The Devil’s Tree
by Susan McCauley
Genre: YA Horror
Kaitlyn didn’t believe in ghosts—not until one killed her boyfriend and her best friend. Now she must stop the spirit haunting the Devil’s Tree, or she could be next.
Seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn wants to escape her drunk mama and her trailer park home life to enjoy a Saturday night off work. Instead, her boyfriend, Hunter, convinces her to go with him and their best friends, Dylan and Keisha, to photograph a desolate tree with an evil past. A terrifying presence chases them from the tree, killing Hunter and Keisha. Left alive with Dylan, Kaitlyn must struggle with her unexpected romantic feelings for him, come to terms with her loss, and face being trapped in a dead-end town. Kaitlyn is desperate to put the past to rest, but when their friends’ spirits begin haunting them, she and Dylan have no choice but to seek help from a Catholic priest and attempt to set the trapped spirits free.
Hunter’s gaze was transfixed on the rearview mirror.
Lights were reflected there. Headlights.
“Where’d that car come from?” My voice sounded like a stranger’s, deep and totally freaked out.
“I don’t know . . .” Hunter’s voice was frantic, afraid. “It just—just appeared. Out of nowhere.”
“Oh, God . . . Oh, God . . . Oh, God.” Keisha’s voice rose with each syllable. “It’s just like what happened to the boys who came to visit from up north . . . Just before they were run off the road and died!”
“Shut up, Keisha,” Hunter growled, and gunned the accelerator.
“Just get us back to town,” Dylan said, forcing calm into his voice.
The rattling thrum of an engine revved behind us. I looked in my side-view mirror. A black truck had pulled up right on our tail.
“Go faster,” I whispered. “Can’t you go any faster?”
The speedometer reached sixty-five, but the road ahead curved. The posted speed was thirty-five. Hunter’d have to hit the brakes or we’d crash.
“Slow down,” I screamed.
“I can’t.” Hunter’s white-knuckled hands gripped the steering wheel. “My foot—it’s—it’s stuck on the accelerator.”
“Oh, God,” Keisha cried.
Tears streamed down my face. My hand slid over the door lock. Maybe I should jump?
The trees whipped by. No way. I couldn’t jump. I’d never survive. Hands shaking, I tugged on my seat belt. Buckled it. Crap—Hunter didn’t have his seat belt on. Did anybody else?
The speedometer read seventy. Hunter took the curve.
A big tree. Coming fast.
Our tires squealed and my world turned upside down. Glass. Metal. Wood. Splintered. Screaming. Broken.
“Susan McCauley delivers a poignant and frightening tale of love and redemption against a backdrop of evil, both supernatural and not. It’s a fast and exciting read filled with demons, ghosts, and stolen kisses, and it does an excellent job of reminding us that both revenge and love can be eternal desires. This is one teens and adults will both enjoy.” ⎯JG Faherty, multiaward- nominated author of Hellrider, The Cure, and Cemetery Club
“Evil is not always the only enemy you should fear . . . Fast-paced and deftly written, with emotional depth from the darkest of characters, this is a ghost story to savor.” ⎯Peter Adam Salomon, Bram Stoker Award® nominated novelist, author of All Those Broken Angels and Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds
Susan McCauley was born and raised on the gulf coast of Texas, not far from Houston. She spent several years in Los Angeles, California acting, writing, and teaching college English. In 2002, she moved to London to further explore professional theater. While in London, her stage adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose” was performed at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s George Bernard Shaw Theatre; and, scenes from her play The Prisoner: Princess Elizabeth were performed at HMS Tower of London. She returned to the U.S. in 2005. In 2007, she was the line producer of the Emmy Award nominated Civil War short film Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier. She has had short stories published in several anthologies, and her short story, “The Cask,” was made into an award winning short film.
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