WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DEMANDING GUEST
TURNS INTO A DEMANDING GHOST?
One of the new guests at Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast is a real jerk—even one of the ghosts says so. Emily Buchanan’s patience is put to the test by the entitled, uptight investor who owns the abandoned hotel on the edge of town. Jaxon Knight-MacGinn’s plans to revamp the hotel into an expensive resort is stirring up a lot of resentment around Oak Hill, and no one seems all that upset when he turns up dead. Even Jaxon’s business partner seems content to carry on without him. There are plenty of suspects among the living, but it’s the ghosts who have the most clues about the murder. As even Emily herself becomes a suspect, she also has to grapple with a shocking revelation about her late husband’s spirit.
LATE CHECKOUT, the second full-length novel in the Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast series by paranormal cozy mystery author Beth Dolgner.
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About the Book
Late Checkout by Beth Dolgner
Series Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast | Genre Adult Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Publisher Red Glare Press | Publication Date September 1, 2021
An Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast Novel
© 2021 Beth Dolgner
“I hear you got a new guy!” Jen shouted above the din.
Emily’s eyebrows drew together. “What? No, of course not.”
“No, not like that!” Jen paused and took another sip of her beer. “I meant at the house. You got someone new to help out.”
“Oh! Yeah!” Emily didn’t even bother trying to relay details about her new assistant at Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast. It was entirely too loud at Sutter’s Bar to try to hold a conversation, though it wasn’t stopping anyone around her from trying. Jen didn’t seem to mind, though. She clinked her glass against Emily’s and took a long drink, then turned her attention to the man who was trying to pass her a shot glass.
Emily took a sip of her wine and gazed at the faces around her. Most of them she knew, though there were a few of Jen’s co-workers from the Oak Hill Chamber of Commerce that Emily had never met before. Sage, who was Jen’s wife and Emily’s best friend, was currently on the dance floor with a couple of women she and Emily had attended high school with. Sage’s spiked, bright-pink hair was bopping in time with the beat while she tried to move her body without spilling her beer.
“Hey, you own Eternal Rest, right?” someone said loudly into Emily’s ear.
Emily turned and saw a woman with long black hair whose tight red pants and silver sequined tank top looked more appropriate for a club in Atlanta than a local bar in a little North Georgia town. “I do,” Emily confirmed. “How do you know Jen?”
“Who?” The woman leaned in, nearly spilling her cocktail on Emily in the process. “Whoa, sorry!”
“Jen. The birthday girl.”
“I have no idea who that is. Anyway, you’re the one who found that dead body, aren’t you?” The woman was looking at Emily eagerly.
Emily sighed to herself and nodded. Ever since she—well, two of her guests at Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast, really—had discovered a murder victim buried in a shallow grave at the cemetery adjacent to Eternal Rest, Emily had become something of a local celebrity. The Oak Hill newspaper and TV station had eaten up the story, and Emily’s face was a familiar sight to most people in town now.
“I can’t imagine! Was it all gross and rotted? Did you touch it? I bet you’re still having nightmares!” The woman kept going as she imagined a scene far more gruesome than reality, and Emily simply let her talk. She had quickly learned that most people didn’t actually want her to tell them the details; they would much rather tell her their own horrible visions of what they thought the experience had been like.
Eventually, the woman finished her embellished narrative and ended with, “Try not to find any more dead bodies!” before tottering off on her black stilettos.
Emily didn’t like all the attention, especially since it was for a murder that involved people she knew. On the plus side, the news had already traveled outside of Oak Hill, even making it onto several news shows in Atlanta, and reservation requests were pouring in for Eternal Rest. The new assistant Emily had hired to help out a couple days a week would have to catch on quickly. She hoped he would also last longer than the previous assistant. Trevor Williams had only worked two weeks for Emily, and he hadn’t bothered to announce he was quitting. He hadn’t needed to: Trevor’s dad had been responsible for the body they found in the cemetery, so of course he would want nothing more to do with Eternal Rest or Hilltop Cemetery.
Feeling suddenly alone, despite the crowd of people around her, Emily edged her way past everyone to the deck behind Sutter’s. There were only a handful of people out there since it was a little chilly out, but the fresh air felt nice. Emily found an empty spot along the wooden railing of the deck and leaned against it, looking out at the woods beyond. She should have been excited: business was great, she had a new assistant, and she would be able to afford a new roof sooner than expected. And yet, the nonstop conversations about the discovery of Kelly Stern’s body kept Emily from fully enjoying her current success. It seemed morbid that her booming business was due to finding the body of a murdered teenager. She was used to guests wanting to stay at Eternal Rest for its ghosts, not for corpses.
Emily felt a tug on the end of her long brown ponytail and turned to see Sage, her round face shiny with sweat. “Why are you moping instead of dancing?” Sage asked, fanning herself with her free hand.
“I’m not moping; I’m hiding from my adoring public.” Emily smiled reassuringly at Sage, who looked unconvinced.
“It’s only been a couple of weeks,” Sage said, plunking her beer down onto the railing. “The focus on you will die down soon enough, and things will go back to normal.”
“I’m not sure Kelly realizes how popular she is these days. Oh, she says ‘hi,’ by the way.” After Kelly Stern’s ghost had led Emily and Sage to her body and helped them solve her murder, she had elected to stick around. Kelly’s home life hadn’t been good when she was a teenager, and she seemed to enjoy the more positive atmosphere at Eternal Rest. She had flatly refused to cross over. Kelly’s preferred method of communicating with the living was through writing, and Emily had started leaving sheets of paper and pencils around Eternal Rest so Kelly could communicate any time she wanted. Emily had announced she would see Sage at Jen’s birthday celebration, and an hour later, she found the words Hi, Sage! on the paper in the parlor.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday. This will be Kelly’s first Spirited Saturday Night!” Sage was beaming in anticipation, her dimples highlighting her happiness. Every month, Eternal Rest hosted a Spirited Saturday Night weekend package for guests, which included a séance led by Sage. There was always paranormal activity, but it would be even more interesting now that Kelly had joined the ranks of the Eternal Rest ghosts.
“Sage! There you are!” Emily and Sage turned at the sound of the voice and began laughing at the same time. Jen stood there, her glittery silver heels in one hand and three shot glasses balanced carefully in the other. Strands of her red hair had slipped out of the rhinestone combs above each ear, and one strap of her black dress was sliding off her shoulder.
“Did you come through a hurricane to get here?” Sage asked, reaching out to take the shot glasses so she could line them up on the deck railing.
Jen squeezed between Emily and Sage. “It feels like it. Whew! I’ve got a few co-workers who will definitely not be on time tomorrow morning.” Jen pushed her hair out of her face and pulled her strap up onto her shoulder. “That’s better.”
“Thanks for bringing us shots,” Sage said, even though she was eyeing the glasses with distaste.
“Oh, they’re not for you two,” Jen said. “People keep buying them for me, and I can’t keep up. I know I’m not driving tonight, but… oops.” She tipped each one over, smiling mischievously as their contents spilled onto the ground below the deck. “I’ll tell everyone they tasted great.”
“But you’ll have to slur your words when you do, or no one will believe you actually drank them,” Emily noted. Spending all night at a bar wasn’t something she had been interested in since her early twenties, and only a special occasion like this could have gotten her inside the front door of Sutter’s. Emily still couldn’t quite believe where she was, and on a Sunday night, no less. Still, after helping her weekend guests check out and cleaning all four of the guest rooms, Emily realized that getting out of the house and catching up with her closest friends was a nice reward after a weekend of work.
“You have more guests coming in tomorrow, don’t you?” Sage suddenly asked. Emily wondered if Sage was just steering the conversation along, or if she had sensed what Emily was thinking. Having a psychic medium for a best friend was good for communicating with her houseful of ghosts, but it also meant Emily could rarely keep anything secret.
Except for her belief that Scott’s spirit was not only still around but actively trying to communicate with her. Emily’s husband had died two years ago, and Sage kept telling her to move on, but Kelly had left Emily a cryptic note that made her believe Scott was trying his best to haunt Eternal Rest.
Aware that her thoughts were straying and worried that Sage might pick up on the subject, Emily gave her head a little shake to clear it. “Yes, a Monday through Friday stay, and all four rooms booked, no less. Four people on business from Atlanta.”
Jen narrowed her eyes. “In Oak Hill for business all week? Let me guess, one of them has a hyphenated last name. Um, something like King-McDonald’s.”
Emily laughed. “Sure, and he’ll arrive with a suitcase full of burgers and fries. It’s Knight-MacGinn. Do you know him?”
“No, and I don’t want to, but I won’t have much of a choice. His name is already a swear word around the office. He’s one of the owners of the abandoned hotel out on the edge of town.”
Emily’s eyes widened. “Really? What’s he doing in town?”
Jen wrinkled her nose. “He and his business partner want to renovate the hotel and turn it into a resort.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Sage asked.
“My question exactly,” Emily said. “As long as it doesn’t take business away from Eternal Rest, then I don’t care. I would think you’d be excited about it, from a Chamber of Commerce perspective.”
“You’d think, but there are a lot of people around town who aren’t happy about the idea. They’re worried the resort will take business away from the downtown restaurants and hotels, and of course people are already speculating that Oak Hill will become too crowded on weekends because of all the people staying at the resort.” Jen threw up her hands in exasperation, accidentally sending one of the shot glasses flying off the railing. “You’d think that business owners would be worried about one or the other—either not enough business or too much—but nope, they think both extremes are going to happen simultaneously.”
“As long as the old hotel isn’t haunted, and they leave me and my ghost-loving guests alone,” Emily said with a shrug. “I don’t think fancy resort people are the same demographic as haunted bed and breakfast people.”
“That’s the least of your worries if he’s staying with you this week,” Jen said ominously. “The few people who have already met this Knight-MacGinn guy say he’s an entitled jerk. You’re going to have your hands full.”
Emily shrugged again. “I’ll feed him breakfast each morning, then I won’t see him again until he and his colleagues are done at the end of the day. I’m not worried.”
“Maybe he’s the one who should be worried,” Sage said, leaning toward Emily and Jen conspiratorially. “They say that old hotel is cursed, you know. The past three owners have all died unexpectedly.”
Emily raised her wine glass, laughing. “Then it’s going to be an exciting week!”
Emily had nursed her single glass of wine all night so she could drive herself home after Jen’s birthday celebration. It had been after eleven o’clock when Emily made her round of goodbyes and left, but many people were still going strong.
It had felt strange going from the noise and crowd at Sutter’s to the silence of Eternal Rest. The Victorian house was several miles outside of Oak Hill, surrounded by woods on two sides. The dark-blue clapboard house was no taller than most of the trees, with the little gabled third-story room competing with the pines for dominance. To the right of the house was historic Hilltop Cemetery.
Emily allowed herself to sleep a little later than usual on Monday morning, since check-in wasn’t until two o’clock. She had cracked her bedroom window open a few inches before bed, and the cool air of a sunny spring morning carried the smell of fresh-mown grass. The distant sound of a lawn mower woke Emily before her alarm, and a quick glance out the window showed her friend Reed Marshall and his team were already at work in the cemetery. Reed worked for the city of Oak Hill as the sexton at both the modern cemetery and the Victorian-era Hilltop Cemetery. Emily owned the land at Hilltop, but Reed tended to the graves.
After crossing the hall to start the coffee maker, Emily retreated into her bathroom for a shower. She put on her usual black jeans and blue button-down shirt, which had Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast embroidered in silver on the left breast. She pulled her hair up into a high bun, then added a little more makeup than her typical powder and lip gloss. Something about Jen’s description of Knight-MacGinn made her suspect this was a guest who would expect everything to be picture-perfect during his stay, including his hostess. Emily stopped for a moment to admire her reflection and the way her eye shadow and shirt color combined to really make her dark-blue eyes stand out.
Emily popped a slightly stale bagel into her new microwave—Kelly had destroyed the previous one with a burst of paranormal energy—and poured a cup of coffee. The house was ready to go, so Emily’s morning would be occupied by sorting out any online reservation requests that had been made via the Eternal Rest website since Sunday afternoon. If she could get that wrapped up quickly, Emily promised herself she’d walk over to the cemetery to catch up with Reed. He had checked on her daily for the first week after the events that had led to Benjamin Williams’s arrest for Kelly’s murder, but since then, they had reverted to only seeing each other occasionally. Reed often stopped by Eternal Rest early on Sunday mornings, when he liked to visit his ancestors’ plot at Hilltop before going to church, but Emily hadn’t seen him for the past two Sundays. After what they had recently been through together, Emily realized she was missing her friend’s company.
With that in mind, Emily was determined to get to work quickly. She opened the curtains in the parlor, the morning sunlight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows that opened onto the front porch. A Victorian-era sofa and two wingback chairs sat in front of the windows, but Emily headed toward the rolltop desk tucked into a back corner of the room. She had just opened her laptop when the doorbell rang.
Immediately, Emily assumed it was Reed coming over to say hello before she could beat him to it. She was shocked, then, to open the front door to find herself face-to-face with four smartly dressed people. The man closest to her was tall, with tan skin and light-brown hair that swept back from his forehead. He didn’t bother to remove his sunglasses as he drawled, “Good morning. We’re here to check in. Jaxon Knight-MacGinn.” He dangled the keys to a BMW in front of Emily. “My luggage is in the trunk.”
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About the Author
BETH DOLGNER writes paranormal fiction and nonfiction. Her first book was the nonfiction Georgia Spirits and Specters, which is a collection of Georgia ghost stories, followed by Everyday Voodoo. Beth made her fiction debut with the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter paranormal romance series, set in Savannah, Georgia. In addition to writing, Beth also gives presentations on Victorian death and mourning traditions as well as Victorian Spiritualism. She’s always up for going looking for ghosts, too, just like her characters. You can usually find her haunting the historic cemeteries around her home in Berlin, Germany.
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