Sunday, June 9, 2013

Excerpt from Listen to the Shadows by Joan Hall Hovey



When artist Katie Summers emerged from a four-day coma, she remembered all too vividly the horror of that night - the terrifying dead eyes that had stared back at her in the rear view mirror, causing her to crash her car. But nobody believed her. Even the enigmatic and disturbingly attractive psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Shea, implied that she had made the whole thing up. Or dreamed it.

Released from the hospital, still weak from her ordeal, Katie took a taxi to her remote farmhouse on Black Lake. Darkness had already fallen. There was only the wind in the trees to greet her...and the cold and empty house.
But the house was not quite empty. Something awaited her, upstairs in her bedroom. Something with cold, dead eyes...

"...a work so accomplished, so fluid and so suspenseful it is difficult to believe it really is a first novel!"-Felix Griffin, Rave Reviews, NY

"... a chilling tale of revenge, murder and madness..." Jill M. Smith, Rave Reviews, N.Y. 

"... Hovey's scenes focusing on this deranged psychopath are razor sharp, and one is reminded of author Ruth Rendell."  Evening Times Globe, Saint John, NB


Beneath his attic room, the house slept.
Stealthily, he made his way along the darkened hallway, stopping at a door with green, peeling paint, and heard the familiar scraping of wood on linoleum as the door opened inward. His callused, blunt fingers groped along the inside wall to his left, found the switch and flicked it on. Instantly, the cramped space was washed in harsh light from the single bulb hanging from the ceiling. A few pieces of scarred, make-do furniture included a single cot covered by a worn-thin, gray army blanket drawn so smooth and taut he could have bounced a quarter from its center. Though shabby, the room was painstakingly neat.
Wearing an air of contained excitement, he strode across the room to the calendar, which hung from the wall like a window-blind. It advertised A & R Realty in black lettering. Peeling back the months of September and October, he took the pen clipped to his shirt pocket, and drew a red circle around the “5” in the month of November. The fifth fell on a Sunday. Not that it mattered. The man regarded the carefully drawn circle for a few seconds then dropped the pages, letting them whisper back in to place. He moved to a table with rickety legs that managed to support his double hotplate and also served as his dining table. He opened the table’s single drawer, and from beneath a red, plastic flatware tray that held only a steak knife, fork, spoon, can-opener and butcher knife, he withdrew a familiar, soiled and yellowing envelope. His hand trembled as he shook the picture from the envelope.
As he had for many months now, with almost religious dedication, he studied her features, letting his gaze travel over her long, shapely body. She wore shorts and a halter-top. Long brown hair blew in the breeze. She smiled out at him in open invitation, almond shaped eyes crinkling a little at the corners. Her feet were bare.
The wait was over. Finally. Triumph raced through him, settled like molten lava in his loins. He welcomed the almost painful arousal. Katie Summers. His patience would be rewarded at last. The debt would be collected.
On November fifth. The day he would kill her.
His eyes lowered to the butcher knife in the drawer, and he reached in and picked it up. He gripped the black wooden handle, liking the feel—the heft of it. Slowly, thoughtfully, he ran the thumb and forefinger of his left hand over the flat of the blade. Up and down, up and down. Stroking, stroking, until gradually a dull film crept over his eyes. Abruptly the rhythmic movement of his hand stopped. His eyes cleared. He tossed the knife back into the drawer where it clattered to silence.
No. That was not the way he would do it. It felt wrong. And everything must be exactly right. He’d waited a long time. As his gaze returned to the girl in the photograph, inspiration flashed in his mind. Yes, there was a much better way. A perfect way. A slow smile spread across his features—one that entirely missed his pale, cold eyes.
Ah, yes, Katie Summers, he thought. You will most definitely be worth the wait.

Chapter 1

Katie Summers breathed in the tangy salt-sea air that wafted in through the screened windows of the Surfside Restaurant to blend with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
Outside the glass upper section of her window, she could see as white gulls dipped and soared, now gliding on a swift current of air, their free spirits causing Katie a moment of envy. On the horizon, setting October sun, a great orange disc, slid slowly into the sea, streaking the blue sky with spectacular mauves, pinks and gold, cutting a red-bronze path across the water. The scene took Katie’s breath. She almost wished she’d brought her paints and easel. She would come here by herself sometime before winter set in, find a perfect vantage point, and paint to her heart’s content.
Across from her, Drake Devlin said, “I take it you approve.”
It both surprised and touched her to see the anxious expression on Drake’s boyishly handsome face. “Approve?” she said, keeping her tone deliberately light. “A woman would have to be totally without romance in her soul not to appreciate all this.” Teasing, she added, “The view—the champagne…” She grinned and sipped her wine. The bubbles tickled her nose. Looking at Drake over the rim of her glass, she decided she rather liked the smattering of freckles across his tanned cheeks. Maybe partly because she knew they came not from lounging on a sandy beach somewhere, but from long, hot days of toiling on his father’s farm.
“For someone who’s got his heart set on becoming a lawyer, Drake Devlin, you are an incredibly romantic man.”
“Someone tell you lawyers aren’t romantic?”
Katie smiled.
Drake drew forward in his chair, his gaze holding Katie’s with an intensity that made her uncomfortable. “You inspire me, lady,” he said softly, and clinked his glass against hers. “Here’s to inspiration.”
An innocent enough toast, and Katie drank to it. Yet she felt as if the air in the room had thinned slightly; she had the uneasy sensation of going too fast, and in a direction she wasn’t at all sure she wanted to travel. Her hand moved to the frilly collar of her gold crepe blouse.
She found herself wishing for a cigarette; it would give her something to do with her hands. But she had given up that increasingly unpopular habit more than two years ago.
Returning her attention to the view outside her window, Katie began to get second thoughts about the wisdom of finally agreeing to a dinner date with Drake. Had she made a mistake?

Copyright (C) 2010 Joan Hall Hovey 


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