In honoWitch jack o' lantern flippedr of ghosts and goblins month, I’m posting the prologue from Darlin’ Druid – in serial form. It’s not about vampires, wolfmen or zombies, but it’s scary enough to terrify the heroine. Here’s the first installment:

Chicago; April 1872

“Saints above! Where is it?” Jessie muttered, slowly making her way across the dark, fog-shrouded field. She couldn’t see one blessed thing.

The moon had shown brightly when she left the boarding house, but this irksome blanket of white had rolled in off Lake Michigan when she was halfway here. She’d thought of turning back, but her errand was too urgent.

She shivered in the chilly, moist air. Tugging her shawl tighter about her throat, she stepped cautiously, afraid of slipping on the wet grass or tripping over a snag. Encased in worn leather high-tops, her feet ached with the cold. Not for the first time, the wooden bucket she carried whacked the side of her knee, drawing a pained gasp from her lips.

After blindly crisscrossing the field twice, she was growing frantic when, suddenly, the bucket struck a hard, immovable object. Stopping short, Jessie reached out and touched rough stone beneath her questing fingertips.

“At last!” She’d found the artesian well. Situated within this small clearing on Chicago’s West Side, the well was surrounded by wooden cottages inhabited by working class families much like her own, but she doubted she would meet any of the occupants. Unlike her, they weren’t mad enough to risk their necks in this fog, not for a mere bucket of water. Still, she cautiously listened for any rustle of footsteps in the grass, but heard only the croaking of frogs and the wild hammering of her own heart.

She expelled an uneven breath, wondering if she truly was mad for coming here. This well had never been blessed like those in the old country; surely it held no power. Yet, instinct had driven her here tonight, compelling her to honor the old ways in this, her desperate undertaking.

And why not? Wasn’t she living proof that her mam’s tales of ancient magic were true? Besides, she didn’t dare attempt this at the boardinghouse. Da’s temper would explode like a firecracker if he caught her at it, especially after the row they’d had over supper.

As always, their quarrel concerned her lack of a husband. She had spurned another “foin Irish lad” – the latest in a long line of prospective beaus Da had cajoled into meeting her. Furious over her choosiness, he’d threatened to arrange a marriage for her. It was an old threat, to be sure, but from his determined tone, she’d known he meant it this time. She’d decided then and there that she must act before it was too late. However, now that the moment was upon her, she dreaded what she might learn.

She gnawed her bottom lip. Never before had she deliberately sought one of her visions. They had simply taken hold of her, always as she gazed upon flickering water. She shuddered, recalling one ghastly vision – Chicago engulfed in flames. To her horror, her premonition had proven true last October. Shying away from that terrible memory, she prayed her gift would be kinder tonight. She had to know if he, the man in her nightmarish dreams, truly existed.

I hope Jessie’s foggy night adventure caught your imagination. If so, return for part two on Thursday, this week.

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