This is an excerpt from my book Out of the Darkness (Coffeeshop Coven prequel). It’s a paranormal thriller/horror erotic romance that was also the 2010 EPIC winner for horror. An old and haunted house in the middle of an isolated park…and an old evil looking for modern revenge.
[Siren Classic: Erotic Paranormal Romance, HEA]
The land remembers…
Built on a cursed patch of land, George Simpson’s house of horrors ruined many lives. Author Steve Corey rents it as a surprise in a desperate attempt to salvage what’s left of his marriage.
Samantha Corey thought getting Steve sober in the early days of their marriage would be the hard part, but she’s reached the end of her rope and is ready to leave. It doesn’t help that her thoughts have turned to Matt Barry, Steve’s best friend—and her old love.
Now, Samantha needs Matt more than ever as Steve’s behavior deteriorates. She wonders if her husband’s sick, drinking again, or if her own sanity’s in question. The house has a dark agenda. Even though she’s ready to divorce Steve, she’s not ready to relinquish his soul to the ancient evil enveloping him. Can she and Matt pull him from Out of the Darkness?
Sami made herself a cup of hot tea and curled up in the overstuffed corner chair. She didn’t want to be around Steve, and she damn sure wasn’t cooking him dinner after that little exchange. He really showed his ass. If they weren’t stuck in the middle of nowhere with the horses, she would have packed a suitcase, driven to Tampa, and taken the next flight home to Columbus.
This whole excursion was supposed to help Steve. At first, she thought it was working. Now she wasn’t sure. The virtual isolation had turned him even more sullen and irritable than he normally acted. Supposedly his writer’s block had broken and he was making progress, but when she tried to access his computer to look at the file, she found something new—a password to log in.
Maybe he was having an online affair. Maybe he was having a mental breakdown. If there was any liquor in the house, she’d swear he was off the wagon. He acted like he did when he used to drink.
But she knew there wasn’t anything in the house, and he was still sober. He had to be. He hadn’t gone anywhere in the car without her since they’d arrived, and she hadn’t bought any.
Maybe she’d already passed the give-a-damn point and was stupid for agreeing to this whole vacation in the first place instead of just filing for divorce and getting it over with.
At ten o’clock she closed her book and walked to his office door. She heard him tapping on the keyboard and decided to let him be. He would come up when—if—he wanted.
“Can’t interrupt Boy Genius,” she muttered.
She turned off the living room lights and realized this must be what the death of a marriage felt like.
The bedside clock read 3:07 when she woke. Downstairs, she heard the door to Steve’s study close, and his footsteps down the hall.
Away from the stairs.
She sat up and tuned her ears to the sound. He walked toward the kitchen—she heard the squeak from the one floorboard—and from there she wasn’t sure.
Then, she heard the kitchen door open and shut. The hinges on the screen door squawked, its distinctive noise unmistakable. She needed to oil it.
Sami watched from the bedroom window. He walked across the yard, barefoot, but with a strange gait like he was asleep. She considered yelling at him, then thought better of it and raced to pull on shorts and a T-shirt.
She grabbed the flashlight off the kitchen counter as she raced out the door, letting the screen slam shut behind her.
Steve was nowhere to be seen. The horses stood alert and stared toward the woods. They seemed a little spooked. The sight of Steve probably freaked them out.
She found his footprints in the dew and followed them through the main gate and down the fence line until she lost them at the edge of the property, hidden by a cushion of pine needles.
She walked a short distance into the woods, listening for the sound of his footsteps. He couldn’t have gotten that far ahead of her, it took her less than a minute to grab her clothes, and he was walking slower than his normal gait. “Steven Corey!”
A chill settled over her. Then the flashlight went out.
“Shit.” She shook it, beating it against the palm of her hand. This was stupid. The batteries were brand new, and she hadn’t dropped it.
She looked around, every noise amplified in the still darkness.
“Steven Corey, I’m going back to the house. Enjoy sleeping outside tonight.”
The moon wasn’t quite full, but it cast enough light to pick her way through the trees back to the house. As she broke through to the clearing, she thought she saw something off to the south. “Steve?” She walked along the property line, catching intermittent glimpses of whatever it was.
“Steve, this is not funny!” She tried the flashlight again, and this time it worked. She shined it toward the area and saw…
A shudder ran through her. A trick of the light, that’s all.
It had to be. She didn’t see a ghostly figure of a woman. She did not.
Sami turned on her heel and stormed back to the house, choosing anger over fear. Locking the kitchen door behind her, she stomped through the living room and made sure the front door was locked, too. Then she went upstairs to rinse the dirt off her feet.
And found Steve sound asleep in their bed.
It wasn’t possible.
How had he circled around her so fast? She saw him walk across the yard. And she never heard the screen door open—she would have heard him get back to the house.
She turned on the overhead light and ripped the covers off him. He started protesting, and she backed away from the bed.
His feet were clean and dry. Judging from his response, he had been sound asleep.
“What the hell, Sami? What’s going on?”
“You tell me! I just followed your ass out the back door and across the yard. You disappeared into the woods and my flashlight went out, so I came back to the house.” She left out the part about thinking she saw something. What had she seen anyway? Probably nothing. Trick of the moonlight.
He propped himself up on his elbows. “Sami, I came up to bed a little after midnight.”
“No, you didn’t. I heard and saw you walk outside. You were not up here in bed with me.”
“No! Dammit, I know what I heard, and I know what I saw!”
She snatched her pillow from the bed, now not quite sure what she heard and saw. She started to leave, determined to sleep in the guest room.
He caught her by the arm, firmly but not painfully. He was so damn fast on his feet.
She yanked free. “Don’t you ever grab me like that again, do you hear me!”
She saw confusion, hurt, and something else she couldn’t name in his eyes. She didn’t care at this point.
“Sami, please wait, there has to be an explanation.”
“Yes, the explanation is you’re getting off playing some sort of mind game with me, and I do not appreciate it. You were supposedly ‘sleepwalking’ again. I know what I saw. I didn’t imagine it. I don’t know how you got back here before I did and without me seeing you. Frankly, I don’t care.” She slammed the bedroom door behind her, blood pounding in her temples.
How had he circled around her so quickly?
She rinsed her feet off in the guest bath when it hit her. She stepped out of the tub and opened the bedroom door. “Get up. Come downstairs. Now.”
He did, recognizing conversation with her was pointless. He followed her downstairs to his study, where she sat in front of his computer and touched the power button.
“Shut up. What’s the password?”
He gave it up without protest. She located the folder where he stored his manuscript files and switched it to detailed view. “What file were you working on?”
“The new one. It’s called ‘dante2.’”
She found it and didn’t know if she felt relief or horror. “There—what does that say?” She pointed.
He leaned over her shoulder. It showed the last time the file was saved—2:50 a.m.
She looked at him. “Now do you believe me?”