’s been yammering in Spanish for the last three hours. Dad finally opened a bottle of wine to calm her down.”

They laughed quietly.

“I miss not being able to kiss you goodnight,” Maddie said.

“I’m going through withdrawal. That’s why I called. You promised me something.”

“I did?” she feigned innocence.

“You did. So, I’m asking again….”

There was a click as someone picked up the phone upstairs.

“Robby, off!” Maddie said, knowing it was her little brother.

“You know what I’m asking,” Clayton said. “And I’m totally fine with waiting until you’re ready. But I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you.”

“I miss you.” She paused. “Can you sneak out later?”

“Yeah, when?”

“In about twenty minutes? That way, the mini-monster will be in bed and can’t rat me out.”

“Our usual spot?” he asked.

“You bet.”

“I’ll bring the Dr. Pepper.”

“I’ll bring the Pringles.”

It was nearly 11:00 when they met up in Maddie’s backyard. Their destination was her princess playhouse that her father built for her sixth birthday. Clayton hopped over the fence after handing the sodas to Maddie. His kiss made Maddie breathless.

“I needed that,” he murmured. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve been going through Clayton Withdrawal,”Maddie admitted. “The entire time my mom was griping about our trip, all I could think about was you.”

“For real?” Grinning, he walked her to the playhouse and opened the door for her.

The house was full sized with a vaulted roof and a loft. More than once, Maddie and her friends had spent the night out there, telling ghost stories. The furnishings had changed over the years. Gone were the tiny chairs and toy appliances. They had been supplanted by a full sized desk and chairs. There was an old mattress in the loft. Maddie vacuumed it every few weeks and kept the place dusted. It was her private retreat. She and Clayton had spent many hours here talking.

“This place brings back a lot of memories,” Maddie said as she popped open her soda can.

“Yup. We had our first kiss right over there,” Clayton said, pointing to the far corner of the room. “I about had to tackle you to get it.”

“What can I say? I was terrified.”

“Of me?”

“No, of getting pregnant. You know how my mom is. She always told me that if I kissed a boy, I’d have a baby.”

Clayton chuckled. “Well, not entirely true.”

“Well, duh, I know that now.”

“I don’t just wanna kiss you, Mads.”

“I know that.” She smiled, taking his hand. “Soon, I promise. I want this too. I want you to be my first.”

“You’ve always been first with me, Maddie.”

They kissed a long time, the snack forgotten. Much as Clayton wanted it to progress, he sensed Maddie wasn’t ready. It was enough for now. He was patient and confident that when she was, he would be the one she turned to.

“I love you so much, Clayton. It feels so good to say that after all these years.”

“Maddie, I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t love you.”

“Me too, Clayton. You were my first and best friend. You took me to my first dance, gave me my first kiss and now, you’re my first love.”

“And you’re mine too. My first—and only—love.”


© 2015 Dellani Oakes


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First Love – Part 69

First Love coverIt’s their final day and the Nebraska youth are at church with their friends for the last time. Jose has called them all up to the front in order to give them each a gift.

Jose stepped aside and the members of the youth group walked in, carrying a stack of envelops. Each student got one with their name on it. Inside, they found pictures of themselves, working and laughing. There were copies of a group shot that had been taken at the party on Friday.

Also inside were invitations to visit again the following summer. All expenses paid on a charter bus—a donation from one of the church members. They had also included their addresses, asking their new friends to write.

The service was full of joy. Despite the loss of the church, it could have been much worse. They would rebuild. The entire community was behind them. Ridding the town of Ramon and his flunkies was a great service.

After church, they had a delicious brunch courtesy of the church ladies. They packed their bags and gathered for another group shot. Dressed in their traveling cloths, they lined up with their New Mexico friends and posed for several pictures.

Hugs and kisses all around, the promise to write and call, they piled into the cars. This time, they didn’t have a girl car and a boy car. Polly drove Brad, Beverly, Denise and Richard. Craig had Clayton, Maddie, Daniel and Patti. The trip to Denver flew by. They stopped again with Reverend Davis’ group. They regaled the Colorado contingent with their stories of their trip to New Mexico.

“That didn’t really happen, did it?” Dora asked, wide eyed.

“It sure did!” Maddie declared emphatically.

“Wow, we never had anything that exciting happen when we went on a trip,” Beef said with a pout. “Guess we went to the wrong place, huh?”

“Some excitement I could have done without,” Clayton said. “But mostly it was pretty cool.”

The next morning, they had another delicious breakfast and loaded up. The drive home seemed to take no time at all. By mid afternoon, they were back at the church and unloading the cars. Their parents arrived shortly after and bundled their wayward children into the cars. They had heard Claire and Jane’s version of the events. All of them wanted details about the trip.

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you go,” Maddie’s mother said for the sixth time. “What was I thinking?”

“You were thinking what a great experience it would be for her,” Mr. Reynolds said calmly. “And it was. Yes, it was scary and dangerous, but our daughter learned that she can handle herself.”

“I suppose you’re right,” her mother replied. “But it makes me leery of letting you go back next summer.”

“It will be better, Mom. Ramon and his men will be locked up for a very long time. We have to go. They’re going to dedicate their new church to us and put in a time capsule.”

Mrs. Reynolds reluctantly agreed.

After dinner, the phone rang. Maddie’s younger brother answered. “Madison, it’s for yoo-ou!” he called down the stairs.


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First Love – Part 68

First Love coverIt’s their last night and everyone is too keyed up after the party to sleep. They have church in the morning, and will get on the road right after. Denise remarks that she thinks Claire has changed. She would normally have used Jane to save herself, instead, she protected her friend.

“Maybe we can give it another chance,” Maddie said. “Maybe she’s really a nice girl after all.”

Denise wrinkled her nose. “No offense, Mads, but she still hates you. Well, hate isn’t the right word. She’s jealous of you. Not only do you have Clayton, who is totally adorable, you could have had Gabe. That’s something she will always regret.”

“I regret that a little too, but I’m so happy with Clayton, I know that won’t last long.”

“Funny how we all ended up with dreamy guys,” Beverly said. She wore Brad’s ring around her neck on a chain.

“Yeah, who knew that Richard wasn’t a dork?” Denise said, giggling. “Wow, can that guy kiss!”

They laughed and talked some more, until Polly came in. Caroline and Les were also at Dr. Santos’ clinic for the night. He was still feeling the effects of the stress filled stay.

“Time for lights out,” Polly said. “We’ve got an early day tomorrow.”

Reluctantly, the girls settled in their sleeping bags and one by one they fell asleep.

The next morning, they headed to the fellowship hall around 8:00. Breakfast had been cereal and pop-tarts. With their cook out of commission, they had to fend for themselves. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best.

Jose greeted them at the door, along with Ted. The ushers led them to the front rows of seats, which had been roped off for them. They were treated like dignitaries. Many of the church members came up to speak to them. They had made a lot of friends in the congregation.

The choir walked down the aisle with Jose at the head. The choir director played the piano and they sang a song that everyone knew. There were no hymnbooks, but donations were already coming in from all over the country. It wouldn’t be long before they were fully stocked and had the money to build a new church.

Jose took his place at the lectern. He greeted his congregation, with a special greeting for the Nebraska youth. “I’m deviating from my usual format today, so I can recognize a few special people. You’ve all seen the students from our sister church. Some of you even know them by name. I want to bring them all up here so we can thank them properly for everything they’ve done. When I call your names, come up and stand in front of the congregation.”

Smiling, they stood and waited for their names to be called. One by one, Jose introduced them. The people applauded enthusiastically for each. When he finally got to Clayton and Maddie, the congregation gave them a standing ovation. Blushing, Maddie smiled at them. Even Gabe was there, smiling and clapping. He stood next to Luis, who started whistling. Eventually, the applause quieted and the congregation sat.

“I invited you up here because we have something very special to give you,” Jose told them.


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First Love – Part 67

First Love coverThey have a big party at the Rancho to celebrate Gabe, Claire and Jane being released from the hospital. As he’s about to head home, Gabe gives Maddie a kiss.

Clayton watched from a short distance. It hurt him to see, partly because another man kissed Maddie. Mostly, because he knew Gabe’s sorrow. They’d talked and he’d consented to one kiss. Clayton understood. Had he been the one giving her up, he’d have wanted that, too.

“I had to know, Maddie. I had to be able to tell myself we had that much.”

As Gabe got in the car, Maddie kissed his cheek and closed his door. His mother drove slowly away. Gabe leaned back, closing his eyes. A single tear escaped.

“You all right, Baboo?”

“Fine, Mama. Just tired.”

Maddie watched the car pull away. Touching her lips, she could feel Gabe’s kiss. It was the saddest moment of her young life. She knew it was goodbye. Clayton put his arm around her and she clasped him around the waist, burying her face in his chest.

“He’s okay, Mads. He’s alive because of you.”

“Because of us. I could never have done that without you there.”

“Not much I could have done against guns, babe. We could both have been killed.”

“I had to trust that Ramon was more bluster than action. He could have raped Claire, but all he did was take some dirty pictures. That made me wonder why. I was just flapping my lips when I said that about being gay.”

“Totally nailed it, though.” He chuckled, kissing the top of her head.

“Time to load up, kids!” Craig called.

They piled into the station wagons and headed back to the Sunday school building. Everyone got ready for bed with a hint of sadness. Tomorrow was their last day, then it would be goodbye. Patti and Maddie got ready in the downstairs bathroom and weren’t surprised to find Clayton and Daniel in theirs. After face washing and teeth brushing, they kissed goodnight until Craig came looking. He didn’t seem terribly surprised to find them kissing, but looked relieved that it wasn’t more. He sent the girls up to bed, but kept the boys behind for a talk. Maddie and Patti were glad that he hadn’t included them.

Too excited to sleep, the girls sat around talking about their time in New Mexico. Their experiences had cemented a firm friendship that surpassed anything they could have anticipated. Patti and Maddie found out that Beverly and Denise were actually interesting, lovely people once they weren’t influenced by Claire’s hate.

“She has changed,” Denise said. “The old Claire would never have protected Jane. She would have used her as a shield.”


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First Love – Part 66

First Love coverWhite Star arrives just in time to save them from Ramon. He congratulates Maddie and Clayton on their bravery.

The last days of their trip were spent doing salvage of the burned up church. It was slow, grueling work, but rewarding. Periodically, one of them found an item that survived the fire. This was always a cause for rejoicing. Just before lunch break on Friday, Luis, Clayton and Maddie found the greatest gift of all—the altar Bible. Locked in a special box after the service, it had survived even the intense heat. Jose deemed it a miracle. No one argued.

Saturday was set aside for celebration. Maria closed the restaurant to the public in order to have a party. Gabe, Claire and Jane had been released from the hospital. Gabe’s face was a mass of bruises. One cheek sported a neat row of tiny stitches. He held himself awkwardly due to a few cracked and broken ribs. Nothing stopped his smile and indomitable spirit. He walked in the restaurant unsupported.

Maddie greeted him with subdued enthusiasm. She wanted to rush into his arms and kiss him, but refrained. For starters, she was going steady with Clayton and for another, she could have hurt him. Instead, she kissed him gently, wrapping his arms around his waist.

“Lean on me if you need to, I won’t tell.”

“Thanks, Maddie.”

Claire and Jane arrived shortly after. Their mother’s had flown down in a private jet. The girls were both in wheelchairs. Claire’s left leg was in a cast and her arm was swathed in gauze from wrist to elbow.

Jane had fared better. The explosives had flared moments before going off. Claire had pushed Jane down and covered her friend with her own body. They were extremely lucky. Some of the explosives had failed to go off. Had they all blown, Claire and Jane would have died. The girls were also greeted enthusiastically. The boys from both groups fussed over them, bringing drinks and food. Gabe was in heaven. The church women and girls, pampered him. His mother hovered so much, his father finally intervened.

“Enough, Maria. He’s fine. You’re like a hummingbird with all your fluttering.” Jose kissed his wife’s cheek.

Maria flung her arms around him, bursting into tears. “We could have lost him!”

“It’s all right.” Jose comforted her quietly. “Give the boy some space.”

The party was a rollicking success. Because of the injured and the fact they had an early service at church, they broke up at 9:00.

Claire, Jane and their mothers, bedded down at Dr. Santos’ clinic for the night. They were leaving after church, flying home on the private plane. The rest of them planned to start the drive home as well.

Gabe was heading home with his mother, but insisted on stopping by Maddie before he got in the car. He took her slightly apart. “I know you and Clayton are together. I’m really happy for you. And I’m jealous as hell.”

“You’ll find someone, Gabe.”

“I know, but she won’t be you.” He leaned over, brushing her lips with his before giving her a sweet, loving kiss. It didn’t last long. Maddie knew it was his way of saying goodbye.


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First Love – Part 65

First Love coverThe lights come on and Maddie and Clayton discover that Ramon is there with his goon. They have Gabe prisoner. Ramon not only threatens to kill them, he threatens to rape Maddie while the boys are forced to watch. She goes nuts and yells that he’s probably really gay and having a fling with his henchman. To her surprise, it seems she’s right.

Ramon’s gun left Gabe’s head once more, trained on hers instead.

“Madison, now would be the time to shut up,” Clayton warned.

“Like hell! He fires that gun, we’re overrun by the cops. They’re still out there,” she jerked her thumb at the windows. “I saw them when I was fixing the breaker. Shoot me, you’re trapped here. One way out—the kitchen door. Which will be full of cops before the smoke clears.”

“There’s another way,” Ramon sneered. “That door—”

“You mean this one?” Officer White Star spoke from the door at the back of the room.

Ramon spun around, snapping off a shot that missed entirely. Chips of concrete flew in every direction. A splinter hit his goon-friend. He dropped his gun, clutching his cheek, howling. Clayton snatched up the weapon, chambered a round and held it on the goon. Blood gushed from a wound near his eye.

Maddie ran to Gabe, pulling the duct tape from his chest, arms and legs. He slumped forward. She supported him.

“Don’t move him yet,” White Star cautioned. “Let’s get some help down here.” Using his radio, White Star called the ambulance.

Moments later, uniformed attendants gathered around Gabe. They put him on a backboard and carried him upstairs with the help of Daniel and Clayton. White Star and his fellow officers cuffed Ramon and his buddy. Once they were contained in the back of the cruisers, White Star turned to Maddie.

“That was very brave and very foolish, baiting him like that.”

“I know. I had to believe Daniel would come get you. We made a lot of noise and I figured he heard Ramon yell, or me scream. I really did see you outside. Thanks for coming back.”

“He wasn’t at his head quarters, but his buddies were. We made a sweep, landed some sweet collars, but no Ramon. So I got thinking, If I were an egotistical psychopath, where would I hide?”

“In plain sight,” Clayton finished.

“Exactly, I need to get this cabrón to jail. I may even have earned a promotion.”

Maddie kissed his cheek. “Thank you. You deserve it.”

“If you ever want a job as a cop, we’d hire you in a heartbeat. You too, kid. You got cajones grandes.” Laughing, he got in his cruiser and drove off.

Cajones grandes,” Maddie teased.

“You wanna see? I’ll show you.” He yanked at his belt and undid his zipper, laughing at her.

Instead of running. Maddie swaggered closer, calling his bluff. “As tasty a treat as that would be, I’d rather not be on a church retreat at a Sunday school my first time.” She brushed her lips across his, holding her body away. “Make me that same invitation somewhere else,” she whispered. “And you’ll get a better answer.”

“God, Maddie. You don’t play fair.”

“Nope.” With a swish and a giggle, she walked back to the kitchen.


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First Love – Part 64

First Love coverClayton and Maddie go to the basement to look for the fuse box, only to find it high on the wall. She sits on his shoulders in order to reach it.

“Careful, Mads. We’re kind of precarious here. I can’t see what I’m standing on, but it feels like loose tiles.”

“One second. I think I see the switch. It’s a breaker box. I’m gonna need both hands. Hold this.” She handed him the flashlight, but he fumbled and dropped it.

“Hurry, Mads. I can’t hold you much longer.”

“It’s really stiff.” With great effort, she threw the switch.

The lights blazed on. Maddie dropped from Clayton’s shoulders. He pressed her behind him, suddenly tense.

“Clayton, what’s—”

Two men stood opposite them, about fifteen feet away. They flanked Gabe, who was tied to a chair.

Ramon’s goon held a gun, leveled at them. Ramon’s pistol pressed to Gabe’s temple. Gabe’s face was bruised and bloody. One cheek was laid open to the bone. Blood oozed down his face. He forced a smile, trying to appear brave. It pained him and he winced. He sat in a battered chair, secured with duct tape.

“Get over here,” Ramon gestured to Maddie with his pistol.

Clayton cleared his throat. “Let the girl go, Ramon.”

“You call me Jefe!” he yelled. “She’s my insurance you won’t do something stupid. Once we tie you up, we’re gonna have some fun with her. You can watch if you want.” He leered dangerously.

A scream rose in Maddie’s throat. She tried to contain it by clamping her hands over her mouth, but she couldn’t. It burst forth as Ramon pointed the gun at Clayton.

“Get the damn girl,” Ramon ordered his flunky. “Tie them up. We’ll have some fun later.”

“You won’t!” Maddie yelled, taking a fighting stance. “I’ll bite off your balls, cabrón!”

Ramon yanked Gabe’s head back. The gun pressed into his neck, just below the ear.

“Maddie, not helping,” Clayton muttered.

“He’s gonna kill us all anyway,” she yelled. “But first, he’s going to rape me. You think I’m going to stand here and let him?”

The goon moved toward her. Clayton shielded her with his body, but she moved to his side, wielding the flashlight like a billy club.

“Try it, perro. You’ll be missing your teeth.”

“Maddie, no,” Gabe groaned.

Ramon cuffed him. “Shut up, or the girl dies.”

“Better death than sex with you,” Maddie spit at him. “Is that the only way you get a woman? Threats and violence? I bet that turns you on. Or are you gay lovers with your butt buddy over here? You did prison time. Maybe you found a special someone there?”

The goon glanced at Ramon uncertainly.

“Oh, my God, I’m right!” Maddie laughed.


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First Love – Part 63

First Love coverSurprised when the lights go out, the teens quickly regroup and find candles and a flashlight. Half the teens are upstairs with Les, who is resting after a cardiac episode. Maddie, Clayton, Patti and Daniel are downstairs looking for a fuse box. They decide they have to go to the basement.

“Being quiet might be good?” Clayton said.


Maddie stopped him before he moved away. “If this is our last moment before we die—” She crushed him to her, kissing him deeply.

Clayton nearly dropped the lantern. Maddie’s body melded to his, filling in the contours with her soft, feminine parts.

“Promise me,” he gasped afterward. “When this is over, we’ll find a quiet spot and you can fuck me stupid.”

Maddie smirked, shoving him away. “That won’t take long. You’re over halfway there.” Swishing her hips, she sashayed off.

“Smooth,” Daniel mumbled. “Very.”

“Smooth flew out the window with that kiss.”

“Who’s going downstairs?” Daniel asked.

Patti clung to him. “I can’t go into that creepy, spider ridden basement. Not at night. Not in the dark.”

“We’ll be together,” Daniel soothed.

“Have I mentioned an irrational fear of the dark?”

“It’s okay. The dark can’t hurt you.”

“It’s—Irrational!” She shook him off.

“Okay, Clayton. Let’s do this,” Daniel said. “The girls can stay here.”

“No! It’s no better up here!”

“Sorry, dude. You’re on your own.”

“I’ll go,” Maddie whispered.

“We’ll be okay.” Clayton kissed her. “Nothing to be scared of.”

“Sure. Perfectly safe. I’m beyond terrified, but I have a lifetime invested in you.”

They left the lantern with Patti to make her feel better. She and Daniel huddled in corner furthest from the basement steps, between the dishwasher and the stove, the wall at their backs. Maddie let Clayton go first with a flashlight, but kept one hand on his shoulder, the other gripped the railing.

“I think I see it,” Clayton whispered. “Jesus, could they make this any harder to get to?” He examined the box that was nearly eight feet off the floor.

“Maybe there’s a step ladder or something.”

They examined the immediate area, too nervous to move far apart.

“There’s nothing,” Clayton said. “Get on my shoulders.”


“Like water polo. Climb up.” He crouched so she could sit on his shoulders.

Holding the light, Maddie mounted his broad shoulders. He stood slowly, gripping her legs. She was high enough to reach the fuse box if she rose up slightly and leaned well forward.

“This must have been installed by a giant,” she complained. She leaned further, fully extending her body to reach the panel.


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First Love – Part 62

First Love coverThe teens are worried about Gabe, but have been ordered to stay inside while the police look for him. They are talking quietly when the lights go out.

“There are some candles in the kitchen. I saw them in a cupboard,” Maddie said. “Maybe there’s a flashlight too. Can you see well enough to find them?”

“I’m not going alone,” Richard said. “I’ve seen enough horror movies. It never ends well for the guy who goes looking for candles.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake! I’ll go,” Maddie said.

“And me,” Clayton added. “Not letting you out of my sight.”

“Someone should stay with Bev,” Patti said.

“Brad’s there. What about Denise?” Clayton asked.

“You stay with her, Richard. We’ll borrow the lighter and go get candles,” Maddie decided.

“We’ll come with you,” Patti said. “I’m not staying up here in the dark. If I’m gonna get hacked to pieces, I want a running start.”

“I’ll protect you,” Daniel said, putting his arm around her.

“Be glad it’s not me,” Richard said. “I’d trip your ass so they got you first.”

“And yet you wonder why you have no girlfriend,” Patti countered.

Richard chuckled. He handed Clayton his lighter and walked into the room with Denise. There was a little light from the outside.

“We’ll find candles or something,” Clayton promised. “Just stay put.”

“I assure you, I’m not going anywhere,” Denise said.

“I’m here for the duration,” Richard replied. “So, you still wanna make out?” he asked Denise as the others left.

“Are you serious?” They heard her say as they closed the door.

With some difficulty, they arrived at the kitchen. Emergency lights illuminated the door, which aided them in their search. One cupboard produced a flashlight, another a camping lantern. Finally, they came across six glass restaurant style candles and a box of wooden matches.

Daniel tried the flashlight. “Dead.”

“There’s a spare battery in the fridge,” Maddie told him.

“Crazy place for a battery.”

“Supposed to keep them fresher.”

A quick search of the refrigerator revealed a new battery. This one worked. Daniel and Patti took the candles and matches upstairs, finding Denise and Richard in with Brad and Beverly. Fortunately, Leslie was asleep.

Downstairs, Clayton and Maddie did a search of all the spooky cupboards and closets they could find. There wasn’t a fuse box anywhere. Daniel and Patti came back, joining in the search.

“At home, our fuse box is in the basement,” Patti said with a shudder.

Daniel moved a few steps toward the basement door. She grabbed his sleeve.

“We all go together. I don’t want to die a virgin, so I’m protecting my asset.”

Daniel grinned, pulling her close. “We can take care of that right now, if you like. Then if the big, scary man grabs one of us, it’s a done deal.”

“You wish, rock star.”

“I offered,” Daniel said with a shrug.


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