Excerpt: Night of the Dark Horse

Book 4: An Allegra Fairweather Paranormal Mystery

Excerpt: Night of the Dark Horse

“Allegra Mabel Fairweather. I call you to ride.”

I peeped through the window like a wussy maiden aunt. Jagged lightning strobed the cottages that lined the main street. It seemed deserted, but I knew something was out there. Something that liked storms better than sunshine, darkness better than light. A volley of rain hit the window. I flinched. A hand touched my shoulder.

Ronan said, “You’re not goin’ out there, are you?”

Well, I didn’t want to, but staying warm and dry wouldn’t help me solve the case. I’m a paranormal investigator and I’d been hired to stop a certain creature from terrorizing the good people of Dingaleen. I waited for the next flash of lightning to illuminate the street. It came with an abruptness that made me squint and shield my eyes.

A sleek black horse stood in the middle of the road. Wind whipped its mane into a Medusa frenzy. It pawed the slick tarmac. Throwing back its head, it snorted a stream of flames. The air was thick with the scent of sulfur.

“Allegra Mabel Fairweather,” it called again in a voice laced with shamrocks.

I know, I know, a talking horse, but this was a pooka–an Irish shapeshifter who could become a variety of creatures, including the dark horse I now faced. Their favorite pastime was taking humans on midnight rides. When one called your name, you didn’t refuse. Not unless you wanted your garden trampled, your windows kicked in, or worse.

As I headed for the door, Ronan’s fingers locked on my wrist. “Don’t go outside. That thing will kill you.”

I pried his fingers from my arm. Ronan had hired me to stop the pooka, and I couldn’t do that hiding behind his drapes. I yanked open the front door. A blast of rain-laced wind smacked my face making me gasp.

“Wait.” Ronan handed me a waterproof coat. “You’ll need this.”

I could think of more useful things: a saddle and bridle, a copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Pookas, a very large piña colada…but I took what was offered. Shoving my arms into the too-short sleeves, I stepped into the freezing night. The pooka’s feral eyes pierced the darkness. More flames shot from its nostrils.

“Is that the best you can do?” I demanded. Nope, I didn’t have a death wish. I wanted to unsettle it. Angry creatures are more likely to make a mistake.

The thing snarled, exposing thick teeth just right for grinding human bones. “Ye’ve got a gob that begs for a kickin’. Shut it and climb on me back.”

“Gee I’d love to, but we’ve not been properly introduced. What’s your name?”

The pooka pawed the ground impatiently. “Just climb on me back.”

“Not until you tell me your name.”

“You can call me Pooka.”

“That’s not a proper name. It’s like calling you ghost or goblin. If we’re going to chat during this ride–”

“Ye’ll be screamin’ too hard to chat.” The pooka made a sound that was two parts snort, one part evil laugh. It reared up, taking aim at me with lethal hoofs. I dodged out of the way, but it came after me, rearing and pawing the air, its rabid eyes gleamed with malice. “Sure, and that’s a taste of what ye’ll get if ye refuse to ride. Now climb on me back.”

“Why are you terrorizing the people of Dingaleen?”

A deep rumble came from its throat. “That’s me own sweet business.”

“Looks like we’re done, then.” I turned back to Ronan’s house. He stood at the open door. The porch light was on and rain slashed his face.

The pooka said, “Not so fast, Allegra Fairweather. I called ye to ride and ride ye will.”

“I don’t think so. Not unless you answer my question. Why are you hurting the people of Dingaleen?”