Just so you know that Wake-Robin Ridge isn’t ONLY about the creepy moments, though there are definitely some of those, here’s an excerpt from Chapter 3. Sarah Gray has recently quit her job as a librarian and moved from Florida to the North Carolina Mountains. This is shortly after moving into her new cabin, and she’s spent the morning unpacking and setting up house. Like me, Sarah often suffers from an excess of enthusiasm. 😀 Tomorrow, I’ll share one or two from Swamp Ghosts…and maybe another poem, depending on how many posts come in from you guys!
…I lugged the empty boxes out to the front porch to be disposed of later, and decided I had earned a break. Fixing a cup of my favorite Earl Grey tea, I walked out my back door, and began a stroll around my property. It was pretty early yet, and the morning was surprisingly cool, at least by the standards of someone who knew what August in central Florida felt like. Walking down to the edge of the creek, I stopped in the deep green shade of a redbud tree, watching the way the rush of water slowed as it poured into one of the deeper pools. I wondered if there might be trout hiding in there, and for one, insane minute I pictured myself fishing for my dinner. Then I came back to reality.
As if, Sarah! It’s all you can do to swat a fly. You’d feel sorry for the fish and turn it loose, apologizing for interrupting its day.
I laughed at my foolishness, and continued to walk around the yard, taking note of how high the late summer grasses were. Might have to get a riding mower to handle the yard. And then there was all the overgrowth along the edge of the creek. Kudzu vines and wild blackberries had run amok. I’d definitely have to hire someone to clear that out at some point. But other than that, it was all perfect, with slow, sleepy bees bumbling among the wildflowers, and the sound of birdsong coming from the woods.
The online photos hadn’t lied. The cabin was lovely in its comfortable, solid simplicity, and the yard and garden, with its big, tilled beds, offered a chance to let my famous green thumb run wild. Well, okay, I didn’t really have a famous green thumb, having never owned a house with a garden, but I had always loved plants, and on this morning, I felt sure I could develop a garden that would be celebrated far and wide. Visions of sunflowers and roses, carrots and cabbages, and luscious pink and blue hydrangeas danced in my head.
Oh, I felt very lucky, all right. And filled with an optimism I hadn’t felt in ten years of cataloging endless mountains of manuscripts and dusty documents. But no more of that for me. Now, I was free to unleash the writer’s spirit I was sure had been caged deep within me all this time.
I’m going to put pen to paper—or fingertips to computer keys—and words are going to pour forth. I will send them out into the world to multiply, and become books. My words will be erudite, yet pithy. Evocative, but always grounded. Poetry presented as prose. Or maybe it would be prose presented as poetry. Heck, why not both? Who’s to stop me?
I was positively giddy, and I found myself laughing out loud yet again with the sheer joy of it all. Anything was possible, and life was good. Better than good, it was downright perfect.
Deciding I had giggled over my good fortune long enough, I ordered myself back to work. I still had my writing table to set up, and a couple of things to store in the small attic. Taking a last deep breath of delicious mountain air, I was turning to head back to the cabin when I felt, more than saw, a movement in the woods to my left. I held my breath, expecting to see a deer come out of the trees and move off toward the creek that runs along the western border of my land. Instead, a shaggy gray-black creature roughly the size of a horse stepped quietly out of my woods, not twenty feet away, and stood staring at me with brilliant amber eyes.
For a moment, my mind screamed, “Wolf! Run!” But before my feet could act on that directive, the animal began to move sedately in my direction, tail wagging slowly.
Almost simultaneously, a voice called from my driveway. “Don’t be afraid! She won’t hurt you.”
Tearing my eyes away from what had to be the biggest freakin’ dog on the planet, I saw a man—a really good-looking man—running toward me, empty leash and collar dangling from one hand.
He called to the dog. “Rosheen! Come here, girl!”
She walked a few, slow steps in his direction, then looked back over her shoulder and decided to approach me, instead. Before her owner was halfway across the yard, Rosheen and I were standing nose to nose, for a long moment of species-to-species contemplation. Then the dog, an Irish wolfhound, proceeded to give me a very solemn, but thorough examination, soft breath huffing, as she checked me from head to toe. Apparently satisfied that I was Friend rather than Foe, the scruffy creature sat down by my feet to await the approach of her owner.
He was panting as he neared, and I wondered how long he had been chasing his dog. “She slipped her lead, and was off before I could stop her.”
Shaking his head, he continued. “I wasn’t expecting her to come this way. She must have figured out that someone was living here now. I know she looks huge and dangerous, but she’s really very gentle. You weren’t in any danger.”
I smiled, wanting to relieve his worries. “It’s all right. Honestly. Once I realized it was just a big dog and not a ravenous wolf, I wasn’t really scared. Just startled.”
He raised an eyebrow in surprise, then bent down without comment to slip Rosheen’s collar back over her head, and make sure it was secure. His breathing sounded more normal, for which I was grateful. At least he wasn’t likely to collapse in my yard.
“Well, you’re braver than most, then,” he said, with what might have been a very small smile. It was hard to tell, since he kept his head tilted toward Rosheen while talking. “She’s been known to cause strong men to scream like little girls.” He scratched her head gently and with obvious affection.
I laughed, and stuck out my hand. “I’m Sarah Gray. I just moved in Monday night, actually. Are you my neighbor from across the road? I’ve seen the drive heading up the hill, but I didn’t know if anyone lived up there or not.”
He paused a moment before raising his eyes to mine, then slowly extended his hand. “Yes. I’m MacKenzie Cole,” he said in a serious voice, laced with just a hint of old south. “My house is about half a mile up. You can’t see it from the road. I heard rumors that someone had bought this place, but I didn’t realize anyone had moved in yet.”
He glanced away from me, toward my cabin, with a slight frown on his face. I took stock, while he was looking things over. Tall, maybe 6’3”, with glossy black hair curling slightly over his ears. Equally dark brows over unusually pale blue eyes, and very fair skin. Overall, he was strikingly good looking, with a sense of quiet strength about him. In his faded jeans and soft blue denim shirt, he looked perfectly at home in these mountains, as though he had been here a long time. He turned back toward me again, and I looked away, embarrassed to be caught staring.
“I’m just getting settled in,” I found myself blurting to cover the awkward moment. “Haven’t even finished unpacking yet, really. I mean, the place is still a mess, but if you’d like a cup of coffee, I can offer you that much?” As invitations go, it was a bit lame, even to my own ears. He must have thought so, too.
“No, thank you.” He paused, still not looking directly at me, then added with an almost formal politeness, “Nice meeting you. Enjoy your new home.”
Well. So much for making friends with the neighbors. Way to go, Sarah.
“Another time, then,” I replied, feeling somewhat rebuffed. I gave the wolfhound a pat on the head. “Goodbye, Rosheen. Pleasure making your acquaintance. Don’t be a stranger, girl.”
Rosheen gave my hand a lick, and MacKenzie Cole smiled a goodbye in my general direction, then without another word, turned and headed back the way he had come, big dog in tow. Halfway down my drive, he glanced back over his shoulder, and seeing me still watching, gave a small nod and disappeared around the curve.
All righty, then. At least I think the dog liked me.
Wake-Robin Ridge is available on Amazon in both Kindle and print formats.