Starving artist is a real thing. For years I was lucky to write full time. I’d saved my pennies, invested well, and learned to stretch a dollar. However, there were spates of time where I was literally starving. Ramen, dollar menu, and water were my diet. So forget a vacation. I haven’t been anywhere beyond visiting my parents in Northern Virginia in years. So when it came time for a break…staycation it was.
I know what you’re probably thinking: there are a million places better than a living room in suburban Atlanta. Disney World. Manhattan. Miami. And you’re right. I’d lived in Orlando so I’d been to Disney and Universal Studios more times than I could remember. In my twenties I went places: New York, Los Angeles, South Florida, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Canada, London. (Okay, didn’t mean to turn this into a Johnny Cash song. Sorry) I was a traveling fool, but be it getting older or just lazier I think I can say I think I actually prefer staycations to vacations. Air travel has become a nightmare, even when you don’t have stomach problems like me. I can’t sit still long enough to relax on a beach. I’d just be reading or watching a movie on my phone there anyway. I can do that from my couch without all the people around On my staycation I have access to Netflix, Hulu, almost every movie ever made, video games that can last a whole week, . Plus, I wouldn’t have this beautiful beast to keep me company in a museum.
And I didn’t have to wear pants or a bra if I so chose. (I so chose).
Sometimes you just have to make the best of things. We’re not all lucky enough to have high paying jobs or friends with private jets. I’d still like to see Paris or Venice, not the Vegas versions of them, but for now I’m more than content to vacation in the house my books helped purchase.
And to do it without pants? Mores the better.
What about you? Do you have a favorite staycation ritual? What did you do before Amazon and Netflix? Sound off in the comments below. And if you’re planning a vacation or staycation don’t forget to take my latest, Crimson Vale with you.
Crimson Vale: A Modern Gothic Love Story by Jennifer Harlow
Genre: Horror, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Devil on the Left Books
Date of Publication: September 11, 2018
Number of pages: 300
Word Count: 99,000
Cover Artist: Jennifer Dowis
Tagline: Lust…Murder…Madness. Welcome to Crimson Vale.
Welcome to Crimson Vale.
It’s a dream come true. A vast inheritance. A beautiful mansion in the heart of the small town South. A seductive, mysterious, literal man of her dreams offering true, pure love. Ravaged in both body and mind, Jane Harrow leaps into that living dream with abandon.
Despite the voices.
Despite the visions.
Despite the warnings from both the living and the dead.
Because what Jane doesn’t know is nothing and no one are what they seem.
Because demons from the past are patient. Because dreams can quickly turn into living nightmares, especially in…Crimson Vale
This must be where it happened. My uncle lay in this room for close to forty years with my grandmother by his side, apparently knitting as the tubes and respirator kept him…I wouldn’t call that alive. Undead. What on earth was she thinking? Waiting one year sure, but thirty-plus? Giving up her own life to watch over a comatose man? Insanity. It really must run in the blood. I only hope—
Creaking in the hallway startles me out of my dark thoughts. Darn it, I guess he didn’t leave. I’m not sure how much longer I can handle social niceties. I’m exhausted from the drive, not to mention out of practice with people, and would derive great satisfaction from smacking that letch with my purse should he glimpse down my shirt again. I just want to take a shower, get into my pajamas, and sleep for a week. Have to get him out of here first. I walk into the hallway.
My lungs, my heart, even my ability to blink stops the moment I set eyes on him. If it were storming outside I would swear I’d just been hit by a bolt of lightning. Time stands as still as we do, just staring at one another with the same awestruck expression. The stranger my age is a few inches over six foot with a lean body encased in an expensive gray suit with matching tie and vest. He could grace the pages of a magazine with that suit, wavy dirty blonde hair with a lock brushing his forehead and coiffed to appear slightly disheveled, big blue eyes, feminine lips, straight nose, and strong jaw ending at a pointed chin. He’s around my age, but as our eyes meet and another wave of whatever this is jolts through me, he seems a century older and I’ve known him every moment, every millisecond of that time. I’m scared, exhilarated, unnerved all at once. But deep down there’s a …recognition peeking through the strum and drang.
I never believed in love at first sight, and I don’t know if that’s what this is, but every atom of mine senses, every atom of his calling to me, screaming for me to sprint over to this stranger, tear off our clothes, and have him rut me like a beast right on the hardwood floor. To feel him stretching me, thrusting inside me. My most sacred place pulsates and grows wet just from the mere thought. What the heck is happening to me? This stranger must be suffering the same torment because those blue eyes grow ravenous like an anorexic faced with prime rib. No one’s ever gazed at me like this, with pure unadulterated, hot, wild, salivating lust. The same way I’m gazing at him. My resolve to remain on my side of the hall cracks with each passing moment. His fails. He lets out a soft grunt and takes a stride toward me. Thank God.
Those two words break whatever enchantment engulfed me. I somehow pry my eyes away from the stranger toward the creaky stairs. Suddenly I’m freezing and trembling as if in shock. At least I can breathe again, though only in short bursts. D.J. takes the final step up into the hallway. “Oh, good, you found her,” he says to the stranger.
“Yes,” the man says, quiet voice cracking a tad, “I did.”
“Mrs. Harrow, may I present my son, Bram. He’s the one who tracked you down.” D.J. glances from his son to me, eyes narrowing in confusion. “What the hell is the matter with you two? Y’all look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“We’re fine, sir,” Bram says with only a faint trace of a Southern accent. “Just got a chill. Old house and all.”
“Oh. Well, you can get someone to fix that, I guess. Bram can give you the handyman’s name and number. He’s been the one taking care of things. Hey,” he says to his son, “I’ve been meaning to ask. What happened to all those weird looking creatures and symbols that used to be on all the walls and tables? The gargoyles and such? There were still a ton of them even after the renovation.”
“I, uh, had them removed.” Bram turns to me. “I hope you don’t think I overstepped my bounds. I had them remove the medical equipment too and clean up. I just…wanted to cheer the place up for your arrival.”
“Um, thank you. For thinking of me.”
“Your grandmother would have wanted me to, um, make things as comfortable for you as possible.”
“You’re very kind,” I say, blushing. I’m sure as red as a fire engine. I look over at D.J. “Both of you.”
“So, have you decided what you’re going to do with the place?” D.J. asks me.
“I haven’t really thought that far ahead.”
“But you’re planning on staying, right?” Bram asks with urgency. “At least for a while?”
I meet his eyes again, instantly overpowered by the intense fear in them. I can stand it for only a millisecond. “Um, I-I guess.”
“Well, you are welcome to stay here while the will’s in probate. Or the Cypress Hotel is lovely. There’s also the Crimson Vale Motel, but it’s a tad low rent.”
“Um…” Do I really want to spend the night alone in this house? Two people died here, and those are just the ones I know of. I don’t believe in ghosts—your soul either enters heaven or hell—but this house feels as if it’s under an enchantment. Frozen in time by an evil witch. But it’s mine. I came all this way, and if I don’t stay in this house tonight, I never will. “No, I’ll be staying here. The letter said everything was still turned on?”
“It is,” Bram says. “I-we kept the utilities up to date for when you finally arrived.”
“Thank you. Both.”
We stand in silence for a few awkward moments. I sense Bram staring at me, waiting for something, but I can’t return his gaze. My eyes remain glued to the floor. “Well,” D.J. says, “we’ll get out of your hair. You’re probably tired from your trip. Bram?” The son follows the father down the hall and stairs with me three steps behind to show them out. Bram glances back, each time his mouth opens to say something, but he thinks better of it each time. “You have my card if you have any questions,” D.J. continues. “Don’t hesitate to call, even if it’s just for the name of a good restaurant.”
The men step out onto the porch, but I wait at the threshold. “Remember. Anything,” D.J. adds as he ambles to his BMW.
All I want is for you to leave now. “I will. Thank you.”
His son moves toward his own BMW SUV, but halfway there Bram suddenly stops, doesn’t move for a moment, then spins around to face me. For some reason my stomach clenches from nerves as he does. I grip the door handle in case he’s about to finish what he started in the hall, whatever that was. “I, um, I…” he says. His mouth clamps shut again to find the right words. If possible, he’s as unnerved as I am. He shakes his head to clear it and smiles. “Welcome home, Jane.”
Those words send a cascade of warmth through my body like warn rain just washed over me. I haven’t a clue what to say back. All I can manage is a weak smile before retreating inside like a mouse into a hole. The moment the door shuts, I turn my back to it and rest against the wood with a sigh. What is the matter with me? Have I replaced voices and seeing invisible people with nymphomania? I remain pressed against the door until I hear both men drive away, the tension waning as the sounds fade, leaving nothing but glorious silence. The house is still. My house. Mine.
About the Author:
Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Atlanta home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad, Midnight Magic Mystery series, The Galilee Falls Trilogy, and won the Independent Publisher’s Award for Best Mystery Novel.
For the soundtrack to her books and other goodies visit her at www.jenniferharlowbooks.com
Mailing List: https://bit.ly/2MPt2iY