When an expert Demonologist meets a Reality Show Producer on the Ghost Hunting Show Finders, sparks of true love fly so brightly even the Devil takes notice.
Demonologist, Luke Melloy has seen the face of pure evil. He's fought it and sent it back to hell. It's what he does. To Claire Westin, ghosts and demons are just great television and good for ratings. When faced with the truth Luke has seen, her reality is turned upside down as the two are swept into dire straits moments after they meet. Desire sparks between the unlikely pair, throwing their hearts into chaos with a love neither expected nor wanted.
When the Demon targets an unsuspecting Claire with his wrath, Luke finds his focus split between his oath to God and the awakening of his heart. Together, can they face the ancient evil and defeat it or lose everything?
Claire brought up a picture of the church on her phone before attaching the phone to the hands-free cradle. She followed the steep narrow tree-lined road, searching for any signs or indications of houses, buildings, or churches. Mailboxes or well-marked driveways seemed to be non-existent. She drove a few more miles and was about to give up until Pip barked, bringing her attention to a small opening in the tree line. Claire slowed, debated, and went for it, making the tight right turn. The small opening widened. She drove through. A few miles later, the familiar caravan of four black SUVs and a large black van with the Finders logo plastered on the side brought a smile to her face.
Craig, the Finders’ tech producer, appeared from the corner of the van waving. Claire pulled up next to him and parked her truck. A bitter wind cut at her neck as she exited the vehicle. She pulled the collar of her coat up against the barrage.
"You found it. We were getting worried."
"No thanks to the GPS," Claire replied, opening the passenger door and letting Pip out. He immediately ran to Craig, greeting him warmly before running off into the woods, she assumed to relieve himself. Speaking of which, she could use a bathroom break.
Finders consisted of a team of eight to ten paranormal investigators. The supporting technical team was four boom operators and four cameramen. Depending on the size of the other locations, they could have more or fewer. For the investigation of Crestwater Church, Craig and Claire had doubled the number of cameras to enable multiple teams to be filming concurrently. In addition to the film equipment, the paranormal team employed a slew of scientific equipment to collect evidence of paranormal activity during the investigation. With the entire team at work, it would take a full day to set up and calibrate all of the necessary equipment.
The flurry of activity continued around her. Team members waved and said hello. Claire nodded, smiling in response. "How are we looking?" she asked Craig.
"Four hours until sundown, six until lights out. We’re right on schedule. I was just about to go around to the back of the church for some B-Roll shots. The foliage is amazing, and the shots I’m getting are phenomenal."
"Is the church open?"
"Yeah, we haven't locked it down for dinner yet."
"Cool, the three Venti Starbucks on the trip here are calling for an exit."
"Gotcha," Craig replied with a smile and a nod.
Claire inhaled the fresh air. Despite the cold, it was invigorating. She drank up the smell of wood, freshly fallen leaves, and dirt. Taking a closer look at the church, she realized the media photos didn't do justice to the immense structure.
Dark redwood covered the fifty-foot face. Jutting into the sky like a dagger, the roof was pointed and peaked ten feet above the face. The aged wood’s hues shifted with the sunlight, and the sway of trees gave the appearance of the inanimate object breathing. Against the backdrop of the autumn leaves, the sight was staggering and breathtaking. Claire ventured to the wide-mouth doorway opening of the church.
Piles of orange and yellow cords looked like snakes spilling out the open windows. The crunching of leaves beneath her feet and the whipping of the wind made her stride a little quicker. Hurrying up the plethora of steps, she lifted the red hot set tape barrier out of the way and pushed open the door.
As she stepped into the vestibule, the stale air stifled her lungs. The solid wooden door closed behind her, but sunlight continued to stream into the enclosed area via the large windows on either side. Thick darkness beyond the sun's reach constricted the expanse. Even the doors were massive, at twice her height, at least. She guessed they were made from solid walnut, from the ancient trees surrounding the church.
A chilling wisp crept within her hair to the back of her neck, like fingers playing with her hair. Claire instinctively turned. Seeing nothing but feeling a shiver up her spine, she took in the surroundings and searched for the bathroom. Eying a promising door, she made a beeline and found salvation.
Thankfully the facilities were in working order. After washing her hands in cold water, Claire dried them on her jeans. Taking a quick look in the cracked mirror, she adjusted her long brown hair tied up in a ponytail, smoothing any unruly strands and bumps before walking back into the vestibule.
The intricately carved stone lining the archway into the nave caught her eye, and she stopped, inspecting it closer. A carved frame of tree limbs with gnarled and knotted extensions bent and twisted around the mouth of the doorway, amazingly delicate and detailed. She could feel the bark beneath her fingertips despite knowing it was carved in stone.
Hearing Pip barking at the door, Claire moved away from the nave archway to the main entrance. Opening it, she saw no sign of her dog. Confused, she walked outside to the steps.
"Pip? Pippy, come!"
The flurry of activity when she’d arrived had ceased. The Finders crew had disappeared, and Claire remembered Craig mentioning dinner. Hearing another bark, she followed the sound.
"Pippy, come!" Claire said, her patience waning. She wasn't used to Pip not obeying her commands. They were going to need to talk. Finally, the dog appeared, sprinting out of the thick brush. She breathed an unconscious sigh of relief.
Her heart leaped as Pip barked.
She spun toward the voice, seeing nothing but Pip taking off through the open door of the church. "Pippy!"
Claire chased after him, into the vestibule, but saw no sign of him. He barked again. The sound was muffled. He had to be on the other side of the large arched doors leading to the nave. Claire pulled on the slightly open door. It swept back with a whoosh of air and a loud thud, the sound echoing off the brittle walls, and a shower of dust rained down.
"Fuck. Pip, come here!" she yelled, attempting to not choke within the cloud of decay from the ruin.
Claire grabbed her phone, turning on the flashlight feature, utilizing it to explore. She shivered at the feel of invisible hands pulling her deeper into the darkness. Heart thudding and hands shaking, she struggled to remain calm, though her mind told her to run.
High cathedral ceilings jutted up to the heavens. Faded images of angels and cherubs adorned the beams. The pews remained, dust-covered and overrun by spiders. When the light flashed over the stone altar at the head of the room, Claire's heart skipped.
The sound of metal clanked on the floor, and Claire panicked, thinking she’d dropped her keys. Checking her pocket, she found her keys intact. Using her flashlight, she searched the surrounding floor for the source of the noise. Her eyes focused on a large old-fashioned key a few inches from where she stood. Reaching down, she picked it up. The cold metal felt icy in her hand. She examined it closely.
Pip barked. Claire turned, putting the key in her pocket, and realized how far away from the opening she'd traveled. Pip's fur brushed against her legs. She turned, glaring at him. "You and I are going to talk about this."
She heard her name and turned. A scorched skull atop a body shrouded in black dominated her vision. Claire instinctively raised her arms, stepping back. The floor beneath her cracked before disappearing from beneath her feet. Her body fell. She screamed. The light above quickly faded, and wet darkness engulfed her senses. The impact rendered her immobile while agonizing pain from icy water shocked her entire body.
With her arms flailing, her senses returned. She struggled to kick her legs despite the hardening of her muscles. Up, I need to go up!
Pushing her arms in front of her, willing the blackness away, she prayed for air.
Amy Romine has always wanted to be one of the good guys. From playing Charlie's Angels in the backyard of her Macungie, PA home as a child to the pages of her unending projects, Amy has always dreamed of adventure and romance. Her need to make the characters truly deserve their happiness takes us on many a twisted journey. From serial killers to demons, Amy holds nothing back in the name of true enduring love.
A mother of three, Amy has spent the past sixteen years working in Operations for Ricoh America's Corporation. She is an avid movie fan and enjoys books, television, theater, her dog Pip and all things romance.