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Wanna be scared?

It’s fall y’all, and to celebrate, I’m sharing a spooky chapter of my newest novel, Something New, the cautionary tale of what happens when you open a supernatural door and something slips in beside you. But be warned, I’m not responsible if you can’t sleep tonight. 😉

I saved my AP history paper on Mary Todd Lincoln and closed my laptop before leaning back and rubbing my forehead. Picking up my phone, I glanced at the time–– 10:22, well past dark. Jake hadn’t texted, but that was expected. I hadn’t bothered to text either him or Rachel. I’d told Mom I’d apologize when they came home, and technically they weren’t home yet. I was going to use the loophole as my excuse. She was right. I needed to apologize, but that wouldn’t make it any easier to swallow my pride and admit I was a jerk.

I sighed loudly, dreading the chore of bringing Cain inside. Cain and I had a relationship based solely on ignoring each other. After our last encounter when I thought he’d take my head off, I’d avoided him as much as possible. I doubted a whole bag of treats would coax him inside, but I had to try. And honestly, as much as I hated the hassle of bringing him in, my practical side wouldn’t let me forget I did feel safer with him here and Mom and Dad gone.

I slid on my slippers and trudged downstairs to the kitchen, not bothering to flip on any lights. Mom always kept a small lamp on the counter which she’d rigged to a timer and set to come on before dark. Along the tops of the cabinets among the antique bottles and canisters, Mom had strung white Christmas lights that came on at night also, so I knew there’d be enough light to bring Cain inside. The lights reflected in the huge mirror hanging above the breakfast table.

I unlocked the French doors and stepped out onto the patio, rubbing my arms against the chill air. I tucked the hair that had slipped from my ponytail behind my ear as Cain trotted up, the tags on his collar ring jingling.

“Come on, Cain.” But Cain plopped down on his haunches. “No, up, inside,” I commanded. Cain tilted his head, the light from the patio reflecting in his chocolate-brown eyes. He shook his head as though he were answering and laid down on his front paws. I sighed again. “You aren’t going to make this easy, are you?” I shifted toward him, and he jerked to a half-crouch, the way he did when he played keep away with Jake.

“No, Cain, I don’t wanna play. Let’s go in.” The wind blew beneath the hem of my shirt, and I shivered. “Cain,” I whined, “please, I’ll give you a treat.” At the promise of a treat, he jumped up. When we got back inside, I tossed him a beef strip from the treat bag and locked the door behind us. I started across the kitchen, but Cain sat in front of the French doors.

“Let’s go.” I swept my arm forward, but Cain whimpered. “What’s your deal?” I took another step toward the oversized doorway leading to the family room. Cain whimpered again and turned toward the patio, bumping his nose against the glass as though he wanted to go back out.

“No, it’s time to be inside.” But Cain turned in a circle, his pitiful whimper growing. Great, he must need to go. “Ugh! Why didn’t you do your business when you were outside?” I stomped back to the door. Mom would kill me if he stained a rug, and I sure wasn’t dying to clean up after him. “Now I’ll have to wait while you go.” Cain jumped up, leaving marks in the cream paint beside the door. “Down! What’s wrong with you?” I had to use my knee to shove him away from the doorknob. Cain hadn’t jumped at the door like that since he was a puppy, and Dad had broken his jumping with a vibrating collar. He nearly knocked me down as he barreled out onto the patio. I expected him to make a beeline for the corner of the yard where he usually left his little gifts, but he stopped at the edge of the rock patio and turned back to me. He growled, the “I wanna kill something” growl he normally reserved for delivery men. I pointed my finger.

“Don’t you growl at me again, stupid dog. Go. Do your thing so we can go back inside.” I shooed him with a flick of my hand, but he only growled louder, the hair on his withers standing up. The last time I saw him this upset was when another dog had snapped at Jake in the park last year. Goosebumps broke out on my arms that had nothing to do with the open door. I turned around quickly, but the kitchen looked exactly as it had a minute ago. I turned back to Cain, whose growl grew louder as he lowered his head.

“You’re freakin’ me out. Stop it.” But Cain continued to growl. I mentally ran through my lockup checklist. I’d locked the deadbolt on the front door when my parents left, and I knew Mom would never leave a window unlocked. The patio door had been locked when I came down. I either had to get the dog inside and let him search the house, or I had to go out with him. When Cain’s growl turned to a bark, I jumped and dashed out the door. I immediately thought of the last time he’d barked at me, the day I’d gotten the necklace, and my hand found the pendant beneath the collar of my t-shirt.

Cain immediately came to me and continued growling toward the kitchen door. My heart was pounding as sweat broke out along my back. He wasn’t growling at me this time. Whatever had him upset was inside the house.

My eyes searched the semi-darkened doorway, but with the patio light glaring above me, I couldn’t make out a thing. I had to get a grip. I pressed my hand against chest, brushing my fingers across the clover pendant. I fiddled with the pendant, sliding it along the chain and breathing deeply in an attempt to calm my racing pulse.

Suddenly, Cain stopped growling and bumped his nose against my hand. “Are you completely mental?” I asked, wondering if I might be the mental one. I knelt beside him, and he tried to lick my face as I massaged behind his ear. “Do we go in now?” I stood and walked back to the door, but Cain stopped at the threshold. “Not again.”

Despite the fear I had of going back inside, we couldn’t stay out here all night, but I wasn’t about to go in without him. I’d have to lure him in. I grabbed a treat from the bag, but Cain didn’t move. “Come on, boy.” I shook the treat, but he stayed as though commanded.

I sniffed the beef strip and crinkled my nose. “Wouldn’t work on me either.” I’d need something a little more tempting. I walked slowly across the kitchen, scanning from side to side. My heart nearly jumped right out of my chest as I caught my reflection in the big mirror above the table. I had to stop myself from running back outside.

This was ridiculous. I huffed out a breath and clutched at my chest again. I was letting my imagination get the better of me. I pulled open the fridge and dug around in the bottom drawer where Mom kept the lunch meat. A slice of ham ought to do it. I glanced over my shoulder where Cain had backed all the way to the edge of the patio again. Better make it two slices. I grabbed another slice and shut the fridge.

“Alright, Cain.” I held the slices by my fingertips and shook them. “I’ve got a special treat.” But Cain’s hackles went up as a low rumble broke from his raised lips. “Cain! Now stop it!” The hair along my neck and arms stood up as a cold air rushed toward me. Whatever he didn’t like was between us.

I stepped toward him, and he stepped toward me, barking uncontrollably. Spit flew from his mouth. The lamp and string lights flickered. I jerked my head toward the counter on my right. A gush of air to my left had me whipping in that direction where my eyes caught my reflection. The stone in the center of my pendant flashed in the light as another image materialized in the mirror.

The shape was vague at first and slowly materialized into the shape of a woman or girl. The girl was more of a gray outline than a solid image, colorless except for the eyes. Her crystal-blue eyes drew mine in the mirror, but when I jerked my head toward the kitchen, no one was there. I looked back at the mirror as a bead of sweat trailed down the center of my back. I couldn’t clearly make out her face. It seemed to swirl and change constantly. She reached toward me, her mouth moving but no sound escaping. I stepped back and bumped into the counter, the ham slices falling from my hand. I glanced to Cain who’d stepped within the doorway, where he still barked fiercely.

The girl’s image moved toward mine in the mirror. I held out my hand and screamed, “No!” The image swept from the mirror and materialized before me, except it was no longer just an image. Her body was more solid and less than a foot from me. I couldn’t see through her though she remained that colorless gray. “No!” I tried to step to the side, but my slippers caused me to stumble, and my backside hit the kitchen tile hard. She leaned toward me, her hand reaching again as her eyes shifted from that mesmerizing blue to black. My eyes squeezed closed of their own accord. “Cain!”

I heard a flurry of claws across the tile and a scrap of something sharp against my stomach, and when I forced my eyes open, Cain was standing over me, hackles lowered and his big tongue hanging out in a pant. I scooted from under him and sat leaning back against the counter. We were alone.

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https://www.swoonreads.com/m/something-new/

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