Midweek Tease: More from Murder & Mistletoe

MWTease15Hello and welcome to the Midweek Tease. I’m a week away from the release date for this book and thought I would continue to share from its opening chapter. Thanks to Angelica Dawson and all the fine writers who make this blog possible.

I have recently discovered that due to Amazon’s strange way of doing things, many of my books, available in kindle format, are not showing up on my Amazon.com author page and this is incredibly frustrating for me.  I hope you understand that this is out of my control.  So far, I believe Murder & Mistletoe is visible. Fingers crossed it stays that way!

Enjoy!

M&M teaser

July 18th

Rain, rain, and still more rain. It seemed as if the sun hadn’t shone since he’d lost Amy. The wind howled, its eerie mournful sound raising goosebumps as the unseasonable cold burrowed deep into his bones. Water dripped from the mistletoe on the ash tree in the cemetery, the gentle plops on his umbrella strangely soothing. Scotty clutched his arm, his shoulders quaking.

The last month had been sheer hell. Because of the circumstances, a full police investigation had been launched into the fire, meaning they’d had to sit on their hands and wait for the body to be released.

The authorities had been forced to use dental records to identify Amy, her corpse so badly charred that the coroner refused to let him see it. No closure, no final goodbye. Harvey Winston, an old friend from school and now the Special Agent in Charge for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations for the region had visited the house a week ago. His words reverberated inside Steve’s head in a never-ending chorus and would haunt him the rest of his days.

“Steve, I know this won’t be much comfort, but Amy didn’t suffer. They found her in the library under a bookshelf. According to the medical examiner, her skull was crushed and death would’ve been instantaneous, but it wasn’t because of the bookshelf. There was granite dust embedded in her skull. Whoever did this must’ve expected the place to be empty, and when she surprised him, he killed her. We’ll pull out all the stops to find the one responsible. It was probably a robbery gone wrong with the fire set in order to cover it up. There were a lot of chemicals in the house that would fetch a high price on the black market. We’re keeping the actual cause of her death quiet while we investigate. Maybe we’ll smoke the bastard out. We’ve got fences on the look out for antique frames and light fixtures—there wasn’t much left in there to steal—but I won’t get your hopes up too high. The fire destroyed whatever evidence the killer might’ve left. I’m sorry. This might take a while to solve, but by God, we’ll do it. By the way, we didn’t find her cellphone. We’ve got technicians watching to see if it comes on, but so far nothing. I’ll keep you posted.”

Guilt had swamped him. Not an accident as Michael had suggested. Nor was it Jeremy’s ghosts and the damn family curse, but a flesh and blood killer. If he’d been there, he could’ve protected his wife. The coward who’d struck her wouldn’t have even attempted the robbery with him around. He should’ve asked David to take Scotty to that game, but Amy had gone on and on about father-son time. If only he hadn’t given in to her.

He and his son were staying at Magnolia Hills with Jeremy and Celia, well away from the ruins, unable to live in Mistletoe Manor, the home Amy had designed for them before Scott was born—there was just too much of her there, too many memories to consume them. Next week, he would move into a newly renovated house along the Fargo Road. He couldn’t bear the thought of living on the plantation a second longer.

Murder & Mistletoe is available for pre-order from:

 

Please check out the rest of this week’s teases. 

#MidWeekTease November 14, 2018


 

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Midweek Tease: More from Murder & Mistletoe

MWTease15Good morning and happy November.

As we move toward the end of this year, the weather is still crazy. Let’s hope for better things to come. Thanks to the lovely Angelia Dawson for making this weekly blog possible. If you’re a writer and would like to join us, message me for the linky link!

This morning, I will give you another peek at the opening scene from Murder & Mistletoe, my new Christmas Romance Suspense.

M&M teaser

Going home for Christmas can be deadly.
Candy Kayne agrees to go to Black Oaks, the Georgia plantation her ancestor reluctantly left after the Civil War, to meet the family she’s never known and help Steve set a trap for his wife’s killer. Even the wildest tales have a kernel of truth in them and as she learns more about the family’s history, she realizes that coming here may have been the biggest mistake of her life.
Losing Amy almost destroyed Steve Anderson, but when Candy steps into his life, her sweetness chases the dark gloom away. But when he realizes the man who murdered his wife may have set his sights on Candy, he’ll do whatever he has to in order to keep her safe.

Here’s this week’s tease.

Claiming the house had an outstanding bone structure and swearing she could see the beauty and majesty of its heyday, Amy had put her heart and soul into this project—her labor of love. Pain stabbed so deep that he expected to see blood gushing from his chest. How was he going to tell his six-year-old son that his mother was dead?

“I told Uncle Luke restoring this place was a mistake, but he was hellbent on preserving the family history as if the thing deserved it.” Jeremy, the most superstitious and outspoken of the cousins, gritted his teeth. “The family abandoned it for a reason. The damn house is cursed and no amount of dancing around the issue and pretending it doesn’t exist is going to change that. We’ve all seen the lights bobbing in the windows late at night. How many accidents have you had on the worksite since you started the project? Three? Four?—and now this. We should’ve taken the damn thing down years ago and carted away every last brick and board. If Stowe had set her book at Black Oaks, Simon Legree would’ve been a choir boy compared to the plantation’s owner. Old Tobias is probably sitting at Satan’s right hand, gloating. If Uncle Luke thinks he can make up for all those atrocities by donating to every charity that knocks on the Kayne Foundation’s door, he’s got another think coming.” He shook his head, his fists clenched at his side. “I know you love the old man, but damn it. His single-minded obsession has cost you your wife and daughter. I won’t let it cost me mine. Let the accursed building burn until there’s nothing left of it. Maybe the tortured souls in there can finally rest in peace.”

Before Steve could answer, the fire chief stepped over to him. The man removed his helmet and licked his lips.

“Mr. Anderson, I understand your wife was inside the building. Was she alone?”

Steve shook his head. “I don’t know. I think so … She shouldn’t have been here at all, but…” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

The man nodded. “Where might she have been? It’ll give us a place to start looking.”

Rubbing the back of his neck, Steve frowned. Amy had been more excited about this restoration than anything else she’d ever worked on, but as much as she’d loved the work, she’d joked about the heebie-jeebies the place sometimes gave her when there was no one else around, as if every now and then, someone was looking over her shoulder. Why had she stayed late tonight?

“If something kept her, she would’ve been in her office—it’s on the ground floor near the front of the house, in the old dining room next to the library,” he answered, the words fighting their way out of his clogged throat as he sought to organize his jumbled thoughts.

“Did your wife often stay at the construction site alone?”

“I don’t like your implication,” his brother spoke before Steve could. “Amy was the architect in charge of this project for Anderson Restoration. Despite what you may be thinking, there’s nothing suspicious about her being here.”

“I didn’t mean to imply there was, Michael,” the chief’s voice betrayed his sympathy. He and his brother went way back to the days they’d played football together in high school. “I was just wondering whether or not there might be more bodies in there. We’ll save most of the original house—the fire seems to be contained in one area, but the addition at the back is gone.” He shook himself. “A couple of trees out there should probably come down, too.” Donning his helmet, he smiled, but there was no joy in it. “I’m sorry for your loss.” He touched the brim of his helmet in salute, and walked back to his men.

Within minutes, four firefighters, oxygen masks in place, climbed the front steps and disappeared inside.

Steve watched and waited, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t be in there, that she was at Mistletoe Manor sound asleep, but the pain burning deeper and deeper with each beat of his heart told a different story.

Had time stopped?

When two fireman came out, a body on a stretcher between them, his keening cry rivaled that of a banshee as he collapsed to the mud-soaked ground.

Murder & Mistletoe is available for pre-order with November 21 as the release date.

 

#MidWeekTease November 7, 2018


Midweek Tease: Quick Peek at my New Release: Murder & Mistletoe

MWTease15Hello and welcome to the Halloween edition of the Midweek tease.  The weather here is lousy, but hopefully the rain will stop before the little goblins come out. Thanks to Angelica Dawson for making this blog hop possible.

This week, I’m teasing from my soon to be released Christmas Suspense novel, Murder & Mistletoe. The book is available for pre-order and will be released November 21, 2018.

Here’s the very first public posting of the cover.Murder&Mistletoe

Going home for Christmas can be deadly.

Candy Kayne agrees to go to Black Oaks, the Georgia plantation her ancestor reluctantly left after the Civil War, to meet the family she’s never known and help Steve set a trap for his wife’s killer. Even the wildest tales have a kernel of truth in them and as she learns more about the family’s history, she realizes that coming here may have been the biggest mistake of her life.

Losing Amy almost destroyed Steve Anderson, but when Candy steps into his life, her sweetness chases the dark gloom away. But when he realizes the man who murdered his wife may have set his sights on Candy, he’ll do whatever he has to in order to keep her safe.

And here’s the first ever look at the new book!

June 18th

“No, God, no, don’t do this. Don’t take them from me this way,” Steve cried, tears coursing down his cheeks, his heart and soul shattered. How could a loving God let this happen? But then God hadn’t always been the one in charge at Black Oaks. You only had to listen to the rumors and know a smidgen of the family’s history to realize that darkness held sway here.

Thick black smoke burned his throat, but nothing could hide the vicious flames still leaping into the sky as firefighters poured gallon after gallon of water on them, slowly bringing the beast to heel. He stood beside one of the massive evergreen oaks that lined the driveway, its branches heavily festooned in mistletoe despite constant efforts to cut it back. Flames soared high into the sky as the original mansion built by Tobias Kayne, a Welsh sea captain turned plantation owner, burned hot and steady, taking with it yet another Kayne woman.

Steve hadn’t wanted to leave her today, that strange sense of doom hanging over him, but she’d insisted. Scotty had his heart set on attending that Little League game in Atlanta. They’d been in the top of the fourth inning when he’d gotten the call—an explosion at Black Oaks, Amy missing.

The speed limit had been irrelevant as they’d raced back to the plantation, stopping at Magnolia Hill where he’d left Scotty with Celia and, with Jeremy by his side, had rushed the last three miles here.

“Steve, this isn’t your fault.” Jeremy held him back. “Maybe she wasn’t in there.”

“Then where the hell is she?” His voice broke on the last word, his cousin’s arms the only thing keeping him on his feet. He pushed Jeremy away. “She would never put Scotty or me through this. If I’d been here, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Don’t be stupid.” Michael growled, grabbing his left arm and yanking him around to face him. “Whatever caused the explosion and fire had nothing to do with you. If you’d been here you would’ve gone up in flames, too. That place was full of chemicals, gases, and other materials for the restoration. Someone screwed up—didn’t close a valve all the way. How many times has your night watchman had to chase kids away from here? Maybe one of them knocked something over that mixed with something else with deadly results. It’s tragic, but it happens. We’ve seen it before. Think of your son. He needs you now more than ever.”

Jeremy scoffed. “If this was an accident, I’m the next lottery winner.”

Steve shook his head. Deep down inside, as an architect, he knew houses were nothing but bricks and boards, windows and roofing materials, paint and wallpaper, but damn it, this place had filled him with foreboding from the moment he’d removed the heavy boards blocking the front door, the stale air, strangely reminiscent of that in the crypt they’d opened last year, making his flesh crawl.

According to Uncle Luke, no one had been inside for more than forty years, not since seventeen-year-old Amelia, s distant cousin, had fallen down the stairs and broken her neck. To prevent another accident, the house had been sealed shut until four months ago when this project had started.

Steve didn’t believe in ghosts and curses, even though at least a dozen women had died within its walls, but there was something sinister about the place where the sun never reached. He’d had the oak trees in front of the house trimmed, but that hadn’t dispelled the gloom. Acid roiling in his stomach, he’d begged Amy to reconsider heading this project, but his wife had been as stubborn as they come. Discovering she was pregnant two months ago hadn’t even slowed her down.

Pre-order your copy today! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K27QSLD

 

Don’t forget to check the other post this week!

 


Midweek Tease: In Plain Sight, Book Three of the Revenge Is Mine Series

MWTease15Welcome to this week’s Midweek Tease.  Fall is definitely here with  winter flexing his muscles in the background, so I thought it fitting to bring you all into my world for this week’s tease.

Midweek Tease, is a blog hop made possible by the lovely and talented Angelica Dawson. The number of teasers is small this week, but as always, the quality exceeds expectations.

Today, I bring you a scene from the third book in my Revenge Is Mine Series, In Plain Sight. Like On His Watch and Fire Angel, there is a killer out there intent on getting his or her revenge regardless of the costs involved.

In Plain SightThe Blurb:

You pay a price for everything you do.

Widowed, her dream of starring on Broadway in ashes at her feet, Misty Starr yearns for a happy, healthy, normal life for herself and her four-year-old daughter, Debbie. Settled in Pine Falls, New York, a sleepy little town filled with friendly people, she believes she’s found it and feels safe enough to sing in an amateur theater revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. She’ll do anything to keep this life even if it is built on lies, because revealing her secret is impossible. When Nick Anthony joins the cast as music director, Misty is attracted to the man who stirs up feelings she thought long dead, but can love grow on a bed of deceit?

A former concert pianist and secret CIA courier, Nick lives in darkness ever since the accident that killed his wife. The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with his vision, so why can’t he see? Hiding from his former life, he reluctantly agrees to help with the musical and is drawn to the young singer with the voice of an angel. When a mysterious fire destroys her home, Nick vows to keep her and her daughter safe. After one suspicious event leads to another, Nick is determined to protect them from an unknown assassin, but in order to do that, he needs to know her secrets. With his money and connections, he’ll do whatever it takes to save the woman he loves, but does she love him enough to reveal the truth?

This week’s tease:

… the payment will be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth,

 hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, cut for cut,

 and bruise for bruise.

 

Exodus 21:23

 Chapter One

“What the hell’s taking so long?” Ryan Spencer mumbled, shivering in the front seat of the limo. November was one of those months when either Lady Autumn was in charge or Old Man Winter flexed his muscles. Today was the latter, and his joints reminded him that while he was no Methuselah, he was no longer a spring chicken either. At least it hadn’t snowed yet, something for which he was grateful.

The diamond motif streetlights came on, and he clenched his teeth. How long before that police cruiser he’d seen fifteen minutes ago made another pass? If it did, they were bound to stop and ask questions. He glanced at the glove compartment knowing the gun inside it would be a problem if someone got nosy. It wasn’t his, but would that matter?

He’d been Kerry Doherty’s driver for more than twenty-five years, taking the old man and now his son—and whoever else he was told to—wherever they wanted to go, waiting patiently in the vehicle until he was needed to drive away again. He knew some of those activities, like today’s, were illegal, but he was well-paid to keep his head down and his mouth shut. He also knew when something wasn’t going according to plan.

At the moment, the acid in his stomach burned a hole in his gut. He needed a cigarette in the worst way, but since the old man had been diagnosed with lung cancer, smoking inside the vehicle was strictly forbidden. He should quit—he’d tried, but…

Flexing his cold fingers, he waited, afraid to run the engine. He kept his head down low, trying not to attract attention, but a car double parked on Diamond and Jewelry Way at six o’clock on a Friday evening—even if it was a chauffeur-driven Rolls—was bound to be noticed.

Money flowed down this street like a damn river of gold, but not everyone got their fair share, and that included Samuel Hershel, the disgruntled nephew of Abraham Hershel, the richest of the diamond merchants, and the one responsible for making him freeze his ass off here watching and waiting. As the youngest nephew, Samuel got the leavings, the dregs of his great uncle’s attention and business, the lion’s share going to Isaac, his eldest brother, something he didn’t think was fair.

Hand shaking, Ryan popped a piece of nicotine gum into his mouth, hoping it might assuage the gnawing inside him, knowing it probably wouldn’t. What kind of idiot had invented leather gloves that didn’t even attempt to keep your hands warm?

Damn kids with their sense of entitlement. Liam, the boss’s son, was the same. No brains, no patience. Get rich quick and be done with it. He didn’t give a damn about how he did it, or who might get hurt in the process. No, he needed to make his own mark on the bloody world, just like his new friend who’d dragged them into this mess.

In Plain Sight is available from all Amazon retailers and free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

 

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Now, please check out the rest of this week’s teasers.

#MidWeekTease October 24, 2018

Looking for more cover photos. Feel free to post a second!


Midweek Tease: Hello Again Continued

MWTease15Good morning. Welcome to the Midweek tease. Thanks Angelica Dawson for making this blog post possible. I’d planned to start teasing from another book today, but for personal reasons, I will give you once more from Hello Again. Enjoy.

As they neared the spot Shirley mentioned, tornado damage was obvious. Two wide band of ripped up earth crisscrossed the field, dead animals in crumpled heaps scattered along the edges. He swallowed awkwardly. Were there people lying like that somewhere, too? Up ahead on the road, he saw a large tree blocking the road. From here, he’d guess it was an Assiniboine poplar, but there weren’t any of those for miles around. Stopping the car, he turned to the woman beside him.

“Stay here.”

He hurried across the road. As soon as he stepped to the edge of the soft shoulder, he saw the bruised and bleeding hands holding the pillow over her head.

“Miss?” he asked, but got no response.

Jumping into the ditch, he noted the water came up over his feet. He reached down, and lifted the pillow from her head. He felt as if he’d been sucker punched. How was this possible? He struggled to breathe again and blinked twice. This was the woman from his coma, the one he’d caressed and made love to.

But that woman was a figment of his imagination and this one was real—very, very real.

On her stomach, she’d turned her head to the right, no doubt to make it easier to breathe. Her long brown hair hid part of her familiar face. Reaching down, he touched her throat, letting out a whoosh of the air he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when a strong, steady pulse beat beneath his fingers.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” Shirley said. “Get her out of that ditch.”

“I thought I told you to stay in the car.”

“You did, but you’re going to need these.” She reached into the voluminous pockets on the dress she wore and handed him a pair of garden sheers. “Now, get that off her so we can get out of here. And before you say something stupid about not moving her, nothing’s broken. The cut on her leg will heal, and she’ll be fine—as long as we get back to the house before the next twister.”

Bill reached for the sheers and moved to the woman’s feet, snipped away the branches and lifted the surprisingly heavy log off her legs, moving it far enough aside to be able to lift her out of the ditch. Turning her onto her side, he scooped her out of the mud and water.

Her eyes fluttered open. Glazed with shock and pain, the beautiful sapphire blue orbs he’d recognize anywhere widened.

“Mike?” she whispered and smiled. “You came.”

Her lids closed, and she was unconscious again.

Carrying her back to the vehicle, surprised to see Shirley seated there already, he gently placed his new passenger on the backseat and then got behind the wheel once more.

“Quickly,” Shirley said. “We’ve got no time to lose. The tornado’s going to cross the road a quarter-mile from here. We don’t want to be too close when it does.”

Making a three-point turn, Bill stepped on the gas, hoping to outrun this leg of the storm.

You can get a copy of Hello Again from any Amazon distributor. It’s free to read with KU!

 

Please check out the rest of this week’s teasers. We’re a small group but well worth the effort.

Midweek Tease: More from Hello Again

MWTease15Good morning. Welcome to this week’s Midweek Tease. Thanks to Angelica Dawson and all the wonderful authors who make this blog hop possible.  Today, I’m posting from Hello Again, my paranormal,romance, suspense, based on a Native American myth.  Look for something new next week.

Enjoy.

“Let’s go. We don’t have much time. She needs you.” Shirley’s voice was loud in the stillness.

Bill turned toward the elderly woman. In the candlelight, she looked more like a ghost than a flesh and blood person.

HelloAgain-ebook-small“Who needs me?” he asked, furrowing his brow.

“The woman in my vision.”

“What vision? What are you talking about?”

Bill wasn’t sold on the idea of a shaman who communicated with the dead or gods or whatever the hell Shirley thought was speaking to her, but he knew enough not to voice his doubts. The elderly woman was upset. She probably just needed to get out of the small room. In the near darkness, with the three of them occupying the space, he felt a little claustrophobic, too.

The wolf growled low in his throat, the sound unsettling.

“But maybe someone does need your help.”

A shiver ran up Bill’s spine. The voice inside his head, a man’s voice, was strangely familiar, but it sure as hell wasn’t his.

“Listen to Shirley and do as she tells you to. You won’t regret it. Believe,” the man spoke loudly, and Bill sensed his urgency. “I chose you and brought her here; now it’s up to you.”

The wolf jumped out of the tub, knocking his body against him, sending an electric charge through him. Bill stumbled back, turned the knob, and opened the door. While it was dark in the house, it was still better than being entombed in the washroom.

“Is she hurt?” he asked the voice in his head, more confused than ever, but Shirley answered.

“Yes, and we have to get to her before the third twister. Hurry.”

“Third twister? Mother of God, what the hell kind of storm is this? If you saw a woman in trouble, why didn’t you tell me about her before the first tornado hit?”

He couldn’t believe there’d been two in spite of what she’d said. He didn’t set a lot of store in psychics, but he’d heard rumors about some of the Nakoda seers. Some things were meant to be taken on faith, and as a medicine woman, Shirley Smoke’s visions fell into that category, and while he’d gladly humor her, it was the voice he’d heard inside his own head that spurred him to action.

“Because we had to wait until it was over. Now that it’s done, we have to go.” She stepped over to the wolf and rubbed his head. “I’ve only known him a short time, and he’s secretive. He’s got his own agenda and now, it includes us,” she said. “The spirits tell me what to do and when to do it. I’m theirs to command, not the other way around. Now, are you going to let that woman die while you flap your gums at me?”

The word die propelled Bill into action. Shirley had been right about the storm and his arrival, and since he hadn’t been the one scheduled to make the visit, even that aspect of her clairvoyance made sense. He wouldn’t argue with her now. If she was right, someone’s life was in danger, and if she was wrong, he’d take the opportunity to run her into Regina and have someone look at her chest. The wheezing had worsened, and if the air was as full of dust as it had been after the tornado last month, then she could be in serious trouble.

The words he’d heard earlier echoed in his head as he followed Shirley and the wolf to the door. I chose you. He’d heard those exact words ten months ago. Goosebumps crawled across his flesh and he shuddered.

Want to read more? You can pick up a copy, digital or paperback,  from any Amazon store. Hello Again is free to read on Kindle Unlimited!

 

Now, please check out the rest of this week’s teasers.

Midweek Tease: Continuing with Hello Again

MWTease15

Welcome to Wednesday and this week’s Midweek Tease. Many thanks to Angelica Dawson and the other authors on this forum that make this hop possible.

Since I’ve had a couple of requests to do so, I’ll post once more from Hello Again, my paranormal/romance/suspense based on a Native American myth.  Ten days ago, six tornadoes touched down in the Ottawa area, something previously unknown in this part of the country. Luckily, no one was killed although many were injured and an incredible amount of damage occurred. Now, join Charley for the ride of her life!

Hoping to outrun the worst of the storm, Charley drove as quickly as she could along the uneven, unpaved surface. The wind had picked up, and while the sky ahead of her was blue, the blackness behind her was unsettling, but not as bad as what she saw ahead of her.

Whirling vortices of dust seemed to form out of nowhere, blinding her, forcing her to reduce her speed. This wasn’t ideal dust devil climate, so what the hell was going on? Had Mother Nature finally had enough of man’s abuse and mistreatment and gone crazy? What else could account for this hell-bred weather?

Leaning over, Charley popped the CD out and tuned the radio, hoping to pick up a weather update, but all Matilda could offer was static. She’d passed a church, but the parking lot had been empty. The sign on the side of the road indicated that the Nakoda Oyade Education Center was a mile ahead.

“Let’s hope somebody’s home,” she said aloud, her nerves on the edge of fraying.

Five minutes later, the compound came into view, but like the church, the parking lot was empty.

“Maybe it’s some kind of tribal holiday,” she said, biting her lip. The few houses she’d passed along the way were deserted as well.

“There has to be somebody someplace. It’s a reserve. People live here.”

Fat raindrops splashed against the windshield. Up ahead, a small copse of trees, on the east side of the road bent almost to the ground, shaken by the sudden heavy wind that made steering all but impossible. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, rattling the car as the rain increased in intensity.

Sighing, she pulled over to the side of the road, noticing the drainage ditch at the last minute. Another two feet and she and Matilda would’ve been in big trouble. Maybe she should turn around and go back to the education center and park up close to the building. A blast of wind rocked the car viciously and convinced her to stay put.

Unfastening her seat belt, Charley put the seat back, closed her eyes, and prepared to wait out the storm. She hadn’t slept well last night. The wind rocking the vehicle was strangely comforting rather than disturbing, reminding her of the evenings she’d sat on the swing in the backyard, cradled in Mike’s arms. She could feel the heat of his body, smell his aftershave, that woodsy cologne he’d favored. Drifting down memory lane, she relaxed, warm and comforted as she hadn’t been in years.

Suddenly, the warmth was ripped away from her, replaced by a blast of cold that seeped right into her bones, startling her awake as nothing else could’ve done. The woodsy scent she’d imagined was replaced by the petrichor of the storm, the airborne aroma of decomposing plant and animal matter attached to the dirt and mineral surfaces around her, borne on the heavier winds. The steady pitter-patter of rain on the windshield was replaced by the hard rat-tat-tat of hail.

Black clouds, heavy rain, hail, this heat and humidity … What the hell was she thinking? She’d seen the news last night. This was the perfect combination for a tornado, and since there wasn’t much around taller than her car—even the damn bushes were kissing the ground—staying inside like this wasn’t the smartest thing she could do. As much as she missed Mike, she didn’t have a death wish, and sitting in the car like this, out in the open, was suicide.

“That’s the first smart thought you’ve had in five years.”

She shook her head. She must still be daydreaming. Her conscience sounded so much like Mike, it was unsettling, but she needed to smarten up now. The Emergency Preparedness Guide Miri had insisted she memorize was clear. There was no perfectly safe thing to do in a situation like this, but, in the event of a tornado, if she could safely exit the car and get lower than it, she should. Considering how she felt about storms, it would be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, but sitting here doing nothing wouldn’t work either.

The hail and rain came down so hard, she could barely see through them, but there was that drainage ditch beside the road—no doubt one that would fill up with water—but what choice did she have?

“Charlotte, get out of the damn car now.” Her father’s voice echoed in the vehicle, loud in spite of the noise from the hail.

“Dad?” She shook her head vigorously. “This is not happening.”

But the sense of urgency in the voice she couldn’t possibly have heard forced her to don her jacket and reach for two of the pillows on the back seat, grateful she’d worn jeans today after all. She opened the door and a heavy gust whipped it out of her hands. Fighting the wind’s pull, she got out of the car, sliding on the dime-sized chunks of ice that covered the ground as completely as snow would in a blizzard. She clung to the vehicle, walked around the trunk, stepped over the trailer hitch bar, and threw herself down on top of the layer of ice in the bottom of the drainage ditch beside the road, shivering at the unexpected cold, placing one pillow under her head and the other atop it. So far, there was no accumulation of water, but at the rate the rain and hail were coming down, it was only a matter of time.

Hailstones pummeled her body. Water seeped through her clothing as the ice beneath her melted. No doubt she’d have a few nasty bruises when this was over. Colder than she’d been in weeks, she quickly doubted the wisdom of leaving the car. Obviously, she hadn’t really heard her father’s voice, no more than she’d heard it the day Mike had died. She’d made a decision based on her circumstances. What if it had been the wrong one? Perhaps she should get back inside the vehicle. At least it offered some protection. She was about to do that when the noise around her increased.

“You are the most stubborn woman in the universe.” Mike’s frustrated voice was loud inside her head, filling her with joy. She wasn’t imagining this. She could hear him. “If you’d been willing to meet me halfway, it wouldn’t have come to this.”

“Mike!” she cried, happier than she’d been in years.

She hadn’t imagined his voice. He’d finally come for her. She raised her head, prepared to get out of the ditch when something larger than a chunk of ice landed across her legs, sending a shaft of pain ripping through them. Her left leg was on fire. She was pinned to the ground like a bug in a science display.

No! She had to get up and go to Mike. He was here. He’d come for her. She tried to get up but she couldn’t move her legs. She was trapped under what must be a branch—hell that had to be a whole goddamn tree. Where had it come from? She’d seen lots of bushes, but no full-sized trees in at least an hour.

The buzzing grew louder, the hail stopped and the same warmth she’d felt in the car seeped into her as if she were being covered by a heavy blanket, momentarily numbing the throbbing in her leg. A loud, low roar, reminiscent of two freight trains passing by filled her ears, and in the noise she heard metal clanking over and over.

Oh my God! Matilda!

The scream of steel being torn apart made her ears ache. The car and the trailer had to be caught in the funnel, and if they were, then she’d lost everything. It was a good thing she’d listened to that inner voice and had gotten out of the vehicle, even if her body would look as if she’d gone ten rounds in a boxing ring, but what would she do now?

More terrified than she’d ever been, Charley clung to the pillow over her head despite the sting of dirt and other debris ripping at her hand. It seemed to go on and on, and suddenly, the hard muddy ground beneath her became slimier. Water moved slowly around her as runoff from the fields above her began to fill the ditch. She was going to die alone in this ditch.

“You’re not alone, Charley. I’m here.”

Mike’s words calmed her. Of course he was here. He’d come for her.

“No, I haven’t, but he’ll be here soon.”

Something hard and heavy hit the pillow over her head, and she spiraled into oblivion.

Hello Again is available from any Amazon retailer and is free to read with KU!

Now, please check out the rest of this week’s teasers.

#MidWeekTease October 3, 2018