Saturday, October 31, 2015

Week 13: (Tanya Stowe) Haunted Hearts (Heart's Haven Holidays Collection)

Congratulations to Laurie Bergh, Week 12 winner of MIRACLES AND DREAMS!

It's my pleasure to welcome my guest author, Tanya Stowe, with the first chapter of her Heart's Haven Halloween novella, HAUNTED HEARTS. I know you'll enjoy this special treat. As always, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the featured book!

1st Chapter:
One thousand one. One thousand two. One thousand three.
Suzy Bennett stopped counting her steps for a moment and glanced up at the Angelina Forest on each side of the trail. Signs of fall exploded from the dark green of the forest in bursts of yellow, burnt orange, and gold. The crisp air, scented with the musk of falling leaves, was perfect for a brisk walk. Suzy needed a fast pace to work off the tension of the day.
The quarterly financials were due and landing on her desk for approval with depressing speed. No time for a break today, she’d barely had time to breathe. Accounts and numbers still danced through her head...along with the changing count of her steps.
One thousand ten. One thousand eleven.
This trail, skirting the forest near Suzy’s Heart’s Haven bungalow, was a lifesaver. She walked this path almost every day, to enjoy Angel Falls’ wonderful, temperate weather, to watch the forest change, and to burn off steam...even on days like today when she’d left work late. The sunny blue sky was already sliding into lavender and shadows hung at the edges of the trees. What would she do when winter came and she couldn’t get out and clear some of the numbers from her head? These walks kept her going. Well, the walks and the hope that she might see her Rochester.
He was Suzy’s deep, dark secret.
If her sisters ever found out that she walked miles every day just for a glimpse of a handsome, dark stranger, she’d never hear the end of it. They’d laugh themselves silly over the notion that Little Miss Suzy had romantic ideas about anyone.
All three of her sisters had inherited their mother’s dark-haired beauty while Suzy ended up with their dad’s mousy brown hair, fussy ways, and head for numbers. Growing up, they’d had a storybook about a little brown mouse that constantly cleaned her house and fretted. Little Miss Suzy.
In spite of her best efforts, Suzy could not rid herself of the nickname her sisters still used to irritate her. Never mind that she had starry-eyed yearnings and read every classic romance ever written over and over again. No one believed she had wild romance in her heart...not Little Miss Suzy. The fussy, brown mouse image actually began to fit when she was promoted to head accountant at her firm, and her life settled into a never-ending pattern of work, home, and more work.
Then one day she saw him, walking across the clearing. Rounding a bend where this portion of the trail was elevated over a ravine, Suzy could see all around her. In the distance, he had left the edge of the forest to cross the small open meadow, moving toward the trees on the other side. His jean-clad legs cut the distance with such purpose as his brown, wavy hair blew away from his face. He swayed slightly as he walked, confident, sure. With his short-sleeved, white T-shirt tucked in and clinging to his muscular shape, his arms swung naturally. He worked out. Definitely.
From a distance, Suzy noted balanced, appealing features. So many attractive qualities, but the thing that most captured her attention was his purposeful stride. He was so determined, so certain, as he cut across the open meadow, like a hero from a romance. She could easily envision a long dark coat, flapping at his legs as he moved toward his lady love.
From there, Suzy’s long-suppressed imagination had taken flight.
He became Heathcliff, hurrying across the moor. She was Cathy, who gingerly picked her way down the incline of the seemed her clumsiness wouldn’t leave her even in her daydreams...and then ran across to leap into his arms. But frankly, she couldn’t quite see herself making the leap either without some sort of mishap.
Better yet, he was Rochester to her mousy Jane Eyre.
Rochester. She wondered where he came from, how he made his living. How did he get that taut waist and those muscular arms? In a gym or training for a joust? Did he move with such purpose because he was meeting someone, a woman forbidden to him because of a family feud? Did he walk every day to escape the oppressive responsibilities of a multi-national corporation? Could he leap tall buildings in a single bound?
After seeing him that first time, Suzy kept her routine the same, and every day she caught a glimpse of her Rochester coming or going, crossing the clearing, fueling new stories in her head. Stories that drove the numbers away.
One thousand fifty-one. One thousand fifty-two. One thousand fifty-three.
Suzy sighed. Well, the stories drove most of the numbers away. She couldn’t stop counting her steps, even when she tried.The breeze lifted her running jacket with a cold touch, piercing all the way through her light T-shirt. Autumn had well and truly arrived at Angel Falls. They’d had a late summer but now, daylight grew short, and fall was just around the corner. Suzy could feel it in the air and see it in the dark of the forest. Shadows that had clung to corners now ate up great spaces, like dark ooze creeping over the land.
Suzy shivered and zipped up her short jacket. Her imagination was getting the best of her. She should head back...but no, not before she reached the clearing. Would her Rochester be there? She’d missed seeing him the last two days and wondered if it would be the same today. Picking up her speed, Suzy turned the corner.
One thousand sixty-three...
The next number died on her lips. Suzy came to a grinding halt. In the center of the clearing, her Rochester stood stock-still, hands fisted at his sides, his gaze uplifted.
Suzy took two steps forward, closer to the edge of the trail. She squinted into the twilight, not believing what she saw. A dark cloud floated over him. As she watched, it shifted, crystallizing into the shape of a woman with flowing hair, stretched out...right above Suzy’s Rochester.
She gasped, stepped back, and tripped over her own feet. Then she tumbled down the side of the trail and screamed all the way to the bottom.
Scott Lunsford watched the image shift and shimmer into the shape of Julie’s face. The dark mist wavered in a perfect imitation of her long hair.
The misty image mocked him. He wanted to punch it away, but it would do no good. He had tried before. The mist would scatter and soon reshape itself into Julie’s image. It disturbed him, frightened him, and made him feel powerless.
Almost as if it read his mind, the ghostly lips smiled in response, pleased at his frustration. Now Scott couldn’t resist. He swung at the image, dissipating its unholy pleasure.
Suddenly, a scream carried across the clearing. Scott spun just in time to see a young woman in a blue running suit rolling down the side of the Angelina Forest Trail. When the scream stopped, Scott was already running to help her.
He reached her side just as the young woman raised off her stomach. A long twig protruded from the brown strands of her short, slightly upturned hair. She sat on her bottom, batted away the twig, and then winced, and turned up her palms to examine multiple cuts.
“Are you all right?”
She jumped. Scraped palms forgotten, she quickly looked up and all around. “Where is it?”
“Where is what?” Scott sunk to his haunches beside her, his EMT training kicking into gear as he examined her for more injuries.
“That thing, floating over your head. Where did it go?”
Scott froze. “You saw it?”
“Her,” she said with a nod of her head. “Most definitely a her.”
As the words penetrated, Scott felt the fear and tension drain out of him, right through the soles of his feet into the ground. He sagged, his relief was so great.
“Do you have some kind of light machine? Is that how you made it?”
Scott gave a shake to his head and looped one arm over his upraised knee. “I don’t even know what ‘it’ is, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it.”
He looked up into the prettiest bright green eyes he’d ever seen, fringed with dark lashes and widened in shock.
“I was afraid you were going to say something like that.” Her tone dropped to a near whisper.
“But...but you did see it, right?”
“Yes, I saw it.”
Now it was the woman’s turn to sag in relief, giving Scott the chance to study her. For the first time he noticed a red overtone burnishing those upswept strands of brown hair and a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose. A bright pink abrasion on her right cheek needed to be cleaned. She also had a nasty cut on one knee where her running suit had snagged and torn open.
Apparently noticing the direction of his gaze, she reached for the tear in her pants but immediately winced in pain.
Scott took both her palms in his hands and turned them up, revealing a number of angry, rock-and-dirt- embedded gashes. “That was a pretty nasty tumble you took. We need to get you checked out.”
Rising to his feet, he gripped her elbows and lifted her.
“Wait—we can’t go. We have to look for that...that—"
She stiffened and looked up, once again rendering him a little stunned by the full power of those wide, green eyes.
“It’s not a ghost.” She gave her head a firm shake. “I don’t believe in ghosts.‛”
Scott gave a short laugh. “I hope you’re right. Ghost or not, we need to get you home. Where do you live?"
“At Heart’s Haven.”
“That’s a good two miles back down the trail. It’s a little late to be out that far.”
She shifted and looked away. Her uninjured cheek took on a pink tone bright enough to rival the other one. Why was she embarrassed?
“Well, my place is closer,” Scott said when she didn’t offer an explanation. “Let’s go there, and then I’ll drive you home.” He gestured in the right direction.
She tried to take a step, but her knee buckled.
“I was afraid of that,” Scott said. “You came down hard on that side. Probably bruised it pretty badly.”
In one sweeping movement, he scooped her up.
“You can’t carry me all the way back.”
Getting a close look at the perky hairstyle, those wide eyes and freckles, Scott said the first thing that came to his mind. “You don’t weigh more than a pixie. We’ll make it OK.”
He walked toward the forest, and she peered back over his shoulder at the clearing. “Are you sure we shouldn’t investigate this a little bit more? Maybe just look around.”
“No need,” he said with a shake of his head. “We’ll investigate next time.”
“How do you know there’ll be a next time?”

Scott sighed. “Because your ‘not a ghost’ has been haunting me every night for the last month.”

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Haunted Hearts.

Tanya Stowe is an author of Christian Fiction with an unexpected edge. She fills her stories with the unusual…gifts of the spirit and miracles, mysteries and exotic travel, even an angel or two. No matter where Tanya takes you…on a journey to the Old West or to contemporary adventures in foreign lands…be prepared for the extraordinary.

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Pelican Book Group (ePub, Adobe)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble  (Nook)


  1. So thrilled to welcome you to my blog, Tanya. Haunted Hearts is a treasure!

    1. Thank you so much, Mary! I'm so pleased to be here. So much fun!

  2. I truly enjoyed Haunted Hearts - a perfect mix of suspense (to fit the holiday) and romance. But then, Tanya's books are always wonderful!

  3. Congratulations to Laurie Bergh ...week 12 winner of Miracles and Dreams.

  4. Very enticing --have to see where this story goes!! It was so great meeting you all and sharing a "singing" afternoon. My question is--what site are you in--went to look for you and had the wrong number.Hope you are enjoying the rain.--Ricki and Randy


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