Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Art student Evie Austin has spent the last several years idolizing the famous and elusive painter, Traevyn Whitelaw. After an agonizing final report on the man, who also happens to be the most private and secretive person Evie has ever tried to do research on, her professor picks her for the once in a lifetime opportunity to be Traevyn Whitelaw's apprentice for the summer.
Ecstatic, Evie knows that her summer is going to be amazing, filled with lengthy discussions on art and beautiful things with the man she admires above all others. What she doesn't expect is to get stuck taking her sullen, sarcastic, seventeen-year-old brother with her at the last minute, and she definitely doesn't expect Traevyn Whitelaw to live in an isolated Gothic mansion by the ocean. What's worse is that the man she imagined to be so cultured and refined is no more than a sinister, snarling ogre who acts like having Evie and her brother in his home is the worst intrusion imaginable... He's also the most gorgeous man Evie has ever laid eyes on.
There is more than meets the eye to the dark, brooding artist with the painful past, and spunky, outspoken Evie plans on finding out just exactly what the man is made of…if she can only figure out how.
The road took her down toward the cliffs overlooking the ocean, and the trees began to get denser and more foreboding-looking, their thick branches jutting out in awkward positions
that looked like gnarled fingers. Wisps of fog slithered through the branches like serpents and Evie suddenly felt like she had ventured into a horror movie. She continued to
drive, the fog getting thicker as she went along.
“Dude, Evie, this is kind of creeping me out,” Seth muttered.
Evie rolled her eyes. “It’s just fog.” But she did have to admit, everything felt dark and foreboding, and that was an ominous feeling.
Without warning the road widened out and an enormous, Gothic-looking house came into view. Evie gasped in surprise and slowed the car to a stop as she stared at the structure. It
was dark, nestled in a grove of eucalyptus trees, sitting like a lonely sentinel. The architecture much resembled that of a sixteenth-century manor and she briefly felt like she’d traveled
“Holy crap,” Seth said. “What kind of guy is this? A friggin’ warlock or something?”
Evie shook her head to regain her senses and unbuckled her seatbelt. “Come on, he’s an artist. It makes sense that his home would be artistic.” But she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something horribly lonely and tormented emanating from the dark edifice.
She got out of the car and started toward the front door, shivering as the eerie ocean breeze blew gently across her skin. She heard the forlorn cry of a seagull as she approached
and, behind it, the rhythmic pounding of the ocean waves. The breeze rustled through the leaves of the eucalyptus grove. Evie had to take a deep breath to calm her nerves
before she knocked on the heavy, oak door.
“Seriously, Evie, let me go home,” Seth whispered, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets. “I can hitchhike, or take a bus, or something. If you want to stay here in Edgar Alan Poe land, that’s cool, but I’d rather not if you don’t mind.”
Evie scowled and shushed him just as the door swung open. She raised herself taller and prepared a smile, but it promptly faded upon seeing the man in front of her. He was very tall and had thick, black hair that fell in shining strands all the way past his waist. His hair alone made her stop and marvel. She had never seen such long hair on a man. At least not on a man who wasn’t a sleazy, old biker, or a Native American. Then again, maybe he was Native American… She wouldn’t know… And his hair wasn’t frizzy and scary like those eighties rockers. It was shining ebony that looked like it would feel like silk.
“Can I help you?” he queried.
Evie opened her mouth, but nothing came out. He was absolutely, breathtakingly…beautiful. Beautiful like art, like the covers of fantasy books with the rugged, manly, yet gorgeous hero. His features were harsh, all hard lines and sharp angles, undeniably masculine, but there was a strange, elegant beauty around his sensual lips and light green eyes that made Evie feel like she was looking at a living masterpiece.
Seth cleared his throat discreetly, which brought Evie out of her stupor, and she gave a nervous cough. “Excuse me, I am looking for Traevyn Whitelaw,” she murmured.
His facial expression remained impassive, and he merely shifted his weight in a lazy manner. It was a languid movement, like a jungle cat stretching. He sighed. “And you are?”
“Um…I—I’m Evelina Austin,” she stammered. “I’m—uh— supposed to be studying with Mr. Whitelaw for the summer… As his apprentice.”
His pale eyes seemed to look her over for a moment before they fixed on her own. “I am Traevyn Whitelaw,” he stated.
“Who is your companion?”
“Oh, this is my brother, Seth.” She flashed a nervous smile. “My parents dumped him on me last minute. There was no one else to watch him all summer. I called Professor Roth and he told me it should be okay if I brought him with me.”
His dark eyebrows drew together in a frown and he stood up straight. “Oh he did, did he?”
It was almost a snarl. Evie retreated a step as his presence seemed to suddenly fill the entire world.
“It is most certainly not okay,” he spat, his voice a menacing growl. “Let me make one thing perfectly clear to you, Miss Austin. This apprenticeship program was not my idea, or my doing. Professor Roth approached me with it, and it was out of respect and gratitude for him that I reluctantly accepted. If not for him I would never have made it to where I am now. So, yes, you will be my apprentice. I will teach; you will learn what you will. What you do with that knowledge is entirely up to you. It is not any fault of mine if you fall flat on your face in your desired career. Professor Roth recommended you, so you must have some talent, but I want to
get one thing straight, Miss Austin. I have better things to do than entertain a starry-eyed college student and her delinquent brother.”
Seth frowned. “Hey,” he protested.
“I am doing this out of obligation,” Traevyn finished, “not by choice.”
Evie stared at him, dumbfounded. He moved quickly, making her jump, and motioned her inside. She hurried to obey, grasping Seth’s wrist and hauling him in after her.
“Follow,” Traevyn commanded, shutting the door.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Those chilling words still send shivers racing down my spine from the old television show.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS
Nothing could come close to the images the master story teller conjured in my mind. Just the sound of those words in barely more than a whisper made my skin crawl. The anticipation of the story he was about to tell sent chills racing down my spine. I remember glancing around the room to make sure all the curtains were drawn, all the doors locked. My family and I would gather around the television on a Friday evening, lights out with a big bowl of buttered popcorn. And the second the master of suspense’s face would appear on screen, my brother, sister and I would scream loud enough to wake the dead.
Alfred Hitchcock packed it all in his books and movies—chance meetings on a train, murder and mayhem, voyeurism, ice-blondes, debonair actors with a touch of quirky humor and rakish charm, espionage, romance and lost love. And who better befitting to portray the femme fatale of that era than Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Kim Novak and Janet Leigh? They were a perfect fit with Hollywood legends as Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, two of Hitchcock’s favorites.
Thinking of some of these old plots that linger in my mind, I write stories of romance and suspense to hopefully give readers just a hint of that old Hitchcock magic. Second to imagery, the first thing I focus on is music. Think about a scary movie. Right before a murder or something dangerous, the chilling music clues us in and has our hearts racing. This being said, with a fetish for peeking on guests as they shower, Janet Leigh is about to find out just how twisted Norman Bates is. Voyeurism at its peak. Just the sound of that screeching violin gets my blood pumping!
In my latest suspense Her Biggest Fan, I chose Moonlight Sonata to haunt the reader. As you read, you’ll swear you can hear the eerie spiking of piano keys because I have planted them in your head. Recalling the old thriller The Wax Museum, I used wax gargoyles with wings as props in the ballroom. To please my many muses, I combined my love of a psychological thriller with Classic Gothic and old Hollywood glamour.
In Mask of the Betrayer, the childhood nursery song Heigh Ho the Dairy-o sets the scene. I promise, these chilling lyrics will haunt your nightmares, the lyrics that have been programmed in Michael DeVeccio’s head, prompting him to kill.
"a hunting we will go, a hunting we will go. Heigh ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go. We’ll catch a fox and put him in a box. Heigh ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go."
You can hear the chilling music here
MASK OF THE BETRAYER VIDEO TRIAD PRODUCTIONS
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
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When the whispers in the night, the whispers of her lover, are the whispers of a killer, will Margot escape before she becomes the next victim?
Deep in the foothills of Red Rock Canyon, a serial killer stalks. He leaves his signature—a skull mask on the corpse. But when the homicide cop realizes the crimes are the reenactment of a case never solved ten years ago--all fingers point to Michael DeVeccio. And when Margot realizes she is married to the killer, her life becomes a living nightmare.
Suspecting her affair with Carlos, he had surveillance equipment installed all over the mansion. Once he showed her the very graphic video of her and his uncle going at it in the satin-lined coffin, he'd used it to his advantage.
Michael suspected his uncle knew more about his parents' accident than he'd let on, but couldn't prove a thing. Desperate to uncover the truth, Michael blackmailed Candace into getting Carlos to confess on tape. If she failed, she'd be killed. Stuck between a rock and a hard spot, Candace had done things to the old coot that disgusted even her. But those things had made the old man sing like a canary and the taped confession had saved her life. After her mission was a done deal, Michael kicked her out of Vegas and told her if she ever returned, he would rip her lungs out.
Reaching Carlos DeVeccio's bedroom, she got a little thrill as old memories surfaced. Just a few more seconds and she'd fall into the arms of her lover. She smiled to herself. She had returned to Vegas for a reason. She was flat broke. But after tonight, Michael would be her ticket back into the world of luxury. Then she'd be mistress of the manor once more. And more to the point, she'd have access to his billion dollar bank roll.
With a devious smile, she pushed her way through the heavy mahogany door. Crossing the threshold, she entered the house of horrors. Carlos DeVeccio had been a real nut, one straight out of the books. But with her fetish for face masks, she loved his collection and had often come into his wing just to admire them. What a thrill it had been to have sex in the coffin, howling along with the werewolf. Some might think it a bit kinky, but they didn't know what they were missing. Calling out to her lover, her pulse quickened a beat. "Michael? Are you here yet, darling?"
That's when she heard it, manic laughter from the final circle of hell. A slither of fear trickled down her spine, releasing a wild rush of adrenaline. Carlos?
She thought about the death of Lacy Diamond. Two Ninja assassinations were no coincidence.
Sensing danger, she felt for her sword. It was gone. Panic soared through her. Where the hell was it?
The laughter got louder and louder, moving in closer and closer. It seemed to be bouncing off the walls. She couldn't tell from which direction it was coming. Just then, the bell in the tower gonged, thundering off the walls like canon balls. Instinctively, she covered her ears with her hands. Where the hell was Michael?
Evil eyes from the face masks followed her every move. She had to escape this hell before it was too late. She couldn't think over the gonging of the bell. Every few seconds, the werewolf howled at the moon. She screamed, even though she knew no one would ever hear her. Floundering in wild disarray, disoriented by the darkness and relentless gonging, she searched in vain for the door. Her arms swam in mid-air, like a person drowning, desperate for an anchor, something to hold onto. She reached out and grabbed at nothing. She had to find a way out of this mausoleum of the living dead before it was too late. Where the hell was Michael?
The laughter got closer. Perspiration drenched her skin. The chilling laughter echoed in her ears, louder and louder, closer and closer. The bell in the bell tower broke through the thin filament of sanity she had left. The werewolf open his mouth and howled at the moon. Where was Michael? He'd know what to do. He was a master swordsman. His fencing skills were extraordinary. He could wield a Ninja star with his eyes closed and hit the mark. Where was he?
Blood thundered in her ears, but not loud enough to block out the manic laughter. It was close but she couldn't see a thing. She wished she had her sword. She turned to run; it was too late. She heard a distinct click. The killer had just depressed the button on her Zorro sword, releasing the thirty-seven inch blade. His psychotic laughter reached an ear-splitting crescendo just as the bell in the tower gonged out its last chime. From the dark shadows, Valentino pounced, her Zorro sword gleaming in the moonlight.
"Surprise!" he thrust the sword into her heart. "I promised to make you scream, darling Candace. Let me hear you scream."
Friday, March 11, 2011
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The headline in the small town newspaper read Girl Missing, Presumed Dead or Worse.
Leigh Lawson returned to Nags Head, North Carolina after four years with a huge shock. That big and bold headline was about her! Everyone thought she was dead!
The truth was that she was doing well. While gone, she had gotten clean from drugs and worked hard to get her bachelor’s degree in engineering. With her life back on track, she returns home in hope that she will receive a warm welcome. Instead, she gets the townsfolks' disdain.
Everyone hates her, everyone except Jason Altarez, an ambitious and resilient reporter with his sights locked on Leigh. He chases her with oozing charm and romance, but does he really want her or is he after his next story?
Leigh’s life soon spirals out of control when the police recruit her for an undercover assignment. They want her to go back to the life of her troubled teenage years, back into the drugs, and help them to bring the local drug supplier to conviction. It may be Leigh’s only chance to redeem herself with her family and friends. If she can complete this one assignment, the town will forgive her. The only problem is that she needs to figure out how to stay alive in the process…
Jason is her continuous partner through it all, proving his dedication to her as he struggles to keep her safe. Leigh wants to believe he is a man of his word. She wants to believe that her heart isn’t completely foolish for falling for him, especially when she discovers evidence that Jason may be working for the very drug dealer that Leigh is trying to have arrested. Will he betray her in the end or will he demonstrate the most romantic notion of all – that love at first sight truly exists?
“I’ve got to find her. She could be in danger,” Emma mumbled and turned to leave.
“No, Emma, listen to me. You have to stay out of the middle of this!”
She glared at him. “She doesn’t have anyone, Shawn.”
He groaned loudly, and cursed again. Emma needed to stay away! Why was he always unable to say no to this woman?
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll come with you.”
He had to convince her to try Jason’s house before going after Freddie Garrett like the crazy woman had a mind to do. He thought she was unreasonable and overemotional and impossible to please, but he also knew he was madly in love with her. “I’m pretty sure she’s with Ice. She took off the earrings earlier, but the team said they were sure she was with a guy.”
It didn’t take them long to make the trip. A Lexus pulled up behind them in the driveway. It was Jason. “What are you guys doing here? What’s wrong?”
Emma answered. “We’re looking for Leigh.”
Jason swallowed back the panic that those words immediately caused. Leigh was probably just inside. Why the hell hadn’t he come straight home like he’d wanted to? Because Nate said he needed your help and you couldn’t say no, and you convinced yourself that she was smart enough to wait for you. “I just got home. Let’s see if she’s here,” he said calmly.
No one expected to see the house in shambles or Leigh on her knees in Jason’s living room when they walked in. Slick stood in front of her where it looked as if he’d just pushed her there. The air of the house grew thick with expectation as Slick pointed a gun at the three in the doorway. “Come in and shut the door,” he said.
They did as they were told. Instinct directed everyone’s hands up in the air. Leigh was staring at the floor, her face hidden behind her thick, black hair.
Shawn took a step closer, but made no move to draw his own weapon. No one spoke at first, afraid to disrupt the scene or upset the man with the gun.
Slick directed his attention to Jason. “I did a little redecorating. Hope you don’t mind, Ice.” Then, he looked to Shawn. “Just the man I’m looking for. My boss would like to see you, Shawn.”
Emma gasped. Jason’s eyes remained glued to Leigh. Shawn said, “Let my sister go.”
The look in Slick’s eyes never wavered. He continued to look Shawn in the eye when he suddenly backhanded Leigh across the face so hard that a noise echoed in the room as if he’d hit a wall.
Leigh moaned softly. She still did not look at anyone, eyes shut and head bent to the floor.
Jason reacted without thinking when he charged Slick. He was brought up short when the gun redirected to point between his eyes. “Don’t be a hero,” Slick’s velvety voice murmured.
The emotion could be seen surging through Jason as veins popped from his neck. “Stop this!” he roared.
Slick kicked Leigh in the side and repeated, “My boss would like to offer you a job, Shawn.”
Emma began to cry.
Shawn only stared.
Leigh took another kick that made her scream in pain.
Shawn broke his silence. “What do you want from me?”
“You’re a pretty smart guy. I’m sure you can figure out what it means to be on Freddie’s payroll.”
Slick jerked Leigh back to her knees and punched her. “I need an answer, Shawn.”
Emma cried out, “Please, stop this!”
Shawn stepped forward. Tears glistened in his eyes. “Okay, okay, I’ll do it.”
Slick withdrew a wad of cash from his right pocket and threw it on the floor. “That will get you started. Freddie will expect to see you at the club to confirm that answer. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I’ll be back to finish this if you don’t cooperate, and I mean soon.”
As soon as the man was gone, Jason was by Leigh’s side. “Leigh, talk to me, sweetheart.”
She was unconscious.
Monday, March 7, 2011
By Nan D. Arnold
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Are the wives in Merry Acres so very merry?
When Husbands start dying, seemingly by accident, and the secrets
behind these deaths have so marred the gloss of happily-ever-after,
can murder be only a gold wedding band away? Or is there something
else causing Merry Acres to be anything but merry.
Everyone, regardless of their feelings for Augusta, stood and clapped. The dancers bowed. Augusta disappeared, but not before glancing my way with what looked to me like a cruel smile. The music changed to "Orchids in the Moonlight." Daniel held out his gloved hand for me.
I strode to him, seeing nothing but Daniel. Old wounds re-opened. My pulse raced as I recalled his affair with Rhonda. I took my position in his arms and muttered, "So, how often were you…uh…waltzing with Augusta behind my back?"
He looked aghast, then quickly readjusted his expression for the onlookers with a fake smile. He said, "Exactly the mood for a tango."
"This wasn't exactly planned, Georgiana. Dixie couldn't come to half the practice sessions. I'm happy, however, despite your mood, if it goaded you into dancing in public."
Hyper-aware, I felt the beat of his heart as we performed what was essentially a rough sex act to music, in public. "You didn't answer me about how much time you spent with Augusta."
He twirled me out, then reeled me in. I sneered at him, digging my index fingernail along his cheek but not deep enough to draw blood. I heard every musical note over the voice in my head screaming, bastard, bastard, bastard.
He entreated, "Augusta was kind enough to fill in for Dixie Metcalf. It was the only way I knew to make you show these gals what you could do on the dance floor. We practiced waltz steps a couple of times. Nothing else."
The music ended. "Liar." My eyes raked his face more sharply than my nail had.
His eyes pleaded, but I gave no mercy. The ovation brought me to the present. I tried to remove my hand enclosed in Daniel's, but he would not relinquish it. Stuck together, we bowed as I bestowed upon the BILL members a stare ten times colder than Augusta's had been.
Ripping my hand from Daniel's, I stalked to my chair, grabbed my purse, and started to leave the room. I was too hurt and angry to cry. Humiliated in public, again.
Alarmed at the turn of events, Lourdes looked over at Janet and signed a slicing move against her neck. She mouthed, "End it."
Janet dashed behind the screen and turned off the music.
I tracked toward the double-door entryway like a train, but Lourdes ran after me. "Don't be angry. Please, Georgiana, listen. Dixie couldn't come today. There's nothing between Daniel and Augusta." She blurted, "It's not like her and Mendez." Lourdes' hands flew to her mouth. "God, forget I said that."
I stopped and took a much-needed breath. "Interesting. Homicide just crossed my own mind. Maybe Mrs. Mendez once felt the same way."
Lourdes went pale.
Another BILL member meowed. "Watch out. Rumor has it Augusta's affairs start in the men's card room then move to the bedroom. Maybe this time, she stopped off on the dance floor."
"Shut up," Lourdes snapped. "Drink your wine and keep those comments to yourself. Besides, the men's card room is off limits to women, just as ours is to men."
I searched Lourdes' face. "Yes, that's true, isn't it?" I grabbed the lifeline of a shaky truth.
"Sure it is. Now, you go over there and make up with your husband who only did us a favor."
Before I acted on Lourdes' suggestion, the social director rushed in, practically knocking us aside. A uniformed police officer followed.
Sharon scanned the room and zoomed toward Becca Bernstein, indicating Mrs. Bernstein should follow her behind the screen. Standing just outside the screen, the officer said something.
Becca came out from the screened area, went white, and swayed.
Daniel, the only other man present, rushed over in their direction. "What's wrong?" He brought over a chair and the officer helped Becca into it.
Sharon wrung her hands.
"No, you're wrong. It's a mistake." Becca wailed in decibels that would put a commercial airliner's jet engine to shame. "Benny would have called me if anything was wrong. He always carries his cell phone when he jogs. My Benny's not dead, I tell you. He can't be. Certainly not from any god-damned heart attack."