I’m Stirring and Stirring and Stirring My Brew… (Oooooh. Oooooh.)
Well, I’ll take a wild guess that I’m not the only one who considers Halloween to be the official start of the holiday season. October is, actually, my favorite month of the year with its crisp, cool air; beautifully colored leaves; acorns and pine cones; brilliantly orange pumpkins; golden straw, whipped into hay bales…; witches, full moons, black cats…; etc….
So, in honor of this holiday season kick-off, please be my guest and read this sneak-peek excerpt from my young adult paranormal romance novel, PS.
Maybe this will help spark a bewitching holiday mood for you! Enjoy…
EXCERPT FROM: “PS, BOOK 1”
CH. 12, RITES & WRONGS
There was no question about it. Brendon’s house looked unmistakably like a castle — not the kind typically found in fairy tales where you’d see knights in shining armor practicing their maneuvers upon horses in bright green fields of grass, ringed by a meadow in full spring bloom. In fact, Brendon’s house appeared rather bleak, like a fortress you’d find in an old black-and-white horror movie featuring a beautiful, curvy, ill-fated damsel visiting an older, seemingly gentlemanly widower who went mad years earlier and now keeps people, or specimens, chained up in a dark and cold secret dungeon below ground.
The decorations leading up from the sidewalk to the entrance of Brendon’s impressive home were so authentic, I couldn’t tell if they had been added for the sake of the Halloween party, or if they were a regular household item Jeph and Brendon used every day. Being that the house was built from large blackish stones, it didn’t take much imagination at all to feel like we were walking into an actual haunted house.
Jon and I glanced sideways at each other before walking through the front door under a bower of fake cobwebs and spiders. His hand found a secure place around my waist, resting on my right hip, as he guided me through the dark entry hall into the main room where the party was in full swing. I was instantly captivated by the scene.
A large stone hearth was situated on the side wall. It looked like something the Pilgrims would have used to cook their meals. The only place I’d ever seen anything remotely like it was in Colonial Williamsburg, at the bakery behind Raleigh Tavern. I had visited there a few times with my family over the years and it was ingrained in my memory because we never left town without buying a few gingerbread cookies. My mouth watered now at the memory and I found myself a bit disappointed that the fireplace currently before me was bereft of antique metal pots and pokers, or a baker dressed in period clothing dusted with white flour — something the Williamsburg Historic Area would not have been without.
Upon the mantel trailed a long row of thick ivory pillar candles, all alight and flickering as the party guests moved around the room and stirred the air. An ornate, red velvet chair flanked the left side of the hearth, balanced by a well-worn black leather armchair on the right. Across the room, a wall of bookcases had become the backdrop for a large, inviting table set with an array of delectable food and a few strategically placed candelabras. The remainder of the room’s lighting was offered by glowing sconces aimed toward the ceiling, which was painted black. The final touch was the Goth music echoing over and around us from stereo speakers hidden around the room. Jon squeezed my side as I was finishing my surveillance. When I turned to view him, I jumped back awkwardly, caught off-guard by a life-size blow-up Frankenstein monster standing behind me with its arms outstretched.
Jon grinned and stifled a laugh. “Wow… they really went all out.”
“Yeah. I love how the—” I cut myself off as someone dressed as Dracula approached, sliding across the floor in black sock-like shoes.
“Velcome to my humble abode,” a young man greeted us a deep, faux-Transylvanian accent. He gave me a double-take, then spoke again in what I presumed was his regular voice, “Thanks for coming. I’m Jeph… and all of this is my fault, so don’t hold it against Brendon — although he did cook some of the food and let me borrow his music collection… and BOSE—”
“That’s cool,” Jon nodded. “I’m Jon, and this is Elyse.” We all shook hands.
“Is he here?” I stumbled enthusiastically over my words before realizing they needed clarification, “Brendon, I mean. I haven’t seen him yet.” Having checked every corner of the large space before us ever since we walked in I couldn’t help noticing his obvious absence.
“Who knows.” Jeph said carelessly, waving a white-gloved hand in the air.
“This house is great. Is it yours?” asked Jon.
“Nah. Brendon inherited it from someone in his family…”
“Wow. That’s awesome. Do you know any of its history?” Jon continued. He must have been as fascinated by the thought of living in such a home as I was….
“Er, well… I think there was a big fire here a long time ago. Then the house was left to rot for a long time before someone in the family renovated it,” Jeph finished up quickly as a few new arrivals drew his attention away from us. “Have a good night,” he said, sliding toward the other guests to repeat his big line of the evening, “Velcome to my humble abode.”….
After another careful look at each other, Jon and I moved toward the food table. “Thanks for asking me to come with you tonight,” he stated warmly near my ear as I crunched a carrot stick I had just dunked into a bowl of hummus.
Despite his nearness, I strained to hear him over the noise of the room and opted to smile at him instead of actually speaking.
“Wanna get some air?” he asked.
“Sure,” I shrugged, finishing off my last bite.
We walked together toward the back of the house where a set of French doors were open to a small garden, well lit by several strings of orange and black holiday lights. Lucie and Quinn were seated on the only available bench, so Jon and I made our way under the canopy of a large elm tree.
“Ahh… This is much better. It’s a lot quieter out here,” Jon’s voice seemed suddenly soft and sweet, as though he was singing. I could sense Lucie’s inquisitive stare in our direction and forced myself to focus on the timbre of Jon’s voice in a desperate effort to ignore her. Surely she couldn’t find a reason to hate me for being here with him. She didn’t even know him.
“I would’ve thought you liked noisy places… like the ones you perform in,” I finally offered Jon after mindlessly watching the descent of a few golden leaves float down to their resting place on the ground.
“Yeah, I like the noise sometimes. A lot, actually. But it has its time and place. Bars are not very conducive to meaningful conversations.”
“I guess not,” I agreed.
“So, do you see any of your friends here?” he asked.
I looked around again for the only friend I hoped would be there, but Brendon still hadn’t appeared. It was then that I caught Quinn’s eye. He aimed a hesitant grin in my direction, once again seeming to want to tell me something, but he remained silent.
“Nope, nobody… Just you,” I told Jon.
“Good,” he said, turning me to him with a sweet smile and pulling me close. “Now I can have you all to myself.” To prove his point, he leaned into me and placed his cheek gently against mine. For several moments I could feel his chest expand and contract as he breathed calmly beside me. It was oddly comforting, but also hinted at what was to come, a moment that was moving way too fast for me — especially since I wasn’t totally sure about Jon’s status with his girlfriend. I braced my hands against his arms to push him away as he moved even closer, but when the moment actually came, I let his lips skim mine. The very moment they touched, he broke away….
In a blur, I turned to find Jon across the garden with his back wedged firmly up against the wall of the house, each arm and leg locked against the stone surface by some invisible force. I searched his face for an explanation, in shock. He returned the same look to me. I spun around again hoping to find another witness, but Quinn and Lucie had already left the garden. Jon and I were, apparently, alone.
“Elyse,” Jon spoke quietly to me as his body relaxed and he lurched forward, breaking free from the wall.
I walked toward him not knowing what to say.
“Uhh… I think I’m going to go,” he finally uttered somewhat comically, yet there was real fear in his voice. He touched his throat slightly as though the unseen force may have been choking him.
“Are you okay?”
“Uhh… yeah. But… I’m a little freaked.”
I laughed lightly, nervously, hoping it wouldn’t make him feel bad. “Do you want to go back inside or something? Would you like me to get you a drink?”
“No…. actually, I really think I just need to leave.”
I sighed in protest, “What just happened?”
Jon’s eyes searched past me in the shadows, in the light. “I have no idea. It felt like…”
He tried to laugh it off, but he couldn’t manage to do so convincingly.
“Tell me,” I prodded.
“It felt like… someone… or something… pulled me away from you and threw me against the wall.”
I giggled again, uncontrollably. “You mean… something… like a ghost?”
Jon nodded carefully, slowly, as if moving any faster would summon the sinister spirit again.
“Should we call the TAPS team out here to investigate?” I enthused. Jon frowned at my attempt to make light of the situation by calling Ghost Hunters to the scene.
“So… you’re ready to leave.” I reiterated to him.
“Yes… do you mind if we go?”
“Umm… are you really, really sure you want to leave?”
“Elyse,” Jon took my hands forcibly in his, realizing my disappointment but clearly not interested in derailing it, “Don’t think this has anything to do with you. I would love to spend time with you. Just not here.”
I let out another sigh, this one much heavier than the first. “Okay,” I told him, resigning myself to our untimely exit. I knew very well what it was like to feel strange and unwanted somewhere, and I didn’t want him to suffer more than necessary. We walked together into the house, across the floor of the main room, toward the front entry. As soon as we approached the garland of cobwebs and spiders over the arched doorway, a hand grabbed my arm — the one Jon wasn’t still clinging to.
“Hey, Elyse,” Brendon’s cool, familiar voice purred in my ear as if he was standing much nearer than inches away from me.
“Brendon!” my voice came out enthusiastic enough to shift the look on Jon’s face from trepidation to discontent. I forced myself to tone down my suddenly overjoyed demeanor, “Hi. Sorry I didn’t find you sooner. I was looking for you… but now we’re on our way out.”
“Really?” Brendon’s voice was strangely composed. “Things are just getting started.”
“Well… Jon,” I paused, realizing the two of them hadn’t been properly introduced yet, and began again, “Brendon, this is Jon. Jon, this is Brendon — the one Jeph mentioned earlier. This is his house.”
The young men shook hands in a firm greeting, making full eye contact, sizing each other up. “I see you’ve heard a bit of the back story, then?” Brendon asked, his eyes not leaving Jon’s.
“Yeah…,” I noted, “Well, Jeph only mentioned there was a fire and that your family fixed the place back up. That’s about all we heard.”
Brendon turned and smiled at me in his familiar way that always sapped the strength out of me. “That sort of sums it up, I guess.” He returned his gaze to Jon, “So… you were just leaving?”
I looked at Jon’s face, and squeezed his hands in mine. “Do you want to stay or leave?”
“Let’s go,” he said calmly.
“Hey, Elyse, if you’re not ready to leave yet, I can see you home later,” Brendon interjected generously.
My heart fluttered weirdly. I looked at Jon, not knowing what to do, but almost instantly, it was Jon who gave in, “He’s right, Elyse. You stay here. It’s okay. These are your friends. I don’t want to take you away from them.”
Brendon grinned at me, “Oh, good. So, it’s settled? You’ll stay…and…” he turned to Jon, “you will leave.”
I looked back at Jon, feeling like one of the plastic spiders caught in the gauzy web above us, and shrugged my shoulders.
“Yep, she’ll stay,” Jon offered, leaning in to kiss my cheek. “I’ll call you later,” he said, walking out the front door and down the street before I could return his “good night”.
“What was that all about?” Brendon asked, genuinely concerned.
“I don’t know. Something freaked him out in the garden,” I said.
“Hmm. Well, you know… those Halloween lights really are pretty spooky,” Brendon joked without smiling. He ran his fingers through his dark auburn locks, mussing his hair — the definition of cool and casual. Meanwhile, I stood beside him bewildered as the music that had been drumming endlessly in the background of our conversation began to pound ever more relentlessly into my head….