Monday, October 27, 2014
Trick or Treat excerpt by J L Merrow
In Trick or Treat by JL Merrow, Sam is dragged along to a haunted house by his mates, at the Halloween party from hell—the guy he fancied has turned out to be a bigot, and Sam has just outed himself to his whole football team.
Escaping to the garden, he meets James, an enigmatic stranger with a mischievous smile, and the evening soon takes a turn for the better. The night may be chilly but the heat between Sam and James is hotter than Hades.
But James has a role to play in the evening’s ghostly entertainment, and it’s a story with a deadly ending. Unless Sam can change the script and stop history repeating itself, “till death do us part” will come sooner than he thinks.
Trick or Treat
JMS Books (October 27, 2014)
Sam had planned to stay in the garden until he’d finished the bottle of vodka, but every drink he took reminded him of the taste of it on James’s tongue. After a while Sam just chucked it in a patch of stinging nettles in disgust.
Then, of course, he wished he hadn’t. Sitting in the garden by himself getting drunk might be a bit sad, but sitting in the garden by himself not getting drunk was just pathetic. Giving up, he heaved himself to his feet. Might as well go back to the house. At least he’d see who James was with. Unless they’d left already? Sam looked at his watch. .
They should all be there, then. After all, the whole point of coming to this bloody house on Halloween night was to see the ghosts. Some poor bastard from ninety years ago and the jealous gay lover who’d stabbed him and then killed himself. At exactly , if you could believe Kev, they’d both appear to re-enact their last, bloody minutes.
It was the sort of thing that sounded like a right laugh when you were down the pub, but wasn’t so much fun when you were actually there.
You had to hand it to Kev: he might be a bit of a tosser, but he’d gone to a fair bit of trouble to organize the party. He worked at the estate agents that managed the place—which seemed to be a euphemism for hanging onto the keys while the house slowly mouldered away. If his boss ever found out he’d “borrowed” the keys for the weekend, he’d be in deep shit, but Kev was one of those arrogant bastards who thought that having gone to a minor public school meant he was entitled to anything he wanted. Worst of it was, he always seemed to get away with it, too.
He’d invited a shed-load of people, including Sam, who knew him from the pub Sunday football team and had fancied the pants off him ever since they’d met. Even though he’d known the bloke was a wanker and straight as a bloody goal-post to boot. Funny how easy it was to forget all that when Sam looked at his soft blond hair and tall, muscular figure.
It just served Sam right he’d had to sit there and listen to Kev make nasty little jokes about poofs and their lovers’ tiffs until he couldn’t stand it any longer. Sam winced as he remembered shouting “I’m a bloody poof, all right?” before grabbing his bottle of vodka and storming outside.
It looked like he’d have to find something else to do on a Sunday afternoon from now on. Walking back into the house, Sam wondered if anyone would even speak to him.
A couple of the girls were doing something with plates of half-eaten food in the kitchen. They gave Sam embarrassed looks as he walked in. He took a deep breath.
“Did you see James come this way?”
“James? Don’t think I know him.”
“Me neither. What does he look like?”
Gorgeous. Beautiful. “He’s a bit shorter than me, skinny bloke, blond hair, crap clothes. Braces. On his trousers, not on his teeth.”
“Braces?” They giggled. “Think we’d have remembered that!”
Sam sighed. “I’ll have a look around, then.” He wasn’t even sure why he was doing this, except he seemed to have some deep-seated, masochistic desire to see the bloke James was with. Although how a queer couple had managed to get an invite from that bastard Kev was anyone’s guess.
Sam smiled wryly to himself. Maybe he wasn’t the only bent footballer on the team, after all. Kev would probably have a heart attack when he realized he’d been getting his kit off in front of two flaming queers on a regular basis.
He pushed his way past snogging couples—all suitably heterosexual—in the hallway and stuck his head in a couple of doors. No James. He did see Kev, though. One look at him told Sam the bloke was completely rat-arsed.
“God, are you still here?” Kev threw at him in obvious disgust. “I thought you’d buggered off hours ago!” He sniggered. “Literally.” Christ, how had Sam ever thought him good-looking? Face reddened from the booze and twisted in a sneer, Kev just looked like the arrogant bigot he was.
“Stop being such a git, Kev,” the hard-faced girl sitting next to him said irritably. Kev’s sister, Lucy. Sam had never liked her much, but she was starting to grow on him now. “Isn’t it almost time for the show?”
“Christ, yes!” Instantly, Sam was forgotten. Kev stood up. “Right, you lot—quiet—we’ve got ten minutes until haunting time! Get your arses out in the hall and bloody well keep quiet, all right?”
Everyone did as they were told. Kev had presence, no doubt about it—a commanding voice and the physique to back it up. He’d played rugby at school, and to hear him talk had made a bloody good fly half, whatever one of those was. Sam was a state school boy and he preferred his balls spherical, thanks very much.
“Are we going upstairs?” one of the girls from the kitchen asked. Helen, that was her name: one of Lucy’s friends, a bit on the cuddly side but with a pretty face. Sam had a feeling she’d been trying to get together with Kev, and wondered if she’d managed it.
“No! Idiot, I told you the stairs aren’t safe. Probably fall to pieces under your weight,” Kev added with casual cruelty that answered Sam’s question. “We’ll be able to see everything from down here. Just wait in the hall and stop bloody talking, all right?”
Helen’s face twisted, and Lucy glared at her brother as if she’d like to kill him, but nobody said anything. Kev tended to have that effect on people.
Sam kept an eye on the stragglers drifting into the hall from various directions. If James was anywhere in the house, surely he’d be along, too? Even if he didn’t come, Sam reckoned whatever was about to happen would be worth seeing—whether there really were ghosts or just Kev looking a right plonker when whatever show he was planning fell flat. Either would do for Sam.
Staying as far away from Kev as he could, Sam ended up standing next to Lucy and Helen at the back of the hall. “Does Kev really believe we’re going to see anything?” he whispered.
Lucy shrugged. “He said he does. If it’s a set-up, I don’t know anything about it. Anyway, shh. You know what he’s like.”
“Right,” Kev said, once they were all assembled, his voice seeming to echo in the sudden quiet. “We’ve got five minutes.”
“How do you know?” Dave the goalie asked dubiously. He was a friendly, unimaginative bloke with around six million freckles to go with the prematurely receding ginger hair. Sam liked him. He wondered bitterly if the feeling was still mutual, after tonight’s little revelation.
“It was all in the report given by the last man to spend the night in the house.” Kev fell into story-telling mode, with exaggerated tones and dramatic gestures. “It was a dark, stormy Halloween night, and a power cut had plunged the house into darkness. The man—let’s call him Collins—lit candles and a lantern to fend off the shadows—”
“Like we have,” one of the girls said in an awed whisper, obviously getting into the spirit of it.
Kev sent her a paternal look of approval. “Eventually, Collins fell asleep in his chair in front of the fire. At precisely he was woken by the sound of shouting coming from upstairs.” Kev’s voice lowered. Even Sam found himself paying rapt attention. “Of course, Collins was terrified. Nevertheless, he armed himself with a poker, and dragged up the courage to go upstairs and see what the hell was going on. Halfway to the stairs, he heard a crashing sound, as if a violent fight was going on.”
Kev paused dramatically. Suddenly the silence was broken by muffled bumps and cries coming from above them.
Several people jumped, including Sam. Helen giggled nervously.
“Oh, come on, it’s a set-up!” one of the lads said loudly—Mike from the footie team, who was short and dark but pretty nippy in midfield. “He’s got a CD up there playing sound effects.”
“I can’t hear anything,” someone else said, sounding genuinely confused. Sam wondered what they’d been drinking.
“Shut up!” Kev hissed.
Sam couldn’t help anticipation tightening in his gut. It was a put-up job, had to be—but what if it wasn’t? What if they really were about to see some ghosts? Christ, what must that be like? To be doomed to play out your death scene for all eternity?
The sounds grew louder. Someone upstairs shouted, “No!” in a high, panicked voice. Sam cast a look around at his companions. One or two of them looked pale and scared, while others just looked bored or puzzled. Couldn’t they hear it?
Suddenly an upstairs door burst open, and a slender, male figure hurtled onto the landing. He passed the top of the staircase and stopped, clutching at the balustrade. When he turned, the light from the lamps and flickering candles below illuminated his face with eerie shadows. Pale, delicate features were marred by a trickle of dark blood running from a cut on one temple.
It was James.
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