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Malum Discordiae (Haunted New Orleans 2) by Rayvn Salvador Book

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Malum Discordiae (Haunted New Orleans 2) by Rayvn Salvador Read Book Online And Download

Overview: When knowledge and temptation collide, the fall only needs a forbidden fruit.


Skilled forensics scientist Schuyler Liu never expected her job working for a ghost-hunting show to bring so much peace. Until a grand locale in the Garden District uncovers way more than just rattling pipes and drafty entryways, and she walks away with more than she ever imagined. When chaos morphs to terror, she turns to the one man she knows may be able to help her. They may not see eye-to-eye, given their vastly differing beliefs, but Pax is her touchstone in the maelstrom, and she plans to grab hold with both hands until they find the answers they seek.


Excommunicated priest Paxton “Padre” Chase has felt a pull to the beautiful skeptic since she joined the Haunted New Orleans team. When a sinister presence from a routine investigation follows her home, and the oppression becomes real, Pax vows that he will do everything in his power to help her. But while digging into the house’s history to unlock the mysteries of the spirits wreaking havoc, he uncovers more than he ever bargained for. He and Sky have more in common than they ever knew, and the dark forces want to sever those ties—permanently.

Malum Discordiae (Haunted New Orleans 2) by Rayvn Salvador Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Malum Discordiae (Haunted New Orleans 2) by Rayvn Salvador Book





Malum Discordiae (Haunted New Orleans 2) by Rayvn Salvador Book Read Online Chapter One


~Schuyler~



I pulled up to the Lamour Mansion and parked on the street, taking in the grand estate’s sprawling architecture and antebellum charm. The lantern-topped stone pillars holding the ornate gate, and the wrought iron fence with its peacock-feather-motif spearheads beckoned like a siren’s call. I’d always been a sucker for beautiful buildings, and New Orleans had some of the best. There was nothing like deep-South charisma in my mind, and Louisiana offered it in spades from the vast plantations to the raised-center-hall cottages to the double-gallery mansions. Even the shotgun houses held a special brand of appeal.


Looking across the street, I saw Paxton’s vintage, cherry-red F-Series pickup near the curb, the magnet for his soup kitchen affixed to the driver’s side door. The classic was in mint condition, and I knew he hated parking it on the busy side of the street.


Nice of him to leave me the mansion’s curbside parking spot, though.


During our video call this morning, Deveraux Glapion, creator and host of the paranormal reality show I worked for—Haunted New Orleans—renowned Vodou Houngan, and descendant of none other than Marie Laveau, had asked Paxton and me to do a preliminary check of our next property as they continued their research on Arborwood, the show’s current location. Things weren’t quite going according to plan at the plantation house, but I was confident that the team could get things back on track and finish in time to get to this beauty. Assuming no more murders waylaid us, of course. The terror that the R℈DRΩM killer was wreaking on the city needed to stop. After working for the Louisiana State Police crime lab for years, I’d been called in as a consultant a couple of years ago to work one of the murders. It was something I’d never forget. Especially since it had been the death of a relative of someone I knew. The feelings I’d experienced trying to get to the bottom of that case—with no results—were something that haunted me to this day. Just the thought of it quickened my pulse and shortened my breath. And I knew it still plagued the others involved, as well.


I glanced back up at the estate’s massive twenty-thousand-square-foot expanse and wondered where we’d even start. Despite the daunting task in front of us, I couldn’t deny my excitement. For some reason, this house had always called to me. I didn’t know if it was the building itself or the energy of it.


Yes, energy. While I didn’t really believe in the supernatural—I was a scientist and dealt in facts and absolutes—I did believe in harmonious energy forces. Chalk it up to my upbringing and my parents’ beliefs. However, with that said, in all my years working with Dev and the cast and crew of Haunted New Orleans, I couldn’t deny that I had seen and experienced things that were odd and intriguing. Sometimes, a little mind-blowing. At the end of the day, I firmly believed there was science behind it somewhere. Still, the evidence to argue otherwise was compelling. Enough to convert me? Hell, no! But . . . I’d keep an open mind. Sort of. I’d still proudly wear my SKEPTIC sash and crown while giving a nod—albeit tiny—to the things I’d seen and experienced over time, and what the team could do.


As for Paxton . . . the things he believed in were most definitely supernatural to me. I was firmly in the there-are-no-gods corner, and I was pretty sure that nobody could convince me otherwise. I could sometimes get on board with some of Lark’s and Dev’s beliefs since they paid homage to multiple supposed deities and worked with the energy of the Universe, but putting all your eggs in one basket for a single supreme being that lorded over—pun intended—all of us wasn’t something I could wrap my head around.


To each their own, of course. Life took all kinds, after all. But the stalwart belief that everything you did on Earth was being weighed on some grand, cosmic scale and presided over by a single judge who would determine whether you were happy after death or not wasn’t something I could entertain. At least, not yet. Put the evidence in front of me, and I’d be happy to do the experiments and re-evaluate. But not until. Besides, death was death.


Yes, I worked for a paranormal reality show, and my paychecks came from investigating the presumed existence of ghosts and other supernatural entities, but while I had seen some things that made me go “hmm,” it was my job to debunk, disprove, and explain a lot of the stuff that the team discovered during an investigation. I didn’t completely disbelieve the things that Dev and the others dredged up—I had seen some of it with my own eyes—I just simply believed there was a logical explanation for it all. Somewhere. We just hadn’t found it yet or figured out how to explain it. My years with the crime lab for the LSP had given me some unique experience into things that looked one way and were, in reality, another.


It brought me great pleasure to work with Lennie and Van, our two engineers—and even Harper, our psychologist—to disprove things the homeowners and other witnesses reported. Or rather prove that it was copper pipes, grounded house electricity, or strange acoustics and nothing woo-woo. That the black mold, carbon monoxide, contaminated groundwater, or lead in the paint caused hallucinations, and that there was nothing to fear but the cost of your home remodeling bill. We even had another non-believer in the mix right now with Hanlen, Arborwood’s owner and Dev’s new girlfriend. As she put it, she didn’t believe in any of the hullabaloo either. Skeptics unite!


Pulling myself out of my thoughts and grabbing the file of information we’d all been given, I locked the car and started towards the sidewalk that ran along the front of the property. Passing under the large crepe myrtle that arched over the walk, I took in the shock of bright pink blooms standing out like a highlighter streak against today’s crystal-clear, blue sky. For the thousandth time, I lamented that my stick-straight, jet-black hair didn’t bleach well enough to take fun fashion colors. I proudly let my freak flag fly with my white and black, double-winged eyeliner and Harajuku girl style, although often downplayed for public consumption to my favorite crazy boots, and pithy—sometimes, insulting—novelty T-shirts. But my hair was forever boring—at least, to me. Unless I clipped in an extension, which I did occasionally.


I readjusted my forensics kit in my left hand and pushed open the gate, the creak of its hinges letting me know that it had been here for some time. From what I’d read in our preliminary report, the Lamour Mansion had been built in 1852 by a cotton farmer named Aristide Lamour and had been passed down through the generations until the family died out. After that, it became a boarding school for a time before a starlet and her artist husband purchased it in the 1920s. I wasn’t sure what’d happened after that, but there were a lot of rumors. I was confident the team would get to the bottom of it, and I couldn’t deny that I was excited to find out more.


Since Pax was already here, I pocketed the key that Dev had given to me and headed up the steps of the mansion’s wide, wrap-around porch. A large swing hung to my left, and the right had an arrangement of inviting-looking outdoor furniture. Topiaries flanked the large door with its new stained-glass window. I wondered when that had been installed. It was stunning. I was glad the estate had been kept up and apparently cleaned regularly—at least outside of the construction mess—despite the fact that nobody had actually called it home for a very long time.


I rapped with a single knuckle on the door and pushed it wide, revealing a breathtaking interior. The light streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows made the hardwood floors gleam and hit the curved arches and Corinthian fluted cypress columns that served as picturesque frames for the receiving room to my left, the parlor to my right, and the dual sweeping staircases that met at a grand shared landing straight ahead.


I looked up to see the massive brass-and-crystal-teardrop chandelier swaying gently in a breeze I couldn’t feel. Maybe Paxton was on the second floor. Since we were the only ones here, I decided to forgo manners and called out for him.


“Honey, I’m ho-o-o-me. Pax, you around?” My words echoed in the open space, bouncing off the vaulted ceilings. I wondered if he’d even answer me. Most everyone called him Padre—even I did in my head sometimes—but to his face, I couldn’t do it for some reason. I wondered if it was my subconscious’s way of keeping the fact that he used to be a priest out of my mind.


I was sure that he had heard me, even on the second level if that were, indeed, where he was. But just in case he was somewhere he wouldn’t hear, I decided to take a quick look around the ground floor instead of yelling again. As I walked, my footsteps echoing all around the space, I grabbed my pen out of my bun and made a note on my paperwork to do some baseline readings of the sound transference in the room and get Van to measure directionality. That way, if we heard any disembodied voices, footsteps, or banging, or got any electronic voice phenomena on the recorders during the investigation, we could tag them and check the cameras to be sure it wasn’t just someone in another part of the house.


I stopped in the enormous kitchen with its stunning cabinetry and vintage butcher block island in the center of the room and looked through to the cook’s kitchen, butler’s pantry, and the arch of the dining room beyond, listening for footsteps. Nothing yet. I set my stuff on the surface of a credenza next to a curio cabinet full of what looked to be priceless china and made some notes on the map that we had all been given.


Ready to check the other side of the house before heading upstairs, I straightened and turned, taking my first step, only to run nose-first into a rock-hard wall. Or a chest, rather. A very sculpted set of pecs that smelled of Hugo Boss. Immediately noticing the heat seeping into my arms from the callused hands now gripping me, I looked up into eyes the color of a winter morning—blue and crisp and breath-stealing.


Paxton Chase was a very handsome man. At least a decade my senior, he had that distinguished-gentleman thing going for him, tempered by the fact that he was a no-fuss kind of guy. He preferred flannels to suit coats. His pickup to Town Cars. And would likely laugh in your face if you offered him a glass of wine. But then there was the whole used-to-be-a-priest thing. Still, the man was yummy—not that I’d ever tell him that.


“Are you okay?” he asked, his deep drawl hitting me in the solar plexus.


I straightened and tugged away, tucking a stray piece of hair behind my ear and shoving my pen back in my bun. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry. I didn’t hear you come in. Which is strange, because this place echoes worse than that underground fuel depot in Scotland that holds the latest world record.”


Pax smiled. “You are a font of useless information. Did anyone ever tell you that?”


I shrugged. “Once or twice. And who says it’s useless?” I flashed him a smile. “Okay, so, what’s the four-one-one? How long have you been here?”


He looked around the place. “Not long. Maybe forty-five minutes or so. Just did a quick sweep to familiarize myself and get a feel. When did you get here?”


I checked my watch. “Less than ten minutes ago. I took in the outside for a bit—the front, anyway—and just came in. Didn’t make it any farther than the kitchen. Did Dev give you any direction for what exactly he wanted us to do or look for today?”


Pax ran a hand along the scruff on his jaw and shook his head. “Nah, not really. Just said he wanted a team in here to do a walk-through, make some notes on the map like you were doing, and scope out some good places for equipment. He did say that if we wanted to do a daytime EVP session, maybe do a Handycam tour, he’d like that. Might give the super twins some baseline readings for noise distortion, and R2, James, and Aaron some ideas for equipment needs and whatnot.”


He got an odd look, and I was almost afraid of what he was going to say next. He took a deep breath, and I couldn’t help but redistribute my weight and cross my arms. “Just spit it out. Clearly, you have something you need to say but don’t want to,” I said.


He sighed. “There’s an exposed, walled-off area towards the back of the house. Near the bit where the damage occurred thirty-odd years ago. The contractors and builders were just getting going back there, and that’s where Roch told us his guys have been having the most issues.”


Roch Lasear was the general contractor for the latest crew working on the mansion for the current owners. He was the one who’d reached out to Haunted New Orleans about the investigation since, according to him, the stuff that had been happening lately had ramped up a lot, and he was running out of crewmembers willing to stay and finish the job.


“Yeah, and?” I prompted.


He rubbed his middle and ring fingers against his forehead. “You’re the smallest in the crew. Dev wants you to get up into the crawl space and take a look around.”


“Lark’s not much bigger than me.”


“Yeah, but Birdie doesn’t have your scientific knowledge. She doesn’t know to look for things that could be contributing to what’s going on in the house—the stuff that’s scaring the workers. She’d be tuned into the spiritual side of things. Right now, we need the basics. Scientific data. And you’re our best bet.”


I looked down at my Not a zombie, but I feel like one T-shirt, mesh hoodie, and my favorite distressed black jeans and blew out a breath.


“I’ve got a jumpsuit for you in the other room. The fashion will be fine, princess.”


I knew he was teasing me, but my hackles still rose. “Like you care, Mr. Brawny.”


He plucked the corner of his plaid shirt. “Ouch.”


“Just giving you shit, Father. All right, let’s get this over with. It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic.” I set off to where I thought the area in question was, Pax following closely. As we got deeper into the house, I started to feel . . . off. I’d have to do some environmental readings before we left today to see if anything in the air could be causing that. Just as I was thinking about the equipment I’d need, Pax interrupted my thoughts.


“It’s not nice in here.”


I looked at him. “What do you mean? This part’s not as bad as I assume the area that got messed up all those years ago is. Kind of beautiful, actually. Not as nice as the front, of course, but still nice.”


“I meant energetically. Spiritually. It’s just . . . I dunno. Heavy. Oppressive. Feels . . . wrong. It’s weird.”


“Ahh. I was just thinking the same, and I don’t usually get feelings like that. I wonder if the fire damage and the subsequent aging got some nasty shit growing in the walls. I’ll get some samples and readings before we head out.”


Pax moved ahead of me to open a door, and I couldn’t stop my gaze from dropping to his very fine ass. Sue me. He may not care about fashion, but he could fill out a pair of jeans with the best of ‘em. Most of the guys on the cast and crew could. It was a smorgasbord of man candy delight. Probably not the most politically correct thing to think, but I couldn’t help myself. And it was true. And that was before you factored in the beauty of the women. Not to mention, we had something for everyone from sports junkies to intellectuals; angelic redheads to feisty brunettes; the sensitive, quiet ones, to outspoken nonbelievers; millennials to Gen-Xers. There was more than one reason the show did so well for the network. Yes, we were professionals, but we had become actors, too. And as the agent I’d never wanted but had been forced to get constantly told me, “Your look and your personality have now become your brand, Sky. Own it, and you’ll own the audience.”


As we rounded the corner into the area of the home where the most damage had occurred and the construction was in full effect, the hairs on my arms rose. Something was definitely going on here. “Did you by any chance take any electromagnetic field readings while you were in here earlier?” I asked.


“I did. The K2 had the EMF toggling between zero-point-one and zero-point-two to one-point-nine. And it wasn’t consistent. Not where you could definitively say there was some sort of environmental cause. We’ll need to look into it more.” He peered at me, his brow rising. “You felt it, too, then?”


“Yeah, strange. Kind of like static. But as always with high electromagnetic frequencies, that feeling of being watched, too.”


“Exactly. And as we know, high EMF can go one way or the other. Either it acts as a beacon and battery and leads to more legitimate paranormal experiences, or it is the experience, causing the person to feel however they are.” He walked around the sawhorses and other construction equipment and debris lying around to the far corner and pointed up. The wall had a jagged gap between concrete and drywall and ceiling, beyond which lay a yawning void of darkness.


“I take it that’s the place?” I asked. “Not a crawl space if it’s off the ground, Pax.”


“Fair point. I just didn’t know what else to call it. But, yes, that’s the place.” He leaned over and picked up a white jumpsuit, goggles, a headlamp, and a mask and handed them to me. “Your costume for the day.”


I rolled my eyes. “Ah, just what I always wanted. Who’s the designer? Odd? Toga? Ponti?”


“All I just heard was ‘blah, blah, blah.’”


I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I double-tapped him on the cheek with the lengths of my fingers. “It’s okay, Papi. I know it’s hard for that old brain to compute such modern concepts, especially when it comes to fashion.” I set the gear on a little table nearby and unzipped the jumpsuit, stepping into it. When I looked up, Pax had an odd look on his face and the set of his shoulders was stiff.


“What?” I asked.


He squinted, causing his brow to wrinkle. “Why do you do that?” he asked.


I frowned. “Do what?”


“Constantly poke fun. You rarely call me Padre like the rest of the team, but you never seem to miss a chance to call me something similar that I know you don’t mean in a nice way.”


I furrowed my brow and shook my head. “I didn’t mean anything by it, honest.”


“Whatever,” he said and turned away to grab a step stool.


Someone’s touchy. But I had to wonder . . . did I do that? I thought about it for a second. Yeah, I did. Huh. I’d have to watch myself. I hadn’t realized it bothered him so much.


When I secured the hood and donned the mask, goggles, and headlamp, I turned around and found Pax staring at me.


“Don’t you dare laugh. You laugh, and I will punch you in the ‘nads. Seriously.”


“What? I didn’t say anything.”


“Your face says it all, mister.” I pointed and circled my finger in the direction of said face. “Now, how are we doing this?”


He indicated the stool. “Hop on up. I’ll give you a boost, and you can crawl on in. Then I’ll hand you the bag of equipment. It doesn’t look to be so bad once you’re in there. It’s the getting in that’s tight. Once you clear that, you should have a bit of room to maneuver and even stand if you want. But we have absolutely no idea what’s up there or when in the last one hundred and sixty-odd years it was put there. This area could be original, or it could be something they modified—which would be my guess if I had to wager. We just aren’t sure yet. So, I guess what I’m saying is . . . be careful.”


“Always,” I said and got up onto the stool, hopping up to brace myself on the ledge of the opening. “It would have been nice if someone had left the ladder I assume was used to access this before they walled it off. Okay, boost me.”


Pax’s hands went to the backs of my thighs and the curve of my butt, and I couldn’t help but suck in a breath. I did mention that he’s hot, right? Once I had some leverage, I hoisted myself over the ledge and swung my legs into the dark space with the rest of me, clicking on my headlamp, only to come face-to-face with a body part.


A freaking hand.


I let loose a scream that could probably rouse the dead.



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