Gwen Landon's ability to see and converse with souls that have passed from this life has brought her nothing but pain, fear, and sorrow. She has left her scarred childhood behind and made a new life for herself in beautiful Colorado.
Working as an artist with her own small shop in a small town, she lives in an old farmhouse in the country with no neighbors and just an old soul named Rose to keep her company. Rose is a saloon girl from the 1800s tragically killed by a stray bullet meant for someone else.
She is finally happy, but her idyllic life is threatened when Evan Thorpe, a residential developer, barges his way into her little bubble of peace. He wants to build a huge subdivision that will draw hundreds of people to the land directly behind her home, and more people means more spirits she will have to avoid.
She has to find a way to stop him from placing those cookie cutter houses onto the unblemished land, otherwise her world is going to be turned upside down.
Julie Schriver, originally from Arkansas, lives in Texas with her husband, Alan, and their children. She enjoys writing, crossword puzzles and watching movies.
"Julie Schriver paints a beautiful story with this romantic ghost tale. Gwen is such a sympathetic character but she doesn’t lack gumption...Evan Thorpe is a hero with layers to his personality some that are rather surprising and were fun to discover. The chemistry between these two is exceptional and it was fun to see how Gwen dealt with her unwanted attraction. Rose is a fabulous character and I appreciate how much she evolved from the start of this story to the end. I enjoyed the setting of this story and the descriptions go a long way in explaining why Gwen finds Colorado so peaceful, it has now made it on to my places to visit list."
Buy Love by Proxy from Mundania Press, LLC.PaulineMichael -- http://mundaniareviews.blogspot.com/
Chuckling softly at the top of the stairway, Rose stood surveying the crowd below her in the smoke filled saloon as a queen would her court. Her pockets would be full after this night. The whiskey was flowing freely, and the men were ready to have a good time.
She started slowly down, slightly lifting the skirt of her emerald green dress with each step, offering small glimpses of her stocking clad legs. She knew the picture that she made with her creamy skin, blonde hair, and ruby painted lips. Compared to the other girls, she was the belle of the ball, and she wanted to create as much attention as she could with her entrance. There was a reason she was always the one whose purse held the most coins at the end of every night.
Nearly at the bottom, the poker game going on in the corner caught her eye. From the looks of it, old Zach Milner was about to lose yet another hand. Zach was a sweet man, but a horrible gambler. She wondered what this game would cost him.
No sooner had the thought entered her mind that Milner stood up and pulled out his gun. “Yer a lyin’ cheat!” he shouted. The man next to him reacted by tackling him to the ground. In the struggle, the gun fell from Milner’s hand. It went off after hitting the floor.
Rose felt a pain in her side and a heavy burning in her chest. Her legs went out from under her, and she rolled down the last few steps, coming to a hard landing on the saw dust strewn floor. Faces began appearing above her. She could hear them talking, though she only understood short phrases.
“Somebody get the doc!”
“Too late for that.”
“A crying shame.”
“All this over an acre?”
She tried to speak, but couldn’t. Struggling for each breath, she felt her lungs filling up. She was drowning.
A hand took hold of hers, and she squeezed it, silently begging for help. Zach Milner squeezed back. “I’m so sorry, Rose,” he told her, tears running down his leathered cheeks.
“Stupid, old fool!” she wanted to scream at him. Anger coursed through her as she realized her fate. This couldn’t be happening. Not now. Not when everything was going so right for her.
Her strength waning, she released Milner’s hand. Blackness began to overcome her, and she could feel her heart skipping beats. It was almost over.
Her eyes drifted slowly closed, and she began to feel weightless. It was almost like she was floating on water. One breath later, her last, she was pulled upward.
After her soul left her body, she was confused. She didn’t know where to go or what to do. She tried to talk to those who hovered around her body, but they ignored her. What was to happen to her now? A dark fear threatened to overtake her as the thought of demons coming for her soul crept into her mind. With the kind of life she had lived, surely she was destined for no other place but Hell.
Rage entered into her whirlwind of emotions. One minute she was praying to God to spare her, and the next she was stomping her foot and yelling about the unfairness of it all.
After a while, it was clear her tantrum was nothing more than a waste of energy. As the saloon patrons and the other girls hovered around her body, she walked outside in disgust. Standing in the middle of the dirt road running in front of the saloon, she shook her fist at the night sky. “Come on, then,” she shouted. “If it’s to be an eternity in Hades for me, then let’s get on with it!”
Her answer was nothing but the wind in her ears. What was going on? Shouldn’t Satan be claiming her soul as was his due? Where were the snarling demons and the horned man with a pitchfork?
She waited and waited for hours it seemed, but still no one came to pronounce their judgment upon her. What to do now? She looked one way down the road and then the other. Shrugging, she turned to her right and began to walk. She made it a few miles before it became too hard for her to move. It felt like she was trying to walk through deep mud. Eventually, she could go no further.
Turning around to go back, the way became easier. When she passed the saloon, though, and got to a certain point in the other direction, the way became difficult again. The same thing happened no matter which way she tried. She was trapped.
In despair, she watched her own funeral up on the hilltop. Not many people besides the few other girls at the saloon showed up. She wasn’t surprised. The townsfolk didn’t look upon her kind favorably. She always thought how funny it was when the same men who looked down their noses at her during the day would show up at the saloon at night to enjoy her company. The hypocrisy made her bitter and cynical.
During the funeral, she was happy to see what she thought was an angel coming to get her. A man surrounded by light drifted down from the sky to stand beside her.
“Hello, Rose,” he said. His voice was barely above a whisper.
“Have you come to show me the way?” she asked him.
“You are not ready.”
“I can’t very well go back.” She cast her gaze back toward the hilltop where they were dropping her casket into the ground.
“You must stay here.”
“For how long?”
“For as long as it takes.”
“What kind of answer is that?” Anger stirred within her. If her heart were still pumping, it would sound like the pounding hooves of a couple of sprinting horses.
“When you are ready, you will see a door. This door will take you where you need to go.”
She turned towards the town, looking at all the doors. “How will I know when I see it?”
When the man didn’t answer, she whipped around to find him gone. Scared, she went back to the saloon and found her room. Her clothes were gone, replaced by new ones. It hadn’t taken them long to find another girl to move in.
She tried to touch the beautiful new dresses, but her hand went right through them. She wanted to cry, but no tears came. She was dead, and the dead couldn’t cry. They couldn’t do anything, and no one could see them.
Through the window, she could see raindrops falling. Everyone had been praying for rain, and finally those prayers were answered. She ran downstairs and outside, noticing for the first time how her shoes made no sound as they made contact with the floor.
She yearned to feel the rain on her skin, but as before, she was disappointed when it fell through her as if she weren’t even there. She held out her hand, hoping to catch the drops in it. “Please,” she begged, willing them to stop when they reached her.
Drop after drop hit the ground. Around her, children laughed and played, the rain drenching them until they were soaked from head to toe. The unfairness of it all made her heart burn with anger. Why was she being treated so cruelly? She had not led a perfect life, sure, but she had done nothing to deserve this kind of punishment. Was this the hell the preachers talked about? Instead of fire and brimstone, was she doomed for eternity to exist here but not interact with those around her? She couldn’t think of anything worse.
The man said, though, that when she was ready she would see a door. That meant that this wouldn’t last forever, right? Someday she could move on. He never told her what she needed to do to become ready.
Again she wanted to cry, but the release of tears still eluded her. She fell to her knees. The ground and floors seemed to be the only thing she couldn’t go through. Logic told her that if she could stand on solid ground, then she should be able to interact with other solid things as well. With her hand still out, she concentrated even harder. Her stubbornness and will were two of her strongest attributes. Once she had her mind set on something, she did it, come hell or high water. She got up and walked to where a rain barrel sat outside of the saloon. Over and over again she lowered her hand into the water, but the surface never even rippled. For hours she stayed there. Even as each dip did nothing, her resolve never faltered. She would stand there forever if she had to.
The sun set and rose again, and still she didn’t give up. Her arm never got tired. She didn’t get hungry either. The needs of a corporal body no longer applied to her.
Her attempts now numbered in the thousands and possibly in the hundred thousands. She searched the surface each time for a sign that she was making an impact. She didn’t pay any attention to her hand itself until she felt something on one of her fingers.
Rose stopped and saw a small drop clinging to the fingertip. It hung there for a moment and then fell back into the barrel. The people walking by didn’t notice the little splash or her screaming as loud as she could. The sweet feeling of success flooded her, and she danced down the sidewalk. She had done it! Now it was only a matter of practice. There would come a time when she would be able to do anything she wanted.
Years passed, and she watched the small town move, little by little, closer to the railroad tracks and eventually the highway. As each of the old buildings fell or were torn down, a little piece of her heart disappeared with them until only the saloon remained. It sat on the acre lost by Milner in that poker game. The area around became pastureland for the Milner ranch, and it wasn’t long before she had to endure the final severing of any connection to the life she’d known as the saloon was demolished by the new owners. With the clientele gone, there was no need to keep it open anymore.
Now completely isolated, she fell into a deep misery. Time no longer held any meaning for her. It was just one sunrise and sunset after the other while she sat and observed the cars full of people traveling past. When the new interstate was built, even that small pleasure was taken away from her. The traffic disappeared, leaving only the cows and horses to keep her company.
Then one day trucks and people appeared, and they began to clear a small part of the land where the saloon had been. Excitement and hope cautiously arose within her when the men started to stack up concrete blocks, and those feelings grew as a small farmhouse took shape. Shortly, a happy, young couple moved in. Rose couldn’t be more pleased. At last, a new challenge.