Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Blackthorn Manor Haunting Sneak Peek!

Blackthorn Manor Haunting 

Chapter One Sneak Peek! 


Addison Lockhart had expected to wake on the day of her wedding feeling refreshed, peaceful and calm. But ever since she’d arrived at Blackthorn Manor the day before, a distressing uneasiness had coursed through her body like an illness determined to spread. She’d tried meditating, tried focusing on wedding preparations. She’d even indulged in a glass of wine. It made no difference. Not only was she unable to quell her worrisome feelings, they persevered and grew stronger.
Even now, sitting on a chair in front of an oval antique mirror, twisting the ends of her long, auburn hair over a curling iron, her hands trembled and she felt anxious, like she wasn’t alone, even though no one else was in the room with her. It seemed every nook and cranny inside the manor had eyes, and all of them were watching her every move.
A gust of cool air swept across her back, causing the hair on her neck to stand on end. Startled, she dropped the curling iron and it clattered against the dark hardwood floor below. She reached down and picked it up, gasping when rose and gazed in the mirror again. She could have sworn she saw something—a shape maybe—the faint glimmer of an object behind her. It appeared only for an instant, and then it was gone.
            Get a hold of yourself, Addison.
You’re working yourself up over nothing.
No one is here.
There’s nothing to worry about.
            A hand pressed against the small of her back, and she shot out of her chair and whipped around, poised to strike with a hairbrush.
Luke, her fiancĂ©, stood in front of her, his palms in the air. “Whoa, whoa. It’s just me. You’re really jumpy today. Is everything all right?”
            She exhaled a long breath, lowered the hairbrush, and nodded. “I … yeah, I’m fine.”
            “Really? Because you looked like you were about to beat me with that brush.”
“I’m sorry, Luke. I didn’t hear you come in. You’re not supposed to see me before the wedding. Bad luck or something.”
            He leaned toward her, planted a kiss on her forehead, and smiled. “I think we’re all right. You’re not even dressed yet, and we still have a couple of hours before the ceremony. I thought I’d check in on you and see if I can get you anything.”
            There was one thing he could do. One thing she wanted more than anything else.
            “Has my grandmother arrived yet?”
            He shook his head. “I haven’t seen her.”
            “I tried calling, and she didn’t answer. If she’s not here soon, she’ll miss our wedding.”
            “I’m sure she’ll be here anytime now. You know Marjorie. She’s all about making a grand entrance.”
            He was right. Marjorie had more flash and flare than women half her age, and she never missed an opportunity to flaunt it. “When you see her, tell her I need to talk to her, okay?”
            He leaned forward, gave her hips a squeeze. “Will do.”
            She thought he’d leave the room, but he didn’t. He stood there, staring at her like he didn’t want to leave her alone.
            “What is it?” Addison asked.
            He shrugged. “I don’t know, to be honest. Maybe you can tell me.”
            “Tell you what?”
“On the way here yesterday, you were so happy. Today you seem different. Are you second-guessing anything? Should I be worried?” 
            She reached out, swiping a wisp of his long, sandy-colored bangs out of his eye. No matter how many knots twisted her insides, she wouldn’t allow anything to ruin their day. “I’ve been ready to marry you for a long time, Luke. I can’t wait to be your wife.”
            “Then what’s bothering you?”
            Luke was aware of Addison’s occasional gift, her ability to communicate with the spirits of those who had passed on, but she didn’t want to worry him. Not today. And besides, there was nothing to confirm her suspicions.
Not yet.
“I haven’t eaten anything today,” she said. “I’m sure that’s all it is.”
            “What happened to the breakfast the staff sent up this morning?”
            “I’ve been too busy preparing for the wedding to eat it.”
            Luke glanced around, his eyes coming to rest on a round metal tray. He grabbed it, set it on the dresser next to Addison, and removed the lid, staring at the food like it was no longer appetizing.
“You need to eat something, okay?” he said. “Even if it’s a piece a stale toast. I don’t want you passing out on me when we’re saying our vows.”
            Addison smiled. “I will. I promise.”
“Hey, thanks for agreeing to get married here. I’m sure this place isn’t what you had in mind.”
            He was wrong. It was exactly what she’d had in mind. She had seen her wedding day before, years earlier, in a vision. Not the manor itself, but the ocean in front where they were to be married. She’d seen those in attendance too, and everything had come to pass, just like she knew it would.
            She gazed at her hand, at the engagement ring Luke had given her two years ago, a ring once belonging to his grandmother. “It’s only fitting we marry at the same place your grandparents did.”
            “I just thought the owners would have done a better job of preserving the place. The paint, the exterior, the roof—it’s all falling apart. You deserve better.”
            “It has sentimental meaning, and that makes it perfect.”
            “If you say so.”
            He grinned and stepped into the hall, closing the door behind him.
            Addison walked to the closet and unzipped the plastic cover her wedding dress was wrapped in. She removed the dress, smiling at the slim A-line design she’d worked so hard to fit into over the last few months. She admired it for a moment before her attention diverted to her bedroom window. A young woman dressed in black stood in front of the manor, gazing at the sea, her hips swaying from side to side as if she were drunk. The woman was unfamiliar and seemed out of place, given they were miles from town, and Luke and Addison’s small group of family and friends were the only guests staying at the manor for the weekend.  
            Addison walked toward the window, wondering who the woman was, why she was there, and how she got there in the first place. The dress she wore appeared several decades old, if not older. As if she knew Addison was watching, the woman looked up, meeting her gaze. Before Addison had the chance to open the window and address the woman, someone knocked on her bedroom door.
            Thinking it was Marjorie, Addison raced to the door. But it wasn’t her grandmother on the other side. It was Mrs. Ravencroft, the owner of the manor. She had a scowl on her face and a plate in her hands containing two pieces of toast and an assortment of fruit. She tipped her head to the side, glaring at the untouched tray of food on the dresser. “I heard you didn’t eat the breakfast my assistant sent up this morning. Your fiancĂ© asked me to bring you a fresh plate. I agreed to it, but only this one time. I do not appreciate the food I prepare going to waste.”  
            “I didn’t mean to—”
            “It doesn’t matter now.”
            Mrs. Ravencroft shoved the plate into Addison’s hands, brushed past her, and scooped the tray off the dresser, before walking back out of the room.
            “Wait just a minute,” Addison said. “Can I ask you a question?”
            Mrs. Ravencroft sighed. “What is it?”
            “You don’t have any other guests staying here this weekend, right?”
            “Why do you ask?”
            “There’s a woman outside. I don’t recognize her.”
            Addison turned and pointed, only to realize the woman she’d seen was gone. 
            Mrs. Ravencroft glanced out the window, irritated. “Well, she’s not there now, is she? Are you sure it wasn’t someone from your wedding party? From this distance, it could have been anyone.”
            The distance Mrs. Ravencroft had referred to wasn’t far, given Addison’s perfect vision.  
“She was right in front of the manor, staring out into the ocean. There was a longing in her eyes, almost like she wished the ocean would open and swallow her up.”
            Swallow her up? What an odd thing to say.”
            Addison supposed she was right, and since the woman was no longer in view, it no longer mattered. “Thanks for bringing another plate of food. I’ll eat it this time.”
            Mrs. Ravencroft nodded and walked out, pausing a moment in the doorway. “I’m just curious. What did the woman you saw look like?
            “She was tall and slim. She wore a black dress that went to her feet, and she had long, dark hair. Her skin was pale, almost white, and even though she seemed distraught, she was beautiful.”
Addison detected a look of shock in Mrs. Ravencroft’s eyes, though she did her best to hide it. She averted her eyes and said, “I’ll leave you to get ready, Miss Lockhart.”
She then closed the door behind her.
            Addison set the plate down, walked to the window, and opened it. She peered across the shoreline. In the distance, she thought she saw the silhouette of the woman she’d seen, but the woman was too far away now. It was hard to know for sure.
Addison leaned out over the windowsill, trying to get a better look, until an intense pressure pressed down on her back—someone thrusting her forward. Addison grabbed the side of the window to brace herself, but it was too late. She was already falling.



We hope you enjoyed this short preview. Pre-order links coming soon! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Deadly Sins: Wrath SNEAK PEEK!

SNEAK PEEK: Chapters 1&2

Wrath (n.) Extreme anger, rage, fury, outrage, vexation, annoyance, crossness

It had been the dinner date from hell, the longest twenty-seven minutes of Madison “Maddie” LaFoe’s life. Before the appetizer had even made its debut, she had come to a decision: she was done with Brandon—completely. A convenient opportunity to escape her current predicament presented itself when he’d scooted his seat back, stood, and said, “You know where the toilet is in this joint?”
The joint Brandon referred to was actually a five-star Italian restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City. And from the moment he’d entered—dressed in a pair of faded jeans, a gray T-shirt with not one but two nickel-sized stains on the front, and filthy, worn tennis shoes—it was clear he didn’t fit in.
Maddie faked a grin and pointed. “The bathroom is around the corner on the left.” 
He tipped his head in her direction. “Great, I’ll be right back.”
He tossed his napkin onto the table, pivoted, and walked away, the rubber soles on his shoes squeaking so loudly on the hardwood floor that several patrons of the restaurant flashed disapproving looks his way. He was too busy staring at a painting of wild horses hanging on the back wall to notice.
Take your time, buddy. Take all time you need.
Watching him walk away, Maddie was shocked at how far off the mark her assistant had been when describing him. Her assistant had said Brandon was six-three, muscular, and funny. In reality, his look was oafish and sloppy, his humor dry, his intellect deficient—a far cry from the sophisticated gentlemen she usually dated.
The second he rounded the corner, she’d snatched her handbag off the back of the chair and stood, making a beeline for the front door. In seconds she was outside and free, rid of him forever. She leaned against the building and inhaled a hearty lungful of the city’s brisk winter air.  
            Never again.
            No blind dates.
No blind dates ever again.
She slid a hand inside her pocket, unwrapped a piece of gum, and popped it into her mouth. She walked toward her car, contemplating which of Brandon’s less-than-stellar traits she found more repulsive—his obsession for telling dumb-blonde jokes despite the fact she was a platinum blonde, or the fact he couldn’t make it five minutes without verbally slamming his ex-wife.
The man was a crazy ass.
She cupped a hand over her mouth, giggled.
Crazy ass.
Good nickname.
She clicked her key fob and the car door unlocked, but before she could step inside, a familiar sound echoed from behind. 
            Squeak, squeak.
            No, no, no.
            Brandon was charging toward her. “Maddie! What the hell! Mind explaining where you’re going?”
            Isn’t it obvious? Where does it look like I’m going?
            She faced him. “Leaving, Brandon. I’m going home.”
            He crossed his arms, tapped a tennis shoe on the ground. “I don’t get it. We were having a great time together. Why?”
            She thought about giving him the Look, I’m sorry, you’re a nice guy spiel, but why would she? She wasn’t sorry, and he wasn’t nice.
“We’re not a good match,” she said. “And I don’t see any point wasting your time or mine.”
            “So … what? You just decided you’d walk out without saying anything?”
            “I planned on texting you when I left.”
            He grunted a laugh. “You were going to text me? Wow, because a text would make ditching out on me all better, right?”
            His sarcasm gushed like an overflowing dam, and she detected a shift in his eyes. He was embarrassed, but he was also angry.
She opened the car door, said nothing.
He balled his hands into fists, clenching his jaw. “Oh, so you’re done talking now too? Really? You have nothing more to say?”
            Civility had never been Maddie’s strong suit, and she was fresh out of decent, appropriate ways to soothe the sting of her rejection. “If you need me to be the jerk in this situation so you can feel better, fine. I’m the jerk. Goodnight, Brandon.”
            She ducked inside the car, but was whipped backward when Brandon grabbed her arm and yanked her toward him. He slammed the car door closed and then thrust his body against hers, pinning her between him and the car.
            He pressed a finger onto the center of her forehead. “You don’t get to humiliate me and then get in your car and drive away.”
            “Back off me, Brandon. Now.”
            Back off me, Brandon,” he mocked. “You girls always think you’re so tough.”
            He had no idea.
            “Last warning,” she said. “Back … off.”
            “Or what? Whatcha gonna do?”
            She grabbed hold of the back of his T-shirt, bundled it into a cross grip, looped it around until it tightened around his neck, and squeezed, allowing his shock of the chokehold she’d created to settle in before ramming a knee into his groin. He stumbled backward, tripping over himself and falling to the ground. He cupped a hand over his crotch, howling like his private parts had just been severed from his body.
Maddie knelt over him and blew an impressive bubble with her gum, popping it in his face. “It’s called jiu-jitsu if you’re wondering. And if you’re going to keep dating, you need to come to grips with one important fact—women aren’t weak.”
He pressed a hand to the ground, tried to stand up. “You … you!”
She shoved him back down again. “I’m leaving now, and if you’re smart, you won’t try to stop me this time. Oh, and for the record, you were a terrible date.”  

Maddie revved the engine of her royal blue 1968 Chevy Camaro and peeled out of the parking lot. She glanced in the rearview mirror, pleased to see Brandon still sitting on the asphalt, sulking.
What a night.
The story was too good to not to share.
She pressed on the car’s touchscreen, selected the first number on her favorites list, and listened to the phone dial.
            “I had the worst date of my life tonight, Sloane,” Maddie said.  
            “Why? What happened?”
            Maddie filled her in on the details, pausing after she’d finished. “You’re quiet. Did you hear everything I just said?”
            Sloane said, “Yes,” and then burst out laughing.
            “Hey,” Maddie said. “It’s only funny because it didn’t happen to you.”
            “Oh, come on. It’s a little funny, isn’t it? Whose brilliant idea was it to set you two up?”
            “Laurel. You two haven’t met. I hired her a couple weeks ago to assist me in the lab.”
“What happened to Ron?”
“He moved last month. He’s working for a coroner in Chicago now.”  
            “Why would Laurel set you up with a guy like Brandon?”
            Maddie sighed. “I’m guessing she doesn’t know what he’s like. She told me he was a friend of her husband.”
            “Well, on the positive side, you were in and out in under an hour at least.”
            Bright lights beamed through Maddie’s rear window, flashing on and off and then on and off again.
            “Hey, Sloane, I better go.”
            “Is everything okay?”
            “Yeah, I’m fine. There’s a lot of snow on the road, and the car behind me is trying to get frisky. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Maddie ended the call and did a quick glance over her shoulder. The other car was even closer, but the headlights were solid now, emitting a constant stream of light. She sighed, wishing she’d checked the weather report before heading out earlier. If she had, she would have known to drive her SUV instead.
The road shifted, the single lane becoming two.
Maddie drifted into the right lane, hoping the other vehicle would pass. It was large and beefy, a truck from the looks of it, which suggested the driver could be Brandon. The assumption dissipated when the truck accelerated, running parallel just long enough for her to see it was white and run-down. Brandon’s was new and black. 
It wasn’t him.
The truck cruised on past, tires spitting chunks of snow onto Maddie’s windshield as it shifted into the right lane in front of her. She needed distance. Now. She took her foot off the gas pedal and slowed her car down, maintaining the lower speed until the truck was so far in the distance the fog shielded it from view. It pained her to drive so slowly, but in ten minutes it would all be worth it. She’d be home, running herself a bath, with a book in one hand and a full glass of wine in the other.  
Even though the storm was in full effect, the blustery scene outside had a serene element to it, the thick flakes of snow evoking a peaceful calm within her. She stared in wonderment for a moment, her eyes shifting back to the road when the truck came into view again. She was shocked. She thought he’d be long gone by now.
The driver slammed on his brakes as if trying to avoid hitting something in the road, and Maddie swerved, jerking the steering wheel to keep her car from colliding into the truck’s backside. But she’d turned too fast. The car spun around, then slid off the road, diving into an embankment. Maddie’s face smashed into the steering wheel, her car coming to an abrupt stop.
Disoriented, she tried making sense of what had just happened. Pain spread across her face, throbbing like the constant beat of a drum.  
Come on, move.
You can do it.
You’ve got this.
She peeled her head off the steering wheel, leaned back on the headrest, and opened her eyes. From her vantage point, the front of her car had been crushed. She’d have to get out and inspect it to know how bad, but right now, simple movement was a stretch.
For the moment, she was alone on the road.
The driver of the truck hadn’t bothered to stop.
She ran a hand across her face. It was wet and sticky. A gash on her forehead trickled blood down her face. She pressed a finger in the center of the storage compartment where she kept change. It popped open. Grunting in pain, she reached inside, took out her cell phone, and pressed the redial button.
            “Sloane … I … I think I’m in trouble.”
            “What do you mean? What’s going on?”
            Another car coming down the road.
            “Hang … hang on.” Maddie switched her hazard lights on and watched the car roll to a stop behind her.
“I’ve been in an accident.”
“What? Where are you?”
“I’m fine. Someone just pulled up behind me, but can you call an ambulance? I think I have a few broken body parts. I’m trying not to move too much until I find out.”
“Where are you?”
“Corner of Alder and Vine.”
“Okay, I’m putting you on hold. I’ll call for an ambulance and then I’ll be right back. Don’t hang up.” 
A woman approached the driver’s-side and opened the car door. She was short, no more than five-two Maddie guessed, and probably in her forties. She wore small, round eyeglasses that reminded Maddie of Mrs. Claus, leather gloves, and a hot-pink beanie with a giant, glittery silver pom-pom in the center.
            “Oh my goodness,” the woman said. “Are you okay?”
            “I … I don’t know. Thanks for stopping.”
            “Sure, sure. What can I do to help? Call someone?”
            “I’ve already done that. I’m waiting for the ambulance to arrive.”
            “Good, good.”
            “I think I’ve cracked a couple ribs,” Maddie said.
            The woman nodded. “You’re in luck. I’m a doctor.”
            “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but if you’re a doctor then you know it’s difficult to determine until I have an x-ray or an MRI.”
            Before the woman could rebut the last statement, Sloane returned to the phone line. “Maddie, you there?”
            “I’m here.”
            “The ambulance will be there soon.”
            “Do you know how long?”
            “I’m not sure. They’re hurrying. I’ll stay on the phone with you until they arrive. You alone?”
            “No, there’s a woman with me.”
            “Let me talk to her.”
            Maddie held the phone out. “It’s my friend, Sloane. She wants to talk to you.”
            The woman took the phone and explained she wanted to assess Maddie for broken bones so she could move her to her car. She then looked at Maddie and said, “Your friend agrees with me. I should at least have a look and see if there’s anything I can do.”
            Hoping to pacify both women involved, Maddie yielded. “All right. Go ahead.”
             The woman smiled. “I’m going to put the phone down while I check.”
She hunched over Maddie, placing light pressure on her chest. “I’ll be gentle. Tell me when it hurts.”
            Maddie expected the woman to move a hand across her chest. Instead the woman dug into her jacket pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief.
            Maddie looked at the hankie and then her cell phone. It appeared to be off. “Hand me my phone.”
            “You know, Madison,” the woman said. “I mean, is it okay if I call you Madison? I suppose I can call you Maddie if you prefer, but Maddie just doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know? I mean, I get it. It’s trendy and cute in its own way, but far less sophisticated than your given name, if you ask me.”
            “How do you know my—”
            “Oh, I know a lot about you.”
            Panicked, Maddie attempted to undo her seatbelt, but the pain was too great and the woman too fast. The hankie was shoved over Maddie’s mouth. Maddie clenched her jaw, kept her mouth close.
            “Don’t resist, honey. It’s too late now, mmm … kay?”
            Maddie thrashed back and forth, even though she knew the woman was right. The sweet, solvent smell was unmistakable. Chloroform.  
“It’s never a good idea to meddle in other people’s business,” the woman said. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you that? I mean, I guess they didn’t. But they should have. Anyhoo, we can talk about all that later. Night night.”


For a limited time pre-order Deadly Sins: Wrath and receive the Till Death do us Part Boxed Set FREE, an exclusive offer only available to Cheryl Bradshaw's email and Facebook subscribers!

STEP ONE: Purchase Deadly Sins: Wrath:


STEP TWO: Click on this link and fill out the form to receive your two free novellas!