an excerpt from Black Roses, the debut horror novel by Christine Morgan
Copyright © 2003Christine Morgan
Black Roses is the story of Theresa Zane, who returns to her childhood home in the wake of a ruined marriage and failed career to live with her father. Once there, she encounters the man of her dreams … literally. He is an incubus, with the power to invade the minds of sleeping women and make their most forbidden fantasies come true. Now he wants Theresa, and will do anything to possess her. Even kill. To resist his influence, and save her very soul, Theresa is drawn into a mystery of sex and death a hundred years old.
"Get down from there, you fuzzy nuisance!" Travis Zane scolded.
When he'd gotten up a couple of minutes ago to fetch a sandwich from the kitchen, Theresa's cat Jack had been sprawled atop the television with his hind leg and tail dangling to partly obscure the screen. Travis was watching the British version of C-Span, in the House of Parliament or the House of Lords or someplace, because it made him grin to hear those proper stuffy Englishmen refer to each other as "the right honorable gentleman" before claiming so-and-so was full of what makes the grass grow green.
Now, though, Jack stood stiff-legged and puffed up atop Theresa's computer. He hissed at Travis, then made an eerie low yodeling sound.
"I said --" Travis started that way, meaning to deliver a well-earned smack to a certain feline's hindquarters, when he heard sobbing from upstairs.
Sobbing. A little girl.
"Jenny?" he called, though there was no way she could have gotten into the house without him knowing, and she wouldn't have anyway, not without knocking.
The sobbing ceased. Jack leapt from the top of the monitor onto a stack of printed pages with Theresa's illegibly scrawled corrections in the margins. The papers shot out from under Jack, making him slide off the desk, landing on his feet as cats did.
Before the last of the knocked-over pages had finished see-sawing through the air to land on Travis' shoes, Jack had pelted up the stairs.
Travis uttered an oath and set down his sandwich. He bent to gather the pages, then stopped as the words caught his eye.
Theresa hadn't told him much about the book-in-progress, hadn't offered to let him read it. As a child, she would never let her parents read her assignments until they were complete, and he didn't think she had changed much since then as far as privacy of her writing went.
But this ...
What the hell was this?
"This house," Travis said without hearing himself speak aloud. "My God, it happened in this house!"
The pages fell from his hand. He mounted the stairs like a sleepwalker, his sandwich forgotten. At the door to the room that had once been Theresa's and more recently Jenny Forrester's, Jack was crouched low to the floor, his green eyes shining at Travis.
"It's here, isn't it?" he asked the cat.
Jack meowed as if in assent. When Travis opened the door, Jack streaked into the room and sprang onto the windowseat. He stretched high in that spine-lengthening way cats have to paw at the window, then hopped down and began scritching at the wooden base.
"No can do," Travis said. "That's fake. It just looks like a cabinet."
And then he knew. A clammy sweat broke out all over his brow, a dull heat spread across his shoulders, a faint pressure like indigestion tightened his chest. He ignored the symptoms, striding to the windowseat with the brisk movements of a man half his age. He hooked his fingers under the lip of the board that held the cushions, and pulled upward with all his strength.
Jack jumped down, head tilted inquisitively.
Wood squalled against wood. Hidden hinges squealed. The top of the windowseat creaked open -- one inch, two, four, ten. Then, with ridiculous ease, it flew open the rest of the way and whammed against the windowsill hard enough to make the panes rattle.
Travis didn't care about the windows. His whole attention was focused on what lay in the dark, concealed space below.
Then the pain rammed into his chest like a hammerblow. He staggered backward, letting go of the lid, letting it slam back down.
Gasping air in shallow sips, he tottered down the hall to Theresa's room and reached for the phone.
* * *
Learn more about this exciting new book:
Read another excerpt:
Visit the fictional town of Trinity Bay, California:
* * *
I'd like to make a comment about this article.
This page has been visited times.