If you haven’t heard, Havenwood Falls is a shared world with paranormal stories written by a slew of talented authors–all taking place in the same world. Some at the same time! There’s a lot of overlap which means recurring characters that show up in multiple stories BUT each story can be read as a standalone. This is not a series. It’s a collaborative world. Think Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls–but with vamps and werewolves and whatever else supernatural you can think of!
You can read more about it on the Havenwood Falls website!
I was so excited when Ang’dora Publishing approached me about writing my own story in this world and I decided to challenge myself by choosing to feature a supernatural creature I’d never written before. Which one? You’ll have to read Tragic Ink when it releases 2/23 to find out–pre-order now!
And today I have a sneak peek for you! This scene comes after someone close to Gwen, our main character, has suddenly died. Rhys and Gwen have a complicated history, and there was a falling out… but you’ll see what I mean:
His eyes flashed with a knowing that rocked me. It was a look that suggested he knew a lot more about me than I might think. More than I ever told him, that was for sure. And I wondered if maybe my soul was the traitor, opening for him so willingly when he looked at me that way, so that he could just read it all for himself somehow. Like my heart just willingly gave up whatever he wanted from it.
I felt caught by his gaze like a deer was caught by oncoming headlights. One-hundred percent of me was certain this was going to end with me wrecked.
“Let me help you, Gwen,” he said softly.
His words were enough to break the spell.
I blinked, shaking my head to clear the fog that made it hard to remember why I didn’t want his help in the first place. But the moment I remembered, my jaw hardened, and I stepped back, no longer trusting myself to stand so close to him.
“Aelwyn might have tied us together, but that common bond is gone now. Go home, Rhys. And leave me alone. For good this time.”
I couldn’t help the sadness that laced my words, but I told myself it was exhaustion and the loss I’d suffered tonight. Rhys didn’t argue, and he didn’t call out to me as I trudged back to my truck. I slid inside and turned the engine over, gunning it out of the yard and onto the main road. Just before the trees obscured my view, I glanced into my rearview. But the darkness was complete, and I saw nothing but shadows of the past in my wake.
But wait! There’s more…. 😉
I also have a sneak peek at Forget You Not by Kristie Cook–which is one sale right now! This one’s a great place to start if you haven’t read any of the HF books yet. It has a lot of backstory for how the town works and from here, you can jump to any of them. Check it out and then pick up your copy today!
After spending the day in a nearby motel waiting for night to fall, I pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot in Durango, Colorado, exactly two weeks later. As Ms. Luiza had promised, I couldn’t have missed the shuttle bus parked in back that I was supposed to meet. A huge wrap around the entire vehicle advertised the beauty and fun to be had in Havenwood Falls, my soon-to-be hometown. Several people were boarding the bus. I parked my car nearby and glanced at the clock. 7:14. I had just enough time to pee and grab something to eat before we hit the road again.
“Holy fuck, it’s freezing!” I yelped when I opened my car door. I grabbed the thick, white coat from the passenger seat and wrapped myself up before climbing out.
“Michaela Petran?” a deep and raspy voice said from behind me, and I turned to face an old man with gray, shaggy hair and a long beard to match, wearing a thick flannel shirt, jeans, and boots. I had to bite back a smirk, thinking of Sindi’s lumberjack dreams.
“Um . . . Kaela Peters,” I corrected as I pulled on my coat. How was he not freezing?
His gray, furry brows pinched together before laughter twinkled in his blue eyes. “Of course! Silly me! Gettin’ forgetful in my old age. Anyway, good on you for meetin’ us here. The drive from here on in can get confusin’ and treacherous. You sure you want to drive it?”
“I’m sure. I’ll be fine,” I promised. It wasn’t like I really had a choice. I needed my car.
He eyed said car. “In that thing?” He chuckled. “Good thing the roads are clear right now. But winter ain’t over yet up in the mountains. You better be gettin’ a four-wheel-drive A-S-A-P.”
“Um . . . thanks for the advice,” I said. I supposed most of my savings would be going to a new vehicle soon. “I’ll be fine for now, right?”
“For now,” he said with a nod. “Alrighty then, Ms. Petra—I mean, Ms. Peters. I’m waitin’ on a few more arrivals, but we leave in ten minutes with or without them and with or without you.”
“Understood.” I gave him a smile, then hurried inside to take care of my personal business, worried about being left behind.
For some odd reason, I couldn’t find Havenwood Falls anywhere on any map, not even Google’s. I had coordinates, but Ms. Luiza warned me that GPS often led people down the wrong roads, taking them hours out of their way. After being on the road for three nights, I really didn’t want to add hours if I didn’t have to, especially if it risked me being outside at sunrise. So I made sure to be back in my car and ready to go by the time the bus, decorated with ski slopes and restaurant facades, pulled out. To my surprise, I wasn’t the only car following. A five-vehicle caravan made its way up and around the mountains.
The roads were steep, twisty, and pitch black except where the beams of our headlights bounced off rock walls on one side and plunging cliffs on the other, with plenty of thick-trunked trees that would split a car in two with one wrong turn. My old Ford Fiesta fell behind at one point, and I rounded a bend and almost slammed into a herd of elk starting to cross the road. I swore they stood at least three feet taller than my car because all I saw at first were legs.
Once I saw the sign welcoming me to Havenwood Falls, I could finally loosen my white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, damned glad I was part of the caravan, because Ms. Luiza and the old man were right—I’d have never found this place on my own, especially in the dark.
A spotlight lit up the welcome sign, made of layered stone with beautifully made black metal lettering. At once, it was both charming and sinister, as I imagined living in a small mountain town surrounded by the wild would be. My stomach began to flutter with butterflies as the giddiness of my new adventure overcame me for the hundredth time in the last two weeks. Yet, at the same time, a feeling of comfort slid over my shoulders and down my back, like a warm blanket, a comforting hug, a lovingly whispered welcome home.
We drove on several miles past the welcome sign, curved another bend, climbed a little higher, and even before I saw them, I knew there’d be lights as soon as we crested the ridge ahead. And there were. A smattering of lights lit up the town below with silhouettes of the looming mountains inky black against the night sky, their white caps appearing to glow. Even in the dark, I felt their intimidating yet wondrous presence. Realization that I’d never see them in the daylight hit me like a punch in the gut. Maybe once I hung my blackout curtains and took certain precautions, I could take a quick peek.
We passed Creekwood, a housing development on the left, then the road forked, but I already knew to stay to the right. And not just because Ms. Luiza had given me directions to the inn from here. I could somehow see in my mind’s eye each landmark even before I came to it: Havenstone, a townhouse and villa development built in a wooden ski-lodge style, on the right; the high school’s two-story brick building on the left; a shopping center and an apartment complex (Havenwood Village, I somehow knew) on the right; and then I’d reach the town square. Staying on the same road along the south side of the square, I passed by a two-story row of darkened shops and what I assumed to be apartments above them, considering the lights glowing in a couple windows. Then finally I came to the large Victorian manor that was the inn, sitting at an angle on the corner so it faced the square, a dim light glowing through the glass door. But the inn wasn’t exactly as the pictures had promised and what I’d envisioned. Even in the dark, it looked as though it had seen better days—more than a few years ago.
A little old woman wearing an old-fashioned dressing gown stood in the driveway flapping her arms, waving me down although I was already turning toward her. She motioned me along as she scrambled as fast as her little legs could carry her down the drive toward the back of the inn. She could move surprisingly fast considering her age and plump stature. She waved me into a parking space next to the last of five cottages lining the back of the property. Exactly like I’d seen in my mind a few weeks ago.
The woman clapped her hands together under her chin, and a big smile filled her sweet face when I climbed out of the car, making her gray eyes twinkle. “Oh, honey, I’m so glad you’re here!”
Her arms opened, and she took a step toward me as though she wanted to hug me, but stopped herself. “I’m sorry! It’s just so exciting to have you finally back. I mean, finally here. Back here, in your cottage, yes, that’s what I mean. This is your place, dear.” She bustled up the steps of the front porch, stood by the front door, and gestured at it. “I’ll let you do the honors.”
She moved to the side and waited for me to ascend the porch and enter.
“You must be Ms. Luiza,” I said as I mounted the steps and held my gloved hand out to her. Damn was I thankful I let Sindi talk me into buying a bunch of winter clothes before I left, all on end-of-the-season sale in Atlanta.
“Madame Luiza, dear. The M has always been for Madame. I’m too old to be a Ms.” She patted her gray mop of hair and again motioned at the knob while completely ignoring my outstretched hand. “You should have everything you need for now, and I’ll help you get situated for good over the next few days before your first day at work.”
I gave her a wary smile before opening the door and crossing the threshold into a small living room that couldn’t have been more perfectly decorated for me if I’d done it myself. The cozy room’s walls were painted a light neutral color with white trim and was furnished with a plump-cushioned taupe couch and a dark brown chaise lounge set between a large bookcase and a fireplace. Blankets and quilts draped over the sofa and chaise, and flames licked the logs inside the hearth.
“Thought you might like a warm fire to greet you. It’s a bit colder here than Georgia, I imagine,” Madame Luiza said from behind me.
I snickered. “Just a bit. I’m surprised I can’t see my breath.”
“Well, that’s silly. It’s forty-one degrees out. That’s a heat wave for this time of year.” She emphasized her statement by fanning her face with her hand and letting out a chortle. “That’s supposed to change by the end of the week, and we’ll be back to cold for a bit longer. But don’t you worry. You’ll get used to it one of these days.” She babbled on as I moved farther into the cottage, glancing around at what I could see through the doorways—a kitchen and a small hallway that led to a bedroom and bathroom. “In a year or two from now, you’ll be hitting the swimming hole in June with the rest of the young’uns. I’d go, but ain’t nobody want to see this old lady in a bathing suit!”
She chortled again, the sound warming my heart. Rather than annoying me, as it normally would have done, her babbling came as a comfort.
“Well, I’ll let you get on then. Sun’ll be up in no time, which means our guests will be, too. You get some rest, and I’ll see you soon enough.”
I stood in the doorway to the kitchen and turned toward her. “It probably won’t be until later tomorrow, probably in the evening. I’ve been driving for days and . . .”
She waved her hand in dismissal. “Oh, I know, honey. No worries. We’ll get that all taken care of tomorrow night. Get your tattoo and everything. Or I could probably get Adelaide to come here, make it easier—”
I cut her off. “Um . . . tattoo?”
Her eyes widened as she clapped her hands over her mouth. “Did I say that out loud? I’m sorry. I’m trying so hard not to throw everything on you at once. Go on now. There are refreshments in the refrigerator. Bedroom is that way, and blackout curtains throughout. Sleep well!”
She gestured toward the back of the cottage, then hurried out the front door before I could say another word. I followed her, but she was already completely out of sight when I stepped onto the porch.
“What in the hell?” I muttered out loud as I went back out to my car to grab the necessities. I’d unpack the rest tomorrow night.
After dropping my suitcase in my room and kicking my shoes off to replace them with socks and slippers, I padded into the kitchen for something to drink. And nearly squealed when I opened the refrigerator door and saw the bottle on the top shelf.
“Yes! Wine!” The next best thing to blood, but without knowing my way around yet and with sunrise less than two hours away, I wasn’t about to go out and hunt tonight. I found a set of wine glasses in the cabinet and a bottle opener in the drawer. This place really was stocked perfectly for me. And when I opened the bottle and took a whiff, I realized just how perfectly.
My hands began to shake.
How the hell did they know?
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