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The Haunting of William Gray by Renee Canter Johnson

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  • Can Madeline Waters capture a picture of the ghost William Gray believes is haunting him? Others have caught some shadowy figures on film at the Antebellum house, built in the eighteen hundreds on a privately-owned island, in Winyah Bay, South Carolina.

    A single photo would result in William granting permission for her to use the private journals of his long-dead ancestor and namesake, Captain William Gray, in her thesis research.

    Madeline's disbelief in the supernatural isn’t helpful and she wonders if the wealthy loner is suffering a mental collapse until she experiences the ghost of the Captain herself. Saving her from drowning, he floods her with the emotions she has longed for, and opens a dimension for her previously thought to be pure fantasy.

    Is it possible to fall in love with an apparition, or will she be able to aid in setting his spirit free? With help from a local Gullah woman's knowledge of voodoo, the mystery unravels. In the process, William and Madeline's hearts also become entwined.

    Excerpt:

    Damn!

    Her head banged something. What should have been a sharp intake of breath turned out to be water sucked into her lungs. It burned and choked. Panic ensued. She thrashed in the water as a fish against line. What a bad way to die, she thought, assuming she might not even be found. She had told no one of her plans to go walking on the beach.

    Madeline had a brief flash of her life, and those who had been important to her. She was a child on the beach with her parents, next on her college campus with the man she would marry and divorce, then back on the beach with her young son, and finally leaving Jacob at his own dormitory when he left home for college.

    Then her parents were back—only this time they wore white robes and were bathed in golden light. A great sense of peace consumed her. She stopped thrashing and floated to the bottom of the sea, imagining the faces of those she loved and hadn’t seen in so long she had forgotten how much she ached for them. They held out their arms to her and she felt herself struggling to rise, shedding her body as one sheds a stubbornly clinging overcoat.

    Another outline appeared just as she was finding the ease of slipping out of the heavy body beneath her. The shadowy shape of William Gray knocked into her, pushing her back into the physical housing of flesh and bone. She was then shoved up and above the swirling water and onto the sand. He blew through her with such force the water in her lungs flew out of her mouth and nose in a coughing fit.

    “Oh no! No, Magdalene, you cannot leave me again. I have waited for your return for far too long to lose you now.” The voice, the same as the one in the cupola, belonged to the ghost of Pine Island, the spirit of the original William Gray.

    But that wasn’t possible. It was delirium—had to be. They say you see things from the other side before you die. This must be part of her hallucination, the one containing her parents. There was no other explanation.

    Madeline could not deny the feeling of love and longing enveloping her as she lay on the sand with no visible savior in sight. Yet tangible emotions were so strong they left her on the verge of tears.

    Fingertips, light as the brush of a butterfly wing, stroked her face. Warmth spread throughout her body in a radiating fashion from her heart. She closed her eyes and languished in the sun. Immense love washed through her, and Madeline was certain she had never felt as adored before. In a moment of satiety, she opened her eyes to see the clear blue ones—though a watered-down version, chalk drawing instead of oil painting on canvas—of William Gray staring back at her.

    He smiled at her. “You can see me, can’t you?” he whispered.

    “And why would I not be able to?” she asked.

    “Because I’ve been dead for more than a century.”

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The Haunting of William Gray

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