Too Long Among the Dead

Too Long Among the Dead GENRE: Gay Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781611525946
PUBLISHER: JMS Books LLC

BLURB:
    Psychiatrist Haleigh Hugo thinks he’s found the perfect setting for his experimental treatment plan -- an isolated home in the middle of a small lake in the high Sierras. Dr. Hugo’s office mate and life partner, Guy Sanford, is unconvinced that the benefits of the treatment plan outweigh the risks, but soon gives in to the charm and boundless enthusiasm of his lover.

    Dr. Hugo’s subjects are six female patients who have failed to make what he considers significant progress in one-to-one therapy. They all share something in common: grief over the loss of a loved one, a psychological barrier that prevents them from moving on. Hilary Colbert lost her life partner to a serious illness; Jennie Travers no longer trusts her unfaithful husband; Meeda O’Connell’s infant son died in his crib; Vera Field wakes from a coma to learn her father has committed a senseless crime: Sarah/April Preston no longer knows who she is and suffers from a loss of identity; and Emily West has psychic abilities yet longs for a normal human existence.

    The six patients, overseen by Dr. Hugo and Dr. Sanford, descend on Devonshire, a simple mountain home on the lake for a weekend of intense therapy. Yet within the walls of the home lies a terrible and painful secret that haunts anyone who comes near.

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EXCERPT:
    “That night after dinner, I helped Livie set up the small, round table in the dining room. There was an extra table leaf we pulled out for guests, but since we seldom entertained, Henry put it away one day, and then promptly forgot where he stored it. So we had to cram around this little table, barely large enough to eat our meals on.

    “Livie was a stickler for tradition and so after she centered a long, tapered candle on the table, she went upstairs, and, a few minutes later, swept down dressed in one of her favorite dresses, a white chiffon with her hair combed back and tied in a lavender ribbon

    I told her she looked lovely and meant it. Livie was really pretty for a woman in her sixties. Of course being a child I couldn’t tell a person’s age back then. All I knew is she was old, yet like I said, a pretty old. I told her how lovely she looked, and she said, ‘Thank you, dear, I know.’ Nothing ever came as a surprise. Life to her was one long novel she’d previously read, never forgot, and was acting out daily. It’s my greatest fear.”

    “What is?”

    “Being able to anticipate every goddamn thing that happens.” She paused. “Sorry about the language. I forget sometimes. I’ve been told I have a potty mouth.”

    “Don’t worry,” Guy said, and then laughed. “You should hear the rest of us here. Miss Lansing especially.”

    “You’re kidding.”

    “Yes, Emily, I am kidding.” He moved the recorder a little closer to her. “There are no excuses here. No need to say you’re sorry for anything, okay?”

    She nodded. “Where was I? Oh, yes. Livie sat down and then she leaned over and lit the candle. Henry was farting about somewhere, and she called out to him. We sat in a circle and held hands like they do in the movies when something spiritual is about to happen. The part of me that didn’t believe, the hocus-pocus part, told me this exercise was harmless, like a scene from an old Charlie Chan flick on TV. Livie as the phony medium, and Henry’s asthmatic breathing pumping up the atmosphere. His condition seemed so much worse during a séance. You could hear the tiniest, thinnest, weightless things. That doesn’t make sense, but it’s how I’d describe it. The thought of an apparition suddenly appearing on wires and hovering over our ridiculous trio gave me the giggles.”

    Emily closed her eyes and slouched back in the chair. Guy noted a switch in tense as if she were reliving the experience at that moment. “I feel Henry’s fingers signal his disapproval. Stop laughing. For Livie’s sake, always for Livie’s sake, but I can’t stop myself.”

    Guy leaned in closer, totally caught up in her story.

    “The part of me that wants to believe, the sing before breakfast, cry before dinner part, sees the candle go out, hears the door to the dining room swing open and bang against the wall. Cold air rushes into the room causing the sheer drapery panels to billow. I stop laughing somewhere here. Livie is holding my hand so tight it begins to feel as though my blood has stopped circulating. I hear the crunch of metal then glass shattering. Heavy rain pounds on the fiberglass roof in the sun porch. Horns blare and a woman’s anguished scream fades to the whoosh-whooshing sound of a car’s windshield wipers.

    “I jump up, breaking our circle, and switch on the electricity that sends current to the crystal chandelier. The room is bathed in a bright, white light. Livie sits quietly with her eyes closed. She’s rubbing her hands back and forth across the table. I look from Henry to Livie, but no one speaks. Henry goes to Livie and she rises. She knocks her chair backward, and she clings to her husband for support. He puts his arm around her and guides her from the room. I follow them out toward the hall, righting Livie’s chair as I pass her place at the table. I stop and look down at the bloody marks on the highly polished surface; they look like those ceramic handprints kindergartners make for their parents. The fingers are long and delicate, much larger than Livie’s for she is frail with tiny bones. My hands are twice as big as hers.

    “I lay my hands over the prints. The blood is warm, comforting, and oddly familiar. The prints are almost a match, except for a thickening below the joint of the second finger, left hand. I switch off the lights and climb the stairs. I’m overcome with sadness. The glare from the wall sconce flickers across my hands. The blood has vanished.”

    Emily opened her eyes. “So there you have it. A doozy of a traumatic event that set the pattern for this odd talent I live with on a daily basis.”

    Guy switched off the recorder. “Yes,” he said, “I think I understand.”

    “No. I don’t think you do,” she said. “You don’t get it at all. When Livie died, I thought I’d finally be free, able to have a chance at a normal life, but I was wrong. Every day will always be the same. This sense of dread. It’s not as totally bad as I make it sound but --”

    “But it’s enough to make you seek therapy.”

    “Yes, it’s definitely enough. I wonder if I’ll ever have a chance. A chance for a normal life.”

    Guy shook his head in agreement, but wondered what they could accomplish in terms of treatment. Emily was skillfully trained by a master to foretell the future and communicate with the dead. She might indeed prove the most challenging case yet for Hugo and Sanford.


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