Today I thought I’d regale you with a sneak peek from Shadows Fall, the third book in the Asylum Trilogy coming out this year. This is an unedited excerpt…warning…scary stuff ahead!
Evil is spreading beyond previous boundaries, beyond the horrors of the past. Only one man and one woman can stop it.
Melissa Allan realizes something is wrong one windy, violent day. People are getting their just deserts. Karma is piling on the punishment, even for small offenses or misunderstandings hardly worth a blink. Melissa, owner of the only new age store in Simple, realizes that the air is disturbed, and that the former asylum on the mountain has something to do with strange happenings around town. Sensitive to the paranormal, she helps those in Simple who feel the need for advice beyond the conventional. Forces in town who want things to stay the same are against her, and she knows it.
Ex-marine Roarke O’Bannion hasn’t seen a freak out like this since he was in war. A search for his missing mother brings him to Tranquil View Condominiums for answers. He’s not interested in the paranormal and thinks people who believe in it just need more medication. He thinks Melissa fed his mother’s belief in ghosts, and he plans on giving her a piece of his mind. Instead he finds a woman who challenges everything he’s believed in, and makes him burn with desire.
When Melissa is in danger, he discovers he’ll do anything to save her, and together they’ll battle the unseen until midnight comes or the evil seething inside Tranquil View consumes them all.
It was a perfect night for a haunting. Melissa drove her compact up the long drive toward Tranquil View Condos on Friday night, opening night for the haunted house. Tall pines clustered along the twisting, turning road that lead from the main highway into the former asylum grounds.
She hoped Jana wouldn’t convince everyone on the city council that Halloween should be banned in Simple. Live and let live was truly Melissa’s motto. People like Jana Peterson and nosy city council cabals offended her sense of fair play. She rubbed the back of her neck as muscles tightened. Spending too much time ruminating on irritations had made her back and neck ache. Was that why she’d decided to go to the Haunted House attraction at Tranquil View? To give her support to the people who created the event and attended it? After all it made money for charity.
Weather cooperated this evening. A dusting of snow off and on over the last two days had kept people skidding around town and generated a few fender benders. Nothing unusual. Melissa felt as if a certain something was off, different than last year at this time. Of course last year she’d been too wrapped in her own issues with moving to notice much about Simple’s idiosyncrasies. She’d settled in and made an uncomplicated life in Simple. She laughed softly. A simple life in Simple. As the saying went, it was all good.
Then she thought of her dinner with Roarke the other night and freaked. She’d broken her dating rule. She never kissed a guy on the first date. Especially not a guy like him who was a raging skeptic about the paranormal and had a rigid mentality. It had just happened, and he seemed as disconcerted by the event as she did. She sighed and decided to get over herself. Having fun tonight would serve as her goal. She wouldn’t concern herself over seeing Roarke tonight. No doubt he’d have plenty to keep him busy as a member of the spook team at the Haunted House.
She hadn’t reached the halfway point down the long drive, when she heard the throaty roar of an engine coming up behind her. She glanced in the rear view mirror and barely made out the outline of a large truck on her ass. Without the headlights on.
What the frig?
As if she’d summoned them, the truck headlights illuminated her car with a blinding flash.
“Crap,” she murmured on her breath. “What the hell is wrong with you, moron?”
The lights got closer and closer.
“If you were any closer,” she said, “you’d be in the backseat with me.”
The truck roared past her at tremendous speed. She didn’t get a good look at the person driving—she was too busy taking the next curve and slowing down. Let the nimrod endanger himself. She negotiated the sharp turn, half expecting to see the truck in a head on collision with another vehicle. Instead when she made it around the corner, the truck had disappeared. Up ahead, in a break through towering pines, the Tranquil View Condominiums came into view. Wind blew pine needles over her windshield, and she could have sworn she heard the wind moan.
“Perfect for a haunted house.”
She’d seen pictures of Tranquil View as it looked long ago, then on glossy brochures when it opened as condos. The local historical society museum on the main drag through town had a significant display on the place, but she’d never gone through the museum.
The parking area in front was sectioned off into two separate areas—a large gravel type driveway led up to the front door. As she drove down the gravel way and took the first left into the fairly full parking lot, she noted the truck sitting in front of the front doors. Three figures unloaded and ran up the stairs into the building. She shook her head. Probably some teenagers hoping to find a scare. In Simple, thrills came few and far between. She parked under one of the ornate parking lot lamps. After assuring her cross body bag was secure, she gripped her keys in her right hand and left the car. Gratified to see the parking lots almost full, she hoped the next three weeks would generate the same. She assessed the building. Even barely illuminated, the asylum had a grey, imposing heart. A water fountain which had been put in recently didn’t run in the winter months. The facade had been totally repaired, every nook and cranny fixed. It looked, perhaps, much as it must have when it first opened in 1888. Despite renovations, the place could be called creepy in a purely esthetic sense. She understood they’d left the old graveyard behind the property intact, and the gymnasium behind the building they’d converted into a fitness and recreational center.
Wind slid its fingers through her hair, a breeze with a bony, icy touch. She shivered, glad for her parka, thick sweater and flannel lined jeans. Discomfort increased as she walked toward the place. Deep within she knew this building held wounds. An asylum always would. And those scars talked to her. They edged into her consciousness, demanding she pay attention.
A whisper here. An insane thought there. The building spoke from every brick, from every stone and window. She stopped and looked up at those windows, expecting to see a hundred faces peering out at her and asking for help. Instead windows stared dark and vacant, or they were lit within by a cheery glow. She took a deep breath and shoved away her sensitivities. She’d shielded herself with white light before coming here. It wouldn’t stop her from seeing ghosts or hearing them if they wanted to come into her space, but at least their emotions shouldn’t take hold.
As she approached the front of the building, the single occupant left in the black truck stared out at her.
A monster looked at her.
The person, man or woman, wore a horrific mask. Wild, dark hair hung in greasy strands around a cadaverous face. Sunken flame red eyes didn’t glow at her, but they commanded compliance and attention. A hawkish nose, thin lips and narrow face completed the disturbing package. She couldn’t look away, and as she passed in front of the truck and the mask followed her movements, every hair went up on her body. Unease crept over her skin like a thousand insects. She shivered and tore her gaze from those flame-filled eyes. Maybe this nutty driver was a part of the attraction?
She flexed her hand around her keys and kept walking. Her wrist ached and she still wore the bandage, but she could do some damage if she must. Just as she reached the huge glass double doors, the truck’s engine roared and the driver sped off. Gravel went every which way and peppered the steps.