Personally, I love Halloween. It's not so much the ghosts and goblins, but I just love Fall. I love pumpkins and cooler temperatures, full moons and ghostly trees. In my warrior series, these guys fight real evil monsters, but instead of posting one of those excerpts, I decided to post the first scene of the book, which does include a bump in the night.
She wasn’t in Scotland. That was the first thing Shay registered when she smashed her foot against the wall. She sat up, disoriented. This bedroom hadn’t been hers for nine years. Rubbing her toe, she tilted her head, trying to pinpoint the sound that had woken her. Was it the strange dream? This one was always the same, a place that glowed, a man she couldn’t see, speaking a language she couldn’t understand. It was better than the one where she was buried alive in a casket, listening as dirt fell on the lid. The only twist in her dreams these past weeks was that Cody haunted them. Shay hoped this impromptu trip would exorcise at least one ghost from her life.
The scuttling noise came again. Probably just mice. Aunt Nina said they had become a problem with the house empty. Another guilt trip to get Shay to move back. Seemed everyone she knew was trying to get her to Virginia. She turned on the dim lamp next to her bed and saw the silver candlestick, exactly where she had forgotten it. She hadn’t been brave enough to come back for it. She turned it over and stared at the picture taped underneath. Sighing, she put it back and climbed out of bed. It was already 9:00 p.m. She’d slept for hours. Sheer exhaustion and fear had a way of doing that.
Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that the last thing she ate was a pack of tasteless crackers on the airplane. She needed food, if the mice had left anything. Naked, she walked to the bathroom and checked her clothes, but they were still wet from the deluge of rain that welcomed her the moment she arrived, which wouldn’t have been a problem, if the airline hadn’t lost her luggage. She’d been so glad to see a bed, she hadn’t worried about putting her clothes in the dryer.
She picked the driest thing, a damp T-shirt, and slipped it over her head, wrinkling her nose at the smell. Bourbon, courtesy of the drunk on the airplane. Oh, well, the mice wouldn’t care if she went commando and smelled like a brewery.
She cracked a window to air out the room and saw the two-story brick manor next door. The MacBain house. Her eyes sought out the dark window on the top floor. Her heart gave a little kick.
Another soft noise from downstairs sent a chill up her spine, making her think of huddling in the darkness, afraid to breathe. Shay grabbed the silver candlestick and moved to the door. She felt safer with something heavy in her hand, even against mice. Her bare feet padded across the hall toward the stairs. She flipped the light switch, but nothing happened. That bulb was always burning out. It didn’t matter. She’d spent most of her life in this house. She could walk it blindfolded. Stepping lightly, she avoided the squeaky fourth step and heard the noise again, so soft she wasn’t sure if she imagined it. Her hand brushed the banister at the bottom as she stepped into the foyer. Another sound registered in her head. not tiny claws, but the creak of a footstep. Something cold and hard pressed against the back of her head.
“Don’t move,” a low voice growled.
Blood rushed from her head to her feet. How could her stalker be here if he was in jail? Don’t panic. If you lose your head, your attacker will win. She’d practiced this a thousand times, playing soldiers and spies with Cody. In the seconds that stretched like droplets of frozen time, Shay forced her body to move, spinning quickly to clear his weapon. She struck with the candlestick, and something clattered to the floor. The gun?
A hard hand grabbed her wrist, and the candlestick fell. She lifted her knee and heard a grunt. Lunging, she tried to get past him. His foot shot out, and she crashed to the floor. What little breath she had left exploded from her lungs as a muscular body landed on top of her. A startled exclamation hissed next to her ear. She shoved against broad shoulders, but the weight didn’t budge. Lifting her head, she took a bite of T-shirt and flesh.
He leaned back, swearing as he grabbed both wrists. He held them over her head with one hand, crushing her knuckles against the hardwood floor. His other hand clamped over her mouth. She twisted and jerked her wrists, freeing one, but he moved his hand from her mouth and recaptured the arm. She tried to use her teeth again, but he countered every attempt she made to free herself, as if he were inside her head. She went limp. If she didn’t struggle, maybe she could reason with him.
His face was so close she could feel his breath, warm against her ear. They spoke at the same time.
“What do you want?”
“Who are you?” His voice was soft, deadly.
Shay drew in a sharp breath that echoed close to her ear.
She lay on the floor, pinned under him, as her mind spun back to the past, a time of warmth and laughter, betrayal and pain, and above it all, the agony of love. She opened her mouth but couldn’t speak. In spite of the darkness she closed her eyes and tried to pull in his scent. She’d always loved how he smelled, like mountains and air, but all she could smell now was bourbon.
"Shay?” His voice was strained with disbelief. He leaned back, and his weight shifted, pressing his lower body against hers. A finger touched her hair and then brushed her face, like a blind man searching for proof. “What are you doing here?”
"I was going to ask you the same thing.” He was supposed to be out of the country. As usual, trying to save the world from deranged dictators and terrorists.
"I thought someone had broken in. I didn’t know you were coming.”
Stillness settled around them again. The only movement, breaths mingling, chests moving in unison., and was that a stirring of another sort, lower? The memories started a fresh assault. She shoved against his shoulders. “Get off me.”
“Sorry.” The weight lifted, and he helped her to her feet. She yanked free, using the five steps it took to reach the light switch to compose her face. She’d always wondered what she would do if she saw him again, what she would say. What he would say. She’d never pictured it happening like this. Her hand hovered over the switch. She drew in a steadying breath, flipped on the light, squinted at the brightness, and turned. Her mouth dropped open.
The essence of him was still there; the boy next door who’d kept her secrets, bandaged her scrapes, and comforted her against his scrawny chest, but there was nothing scrawny about him now. He was tall, with broad-shoulders and lean muscles undisguised by his soft gray T-shirt and worn jeans. Dark hair brushed his collar, giving him a rugged, dangerous look. His face was still stunning. Strong jaw, straight nose, and those intense hazel eyes that even at nineteen had tempted married women to watch as he walked past. Her gaze caught on the scar above his eyebrow, trophy from the motorcycle wreck when he was sixteen, and she remembered the terror of finding him sprawled on the rocky hill, so still she thought he was dead. Her only consolation now was that he appeared dumbstruck as well, staring as if she were the ghost.