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New girl Raven Zheng has a secret: she can see ghosts. Local legend Cade Woods has special abilities of his own. After a string of murders, the teens decide to use their gifts to catch the killer. But when she learns of his dark history, Raven wonders if Cade can really be trusted…

Age Rating: 13+

 

Haunted by Samantha Pfundheller is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

The app has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the hottest app for explosive new Romance, Teen & Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense novels.
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1

Summary

New girl Raven Zheng has a secret: she can see ghosts. Local legend Cade Woods has special abilities of his own. After a string of murders, the teens decide to use their gifts to catch the killer. But when she learns of his dark history, Raven wonders if Cade can really be trusted…

Age Rating: 13+

Original Author: Samantha Pfundheller

RAVEN

Maybe this time will be different, I thought as I stared at the last box of packed clothes in my new bedroom.

What was the harm of wishful thinking?

Maybe this time we’ll actually stay. I’ll make friends. NORMAL friends—

I stopped myself. There was no point in pretending. Year after year it was always the same.

A new town.

A new roster of names and faces that I wouldn’t remember…people who wouldn’t talk to me, anyway.

No one ever talks to the crazy girl.

And then we’d leave. Hit the reset button, and…

“Raven’s Winter Clothes,” the box read, in my so-called nanny Grace's distinct scrawl. I sighed.

Will we even make it to winter in this bleak little town?

I pushed the box to the foot of my bed.

I’d developed a habit of leaving one box packed over the years, and it looked like this was the winner this time, despite having plenty of room in my walk-in closet.

It felt strange having so much space.

My dad’s job always took us to big cities. I hadn’t lived in an actual house since before my mom disappeared.

Before my dad had decided that the only way to cope with the pain was to become a workaholic.

Who had to pay someone else to take care of his daughter.

If it weren’t for Grace, I would have been completely alone in the world. Over the years, she had become the older sister I'd never had, the only person I could talk to.

But even Grace didn’t know about my secret…

I jumped as the overhead light in my bedroom suddenly went out and my room was plunged into darkness.

The air stirred behind me, raising the hairs on the back of my neck, and the temperature in the room noticeably dropped.

I turned around slowly.

“Grace?”

There was nothing but an eerie, swollen silence.

I begged my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but their leisurely pace refused to comply.

Even still, I could feel it.

I’m not alone.

“Raven…,” A sinister whisper crawled across the shadows.

The air around me grew even more frigid as some unseen figure drew near.

I could feel it practically on top of me.

As my reluctant eyes adjusted to the light, I finally discerned a tall, thin mass of darkness just steps away—

“What, are you allergic to sunlight now?”

The light suddenly switched back on, and Grace stood in the doorway with her arms crossed.

My eyes snapped back to the middle of the room, to a hooded figure standing motionless.

One that Grace couldn’t see, which looked like…

I rolled my eyes.

…the Grim Reaper.

Ugh, I should have known.

“You know, sometimes I worry about you, kiddo,” Grace continued, oblivious, crossing the room and pulling back the thick drapery from my window.

The afternoon sunlight poured into my bedroom.

Grace took a step back, satisfied. “We so need to replace these curtains. They’re heinous.”

Of course she couldn’t see that I wasn’t alone.

She couldn’t see him.

No one could, in fact. Just me.

Because he wasn’t, strictly speaking, alive.

Just like the others—the spirits who were constantly showing up in my life and asking that I help them pass into the light.

The ghosts.

It was a little confusing when I was younger. I mean, everyone has imaginary friends when they’re little.

But then I got older. And they didn’t go away.

The only person who ever believed me was my grandma Pearl, who my dad so affectionately referred to as “Crazy Pearl.”

Grandma Pearl could see them too, and often recited the ancient Korean myths of our ancestors—stories about seers and shamans and demigods.

Visits to my grandma’s house were few and far between.

My parents didn’t want their only daughter’s head being filled with what they considered to be nonsense.

I learned the hard way that if I didn’t want to spend my entire childhood in psychiatrists’ offices, I should just stay silent. So I did.

I also shut up and pretended to listen when Grace sat me down and gave me her usual spiel about my need to make friends in this new town and blah, blah, blah.

“Oh, by the way, I need you to run an errand,” Grace said as she handed me a piece of paper.

My “nanny” was always devising transparent schemes to get me to make friends.

“Seriously?” I groaned as I looked down at a grocery list. “You can’t do this?”

“I’ve gotta get the kitchen and living room set up, kiddo. Anyway, you should get outta the house. It’ll do you good.”

All through the conversation my eyes remained glued to him.

“Never mind the fact that you can drive and I can’t,” I replied.

Perks of having a father who insisted on teaching me himself, even though he hardly had the time to read the newspaper in the morning.

With a smile, Grace left the room, closing the door behind her.

The moment I was alone, I grabbed the closest thing to me—a hardback mystery novel sitting on my dresser—and hurled it directly at the Reaper.

Well, through him.

“Randy!” I exclaimed. “What’s your problem?”

The figure pulled back his hood to reveal a head of strawberry-blond hair and a dastardly smirk.

Randy, a fan of his own sadistic jokes, was doubled over in laughter. “You—you should’ve seen your—”

“I wasn’t scared! And you’re not funny!”

God, sometimes I wish I could murder the dead.

Randy wiped a tear from his pale eyes and sighed contently. “What, no ‘nice to see you, Randy’? ‘I missed you, Randy’?”

I’d met Randy a little over two years before, when we were living in Dallas, and he’d followed me around ever since.

Except for the past two months, when he’d gone radio silent. I’d just assumed he’d finally decided to move on.

I should have known better.

But I was glad to see him, even in his cheap Halloween costume.

Ghosts typically appeared in whatever clothes they’d died in.

And Randy? Well, he was stuck dressed as the Grim Reaper—plastic scythe and all—for the rest of his afterlife.

Oh, the irony.

“I missed you, Randy,” I said finally, rolling my eyes. “Where were you, anyway? And how’d you do that thing with the lights?”

Randy shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve been looking for more people like me.”

I raised my eyebrows. “People like what?”

“Spirits who aren’t lost or trying to get out of here. People who’ve been around for a while.”

“Why?”

“Because they can teach me things. Like how to move objects in the physical world.”

He lowered his gaze. “Well, they tried to teach me. That thing with the lights is pretty much all I’m capable of so far. It’s pathetic.”

He shrugged again. “Oh well. I tried. Guess I’ll just have to think of other ways to annoy you.”

I laughed.

It was nice to have someone to talk to.

“Well,” I said, waving the shopping list at him, “you care to check this town out?”

***

Fifteen minutes later, I’d pocketed the shopping list—which was completely ridiculous, anyway—as Randy and I headed to the only coffee shop that popped up on Google.

This is downtown? That’s it?” asked Randy incredulously when we reached Main Street.

Downtown Elk Springs was an underwhelming collection of mom-and-pop shops, and it seemed that there only existed one of everything.

That’s when we saw the little boy.

He couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, and was standing on the corner between the ice cream parlor and coffee shop, a familiar disoriented look on his face.

A gash ran along the edge of his forehead, and his neck and torso were caked in blood.

“Mommy?” he was calling, his eyes welling up with tears. “Does anyone know where my mommy is?”

Despite the considerable flow of pedestrians, no one stopped.

Because no one could see him.

Ghosts of children were always the hardest.

Randy was usually helpful with that sort of thing…speaking to people who didn’t know they were dead, or convincing them that the bright light they saw was a good place.

A safe place.

In this case, however, his costume—no matter how cheap or synthetic-looking—would only scare the little boy.

“I’ll just leave you to it,” Randy said, shooting me a knowing look before vanishing.

I hurried over to where he stood on the corner and dropped to a knee, pretending to tie my shoelaces.

“Are you lost?” I asked the little boy softly, keeping my head down.

The last thing I needed was people seeing the new girl talking to herself.

“You can see me?” he asked. “No one—no one can—”

“I know,” I replied. “I can help you, if you want. But you have to follow me.”

I ducked into the alley beside the coffee shop and waited behind a dumpster.

After a moment, the ghost appeared, sniffling.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Charlie.”

“And when was the last time you saw your mom, Charlie?”

He thought for a moment. “She was driving me to practice and—and then we were upside down.”

A tear rolled down his cheek. “And then some people came and tried to wake her up, but she wouldn’t. They put her inside of this big black bag and took her away.”

At least they’ll be together, I thought.

I would never wish death upon anyone, but in cases like this, it almost seemed like a kinder fate. A tiny silver lining.

“Do you see a bright light anywhere?” I asked Charlie.

The little boy nodded, his eyebrows knitting together. “It’s been following me since—since…” He trailed off. “There’s voices inside of it. It’s scary.”

“Don’t be scared,” I said softly. “Your mom is on the other side of that light. So all you have to do is walk into it. Okay?”

“You promise?” Charlie asked, his lip trembling.

“I promise.”

I watched the boy suddenly fade into the air, his body growing fainter and brighter until it disappeared in a tiny flash.

I took a step back and bumped into something solid.

Actually, into someone.

“Ow!” I spun around. “Watch where you’re—”

I stopped, mesmerized by the pair of intense dark brown eyes staring down into mine, sizing me up.

“—going,” I whispered.

The boy, whose face was mere inches from mine, took a step back but kept his gaze firm and steady.

I finally got a good look at him.

He looked roughly my age and was tall and lean, with a sharp jawline, an angular nose, and flawless pale skin. His dark hair was wild and unruly.

A single shiver raced down my spine; there was something about him that was just so…

Menacing, I thought to myself.

He looks like someone who’s looked death in the eye.

The guy stiffened and raised a hand to sweep some rogue strands of hair from his face.

And that’s when I noticed the gloves.

Despite the heat of the summer afternoon, he wore a pair of black leather gloves, which were tucked into the sleeves of his denim jacket.

In fact, there wasn’t an inch of skin visible below his neck.

Suddenly, his face softened into a disorientingly charming smile.

“Hi,” he said, flashing his perfect teeth at me. “Sorry if I startled you. It was an accident.”

“I, uhm,” I said, flustered. I reached to tuck my black hair behind my ear, fidgeting.

Act normal. Say something. Anything.

“Hi,” I finally replied.

Seriously? He’s not even THAT good-looking.

Alright, yes he is. But still.

“Hi,” he repeated, grinning.

His ability to entirely alter his demeanor in a split second was almost unsettling.

“I’m Cade, by the way,” he continued. “And…you are?”

“Raven,” I said quickly. “Raven Zheng.”

“Raven Zheng,” he echoed thoughtfully. Somehow my name sounded better when he said it.

Cade smiled again. “Well, Raven, can I ask you something?”

“Oh—okay,” I said slowly. “Shoot.”

“Who were you talking to just now?”

My stomach dropped. “I—I wasn’t—” I stuttered, squirming under his harrowing eye contact.

“Oh—and what is ‘the light’?”

Crap.

My first day in town and I had already been caught looking like a psycho.

 

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2

RAVEN

Well, that was fast.

I hadn’t even been in Elk Springs for twenty-four hours and someone had already caught me talking to myself.

Cade stared at me, his eyes like searchlights, unwilling to let go.

Think.

“I—” I began, biting my lip. “I wasn’t talking to anyone,” I managed to spit out. “I don’t know what you think you heard.”

“Well, it’s just kind of confusing,” he countered, patronizing me, “because I did hear you. Just now. So what, you were talking to yourself?”

I could feel my face going red, flushing with embarrassment and a hint of irritation.

“Hanging out in dingy alleys?” he continued.

“I was not hanging out back here,” I snapped, narrowing my eyes. “I was just trying to head home and took a wrong turn.”

I totally wasn’t talking to a ghost just now.

“Yes, you were. I saw you. And I was watching for a few minutes.”

Wait a minute—what is HE doing back here, anyway? He looks just as suspicious as me, if not more.

I crossed my arms, feeling the anger bubbling to the surface. “What’s your excuse?”

“Excuse me?” Cade’s preposterous smile flickered.

“What were you doing creeping up on me like that? Spying on me. Are you a stalker or something?”

“Of course not.” He folded his arms, mimicking my stance.

“Well?” I could be difficult too, if that’s how he was going to play it.

“Don’t try to turn this around on me. I don’t have to explain myself.”

“I really think you do,” I replied.

We stared at each other for what felt like minutes, neither of us daring to break eye contact.

Unwilling to surrender.

He dropped his eyes finally, and I was shocked that I had actually won the standoff. That he’d acquiesced.

It was almost like he wasn’t used to being challenged.

Based on his appearance, I suspected that was probably the case.

“It’s a small town. Nothing ever happens here.” His dark eyes glanced up to gauge my reaction.

“Everyone here is”—he paused, searching for the right word—“robotic.”

“And then I saw the new girl looking all paranoid and practically running back here. It wasn’t really subtle.” Cade shrugged his shoulders. “I got curious.”

It was an honest answer. I could sense that.

But still, not enough…

“How’d you know I was new?” I raised my eyebrows.

“I saw the moving trucks. And I don’t recognize you, which means you’re not from around here.”

God, he is so aggravating.

“Maybe you’ve just never seen me before,” I said quickly.

“Not a chance.”

“So you’re a big people-watcher, is that it? That’s your thing?”

He nodded. “I like to read people. I’m pretty good at it too.”

My own curiosity got the best of me.

“Okay, read me.”

Cade scoffed in disbelief. “What?”

“Come on. Read me. If you’re so talented.”

Good luck.

The corners of his lips curled up in a soft smile—the first genuine one I’d seen from him.

“Fine.”

His probing eyes lingered on mine for a moment, then seemed to trace me—my tank top and shorts, my sneakers, the golden locket hanging from my neck.

Perhaps his gaze should have felt more intrusive—like a magnifying glass searching for my seams.

My imperfections.

But it didn’t.

“You’re what,” he pondered, “sixteen or seventeen?”

“Seventeen.”

I don’t see why that matters.

“Your family is wealthy,” he said suddenly, his eyes growing distant, as though he was trying to mentally piece together the beveled edges of my life.

“But it’s not old money. Your parents focus more on their careers than they do on you. Or maybe they’re divorced.”

Okay, I am starting to regret giving him the green light.

“You don’t make friends easily. Perhaps you don’t even try to make them anymore.”

Crap. He IS good at this.

“And—you’re left-handed.” Cade went silent, waiting for me to confirm his assessment.

I was speechless. And a little annoyed. I mean, who gave him permission?

Oh right…I did.

I clapped sarcastically.

“Okay, Sherlock, how’d you do it? You’ve known me for all of—well, however long you’ve been following me.”

Cade smirked, running a gloved hand through his hair again.

“Well, the deduction about making friends was obvious, based on your lack of social skills,” he said matter-of-factly, like it wasn’t completely insulting.

“Those shoes cost, what—a couple hundred bucks? But they’re worn down. Lived-in. You’re not just wearing them as a display of your family’s money. You’re used to living practically.”

“And as far as your parents go,” he continued, “I noticed that you didn’t drive here. But your parents could obviously afford to buy you a car, which means that no one has actually taken the time to teach—”

Cade was cut off by the sudden erratic beeping of an open-back Jeep zooming down the alleyway.

I instinctively jumped out of the way, grabbing hold of Cade’s wrist to pull him to safety.

It all happened in slow motion.

I saw the teenagers in the car, laughing and leering at Cade, the driver swerving out of the way.

I felt his entire body flinch as my pinkie wedged itself between the leather and denim on his wrist, brushing against his bare flesh for the briefest moment.

His eyes squeezed shut as if from the most immense agony.

When they shot open a second later, he looked completely and utterly shocked.

He yanked his arm from my grasp. Aggressively.

Cade took a step back, refusing to look at me.

“I’m sorry,” I rushed to say, although I wasn’t quite sure what I was sorry for. “I didn’t mean to—”

As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone—his long legs carrying him swiftly down the alley and back onto the street.

Out of sight.

Running from me.

From my touch.

I hadn’t particularly enjoyed Cade’s company, but I had to admit: it was hard not to take his abrupt exit personally.

And he said I’M the one with poor social skills…

I dragged my feet back toward Main Street as I tried to forget the strange encounter and the even stranger boy I’d just met.

How could I forget?

Who is he, anyway?

The way he’d seen right through me so effortlessly.

Like he was reading a book.

And how he’d practically run for his life.

Is it me?

Is there something about me that threw him off? That had scared him?

I didn’t know how long I was standing on the street corner, completely zoned out, trying to process what had just happened.

I must have looked like an idiot.

“Hey,” said a girl’s voice, startling me from my daydream.

I was standing on the edge of the patio outside of the ice-cream parlor when something soft and moist brushed against my palm.

I looked down.

A massive Doberman was sniffing my hand.

“Sorry about Fluffy. She’s not exactly trained yet,” said the girl, her voice soft yet exuberant.

She looked roughly my age, with dark brown hair that hung in a braid on the side of her head—the kind that’s effortlessly messy, yet perfect at the same time.

She was smiling at me, her pale blue eyes squinting against the sunlight.

One of those people who just seemed to radiate warmth, beauty—the whole nine yards.

“You’re Raven, right?” she asked, taking a sip of her milkshake.

I nodded. “Yeah, how’d you—”

“I live next door to you. The pink house with the fence.” She scratched Fluffy fondly behind her ear.

“My name’s Emily,” she continued with a smile. “I was just at your house bringing over some brownies. I met your nanny, Grace. She said you were down here, looking for something to do.”

Kill me.

I tried to stifle my cringe. “Oh, God.” I attempted to laugh, internally mortified. “Sorry… She worries about me.”

Emily grinned. “It was cute. Do you want to sit down? They have the best shakes here. It’s actually becoming a problem for me,” she said, laughing and putting a hand on her flat belly.

I doubt that.

“Come on,” Emily insisted. “I know for a fact that you don’t have an excuse.”

Thanks a lot, Grace.

She doesn’t seem so bad, though.

Defeated, I plopped down into the chair across from her.

Emily took another large slurp from her milkshake. “So, how do you like Elk Springs so far? I mean, besides this ungodly heat wave.”

“It’s—you know—fine,” I replied, trying my best to sound convincing.

She looked at me expectantly, as if unwilling to accept my terse response.

I supposed that was what small towns were like.

No boundaries. No personal space.

And yet, she was so easygoing. So likable.

Normally this kind of social interaction was like pulling teeth, but something about Emily made me want to open up to her.

“Honestly, it was going okay until I bumped into this guy,” I said.

Her ears perked up immediately. “A guy? Wait, not Cade Woods?” Emily’s voice lowered when she said his name, almost with a certain reverence.

“How did you know?”

“He’s in my grade,” she said. “I saw him flying around that corner like two seconds before you. He looked completely freaked out. What was that about?”

She scooted her chair in closer, as if we were discussing the juiciest of gossip.

He caught me talking to a ghost and called me out on it. And then took off when I touched his skin. Apparently I repel boys.

But I didn’t say that.

“To be honest,” I said, “I have no idea. But, he just, like, bolted. Out of nowhere. It was really strange.”

Emily smiled knowingly. “Sounds like him.”

This time, I scooted closer to her. “What’s his deal, anyway? He’s very…”

“Hot?” she guessed.

“No—I was gonna say intense.”

“Oh, yeah—that too.” She thought for a moment. “Cade is very—well, he’s had an interesting life, I guess you could say. Everyone here knows who he is. And I mean everyone.”

“What, like he’s famous?”

Emily glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone was eavesdropping before responding, lowering her voice. “More like…infamous.”

I thought back to those dark, frightening eyes. The pure hostility that seemed to emanate from his very skin.

I couldn’t quite place it. That something about him that I couldn’t seem to push out of my mind.

It was almost like a strange magnetism.

Not like a physical attraction, but something purely metaphysical.

That rare feeling you get when you first meet someone, and you instantly know they’re going to impact your life.

To change your world.

At the very least, I knew one thing:

Cade Woods was dangerous.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

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