Home > How to Rattle an Undead Couple (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #9)

How to Rattle an Undead Couple (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #9)
Author: Hailey Edwards

One

The cake on the counter, the one with the do not eat sign propped in front of it, tempted me. Lethe had talked Linus and me into a gender reveal cake for my official baby shower, and its interior beckoned. Not because of the secret it held, but because it was a lemon chiffon cake, and I had been craving citrus like crazy for the last three months. The smell of it made me salivate, and breathing in, I almost tasted it.

Maybe no one would notice if I stole a teensy bite? Or a slice? One slice. Who would notice that?

It was my cake, so it wasn’t really stealing. More like sampling. Yeah. Sampling. That sounded less felonious.

Sneaking around to the back, I groaned at the second sign in a larger font.

Get your preggo butt out of the kitchen and away from this cake ASAP.

The curtains on the windows rustled as Woolworth House laughed at my pain and suffering.

“Lethe is so mean,” I complained to Woolly. “Who put her in charge anyway?”

“You did,” the meanie said from the doorway. “Here.”

A cupcake sat on her palm, its frosting a creamy yellow, and delicate spirals of lemon peel adorned the top.

“For me?” I snatched it before she could answer and shoved it into my mouth. “Fank oo.”

“You’re welcome.” She brought her other hand out from behind her back to reveal a second cupcake. “Why don’t we go wait for Neely?”

“Neely is going to force me to look presentable.”

“You’re Dame Woolworth, the Grande Dame’s daughter-in-law, and the Potentate of Savannah. You have to look presentable.” Backing toward the living room, she lured me across the threshold then handed over the treat. “Just sit right here, in the place of honor.”

A wingback chair had been wrapped in pink and blue crepe paper, studded with pink and blue balloons, and sprinkled with pink and blue glitter from the crown I was expected to wear, guaranteeing I would be washing sparkles out of my hair for days.

The living room was freakishly quiet without Keet occupying his usual spot by the window, but the goofball was banished to the office until after our guests left to avoid his farting noises giving the Grande Dame an aneurism.

“You’re not fooling me.” I started on the second cupcake while she eased me onto my throne. “I’m onto you.”

“If you’re implying that I’m using food to motivate you to behave, then yes. You’re right. I am.” She produced a third cupcake from thin air. No. Wait. Oscar handed it to her. The traitor. “You’re about to pop. I’m not too worried about you seeking revenge for my manipulations any time soon.”

The small ghost boy wore his usual dark-blue sailor suit with sagging ankle socks and dirtied canvas shoes. A matching cap, wrinkled within an inch of its life, rested at a jaunty angle on his mass of blond curls.

No smile for me, no eye contact either, proof he was still grumpy the Grande Dame had insisted he remain in his room during the party.

Mad was not a great mood for a poltergeist frozen at the age of six, so I would have to make it up to him if I didn’t want a tantrum later. But he would have to be a good little ghost boy to earn his reward.

Motherhood, even with undead children, was tough. Never let anyone tell you different.

Balling up a sticky wrapper I showed great restraint in not licking clean, I let Oscar sulk while I hurled it at Lethe’s face. “If you tell me you can walk faster than I can waddle one more time…”

Teeth flashing, she laughed at my expense. “You just did it for me.”

The lights dialed brighter then flickered as a thrill shot through Woolly, a sure sign company was coming.

“Mom.” Eva stepped through the front door with a pudgy toddler on her hip. “Be nice to Grier.”

“Thank you, Eva-Diva.” I beamed at her. “I always knew you were my favorite niece for a reason.”

Number one was how she could walk into a room and tell when her mom was being mean to me, which, in my humble opinion, was always. For a girl about to turn three who could pass for a tween, she had maturity in spades.

“I’m your only niece,” she said, as she had a hundred times before, but then a brilliant smile broke across her face, and she kissed the top of the toddler’s head. “Guess I can’t say that anymore, huh?”

“What treachery is this?” Lethe gaped at her offspring. “I’m the nicest person you know.”

“Mom.” Eva rolled her eyes. “That stopped being true when I got old enough to leave the house.”

“What did you do to Kaleigh?” I wasn’t an expert on babies, but the toddler was drooling, and it was blue. “She looks exhausted.”

“I let her join the other pups during recess. She played until snack time, ate three sugar-free blue raspberry ice pops, then curled up under a tree.” Eva plopped down on the couch, Kaleigh barely stirring. “She’s guaranteed to sleep through your party now, no interruptions.”

“You’re a genius,” I praised her. “An evil genius, but we don’t discriminate in this family.”

The toddler, Kaleigh Kinase, was a new addition to the Savannah gwyllgi pack and the Kinase family.

When she was only a few months old, Kaleigh was earmarked as a sacrifice for a black magic ritual. Linus and I shut down the dark rite with help from Lethe and Hood before she came to any harm, but Kaleigh’s parents had been murdered by the same witches who planned to sacrifice her, and the bleak experience had left Kaleigh with a dark aura no amount of smudging could remove.

Social services, the paranormal branch, made it plain Kaleigh had no prospects, that no family would risk what developed when the girl hit puberty and that darkness manifested, but they had been wrong.

Hood and Lethe had been trying for another baby, and when they heard the news about Kaleigh, they leapt at the chance to welcome her into their family. Eva, who was rarely a diva these days, was in heaven with a playmate she would never outgrow since sisters were forever.

It was good training for the day when Linus and I needed a babysitter for our little terror. And yeah, with Lethe as his or her godmother, and Hood as her or his godfather, I had no illusions I wasn’t giving birth to a future hellion. All I could do was pray to Hecate that he or she took more after her father than me.

“I also packed board games,” Eva said to the grumpy ghost boy. “We can play while they party.”

Oscar zoomed around the room until he blurred, then called, “Race you upstairs.”

Eva never stood a chance. No one beats a boy who can zip through walls. Not that she tried, with Kaleigh still in her arms.

Woolly’s lights flashed an incoming warning, and she opened the door in a rush.

“Thank you, Woolly,” Neely panted from behind a mountain of gifts stacked higher than his head. “I’m about to drop everything.”

The house, who loved him as much as I did, blew him a kiss on the warm air currents from the vents.

Suck up, I thought at her. You’re angling for those new stained-glass windows.

Hired to help me decorate the baby’s room, Neely made the epic mistake of buying Woolly new curtains to freshen up the living room. More small touches had spilled out into the rest of the rooms from there as they slowly redecorated the entire house with little or no feedback from Linus and me.

The old girl had sat abandoned and alone for years, so I didn’t begrudge her the expert makeover. Even if I did start to wonder if she was stealing Neely from me.

Cruz strolled in behind his husband with a sleek garment bag slung over his shoulder. “Hello, all.”

For Cruz, that greeting was tantamount to a round of warm hugs and sloppy kisses.

Obviously, I was immediately suspicious.

After hanging the bag on the downstairs salon door, he rushed to unload Neely’s arms.

“You should have let me carry these,” he chided. “You’re working too hard on this baby shower.”

“You just like to fuss.” Neely kissed Cruz’s cheek. “And I like to let you.”

“I’m going to put Kaleigh down while it’s still quiet,” Eva murmured, heading upstairs to our baby’s room and the playpen Kaleigh preferred to nap in when she visited us. Glancing over her shoulder, she singled me out. “Oscar and I will hang in your room so I can keep an ear out for her, if that’s okay?”

“Knock yourself out.”

“Thanks, Aunt Grier.”

“You’ve got a good kid there.” I watched her go with a sigh. “She’s growing up so fast.”

All parents said it, but in her case, it was one hundred percent true. She was blazing through childhood.

“I found a picture of a boy in her room.” Lethe’s mouth pulled to one side. “I’m not ready for this.”

“You’re not the only one.” Neely butted into our conversation. “You need to get dressed for your party.”

With a sweep of my hand, I invited him to admire my baggy sweats and blue tank top streaked with orange fingerprints from the cheeseballs I ate before bed. This one even had a built-in snack drawer, I mean, bra. “I am dressed.”

“You’re wearing clothes,” Neely agreed, wiping crumbs off my mouth. “From three days ago.”

Licking my lips before he stole any more precious calories, I pouted at him. “I like what I’m wearing.”

“I can tell,” he said dryly. “I’ll put it on to wash, and you can change back into it after the party.”

“No.”

“The photographer will be here soon. High Society Mothers needs candids for their article, remember?”

“No.”

“Don’t you want a visual history of this moment for your child to flip through later?”

“No.”

“Don’t you want—?”

“Another cupcake?” Lethe snapped her fingers, and Oscar reappeared, bouncing in place like he had to potty, he was so eager to get back to Eva. “I’ll give it to you if you cooperate.”

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