Tag Archives: fiction

Review time! Blood Instinct by Lindsay J Pryor

Logging onto my WordPress blog in what was simply forever, I couldn’t help but smile when I realised the last blog post I made was a review for Lindsay J Pryor’s last instalment of the deeply delicious Blackthorn series. I should, of course, blog here more often, but if I only ever venture into the world of WordPress to review Lindsay’s books, then that’s totally fine with me and well worth the visit. 

So in my last review of Blood Dark, I made a point of declaring that it was Lindsay’s best work to date and that no doubt, I’d be saying the same thing for the next release and guess what? Yup. I was right. I’d love to say that I hold some supernatural psychic abilities to predict the future and THAT’S how I knew the sixth instalment in the series would be the best yet, but I’m afraid it has more to do with Lindsay’s talent and far less to do with my superhero spidey senses. The plain facts are that Lindsay is to writing, what Helen Mirren is to acting – a freaking do-no-wrong goddess!!! 

Having been a fan since Blood Shadows, I don’t think I could ever have predicted just how the story would unfold. For me, it’s gone from a dark and gritty paranormal romance set in the dangerous backstreets of a fictional world, to something that has reached epic proportions, where the sizzling relationships between our characters sits alongside key themes of social inequality, segregation, prejudice and supremacism. Now I know that might seem a little heavy for your average PNR, but the facts are that Blackthorn has NEVER been your average PNR and I believe, it’s part and parcel of what has kept me desperate for more after each release. What’s intrinsically powerful about Blackthorn is that it creates incredible empathy and passion in its readers – the world that Lindsay has created in Blackthorn, with its devilish politics, power plays and twists, had made a massive difference to the allure of the series and Lindsay’s world-building skills, in my opinion, are not praised nearly enough. Yes, we know she can write captivating characters. Yes, we know she can write hot scenes to rival JR Ward. Yes, we know she can inspire FEELS by the bucketload. But it’s the world that she has created behind all that, which provides the whole backdrop to the story – this is what makes it so blooming REAL. Quite frankly, open up a Lindsay J Pryor book, and you’re opening up a three-dimensional feast for the senses and if you’re going to step into that world, well, you’d better be prepared to start running because the action in Blackthorn never stops. 

This is definitely the case with Blood Instinct. Back to everybody’s favourite lycan, Jask Tao (he’s certainly mine!) and his partner Sophia, we find Jask battling to prevent his pack from being unjustly slaughtered by the powerful political forces at work in Blackthorn, while Sophia is battling forces of a very different kind. I loved the dark turn their relationship took in this book, it was at times difficult to stomach but captivating none-the-less, when being together became far more risky for them – Jask and Phia have always been effortlessly hot, but Blood Instinct takes things to a much darker and more gut-wrenching level. Combined with the ever present threat of the vampire prophecy and the sinister presence of the fourth species lurking in the shadows, the action in this book was so exciting and so thrilling that I almost wished I could strap myself in, just in case I fell off the sofa in shock of it all. In fact, I’m not even sure how I managed to reach the end without turning blue and passing out, because I definitely felt I should be holding my breath throughout!

As usual, I’m not going to say too much else regarding the plot, mainly because by book six, it’s REALLY hard to discuss without hitting everyone around the face with big fat spoilers, so I’ll just say that if you want an intoxicating read that will leave you breathless and reeling for days afterwards, then Blood Instinct is the book for you. 

Just don’t forget the safety harness. 

Five beautiful big glittery stars for this wickedly wonderful read! 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Instinct-Blackthorn-Paranormal-Romance-ebook/dp/B01DWURCFU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1462481615&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+instinct+lindsay+j+pryor
  

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Blood Shadows by Lindsay J Pryor

I have to say that despite writing vamp fiction myself, I have found myself recently getting a little tired of the genre.
Yeah. I actually just said that.
I know. I know. But before you throw my traitorous backside to the baying hounds, lets just say that when you want your vamps a little darker, a little more menacing and a little grittier, it’s pretty hard to see them through a sea of Edwards.
Okay, I have no issue with Edward, but if you want to know the vamps in Twilight who I really wanted to see more of, it was Garrett and Alistair. Now there’s two vamps who deserve a spin-off all of their very own. Mysterious, dark, menacing and enough sex appeal to fuel the fire. These guys interested me far more than Edward ever did. If I’m being honest, basically I just want my main vamp to be a bit of a mean bastard.
Step forward Kane Malloy of Blood Shadows by Brit paranormal romance writer, Lindsay J Pryor.
Kane Malloy, master vampire of the murky world of Blackthorn, has enough brooding menace to make you shiver and sizzle at the same time. With a vicious reputation and a status as the Vampire Control Unit’s Most Wanted, there’s no doubt he’s the vampire I have been waiting for.
Blood Shadows has a vibe reminiscent of J.R Ward’s Black Dagger series, both sexy, unrelenting and blood-thirsty, but the significant difference between the Black Dagger vampires and Lindsay’s Kane, is that he stole my heart right from the beginning. Whilst I enjoyed all the Black Dagger vamps, none of them burrowed deep under my skin as Kane did.
It certainly wasn’t lost on me that, as the reader, Kane slips stealthily into your veins, in the same way he slowly works his indisputable charms on ass-kicking VCU agent, Caitlin Parish. All the way through the book, you know you’re falling in love, yet you can’t help but think there’s something not quite right about feeling that way. It’s an uneasy love. A love that makes you squirm uncomfortably. And the reason for that is Lindsay’s canny ability to make the book unpredictable until the very end. Just when you think you’ve sussed out the plot, Lindsay has a way of turning everything on its head and throwing you this Kane-sized curve ball that keeps you on the edge of your seat, practically begging for more.
And of course, we can’t forget Caitlin. Strong, sassy and smart with a perfect balance of tough versus vulnerable, Caitlin is the kind of female lead that stands her ground against the most captivating of male characters. When you have a novel that is destined to always have a higher volume of female readers than male, it’s always hard to create a female character who shines just as bright as her male counterpart. You might like her, but you’re never really rooting for her in the same way you’re punching the air for him. But, because you’re never really sure what Kane is all about, you want Caitlin to win. Life has dealt her a crappy enough hand to make you sympathise with her and yet, at the same time, she is just the right amount of heroine to make you wish you were a little bit more like her.
In bringing the fantastical world of Blackthorn to life, Lindsay has created a heady mix of intense page-to-page action, blistering heat and blood-curdling chills that literally grabs you by the jugular and keeps you guessing until the very last word. It’s gritty, gripping, captivating and unrelenting and will leave you begging for the next white-knuckle ride into Blackthorn’s dark and disturbing streets.
Five stars! Finally, a vampire novel I can get my teeth into!

20121130-232403.jpg

4 Comments

Filed under Writer Wednesday, Writing

The Imperfect Heroine

BE WARNED – IF YOU HAVEN’T READ DARK SANCTUARY, THERE MAY BE SOME SPOILERS IN THE BELOW POST! TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

HEY! I SAID TURN BACK!

Happy Friday bloggers, writers, weirdo’s and friends.

I’m back again, 3 times in one week….maybe WordPress hasn’t lost my love and devotion after all 😉

As you know I have uploaded the full length Dark Sanctuary to Wattpad and last week, due to popular demand, I decided to start uploading chapters from the second novel in the series, Lost Creatures.

So far so good, however this morning I woke up to a deluge of comments from my lovely Wattpad collective concerning my main character Sarah.

It seems Sarah isn’t being as well received as I hoped she would. I’m getting various comments about her, but to sum up it appears that some readers find her quite irritating because 1) she won’t put her trust in her vampire companion, Michael and 2) because she seems intent on putting herself and others at risk with her selfish and rather foolish ways.

I can’t say I completely disagree with the reasons why. As the reader, yes, Sarah’s actions can be frustrating. WE can see when Sarah is about to do something reckless. WE can see when she is being unreasonable and/or selfish. WE can see that ultimately she probably should let her guard down with Michael. But that’s because, as the reader, we have the power of foresight. Sarah, unfortunately doesn’t have this, so should we really chastise her for not seeing what we do?

When I read people’s comments (and the number of these comments has been increasing by the day), I automatically feel like I need to jump to Sarah’s defence. Is that a typical reaction with other writers? I don’t know, but I do know that I feel compelled to stick up for her a little bit. Yes, she can do stupid, reckless things. Yes, she can be frustrate the hell out of me. Sarah might not be perfect, but that’s what I like about her because somehow, for me, it makes her more real and it was always my aim when writing Dark Sanctuary to make it slightly more real than other contemporary vampire fiction. She’s human and she makes a ton of mistakes, and why not? Don’t we all?

But what is interesting is people’s reaction to Michael. Okay, so I dare say that the majority of my readers are female, so I get why they like him. There’s nothing like a hot male vamp to get the pulses racing, but Michael really isn’t the hero we think he is.

Michael isn’t an Edward. Yes, he’s hot. But he’s also a killer. He kills more often than not for money. Lonely rich housewives are his meal ticket. Literally. And Sarah was right when she said he didn’t want to save James. Was that jealousy? Yes, probably. Could he have done more to save James and also Sarah’s nan? Undoubtedly yes. But he didn’t. And that’s something we should remember. From the start he always had an ulterior motive in protecting Sarah – to earn favour with her father and gain Marcus’ help. The resulting love affair is just incidental and a nice twist to the tale.

But nobody seems to see all this. He’s Michael after all. And as a result, Sarah seems forever destined to be slated for not falling at his feet and for not putting her trust in him one hundred percent. Is it so difficult to accept that she would still be wary of Michael when the only vampires she had ever met were nothing but monsters?

Okay, I’m not defending everything she does. But she has some amazing qualities. She’s feisty. She’s strong. She’s independent. She’s funny. She’s tenacious. And yes, she’s stubborn. She’s selfish. She’s reckless. But I wouldn’t have her any other way. I like her flaws. She wouldn’t be Sarah if she wasn’t flawed in some way.

I don’t know whether the Wattpad collective’s opinion of Sarah will change. I have sneaky feeling she will redeem herself when she and Michael finally bump nasties. But whatever happens between her and Michael, she will still always be Sarah. Flawed. Imperfect. Real. But that’s fine with me because I don’t want a perfect heroine.

Perfect just doesn’t exist.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dark Sanctuary, Lost Creatures

#TuesdayTaster -Excerpt from Lost Creatures

When I awoke my first thought was that my feet were freezing cold. I mean, seriously, freezing-to-the-point-of-numbness-cold. When I looked down I could see that my toes were embedded in thick snow and I could only see my ankle bones peeking through the ice. Bemused, I wiggled my toes and they broke through the surface of the snow and I wondered what the hell I had done with my boots.

I heard footsteps crunch behind me and a familiar buzzing moved across my shoulder-blades and down my back. I felt warm breath on my neck but didn’t flinch.

“I’ll want that jumper back at some point you know,” Michael said.

I looked down and saw that I was still wearing his sweater. I wrapped my arms around my body and hugged the material to me. “Why are we here?” I asked, looking at the dense woodland that encircled us. I could see dark spots between the trees, so dense that my eyes could not penetrate the blackness. I didn’t want to think about what might be lurking in those places.

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” he said quietly.

Finally I turned around and looked up into his face. His blue eyes were full of worry.

“I miss her,” I said simply.

“You won’t find her here.”

“But it’s where I left her,” I frowned.

When I turned back round to face the woods, they had gone. I was standing on the edge of the forest looking at the little grey cottage, lights twinkling where I had left them on, awaiting my return.

“She’s not here, Sarah,” Michael said anxiously behind me but I was already walking away from him towards the lights.

I picked up pace as I crossed the lane, hardly feeling the cold against my bare skin anymore. I pushed the gate open, moving the flurry of snow that had built up behind it, and ran up the garden path towards the unvarnished wooden front door with its un-polished brass door knocker.

The door was ajar.

 

Copyright (c) Lindsey Clarke 2011 

Leave a comment

Filed under Lost Creatures

Sarah the Vampire Slayer – Excerpt from Book 3

The area of Belgravia where I lived was a network of connecting horizontal and vertical roads, consisting mostly of these ridiculously expensive town houses. You could make you way through these streets very easily, cutting through side streets rather than taking the longer route around. If you missed one turning, you could easily get onto this road by taking the next turning. Unfortunately for me, it seemed the vampire was well aware of this and had used this to fool me into thinking she had given up the hunt. Of course, she had done no such thing.
As I headed up the road, I felt the stab of pins and needles shooting into my spine before I saw the vampire herself. Before I even had time to turn around, a dark shape came whirling out of another side street to my right and hit me full force; she literally barged into me and I was unable to stop my fall as I tumbled to the ground, with a frenzied vampire wrapped around me. The knife went flying from my hand and clattered into the gutter. Together we hit the floor in a jumbled mess of arms and legs and as we rolled onto the pavement, I could feel her hot breath on my face and I panicked, hitting out with my fists to try and keep her awful mouth away from my skin. I caught her across the forehead and she cried out but still clutched at me as I desperately tried to pull away. I swung out again, harder this time and managed to catch her nose, which cracked easily with a sickening crunch. Blood flowed immediately and she cupped her face in her hands and shrieked. Droplets spilled out between her fingers and splattered red onto her white pumps. Holding out her blood stained palms in front of her, she stared at her shaking hands as if she could not quite believe it was her own blood. Her lip trembled.
“Please….” I pleaded, backing away “you don’t have to do this. We can stop this now, you can turn around and walk away…..please.”
She stared at me, eyes widening at my words and for a moment – just for a moment – I was sure she was going to do just that; at least I think she wanted to, but then she blinked and it was gone. She sneered at me, blood snaking down her chin and I knew this vampire wasn’t going to just turn around and walk off into the night.
I whipped round, knowing my only hope was in retrieving the knife and, seeing my intentions, the girl threw herself at me with a strangled yelp. My face hit the kerb before the rest of me did and I felt the cold, rough kiss of concrete on my cheek and the vampire on my back, clawing and scratching at me. I tried to stretch out my arm but the knife was just beyond my reach. She was so small and slight that it wasn’t that difficult to knock her slightly off balance and I twisted around and found myself underneath her as she came at me again with wildly flailing arms and blood-stained grimace. Her face was just inches from mine and she was panting; a wheezy excitable sound, although it seemed fuelled more by panic than anything else. Her eyes were drenched in anxiety and you would have thought it was I, on top of her, hammering at her frail body and not her on top of me and about to feast on my carotid artery.
With a cruelty I did not know I possessed, I slammed my fist into her nose again, and she cried out, clutching at her face. Pushing her off, I scrambled backwards and managed to grab the knife, just as she threw herself at me again and we stumbled across the pavement. Now it was my turn to cry out as my back hit the railings outside a house, the iron bars imprinting onto my spine. She grabbed me and we spun, like dancers waltzing in the evening dusk, before I lost my balance and went tumbling back into the gap at the top of a basement stairwell. With a gleeful smile painted on her face, she threw herself at me, squealing in excitable triumph knowing that she had me cornered.
As she hit me, her face turned from one of glory to one of shock. For a moment, her eyes glazed over in bewilderment and she pulled back, her hand slowly reaching for the knife which was now embedded in her neck. I pressed myself up against the wall, watching in horror as her hand found the knife and grabbed at it, pulling slightly and releasing a spray of blood. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but the only sound was a volley of shallow gasps. Her hand fell limply to her side and she stumbled backwards. Realising she was about to fall I quickly tried to grab her but her hand was so slick with blood that she slipped out of my grasp and tumbled down the stairwell behind her. She fell, as if almost in slow motion and I watched helpless, on all fours at the top as she bumped her way down the short flight of steps and ended up in a crumpled heap at the bottom.
Hesitating for fear that someone might have heard or seen our fight and was now coming to see what was going on, I waited for a few seconds before running down the steps and hovering over her, not knowing what to do. She stared up at me, her eyes wide in shock and pain and she again tried to grab at her throat, but her hands missed the knife and she just grabbed at air, fingers twitching in front of her. Slowly I knelt down beside her, feeling sickness twisting in my gut as I saw the knife still sticking halfway into her neck, and a dark, sticky stain spreading onto the ground. She breathed out in sharp, staccato gasps and her chest heaved in and out violently.
Feeling the sobs bubbling up into my throat, I clapped my hand over my mouth to stifle the noise that wanted to escape. Reaching over I touched the knife, wrapping my fingers around the hilt and almost recoiling at the wetness. I tugged at it, hating the noise it made as I pulled it from her throat. The blood flowed copiously now and I put my hand down on it, trying to stem the tide but knowing it was pointless.
“I don’t know what to do,” I croaked “I can’t stop it. It won’t stop. I didn’t mean to. Really I didn’t. But you wouldn’t give up. Why couldn’t you just give up?”
I was sobbing now, tears streaming down my face and my cries leaving me in great, guttural groans. Her eyes never left my face as I cried. I abandoned the knife now and pressed down harder with both hands.
“What can I do?” I urged her “please tell me what to do!”
She wrapped a small, bony hand around my wrist and squeezed weakly; her wide, frightened eyes fixed on mine.
“Run,” she whispered “they’re coming..”

Copyright (c) Lindsey Clarke 2012

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Angie, Banjo and The Bogeyman

Great plumes of steam rose up in front of Angie’s eyes and she momentarily stopped jiggling her hips in time to the music to wipe a hand across her sweat-spotted brow. The iron in her hand hissed like some angry cobra, waiting to attack; except the only thing that this iron was waiting to attack was her husband’s crisp white work shirt. The cotton was stubborn and always fought against the heat and steam in a way that made the job even more torturous than it usually was. Angie knew that the only way to dull the effects of the torture was to turn up the music and dance with the iron, ignoring its hisses and spits of steam.
It was a sticky June evening. Whilst the sunshine of the day had retreated, it had left some of its heat behind, creating a humid, uncomfortable night that Angie knew would have her installing the fan in the bedroom to turn the stale air. Eddie would insist on keeping the windows wide open regardless of the fan, something Angie hated to do, especially during the summer months when it meant an open invitation to all manner of night-time bugs. She hated the thought of moths and spiders creeping in; imagining how they must crawl over her half-naked body as she slept.
Standing in the kitchen now, Angie was grateful for the wispy white voile that hung over the open patio doors, acting like a mosquito net and and keeping all the creepy crawlies at bay. She was also grateful for the soft evening breeze which fluttered through and tickled at her bare legs, patterning her skin in welcome goosebumps. Moving her feet and hips in time to her favourite Kings of Leon track, Angie sang along as she pressed the clothes and desperately hoped the pile in the laundry basket would start to look a little more appealing. Banjo, her chocolate Labrador, lifted his head and cocked an ear at her quizzically as she danced in front of the ironing board, occasionally turning to the dog and singing directly to him, smiling as he wagged his tail, banging it against the side of his basket. When she turned away, he would lay his head down on the side of his bed, his eyes still on her as she moved about the kitchen.
Track after track played on and the ironing pile seemed just as tall as it had when she had started an hour ago. Angie cursed the fact Eddie had an office job that required a daily change of shirt, rather than a much easier-to-iron tee-shirt. Still, she couldn’t complain. The fact he went to work every day in a crisply ironed shirt meant he came home each month with a pretty attractive pay packet and Angie only had to work part-time, which suited her perfectly. Okay, so the down side was that she had to do all the ironing but it seemed a small price to pay and listening to music with a glass of Pinot to hand always lessened the pain.
Finishing the last work shirt and finally starting on her own clothes, Angie changed CD’s in the stereo and smiled as Banjo whined from the corner.
“Come on, Banjo boy, we like this one,” she laughed as she went over and scratched behind his ears before dancing back over to the ironing board.
Banjo whined again and Angie glanced over at him, noticing the he didn’t appear to be whining at her; his attention fixed on something in the garden.
“You wanna go out, big guy? The doors open, go do your thang,” she drawled, pointing at the open patio door.
Banjo didn’t go out, instead he sat upright in his basket, staring out into the darkened back garden with his ears pricked up and letting out a low, almost inaudible growl. Angie stopped what she was doing and placed the iron upright on the board.
“Banjo, what ever is the matter? Is that bloody cat out there again? Go show it who’s boss!” She stalked over to the door and pulled back the voile, straining her eyes to see out into the garden. Scanning the darkness, Angie couldn’t see any sign of Banjo’s nemesis, next doors tabby cat, Charles. Don’t let the royal name fool you, this was no regal moggy, this was a rough looking feline with a tatty ear and a probable case of fleas.
Behind her Banjo whined once more, the sound snaking past Angie and sending shivers down her spine as it whispered in her ears. She couldn’t help but feel the hairs on her neck stand on end automatically as she stared into the gloom, noting how the light breeze made the thin branches move and causing the shadows to flicker. She felt something touch her leg and she jumped, looking down to see that Banjo was now standing next to her, his gaze now intent on something at the bottom of the garden.
Eddie’s shed was down there, right at the end of their eighty foot lawn. They were fortunate enough to have plenty of land out back and Eddie had taken full advantage by building a huge workspace, which was actually less of a shed and more of an aircraft hangar. Angie often jokingly referred to Eddie’s shed as ‘Area 51′.
“You keeping aliens in that thing, hon?” she had smirked, dodging out of the way of the tea towel that Eddie had playfully snapped at her backside.
Now, staring out into garden, Angie hoped the only creature out there was Charles and not acid-blooded aliens stalking the shrubbery and flowerbeds.
“Damn it, Banjo, stop being a wimp and go get that cat, where ever it is!” Angie turned to the dog and tried to shoo him out the open door. Banjo’s claws skittered on the tiled floor as he scampered back to the protection of his bed in the corner of the kitchen, where he stood, his tail between his legs and head bowed.
“Banjo?” Angie frowned at the lab before looking back out into the darkness.
Everything was quiet. Too quiet. Angie stepped out onto the patio and scanned the garden. The problem with having such a large garden was all the dark corners; too many places for someone to be hiding, especially down by the shed. Shadowy, dank places where anyone or anything could be lurking. Not acid-blooded aliens of course; but worse things. Things that were watching. And waiting.
Angie shivered and rubbed at her bare arms, suddenly feeling exposed in her shorts and vest top despite the warmth of the summer evening. Banjo gave another growl from within the kitchen and Angie squinted into the furthest reaches of the garden, trying to make out familiar shapes. The step ladder leaning against the shed wall. The array of potted plants on the small shingled area in front of the shed that Eddie diligently watered every day. The bird bath that was a proving a big hit amongst the local bird community during this hotter-than-average summer.
Wait. Did something move down there? Angie’s eyes widened as she saw shadows shifting and undulating. Another growl from Banjo had her moving quickly and she stumbled back into the kitchen, grabbing hold of the handle and yanking the door closed behind her. Hand trembling, she turned the key and then pushed on the handle, making sure that it was definitely locked. With her palms flat on the door, Angie pressed her face against the glass trying to see out but it was useless. The light in the kitchen just reflected her own face in the window and the garden was plunged into impenetrable darkness. She could feel her heart hammering in her chest and her breath left small imprints on the glass as she exhaled in short sharp gasps. Nothing seemed to move beyond the glass. Nothing but endless shadows that by now covered the whole of the garden.
The iron hissed behind her.

***************

When Eddie had returned later, after an evening at the local rugby club, Angie was perched on the sofa, her legs curled up underneath her and Banjo by her side with his head on her lap as she stroked his head in a motion that was as calming for her, as it was for him. The music channel was on the television, playing endless music videos in an attempt to lift the anxiety from head.
Eddie stumbled a little as he entered the living room, humming jovially and obviously booze-infused.
“Hey sexy, how’s my girl?” he said, throwing himself down on the sofa beside them.
“Good night?” said Angie, forcing a smile.
Eddie leaned back, stretching out and linking his hands behind his head. “Yeah pretty good, although had to stop Wheeler from making a tit out of himself as usual. Trying to chat up some fella’s bird. You know Wheeler.”
“I sure do,” she replied flatly.
“How was your evening?” he reached over and stroked at her hair, tucking a few strands behind her ear.
“Well it was fine until Banjo freaked me out,” she said.
“Why, what did he do? Throw up on bedroom rug again?” Eddie smirked.
“No you idiot, he was just getting spooked by something in the garden, and that spooked me out.” She smiled, but it felt stiff and fake.
“Spooked by what?” Eddie looked at her, eyebrows raised.
“I don’t know, it was as if he could see something down by the shed,” Angie touched a hand to Eddie’s leg, grateful he was home and wanting to find comfort in having him close.
“Well god, that was probably that bastard tabby cat again. Caught him down there earlier trying to shit all over the shingle. Tried to insert my boot up his arse but he ran off before I could get to him. Got a good mind to go round to Margaret’s and tell her to keep that bloody flea-infested thing out of our garden.” Eddie grabbed the remote from by Angie’s feet and switched over to the sports news channel.
She stared at him, incredulous that he could brush off her anxiety so quickly.
“Eddie, it wasn’t Charles. There was something out there but it wasn’t Charles.”
“Of course it was babe, you know what that thing is like, loves to hang out there taunting our Banjo-boy,” he rubbed the dogs belly affectionately.
“I’m telling you it wasn’t the bloody cat!” Angie snapped, annoyed that Eddie wouldn’t take her seriously.
Eddie snapped his eyes away from the screen. “Bloody hell, Ange. Calm down will you? If it wasn’t the cat, what do you think it was? Vampires? Ghosties? Ted Bundy? There’s nothing out there.”
“I just knew you wouldn’t take this seriously,” Angie huffed, turning away from him and glaring at the television, feeling the anger burn as hot as her cheeks felt.
“For god’s sake babe, what do you expect? You’re scared of your own shadow. You’d still check under the bed for the bogeyman if I wasn’t around,” he laughed, not in a cruel way but it still made Angie feel completely stupid and she wished she had not said anything.
Eddie always teased her about her fears. She was scared of the dark. Jumped at thunderstorms. Shrieked whenever a bug came near her. And as much as she hated to admit he was right, she probably would check under the bed for monsters if she could. As a kid she always tucked herself in and hated any part of herself to be exposed during the night, fearing the touch of some clammy hand on her ankle when the lights went out. She was still the same now. She would never let her leg or arm fall over the side, scared that something would reach out from under the bed and drag her under, down into its dark, hellish pit where no one would hear her screams.
She knew she was spooked easily but this was different; this had felt different. And besides it hadn’t just been her who had been given a bad dose of the heebie-jeebies. Banjo had sensed something too. Not that he had to feel embarrassed by Eddie’s leg-pulling. Instead it was her that had to sit there with flaming cheeks and tears of embarrassment stinging her eyes.
Eddie squeezed her knee and sighed. “Look, if it will make you feel any better I can go take a look if you want?”
She knew he was only doing it to humour her. Faint amusement danced in his eyes and whilst she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of mocking her any further, Angie did want him to check; just to help reassure her and calm her nerves. She nodded and gave a half-smile.
In the kitchen, Angie held her breath as Eddie unlocked the doors and stepped outside, torch in hand. She stood on the step, wringing her hands and biting on her bottom lip as she watched Eddie trudge up the garden, swinging the beam of the torch this way and that, lighting up the darkest corners and investigating under bushes and behind trees. As he neared the end of the garden, he stopped as if straining to listen to something and Angie called out to him. “What? What is it?”
He lifted up his hand as if to shush her before continuing to approach the shed where Angie had thought she had seen something moving. She could hear the crunch of his shoes as he reached the shingled area. Suddenly he stopped.
“Bloody hell!” he exclaimed.
“What? What have you found?” she cried, hand clutching at her throat in horror.
Eddie turned and began to walk back down the lawn towards her. “Shit!” he hissed “that bastard cat is gonna met the steel-toe capped end of my boots when I next see it!” He stopped and wiped his foot back and forth on the grass. “These are bloody new shoes and now they’re covered in fucking cat shit. Bloody great!”
He stomped across the patio and leaned against the wall, removing his shoes and leaving them on the bench by the door.
“I’m definitely going to see Margaret tomorrow about this, I work too hard out here for that tatty fucker to come in and crap everywhere.” He stepped inside, brow furrowed in anger and Angie quickly moved out of his way, feeling guilty that her stupid fears had caused him to mess up his new shoes. He glared at her and shook his head.
“See, Ange, there’s your bloody bogeyman. A poxy cat! You seriously need to get a grip.”

******************

As expected, Angie hadn’t slept well that night. The heat had been stifling upstairs and Eddie had gone to bed in a bad mood, turning his back on her and not even offering a goodnight kiss as he usually would, let alone anything more. Angie had tossed and turned, watching the hours tick by on the alarm clock and hearing the constant buzzing of the fan as it churned the air in the corner and barely making any difference to the humidity in the room.
When she had finally slipped down into slumber, her sleep had been restless and tortured with dreams that made her toss and turn even more. She saw herself tiptoeing up the garden, torch held out in her trembling hand, feeling the cool wet grass under her bare feet and the cold night breeze on her skin. Somewhere far behind her, Banjo was whining and the noise carried up the garden in pained whimpers. Something brushed against her shin and when she looked down, Charles was rubbing himself against her and winding in and out of her legs as if he were trying to trip her up. She hooked a foot under his belly and tried to push him away, but he just miaowed and stepped in front of her again. Unable to stop herself, Angie stumbled as she tried to avoid him and she fell, feeling the moisture of the ground seeping into her vest top as she landed on her front, hands splayed out on the wet grass. Charles rubbed against her face; his thick ginger hair tickling her nose and making her splutter as some went into her open mouth. He miaowed loudly in her ear and she got on all fours and pushed him away roughly. It was then she could hear the banging. Thumping noises that seemed to reverberate in the ground beneath her.
The cat hissed and slashed a clawed paw across her face.

******************

When she awoke, with the sheet stuck to her sweat-dampened skin and bunched up in her clenched fists, she immediately saw that the space next to her was empty. She sat up in bed, puzzled as to where Eddie was. The alarm clock flashed nine in the morning. Eddie would usually have woken her with a cuppa by now. She ran her fingers through her hair and felt the beginnings of a headache thumping at her temples. When she stood up and walked out onto the landing, the banging grew louder and Angie steadied herself against the bannister, wondering if the remnants of her dream were still with her.
No. She could definitely hear banging. Padding downstairs, she followed the noise out into the garden to find Eddie hammering a piece of trellis to the top of the fence. As she walked out onto the patio, Eddie looked up and smiled broadly at her. It was already hot outside and he had thrown his top off and his tanned back looked sleek with perspiration.
“Hey sleepy head, how you feeling today?” he grinned.
“I could ask you the same thing. How is it you don’t have a hangover? And what are you doing?” she laughed, feeling relieved that Eddie didn’t seem to be still be angry with her.
“What can I say? I’m one of those lucky ones,” Eddie winked “I figured a little more height on the fence might stop that cat from jumping over. Was thinking barb wire would also be good, but wasn’t sure how Margaret would feel about a shredded moggy?”
He walked over and gripped her around the waist, pulling her close. “You okay? You looked like you were having a bad dream.” His eyes met hers and she was pleased to see concern there and not the mocking looks of the night before.
“Yeah a little I guess,” she shrugged, wrapping her hands around his neck “I’m sorry for being such a scaredy cat last night. Banjo just got me wound up.”
“Pesky mutt!” he murmured, nuzzling into her neck “anyway, you got me to protect you, right?”
Angie smiled, enjoying the sensation of his breath on her skin. “Yeah I know. You’ll chase the bogeyman away, won’t you?”
“Darling, that bogeyman ain’t got nothing on me, trust me.” He kissed her throat and she giggled, loving the feel of the sunshine on her face, but wishing the thumping in her head would just go away.

********************

The following weekend, the storms came, providing a welcome relief from the crushing heat that had been building like a claustrophobic bind all week long. You could sense the storm was coming; something in the air, a feeling or a smell maybe, but it was inevitable. Angie knew they were due a break in the weather but when the thunder finally cracked through the air on Saturday night and the rains began assaulting the ground, she was stupidly unprepared for the onslaught.
“Bugger,” she cried as the first drops began beating at the living room window where she had been engrossed in a film, curled up in her favourite spot on the sofa with a bottle of wine and Banjo for company.
Grabbing the washing basket from the utility room, she threw open the patio door and ran out into the garden, yanking clothes from the washing line; pegs and all. Gasping as the cold drops spattered her skin, she darted across the garden, clutching onto the basket and shrieked when a loud clap of thunder burst overhead. God how she hated storms!
Just before she reached the back door, something caught her attention on the bench. Eddie’s shoes were still there, discarded from the week before when he had accidentally stood in Charles’ mess. Jumping through the doors, she threw the basket down and went back out to save the shoes. Eddie would go mad if his new shoes were ruined by the rain.
Slamming the patio doors shut behind her, Angie grabbed a towel and began drying herself down and scrunching the excess water from her hair. Finally she wiped away the wet footprints she had trailed across the kitchen floor before chucking the towel into the machine ready for the next wash. Picking up the shoes, she took them over to the sink and found an old nail brush in a drawer so she could give the soles a good scrub and get all the cat shit out of the grooves.
“Oh,” she said, surprised when she looked down to find both soles were already clean. She didn’t remember Eddie cleaning them and had assumed he had left them out there to do another time, but regardless she was pleased she had saved them from a soaking. And besides, there was nothing worse than having to clean shit off of shoes.

*****************

Later that night, Angie looked at the clock on the mantle piece to see that it was drawing close to midnight. She stretched out her legs on the sofa and yawned, deciding that there was no way she could stay awake to see Eddie when he came home. Banjo mimicked her stretch and looked at her expectantly.
“Is it that time again, mister?” she said, affectionately stroking his neck. “Come on then.”
She wandered into the kitchen, with Banjo shadowing her, and went to the back door, knowing that if he saw the rain, she’d have a hard job getting him to go out. Fussy old mutt hated getting his feet wet. She had to get him so his nose was practically touching the glass, before opening the door and quickly pushing him out.
The door swung open and drops of rain quickly hit the step and Banjo’s face. He hesitated and tried to back up.
“No, no, no, boy. Come on, you gotta go out and pee. There’s no way you’re doing it on the bedroom rug,” Angie groaned. She tried pushing him, but the dog wouldn’t move. Instead he whined and tried to get past her.
She fielded him back to the door and pointed out to the garden, raising her voice authoritatively.
“Out. Now!” she commanded, grabbing hold of his collar and tugging him to the step. The dog whined even louder now and pulled back. Angie’s feet slid on the rain spattered floor and she tumbled, crying out in pain as her knees hit the tiled floor hard, yet still managing to keep a grip on Banjo’s collar.
“What the hell is wrong with you, you damn mutt? It’s just a bit of bloody water!”
It was then she heard the banging.
Turning her face to the garden, she waited and strained to listen beyond the sound of the rain drops hitting every surface. Hearing nothing, she laughed softly to herself before turning back to Banjo.
“Think you’re gonna spook me again, eh boy? Come on….” She stopped mid sentence, seeing how Banjo’s gaze was fixed on something in the garden and his ears were pricked up.
Bang-bang-bang.
She could definitely hear banging. It was faint and muted by the rain, but there was a definite banging noise coming from somewhere at the end of the garden. Angie’s eyes flipped in the direction of the shed.
Hearing Eddie’s voice in her head, his mocking jibes about what a baby she was about things that go bump in the night, Angie stood up and glared defiantly at the garden.
“I can do this,” she said out loud “it’s probably nothing. Nothing at all.”
Grabbing the torch from the utility room and a pair of pumps off the rack, Angie stepped out into the garden, immediately wishing she had grabbed a coat to shelter her from the incessant rain. The heat still hung in the air, defying the cold of the storm and creating a tension that did nothing to ease her fears as she tiptoed up the garden. She could hear the banging noise grow louder with every step.
The shadows twisted and crept all around her and Angie felt as if a million evil eyes were upon her as she approached the shed. She could feel them crawling all over her body, coveting every inch of her skin. A noise to her left, a wet sucking sound made her gasp and she swung her torch round, sweeping it across the flowerbeds, searching for some hideous monster which she was sure must be stalking her and about to snatch her and drag her down into the wet mud. Nothing moved. She waited, wondering if that was breathing she heard, but soon realised it was her own breath leaving her in short, hard gasps.
The banging continued and Angie gulped and hesitated, not wanting to go any further but feeling her foot take another step. Then another. Suddenly something brushed against her leg and she screamed, dropping the torch as she jumped back. She felt thick damp fur against her ankles and she looked down in horror to see Charles, the ginger tom cat rubbing against her legs and looking back at her; his eyes iridescent in the moonlight.
Frozen in the garden, Angie felt as if reality and dream were weaving all round her, winding in and out of her legs and scratching at the thin veil of courage she had draped loosely around herself. Charles miaowed and the sound made her shudder. She took a step towards the torch and he pushed against her legs again. Angie clapped a hand over her mouth, fearing what was to come next. If this was her dream, she knew that any minute she was going to trip and fall to the ground. She couldn’t let that happen. She didn’t want to feel his sodden fur against his face; didn’t want to taste it on her tongue. She knew if she fell, that would be it.
Deftly stepping over him, she grabbed for the torch and raised it in her hand as if to throw it at the cat. He hissed and scrambled off to one side, heckles raised and tail swishing wildly in the air. He didn’t move any further, just stood there, eyes flashing angry yellow.
The banging continued and Angie looked up sharply, finally realising where the noise was coming from. The shed door was swinging open; fuelled by the storm winds and banging against the frame. She stalked over to the shed, shaking her head at her own paranoia and smiling to herself. It had been the bloody door, all along. Typical!
Angie started to shut the door and suddenly wondered why it was open in the first place. Eddie always kept the door locked and bolted, yet here it was, unlocked and open and swinging back and forth. She swung the beam down so she could examine the lock, worried that maybe someone had broken in. The lock was unbroken, there were no signs of damage to the door. No. The door was just unlocked.
Angie frowned. Eddie never left the door unlocked. In fact, he was obsessed with keeping the shed locked up and had even added an extra bolt and padlock to ensure he deterred even the most persistent of thieves. Something about this wasn’t right. Could he have forgotten to lock it? That just wasn’t like Eddie. Whatever had happened, Angie decided that she was going to go back to the house and call him on his mobile. If someone had managed to get in, Eddie would want to know about it.
She pushed the door but stopped before it was shut fully.
Bang-bang-bang.
Angie froze and held her breath.
Bang-bang-bang-bang.
This was the noise she had heard. Not the door, but this. A kind of dull thumping sound that was louder now, coming from somewhere within the shed. A bolt of alarm ripped through her. What if it was Eddie? What if he had come in here and someone had attacked him? What if he now lay somewhere in the dark expanse of the shed, injured, bleeding, unable to do nothing except bang on the floor in the desperate hope that Angie would hear him. Stepping tentatively inside the shed, Angie cursed the boards as they cracked under her feet.
“Eddie? Eddie? Are you there?” she whispered.
Bang-bang-bang.
The shed seemed even bigger on the inside. There was a large work bench – Eddie was an inspiring carpenter – with all manner of tools hung on the wall nearby. Each tool had its own place on Eddie’s Tool Wall of Fame. Angie’s eyes scanned the work bench area quickly and noted there were a couple of gaps on the wall, although not being a regular guest to Area 51 she had no idea what was missing. Still, considering the amount of tools Eddie had, she couldn’t imagine why the thieves, if they truly were thieves, would only take a few items as no doubt they could have acquired an impressive loot if they had taken more. Eddie never scrimped on good tools.
Moving further into the shed, Angie tried to work out where the noise was coming from. She knew she was getting closer but the sound puzzled her. It still sounded like it was coming from further away, not a resounding, clear noise as it would be if Eddie were banging on the floor.
One corner of the shed was home to all the garden equipment, garden tools, the lawn mower, and an array of unused plant pots and watering cans. The rest of the shed was made up of mostly shelving units which were installed in horizontal rows. Each shelf almost reached the ceiling and each held all sorts of paraphernalia. Screws, nails and various other DIY bits and pieces that Angie didn’t have a clue what they were for, were all housed in separate neatly labelled boxes. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. She could hear Eddie’s words now. He was obsessively tidy, especially when it came to his shed. Oh Eddie!
“Eddie? Are you okay? Please Eddie where are you?” Angie could hear the tremor in her voice.
Angie reached the end of the first shelf and peered round the corner. No Eddie. Just boxes and boxes of his things. The muted thumping noise continued to haunt her. Where the hell was it coming from? The next aisle was clear, as was the next. Finally Angie reached the last and widest aisle. Poking her head around the shelving unit, she held her breath, sure that this must be where Eddie lay, having been cornered in the darkest reaches of the shed by some opportunist assailant.
Nothing. No Eddie. Angie felt the tears prick her eyes. Why wasn’t he here? She just wanted to get out now. This whole thing was freaking her out and she wanted him to appear so he could comfort her and tell her everything was alright. She would even put up with his piss-taking about her being scared of her own shadow, if he would just put his arms around her now and make her feel safe again.
Bang-bang-bang-bang.
Angie cocked her head. The noise seemed slightly louder here, as if it were coming from somewhere down this last aisle. She walked a few steps until she was flanked either side by the tall, imposing shelving units and listened again. A little further and still the banging persisted. Angie’s eyes swept all around her, desperate to find the source and eventually she looked down at her feet. Raising the torch slightly she directed the beam of the torch to the floor in front of her and down towards the end of the aisle.
Obsessively tidy he might be, but the one thing that Eddie always fought a losing battle against was the never-ending tide of sawdust. It got literally everywhere. Eddie was constantly wiping down the shelves and sweeping the floor, but the sawdust was always hanging in the air, just waiting for a place to settle.
At the end of the aisle, Angie noticed that there was a section of flooring that seemed to be relatively dust-free, not because it had been recently cleaned, but more as if it was an area walked upon more often. When she homed the beam in on the floor, Angie could see foot prints and what seemed to be hand prints, patterning the floorboards. Kneeling down, she examined the prints more closely, sweeping her own hands across the floor where the prints seemed most concentrated. There was a hatch here! Some kind of trapdoor, similar to their loft hatch. Angie sat back on her heels for a moment, troubled as to why Eddie had never mentioned building a compartment under the shed. Maybe he kept valuables here? But why not tell her?
Bang-bang-bang.
Angie gasped. The banging was coming from somewhere underneath the shed; it was coming from below the hatch. What if the thieves had found Eddie’s secret door? What if they had over-powered him and stashed him down there, hoping no one would find him? She run her fingers quickly along the edges of the door but could find nowhere to open up the hatch. Quickly she got up and ran back to the tool wall, grabbing a long flat head screwdriver before running back to the hatch, where she jammed it into the small groove in the floor and managing to lift the hatch enough to hook her fingers under.
Lifting the door up and swinging the torch downwards, Angie was shocked to see that the space below was more like another room. She couldn’t tell from here how big the space was, but the light captured some beams and it looked big enough to stand up straight in. Moving around the edges of the hatch, Angie used the torch to investigate further, feeling tendrils of fear gripping her heart. Her bladder pressed painfully against her stomach and she resisted the urge to let the fear take hold and pee herself.
As she swept the beam across the floor, she felt her mouth go dry and head pound furiously as the light picked up what appeared to be another door, except this one looked like an actual door embedded in the ground. It was wooden, not dissimilar to any door you would see inside a house, with a small window, probably no more than about seven by four inches in size. There was a bolt with a padlock, the same type of lock that Eddie used on the main shed door. Angie jumped as the banging started again. Only now, she knew exactly where the banging was coming from.
“Hello?” she called out, still keeping her voice low.
The banging immediately stopped, then shuffling as if someone or something was moving about. She strained to listen. The banging started again, harder this time and more persistent.
“Hello?” she said, louder now.
Suddenly a hand appeared, palm flat out against the inside of the window. Angie shrieked and clapped her own hand over her mouth to stifle the scream that was caught in her throat. The palm slapped against the glass again, small frantic flashes of white within an awful black hole. It wasn’t Eddie’s hand. No. Not Eddie’s hand.
The pee did come now. Angie felt it trickle hot down the inside of her thigh and spatter the floorboards around the edge of the hatch. She shuffled back quickly, hearing her breath escape her in a hee-hee-hee sound. Shining the light directly onto the small window, the torch slipped out of her sweat-drenched grasp and tumbled into the room below, hitting the ground and rolling to a halt with its beam illuminating the wooden door and the glass. A dark stain spattered the wood.
With her whole body shaking, Angie stood up, feeling unsteady on her feet and light-headed. She placed a hand on the shelf to her left to pull herself up, but before she could stand fully, a blow to the back of her head sent her plummeting down to the floor, face first. The second blow caved in the back of her skull and the last thing she saw was another pair of eyes, staring at her through the glass, wide eyed and mirroring the shock and terror in her own.
Eddie bent down to retrieve the claw hammer from the back of his wife’s head. Pieces of scalp, hair and bone stuck to the claw end of the hammer as he wrenched it free from her skull. He stroked her hair, tucked a few loose strands behind her ear and sighed.
Without bothering to clean the hammer, Eddie walked out into the garden. He could hear Banjo barking manically back at the house.
“I never did like that bloody pesky mutt,” he said.

9 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

Daring the dark

I’m always inspired by my favourite author Stephen King. I know for some his fiction is not to their taste, whether that be because of his subject choice or because of his writing style but I am hooked on his words and adore the way he writes. I recently finished reading Stephen King’s short story collection Full Dark, No Stars and it has definitely encouraged my growing love for the short story. I have never particularly been a big fan of the short, always preferring to sink my teeth into a full-length novel, however recently I have started to appreciate short story fiction a little more and have even tried turning my hand to a few of my own.

If you turn to the Afterword in Full Dark, No Stars, King makes an observation that really hits home to me as a writer, and in particular to me as a horror/paranormal fiction writer.

“If you’re going into a very dark place……then you should take a bright light, and shine it on everything. If you don’t want to see, why in God’s name would you dare the dark at all?”

Daring the dark is what every horror writer worth his salt should do. Now, my mum would always say to me that the likes of King and one of my other favourite writers, James Herbert were “sick in the head” for writing about the things they do. But if you get beyond the blood, gore, ghostly goings-on and stuff of nightmares and take a good look at the characters’ themselves, you will find real people and yes, they might be the deepest, darkest creations you will ever meet on the page, but rest assured somewhere in the world there are such people and they don’t all hide in drains dressed up as Pennywise the Clown or come tapping at your window at night, fangs glistening in the moonlight and begging you to invite them into your home so they can open your veins.

King says “For writers who knowingly lie, for those who substitute unbelievable human behaviour for the way people really act, I have nothing but contempt……Bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do – to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”

And with that thought deeply entrenched in my mind, I give you, dear reader, Lily-Rose…..

 

3 Comments

Filed under Short Stories