CUSP OF NIGHT
Hode’s Hill #1
by Mae Clair
Pub Date: 6/12/2018
The truth hides in dark places…
Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.
Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house—a woman whose ghost may still linger. Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die…
Within moments, Charlotte was outside in the dismal weather. The drizzle had steadied into a light rain, pattering in a ceaseless rhythm against the cobblestones. The gas lamp on the corner was barely visible through the thickening fog. It would be a rough ride back in the carriage, bordering on miserable, now that she’d lost the opportunity to communicate with her deceased mother and share the news of Reginald’s birth. Drawing the collar of her cloak about her throat, Charlotte hurried down Chicory toward the alley. How far to the carriage? The fog played tricks with the
distance, shapes materializing from the mist with an abruptness that made her regret not taking the lamp Frederick offered. When a cat shot out in front of her, she gasped.
“Silly animal.” Pressing a hand to her heart, she breathed deeply.
The feline darted across the alley, vanishing into the mist. Were those footsteps behind her?
She glanced over her shoulder, but it was impossible to see more than a few feet. Rain trickled from the edge of the umbrella and splattered onto her gloves. Quickening her pace, she scurried forward. She’d only managed a few steps when the footsteps echoed again.
Once more she looked over her shoulder. “Frederick.” Perhaps he’d left the carriage in search of her when the rain grew heavier. “Frederick?”
The footsteps quickened, lengthening into a fleet run. Hair prickled on the back of her neck. She hesitated, torn between fleeing and needing to see who followed. Within seconds, a painted face bobbed in front of her from the fog. The macabre mask hung disembodied, a leering devil with ice white eyes and cadaverous grin.
The Fiend! Dear God, the monster was real.
Charlotte screamed and tried to run, her long skirts twisting about her ankles. Stumbling, she dropped her umbrella. “Frederick!” Her frightened cry echoed through the night, swallowed by the fog. “Oh, Frederick, please help!”
Fingers fisted on the back of her cloak and yanked hard, wheeling her around and tugging, until she was pressed up against the hard body of the Fiend. Trapped mere inches from that demonic face and hateful gaze, she swooned. Her vision spun into a funnel curtained with fog and rain as if the night had blindfolded her. A stinging flare of heat ripped across her stomach, chased by something sticky and damp. She tried to find her breath and wheezed out a faint bubble. “Oh!”
Pain ruptured upward from her navel. Fire seared her voice and left her choking soundlessly on cold air. Her knees buckled. The Fiend released her, and she wilted to the cobblestones, conscious of a dark stain spreading beneath her.
The stench of hot metal and damp wool clotted her nostrils. She choked on tears, overcome by the realization she would never cradle her baby again or see the husband who had given her such a precious gift. A foolish woman, she’d paid for her folly. Why hadn’t she heeded Henry and stayed safe at home? Blood plastered her bodice to her skin, sticky heat against the rain. She folded to the side—down to the damp press of cobblestones
against her cheek, the thick gathering silt of the dead.
The Fiend stepped closer. Hunkered down near her head.
Charlotte forced herself to grip the hand that clutched the bloody knife. Twisting her neck, she stared up into the awful leering face. “Why? Please…tell me why.”
The slice of the blade across her throat paid her passage to Summerland.
Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.
Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with conflict, romance and elements of mystery. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about writing, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.
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