Padlocked Penthouse Excerpt

Barnett rode up the glass elevator. He had his leather briefcase in his hands. Inside the case he carried the evidence Vivika would need. The elevator seemed slow but steady. It almost groaned under his weight. Fear crept into his belly. Was this the right choice?
Would it save his wife and daughter?
He took a deep breath as the glass elevator slid into his penthouse. He could see the piano and the little mirror on the wall his wife stood at endlessly. She wasn’t there. The elevator let out a bright cheery ding, and the clear doors parted. His foot touched the smooth marble floor and he found himself wondering what on earth he was doing.
How could he help a ghost walk into the light? It was an impossibility at best.
Fear made his skin tremble. “Aurora? Pear?” He stumbled on a candle on the floor. There was a thin line of salt on the ground. He followed it slowly.
He called for them, but silence was the reply. “Aurora?”
He called louder, pacing his long sturdy steps around the oval penthouse. The candles kept dotting along the salt, but none of them were lit. His vision went blurry, and he recognized he had tears forming in his eyes. What if he was too late?
Finally, he said the one name that would get him a response. “Vivika?”
All of the light bulbs flickered and he was in darkness, utter darkness. “I’ve come to talk to you,” he said, his knees trembling. “Vivika, it’s going to be all right. I brought you some things to see.” The lights shone again.
He waited and all the hairs on the back of his neck stood up straight. Everything seemed so intense. The bright, tart lemon scent suddenly burned his eyes and nose and throat. He gasped and coughed.
“Vivika, it’s going to be okay.” He held back a little choke. He was being smothered by lemon; it hung thick in the air like skunk spray. He could feel it reaching into his lungs and burning, burning into him.
“I want to show you what I have.”
He fumbled for the briefcase latches in the dark. He rubbed his eyes with his hand slowly, trying to make the burning stop. His nose and tears were running from the potent scent.
“Do you even know what happened? You’ve been dead a long time.” He tried to recite some of the facts from memory. “Mikaela and Roselle were your daughters, and you and Frans… I’m sorry, but none of you made it out alive. It must be devastat-” He felt the scream rather than heard it. It hurt his chest and he fell to the ground. A nasty wind rushed around the penthouse in a big sweeping scream and his ears! They were bleeding from the force of it, from the intensity. The wind pelted him with bits of salt. The scream hurt his chest and his belly and it was like he had screamed.
No, he was screaming.
His lungs burned from the effort. He let out another shriek of terror. He shuddered and tried to get a grip, but fear had won; every bit of him was frightened. She was so much bigger and more monstrous than he had ever imagined. She could swallow the city whole if she wanted. She was darkness, hate, and bittersweet. She was angry and had no intention of stopping any time soon. She was fire, and oh, she burned. She burned within him.
Then, with a pop, she went silent, and he was alone and scared.

Firelocked Funhouse Excerpt

A bell rang, like a casino machine ringing in loads of cash. And the ceiling opened a panel and down dropped a long pink stretch of fabric. It fell all the way to the floor like a long rope. Immediately kids began to grab at it and try to climb it. Until they heard the loud booming voice.
On the long silk scarf was a clown. She had big pigtails that were pink. Her face looked happy. She had the brightest freckles painted on her face. Her laugh was like a tinkling fairy. She held on to the scarf with only her legs and slowly spun down it. She was juggling three pink balls as she slid down the scarf. “Hello children! Do you want to play a game?”
Everyone stopped manning the ball guns, and dropped what they were doing. They slowly gathered at the base of the scarf, enchanted by this new clown. She had striped stockings on her legs and a fluffy yellow skirt.
Miles, Lorelei and Gregory stood back nervously. They didn’t trust clowns anymore, and at this point in the day it was only about to get worse.
She stopped juggling as she got to the bottom of the scarf, her feet daintly set upon the top of the balls below. It was like walking on water. One arm still wrapped around the scarf as she balanced seemingly on nothing.
“Do you want to play a game?” The children cheered. Miles stuffed Colorado back in his pocket, so he wouldn’t get lost. Then he gripped his sister’s hand. The three of them stepped backward again.
“Come closer, children, this game is going to be super fun.” She said again, but there was a look in her eye, when she glanced at Lorelei that was frightening.
“It’s a game of hide and seek. You hide. And we will find you.” She said. And then the ceiling panels opened again and the fat, scary clown rolled down in his own scarf. He was holding a knife. The long legs of the super tall clowns started to slide out of the ceiling. Their face paint had been smeared so their eyes and mouths were running down their cheeks and up their noses.
“We are going to count to ten.” The children shuddered underneath. Several screamed, and at least three of the kids were crying.
The clowns were talking together in unison now.
“Two” The girl clown covered her eyes with her feet, still dangling from the scarf.
“Three.” Gregory whispered, “Let’s try to get back into the bouncy room. And then up the slide.”
“Four.” The three kids backed up quickly, looking for the soft wall that they had climbed through.
“Five.” Lorelei was too frightened to cry, and too frightened to scream. She held tightly to Miles. He was shivering again, and had wet his pants.
“Six.” The super tall juggling clowns were on the ground now, tossing sharp knives back and forth. One of them paused, and threw a sharp knife into the wall next to Gregory’s hand. Gregory screamed.
“Seven.” The children that had gathered underneath the girl clown were now scrambling away on platforms. A small girl was sobbing and pressing the big red button, trying to dump the funnel of balls.
“Eight.” Lorelei whispered frantically to Greg, “I can’t find it. Where did we come in?”
“Nine.” Greg looked at her, and said, “We will have to fight them.” And he pulled the sharp knife from the wall.
“Ten.” All four clowns started laughing hysterically, in shrill terrifying noises. The fat one wasn’t laughing, he was roaring.

And the floor beneath them fell.

Gridlocked Guesthouse Excerpt:

A fat tear rolled down her cheek as she started to dial nine. Before she could press the number one, the goats yanked forward in unison. She was suddenly dragged down into the woods, both goats bleating and pulling hard. And she fell. The goats fell too, sliding down suddenly into the darkness. To the beneath. Under the ground.
It reminded me of this time when I was a kid. I was out in the woods, like Rachel was now, but it had snowed really hard. I was pretty little, maybe, five or six. Maybe even seven. So I’m walking on top of the snow, and it has crusted over just enough to hold my weight, barely. If I stepped too hard I’d sink suddenly beneath the snow.
The snow was about thigh deep on my little legs, so it was much easier to walk on top the crust of the snow. The thin ice layer. I loved it. And even though my mother told me not to go out too far into the woods—because of the bears—I didn’t listen. I was walking along carefully, enjoying the crunchy, dangerous snow walking. At any moment, I might get stuck! Very exciting for a child like me, I must say. So I wandered out farther into the woods, and suddenly, the snow, did just the thing I was hoping and frightened will happen. It broke, and I sank in! But here’s the thing. I didn’t sink up to my thighs like I was expecting. Instead, I kept going down, down deep into the hole.
And as soon as I saw the big, sharpened sticks I knew, I just knew, I was in trouble. They didn’t catch me. I was so little, I somehow just got speared in the snowsuit. But my skin, my actual skin and bones and body were just fine. I was dangling on that little wooden spear.
I knew what this was. This was a bear trap. Sharp pointy sticks in a hole in the ground. I had helped to sharpen the sticks for my father. I had helped!
And somehow, with the heavy snow, I had missed where I was walking entirely. The world looks so different with snow! So I was stuck, I was really stuck. But that wasn’t even the problem. The problem, the way I saw it, in that moment, was that there was a bear in the trap with me. He was grimacing in pain, and looked up at me with big, frightened eyes. He didn’t have much fight left in him; his brown fur was positively dripping with blood. He let out a soft growl as he looked at me, then his tongue seemed to loll from his mouth as if it was too hard to hold it in. Blood dripped off his fangs. It had obviously snowed after he had fallen in, for he was almost invisible. Took my mom two days to find me. And I’m glad that bear was there, and hadn’t quite died yet. I bet I would have gotten too cold in there without him. Dad shot him, and he’s in the living room right now.
So you might say I know a few things about falling into a hole, and how scary it can be. Rachel, unfortunately, was in a lot more trouble than I was. She wasn’t falling into a hole with a half dead bear. She was falling into the basement with two tasty goats.

Jaspierre Excerpt

Jaspierre drove the green car down the road, trying not to draw attention to herself. She still had two hours left before she and Lucas would meet up. She glanced at the gas gauge; it was full. Good. Nothing to fuss with there. She drove away from everything and tried to clear her head. Her car was wrecked and sitting in that lake. Chance was one step ahead. She should have paused and killed him instead of driving off in that cop car. What the hell will I do next? Mindlessly, she turned onto the highway and set the cruise control for fifty-five miles per hour. Getting pulled over was not on the agenda. She glanced at the large pile of bullets and guns on the seat. It seemed absurd to her. She had hardly even seen a gun in person before today, and now she had enough for her own goddamn army. Chance, though, had proven he wasn’t just a sick pervert, but he was dangerous. Seriously dangerous. Why else would he have so many guns? She thought it would be easy to eviscerate him, but now she wasn’t so sure.
The four-lane highway merged into a small two-lane road. She kept driving down the empty road. How the hell was she going to kill him now? Her face was flushed and anger was starting to build. She hadn’t factored explosives and bullets into the equation; every altercation with him so far hadn’t involved either. A few minutes later, a yellow sports car, clipping along at a fast pace caught up to her. Two yellow lines stood on their left. The young man in the car swerved back and forth behind her, peeking around to see if he could pass. There was now, of course, oncoming traffic. The road was always clear unless some asshole was trying to pass illegally. He swerved back behind her, pressing his nose into her car’s ass as far as he could without clipping it. Jaspierre rolled her eyes. What the fuck. The last thing she felt like dealing with was an asshole on the road. The hairs on her neck rose and she clenched the wheel tighter. Don’t do anything stupid, she tried to convince herself.
The road curved up ahead, and as she turned, he swerved again, looking for a way to go around. He nearly smashed into a semi-truck coming the other direction. He veered back, over-correcting and skidding on the gravel. Fucker. Then he honked at her as if it was her fault the speed limit existed. She slowed down, and he honked again, swerving his car back and forth, tailing her, peeking around her car so he could pass on the double yellow as soon as he found room. Fuck this shit. She cracked; she never had learned to manage her rage. She saw nobody was coming at them for a while, so she turned her car hard to the left and slammed on the brakes. Her car skidded sideways and she prepared for his impact. He managed to stop in the nick of time, and the nose of his car was inches from her back door when they both squealed to a stop. Honking repeatedly, he opened his car door. He screamed profanities.
Jaspierre picked up the rocket launcher and stepped out of her car, pressing it tight to her shoulder. Without hesitating, she pulled the trigger, but the safety was on. He stared for a moment, and then slammed his car door shut, frantically trying to get into reverse. She looked at the gun and grinned. Ah, so easy, right at her thumb. Pressed the little switch and braced herself.