When one of the artists at the Oak Hill Arts Festival is found dead in his booth, he begins haunting photographs that might hold clues about his murder.
Unfortunately, the clues all seem to point to Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast. Is the artist trying to pin the blame on one of Emily’s guests, or does he want to communicate with the ghosts there? Sage can’t even sense the artist’s spirit, so it’s Emily who must find a way to communicate with it.
The one ghost who’s ready to talk is the one who knows the most about Emily’s late husband Scott. As Kelly’s ghost relays more details, Emily and her friends realize they are facing a powerful force that’s preventing Scott’s ghost from coming home…
PICTURE PERFECT, the third novel in the Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast series by paranormal cozy mystery author Beth Dolgner.
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About the Book
by Beth Dolgner
Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast
Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Red Glare Press
December 1, 2021
An Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast Novel
© 2021 Beth Dolgner
Emily stifled a yawn, then coughed as a wave of smoke rushed into her throat. “Is it really necessary to get inside the cabinets, too?” she croaked.
“Yes! You want to cleanse the entire house, and that includes inside the wardrobes and cabinets.” Sage’s voice was strained, like she was holding back a laugh. “You’re only supposed to stick the sage into the cabinet, Em, not your head, too!”
Still coughing, Emily straightened up, a smoking bundle of dried sage in her hand. “Well, I wanted to make sure I got it all the way under the sink. That takes care of the kitchen, at least. Only one room left to go.”
Emily moved across the hall into her bedroom, waving the sage slowly as she had been instructed to do. As her best friend and a psychic medium, Sage had been only too happy to teach Emily how to cleanse her house of negative energy. The fact that the necessary herb shared her name only made Sage that much more enthusiastic. Sage followed Emily into the room, and within ten minutes, the ritual was finished. They had started all the way up on the third floor, in the little gabled room that Emily used for storage, and worked their way down. Emily’s friend Reed had done the opposite, starting all the way down in the storm cellar before heading to the old barn behind the house.
Before they had begun, Sage had put two small plates outside: one on the front porch and one on the back steps. Now, Emily took her sage bundle onto the front porch and placed it on the plate there, where it would eventually burn itself out. Sage put hers on the back steps.
The fresh air felt nice after the smokiness inside the house. Emily actually liked the smell of the burning sage, but the air inside Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast was saturated with it. Absently, Emily reached over her shoulder and pulled the end of her low ponytail toward her face. She sniffed at the light-brown hair and wrinkled her nose. It smelled just as strong as the house. Emily let go of her ponytail, took a deep breath, and plunged back inside.
Reed was just coming in the back door, and he gave Emily a thumbs up as she waved him in the direction of the parlor.
“Time for tea, then!” she announced, passing Reed to go into the kitchen.
When Emily joined her friends in the parlor with a tray of sweet tea, she found Sage sitting on the sofa with a satisfied expression on her face. The ankh pendant around her neck gleamed against her gauzy lilac dress. She gratefully accepted a glass of tea from Emily, who settled into one of the red wingback chairs that flanked the sofa. Emily sighed happily as she turned her head to gaze through one of the floor-to-ceiling windows that provided a view of the front porch and the two-lane road that led into downtown Oak Hill. The sun had already set, and the twilight sky was a mellow gold, unmarred by a single cloud. “It’s a good sign,” she murmured.
“Agreed,” Sage said. “This was a good idea, Emily. Even the ghosts feel happy about it.”
“I’m glad they understand that we did this to clear out anything negative, and not to clear out them.”
“Your ghosts were decent people in life,” Reed said reassuringly. “I’m sure they know you’d never want to get rid of them.”
Emily sighed again, but this time there was a worried sound to it. “I just hope it helps.”
Sage leaned toward Emily. “Remember, we don’t know what’s preventing Scott’s spirit from communicating with us,” she said in a matronly tone, “but everything we do to make it easier for him will help. Still, I don’t want you to expect some kind of miracle. Whatever is keeping your husband from coming back to Eternal Rest is also keeping him from coming to me for a little chat, which indicates he’s barred from Oak Hill altogether.”
Emily nodded as she chewed her lip thoughtfully. “You mentioned once before that it’s almost like there’s a spiritual barrier around Oak Hill. Scott was able to communicate with Reed’s cousin in Alabama, but for some reason he can’t make it to Georgia.”
Reed chuckled darkly. “Let’s hope the barrier doesn’t cover the whole state. We can chip away at something the size of a town, but I don’t know about all of Georgia. Of course, that’s assuming it is some kind of barrier, and not a negative entity keeping Scott away.”
“Either way,” Sage broke in, “every little bit helps. Besides, considering some of the living people who have been under this roof recently, I think a cleansing was necessary.”
“Agreed. Jaxon Knight-MacGinn was an angry, stuck-up jerk.” Emily paused, suddenly feeling disrespectful of the dead. She added quickly, “May he rest in peace.”
Sage rolled her eyes. “I meant the murderous guest you had staying here, as well as your murderous assistant.”
Emily felt herself blush at the oversight. “Oh, well, sure. Them, too.” Emily leaned back and stared up at the ceiling. She was used to a fairly quiet life at Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast. Yes, the house was usually buzzing with the activity of her guests, but it was a relaxed kind of energy. Most people who stayed there were good people enjoying a little getaway from their busy lives. If they chose to spend their vacation days staying at a haunted bed and breakfast, or even actively looking for the ghostly residents of the Victorian house, then that was their business. Actually, it was Emily’s business, too—quite literally—and she was grateful for every one of those guests. Not only did they allow Eternal Rest to stay in business, but welcoming guests to her home had been a comfort to Emily since Scott’s death two years ago.
These days, after being caught up in a couple of murder investigations, Eternal Rest was more popular than ever. That thought brought Emily’s mind back to the present, and she said, “I still need an assistant. I can’t handle all the calls and emails we’re getting these days, plus do the cleaning and run errands. I have to sleep sometime!”
“I thought you were getting a new assistant?” Reed sounded surprised. “You mentioned someone coming in this week.”
Emily turned her head toward Reed. “I hired someone from a temp agency to get me through this week. If I’m lucky, she’ll be great, and I can offer her the job permanently. Given my recent track record, though…”
After her longtime assistant, the sweet, elderly Mrs. Thompson, had died, Emily had hired Trevor Williams. He had only been there a week when a body was discovered in a shallow grave in the cemetery next to Eternal Rest, and his dad turned out to be the one responsible for it. After that, Emily had hired Trip Ellis, who had murdered one of her guests.
It wasn’t a promising trend.
I hope this temp has never even killed a fly, let alone a human being. Please let her work out.
“Em?” Sage prompted. “Yoo-hoo, where are you?” Sage leaned forward and waved a hand in front of Emily’s face.
Emily blinked. “Sorry, I was thinking about assistants. The temp one starts tomorrow, which is when my guests for the week show up, so she’s jumping right into it.”
“Oh, I forgot to mention,” said Reed, sounding slightly embarrassed. “One of your guests will be checking in early tomorrow. Kat Mason.”
“She emailed me to let me know, so you’re off the hook,” Emily said, smiling. “I can’t wait to see what the art installation looks like.”
Kat was one of the artists who always stayed at Eternal Rest during the annual Oak Hill Arts Festival. This year, Kat had been invited to display an art installation at historic Hilltop Cemetery. Emily would be able to see it just by looking out her bedroom window. Kat had been secretive about the installation itself, making Emily more anxious to see it. The city of Oak Hill liked to arrange installations around town during the festival, which helped spread out the crowds of visitors a bit and showed off the town’s notable spots, but this was the first time the cemetery had been put on the itinerary.
“This is one of your favorite weeks of the year,” Sage said suddenly. “You’ve never said so, but I can feel it.”
“It is,” Emily said, nodding happily. “My guests every year are really cool artists, and since they’re gone all day, none of them mind that I leave the house, too, to go work my volunteer shifts at the festival.” Emily’s smile faltered. “This is my first year hosting the artists without Mrs. Thompson here to help me.”
Sage clicked her tongue impatiently. “That’s not true, and you know it. She’s still here to help.”
“You’re right.” Emily lifted her eyes to the space above their heads. “Sorry, Mrs. Thompson!”
There was a loud knock on the wall as the ghost of Mrs. Thompson acknowledged Emily’s apology.
Emily’s stomach growled. “Want me to make dinner?” She looked at Sage and Reed expectantly.
“Jen and I are going to Morelli’s tonight,” Sage answered. “I helped Mrs. Morelli connect with her dead grandmother, and she gave me a gift certificate to the restaurant as a thank you.”
“I can’t stay, either,” Reed said apologetically. “I need to be up extra early tomorrow so I can get some work done at the Garden before I come over here to meet Kat.” As the sexton for the two cemeteries under the care of the city of Oak Hill, Reed had to take care of the dead at the modern (but much less interesting, in Emily’s opinion) Oak Hill Memorial Garden as well as the Victorian-era Hilltop Cemetery.
Emily walked her friends onto the front porch, where she thanked them profusely for their help with the house-cleansing. They both hugged her tightly, reiterating their promises to help Scott’s spirit any way they could, before getting in their cars and driving to their own homes. Emily stayed on the porch, looking at the sky, which had now turned the same hue of dark blue as Eternal Rest. She was surprised when a car on the road turned into her drive, and she raised a hand to shade her eyes from the glare of the headlights. As the car arced around the circular drive, she realized it was Sage’s.
The car stopped right in front of the house, and Sage jumped out of the driver’s seat. “I almost forgot!” She waved something in her hand as she skirted the car and walked up the porch steps. “Hold out your hand.”
Emily complied, one eyebrow raised in question as Sage plunked a bundle into the palm of her hand. It was wrapped in bright-pink silk that exactly matched Sage’s spiked hair and was tied with a white ribbon. “What’s this?”
“Tarot cards. I want you to practice with them.”
Emily wasn’t sure whether she wanted to laugh or scoff. “Why? So I can tell fortunes at the arts festival?” she asked sarcastically.
“No. They’re so much more versatile than that. Tarot cards are a great focusing and meditation tool. You can use them to help you grow your abilities.”
“You mean, I can use them to communicate with ghosts?”
“Yes, but they also help you communicate with yourself, to tap into your instincts and subconscious.”
“My intuition.” Emily was nodding, even though she was eyeing the silk bundle doubtfully.
“Thank you, but you realize I have no idea how to use these, right? Is there a user manual that comes with them?”
“Yes, of course, I put a little guide in there for you. And remember to keep them wrapped up when you’re not using them. You don’t want their energy getting muddled.”
Emily glanced skeptically at Sage, even though she was touched by her friend’s encouragement. “Noted. Thanks again, Sage.”
With a wave, Sage climbed back into her car and was soon gone again. Emily stood there, feeling surprised, pleased, and a little perplexed. She had to admit Sage was right about her growing encounters with the paranormal, and maybe she really was beginning to develop the ability to interact with ghosts. If she could somehow use that budding talent to help Scott, then she appreciated every tool Sage could give her. Still, Tarot cards seemed like an odd choice. She associated them more with scarf-and-gold-hoop-laden seers than ghosts.
Once she went inside and locked the front door, Emily walked down the hallway to the kitchen and laid the silk-wrapped cards down on the antique wooden table in one corner. She untied the ribbon and unfolded the silk. The backs of the cards were printed with a beautiful but simple gold floral design that made Emily think of Art Deco style. She picked up the top card and turned it over.
It was Death.
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To celebrate the release of PICTURE PERFECT by Beth Dolgner, we’re giving away an Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast Swag Pack, including a $100 Amazon gift card, a tote bag, a sticker, and a signed set of the ERB&B paperbacks!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to continental United States shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card, an Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast tote bag, matching sticker, and a set of signed paperbacks. This giveaway is administered by BookMojo on behalf of Beth Dolgner. Giveaway ends 12/31/2021 @ 11:59pm EST. BookMojo will electronically deliver the Amazon gift card prize to the winner shortly thereafter, and the author will mail out the tote bag, sticker, and signed paperbacks in a separate package.
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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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