I simply had to pull today’s snippet from one of my favorite books of 2019 – TODAY, TOMORROW, ALWAYS – becauseI wanted to share with you an unbelievable 5 star review I received from Long and Short reviews on Friday. After I stopped crying I knew this week I should re-promo this book again.
In this scene, Cathy starts to realize there’s more than just a sad spirit floating about in Mac Frayne. Much more…..
Before leaving, I pulled my cellphone from my purse and slipped it into my jacket pocket. Life with Nanny has taught me never to be more than an Instagran call away.
I led the way down the cast-iron circular staircase to the subbasement. I hadn’t been in the personal archives since taking over my keeper-of-the-keys duties—I was going to call it that forever, now—and I’d forgotten how deathly quiet it could be. And creepy. What amounted to two stories below ground level, the staircase was lit only by the electric sconces on the wall guiding us downward. The sound of our shoes bounced and echoed off the metal gratings under our feet.
“It’s wicked spooky down here,” I said when we came to the bottom. “No outside noise. No windows. No people. It’s like a perfect tomb. If I ever got stuck down here, the silence alone would scare me into an early grave.”
“If I was a suspense or a horror writer, this would be a great setting to kill someone and then stash the body,” Frayne said, looking around the space.
“With limited, keyed access and no foot traffic, it wouldn’t be discovered for a while. You could make as much noise or as much of a mess as you wanted and no one would know. The walls would absorb all the sounds of torture and screaming. We’re far enough underground the stench of decomp wouldn’t be noticeable. By the time the body was found, you’d be long gone. It’s kind of a perfect setup, actually.” He perused the area intensely, assessing the possibilities.
A shudder zipped up my spine. Who knew the mild-mannered and reserved writer had such a macabre side?
And why, for the love of God, did I find it so…arousing?
He turned to me, and then cupped the back of his neck with one palm, a half grin lining his mouth. “Sorry. I tend to think out loud without filtering. Side effect of being in a solitary profession. I don’t usually have an audience when thoughts are running around in here”—he tapped his temple—“so I tend to say them out loud.”
“I think you might have missed your calling in the horror-writing department. The scene you set was a little too realistic and probable for comfort. The next time we come down here, I’m hauling a baseball bat along in case you want to try out any of your ideas.”
A heart-stopping grin shot across his face like a bolt of lightning: rapid, blinding, and powerful.
“I’m harmless.” To underscore his point, he drew an X over his heart.
I didn’t know about that. Those dimples were about as harmless as a heart attack.
With a shake of my head and my own grin slipping across my lips, I slid the key into the locked door and opened it. A second door, this one passcode protected, stood a few feet in front of us.
“Double security. Impressive.”
“The museum’s insurance adjustor insisted on it. Some of the papers and items in here could be considered historically priceless.” I typed the seven- digit code I’d had to memorize when I was inducted into the historical society onto the keypad located on the wall abutting the door.
“You know, if I was writing my horror book, I’d make you the sole individual with access to the admittance code,” he said, his voice soft and hushed now around us. “I’d worm my way into your trust, then lure you down here to gain access to some treasure sealed behind the door.”
He was standing close behind me, so close I could feel his breath trail across the back of my neck. The shiver sliding down my spine this time wasn’t from the creep factor associated with the locale. No, this time it was pure excitement fraying my nerve endings. Excitement, want, and…need.
I turned back to face him. A day or two’s thatch of black and white stubble grazed his cheeks and jaw, and if I were to scratch my fingers across it, it would be prickly and incredibly alluring. His eyes had gone to half-mast as he regarded me from under thick lashes, and his lips were parted a fraction.
“Worm your way into my trust, how?”
His shrug appeared noncommittal. After a moment, he tugged his bottom lip under his top teeth and slanted me a gauging squint. “Well, since my purpose would be some shade of evil, malicious intent—”
“Good description for a horror story.”
He grinned. “I’d have to make sure you trusted me. Maybe I’d write a plot point where you took pity on me for some reason.” He stopped, his gaze shooting down to my mouth and then back up again. “Maybe even attempt a simple seduction to ensure my hold over you.”
The subbasement was kept at a comfortable, controlled seventy degrees year round. But you would never have known it by me. With each word from Frayne’s lips, my inner temperature climbed higher, like a nuclear coil overreacting and heating to dangerous levels.
Good Lord. I was relegated to repeating things now because I couldn’t form a coherent thought. Not with the heat blazing like a firestorm in his eyes.
“Maybe not so…simple.” His voice lowered even more. “The need to be careful with you, with your feelings, would war within me. I’d have to decide what
I wanted more: the hidden treasure…” His gaze flicked to my mouth. “Or you.”
“And after you decide? Then what?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even and not give him a clue what he was doing to my nervous system. “You’d chop me into tiny bits and leave me for the docents to find in six months’ time while you escaped scot-free?”
I’d meant it to be a playful rejoinder, following his horror theme, and a ridiculous attempt to lighten the mood. The joke was on me, though.
Frayne took a step closer, stretched out an arm and placed his palm flat against the wall, imprisoning me on one side. I lifted my chin to keep my gaze connected with his.
“No.” His voice was as soft as a curl of smoke. “No, I wouldn’t hurt you. Never. I couldn’t.” He shook his head. “I think I’d write it so I stole the treasure…and you along with it. I’d take you both with me.” With a tiny crook to his elbow, he leaned in closer and bent his head.
“Where…where would we go?” I asked. While waiting for his reply, I swallowed again—hard—the sound of my throat working loud and rough between us.
With his free hand, Frayne reached up and idly coiled a strand of my hair around his finger. Lovingly, he rubbed it between his thumb and his first two fingers, then lifted it to his mouth. When he dragged it across his lips, I swear on my oath as an officer of the court, I was in danger of losing my ability to stand.
“Someplace no one would ever find us.” His voice had gone whisper-soft. “Someplace…far away from”— he sighed—“everything and everyone.”
How wonderful that sounded. To go someplace far away from court cases and demanding clients. Loneliness and heartache. Responsibilities and sad memories.
“We’d spend the rest of our lives on a beach somewhere, lying in the warm sun. Drinking champagne, eating lobsters. Sleeping.” He let loose my hair. “Making love. No outside concerns. No thoughts about anything except what time the sun set. Sounds pretty perfect, doesn’t it?”
That ability to keep standing upright? Yeah, well, I lost it right then and there.
I fell backward against the security door, shoving it open with my body. I stumbled across the threshold and would have fallen flat on my butt if Frayne’s reflexes weren’t laser swift. His strong hands went around my upper arms and held fast. Even through the layers of my blouse and the warm wool jacket, heat blasted from his fingers, branding my flesh as if he held it, bare, in his hands.
When the door opened, the automatic light shot to the on position and the glare from the overhead fluorescents was blinding.
Frayne held me close in front of him, even after I was sure-footed, his fingers slowly kneading my upper arms as he continued to stare down at me. “Are you okay?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat for the third time—and then tried to take a step back and out of his hold.
His grip tightened. “Cathy? Are you all right?”
“You can let me go,” I said, my voice shaking. “I won’t fall. Promise.”
Intrigued? I hope so. If you are, you can get your copy across any of these platforms.
Also available at the TOADSTOOL BOOKSHOP in Keene, NH
Until next time, peeps ~Peg