A BANSHEE’S SCREAM is an adult contemporary fantasy complete at 86k words, currently seeking representation. It blends female-driven thrillers like Karin Slaughter’s Blindsighted with the mythology-driven worlds of shows like Lost Girl.
The coastal Maine village of Willow Haven has enough to contend with keeping their population of creatures secret from humans. But even a murder can’t be so easily overlooked, especially one of a town elder.
Willow Haven’s leadership is more than prepared to cover up and forget the death of their kinsman, but the town’s last remaining Aeon, Piper Saunders, is not. Partnered with Officer Noah Engel, the two begin an investigation that reveals decades-old vendettas that could rock the town’s very foundation.
But it’s Piper’s lineage as an Aeon and her ability to manipulate emotions and energies that leads her and Noah to the killer’s identity. Willow Haven’s leadership just needs to get out of the way before the killer takes drastic measures to keep his secret.
Electricity buzzed against Piper’s ears, a gnat flying too close to ignore. She swatted at the air absently as she refreshed her inbox.
The hairs on her forearms rose. She pushed away from her desk. The last thing she needed was to fry City Hall’s electrical grid. Again.
She opened her office window and drank in the chilly October air. Six years with the ability to manipulate energy and emotion, and the two elements still seized every opportunity to use her as a conduit. Frustration and electricity wreaked havoc like small children hopped up on sugar, but the autumn breeze helped lull both to sleep.
Her empty inbox continued to mock her from across the small room. Months of research, phone calls, and emails and Piper was no closer to reuniting with her sister Aeons. She could understand the logic of separating them as children. None of them had their manipulations at the time — it made them easy targets. Keeping the six of them apart now felt like a petty attempt to maintain control.
Frustrated, Piper reached for the computer’s power cord and yanked it from the wall. The screen blackened, the electric hum dwindling without its source.
They’d be stronger together. Each Aeon might have a different element to manipulate but the experience was the same. The constant contraction against the element demanding control. The exhaustion of pretending others understood the experience. The loneliness of knowing no matter the explanation, no one could understand — save another Aeon.
Her predecessor had warned her about that part. The loneliness. Sometimes Piper found herself wandering toward the old Aeon estates hoping to find the old woman there, sitting in her modest rocking chair in an otherwise lavishly decorated living room. But Margery was gone. She’d passed her manipulations – and all the responsibilities therein – to Piper.
A photo of the woman sat atop a short bookshelf that ran the length of Piper’s narrow office. Margery had gotten swept up in the Winter Solstice celebration and fourteen-year-old Piper had a new camera to capture memories. This photo, her favorite of that night, caught her predecessor mid-laugh, a smile so bright the fairy lights in the background couldn’t compete. Margery’s white hair was swept back into its usual chignon, the only thing betraying her age.
“I miss you,” Piper whispered aloud.
Another breeze drifted into her office, rustling Piper’s long curls. She turned from the photo to close the window. The sun hung low in the sky, dulling the autumn landscape. Piper glanced at the clock. Almost 5 p.m. The day was done. Besides, she still had to drop off the groceries at the school. No point in continuing to sulk over her inbox. Grabbing her leather jacket from the back of her chair, she left her office.
The sharp, smoky scent of cayenne pepper hit Piper’s nose the moment she entered the hall. Anger. She scanned the cream-colored walls and honey oak floors of City Hall’s eastern corridor, searching for the emotion’s source.
A cough clawed up the back of her throat as she ventured past a couple offices. She scratched at her neck against the intensifying anger.
“Damn it, Martin!” a deep voice boomed.
The thud of a fist hitting wood followed the exclamation. Piper braced against a fresh rush of pepper-laced rage. It flooded through another honey oak door with the name ‘MARTIN VOGEL’ etched into the copper nameplate mounted beneath the door’s glass window.
Piper eased the door open. Martin leaned back in his chair, his hands folded over his round stomach. His guest, however, loomed over Martin’s desk, bearing his weight on his clenched fists.
“Didn’t you take enough to build the wretched thing?” he said, paying Piper no mind. “Now it’s a miracle if I can get any crops to grow along that school’s perimeter.”
“What do you want me to say?” Martin responded. He glanced around the man’s shoulder to Piper and gave a subtle shake of his head — their shorthand for her to not interfere.
She nodded. But she wasn’t going anywhere. Willow Haven’s population was a colorful bunch of creatures, and while Martin’s elven mind could out-maneuver most, Piper knew her fellow Board of Elders member often underestimated how destructive intense emotions could be.
Martin’s visitor stomped a hoof. “You were supposed to keep those kids off my land!”
Piper raised an eyebrow as who she assumed was a feldgeister stomped another hoof. Harvest was a stressful time for the field sprites. Their mind tended to be one-track on their crops during this season. But not completing the shift from his goat form into his human one before marching into Martin’s office wasn’t a good sign.
“Look, Arnold,” Martin said, rising from his chair, “I know this transition has been difficult for you. Have you begun working the two acres we gave you just south of town? I know it’s not as convenient as the land surrounding your farmhouse —”
“Of course I’m working that land!” Arnold yelled, face red. “I’m not an idiot.”
“I wasn’t implying —”
“They leave all kinds of crap in my field.” The feldgeister threw his hands in the air. “Bags, trash, clothing.”
Before he could continue, Piper placed a hand on Arnold’s shoulder. “You’re completely right, littering is a huge problem,” she said, appealing to his ego. “Martin and I were just talking about this issue the other day.”
Anger’s sharp cayenne scent began to dissipate as Piper passed soothing acceptance through her palm into the creature. Slowly, his shoulders relaxed and she dropped her hand.
“We were just headed to the school to talk to students.” Piper gave Martin a pointed look. “Ready?”
“Right.” The elder reached for his tawny wool jacket from the rack in the corner behind his desk. “It is about that time.”
Arnold nodded to himself, victory setting in. Piper escorted him down the hall while Martin locked up his office. “So you’re going to take care of it?” he asked again as they exited City Hall onto the cement steps outside the entrance’s glass doors.
He meant keeping teenagers off his land. She couldn’t promise that, but she could remind them to pick up after themselves.
As Martin joined her on the stairs, Arnold trotted off, his hooves clacking against the cobblestone street. “Thank you,” her fellow elder said once the feldgeister was out of earshot.
“Don’t thank me yet.” She zipped up her jacket. “We’re gonna have to talk to the kids about where they drop their stuff before shifting. Again.”
Martin itched the delicately pointed tips of his ears. “Our eternal struggle.”
As devoted as Willow Haven’s community was to ‘passing’ as human, no one can deny their true form for too long. Those creatures with more than one form needed to shift. Of course, any spur-of-the-moment shifts left clothes strewn around town. City Hall’s lost and found box expanded into a full-blown closet years ago.
“Come on.” Piper nodded toward a white delivery van parked on the street. “I’ll mention it while we’re at the school.”
Martin’s brows shot up. “You were serious?”
Surprise rippled all the way to his white widow’s peak. Piper pressed her lips together to contain her smile, then linked elbows with the old elf and began marching toward the vehicle.
Excitement’s caramel scent flooded Piper’s nose as they pulled into the school’s parking lot. Piper shook her head, barely containing her smile. Maybe she shouldn’t have brought Martin along. They weren’t even in the building yet, and the kids’ energy already infected her mood.
Piper parked the van outside the school’s eastern exit nearest the gymnasium. With the crates of food crammed into the back of the vehicle, she had no intention of hauling that delivery through the entire school.
“Please tell me there’ll be students to help unload all this,” Martin said when she opened the back of the van.
She passed him a crate of carrots. “Don’t worry. We’ll have help.”
There was always a committee of kids waiting by to unload provisions. Piper stacked a crate of pears on top of one of apples. Volunteers or volun-tolds, the students’ attention spans ran thin. The fewer trips they’d need to make the better.
“Cheater,” Martin joked as Piper picked up both crates with ease and started toward the school.
She winked. “Less for you to carry.”
Inside, excitement radiated off the school’s pewter floor tiles and poster-plastered white walls. It made everything uncomfortably bright. Piper blinked a few times to adjust to school’s blinding emotion.
“We’ll drop them off at the concessions stand,” she explained as they took a left into the commons area.
Two girls stood behind a counter on the far side of the commons. They had their hair pulled up away from their faces, revealing large, floppy ears. Piper smiled. Usually, these girls and their brownie brethren would hide their ears under their hair and a stocking cap. The lock-ins allowed these kids a chance to just be themselves for a night.
Piper set the apples and pears down along the wall outside the counter. “We’ve got several more crates,” she told the brownie nearest her, who had been busy stocking a drink cooler.
“I’ll go tell Mr. Mac Ethlenn,” the girl answered. She emptied her arms of the water bottles she’d been holding, then disappeared through a door that led to the gymnasium side of the concession stand.
Loud whoops and hollers tumbled into the commons as a pair of double doors left of the concession stand opened. A small group of different teenaged creatures walked through, followed by a man with short, chocolate brown hair and a wide smile that revealed uneven dimples. Kael.
Piper pressed her lips tightly together to keep from returning his grin. Not that it helped. “We’ve got a full van out back,” she said to the students. “A couple trips each and we should be done in no time.”
Martin led the motley crew out of the commons toward the van while Piper lingered toward the back. Kael moseyed to her side. “Thanks for coming in,” he said.
“I always do.” She stuck her hands in her coat pockets to keep from reaching toward him.
“I wasn’t sure this go around,” he said, shoving his hands into his pockets. “The kids are so hyped up today, even I could feel it.”
“They’re a bit intense,” she agreed. “But I wouldn’t miss it.”
His green eyes drifted to the floor before refocusing on the hall in front of him. Two of the students re-entered the school carrying one crate each. Both had wild red hair sticking up in every direction with two black furry ears pointing out the tops of their heads.
“Looks like the reynards can’t wait to shift,” Piper commented as she and Kael passed the students.
“They came ready this morning,” he said. “Pretty sure they would have gone full fox in class if I’d let them.”
“Pranks?” she asked. Reynards were mischievous by nature. Add the anticipation of shifting and their behavior was bound to devolve.
Kael nodded. “They glitter bombed one of the dwarves. Lucky for me, the dwarf didn’t know who’d stuck the tube in his bag. Otherwise we’d have more than a broken desk.”
“Community service in exchange for protection?” Reynards – for all their obnoxiousness – were clever enough to know they didn’t want to tumble with a dwarf.
“One hundred percent,” Kael laughed.
Martin followed the last of the kids into the school as Piper and Kael squeezed through the door to the parking lot. Alone, Kael pulled her into his arms and pressed a single chaste kiss to her lips.
“You’re tempting the fates.” she said, wiping her peach lipstick from his full lips with her thumb.
“Nah.” He grabbed her hand and pressed a kiss into her palm. “Besides, you’d know if someone was coming.”
Piper shook her head, unable to contain her smile. She couldn’t help herself when Kael was like this – all whimsy and adorable. Her Aeon manipulations often blurred the line between where they ended and Piper began, but Kael kept her anchored to who she was before inheriting the Aeon legacy. He reminded her that life – no matter how frustrating – didn’t have to be taken quite so seriously all the time. She let her leash on her manipulations loosen to locate the electrical synapses running through the bodies inside the school. With the nearest creature a safe distance from the exit, she combed her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck and pulled him to her.
Any space between them disappeared as Kael’s full lips explored hers. She’d do anything for that man. She’d give him the world if she could. But between her being the last Aeon in Willow Haven and his father being on the town’s Board of Elders, their lives weren’t always their own. Not wanting their relationship to get dissected under a microscope, they’d agreed to keep it out of the public eye. When Piper noticed bodies walking back down the hall toward them, she pushed away from the embrace.
“I love you,” Kael whispered in her ear as he turned to the remaining crates in the back of the van.
The double doors swung open before she could reply.