Thursday, May 28, 2009

Open Doors by Leona Grey

Open Doors
by Leona Grey

Cover art by Karen Fox
ISBN: 978-1-60521-192-3
Genre(s): Paranormal
Theme(s): Magic and Mayhem
Length: Novella


Maura has a way of ignoring the open doors in her life, like the door to the spirit world in her guest room and the opportunity to be with Jared. But he plans to change all that. As a mystic, he recognizes what is in her house and is determined to take care of it, with hopes of winning her heart in the process.
But the person who opened the portal has other plans.


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Jared studied the portal in Maura Sanderson's spare room. Most portals to the spirit world were protected so that only good energies, or ones that were invited, could enter. This portal had no such restrictions. So anything could come into Maura's home without her knowledge. If the entity was smart, the changes would be gradual. Maura would slowly slip into depression. Close friends might notice, but she would seem like the millions of other Americans fighting their inner demons. Except Maura's demon would have its own consciousness. If she started antidepressants, they would cloud her mind and give the spirit/entity/demon -- whatever it might be -- more of a hold on her. Maura had no protections. She would be an easy target.
* * *
Maura just wanted to take off her shoes and put on her comfy clothes. Managing one of the nicer restaurants in town was a good job but a lot of work. It made her really appreciate going home, getting comfortable, and not having to deal with anything or anyone. It was impossible to avoid all human contact right now. Her kitchen was being remodeled, but the contractors didn't usually bother her unless they had a question. Which was why she was really surprised to see her handyman, Jared, in the spare bedroom. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Your room just caught my attention."
She looked around the rather generic room with its nearly bare eggshell-colored walls. She'd been meaning to spruce it up for a while, but it kept slipping her mind. "This room caught your attention."
In its current state it was probably the least inviting room in the house. Or maybe it was just her. She had never really liked this room. It made her uneasy. In all honesty, she was a little ashamed of the guest room. She wondered if the fact that she hadn't done anything with it meant she was an unwelcoming person. Especially since she had taken great pains to make sure the rest of her home reflected her personality, elegant with an edge. At least, she liked to think of herself that way.
"Oh, yeah. I have a cabinet that I made that would fit just right in that odd-shaped space over there. If you want, I can bring it by sometime and let you look at it."
"Sure, why not?"
He smiled. "Great. Thanks, Maura. And thanks for letting my cousin work with me on this. He really is a good guy."
"I trust you, Jared. Are you guys almost done?"
"Yes, ma'am. We'll be out in a few minutes."
"Okay, see you Monday." Maura wasn't trying to get rid of him, really. She just had plans with a girlfriend this evening. Netta wanted to have another "let's bash men because my boyfriend's a jerk" night. How could Maura refuse? Though some days she would much rather spend an evening with the handsome and handy Jared.
"'Night, Maura," Jared called. The door shut quietly, as usual. That was something she had always noticed about him. He was a big man, but careful. Of course, it wasn't the first thing she noticed about him. That was his smile. He had a serious face with a closely trimmed beard that gave him an almost stern appearance, but when he smiled it was so… real. It completely changed the look of him. It made her think there was more to him than people knew.
Maybe after the remodels in her kitchen were done, she could find the nerve to ask him out. If she did it before then, whether he said yes or no, she would have to see him every day, and that would be uncomfortable.
She had just gotten into her oldest T-shirt and a pair of ratty cutoffs when there was a knock at the door. "The pasta was great," she called to Netta through the door, but when she pulled it open, Jared was on the other side.
He raised his eyebrows at her state of dress. Or undress -- the cutoffs were pretty short. "Sorry. I don't mean to disturb you but I think I left my work calendar in your spare room. I can't go a day without it, I'm so forgetful. Do you mind?"
"No, go ahead and look for it."
"Thanks, I'll hurry."
He left soon after, waving the calendar at her as he went past. As often happened, she was struck by the urge to figure him out. It might have been genuine curiosity or just plain old attraction but it always tugged at her mind. He was obviously handsome and a good person, but she knew lots of nice handsome men. She didn't feel the need to get into their minds. With a small shake of her head she let it go and played the message on her answering machine. It was from her father.
"Hey, baby girl. Just checking in, wanted to see how work is going and all that. Well, I guess I'll catch you later, then. Bye."
Dad was good about checking in on her. He knew Mom didn't call except to complain about how bad her life was, how lonely she was, how little money she had. That always got on Maura's nerves. Her mother didn't work yet she was living almost as well as Maura, who had a well-paying full-time job. She kept those thoughts to herself, though. Comments like that would just bring on an argument and hurt feelings.
She made a note by the phone to call her father back and proceeded to raid the fridge for snacks her friend would like. Netta, the gourmet cook and food connoisseur, arrived before long with a bottle of wine and a bag of potato chips.
"You have such good taste, my friend," laughed Maura. She was glad to see her friend eating, even if it was potato chips. Netta was a small woman with a tendency to lose weight when she got stressed, which was fairly often. She already had a permanent line between her eyebrows. Her short, straight, light brown hair was usually tucked behind her ears, out of the way. Many people were careful about approaching her because she always seemed angry. In reality, she was a very funny person, just a little too high-strung.
"Hey, don't knock it 'til you try it," Netta said as she filled two glasses.
"Easy, that's enough. Let's not drink so much tonight, okay?"
"Oh, come on. It's one night a week when we get to unwind. Don't make me drink by myself. Please." Netta did the puppy dog face.
"Fine. I'll drink with you, but I don't want to get drunk."
"That's fine. Let's go see if there are any cute guys on TV, preferably not wearing shirts. I think we can manage that, don't you? Oh, hey, those are great." She pointed to the new cabinet doors in Maura's kitchen. "I didn't know you were redoing your kitchen." The plain white doors were being replaced by more ornate ones sporting the wood's natural warm tones. Also, the section of counter right next to the stove was becoming a large cutting board.
"I told you about it last weekend."
Netta waved a dismissive hand. "Oh, you know I don't pay attention to things like that, but these are beautiful."
"Aren't they? Jared does great work."
Netta gave her a wicked look. "Ooh, Mr. Big and Stern Jared with the nice ass? I may need some work done in my kitchen." Netta laughed at herself and took a sip of wine. "I am such a slut sometimes."
Maura just shook her head. "He's going to bring over this cabinet he made that he thinks would look good in the spare room. I'm excited to see it. Remember when we drove by his house and I showed you the chainsaw carvings in his front yard?"
"Oh, yeah. Nice ass and good with his hands. My, my…" Netta smiled and shook her head then grabbed the bag of chips and headed to the living room. "Come on; let's see what's on TV."
Maura was used to her friend's abrupt subject changes. So she just went along with her. As usual, they spent the night drinking and laughing while Netta made snide comments about Sam, her boyfriend. Somehow, Maura managed to pass out, also like usual, even though she didn't remember having that much to drink.

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