Black Moon Rising Excerpt 1:
“We’re here. Time to get up,” Aiden said, but Selene didn’t budge. He draped her arm over his shoulder and lifted her into his arms, carrying her down the passage leading into the hotel.
The foyer lights were already off except for the desk lamp at the reception counter. He staggered up the stairs, keeping his balance while holding a dozing Selene. He had no clue where her key card was and didn’t have the energy to stop and search. Instead, he fumbled for his own, sliding it into the slot on his door handle. The lock clicked and the door swung open. He delivered Selene to his bed, figuring she would wake up once she realized they were no longer driving.
But she didn’t. Aiden spent the next half hour showering and shaving. He emerged in his glasses, T-shirt, and pajama bottoms and discovered Selene was still deeply asleep. A frown curled itself onto his lips as he debated if he should try waking her again. He lowered himself at her side on the bed and gave her a gentle shake.
“Selene,” he said. His insides knotted with a strange premonition. “Wake up. We’re back at the hotel.”
Selene was the lightest sleeper he knew. It was what made her insomnia that much worse; the slightest noise normally woke her. She needed a perfect temperature and often even the bed itself kept her up if not comfortable enough. She wasn’t someone who fell into a deep hibernation type of sleep.
Her only answer to him was another sleepy moan. She rolled onto her side and snuggled one of the bed pillows. She really was knocked out.
“I didn’t realize she was this tired,” he said, sighing. He unzipped her boots, tugging them off, and then pulled the bed comforter over her.
He dimmed the lights and picked up his book for some bedtime reading. Before he made it to the armchair on the other side of the room, he stopped short. Outside the door there was an unmistakable whispery sound, like the soughing wind.
It only grew louder as he stood still and listened. The low whispering noise transformed into something rougher—something borderline ragged—and then it dawned on him. The sound wasn’t the wind but one of lungs, intaking a breath. Who those lungs belonged to, he hadn’t the faintest clue.
Aiden’s heart started racing and he straightened his shoulders. The sound was going nowhere, hovering outside the door. He had to check it out, investigate what was going on. In two of his long-legged strides, he crossed the room and pressed his eye to the peephole.
The hall was blanketed in darkness. Staring into the peephole was like staring at the inside of your lids. Yet, as Aiden held his eye against the hole, another strange premonition panged in his stomach. Whatever was on the other side of this door was staring back at him. It was peering into the same hole.
Gooseflesh pricked Aiden’s skin and he backed away. The ragged breathing carried on for another few seconds, an ugly sound to Aiden’s ears, before it faded. Farther and farther away it drifted until the sound died out and silence weighed in.
Aiden hurried over to his desk, grabbing the spirit box, the flashlight, and his copy of War and Peace. The spirit box and flashlight were to detect any unusual activity in the area. The thousand-plus page book was to use as a weapon if necessary. He threw a glance over his shoulder at the bed. Selene was still fast asleep, buried under the covers looking cozy and comfortable. He marched to the door and pulled it open.
Shadows ruled the hallway. Aiden stepped over the threshold, shuddering at the arctic cold in the air. He flicked on both the flashlight and spirit box, which crackled to life. Shining the flashlight down the hall, the shadows scuttled away. Nothing was out of the ordinary. The hallway looked as it always did, a stretch of oil portraits on the walls and doily-like area rugs sprinkled throughout.
The spirit box continued to crackle, its green lights weakly blinking. Aiden scanned the hall some more, his brow furrowed. If there wasn’t anything amiss, then was he imagining the sound? Maybe he was more exhausted than he realized…
He was a second away from turning back and heading into the room. The lights on the spirit box flashed bright and the crackling noise intensified. His eyes snapped to what it had picked up on and his gooseflesh only spread across his skin in a cold wave.
Black ink dribbled from the vent in the hall. It trickled down the striped wallpaper in a slow descent. He walked over and shone his flashlight onto the vent. Selene had been right all along. Whatever it was they were dealing with wasn’t human.
Black Moon Rising Excerpt 2:
The February drizzle couldn’t bring the mood down if it tried. Selene hopped off the tour bus and gasped at what awaited her. For as dull and damp as the afternoon was, color now bloomed on the scene in ivory whites and blush pinks. It would be another few weeks before the cherry blossoms reached the full extent of their beauty, but the flowery trees around the Tidal Basin were breathtaking regardless.
Washington, DC, was everything she had imagined.
She fumbled in her leather book bag for her Polaroid camera, snapping her first of many photos to come. Aiden made fun of her for carrying around a camera from the nineties, but it worked as well as any camera on a smartphone. Plus, it had once belonged to Mom.
“And I get my photos printed right into my hand,” Selene had boasted to him. “Does your fancy iPhone camera do that?”
Her mouth fell open in a smile as she clicked away at the historic scenery. She had nabbed some good shots of the Tidal Basin with the Jefferson Memorial in the background, and even some artsy ones of her fellow tourists strolling along the water banks. Finally she had an excuse to take up scrapbooking. Photos of places like the Brimrock library and park grounds weren’t too exciting after twenty-six years.
The drizzle continued to fall, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. One particularly pesky drop plunked down onto the slope of Selene’s nose, a cold and slippery bead that dangled off the round tip. She ignored it, along with the rest of the sprinkles, clicking away with zealous tourist abandon.
A black canopy floated above her head, blocking out any more drizzle. She paused, lifting her gaze from behind the camera and turning it upward. Aiden stood half a step behind her, holding his giant umbrella over them. He smiled when she met his glowing hazel eyes. They had changed colors, now a green one or two tones off from emerald.
Warmth quickly radiated in her chest that had nothing to do with the fuzzy sweater she wore and everything to do with his thoughtfulness. She twisted around, balancing on tiptoe, and planted a kiss on his chin. Classic short girl problems.
Fortunately, Aiden had enough height for them both. He plucked her off her feet for a real kiss, his arm banded around her waist. They traded laughs between pecks on the lips, indifferent to their rainy day surroundings.
“Gather around, gather around!” Mrs. Francis, the tour guide, screeched in the distance. “No time for dillydallying!”
Selene pulled away from Aiden. Why did she feel like a misbehaving student scalded by her schoolteacher whenever Mrs. Francis spoke?
“C’mon, or we’ll get left behind!” She grabbed Aiden’s free hand and rushed after the gaggle of tourists.
“Would that be such a bad thing, though?” Aiden asked with a waggle of his brow. “I’m sure we’d manage just fine without Mrs. Francis.”
“Shhh, or she’ll hear you!”
“And what? Give us detention? Put us in time-out?”
Selene shushed him again, though a grin fought its way onto her face. Aiden’s sarcasm no longer surprised her, but it was still difficult to resist its humorous effects.