Free Book Sample
Hey guys, so you heard my new romance book is coming out November 24th, and thought you'd check out the sample?
Well, welcome! I hope you enjoy.
This is a sample from the third chapter.
3. The Ghost of Sarah Harvey
“There’s no better word to describe him,” Ali admitted, keeping her voice low into the phone as she hopped over puddles and strolled down the freshly wet streets with a skip in her step.
“But ‘charming?’” her sister teased. “I’ve never heard you use that word to describe a guy.”
“I know. I’m sorry, Mel. Maybe it’s this town.” She looked up at a quaint historic building with a flush of warmth in her heart. “I think it’s starting to grow on me. Either that or it’s catchy.”
“Can a town be catchy?”
“I hope not,” Ali said, taking a more scrutinizing look at the townsfolk.
“Well don't fall too in love with that place. Your nephew misses you.”
“Aw, say hi to little Charlie for me.”
Mel left the conversation for a moment to coo the greeting to her infant son, coming back with a question. “So are you seeing Mr. Charming again?”
“Today. He offered to take me on a drive, show me some sights only the locals know about.”
“Sounds like fun. And what time are you expecting to be home?”
“To the hotel. When will the date be finished?”
“I’m not sure it’s a date, Mel.”
“Beside the point. I need to know when you’ll be back so I know when to panic that this strange man might have kidnapped and killed you while you were out driving in his car looking at places you’ve never been.”
Ali stopped walking and smiled to herself. Melissa was always the sensible one, but this time around Ali had already thought of that. “It’s okay, Mel. I had coffee at the bookstore this morning and asked around about this guy. He’s made of good stuff.”
“The old woman that gives you coffee?”
“Yes. And you know only too well that any person who makes great coffee can be trusted.”
“Then trust me, sis, don't go out driving with this guy until you know him better.”
“Mel, it’s a small town. And Mrs. Beaty says she’s known Grant since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, so I really don’t think he’s going to risk his sweet boy reputation by murdering me.”
“Well, all right then,” she said grimly. “Just text me when you get back safe, okay? I worry about you all alone—”
“I’m fine, Mel.”
“I know. You're always fine. You’re like Dad in that sense. But I still worry.”
“That’s because you're the best big sis in the world.”
“You don’t need to tell me that, Ali. I’ll talk to you later. Enjoy your drive.”
Ali hung up the phone and put it in her coat pocket, retying her scarf as the chill wind opened it. All up and down Main Street people in autumn colors walked in pairs or groups enjoying the sunny but cold day. After just three days here Ali was starting to feel like she could pick out the locals from the tourists. It was in their smiles. The locals seemed to have a relaxed, pleasant kind of smile and a very soft greeting as you passed them, whereas the tourists’ faces were bright and eager and they greeted you with an often loud “Hello, and how are you today?” Ali couldn't wait until foliage season was over and she’d have this town to herself. She wanted to see the quieter side of it, when locals stopped putting on airs and graces and went back to normal life for a while, allowing the true charm of this place to surface. But she was most looking forward to seeing the trees lose their leaves and stand naked in a blanket of glistening snow, or to hear the sound of mission bells on street corners and smell peppermint in the air. Back home, December was warm and Christmas was often spent on beaches, and though she’d be away for her only nephew’s first Christmas this year, the idea of snowcapped firs and ice skating on the lake seemed to make that fact not so gloomy. She would sip hot chocolate by the fire and read something holiday-themed before joining the other hotel guests in the dining hall for a buffet. It would be perfect.
“Well hello there,” beamed an excited but deep and cheery voice. Grant, with his long, straight stride, came across the road to meet her. “You look lost in thought. Is everything all right?”
Ali looked at Grant and really took him in: his cheeks pink from the brisk walk, the tip of his nose pink from the cold, and his smile set into his cheeks as though it always just hung there, never truly leaving his face. “Everything is great,” she said, giving a little smile and a sigh that made her feel gleeful and a bit silly.
“Come on then. My car’s this way.”
They crossed the street to where the pickup truck had been parked the night she arrived, and Grant opened the door of his overly fancy car for her. Ali slid in and immediately gathered up the smell of leather and “new car,” watching Grant as a circle of foggy breath followed him in until the door shut out the cold.
“Nice car,” Ali offered.
“Thanks. It’s new.”
“I gathered that. It’s very fancy.”
“Fancy?” He smirked, starting the engine with the push of a button. “Who says fancy?”
Ali laughed. “I do, I guess. I also apparently say charming now, too.”
Grant laughed too as he pulled away, and Ali melted at the sound of it. He had a nice laugh. An honest laugh. She’d always liked an honest laugh.
They talked a little about Grant’s job as an accountant—the town accountant, whom everyone loved because he was really good at his job—and as they drove through town and out toward the hills, Ali couldn’t help but think about something Mrs. Beaty had told her. Something she left out when she spoke to Mel.
Looking at Grant, making assumptions about what kind of person he was, Ali struggled to understand what anyone would have against this guy, but according to Mrs. Beaty, the owner of the bookstore and cafe—Sam, who Ali had originally thought was a girl—had been at odds with Grant for a very long time. There was no why or how, nothing elaborated on, just noted dutifully by the old woman that Sam didn’t think much of Grant but that Ali shouldn’t let Sam’s opinion stop her from enjoying a nice day. Although, Mrs. Beaty had added, it was something to be kept in mind all the same. Still, Ali wondered what had happened between the two that made Mrs. Beaty think it was worth mentioning to a stranger that might sooner blow through town than she would come to date Grant long-term.
“So what do you think?” Grant asked, directing her gaze to the dark road up ahead. The trees were so tall they drowned out most of the light, but the small stars of daylight that did manage to dance through the canopy formed twinkling patterns on the road and the tree trunks up ahead.
Ali slid forward in her chair as much as her safety belt would allow and watched the stars move along the hood of the black car and up over her hands and face. “Grant, this is incredible. Like being inside a kaleidoscope.”
“You haven't seen anything yet. Wait until I show you the falls up on Hedge’s Ridge.”
“I look forward to it.” Ali sat back again as they emerged from the tunnel of stars and into broad daylight. They rolled slowly through neat streets and long stretches of road with cows and one store, and eventually came upon an old church with a high steeple and a weathering graveyard hinged in by a rickety iron fence. A million ideas settled around that graveyard, and Ali’s muse was standing there screaming them at her. All she had to do was stop and pluck an idea right up.
“Stop here,” she demanded, half scaring poor Grant to death with the volume of her voice.
“Why are we stopping?” he asked, pulling up to the verge across from the small gated cemetery.
“My muse,” Ali announced, grabbing her scarf as she darted from the car. She heard Grant’s door close, followed by the door she had left open, and his footfalls came up quietly behind her where she stood looking down at a headstone. That same eerie feeling she’d had in the little shop with the freaky incense moved around her again and this time she welcomed it. She could feel the past, maybe even the history of the town here so strongly she almost felt sad for what had been. It was like she missed people she never even knew, and it was such a magical and inspiring feeling that she drew her phone from her pocket to write some of it down.
“Do you mind?” she asked. “It’ll only take a minute.”
Grant took a step back and smiled. “Not at all. Go for it.”
Ali sat down on the wet grass by the headstone and closed her eyes, imagining the ghosts of the past surrounding her, offering up their stories. She was vaguely aware of time passing, vaguely aware that Grant was leaning on the hood of his car watching her, hands in his pockets and a smile across his closed lips, but most of all, she was now fully aware of what her muse was trying to tell her.
“A ghost story,” she announced, springing to her feet.
“A ghost story?” Grant repeated, obviously feeling disconnected from the conversation.
“Yes.” She bounded over to him, cheeks pink, full of enthusiasm. “I need to write a ghost story. A love story, but a ghost story as well.”
Grant looked disconcerted. “Not like a ghost falling in love with the living?”
“No. I mean . . .” Her gaze drifted to one side in consideration. “I don’t know. I haven't decided yet.”
“Well come on, then.” He flipped his keys around his index finger and opened her door for her. “If you want a ghost story, I’ve got just the tale to inspire you.”
“Her name was Sarah—the ghost in my story,” Grant told Ali with a kind of sadness, or maybe a longing in the way he said her name. “She was killed by her husband, and it’s believed now by many that she haunts the house where she died.”
They pulled into a long street, where a dozen houses sat widely spaced and fenceless around a cul-de-sac at the end. Each one had its own color, own personality, its own story recorded in the historical framework, while a colorful forest more ancient than all of them put together sat as a proud, steep backdrop. Some houses were larger than others, some more elegant or well-maintained than others, one dilapidated and another on its way there, but all of them together made up what Ali could see was a pleasant neighborhood. Not the kind of neighborhood that harbored dark secrets.
As the car pulled up between two identical houses with those witchy kinds of towers, Ali couldn't help but feel like she’d stepped onto the set of a horror film.
“That one.” Grant pointed to the well-maintained Victorian house, and a part of Ali was disappointed, wishing the ghost house had been the one next door—weathered and mildly dilapidated. The ghost house did have character though, which Ali knew she could translate well onto a page, with grey clapboard siding, cream-colored window frames, and a burgundy trim. She fell instantly in love with the asymmetrical design and how there was something so simultaneously scary and beautiful about it—so perfect for her story—even down to how its steep, multifaceted roof seemed to sneer at the pair in the fancy car. Ali wanted to sneak inside and climb up that three-story turret, imagining a desk being under the windows where she could spend all day writing as she looked out across the declining hills toward town. One might feel like a princess in such a tower, or perhaps that they’d stepped back in time. If she stared at it long enough, she could almost see a few fine ladies in dresses with high collars gathering on the decorative portico to greet them, and when she looked closer—past the turned wood posts and lantern-style porch lights—she noticed an old wooden rocking chair that had obviously been lovingly maintained.
“It doesn't look haunted?”
“It is.” Grant nodded with a kind of certainty that got Ali excited. “Lights have been seen turning on when no one is home and visitors talk of a chill in the air. Rumor even has it,” he added, pointing up to the tower window as it loomed over the street, its coned roof piercing the ominous sky, “if you look up there at certain times of day, you can see her ghost peering out at you.”
A chill went the wrong way down Ali’s spine, unsettling her. She loved it. “This is perfect. I need to know more.”
Grant narrowed his eyes. “You do realize this is a true story. You might try not to be so excited.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any disrespect.”
“I know.” He reached across and cupped her knee. At first she felt slightly uncomfortable being touched but after a moment, looking into those deep blue eyes, she softened to the idea.
“Can I ask how she died?” Ali asked.
“Well, that’s debatable.”
“She was found hanging in the stairwell, but there was no chair beneath her feet, which means she jumped over the ledge with a rope around her neck. But the autopsy said she choked to death.”
“What’s so strange about that?”
“Her neck should have snapped in the fall.”
“She couldn’t have fallen without snapping it?”
He shook his head fiercely. “It’s unlikely. We all know Mad Harvey strangled her then hanged her to make it look like a suicide, and the sick bastard got away with it.”
To Ali, that sounded unlikely. For what little she knew of these things, she was certain strangulation marks from hands looked very different than ropes. “So . . . why ‘Mad Harvey?’”
“That’s just what folks call him.” He didn't give any other reason.
“Okay.” Ali wondered if she should be writing this down, then remembered what century she was in. “Do you mind if I record this?”
“Go for it.” He nodded to her phone.
She opened the audio app and set the phone on the dash, turning in her seat to face Grant. “So if it was a murder, what reason did Mad Harvey have to kill his wife?”
His jaw stiffened. “That’s a long story.”
“Okay, well . . .” She readjusted her seat. “Since they ruled it as a suicide, what reason did she give? Was there a note?”
“Yes. But only the cops ever saw it. There’ve been whispers about the apparent reasons behind it, but if it was suicide then it was to escape her maniac husband,” Grant said.
“What was so bad about him?”
“Maybe not much to begin with. See, he used to be well liked around town, but folks say Sarah fell in love with another man right before they got married. When Mad Harvey found out, he changed, became mean and cruel and started beating her. By the time she got the courage up to leave him, she was pregnant.”
“So there’s a child involved?”
Grant shook his head. “She lost it soon after and then died later that month. Or, if you refuse to believe the lies, you might say she was murdered.”
Ali supposed it could actually have been suicide, given the circumstances, but she was open to another side of the story—at least for the purpose of her own novel.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Grant. “You’re thinking what the cops thought: it all makes sense—the sad woman who lost an unborn child. The heartache. How could anyone bear it? But that’s just what he wants you to think. It’s why he killed the child and then waited before he killed her.”
That's all, folks. There is more to this scene, but you'll have to read it on November 24th. You can pre-order at Amazon: Get it here!