With: Rachel Rust
Hello, everyone! I’m so excited to share an excerpt from my new YA paranormal romance, 8 Souls. It’s been said you can’t help who you fall in love with…but you also can’t help where and when you fall in love. Despite her haunted surroundings, Chessie Carpenter can’t ignore her feelings for a small-town boy named David.
David and I head back to town. The bulging storm clouds have moved north, but the sky remains gray. Rain sprinkles onto the windshield in sporadic beats. Short, green cornstalks line the surrounding fields in perfectly spaced rows, until they eventually give way to a large, wooden sign.
Welcome to Villisca.
The greeting is adorned with a sunbeam and seems oddly optimistic for a town with secrets a century old and covered in blood.
David’s pickup slows and turns off the highway onto a narrow town road, slick with fresh rainwater. A block before my grandparents’ house, I instruct him to pull over. The last thing I need is to be lectured by Grandma about being in a car with a boy. She’d drag me down to creepy Pastor Schneider for some kind of Jesus blessing.
David has the pickup in park, zippo in hand. Open-close-open-close it clicks. “Can I ask why you’re here for the summer?”
I shrug, searching for an easy answer. “To visit my grandparents.”
“All summer? Did you lose a coin toss or something?”
“It was either this or Hawaii, and come on, obviously I’m gonna pick Iowa. Who wouldn’t?”
We both laugh and I’m happy to keep the conversation light. Though he keeps a watchful eye on me, studying my face, as if looking for the real answer to his question.
I remain silent, not giving in to his questioning presence. The town of Villisca is giving me enough stress, I don’t need—or want—to spew all the nasty details of my parents’ relationship issues to a boy I barely know.
Besides, my time here in Iowa is supposed to be a reprieve from the divorce stress. “Just don’t think about it,” my mom had said last week as she worked at her computer, not even bothering to make eye contact with me. I don’t think she even noticed when I rolled my eyes and walked away. She grew up with separated parents and, so far, has been treating her own divorce as nothing more than a predictable life hurdle. One she thinks I should be able to hop over just as easily as she apparently has.
I lean my head back on the headrest. The side of the Axe Murder House is straight ahead, in clear view.
“Have you ever been inside the house?” I ask.
“A few times.”
“He really likes this supernatural stuff, huh?”
“His mom used to be into the paranormal. His interest in it picked up a couple years ago after his parents died in a car accident. He thought he could contact them on the other side or whatever, but…no dice.”
I’ve never been friends with anyone who’s lost their parents. It’s a reality I can’t even imagine. Worse even than having your mom move out of the family house and into a condo a mile away. Sure, it’s a two bedroom, but I have no plans to ever spend the night there with her. She’ll have it perfectly decorated—classically accessorized, just like she always is—but it won’t be home. Home is where I grew up. Where my real bedroom is and where my dad makes pretty good breakfast smoothies.
“Is the Axe Murder House super creepy inside?” I ask David. “I’ve seen it countless times in my dreams, and I’ve been up on the porch once in real life, but I’ve never seen inside.”
He sits straighter and tenses up. “It’s just wood floors and plaster walls, like the other houses in town.”
“But people died in there.”
His zippo snaps shut. “People have died in a lot of houses.” He looks over at me. “It’s only a house. Houses aren’t creepy.”
“Some people even think it’s evil.”
David smirks with a shake of his head. “This town is full of religious nuts. People are afraid of the devil when they really should be afraid of each other.”
His words send a chill down my spine. The gray color of the foreboding structure seems to absorb the clouds and rain, welcoming them as gloomy guests. “I’ve dreamed of it so often that I never used to think it was creepy, but I’m changing my mind about that. The house itself, the murders—it’s all weird and creepy.” I hook a finger into the door latch. “Anyway, thanks for the ride.”
His shoulders relax and he looks at me with a small smile. “Anytime.”
And it’s clear he means it. He really would give me a ride in his pickup any time. Maybe small-town boys are more desperate than city boys, eager for a new face in town, even if she’s short with frizzy hair. But as we stare at one another, there’s something else. That familiarity I can’t quite put my finger on. Equal parts strange and enchanting. Whatever it is, it makes my stomach dance in circles, and makes my heart beat a tick faster. And I like it.
Rachel will be giving away a signed paperback of 8 Souls to one lucky person leaving a comment or email entry!
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