dead of winter.
An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A sinister house looming over the sea …He’s a reclusive writer whose macabre
imagination creates chilling horror novels. She’s a down-on-her-luck actress
reduced to staging kids’ puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his
bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she’s not laughing now. When she was a
teenager, he terrified her. Now they’re trapped together on a snowy island off
the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head
says no. Her heart says yes.
It’s going to be a long, hot winter.
The cold slapped her in the face and stole her breath. She had to force her legs out. Her beat-up brown suede city boots sank into the snow, and her jeans were no match for the weather. Ducking her head into the wind, she made her way to the rear of the car to get her heavy coat, only to see that the trunk was wedged so tightly into the hillside that she couldn’t open it. Why should she be surprised? Nothing had gone her way in so long that she’d forgotten what good fortune felt like.
She returned to the driver’s side. Her puppets should be safe in the car overnight, but what if they weren’t? She needed them. They were all she had left, and if she lost them, she might disappear altogether.
Pathetic, Leo sneered.
She wanted to rip him apart.
Babe… You need me more than I need you, he reminded her. Without me, you don’t have a show.
She shut him out. Breathing hard, she pulled the suitcases from the car, retrieved her keys, snapped off the headlights, and closed the door.
She was immediately plunged into thick, swirling darkness. Panic clawed at her chest.
I will rescue you! Peter declared.
Annie gripped the suitcase handles tighter, trying not to let her panic paralyze her.
I can’t see anything! Crumpet squealed. I hate the dark!
Annie had no handy flashlight app on her ancient cell phone, but she did have… She set a suitcase in the snow and dug in her pocket for her car keys and the small LED light attached to the ring. She hadn’t tried to use the light in months, and she didn’t know if it still worked. With her heart in her throat, she turned it on.
A sliver of bright blue light cut a tiny path through the snow, a path so narrow she could easily wander off the road.
Get a grip, Scamp ordered.
Give up, Leo sneered.
Annie took her first steps into the snow. The wind cut through her thin jacket and tore at her hair, whipping the curly strands onto her face. Snow slapped the back of her neck, and she started to cough. Pain compressed her ribs, and the suitcases banged against her legs. Much too soon, she had to set them down to rest her arms.
She hunched into her jacket collar, trying to protect her lungs from the icy air. Her fingers burned from the cold, and as she moved forward again, she called on her puppets’ imaginary voices to keep her company.
Crumpet: If you drop me and ruin my sparkly lavender dress, I’ll sue.
Peter: I’m the bravest! The strongest! I’ll help you.
Leo: (sneering) Do you know how to do anything right?
Dilly: Don’t listen to Leo. Keep moving. We’ll get there.
And Scamp, her useless alter ego: A woman carrying a suitcase walks into a bar…
Icy tears weighed down her eyelashes, blurring what vision she had. Wind caught the suitcases, threatening to snatch them away. They were too big, too heavy. Pulling her arms from their sockets. Stupid to have brought them with her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But she couldn’t leave her puppets.