Release day review at Mrs Condit and Friends! It gets 5 sweet peas. 🙂
Whether you have read Mr. Fenraven’s other books or not, you really should pick this one up and savor it. It cements his reputation as a writer of great talent who can take on a variety of topics and make the stories his own.
Much thanks to my beta readers! They made sure everything was correct. Check the dedication to see who they are.
Excerpt (taken from Chapter 3):
[Jon and his friend, Suzie, are sitting on the couch at his place.]
“There’s a writer living about half a mile away.” I said. “Harrison Kalmes. Ever hear of him?”
“Who has time to read?”
We shared a laugh.
“Jokes aside,” she continued, “My ex, who fancied herself Rambo reborn, had a bunch of his books. He’s sort of the Stephen King of military thrillers. You know, some country is aggressive against another, dirty deeds are done, and the West triumphs over all. I read one once when I was sick in bed with a cold.” She shrugged. “It was good. I mean, he wouldn’t be my first choice, but it moved along at a nice clip. Not many women in his stories, though, and when they do show up, they’re whores or impossibly butch.”
“He’s one of those super virile men,” I said, smiling. “Has a beard and wears thick sweaters over what I suspect are flannel shirts. You should have seen the tacky clock on the wall.” I rolled my eyes to emphasize how terrible it was.
She nodded. “I know the type.” Leaning forward, she gave me a playful shove. “Isn’t that your type?”
It was, but I hated to admit it. In my case, opposites definitely attracted. “Let’s look him up, see what his orientation is.”
I fetched my laptop, booted it up, and we sat side by side as I Googled him. We scrolled the site choices, occasionally clicking on one that looked promising.
“He’s handsome,” Suzie proclaimed when she saw his picture.
“Widely traveled,” I observed, reading. “Visited the Ukraine, Hungary, and Romania. Oh, wait. That’s where they filmed the movie they made from one of his books. Hm, looks like he was a consultant.” Nice work if you could get it.
We ended up at a gossip site where they’d covered the premier of the film. There was a short interview with him on the red carpet. He looked overly stiff and uncomfortable. A slinky blonde asked if he was excited about seeing what they’d done to his book, and he said he’d seen a sneak preview and thought everyone would enjoy it.
“He’s gay!” she shrieked, and I winced.
“How did you reach that conclusion?” I asked, chuckling. “I don’t see him wearing a sign.”
“Not one website mentioned women he’s dated or marriages that ended in divorce, so he’s gay. He just isn’t out yet.”
“Maybe he’s asexual.” But what if he was gay? He obviously wanted to be left alone. He’d definitely hurried me out the door, though he’d been gracious enough while I was there.
I set the laptop aside and freshened our drinks. “Whatever. He’s like a hermit.” I told her about the island. “I get the distinct impression he frowns on visitors. I’m unlikely to go over there again without an engraved invitation.”
She got to her feet and stretched, making sure she didn’t spill her drink. “I say we go over now. I wanna see.”
I frowned. “Are you serious?”
She pulled on my sleeve. “Let’s go.”
“It’s cold out. Dark. It’ll be spooky in the woods.”
“But you’ll protect me, right?” She drained her glass and set it on the mantel before retrieving her coat from the kitchen.
Suzie was always up for an adventure. I grabbed my jacket from the front closet, making sure there were gloves in the pockets. “What if we run into a ghost?”
“We’ll yell ‘boo!’” She giggled and buttoned up. I took her arm across the porch and down the stairs.
“Wow, cold tonight.”
“Told you. Still want to go?”
“Sure.” She raised her collar. “What if we run into a vampire?”
“Offer him your neck while I run.”
She laughed her ass off and was still chortling when we reached the road. The sky had finally cleared. Moonlight gilded the landscape, making the road look almost as bright as day. Long grass waved in the ditches, and crystal in the small rocks at the side glittered and shone. We tromped along until we reached the turn-off.
Suzie slowed and tightened her hand on my arm. “It’s dark under the trees.”
“That’s why they call it night,” I whispered in her ear, and followed it with an evil cackle.
She elbowed me. “Stop that. You’re scaring me.”
I stopped. “Want to go back? There’s a fire waiting, microwave popcorn in the kitchen, and plenty of scotch left.”
After a suspenseful moment, she laughed, and I could tell she was a little drunk. “Tempting, but no! I wanna see the island.” She leaned against me and giggled. Her breath smelled like liquor.
“Then we’ll see it,” I said, and off we marched into the shadows.
∞ ∞ ∞
We stood at the end of the dock holding hands, gazing toward the island across the open water. The house was dark but for a faint glow at the windows I thought might be from the wood stove, and all was silent except for the wind through the branches and the subtle sound of shallow waves against the pilings. The rowboat was tied to the pole on shore, which meant he was still there. An owl hooted, and it was a mournful sound. I shivered in my jacket and wished I was back in front of the fire.
“It’s… nice,” she said, squeezing my fingers. “This is where he writes?”
“That’s what he said.”
“What’s it like inside?”
I looked at the thin smudge of smoke coming out of the stove pipe, saw the trees bending to and fro in the wind over the roof, and exhaled audibly. “Rustic. Cozy. Mysterious.”
She shot me a glance. “Mysterious?”
The word had popped out of my mouth, and I saw no reason to take it back. Nodding, I slipped an arm around her waist. “We should go back now.”
“If we yell, will he hear us? Maybe he’d come fetch us in his boat.” She paused for a beat, then called, “Hey! Want some company?”
“Shhh! He might be asleep.”
“It’s early yet,” she insisted. “Not even nine. Why would he be in bed already?”
Cat’s paws slithered down my spine, making me uneasy. “Let’s go.”
The relative silence was suddenly shattered by a wolf’s howl. It started low and crescendoed to a high pitch, where it held for a long moment before dropping off.
Suzie trembled against me, and I clenched my teeth to stop from shaking.
That howl had come from the island, from inside the cabin.