Read an excerpt
Phillip was walking down the road, his classmate Willow by his side, but their progress was too slow for his liking. If it had been entirely up to him, he would have run to the bridge, but since she was with him, he didn’t leave her behind. Besides, he sorta needed to stick with her, even though he had a vague idea of where they were going.
When they passed the last house, headed toward a treelined bend, he asked, “Are we close?”
He blew out an impatient breath and glanced up, intrigued by the way the late-day sun was shimmering through all the leaves quaking in the breeze, not sure he would ever get used to all the lush green. He was used to brown. Lots and lots of desert brown.
“I think I’m going to call you, Low,” he mumbled a random thought.
“Low.” Phillip studied his new friend’s pleasant heart-shaped face. “That’s what I’m going to call you.”
Her brow creased. “Why?”
She pursed her lips and tapped her chin as if considering, then said, “Okay.” Low gave a dimpled grin. “I like it.”
When he returned his attention to the asphalt stretched out in front of them, his eyes widened. “There it is!” He took her wrist and tugged. “Let’s go.”
She giggled as her arm extended out from Phillip going faster than her.
“All right,” she agreed.
Their footfalls were thudding out their progress until they stopped at the entrance, Phillip letting loose of her, bending over to put his palms on his knees, staring into the shadowed tunnel.
“I see the daylight on the other end.” Straitening, he looked over at Willow. “Let’s go in.”
She nibbled on her bottom lip. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
“Come on. We’ll be fine.”
Big electric-blue eyes met his. “But what if she’s in there?”
“I didn’t see her.”
“Not yet, but she still might be in there.”
“If she is, what can she do?” He shrugged. “She’s a ghost.”
Willow shook her head.
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” he assured, bending his arms up, showing off his rabbit-thin muscles, then dropping his hands to his sides.
“All right.” When she gently took his right hand, winding her fingers into his, he glanced down, then back up. “I’m scared.”
He nodded, then headed into the covered structure—the water flowing beneath the floor amplifying the rushing sound. “Wow…it’s loud in here.”
Phillip took them deeper, stopping in the middle and then going over to a knothole in one of the boards that made up a sidewall. He leaned forward until he could peer out, seeing the creek weave through the grassy banks. “Cool…”
He watched the water and how the current swirled around a craggy rock.
When he straightened, he turned, Low mirroring him. “See. We are all alone in here.”
He put his free hand to his mouth, using his fingers, and whistled, pleased at the way the tune echoed off the old beamed ceiling.
She let him go and made a megaphone of her hands. “Hello?”
So, they yelled random things for the next few minutes, enjoying the acoustics. But it was when Phillip shifted, facing the direction they came, he froze. His heartbeat picked up as he whispered, “I see her.”
Twirling around, Willow latched onto his elbow.
There, just outside the far opening, with the hazy orange rays of the sun enveloping her tiny frame, he squinted.
She was wearing white, just like Krystin said, but she wasn’t transparent as far as he could tell. However, that blazing glow around her head had Phillip spellbound.
When he started in that direction, his friend screamed bloody murder and ran the opposite way, abruptly breaking the enchantment he’d been under, jerking him around.
“Low!” he bellowed, but she didn’t stop.
Torn between going after her or go to the little girl, Phillip’s choice was made as a high-pitched “Ooouch!” echoed his way.
Spinning back, the ghost was slumped on the ground in a ball of light.
Without thought, he ran toward her, his pulse pounding in his throat by the time he slowed and carefully knelt beside the girl. “Hey.” He lifted a shaky hand. “You okay?”
No response came.
Studying the strands of pure gold weaved within the differing shades of red, Phillip swiped aside the fluid curtain hiding her face—his eyes going as round as saucers. This wasn’t any poltergeist.
Her chin came up, and green eyes, filled with watery tears, fastened on him.
He swallowed, feeling a mix of squishy on the inside and concerned. “What happened? Why are you here?” He glanced around. “Are you by yourself?”
When Phillip brought his full attention back to her, she momentarily grabbed her upper right arm. “Something stung me.”
His gaze roamed over the area, but he didn’t see anything until she twisted.
Taking hold of her, Phillip carefully moved aside a broad strip of super pale-yellow material, not white, from her sundress to better see the top of her shoulder.
Jillian sucked in a pained breath.
“Sorry,” he muttered, staring at her shoulder blade’s angry red, swollen spot.
Quickly, he started looking for the culprit, eyes scanning their immediate surroundings.
He’d located a relatively large hive hanging from a rafter—bees buzzing around it.
“We need to go before more angry bees come down here,” Phillip said, helping her to her feet. Then he turned back toward the bridge. “Willow, if you can hear me, it wasn’t a ghost! It’s Jillian, and she’s hurt. So, I’m going to take her home. I’ll come back for you!”
“Hang on!” A second later, he saw his friend running through the gloom, coming their way. “Don’t leave yet!”
He pointed up. “Lookout for those bees!”
An awareness he was being watched had him glancing down at Little Red blinking up at him. “This bridge is my favorite.”
Phillip knew Cedar Point had two more bridges, though not like Karver. But he was curious as to why this was her favorite and started to ask, but a breathless honey-blonde was by him. “What happened?”
“Jillian got stung.” He glanced down at the tiny girl by his side again, his heart doing something odd—it hurt. “Don’t cry, okay?”
She nodded, but her chin stilled quivered as if telling Low she’d been stung reminded her of the pain, and so the oncoming tears were on the way. Then, sure enough, one silver streak glistened down her pink cheek, followed by two.
Using the hem of his new T-shirt, he lifted it until he could wipe her tears away, surprised she wasn’t making a sound, just silently crying.
Dabbing at her face as softly as he was capable of, Phillip again felt something weird happening in his chest and another sensation forming in his throat, but he shoved all the oddness aside and finished the cleanup job.
When he let loose of the dark-blue cotton, damp material skittered down his flat stomach. “Come on, Jillian, let’s get you home.”
She nodded again but grimaced. “My hair.”
Wondering what about it, he watched, rapped as she grabbed the shiny strands in her fist and pulled an extensive section over the opposite shoulder.
“Better,” she breathed, and then he got it.
He leaned back to make sure she’d freed her sting. Sure enough, her hair wouldn’t be rubbing against the sore spot. He bobbed his head in approval.
“Ready now?” Willow asked.
“Yes,” Jillian replied in her small singsong voice.
So, with everyone good to go, the trio started for town—Low standing tall on his right and Little Red not so tall on his left.
Glancing out of the corner of his eye, Phillip called, “Jillian?”
“Why were you at the bridge?”
“I saw you two leave your yard, and I was curious, so I followed.”
Anger pricked him, making him stop. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
Her little brow wrinkled. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
“I wasn’t telling you what to do. I was saying you shouldn’t have followed us.” He scratched his neck. “We didn’t know you were with us, and you got hurt.”
“Phillip is right,” Low chimed in.
“It was stupid,” he grumbled.
Jillian shoved a hand on her hip as though she was a big girl and glowered up at him. “You’re stupid!”
He blinked. But before he could say anything, she took off running.
Phillip held his hand over his eyes, seeing all that red hair flying until she disappeared around the curve.
Well, isn’t that just great, he thought sarcastically, another runaway girl.