All posts by Melanie

THE HOUSE AT LADYWELL by Nicola Slade #CrookedCat #extract

ladywellTHE HOUSE AT LADYWELL

by

NICOLA SLADE

 

LADYWELL

Genre: Contemporary romance with historical interludes

Release Date: 14th November 2017

Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

A hare carved in stone and the scent of flowers in a house full of echoes – can Freya’s inheritance help her to leave the past behind? 

Had I gone completely crazy that first day? To open the door, take one astonished look round, and decide on the spot that I would live there?

To fall in love with a house?’

When Freya Gibson inherits an old, run-down property she has no idea she is the last in a long line of redoubtable women, including the Tudor nun who built the house. Unknown to Freya these women, over centuries, fought with whatever weapons came to hand – deception, endurance, even murder – to preserve their home and family.

Freya falls in love with the house but her inheritance includes an enigmatic letter telling her to ‘restore the balance’ of the Lady’s Well. Besides this, the house seems to be haunted by the scent of flowers.

In the past the Lady’s Well was a place of healing and Freya soon feels safe and at home, but she has demons of her own to conquer before she can accept the happiness that beckons.

 **********

EXTRACT

 

‘Something I’d failed to mention to anyone: not to Louise, not when I was enthusing to Patrick, and certainly not to the helpful solicitor, was the letter that had been waiting for me on that first day.

Beside the front door stood a small table on which sat an old walkabout phone in a base station, and two envelopes, one large and the other letter-sized. The smaller envelope was addressed to me.

The handwriting straggled shakily across the page and the contents of the letter startled me.

When you were born I knew you were the one. Before anything else you must go into the garden and pick some flowers. It doesn’t matter what you pick: in winter look for leaves, rosemary or winter jasmine, but if it’s summer pick simple flowers – a rose, a sprig of yellow broom, nothing fancy. Pick what you can and weave them into a wreath made from the rowan tree – you’ll know it by the wooden bench underneath. Hang it on the hook inside the front door.

When that’s done, say the words written below, making sure you’re alone. My grandmother had the verse from her own grandmother and so on. I expect the words have altered over time but the spirit remains the same. Show reverence when you do these things but do this first of all. You must not delay.

You must restore the balance.’

 

It had been a sleety February day, with flowers few and far between but I persevered, driven by the sense of urgency in the letter. I found secateurs in the kitchen. The rosemary was easy, a great, straggling bush standing sentinel by the path, with yellow winter jasmine spread against the wall. In a sheltered spot I found a clump of snowdrops and, to my delight, a primrose or two.

I had to stand on the bench to snip a couple of pliable twigs from the rowan, and back in the house I bent them into a makeshift circle and threaded in the flowers and leaves. Still under the compulsion I’d felt on reading the letter I stood on a chair to hang my creation on the waiting hook.

Saying the words Violet had written made me pause.

‘It sounds like a spell,’ I half-whispered, hushed by the strangeness of it all. Was Violet a witch? Wasn’t this all complete nonsense? I read the words again and summoned up my rusty Latin vocabulary, almost forgotten since ‘A’ Level. ‘Domina means lady; something about water? And leporum – rabbit? No,’ I corrected myself. ‘Lepus is a hare, and benedic – any kind of blessing can’t be bad.’

There was something about the place that I couldn’t explain. I felt safe and – odd as it sounds – wrapped in loving arms. The house was filled with a friendly silence and I felt comforted for the first time in ages. What harm could it do to obey Violet’s last instructions when she given me this precious gift?

I took a deep breath and bowed my head before the ring of twigs and flowers, not in prayer but in a kind of grateful submission, as I quietly murmured the Latin words, stumbling over a rough translation in my head…’

 

BUY LINKS

 

AMAZON UK – http://amzn.to/2iprcIs

AMAZON US – http://amzn.to/2j2t3Cz

**********

ABOUT NICOLA SLADE

 

LADYWELL

Nicola Slade had her first short stories published in her early twenties and wrote for children and for women’s magazines while her three children were growing up.

Nicola’s books are all set in Hampshire and include the romantic comedy, ‘Scuba Dancing’, and two cosy mystery series. The Charlotte Richmond books set in 1858 feature a young widow with a shady past and a habit of stumbling over the occasional corpse and the contemporary Harriet Quigley mysteries, featuring a retired headmistress and her cousin and sidekick, the Rev. Sam Hathaway.

Nicola lives in Hampshire with her husband, and as well as writing she belongs to a local art workshop; among other things she has been a Brown Owl and an antiques dealer.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/nicolasladeuk/

Twitter @nicolasladeuk

Blog: www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com

Website: www.nicolaslade.com

**********

GIVEAWAY

 

AN ECOPY OF THE ART OF MURDER X 2

ladywell

a Rafflecopter giveaway

THE TRUTH ABOUT YOU, ME AND US by Kate Field #giveaway

truth

The TRUTH about YOU, ME and US

by

Kate Field

 

truth

Genre: Contemporary women’s fiction

Release Date: 25 August 2017

Publisher: Accent Press

Sometimes the hardest person to be honest with is yourself…

Five years ago Helen Walters walked out on her ‘perfect’ life with the ‘perfect’ man. Wealthy, glamorous and bored, she longed for something more.

Now a talented artist with a small business, Helen creates crazy patchwork crafts to support her young daughter, Megan. Penniless, content and single, she is almost unrecognisable.

But when her past unexpectedly collides with her new life, Helen finds herself torn. She knows what the easiest choice is, but is it what she wants?

BUY LINK

http://amzn.to/2vqo9Fm

ABOUT KATE FIELD

truth

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,

where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers in 2017.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateFieldAuthor/

Twitter: @katehaswords

GIVEAWAY

2 paperback copies of the book are up for grabs!
(open internationally)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FOX HALT FARM by Celia Moore #guestpost #giveaway #romance

fox halt farm

Fox Halt Farm

by

Celia Moore

 

fox halt farm

Genre: Romance

Release Date: 1st November 2017

FOX HALT FARM is a compelling love story set over two decades with a backdrop of atmospheric Dartmoor, Devon. Perfect for fans of ROMANCE – this is a powerful and CAPTIVATING READ.

Opening on a cliff edge, Billy finds herself alone and betrayed. She believes everyone and everything she loves is threatened.

Richard’s world is aglow with wealth, love and unswerving family loyalty but then his perfect life crosses Billy’s. He could save Billy, her beloved dairy cows and Fox Halt Farm but this young woman isn’t in the mood to be rescued.

Nothing will stay the same. Should they trust each other? Will their secrets tear their lives apart?

Fox Halt Farm is going to be hard to put down. The story cracks along and you are caught up in Celia Moore’s vivid storytelling from the start. If you love novels by Jill Mansell, Maeve Binchy and Danielle Steel you will love this too!

Billy and Richard’s story will tug on your heart-strings.  This novel is emotive, enthralling and so real – this is what could happen when two very different worlds collide.

 

EXTRACT

PART ONE

CHAPTER 1

RICHARD MARCFENN

(SATURDAY 12 JULY 1986)

There must be at least twenty irregular steps to negotiate before we reach our honeymoon hotel. I can see that my petite wife is wishing that she hadn’t worn her million dollar heels, which were never fashioned for this unforgiving terrain.

I catch something in the edge of my vision. I screw my head towards Janette, ‘Did you see that? Darling! Did you see?’

‘No. What?’ She is still focused on the steps.

‘I thought I saw something falling,’ I point at the jagged headland and I tell her, ‘I must check it out!’

Straightaway, I abandon my wife and charge ahead to the edge of the cliff.

My eyes are scrutinising the white beach far below. Nothing…

I search harder. I feel exhausted. The journey to this remote Greek island was so much longer than we expected and leaving straight from our wedding was definitely a mistake.

Concentrate! My straining eyes pick up the tiniest movement, or maybe my ears sense the faintest noise. I am aware of something, a laugh maybe?

As I make out a small indistinct shape at the bottom of the cliff, my heart pumps my blood too fast. A vein throbs in the middle of my forehead and I mouth horrified questions to no-one, ‘A child? Did they fall?’

I think I hear the haunting noise again, the ghost of another laugh?

*

Janette is watching me from the verandah of the hotel. She is with a tall woman, whose white skin is shadowed by a straw hat. My wife swipes a wayward strand of her hair away from her face, while her companion links her fingers over a pregnant bump. As I run back, I see a young man approaching them – a native islander with a confident swagger. I shout but they can’t hear me.

When they do understand, the man straightaway nods towards a steep path leading to the beach below, ‘I come with you,’ He barks before yelling back at the pregnant woman, ‘Get someone with boat there!’

‘Okay.’ From the tone of her reply it is difficult to know if she is willing, or bored?

Janette’s doe eyes look frightened, she tells me, ‘Sorry Rich, that path is too precarious. I can’t come with you. Be careful luvva.’

I kiss her, ‘I’ll be fine, please don’t worry. I love you!’

BUY LINKS

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

STOP PRESS: On special offer until 1st December! Only 99p!

**********

Designing my cover. The history behind the cover of Fox Halt Farm:

‘I have thoughts about your cover – not sure it does your book any favours…’ Those words came in an unexpected message from my wonderful mentor author Beth Webb in April. She was right of course – and so began a journey.

When Beth’s message appeared on my phone, I was blind to the importance of the design– I didn’t appreciate how vital the cover of a book plays in securing readers. Now of course, I find myself analysing every cover I come across.

Version 1:

fox halt farm

‘Give him a very clear brief – two or three paragraphs about the plot – what age group it’s for male/female readers – what emotion you want to get across.’

I wrote a six-page brief (with lots of images) to the recommended designer and he told me ‘Good thorough brief by the way, you’d be amazed how rarely I get as much to work on.’ But despite this all my ideas were lost in translation! He said ‘a hunky man with no shirt holding a woman in a flowing dress seem to be almost universal… At the very least we may have to have a bit of snogging going on.’ This led to an uneasy truce…

Version 2:

fox halt farm

I showed the potential cover to people and there was a lot of head shaking – I felt I had to go back to the drawing board – I deliberated long and hard – I wanted something unusual, a thought provoking concept, which was eye-catching.

This was when I decided to make my own oil painting from an imagined scene in my book. But then doubts began to creep in again – it wasn’t startling enough and this was how Version 3 was born.

Version 3:fox halt farm

I liked this cover but having carried out a lot of research amongst many ladies, I discovered this was design was giving a murder mystery message –Fox Halt Farm was a thriller perhaps? – The most critical feedback came from my husband – again unexpected and uninvited – but all the same, 99% of the time he is right! and he said the image looked like a poster for the local amateur dramatic society’s latest production!

And the winner is… Version 4! Just simple and effective… the best feedback for this final version, which is based on my original oil painting was unexpected too – I showed it to one of my friends who read my first draft of Fox Halt Farm and I watched as she wiped away a tear in her eye – and then another reader of my first draft said it brought a lump to her throat – I feel at last, the cover reflects the story I have to tell.

Final Version:

fox halt farm

There is a footnote I want to add to this story – this has been a tricky voyage and one I expect that rings true with many other authors – I see so many posts about angst over book covers – many authors of course have little say in the design their publisher uses – it was wonderful to be able to have the ability to choose mine – but I just want to say that there is one person I feel particularly indebted to. He came along when I was probably at my lowest point with this – and this is the testimonial I wrote for him, Harrison is just starting out and I think he can only succeed, ‘I contacted Harrison Pidgeon with my proposed images for my book cover and he carefully and thoughtfully created a stunning cover for me.  This was done in a very tight timescale and I can only say I am delighted with everything. I shall definitely be using this talented designer again. I think what impressed me most was the way he listened to what I wanted and made intelligent and clever suggestions to improve the design. I also liked the way that he wrote a clear and concise account of what he had done.  Thank you Harrison – it is so nice in a world full of a ‘that’ll do attitude’ to find a person who really cares about doing a job well. You exceeded my expectations!’.

Fox Halt Farm – a powerful romantic saga is £0.99 for a limited time – Available to purchase now from Amazon.

About Celia Moore

fox halt farm

Celia Moore was born in Devon, England, and grew up on a farm. Celia left the farm to have a successful career as a Chartered Surveyor working in the City district of London.

In 2000 she left the office life behind to start a new adventure of becoming an outdoor instructor and taught rock climbing, mountaineering, canoeing and even skiing, archery, rifle shooting and mountain biking. She managed an outdoor residential centre until she met her husband and now she is concentrating on gardening for a few lovely customers, running and writing.

Born fifty years ago this year, Celia has been creative ever since – from explaining why there are no chocolate biscuits left when visitors arrive, to writing glowing particulars for ugly properties; from encouraging people to have a go at a scary abseil, oil painting and writing. Celia loves it all but especially the gardening, running and the writing!

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/celiamoore.books/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/celiascosmos/

Pintrest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/celiascosmos/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/celia-moore-5602129b/

Blog: https://www.celiascosmos.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CeliaMooreBooks

GIVEAWAY

£20 / $20 AMAZON VOUCHER

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

IF I WANT YOU by Rachel Brimble ~ #new #romantic suspense #giveaway

wantIf I Want You

by

Rachel Brimble

wantGenre: Romantic Suspense

Release Date: Nov 8th 2017

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

When local journalist, Tori Peterson, fails to prevent a child abduction outside her niece’s school, her horror and guilt sparks a vow to do whatever it takes to get little Abby Brady home to her parents.

While Tori battles the vile memories of her own kidnapping as a child, she accepts the help of widowed father, Mark Bolton. As he and Tori join forces with the local police, their attraction and intimacy grows…along with their fears for Abby.

Links are uncovered between Abby’s disappearance and Tori’s kidnapping, and Tori is forced to accept the monster who held her captive is back. But this time, Tori is all grown up, and there is no way she will let him hurt another little girl.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

EXTRACT

It wasn’t the just the smell of fresh air and sandalwood that alerted Tori to the fact Mark had joined them. It was the way his shadow fell over her as though covering her body with his wide, deep and potentially dangerous protectiveness.

She didn’t bother to look at him…even though her Cally was seriously looking. Tori lifted her hand in a half-hearted wave. “Take a seat, superhero.”

“I will.” He sat beside her. “Thank you.”

Every now and then, when she was alone at home, she’d picked up a book. And every now and then, Tori would toss the book across the room whenever she read the words, “the air crackled between them.” Well, whatever instantly plagued the atmosphere between her and Mark as she forced her gaze to his, she was loath to call it crackling. Maybe humming… screaming… burning… but definitely not crackling.

She swallowed. “What are you doing here?”

“Olivia’s staying at a friend’s. I was at a loose end.”

Despite her best efforts to fight her smile, it was ruthless and broke through her barriers like they were made of sugar paper. “Loose end, my ass. You were no doubt pacing around the house and doing everything you could not to get in the car and go get her.”

He smiled and put a glass on the table. “Merlot, right?”

ABOUT RACHEL BRIMBLE

want

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. Since 2013, she has had seven books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and an eighth coming in Jan 2018. She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical Press.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachelbrimbleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelBrimble?lang=en

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelbrimbleauthor/?hl=en

Blog: http://rachelbrimble.blogspot.co.uk/

Website: http://rachelbrimble.com/

GIVEAWAY

£20/$20 Amazon gift certificate

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CHRISTMAS AT BAY TREE COTTAGE by Linn B Halton #Christmas #giveaway

christmasChristmas at Bay Tree Cottage

by

Linn B. Halton

christmasGenre: Romance/women’s contemporary/holidays

Release Date: 3 Nov 2017

Publisher: Harper Impulse

The countdown to Christmas is usually a magical time, but Elana James is fed up with living on a building site! The renovations on her beautiful cottage – like her heart – have been frozen in limbo ever since she was unexpectedly widowed.

Elana calls in a professional, Luke Stevenson, to help finish the cottage, so her little girl can send letters to Santa up the newly-repaired chimney. Luke’s kind, capable and sexy – but he’s also ten years younger than Elana. So why has her heart decided it’s finally time for a thaw?

The perfect read to curl up by the fire with … for fans of Rebecca Boxall.

EXTRACT

 ‘Mum, can we light the log fire tonight?’ Maya looks up at me with eager eyes.

‘I think we should wait until the weekend, darling. There isn’t really time to appreciate it on a school night, is there? Besides, I’m not even sure whether there are any logs left in the store. I promise to get it sorted as soon as I can.’

It was Niall’s job, sorting the fire. He would have booked the chimney sweep in early autumn and had the logs all ready and waiting, stacked neatly against the back wall of the garage. Ironically, last year I was much more organised. I suppose it was one of my coping mechanisms during those raw, early weeks and months. Keep going; keep doing something – anything, so I didn’t have to listen to what was in my head. But I feel bad. Maya will remember that this time last year we spent every evening huddled together on the sofa in front of the fire, reading. Hour upon hour we escaped into alternative worlds inspired by some wonderful authors. Roald Dahl’s Matilda, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and Maya’s favourite, Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch, a story of tenderness and triumph.

It was the very worst of times, but I focused on getting us through it one day at a time. My gut instinct, immediately after the accident, had been to sell the cottage just to escape that prevailing sense that something was missing. Niall was no longer here and it would never, ever be the same again. But soon realisation dawned that Maya needed a sense of continuity; the memories trapped within these walls were a lifeline for her, although a cruelly painful reminder for me. In a way she feels her dad is still here and I can’t take that away from her.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

ABOUT LINN B HALTON

christmas

Bristol-born Linn lives in the Forest of Dean, in the UK. She resides there with her lovely husband and cat, Ziggy. She has been writing novels since 2009 and has written short stories for a number of magazines. She is also known for her series of ‘Home by Design’ articles wearing her former interior designer hat.

“I’m a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic, and lover of coffee. For me, life is about family, friends, and writing. Oh, and the occasional glass of White Grenache …”

An Amazon UK Top 100 best-selling author with A Cottage in the Country in November 2015, Under The Stars also became a best-selling novel in November 2016. Linn’s novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

Linn writes chick lit, romantic comedy, women’s contemporary fiction and psychic romance. Publishers include Harper Impulse, Choc Lit and Endeavour Press.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LinnBHaltonAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LinnBHalton

Goodreads Author Page: http://ow.ly/mk3H30atV5h

Website:  http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

COMPETITION – No purchase necessary

A pamper kit (UK only)

christmas

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ALWAYS WITH YOU by Hannah Ellis ~ #excerpt #giveaway

hannah

Always with You

by

Hannah Ellis

 

hannahRelease Date: 3rd Oct 2017

A secret kept for more than twenty years. A daughter intent on finding the truth…

In 1994, twenty-one-year-old Evelyn Taylor left England to backpack around Australia. When she stopped off in the dusty outback town of Kununurra, she never expected to fall in love with the place – and the people. But Joe Sullivan captured her heart, and when her fun-filled year in Australia came to an end, saying goodbye to him was the hardest thing she’d ever done.

In 2017, Evelyn’s daughter, Libby, embarks on her own Australian adventure. Grief-stricken following her mother’s death, she’s determined to find the father she never met.

Little does she know that digging up the past will be more complicated than she ever imagined.

http://amzn.to/2i38vcI

http://amzn.to/2yPpNnv

Excerpt

I was happy to see Cam and his family turn up only a few minutes later. They had spent their Christmas Day on the river. Three boats pulled up to the riverbank and the rowdy occupants announced their arrival with whoops and cheers and a few of them singing “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” at the top of their lungs.

“How’s my favourite British chick?” Cam asked, giving me a hug. “Having a good Christmas?”

“Yeah,” I said, my thoughts still lingering on Joe and Beth and wondering what had happened. “It’s been really good.”

“It’s about to get better,” he said. “I’m teaching you to water-ski.”

I frowned. “I saw a croc down there earlier.”

“You better learn to stay up on your feet then,” he said with a grin. Then he turned to shout, “Evelyn’s first attempt at waterskiing coming up! Someone get a camera and everyone gather round for a laugh!”

“Thanks!” I said, following him to the boat.

It was so much fun. To everyone’s delight, it took me a while to get the hang of it, and there were a few hilarious false starts which saw me nose-diving into the water. Then I got a feel for it and managed to get up out of the water. Cam steered the boat down the river, picking up speed as we left the house behind. He glanced back occasionally and shouted encouragement.

“Let’s turn around and show them what a pro you are,” he said after a while. We headed back and a cheer arose as we passed the house with me standing relatively confidently on the skis. Joe had returned and I caught his eye. I was having such a great time and laughed loudly before we left everyone behind again. On my next drive by, I got a bit cocky and lifted an arm to wave. Disaster. I let the rope go as I lost my balance and crashed spectacularly into the water. Below the surface, I spent a moment upside down and confused before hitting the air again, coughing and spluttering. Joe was at the riverbank and crouched to my level.

“You okay?”

“Think so,” I said, choking and reaching for his hand. “I lost the skis somewhere.”

“Don’t worry about it. Cam’ll get them. You scared me for a minute. Thought I was gonna have to brave the crocs and jump in after you!”

He pulled me out in one movement and I stumbled on my jelly legs, falling into him. “You okay?” he asked again.

“What happened?” Cam shouted, turning the boat around. “You think you’re the queen, giving everyone the royal wave?”

“I thought I was getting good,” I said, laughing.

About Hannah Ellis

hannah

Hannah Ellis lives in Munich with her husband and two little boys. She’s originally from England and has lived in America, Australia and Ireland. As well as writing, she also teaches English to kindergarten kids. In her spare time she likes to read books, drink tea and eat chocolate. She goes jogging regularly but hasn’t decided if she really enjoys it or not. She’s a huge fan of sunshine and the many Munich beer gardens.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/novelisthannahellis/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksEllis

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14219556.Hannah_Ellis

Website: www.authorhannahellis.com

GIVEAWAY

A signed paperback copy of the book (open internationally)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#excerpt ~ YESTERDAY TODAY ALWAYS

#EXCERPT

#EXCERPT from Chapter 1

While Katherine fumbled with her key, the handsome man’s steely blue eyes bored through her. A bead of sweat formed at the base of her skull and slowly trickled down her back. She became cotton-mouthed. No longer a silly teenager, why did he still have this effect on her after all this time?

When she finally managed to keep her hand steady enough to insert the key and turn it, he spun her around and mashed his mouth on hers. His tongue teased her lips open and he pulled her to him. Her pulse quickened and she let herself melt into his strong arms, those years apart, non-existent.

“If we don’t soon go for that drink, I won’t be responsible for my actions.” His voice was husky.

At that particular moment, Katherine wanted time to stand still. Pressed against him was a place she could spend the rest of her life. She nuzzled her head into the hollow at the crook of his neck and hugged him tighter. He caressed her forehead before disentangling himself from her grip and wrapped his arm around her.

The tang of the salty North Sea and fumes from the ships in the harbour lingered in the heavy air. Those smells, while powerful, couldn’t mask the seductive aroma of men’s cologne. When they dated before, he wore Hugo. Was he wearing that now? Held next to his muscular body and inhaling his scent, Katherine lost her balance and toppled into him when one of her stiletto heels slipped into a crack between the cobbles. Despite the streetlights, shadows formed. The gaps between fixtures were dark. No wonder she twisted her ankle.

“Are you all right?”

“Just a bit clumsy. You would never know I walk this street every day in these boots. I feel like an arse.” Her cheeks burned from the heat of her blush.

BUY LINKS

amazon

Books a Million

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

#excerpt

A Haunted Headstone?

haunted headstone

In keeping with the spooky atmosphere of the evening, I give you one of my short stories. The cemetery I based this story around is located just west of my hometown.

I chose the particular headstone because it’s set off by itself on a bit of a hill surrounded by trees.

I hope you enjoy this seasonal piece.

A Halloween Tale

Brian and Emily clambered off their bicycles in front of a large three-storey, red brick house in the western end of the city. A huge sign bearing a wildcat and the words B&B hung from a post in the yard. “Is this the place?” he asked.

“I think so.” She slid her heavy rucksack off, dug into its small outer pocket, and pulled out the confirmation e-mail. Scanning the document, she checked the house and guidepost. “Yes. We’re here.”

Emily slung her pack over one shoulder. They walked their bikes to the side of the house and leaned them against the wall before going to the door. She reached out to ring the bell. At the same instant, the inside door opened. Startled, she jumped back.

“You’re the Wolvertsons? I’ve been expecting you.” The grey-haired, bespectacled woman craned her neck to see past them. “Where is your car?”

“We rode,” he said.

“Come in, you must be exhausted. Your room is this way.”

Hands clasped, the young couple accompanied the proprietor to their room.

“Here you are. Breakfast runs from seven to nine o’clock. You’re on your own for lunches and suppers but the town has a number of places for a good meal.”

“Thank you, Mrs. …, ” he began.

“Griffin, but you can call me Miriam”

Meanwhile, Emily had walked to the window. The street below bustled. “We passed a couple of cemeteries west of here.” She turned to face Brian and their hostess. “What can you tell us about them?”

The woman’s face went pale. “Y-you don’t want to be going to the necropolis on the south side of the road. Rumor has it, it’s frequented by spirits.”

“We do. I think my ancestors are buried there and that’s why we came. We’re researching our family tree and want to take some rubbings of the ancestral slabs and photograph them for the book we’re writing.”

“If you think you must go, go early in the day so you’re out well before dark.”

She dropped to the bed and ran her hand over the white duvet. “Tell us more. This sounds intriguing.”

“Two hundred years ago this Halloween that Emily McPherson went away. My, but your name is Emily, too, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Please go on.”

Brian sat down put his arm around Emily’s shoulders.

“The story goes a young girl lost her fiancé – an infantryman – in a dreadful accident in the first part of the war of 1812. His ship was carrying a load of dynamite and it exploded. The blast killed everyone on board.”

“What does that have to do with the churchyard?”

“Well, they say she visited his entombment every day until her disappearance and was there as always when a terrible storm blew up and folks never saw her again. A blood curdling shriek was heard over the crashing – and then nothing. Silence. The disturbance cleared as quickly as it had formed. Alarmed by the horrendous noise that came from the direction of the graveyard, some men sprang into action. When they reached the location where the poor, bereft young woman spent most of her time, she was gone. No indication of a scuffle. No suggestion someone dragged her off – just the bluish phosphorescence surrounding the headstone. From that night on, no one had ever set foot in that corner. You understand why it is imperative you’re out of there before dark.”

“What a tragic, yet romantic tale. We must find that grave.” Her eyes sparkled.

“We will but in the morning. Today, we scope out the town.” Brian stood and helped her up from the bed. “Thanks for sharing that. Em, here, well she’s a pushover for a burial ground and a love story.”

***

Outside, Emily wrapped her arms around Brian’s waist. “I wish we didn’t have to wait.”

“Come on. If anything untoward is going to happen there, it will be tomorrow on the actual day. Not today.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she muttered.

Brian took her hand and they walked tothe town’s centre, stopping first at the local repository where the genealogical society housed its archives.

Emily scanned the floor to ceiling shelves lined with books, binders, maps and the society’s own publications. If the young woman’s exodus were such a big deal, then there had to be something written about it. She discovered a notebook of newspaper clippings dating back to the commencement of 1812, sat down at one of the tables and flipped through it. Emily ferreted out the piece about the detonation and couldn’t believe how much detail the press included on the crews’ injuries. Still, she removed a page and made a photocopy. A few pages later, she found the other including a photo of the alleged sinister chamber. haunted headstoneWhile she perused those, he busied himself with the old charts. Two older women came down the stairs as she photocopied the article. They spoke in hushed tones about the anniversary of the McPherson girl’s departure. Armed with the information she wanted, Emily and Brian left the museum and went to a nearby pub for lunch. Over a pint and burger, they shared their findings.

“According to the one, Emily’s engagement occurred on June 1st and her fiancé died the second,” she said, taking a sip of beer.

The longer they stayed, the more uncomfortable Emily became. The people pointed and stared at her, like they were comparing her to the long-since missing girl. “Let’s leave. These people are creeping me out.”

“If you want.” Brian picked up his glass and draining the last of it.

After exiting, they wandered in and out of some of the more eclectic stores on the main street. In a second-hand shop, Emily bought a cherry amber pendant. Another young couple entered, talking about the city of the dead as she fastened the clasp.

“They say that tomb is haunted.”

“Yeah, I know. Even in the daylight people don’t go near it.”

On their return to the B&B, she emptied the contents of her backpack on the bed ensuring she had everything she needed for their trek. Camera, extra batteries, blank newsprint, and charcoal sticks in a baggie. She added the photocopies to the essentials and repacked her bag.

***

The next morning, Miriam begged them to reconsider visiting the ossuary. “It’s just all the talk about how the unfortunate girl vanished and this being the bicentenary,” she moaned, wringing her hands.

“We’re leaving as soon as we’re finished eating so will be back long before it gets dark,” Brian reassured her. “If it makes you feel better, we’ll stop here before we go to supper.”

Emily slipped on her leather riding gloves and heaved her pack on her back. “Don’t worry. We’ll be back late this afternoon.” Hesitating by the front door, she turned back. “Bye. We’ll see you later,” she called cheerily as they exited.

It took about five minutes to reach the cemetery’s entrance. After dismounting, they walked their cycles down the winding road and parked them against a bench near the river. She took her Canon out and shot a few wide angle shots of the area for comparison later on.

Since they hadn’t gotten away as timely as they would have liked, Emily decided they should split up so they could cover twice as much territory. She gave Brian some of the sheets of printing paper and a couple of the anthracite crayons. He had a point and shoot Kodak so could take pictures as well as rubbings.

A row of white tombstones, beginning with two substantial memorials followed by some smaller, all of the same design, caught Emily’s eye and she walked to them. It appeared to be parents, and their ten children. She carefully photographed each one planning on looking into the family at a later date. Emily glanced over her shoulder. Brian had worked his way out to an earlier section adjacent to the highway.

Walking along the narrow road, she spotted a flight of stone steps leading to a spot sheltered by trees. As she climbed them, she noticed a small marker next to a bathtub-like sarcophagus. Up on the rock about four feet higher than the terrain where she stood, a solitary tribute occupied the plot. Emily pulled the copied articles out of her holdall. This matched the one in the copy. The thick canopy of poplar, pine, and maple trees kept the space in darkness even at his time of day. A gust of wind rustled through the treetops overhead and a leaf fluttered to the ground, landing on the covering of brightly colored autumn leaves. What was once a stately oak stood guard over the site; its trunk and remaining branch denuded of bark and pocked with woodpecker holes.

haunted headstoneUp close, the tombstone didn’t look menacing. Emily walked around it, feeling its roughness under her fingertips, and read the epitaph. It told the sad tale of a young man who expired away tragically in a ship’s explosion. She took a picture of the wording.

“Brian, come quick.” She turned and swung her arms to get his attention. “I think this is the monument.”

He lifted his head and waved back but made no attempt to approach.

When he didn’t respond a second time to her calls, she scampered off the crag, pausing to take more photos then ran to him, stumbling over the uneven ground. Breathless when she reached Brian, Emily found it difficult to tell him she had identified the cenotaph of the young soldier.

“You’ll remember where it was? I’d like to get some rubbings of the ones in this precinct. Let me finish up here and we’ll head over.” He pulled her to him and kissed her forehead.

Another one with a worn but interesting inscription soon held their interest. They were engrossed with it – Emily with her digital SLR and Brian with the paper and carbon. They were so preoccupied they didn’t notice the skies darkening.

haunted headstoneNot wanting to leave without a final visit to the shrine, she ran off towards it, with him following. It was dusk when they reached it. They drew nearer and the hairs on the back of Emily’s neck stood on end.

Suddenly, the sky turned black. The intensity of the city’s streetlights no longer visible. Emily couldn’t see him, yet they were only arms’ length apart. A brilliant flash of lightning and a simultaneous, deafening clap of thunder frightened her and she screamed. The pungent smell of ozone filled the air. The tall masterpiece now bathed in that ominous cerulean glow, made her entire body tingle.

***

The next day, when the owner of the B&B raised the alarm after they had failed to come back the night before, a search party went to the funerary grounds to look for them. Just as it was when Emily McPherson disappeared all those years ago, there were no signs of a struggle, no trace of the couple at all. At the stone’s base, one of the rescuers found a necklace – the same one the young woman was last seen wearing when she and her partner left for the cemetery. On the back was a message which read, ‘to my Emily June 1st, 1812. All my love B.W.’. The searchers looked at each other incredulously, then at the gravestone. B.W. – Brian Wolfe. Were these two people the ghosts of Emily and Brian?

*****

And here is the row of headstones belonging to the family near the haunted one on the hill.

haunted headstone

Strange phenomena? Coincidence? Or were Brian and Emily really the ghosts of the couple from long ago?

Cole’s Notes ~ a #short #story

Originally, Cole’s Notes were student guides to books in Canada. Their distinctive black and yellow striped covers stood out on the shelves and covered everyone from the works of William Shakespeare, to George Orwell, Harper Lee, JD Salinger on the literature side to guides to French, Spanish, using a slide rule, and Economics.

This version of Cole’s Notes is a bit different. Have a read…

Cole's Notes

Cole’s Notes

Cole pulled the heavy, oak door closed behind him. Gunmetal grey clouds gathered in the sky. A storm approached. An icy blast picked up the fallen, dried leaves and swirled them into the air. Not yet the middle of October, but the weather had been unseasonably cold this autumn. The hot, dry summer now a distant memory.

After he put up the hood of the fleece he wore beneath his worn, bomber jacket, Cole cupped his hands and blew to warm them. After, he zipped up his coat, shoved his fists into his front jeans pockets, and jogged down the steps.

At the intersection of Union Street and Bon Accord Terrace, the damp wind from the North Sea hit him like he walked into a granite wall. The tall buildings concentrated the gale and he pressed through the headwind. Would the storm hold off until he reached Starbucks? To beat the fast moving inclement weather, he quickened his pace.

A few steps short of his destination, the skies opened and the deluge began. Beneath the sheltered entrance, Cole yanked his wet hood down and shook his jacket, sending out a spray of droplets.

The queue formed in front of the counter and snaked through the shelving units. The narrow corridor between displays stocked with bags of coffee, ground and beans, mugs and travel cups, made him claustrophobic and he fidgeted while he waited his turn. Sweat gathered around his collar. At least the stools near the entrance remained vacant. The one at the end on the right he considered ‘his’. A cold trickle ran down his back as he counted the people ahead of him. No one could sit in his place.

“First, please,” the female clerk announced.

Not realizing she meant him, he twisted from one side to the other, and shuffled to the service desk.

“Your usual, Cole?”

Embarrassed, he cast his eyes towards his scruffy shoes and nodded. Jeannie was attractive and friendly. Sometimes if she had a moment when she wiped off the bar at the large, plate glass where he always sat, she spoke to him. His shyness prevented him from saying much in response, other than please, thank you and keep the change.

“Go get your place by the window and I’ll bring your drink over.”

Only one seat remained along the high counter-his favorite one. “Th-thank you.” He turned, mumbled and walked away.

A few minutes later, Jeannie placed his steaming hot, latte in front of him. “Enjoy, Cole.”

Her big, blue eyes sparkled like the sun on the North Sea. Her teeth were perfectly straight and white. Save for a single dark mole high on her cheekbone about an inch below her right eye, she had a flawless complexion. The beauty mark gave her an air of mystery and glamour. Still, she complained to co-workers and female customers about having surgery to remove the blemish. The discolouration made her unique.

If only he could work up the nerve to ask her out on a date so he could see the full length of her tresses. Unable to imagine her appearance with her hair falling around her face and possibly past her shoulders, he thanked her for the service.

After Jeannie left, Cole removed his grotty, black leather bound notebook from his inside breast pocket. The moleskin fell open to the page marked by a shabby, blue silk ribbon. People walked by the coffee shop, some carried umbrellas, others sheltered themselves from the rain under their briefcases or newspapers.

Next, Cole pulled out his Bic pens-red, black, and blue-and lined them up in precise military fashion on the worktop. After some deliberation, he chose the blue one, removed the cap, stuck it on the plug end, and chewed before putting pen to paper. Soon the ink flowed, and he worked furiously pausing briefly to sip his latte.

While she cleared away plates, mugs, and napkins from the vacancies left from the other customers along the counter, Jeannie asked, “What are you writing?”

Cole slammed his journal closed. The book belonged to him. For his eyes and no one else’s. Only he could read the words on those pages. “N-nothing.”

“You can tell me,” she said as she slid on the stool next to him. “I won’t tell anyone.”

“No.” He jammed the top back on his pen, and stuffed his belongings inside his jacket before he pushed his way past her and out the door.

***

 A week passed since Cole’s last drop in and his absence made Jeannie worry. Never had he been gone this long between his regular visits. A family visit elsewhere? Worst case scenario home sick with a cold or the flu.

Each time the door opened, she hoped to see him in the entrance. Every time someone else came in disappointment washed over her.

After closing one night when they cleaned up, her co-worker, Rick, discovered something. “Jeannie, come here.”

“What did you find?”

“Doesn’t this belong to your ‘boyfriend’, Cole?” He held a leather-bound book up in his hands. Some of the pages were beginning to fall out.

“Give me that!”

He lifted the folio higher. “What a weirdo. More than the rest of us, you should know that,” he taunted, waving the object in front of her beyond her reach.

Yelling in protest, she lunged towards him, and dislodged the jotter. The book landed on the tiles and Jeannie scrambled for it . “Now back off. What’s written in here is none of anyone’s business. I’ll drop by Cole’s place on my way home,” she said as she shoved the loose pages back inside.

“How do you know where he lives?”

“I’ll find out.” She stuffed the notebook into her apron pocket.

Later in the afternoon while on break, Jeannie pulled the worn possession out and turned it over in her hands. Beyond repair. What remained of the leather cover was brittle and cracked, so she handled the fragile item with care.

The last time she saw Cole, he fled from the coffee shop panicked because of her question. Certain he returned the moleskin to his pocket, and surprised Rick found it near his stool disturbed her. The contents were personal, but she wanted to open the diary and see why the man had been so secretive.

Did he drop the cherished object on the floor? She would have chased after him if she noticed. Should she peek inside the front cover? The information she needed to take back the property might be written there. If she found his address, she would stop her search and return his diary after her shift ended. Otherwise, she would keep the prized possession in her gigantic handbag until Cole returned.

***

After some serious thought, she opened the book. Nothing to identify him written in either location, but there in pen and ink, a sketch he drew of her, hair down, stared back from the pages. Descriptive text about her surrounded the image. Jeannie – kind, beautiful, friendly were a few recorded. Now intrigued, she turned the page.

Some of the sketches she recognized as people who frequented the coffee shop and snickered at the words chosen to for them.

Cole immortalized Rick between the worn covers, too. Unable to suppress her laughter at what he thought of her co-worker, she giggled. Pompous and arsewipe were her favourite adjectives.

Another sheet turned and Jeannie regretted her action. The person portrayed was a stranger to her, but labelled ‘Mother’. The word choice shocked her… ‘bitch, dark places, locked up, men, hooker, slut, hate you.’

All she wanted was to locate the information needed to return it, but didn’t find a name, address or telephone number. Curiosity piqued by the drawings and descriptions before her, Jeannie continued.

“Thought you weren’t going to look inside?” Rick sneered.

Startled by his voice, she slammed the notebook shut and shoved it back into her apron pocket. “Only looking for his address. Hoped he would have written something down near the front.”

At the end of her shift, she placed it in her huge handbag and went home to her flat. Murphy, her ginger and white cat greeted her with a hiss and a swat to her leg.

When she tossed her purse on the small dinette table, a resounding thud echoed through the compact space. Once in the kitchen, she opened her fridge, and peered in. An open bottle of Riesling stood in the lower shelf in the door. Pulling the wine out by the neck, she pushed the door shut with her hip and turned to get a goblet from the rack affixed to her upper cabinets.

Seated at the table, she poured herself a glass, took a sip, and worried about Cole. A watch could be set by him and his predictability. Every day, the same time, the same latte, the same stool by the window. Yes, he was a bit odd but there had been customers come into Starbucks far stranger than he.

Jeannie pulled the notebook out and put it in front of her. With the palm of her hand, she rubbed the surface. In places the jacket was worn so thin, the paper backing on the inside showed through.

Opening it to the location marked by the ribbon, revealed another sketch of her but without her beauty mark. Out of habit, she reached up and touched her face. ‘must keep mole, glamorous, beautiful, not Jeannie without it’ surrounded the picture.

Until now, she didn’t realize he had such a strong opinion about her having the blemish removed and it scared her.

Was Cole some kind of control freak? Would he hurt her if she went ahead with the surgical procedure?

The words on the page made her feel dirty and cheap so Jeannie slapped the cover shut and pushed the book away. Bottle and her glass in hand, she checked the deadbolt and hooked the chain, headed for the bathroom, and secured the door behind her, too. Soon the tub was filling with hot, steamy water. A few drops of Green Apple bath and shower gel formed a sea of bubbles and floated on the rising water; the room fragrant with the fresh scent. Jeannie flipped the switch on her heated towel bar.

Whilst she waited for the water to reach the desired level, she moved her caddy towards the taps, topped up her wine glass, and placed the goblet in the specially designed holder.

Once stripped down, she climbed in, turned off the faucet, and dipped below the bubbles.

Immersed in the hot, soapy water Jeannie let her mind wander. Perhaps she worried too much about the mole on her face. It was tiny, smooth, dark and been there for as long as she remembered. No appointment was made for the procedure. Maybe she wouldn’t bother.

Her thoughts returned to the place in Cole’s diary where he had described his mother in such an unflattering way. She took a sip of wine and sank back under the surface wishing she turned up the heat in the room before getting into the bath.

***

Loud banging on her apartment door startled her. Jeannie leapt out of the water, almost knocking the caddy and glass flying. There was no time to grab one of her warmed towels so she yanked on her long, pink, fleece dressing gown.

When she reached the door, she still struggled with the tie belt.

Her cordless phone was in the base so she grabbed the handset. On the other side of the peephole, Rick stood in the corridor. What was he doing at her home at this time of night? “What’s going on?” she asked when she pulled the door open a crack with the chain still on the latch.

“Can we come in? It’s important.”

“We?”

“Yes. Let’s not stand here all night debating this.”

Jeannie removed the shackle and opened the door the rest of the way to receive Rick and whoever was with him.

“This is Dr. Baird. She’s weirdo’s shrink.”

“Psychiatrist,” the well-groomed woman corrected.

“Wh-why are you here?”

“Can we sit down?” the doctor asked.

“Yes.” She escorted them to the table, picked up Cole’s notebook, and shoved it into her handbag. As she showed her guests a chair, she tossed the leather satchel on the peninsula counter.

“I came in to coffee shop looking for you.” The physician nodded towards her. “Cole missed his last two appointments which isn’t like him. One I could see due to illness but not both.”

“Wh-what does it have to do with me?”

“During our sessions, he always spoke of you. It was apparent, he thought you were an exceptional young woman.”

Jeannie blushed.

“You’re no doubt wondering why I insisted your friend bring me here.”

“The thought has crossed my mind.” She didn’t try to hide the sarcasm in her tone.

“There’s no easy way to tell you this. Cole is dead. His body was discovered in his flat earlier today. He’s been deceased for about a week. The police contacted me when they couldn’t find any next-of-kin information. My number was by his phone.”

Jeannie’s heart pounded so hard it hurt. The time span worked out right after she asked what he wrote in his book. Initial shock passed, she wailed, “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t sat down beside him and asked what he was doing…,”

“Cole was a disturbed young man. No one could have predicted he would do this, let alone when.”

The words were of little comfort. Now the sketch started to make sense.

“It’s only in the past year he has been living in his own lodgings. After he murdered his mother when he was twelve, he was sent to a borstal. From there, he moved to a rehabilitation unit. When I deemed he was no longer a danger to anyone, we procured an apartment for him.”

Overcome by nausea, Jeannie bolted for the bathroom, hand over her mouth. Dropping to her knees in front of the toilet and threw up again and again, retching until there was nothing left. Tears ran down her cheeks. Cole was a murderer.

Not close, but she considered him a friend. Was he? Had he been sizing her up to become his next victim?

When she picked herself up off the floor, she reached for the Listerine. The reflection in the mirror had dark mascara streaks down its face. Removing the cap from the bottle, she took in a mouthful and rinsed hoping to eliminate the bitter taste.

Devoid of emotion, she rejoined her guests and dropped on one of the hard dinette chairs.

Dr. Baird took an envelope out of her handbag and slid it across the table to Jeannie. “He wanted you to have this if anything ever happened to him.” The psychiatrist turned to him. “You’ll stay here with her. She’s too upset to be here alone. I’m sorry but I must go. I’ll be in touch with the funeral arrangements. Don’t bother getting up. I’ll let myself out.”

Jeannie followed the doctor’s exit with her eyes. Her hand touched the envelope and she recoiled.

After the doctor left, she drew her knees up to her chest and planted her heels on the

chair, wrapped her arms around her legs and cried.

Rick tried to comfort her but he couldn’t. “Let’s get you into bed,” he said and helped her up from her seat. A brotherly arm enveloped her shoulders. He walked her to her bedroom, and reached for the switch.

“Don’t leave me, please, I don’t want to be alone.”

“I’m not going anywhere. I’ll get a blanket and make myself comfortable on your sofa for the night.”

Jeannie pointed to the closet and waited while he opened the bi-fold doors and pulled down a comforter from the upper shelf. She turned down her duvet and was about to untie her dressing gown when she realized she was naked under it. Instead, she climbed in with it on.

Rick stopped by her bed. “I’ll switch the light out on my way to the lounge.”

“No. Leave it on.”

“Why don’t I turn on a couple of these small lamps? They’re not as harsh and you won’t be in total darkness.” He walked around the room switching on the other lights.

“Don’t close the door, please.”

He nodded, switched the overhead light off and went into the other room.

For hours, Jeannie lay and stared at the ceiling. The information passed on by the psychiatrist about Cole unfathomable.

Dr. Baird didn’t say he killed himself but it sounded like he had.

What had she done that day in Starbucks to drive him to it? Wanting to see inside his notebook wasn’t extreme, was it?

Eventually, she fell into a restless sleep.

 ***

 The next morning, Jeannie was up before the sun rose. Rick stayed on the sofa, snoring in ignorant bliss of her torment. While she waited for the kettle to boil, she got a mug and the instant coffee from the cupboards and the milk from the fridge.

When he groaned from the lounge, she called out to him, “Coffee’s up if you’re interested.”

When he threw the comforter off, he was clad only in his boxers and socks. His pants and shirt draped over the arm chair went unnoticed. To allow him a moment of privacy to get dressed, she turned away.

Jeannie sat down at the table. The letter remained where she left it the the previous night. The handwriting matched the style in Cole’s journal and she picked it up and examined it.

The words ‘To Jeannie at Starbucks… to be opened after my death’ spooked her and she dropped it like it scalded her.

What was so important he couldn’t tell her when he was alive?

“You not got into that yet?”

“N-no. I’m not sure I want to see what’s in it.”

“It’s got to be something vital I would think. Why else would he have left you a letter?”

“Don’t know.” She laid it down.

“Don’t be such a wuss. Open the damn thing.”

Jeannie picked up the envelope, walked the kitchen and tossed it into the wastebasket. “Can’t do it. Don’t want to do it.”

“You’re making a mistake. If that missive goes out in the rubbish, you’ll be kicking yourself in the bum from here to Sunday and back again.”

Unable to stop herself, she started to giggle. The words pompous and arse wipe from Cole’s notebook came to mind. She couldn’t look at Rick and not laugh.

It was a relief when he left for Starbucks. Alone in the flat, she could go through her normal morning routine. Cold coffee poured down the sink, she opened the cupboard door. The bin was still there but the letter was missing. Panic set in. Where did it go? Wheeling around, she found it on the peninsula work top.

This message would haunt her until she read it. Jeannie turned it over, stuck her thumb under a loose corner of the flap tore it open. She pulled the paper out of the wrapping and let the latter flutter to the floor. Carefully, she unfolded the sheet and began to read.

My dearest friend,

Jeannie,

If you’re reading this, then Dr. Baird has passed my letter on to you and you’ll know I’m dead. There are many things about me you will never comprehend. I don’t understand some of them either.

Did the doctor tell you I murdered my mother?That is true, I don’t deny it, but you deserve to know why. From the time I was a little lad, she was a prostitute. Quite often, she left me alone overnight while she went out and shagged blokes for money. Not to support me but her drug habit. Social services were always around. Every time they threatened to put me into care, she pleaded with them saying she would mend her ways and promise to be a good mum.

Her idea of that was bring her tricks back to our dingy flat. She locked me in the closet or the chest at the foot of her bed. I knew what she was doing. The men coming into the bedroom, grabbing at her and her clothes. I heard them shagging. Sometimes, those blokes would beat the crap out of her and steal what earnings and drugs she had.

What I did was wrong. In the beginning, I don’t think I meant to kill her. After I stuck the knife in her the first time, I couldn’t stop. They say I stabbed her over thirty times. Even after she died, I kept sticking the blade into her.

I think I killed her out of some misguided loyalty. If she was dead, she was off the drugs. The blokes couldn’t beat her almost to death. She got aids either from the dirty needles or from letting the johns do her bareback. Do you know what that means?

You were always kind to me, Jeannie. You never mocked me. Never tried to use my weaknesses against me. I couldn’t show you the notebook because I had drawn so many pictures of you. I didn’t want you to think I was some sort of freak or stalker. I know some of the people you worked with did. I would have been proud to step out with you on my arm. You’re a beautiful, young woman. You must have many decent blokes queuing up to take you out. I would never have stood a chance.

Don’t grieve for me. I’ve been dead inside, except when in your presence, for a long time. My topping myself was the final act. Remember, though, I appreciated the kindness and friendliness you always showed me. No matter if I’m in heaven or hell (and I don’t particularly believe in either), I love you and always will. I wished I could have told you to your face.

Cole xo

After reading the letter he left for her, she leafed through his notebook from the first to the last page used. The sketches were amazing. His talent for capturing the essence of people, as well as their features, shone through each drawing.

***

The funeral came too soon for her liking. Jeannie didn’t want to go but knew she had to. She persuaded Rick to go with her. Since the night she found out about Cole’s death, he had been there for her.

Jeannie’s hair fell loose on her shoulders. The way Cole sketched her many times.

Glad to have a friend with her, she stood bravely by the graveside with the psychiatrist and the few mourners who attended.

When it was over and the casket lowered, she leaned over the chamber and released his grotty, leather notebook into the grave.

A resounding smack on the wooden surface of the coffin echoed through the air. “Goodbye, Cole. Your notes will always be private now,” she murmured, more emotional than she expected.

Her tribute to his life and what might have been was a long-stemmed red rose. She dropped it beside the journal. It landed silently beside the man’s prized possession. She whispered, “I love you, too. I wish we could have told each other our feelings.”

She turned away and sobbing, buried her face in Rick’s chest.

 

 

 

 

Ghost #BookHugs ~ DARK LOVE RISING by Danita Minnis #paranormal

#BookHugs

Dark Love Rising

by

Danita Minnis

 

Danita Minnis

Blurb:

Former MI6 agent Xavier Quinn would say that you’re daft if you think he will stop killing for a living. But that is exactly what is about to happen. Very soon now, Quinn will start killing to stay alive. On the run after taking out the wrong man, Quinn would die a happy man if he could just live long enough to ruin the Parliament member who set him up.

Layla, a 2,000 year old vampire with a moral code, has other plans for the contract killer. When she awakens to the sound of a dark rising, she enlists Quinn to join her on a mission to save humanity from her twin sister Tamara.

But Quinn is just the kind of man that a cold-blooded killer like Tamara needs in her world. A man like Quinn, who never believed in humanity, has only one belief; self-preservation. Being a vampire sounds much better than staying human in the game of kill or be killed. Will he stay alive long enough to find out how Layla’s love can change the equation?

 

Excerpt:

Padding into the living room, she watched as the door across the suite opened and two men walked in. The first man was big and round enough to block her view of his thinner companion. Though she chose to remain visible facing them across the large living area, they had not yet seen her standing in front of the bedroom door. The second man closed and locked the door behind him.

They didn’t belong here in this pure, white living room which gave the impression of being up in the clouds. They wore stiff, dark clothes like Aurelius, but they were not like him at all. She could smell hatred. There was no other feeling in them. They had killed many, and they were here for Aurelius.

Ah, praises to Anubis. They are ripe.

She sighed and closed the bedroom door behind her.

The murderers turned.

“Where is Quinn?” The heavy man smiled, while his silent companion went around the room closing the drapes on the panoramic view of Luxor.

Quinn; the name suited Aurelius in this life, nimble and smart, as her Roman commander had been.

“He is bathing.” She smiled as if the two jackals had just come for a visit.

“And what is your name, love?” The heavy man strolled across the expanse of white carpet to walk around the u-shaped sectional sofa. His bulbous red-veined nose bore the colors and marks of a trade route freshly drawn on papyrus. His blood would not be sweet, he drank spirits too often, but there would be enough to satisfy her craving.

“I am Lay-laah.” She met the man half-way, near the sofa, keeping her hands to her sides. She must not alarm them. But she could not stop the bloodlust, she needed so much more blood, and her fingers flexed in excitement, aching to tear him open.

“Well, Lay-laah.” The man chuckled, trying to mimic her accent. “Quinn’s got good taste,” He glanced over his shoulder to his companion, who now held something in his hand. The thin man pointed the metal spear at her.

“Well, this is unfortunate,” the heavy man said. “We came for Quinn, but we’ve got two for the price of one.” He took a similar metal spear out of his jacket and pointed it at her. “It must be fate.”

“Fate. Yes-sss.” Layla grabbed him by the neck. The motion was so swift the man still smiled at her while she sank her teeth into his leathery flesh.

She experienced a moment of discomfort as the heavy man’s metal spear struck her in the chest several times. She rose above him and he toppled backward with a shout and fell over the low glass table in front of the sofa.

The thin man rumbled in disbelief at what must be to him an unexpected turn of events.

It was ever this way; humans could not fathom a being like her, they did not believe in monsters. Neither had she, long ago. But there were many things in the world – seen and unseen – that this killer would fear if he knew of them.

#BookHugs   #DarkLoveRising

 

Danita Minnis Bio:

Born and raised in the heart of New York City, Danita is a singer, writer and lover of romance. Her fourth novel, Dark Love Rising is her first vampire romance. She is the author of the ghostly love story Adderley’s Bride and the Cardiff novels, Falcon’s Angel and Love Entwined.

Mystery, mayhem, the fantastic and the fey are as intriguing as Siberian Huskies – shout out to the Khan Man. One more hour with her laptop and Danita is living the dream.

Connect with Danita:

 

Website: http://danitaminnis.com/Home_Page.php

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Danita_Minnis

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Danita-Minnis-Romance-Author-433534206657385/about/?ref=page_internal

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6154485.Danita_Minnis

 

Book Links:

 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZFICFR/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1485912379&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-love-rising-danita-minnis/1125606509?ean=9781542798402

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dark-love-rising-1

Liquid Silver Books: http://liquidsilverpublishing.com/?s=Danita+Minnis&post_type=product