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READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: Alex McKenna & the Academy of Souls by Vicki-Ann Bush

After surviving a harrowing case, Alex McKenna just wanted to rest. Unfortunately, his plans are interrupted by the ghost of Seven-year-old Haven, who is lost in an in-between realm.   Despite his great-grandmother's warning, Alex crosses the bridge between the living and the dead, sending him and his girlfriend into the world of the Academy of Souls, a high school for dead teens who are unable to complete their journey.   There, Alex meets Ophelia, Haven's teenage sister, who's been searching for her for more than a century. Together, with a few friends he meets along the way, Alex must cross the treacherous terrain of the Underworld in-between, to save Haven from clutches of the Soul Gatherer and reunite the sisters.

Join Alex McKenna, Ophelia, and Haven on this harrowing journey through life after death, the importance of family, and the gift of second chances in Alex McKenna & the Academy of Souls by Vicki-Ann Bush—out TUESDAY!

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Alex scooped his hands underneath Margaret's bottom and pulled her onto his lap.

"Hey McKenna, what do you think you're doing?" she pretended to push him away.

"Just getting warm,” Alex flashed her a grin and pulled her closer “It's extra chilly tonight and I’ve waited a long time to do this with you.”

" I know what you mean,” Margaret snuggled close. “We were friends and then... I like us this way better.”

Margaret curled her arms around his neck and gently kissed it and then his cheek. "Unfortunately, I have to go home."

"Really? I thought we were gonna watch a movie." Alex held her tighter.

"No. You thought we were gonna watch a movie. I told you I needed to finish studying for that test tomorrow,” she said. “Thank the gods there's only a few weeks left before Christmas vacation. I'm worn out. Speaking of which, you'd better get some sleep tonight. The dark circles under your eyes may be very I, Zombie, but they don't look good on you." Margaret placed her hands on his chest and pushed herself up.

"Ouch. A zombie, huh?"

"Well if the drool fits. Come on, walk me to the door please." Margaret slipped on her gray wool coat.

"I'll walk you to the car. Let me grab my hoodie." Alex pulled a black hoodie o the edge of the couch.

"Always the gentlemen." She blew him a kiss.

The open door released a gush of arctic air, plastering an icy veil over their bodies.

"Jesus. Damn it's cold." Alex blew pus of breath into the night air. Like miniature white clouds, they floated, disappearing under the midnight blue sky.

After Margaret was in the car with the heater blasting, he reached in through the open window and gave her a last kiss goodnight. With promises to text when she got home, he waved as the dark green Honda pulled away. Scurrying to get inside, he slammed the door behind him and latched the deadbolt.


No one hated tenth grade as much as Ophelia. Ninth was bad enough, it was the start of four years of horror, but tenth was the middle. Too old to be a kid, too young to be anything else. Of course, that was at the high school she attended before her beginning.

At the Academy of Souls, four years could easily turn into an unending loop of history, math, and science. Time could be your worst enemy.

Sitting in the Grand Hall for assembly, Ophelia nervously scanned the aisles for her friends. Unlike them, confidence didn't come easy.

The Grand Hall reminded Ophelia of a short film she once saw about Radio City Music Hall in NYC. The red, brocade drapes, and feathery, gold tassels framing the stage and drawing the eye to one of the many rich patterns throughout a masterpiece of design, mimicked the well-known theater. A warm glow, emanating from gas-fueled sconces, reflected the black and gold Victorian wallpaper. Oversized seats, cushioned velvet and stued for supreme comfort, filled both levels accommodating the entire student body and staff.

Amry was the first to induct Ophelia into what would become her sanctuary. She was seventeen when she died, only two years older than Ophelia, but they couldn’t be more different. Her best friend was fearless, beautiful, and confident. She was the envy of every girl, and the desire for most of the boys. But her striking appearance was only enhanced by her inner beauty. Amry was not a cliché. She was the reason Ophelia was whole. Arriving at the Academy years after the ill-fated day Ophelia and Haven started their beginning, Amry’s persistence and kindness lifted her out of the dark lonely place of despair she had chosen to preside in. Amry never gave up on her. Day after day, she'd visit Ophelia in her dorm, and eventually she was able to persuade Headmaster Abernathy to move her into the same room. Amry stayed with her when there were no classes, sometimes in complete silence. Just to be a presence, to show she cared. Eventually Ophelia started to come around. Amry saved her.

Ophelia spotted her gliding down the hall, two aisles over. “Amry!” Ophelia flailed her arms.

Spinning to find the direction of her friend’s voice, Amry grinned when she spotted two pale arms waving above the crowd’s heads.

“Hey, where’s everybody?” Amry settled in her seat.

“I don’t know, but if they are not here soon, the security crazed Dictator Dick will write them up, and Kyle can’t aord any more negatives. He doesn’t do well con"ned to the dorms.”

Army slumped down in her seat, twirling the ends of her chestnut hair around her "nger. Her translucent green eyes smiled at Ophelia.

“I wonder how he got that name anyway?”

“Richard Cander. Richard—Dick, and he’s a power jerk. Dictator Dick, Ophelia grinned.

“You’re always so polite, Ophelia.” Amry nudge her.

“What do you mean?” Ophelia’s eyes widened.

“He’s a power jerk? Everyone knows he’s a mean bastard.”

“I don’t know. Bastard is a strong word. I think he’s trying to keep things in order, and sometimes it comes off like he’s nasty or doesn’t care. But I think it’s the opposite. You know I have reservations about using curse words. My mother and father would have been mortified.”

“Sometimes I forget you’re from 1910. People were so much more relaxed in the 1970’s. Before I died in ’79, me and my friends were saying some other things far worse than bastard.” Amry grinned. “Our little Ophelia, always seeing the good in people. That’s what I love about you, Lia,” said Amry, using her nickname for Ophelia.

“That’s just it, though. If he did, chances are he would have a harder time getting everyone to listen. This way, we may not like him, but he gets the job done.” Ophelia frowned.

“Potato, patato. Either way, Kyle’s ass is grass if he’s not here in the next two minutes.”

“Whose ass is grass? And why would anyone want an ass made from grass?” Kyle plopped in the seat next to Amry.

“There you are. Dictator Dick is getting ready to introduce the Headmaster and you almost missed the opening pledge.

You’re already skating on thin ice with him. One more, Kyle and...”

“I know. My ass is grass.” Kyle smirked.

Kyle Burkletter was the embodiment of a California boy. Golden blonde locks down to his shoulders, blue green eyes, and a tight surfer’s physique. Ophelia bet he was probably tan most of the year when he was living, but now a ghostly white replaced any color life would have given him.

“Hey, what I miss?” Bethany slid next to him.

Bethany Smithson was the doppelganger for the 1970’s it girl, Farrah Fawcett. Or at least that's what Kyle told her. Ophelia didn't know for sure, never seeing Farrah Fawcett, but she took his word for it. It seemed perfect that they had paired up though, two beach beauties both from the seventies themselves.

Kyle leaned in, softly brushing his lips against Bethany's. A deep blue spark flashed, the result of a small electrical charge when two souls came together.

“Nothing much. We were just discussing the botanical growth on my ass,” Kyle laughed.

“What?” Bethany’s brows furrowed.

“Never mind. He’s being an idiot.” Amry shook her head. Dictator Dick took center stage, adjusting the microphone to a comfortable level and the lights dimmed twice indicating it was time for silence.

“It is my pleasure to introduce the creator of the Academy of Souls and our beloved Headmaster, Barnabas Abernathy.”

Mr. Abernathy appeared on stage in his usual grand entrance. A man with a flair for the dramatic stood as smoke billowed around him hazing the purple spotlight circling his frame; all of it a contradiction to his plain black suit. His long white hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, added a softness to the many lines in his face. Abernathy had been around for nearly a thousand years. Joining the old ways of education and blending it with modern day, he guided with a stern hand but a soft heart.

Standing center stage, he cleared his throat. The raspy strain resonated into the microphone and drifted out to the enormous room, filling the space with command, and gaining recognition from the students.

“Attention! Attention everyone! Nice to see you're all looking fine today and on time, Mr. Burkletter.” Abernathy eyeballed Kyle.

“Right on, Headmaster.” Kyle flashed a peace sign.

“I wonder why those other men are on stage with him.” Ophelia whispered.

“Why and who? They’re like the secret service, only not.” Amry stretched her neck.

“You having trouble seeing?”