Weekend Excerpt–MIDNIGHT COVE

A few months ago, I was invited to join an anthology of fall romantic suspense novels. I jumped at the chance to write a story that has been swirling around in my brain for a while. Here’s the official blurb for MIDNIGHT COVE.

They say still waters run deep.
In the tiny lakeside town of Midnight Cove, still waters harbor dark secrets.
Writer Bree Blaylock just wants a chance to catch her breath. 
Having finally escaped an abusive relationship, she’s relieved to have found a quiet place to finish writing her new book.  
From the moment she arrives, she realizes that
she’s not alone in her rented cottage on the lake. 
But she’s okay with that.
In her experience, the living are always more dangerous than the dead.
Meeting handsome local lawman Jake Hanson wasn’t even remotely on her radar. 
Now that she has, maybe it’s time to take another chance on love.  
But can he keep her safe when the past comes calling?

MIDNIGHT COVE was a chance to stretch my writing into contemporary romance with a paranormal twist. How about a teaser?

When the battered white pickup disappeared around a bend in the long gravel drive, Bree Blaylock kept her foot steady on the gas pedal of her 1975 Beetle.  Mr. Meyer would wait. 

After her long drive, she wanted to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the ancient live oaks that lined the way from the highway to the house she planned to rent for the next two months. 

Grey-green tendrils of Spanish moss dripped from the broad branches that arched over the gravel driveway.  Though the September air was crisp, brilliant sunlight filtered through the moss-hung trees and dappled the ground in patches of gold.

Beside her on the passenger seat, Murphy whined.  Bree glanced at him and smiled.  “It’s okay, boy.  We’re almost there.”

While for her the 8½ hour drive from Tampa to western South Carolina had seemed long, for her three-year-old yellow lab, it must have seemed interminable.  Although for his first big road trip, Murphy had done remarkably well. 

As the yellow VW curved around the next bend, the house came into view.  It was the 1920s Craftsman-style house she’d discovered online, a charming vintage structure of pale-green clapboard, two stories high with an additional narrow attic perched in the center at the top. 

The covered front porch ran beyond the width of the house to form a carport on the left side.  Wide front steps led up to the porch, its arched supports perched on cream-painted columns that were wider at the bottom than they were at the top. 

Ahead, Mr. Meyer had parked his truck and stood waiting for her.  She pulled up beside him and opened her door.  Before she could get out, Murphy scrambled across her and ran happily snuffling around the front lawn.

“This is the house,” the man said, hooking a thumb over his shoulder.

Bree nodded.  “It looks exactly like it did online.”  She glanced up at the front of the house.  A hint of movement in the attic window caught her eye, and she frowned slightly.

“I took the pictures myself,” Mr. Meyer informed her.  “My rental’s on the up and up.”

“I didn’t mean to imply that it wasn’t, I just meant that it looked familiar.”  Bree flicked a glance back up to the attic, then followed the man up the front steps.

As he unlocked the heavy front door, Bree noted the beveled glass panes in the top third of the wood panels.  She loved everything about the vintage home.  It was exactly what she’d been looking for when she’d decided to leave Florida.

The door swung open, and Mr. Meyer preceded her inside.  While Bree took in the high ceilings and dark wood trim in the living room, he launched into his tour narrative. 

“You can see the parlor,” he commented over his shoulder as he continued toward the back of the house.  “Back here’s the kitchen and the den.  ‘Course, you’ve got lake views from any room on the back of the house.”

Mesmerized by the tranquil sight of the lake, Bree approached the bank of windows that ran along the back wall of the open-concept kitchen and den.  She sighed deeply. 

This.  This was exactly what she needed.

He led her upstairs, showing her four bedrooms in total, two overlooking the front of the house, and two, including the master, overlooking the lake.  A large bathroom featured vintage tile and an antique clawfoot bathtub.  Off the master bedroom, a terrace doubled the deck downstairs off the den.  A door in the hallway led up a narrow flight of stairs to a small attic that ran front to back like a spine across the top of the house.

Mr. Meyer led the way back down to the first floor.  Bree couldn’t resist returning to the windows overlooking the lake. 

“What was it you say you do?” he asked.

She turned and smiled softly.  “I’m a writer.”

Hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans, he nodded.  “It’s unusual, is all, you wanting to rent the cabin this late in the year.”  He nodded toward the lake.  “Folks like to come in the summer to swim and fish and that.  In the fall now, it’s quiet.  Only a handful of people live on the lake year-around.  Most people live in town.”

“Quiet sounds perfect to me.  I have a deadline, and I need to get busy writing.”

The man nodded again, pursing his lips.  “And we agreed on a price?”

Bree rummaged through her leather shoulder bag and produced a white envelope.  She held it up.  “We did.  And you accepted my cash offer.”

He shrugged slightly.  “I don’t usually discount my cabin…”  He let his comment hang.

“Like you said, it’s late in the year.”  Bree straightened her five-foot-four frame and looked him square in the eye.  “And I’m paying you cash, in advance, for two months’ rent.”

After a moment, the old man nodded.  “Cash, in advance.”  He accepted the envelope, briefly peering inside.  Then he handed her the key and headed toward the front door.

Out on the lawn, Murphy was still exploring along the edge of the woods.  Mr. Meyer stopped at the driver’s side door of his pickup.  “You need anything, you can call.  And I’m at the hardware store every day.”

Bree pictured Meyer Hardware on the main street of Midnight Cove.  It was where they’d arranged to meet when she’d called to make her reservation two days earlier.

“I live up over the store,” he continued.  “So if anything breaks, you can let me know right away.  If I can’t fix it, I’ll find someone who can.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” she murmured.

Meyer glanced up at the house, then looked at Bree.  “Just so we’re clear, though.”  He held up the envelope.  “No refunds.  You decide you’re not staying, you can’t get your money back.”

Bree drew a ragged breath, thinking about where she’d just left.  “I’ll be staying,” she said firmly.

The old man nodded.  “Alright, then.  I suppose I’ll see you in town.  Not too many redheads living in Midnight Cove.”

With that, he climbed into his truck, backed around, and headed down the driveway.

When he was out of sight, Bree called Murphy.  “Come on, boy.  Let’s go get settled.”
 
**
 
From the attic window, he watched as the old man drove away, leaving the redhead and her dog standing on the driveway.  A dog.  That was a development.  Might be good, could be bad, he considered. 

On the one hand, animals usually seemed to see him, or at least be aware of his presence.  The family dog or a cat staring into a seemingly empty corner was sometimes enough to freak out its owners.  The dog’s attention could, however, make it difficult for him to move about undetected. 

Didn’t matter, he shook his head.  He’d concentrate his energy, knock over a few things, and send the woman and her dog skittering back to wherever they’d come from.

Out on the driveway, the woman retrieved a pair of black bags from the front of the yellow Beetle and carried them inside.  From the corner of the master bedroom, he watched as she unpacked some clothes and hung them in the closet. 

Another trip to the car produced a big blue dog bed and a large tan leather shoulder bag.  When she returned inside, to his surprise, she rearranged the den, placing a small table against one of the back windows then adding a chair.  From her bag, she removed a thin electronic gadget and placed it on the table. 

Although in life, he’d never known anything like it, he’d seen other summer folk with the same kind of thing.  It was like a typewriter, but you didn’t put paper in it.  He couldn’t figure out the purpose of the gizmo, but it really didn’t matter. 

She put the dog bed in the corner beside the newly created workspace, and the dog happily launched himself onto it, burrowing into the soft cushion and lolling gleefully.  The woman smiled at the dog.  “Who’s my good boy?” she asked softly.

She squatted to briefly rub the dog’s belly, then crossed to the French doors that opened onto the back deck.  As she stood gazing out over the lake, he glanced around the room, assessing what might give him the biggest bang for his buck. 

An empty rocking chair moving on its own accord was always a good bet.  If he could slam shut her typing gadget, that might be a nice touch as well.  As he made his way across the room to the rocking chair, the dog let out a low growl. 

Good, he thought.  Now she’ll be paying attention.

Concentrating intensely, he reached for the back of the rocking chair.  With effort, he managed to push it forward once.  It rocked forward and back a handful of times before slowing to a stop. 

The dog woofed once, then whined.  The woman watched as the chair settled.  Then she covered her face with her hands.

Unsure, he wavered for a moment before he made his way to the desk.  He was just reaching out to slam shut the device when she spoke.

“You should know that I’m not going anywhere.  I just gave the owner all the money I have in the world.  I don’t have anywhere else to go.  You’re stuck with me until the middle of November.”

Shocked, he froze.  No one had ever addressed him before.  But his surprise was quickly replaced by determination.  This was his house.  Where she went was her problem.  Forget closing the lid of her electronic device.  He’d shove the damn thing right off the table.

He was just gathering his strength when he heard a sound.  Turning, he saw that she’d sunk into the rocking chair, the very object that should have sent her running.  Holding her face in her hands, she sobbed like her heart was breaking. 

Immediately, he felt his resolve melting away.  He didn’t mind scaring people.  It was just good, clean fun, really.  But causing her to cry made him feel like a shit. 

He sighed to himself and watched her for a moment.  It looked like he might be stuck with the redhead and her dog for a bit longer than he’d thought.

MIDNIGHT COVE by Pandora Spocks

Although eventually I plan to publish it under my own Bratty Ginger Books imprint, MIDNIGHT COVE is currently part of DARK SECRETS, an anthology of 9 steamy, suspense romance novels you’re going to love.

DARK SECRETS comes out October 11,
just in time for your Halloween reading pleasure.
It’s only 99¢, and it’s FREE with Kindle Unlimited.
Reserve your copy today!
https://amzn.to/2kppsTN

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