Excerpt: The Secret of Sleepy Hollow by Andi Marquette

The Secret of Sleepy Hollow

by Andi Marquette

Blurb:

Tabitha “Abby” Crane, a doctoral student working on her thesis, doesn’t allow herself much time outside academia. Fortunately, she’s managed to squeeze in a research trip over Halloween weekend to the historical society of Sleepy Hollow, New York, where she hopes to uncover new research on the notorious town’s most infamous legend—that of the headless horseman. But she has a personal stake in this trip: Abby’s own ancestor, Ichabod Crane, disappeared mysteriously over two hundred years ago, perhaps at the hands of the ghostly horseman.

Abby has no reason to expect anything of Sleepy Hollow beyond immersing herself in archival collections and enjoying its Halloween festivities, but then she crosses paths with Katie, who makes her head spin and her heart pound. When Katie invites her on a nighttime visit to the glen where the horseman allegedly rides, Abby can’t say no, upending her plans for a quiet research retreat. And when Abby and Katie, who has her own ties to the famous story, find what may be the key to the disappearance of Ichabod Crane all those years ago, love, legend, and magic intermingle, making clear that Sleepy Hollow has plans of its own for yet another Crane.

Except:

Katie put her phone down on the table. “Here’s what we know. Ichabod was a feminist—as much as he could be back then—he was handsome, and treated Katrina with respect. Plus, she liked him.”

“Not just ‘liked.’ She seemed to be into him,” Abby clarified. “And I just don’t think finding out that he was a spy is something that would distress her or elate her. So I’m ruling that out, too.”

Katie took another sip of beer. “I’m thinking that Katrina and Ichabod had a lot going on, Brom found out, dressed up as the horseman, and basically ran him out of town.”

“But that still doesn’t explain the secret. God, history can be so damn frustrating.”

Katie grinned. “Have you been to the glen?”

“No.”

“Want to go? I’ll drive. It’s only a couple of miles.”

“It’s dark out.”

“That’s the best time to go. You’ll get a feel for it. And this time of year, lots of people go to ghost watch. So it’s not as creepy, I guess, as it could be.”

She should probably say no. But Katie’s smile and the look in her eyes convinced Abby otherwise. “Okay.”

Katie waved the server over and Abby handed him a credit card. Katie gave him cash before Abby could offer to buy the beer.

“Let me ring this up. Be right back,” he said to Abby. To Katie, he said, “Do you want change?”

“No.” Katie smiled at him then looked at Abby. “Are you staying for the Halloween festivities on Saturday?”

“You’re kidding, right? I geek out over folklore. How could I miss something like that?” It was the day after tomorrow. She hoped to get as much research in as possible before then.

Katie smiled and leaned back against the booth. She put her arm up so it lay along the top of it and Abby wondered why a motion that simple could be so enticing. But on Katie, it was. It had been a while since Abby had dated. She had been busy with research and hadn’t met anyone lately, so she had quit thinking about it. Until now. Funny how that happened.

“The glen is usually crowded around this time because everybody wants to see the ghost horseman,” Katie was saying. “Legend has it this is the best time of the year for sightings. The day of the ride, I know a few places that aren’t as packed and generally, our horseman rides there, too. He tries to make a big circuit, so most everybody gets a chance to see him.”

“Sounds great,” Abby said as the server returned with her card and receipts. She signed and gathered her things to go.

Katie slid out of the booth and Abby followed her, trying to keep her gaze above Katie’s waist. She didn’t succeed.

She followed Katie to her vehicle, a gray SUV parked just outside and it dawned on Abby that this was the car she’d seen the evening before outside the historical society, and Katie must’ve been the driver who waved at Lu. Katie unlocked it with her key fob and went around to the driver’s side.

“So how’d you know I was at the pub?” Abby asked as she got in and buckled up.

“I didn’t. Guess I got lucky.” Katie flashed her another smile, put the SUV in reverse and backed out. The interior smelled faintly of vanilla. It had the comfortable, lived-in look of a vehicle that got a lot of use but was well cared for.

“Guess I did, too. After all, I’m getting a ride to the glen.”

“Totally my pleasure. Besides, the glen should be part of your research. That’s where Ichabod disappeared. Or so they say.” Katie accelerated as they hit the edge of town. “It hasn’t changed much out here. Some clearing on the edges of the main glen for houses, but other than that, the heart of it has been left pretty much alone for pedestrian traffic. The historical commission in town likes to preserve it, since it’s a great tourist attraction.”

“Has anybody thought to keep the horseman working year-round?”

“You mean as a regular attraction?”

“Yeah. Or even just a sometime and unpredictable attraction. Just randomly have someone ride around out here and drum up sightings and interest.”

“I think there was some discussion about that when I was in high school, but locals decided that was too much crazy for one haunted glen.”

Abby laughed.

“Ah. So you’re not always a serious scholar.” Katie’s voice was warm and layered, like a caress.

Another round of sparks zipped through Abby’s chest and stomach. Kind of embarrassing, to have a crush on someone she’d just met. “No, not always,” Abby said, and to her ears it sounded kind of prudish. “After all, I’m going out to run around in said haunted glen. At night.”

“Good point. I stand corrected.”

“So what topic are you working on?”

“Just finished my master’s last year. I’m actually looking for a topic for a dissertation. I’m interested in early feminist movements, and how those translated in local politics.”

“Then your history background serves you really well. Define early.”

The-Secret-of-Sleepy-Hollow-Ylva-2560x1600-300dpi(1)

“Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before 1850. I’d like to compare the political campaigns that women were involved in then with some of the more recent ones. Late twentieth century and early twenty-first.” She slowed down and turned right. “Because as we know, women were involved in politics, though they couldn’t vote.”

“True.” And Abby thought it was sexy, talking shop with Katie. That made her an even bigger geek, she supposed, but she didn’t care.

The SUV lurched a little on what was clearly a dirt road and Katie slowed down. “They do minimal maintenance out here. Local flavor and all.” Katie steered first left then right.

“How long has this road been here?” Abby hung onto the grab bar above the passenger window.

“As long as I can remember. I think it’s part of the original road through the glen. Lu will probably know.” She slowed down and pulled off to the right.

From the headlights, Abby saw thick forest lining either side of the road. Four other cars were parked there. Three were empty. The windows of the fourth were fogged up. Teenagers, no doubt. The area was probably a favorite make out spot. And most likely, over the years, it had always been one.

The thought of making out made her flush because Katie was the person who popped into her head. “So is there actually a bridge?” Abby asked, since she wanted to stop thinking about kissing Katie.

“There was. Not out here, though. The one described in Irving’s story isn’t there anymore. But we can check out the replica in the cemetery. And there’s some scary but cool stuff that goes on there, too.”

“Great.”

Katie turned off the engine and looked at Abby. “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“I don’t know. There are inexplicable things in the world,” Abby said. “And people have been recording sightings and strange phenomena for centuries, so I think there could be something to the idea.”

“Most of the stuff people report in the glen is weird lights, weird sounds, and the horseman.” Katie took a mini flashlight out of the glove box, reaching across Abby to do so, which brought her very close.

Abby froze. She caught a whiff of Katie’s cologne. Crisp and subtle. Abby couldn’t put her finger on what the notes were, but she liked it. Katie straightened, turned the vehicle’s lights off, and got out. Without the car lights on, Abby realized how very dark this part of the world was. Not much light pollution, either, but if she looked back the way they had come, she could make out a faint glow from the town, hovering over the trees. She got out and shut the door and Katie locked the vehicle.

“If you get freaked out, we’ll come back, no problem,” Katie said. She turned on her flashlight and started walking up the road. “I’m pretty sure that a lot of the lights that people see up here are ghost hunter flashlights. Especially this time of year.” Her own flashlight’s narrow beam seemed to stab the hard-packed earth of the road underfoot.

Abby followed, glad she had her keychain flashlight with her. Just in case. “Do you believe in ghosts?” She matched her pace to Katie’s, which was more like a stroll, fortunately, because the road’s surface wasn’t completely smooth, and Katie’s flashlight didn’t pick up some of the potholes right away.

“I take the position you do. I’ve seen some strange things around here, but so much of it might be influenced by local lore that it could, in turn, be influencing me to see things that I otherwise wouldn’t. There. Just laid some psychology on you.”

“That’s something I think about, in terms of deconstructing folklore and its surrounding cultures. I mean, where do you draw a line between what’s history and what’s been spun into folklore? How much of a community’s culture is influenced by either?”

“I think both are useful for telling stories. And I can tell you really love this topic,” Katie added with a soft laugh.

“Yeah. Sorry about that. My inner geek.”

“Which I totally enjoy. Don’t apologize for it. And stop here.”

Abby felt Katie’s hand on her arm, gently pulling.

“This is a good spot to see the sky and into the heart of the glen, through the trees. You’ll no doubt see some ghost hunters in there, too, but who knows? Maybe there’ll be something else.” She turned her flashlight off.

They stood in the road and in the light of the rising moon, some of the trees on either side seemed to shift and move, like gnarled and twisted dancers. The hair on the back of Abby’s neck stood up. “Okay, I get why people think they see weird things out here.”

“Right? Your brain and your eyes mess with you, especially in light like this. Power of suggestion. Look through there—” Katie had her hand on Abby’s arm again. “Do you see anything?”

She kept her hand on Abby’s arm and Abby was sure the heat from Katie’s palm was searing her skin, even through her fleece. Flustered, she tried to focus on whatever Katie might be trying to get her to see. A flash of light between the trees made her stiffen. “I’m going to assume that’s a flashlight,” she said, trying to sound braver than she felt.

“Probably. Hold on. Keep watching.”

The light flickered again, as if it was traveling between trees. A male voice floated in the night air, followed by laughter. Abby exhaled. “Flashlight.”

“Shh. Listen for a bit.”

Abby tried, but Katie’s hand was still on her arm and she suddenly wanted to grab her and pull her close.

“Do you hear anything?” Katie asked.

“You mean besides guys in the woods?”

“Yeah.”

Abby maintained silence between them for what seemed like a long time, concentrating so hard on her hearing that she eventually thought she heard her heart pounding in her ears. Maybe that was what people heard when they thought it was the horseman. It wasn’t hooves. It was their own fear, pounding in their ears from their heartbeats. Katie took her hand off Abby’s arm and the spot, where it had been, cooled abruptly, much to Abby’s disappointment.

“Too bad. Guess all you get is guys in the woods tonight,” Katie said, and she turned her flashlight back on.

“Well, there’s always Saturday.”

“You want some company on your folklore quest during the festivities?”

“Depends. Whose?” she teased, seeing what she could get away with.

Katie chuckled and Abby caught the flash of her teeth in the gloom. “Mine. I can drive again, but it’s best to leave cars outside the glen, so the horseman has room to maneuver and—”

“It’s a deal,” Abby said, and then she silently kicked herself for sounding overeager. On the other hand, so what? So, she thought Katie was interesting. And okay, really attractive. There was nothing wrong with spending time with an attractive woman on a research trip. Especially one who knew the collections like Katie did. Logical, right? Abby unsuccessfully tried to convince herself that her interest was purely pragmatic

“Come on,” Katie said. “There’s an old path up ahead that jags off this road. Whoever the horseman is on Saturday will use it. They always do. Some of the better ones have even ridden through the woods. When they do that, they burst out of the forest and scare the hell out of people walking around out here.”

“So he rides his horse through the trees? What about injuries?”

“Like I said, only the better ones do it. One of the best was three years ago and I’m pretty sure it was a woman.”

“There are women who ride as the horseman?” Abby moved a little closer to Katie and hoped it wasn’t obvious.

“Can’t say for sure, since nobody ever knows who the horsemen are year to year, but from what I’ve heard, there are a few over the years who’ve been women. Doesn’t matter, because it’s all about the illusion, after all.” Her arm brushed Abby’s but before Abby could move away to protect her hormones, Katie stopped.

“That’s the path, there to the left.”

Here, the trees seemed even closer to the road, branches entwined overhead, blocking the moonlight.

“Do you want to walk a little farther?” Katie asked.

“I think I hear something.” Abby stood, straining to pick up the sound she thought she heard over the sighing of the breeze and the creak of wood as tree branches rubbed across each other. Something rhythmic, like hoofbeats. And then it was louder, and Katie gripped Abby’s arm and pulled her closer as a figure appeared out of the darkness.

 

Amazon US:
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Excerpt: Dylan’s Dilemma by Edward Kendrick

Dylan’s Dilemma
by
Edward Kendrick
Blurb:
When Dylan Russell unintentionally kills his ex-lover, Tommy, he knows he’s in trouble. Then he meets a man named Mars Marsden who offers him a solution — join the covert organization C21. An outfit made up of good men and women who ended up on the wrong side of the law, C21 now gives these people a chance to track and punish those criminals to whom the law doesn’t seem to apply. Dylan should fit right in.After meeting Mars’ handler, Dylan learns Tommy was an arms trafficker. Somewhat reluctantly, he agrees to go undercover to help bring down the rest of Tommy’s gang. After this dangerous induction into his new life, Dylan is sent for training.But Dylan is a marked man. Not only are the police looking for him, but when one of Tommy’s old colleagues discovers where Dylan is being trained, things get interesting. Can he and Mars survive the jobs they’re sent on? And, more importantly, can their purely sexual relationship deepen into something more before the work they do tears them apart?
Excerpt:
The man took something from his jacket pocket, sliding it across the table to Dylan. One look and Dylan knew he was in trouble. The problem was, from whom. “How did you get this?” he asked once he could speak again.
Rather than answering the question, the man said, “Why don’t we go for a ride.”
Taking a deep breath, Dylan replied as if he really meant it, “Not until I know who I’m riding with.” He knew he’d go with him, even if the man didn’t reply, but he had to put up some sort of front, despite how terrified he was.
“My name is Garret Marsden.” He almost smiled as he added, “My friends call me Mars. I work for C21.”
“Never heard of it.”
“We keep a low profile.” Marsden stood, giving a nod toward the back exit to the bar. “If you would, please.”
Dylan looked up at him. “Why the hell should I trust you.”
Marsden chortled. “You probably shouldn’t, but given the photo—and I do have duplicates—you might want to at least hear me out.”
“Damn it to hell-and-gone, I’m fucking sick and tired of people trying to blackmail me into doing things.”
Resting his hands on the table, Marsden stated, “That’s why you killed Mr. Samson.”
Given that the photo in question showed him kneeling over Tommy, blood evident on the floor, Dylan couldn’t deny what Marsden had said. With a sigh, he got up as well and followed Marsden out of the bar into the alley behind it. When they passed the bar’s dumpster, Mars said, “Give me your phone.”
“Why?”
“Because the cops can use it to find you.”
“Seriously?” When Mars nodded, Dylan didn’t hesitate to hand it to him. Mars crushed it under his boot then tossed the pieces in the dumpster.
There was a half-full parking lot directly across the alley. Marsden led Dylan to…
“What the hell is that?”
“A 2000 Harley Softtail,” Marsden replied proudly.
Dylan slowly walked around it, shaking his head, before looking at Marsden. “You expect me to ride on this…thing? Is it even safe?”
“Never ridden before?”
“I value my life,” Dylan muttered, although he had to admit the idea didn’t scare him as much as might have. Maybe because I’ve got more to worry about than whether I’ll survive until we get wherever he’s taking me. And, strangely enough, I don’t think it’s to the closest police station. God help me if I’m wrong. Well, God help me no matter what.
“Hop on,” Marsden said, breaking into Dylan’s musings. He was already straddling the seat, so tentatively Dylan climbed on behind him and Marsden started the cycle. “You might want to hold on,” Marsden suggested, “and when I lean, you lean the same way even if it seems counterintuitive to you.”
“Hold on to what?”
Dylan could see Marsden rolling his eyes in one of the mirrors as he replied, “Onto me. And put this on.” He handed Dylan a helmet.
“What about you?”
Dylan's Dilemma
“I only have one. Put the damned thing on, if you would.”
Dylan did. Then they began moving. At first Marsden drove slowly. Dylan had the feeling it was so he could become used to being on the cycle—especially when Marsden went around corners. By the third one, he began to speed up. Dylan clung to him as if his life depended on it, trying to get the hang of leaning into the turns. Finally, to his relief, they were on the highway.
Dylan wasn’t certain how much time passed as they sped along, other than the fact it was long enough he was beginning to relax and enjoy the ride. It was…exhilarating was the best word he could think of. At least until Marsden slowed enough to make a turn which took them onto a two-lane road leading between high canyon walls. It climbed steeply as it curved deeper and deeper into the mountains—the only light coming from the motorcycle’s headlights.
Just as Dylan began to fear Marsden intended to kill him and dispose of his body in some mineshaft—a foolish fear he was certain, but one he couldn’t dispel—Marsden made another turn. They were now on a narrower road. Pine trees towered along both sides, making Dylan feel as if they were going through a tunnel. Then—out of nowhere it seemed as they made one more turn—a cabin appeared. It looked as if it hadn’t been used in years—gray boards, a roof with missing shingles, the porch steps crooked and the railing fallen to ruin on one side. Even the shutters over some of the windows looked as if they might crash to the ground in a strong breeze.
Marsden pulled around behind the cabin, parked and got off, waiting for Dylan to join him. “You okay?” he asked when Dylan clambered off and then had to grab the bike until his legs stopped shaking.
“Yeah. Mostly. Where the hell are we?”
“In the mountains,” Marsden replied, grinning. “Not to worry, the cabin is better on the inside. Come on.”
“Definitely better,” Dylan said when they were inside. Much to Dylan’s surprise, there had to be a security system, since Marsden disarmed an alarm box by the front door after turning on the lights.
There was one large room. A comfortable looking sofa and two overstuffed armchairs faced a stone fireplace, a rustic dining table and four chairs taking up part of the other side of the room with a small kitchen area behind them.
“Have a seat,” Marsden told Dylan. “Do you want a beer? Or coffee?”
“I’d rather have an explanation about why you brought me here,” Dylan replied tersely.
“You’ll get it.”
Dylan spun around to see an older man coming into the room from a doorway next to the kitchen.
“Please do as Mars asked.” The man pointed to the sofa.
Dylan was tempted to say, “Why should I?” but being outnumbered two to one, he sat.
The man introduced himself as Alastair Holme, Mars’ immediate superior, as he sat in one of the armchairs. “I’ll take coffee, Mars.” He looked inquiringly at Dylan.
“Coffee, please,” Dylan muttered. “And—”
“And explanation.” Alastair nodded. “All in good time.” He tapped his fingers together, studying Dylan. “You are in trouble, to put it mildly. I just heard from one of my contacts on the police force. They’ve issued a warrant for your arrest. They have probable cause to believe you murdered Thomas Samson.”
Dylan sucked in a dismayed breath. “Why?”
Alastair smiled dryly. “The police aren’t as dumb as you seem to think. They found your fingerprints at the crime scene, as well as other trace evidence.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. We used to be…in a relationship. I could have visited him. It would explain the prints.”
“True, but they also found a witness who saw you depositing a trash bag in a dumpster not far from Samson’s home around the time of the murder. Interestingly enough, it contained items from his house. One’s, I’m presuming, you took in an effort to make it look as if a burglary had taken place during which Samson was killed.”
Mars came over, handing Dylan and Alastair cups of coffee. “Do you need cream or sugar?” he asked Dylan.
“No, thanks.” Dylan set the cup on the side table between the sofa and the Alastair’s chair then looked at Alastair. “So the police are searching for me. Why are you and Marsden involved?”
“Did Mars tell you who we are?”
“I did,” Mars put in. “And Dylan, you can call me Mars.”
“So suddenly I’m a friend?” Dylan said sourly.
Mars shrugged. “I’m possibly the only one you have at this point, other than Alistair.”
That brought Dylan back to reality. “Why am I here?”
Alastair replied, “Let me preface everything by saying this: C21 is a covert group that goes after criminals who are considered untouchable for one reason or another. Mr. Samson was one of those we were after.”
“You’re shitting me!”
Ignoring Dylan’s outburst, Alistair continued. “As part of our trying to get evidence about him, we installed cameras at his house. It’s the reason we have the photo, taken from one of the videos, of you killing him. Before you say it was on impulse and nothing more, I agree. I’ve watched the videos. However, impulse or not, you reacted swiftly and efficiently when he grabbed your arms. I was impressed.”
For a second, all Dylan could think about was the fact Alistair must have seen more than just the killing, and he blushed.
Alastair looked amused, saying, “I’ve seen worse things than two men having sex. Putting that aside, I mean it when I say I was impressed. You killed him and then, quite competently went about trying to cover your tracks, as if it was second nature to you.”
“I was terrified.”
“I’m sure you were. A lesser man would have gathered up his clothes and run. You…didn’t.”
Dylan leaned back, staring off into space. “Why were you after him?”
“How well did you know him? I mean beside the obvious fact the two of you were lovers for a while?”
“He worked as a sales representative for IE Global, an import/export company.”
“You knew this for a fact?”
Dylan lifted a shoulder. “I never visited him there, but it’s what he told me and I had no reason to disbelieve him.”
“All right. What else?”
Grimacing, Dylan replied, “He was very controlling. It’s the reason I walked out. He had to be the boss, to know everything I did, where I went and who I knew.”
“Emotionally abusive,” Mars said quietly from where he was standing, one elbow on the fireplace mantle.
“I suppose,” Dylan agreed. “While we were together, he lived in an upscale condo and had money to burn.”
Alistair glanced at Mars, getting a nod in return, then said to Dylan, “He was part of IE Global, but not as one of their sales representatives. He was the owner of record. While on the surface they are exactly what they seem, behind the scenes he and his three partners deal in arms trafficking.”
Dylan looked at him in shock. “You have got to be kidding. Tommy?
“Yes. His real name was Tommaso Sansone.”
“Mafia?”
“No. He was an independent, although he had some Mafia contacts. He also had friends in high places who managed to keep him from facing charges for what he was doing. That’s where we came into the picture.”
“If it hadn’t been for his bad luck in meeting you,” Mars said with a dry smile, “we’d still be trying to gather enough evidence to either stop him and his cohorts or, if necessary, eliminate him.”
“Saved you the trouble, in his case at least, didn’t I?” Dylan replied sardonically. Then what Mars had said hit him. “That’s what you do? Kill people?”
Alistair nodded. “When the situation warrants.”
“So, what does all of this have to do with me? Why did you bring me here, rather than letting the police find and arrest me?”
“Ask Mars. It was his idea.”
Mars came over to sit at the other end of the sofa. “I think you have potential.”
“For what?” And then Dylan got it. “Oh, hell, no. I’m not a killer.”
Mars laughed. “I think the police would debate the point, but putting that aside, you seem to be a very clever man who has managed to use what’s at hand, be it in trying to cover up Samson’s murder, or using a room at the hotel to your advantage without anyone there discovering the fact. Somehow you convince the men you take up there not to let anyone know what’s going on. That, to me, says you’re good at persuading people to do what you want them to.”
“It’s in their own interests,” Dylan protested, ignoring for the moment the fact that they probably thought he was prostituting himself, which he wasn’t. He just liked good sex and plenty of it, when the opportunity arose. “Safe sex and all that, without taking a chance their wives or employers will find out.”
“Exactly what I’m saying.” Mars smiled slightly. “You’re glib enough to handle all the contingencies. On top of which, you have what it takes to have moved up at the hotel to assistant-manager, and probably, when your boss retired, you’d have taken over for him.”
“You’ve done your homework,” Dylan muttered. “And all in less than three days.”
“It’s part and parcel of what we do,” Alastair told him. “Without knowing everything possible about the people we go after, we wouldn’t stand a chance of stopping them.”
Dylan got up, going to look out the front window. He couldn’t see anything, as dark as it was, but he could almost feel the trees towering over the cabin. The way the trouble I’m in is towering over me. What do I do now? If Alastair is telling the truth, the police are looking for me. I can’t go home, or to work. He smiled sourly. It’s not as if I can prove I’m innocent, because I’m not. He felt one of the men put a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Mars looking at him with compassion.
“You’ll be staying here, at least until we figure out what to do about you.”
“There’s room enough?”
“Guess you didn’t really look at the place when we drove up. This room is about a third of the cabin. We have three bedrooms and a decent sized bathroom on this floor.”
“‘We’? Are you and Alastair…?”
Mars grinned. “Nope. He’s my boss, or handler, if you will. Nothing more. C21 owns the cabin and several acres around it. He’s here because of you. Landed at the airport late this morning, after I got in touch with him. Told me to pick you up, then drove up here.”
‘Shared pain is lessened,shared joy is increased, thus do we refute entropy.’ Spider Robinson

Just in time for Halloween: An Excerpt from A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

An Excerpt from A Demon Inside

by Rick R. Reed

 

© 2015 by Rick R. Reed

BLURB Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter’s terror

Excerpt:

I walk to the stairway and look up. Up there, he lies asleep. I mount the steps slowly, knowing exactly where each one creaks. I avoid those places, wanting to be as silent as the night. Darkness and cold are almost palpable things pressed against my spine. Soon he will feel my blackness surrounding him, enfolding him in a blanket of rotting stench, a coverlet of cold.

Hunter lay asleep, the book open across his steadily rising and falling chest, his mouth open in a snore.

The light beside the bed was still on, but soon enough the dull illumination flickered… and died. Hunter turned in his sleep, and the book toppled to the floor. The sound it made roused him, and he opened his eyes to darkness. He sat up.

The first thing he noticed was the smell. Distant but growing, the odor was unmistakable—it was the same as last night. Hunter shuddered, slumped down in bed, and pulled the covers over his head. Underneath the blanket he had already begun to quake and shiver. The near suffocating warmth of the goose down comforter was no match for the chills and shivers pulsing through him. Hunter closed his eyes, praying the smell wasn’t the preamble to a repeat of the night before.

He curled into a tight ball, fetal, as he heard the creak of his bedroom door opening. He squeezed his eyes together and listened as the bottom of the door whispered across the wood floor, followed by the sound of a footstep. Hunter stuck his thumb in his mouth, something he hadn’t done since he’d been a small boy, barely aware he was doing it.

Another footstep. Hunter could swear the feet sounded wet, as if they’d come from a marsh. There was a soft squishing sound.

“Hunter.”

A whispering voice, raspy, cut through the darkness, distinct. Hunter tightened all his muscles and whimpered.

“Hunter.” There was warm, throaty laughter.

Slowly the blanket covering him began to move down. Hunter lay frozen, paralyzed. He felt the cold night air rush over him as the warmth was drawn away. The comforter continued to move downward, almost of its own accord, until Hunter lay exposed and shivering.

The laughter came again, almost a croaking. Hunter sucked in his breath, his heart thundering in his chest. In spite of the icy air in the house, his face was slick with sweat. Hunter didn’t want to breathe. Each inhalation forced him to take in a stench so powerful it coated his lungs in wetness and decay.

Hunter dared to open his eyes. Above him loomed… nothing. The darkness of the room was complete. Although he was certain he hadn’t done it, the heavy draperies had been drawn across all his windows, shutting out the moonlight. All Hunter saw was darkness so complete he felt he could reach out and touch it, scoop it up by the handful.

“Hunter.”

A_Demon_Inside_Final copy

The voice continued to whisper his name, teasing. He couldn’t place where the voice emanated.

“I’ve come to see you again tonight.”

Hunter rolled onto his side, pulling his hands up over his ears. He could feel a weird sense of calm course through him as his terror began to morph into a peculiar numbness. Was this what going into shock felt like? Hunter pushed himself to speak, whispering the words into the pitch. “Who are you? What do you want?”

The response was a booming laugh that made him want to scream.

“I want you, of course. You, Hunter.”

“Get out of here!” Hunter at last shrieked. All sorts of thoughts came to him at once, the most prominent being that Michael Burt, no matter how clever, how deranged, how evil, could not be responsible for this. If anything, this was hysteria, Hunter’s own mind luring him into madness, causing hallucinations, trying to scare him away from the house for a reason he could not fathom.

It felt like the thing in his room—and he still couldn’t see anything but darkness—was pure, unadulterated evil. This last thought was preposterous, wasn’t it? Thinking like that surely was insane.

Hunter swallowed and tried to reach deep down within himself to find some reserves of courage he wasn’t even sure he possessed. But if he didn’t fight back, this thing—whoever or whatever it was—would win and would oust him. And if there was one thing he was sure of, it was that this thing wanted him out.

But this was his home, and he was not going to be forced out by a few bumps in the night. He sat up slowly as he allowed his terror to turn to rage. Even though he had the unshakeable and deeply disquieting fear that someone was there in the room with him, someone who meant him great harm, he forced himself to get up from his bed and shout, “Get the hell out of here. This is mine. Do you understand? Mine!”

Hunter had to cover his ears, sinking to his knees as the room filled with screams, sighs, groans, and laughter. All of it deep and penetrating, all of it at a roaring, ear-splitting volume, degenerating finally into a cacophony of voices, all speaking it once, unintelligible.

Hunter had no words left. He slumped to the floor and simply screamed. He trembled, falling forward and covering his head with his hands.

The room went silent.

And then the laughter began again, softly at first, hardly above a whisper.

“Hunter. I’m going to fuck you. Just wait.”

Hunter dragged himself to the bedside table, groped upward, and switched on the lamp.

The room was empty.

Hunter pulled himself up and moved to the mirror above the dresser. His face was completely white, eyes bulging slightly. Panting, he watched as the color slowly seeped back into his face. He reached out and touched his reflected image and then jerked his hand away from the icy glass. He touched his face, noting it was almost as cold as the glass. He looked deep into his own eyes, staring into the blackness of the pupil, trying to peer into that darkness, to see if somewhere inside lay the answer to his terror.

Completely unbidden, a tear fell, followed by three more. Hunter sniffed and forced himself to stop. He pulled the draperies open. To his dark-adapted eyes, the room filled with silver moonlight, almost day-bright.

And it was empty.

 

 

Rick R. Reed Biography Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.” Web: http://www.rickrreed.com  Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/ Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed. E-mail: jimmyfels@gmail.com

 

BUY LINKS

DSP Publications ebook: http://www.dsppublications.com/books/a-demon-inside-by-rick-r-reed-138-b

DSP Publications paperback: http://www.dsppublications.com/books/a-demon-inside-by-rick-r-reed-139-b

Amazon ebook http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Inside-Rick-R-Reed-ebook/dp/B0145S7EMO/

Amazon paperback http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Inside-Rick-R-Reed/dp/1634761065/

 

 

 

 

Lesbians on the Loose: Tales of Murder, Mayhem and Suspense

Lesbians on the Loose

edited by

Lori L Lake and Jessie Chandler

 

Blurb:

These tales of murder, mayhem, and suspense by some of today’s finest crime writers will keep you up way past your bedtime!

LesbiansontheLoose
The lesbians on the loose in this collection are an entertaining mix of protagonists: cops, amateur sleuths, a PI, a judge, a bounty hunter, and one very insightful dog. There’s even an intrepid high schooler and a mystery writer.
Despite greed and grief, rage and revenge, secrets and lies, many of the stories feature humor from a variety of characters trying to find their way in a difficult world–cops who’ve seen too much, revenge seekers, and women who want justice for themselves and others.

You won’t regret going on the lam with these terrific writers: Elizabeth Sims, Carsen Taite, SY Thompson, Andi Marquette, Linda M. Vogt, VK Powell, Kate McLachlan, Lori L. Lake, Lynn Ames, Sandra de Helen, Jen Wright, Sue Hardesty, Jessie Chandler, J.M. Redmann, and Katherine V. Forrest

 

An interview between the co-editors:

http://tinyurl.com/oysqz44

 

The book trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FG4uGwUWkw

 

The buy links:

Bella: http://www.bellabooks.com/9781633040311e-prod.html

Or

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00X08X9A2