Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The Meadows" by London Clarke

The Meadows
(Legacy of Darkness Book 1)
by London Clarke

The Meadows (Legacy of Darkness Book 1) by London Clarke

The Meadows by London Clarke is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

A decades-old murder. A strange, blood-thirsty cult. And a house full of spirits.
It was supposed to be a new beginning, a fresh start in the Shenandoah Valley, where Scarlett’s memories weren’t riddled with drug addiction and rehab. But after purchasing an abandoned house with a checkered past in the hopes of transforming it into a luxury bed and breakfast, strange things start to happen. Disturbing voices and noises interrupt her new life. Strangers appear to her, bearing cryptic warnings. A tunnel is discovered underneath the house - one historically used for a local cult’s rituals. After several of Scarlett’s guests are hospitalized after visiting the underground, she finds herself targeted by violent spirits.
Driven to the edge of despair, Scarlett vows to fight back - but she has no idea what she’s really battling. And her nightmare is just beginning…
The Meadows is a gripping supernatural thriller in which the monsters may be vampires, demons, or flesh and blood. It is a nightmare that will make you believe it could easily happen to you.

Book Video

I affixed the camera onto my laptop and held the computer at arm’s length until I could see myself.
There I was. In all my post-rehab glory.
I hadn’t colored my hair since I’d first come out of Orange Star Center six months ago. The blonde highlights had faded, tipping the ends to about halfway up my brown tresses. It looked a little trendy. A little.
Mainly, I looked tired. I hadn’t slept much since the move. Different time zones did all kinds of weird things to me. It was only an hour’s difference between Nashville and here, but it was enough to throw me off.
I smeared on some tinted lip balm and finger-combed my hair, pushing it up into a bun. Straight, heavy bangs hung to the bridge of my nose and over my eyebrows, covering the line knitting together my forehead and my eyebrows. I hated that line. It hadn’t been there seven months ago when I was still feeling no pain most of the time.
I clicked record and settled into the chair, making sure I was square in the shot of the camera.
“Hello, world.” The first words sounded like pennies at the bottom of an empty piggy bank. Hollow, tinny, awkward. That was a dumb way to begin. But I was live, so couldn’t stop now. I cleared my throat, forced a smile. “Scarlett, here. I know it’s been ages since we’ve talked…” I shifted my eyes, trying to remember when I’d last film a video blog. “A year, maybe? And just for a change, I’m not coming to you from the Country Music Capital of the World. Nashville and I have parted ways for a time, and I’m broadcasting from my new home in Virginia. You’re catching me on my second day here.”
I hadn’t planned this first live broadcast out very well. How much should I say? Mentally, I scrambled to come up with the rest of my spiel. Little thumbs-up and heart signs were already flashing across the screen.
My fans were watching.
Glancing behind me, I motioned to the room. “So… this is my new home. Currently under renovation, but it will soon be open for business. Yes, it’s a huge departure from songwriting, but don’t worry … I’ll still be doing plenty of that.” I lifted the laptop and held it so that it flashed onto the grand piano in the corner of what had once been the front parlor—now, my living room. Then I repositioned it on the table. “My newest adventure is this wonderful old antebellum mansion I’m restoring. Within a few weeks, it’ll be open for guests as a bed and breakfast. I’ll keep you up to date and let you know when you can book a room. I hope to meet a few you in person right here in Virginia. I promise there will be all sorts of grand entertainment. Music, food, maybe a few costumes—it’ll be Halloween, after all—all taking place ri’cheer.” I played up a Nashville accent as I gestured over my shoulder. “In the meantime, I thought I’d play a crowd favorite on this magnificent instrument I’ve just purchased.”
Again, I shifted the laptop so that the baby grand was in view, and then I padded across the newly polished marble floor and settled in front of the keyboard. My fingers found the keys—like old friends—and the sounds of a perfectly tuned piano reverberated against the ceiling.
I turned back to the camera. “This room has great acoustics.” Then I launched into one of my biggest hits, “People Like You.”
Songwriting was my comfort zone. Well-known stars made my songs into hits; occasionally I performed in a club. But this was the easiest place for me to play and sing to an audience—from the safety of my living room, on camera.
I’d just started to sing the opening to the song when something flashed in my peripheral vision.
I stopped, stared at the entryway to the living room. Had someone just walked by? I listened. Nothing. Glancing up at the screen again, the little thumbs and hearts still floated over the screen. Then a laughing emoji. Several laughing emojis.
Clearing my throat, I started to play the introduction to the song again. “Sorry, folks. I thought someone was … at the door.” I smiled at the camera. “Guess I’m not used to my new home yet.”
I closed my eyes and launched into the melancholy melody of the song. This time I sang it all the way through.
Allowing the ending chord to linger, ripple through me, the bass note vibrating my fingers on the keys, I opened my eyes again.
“Thanks for joining me tonight, guys. I’ll be back in a few days with another update on my newest venture. In the meantime, love the one you’re with, remember that you’ve got a friend, and peace, love, and understanding to all.” It was a corny catch-phrase built on three classic songs, and I still cringed sometimes when I said it, but it had worked for me. Some of the fans told me they really liked it.
I shut off the recording and then hit the arrow in the window to play back the live recording.
This was a good way to see what I needed to change for next time—namely, the lighting. Geez, the house looked so dark. I swiveled my head left and then right. Was it actually that dark in here? Three lamps spilled light into the corners, and from where I was sitting the room looked pretty well illuminated. But on the video, it seemed like dark clouds muddied their spotlight effect. Weird.
And I didn’t look too bad on camera. A little tired, maybe, with some dark pits under my eyes, but I’d just have to put on a more makeup next time.
I reached the part of the video where I’d stopped playing. My expression changed dramatically. My whole face drooped, suspended, as my gaze was drawn to something in the foyer.
My recovery had been pretty good. Playing through the song a second time with my eyes closed had kept me focused on the moment and the emotion in the music.
But there was something in the background—something materializing behind me as I crooned away. It began as a darkening of the screen—as though the lights faded out and the darkness of the scene swelled to fill the space.
I leaned closer to the screen and squinted. Were those eyes? A face?
It looked like a woman, leaning over my shoulder as I played and sang. Her features obscured by a great shadow, the whites of her eyes drawing closer to the screen, she peered into the camera.
Gasping, I shot up from the piano stool so quickly it toppled. Then I turned in a 360-degree circle, scanning the walls and corners of the room for the figure in the video. A joke. It had to be. My mind rushed with the possibilities. It was close to Halloween, so maybe the social media site had placed some kind of special effect on videos. Maybe I just didn’t know about it.
My heart drummed, pounding against the inside of my chest until my sternum hurt. I cut my eyes back and forth. No one was in the room with me. I was alone.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Nice spooky story, perfect for Halloween! The main character did annoy me a little, she was a bit wimpy acting for me. It was a very fast story, had to make myself stop reading late last night. This was a page turner!! Loved it!!” ~ Annette Johnson
“The book was pretty fast paced, and the characters well developed - sometimes Scarlett was a bit disappointing with an immature attitude. The supernatural aspects of the book were spooky, and not overly done. I read it within a few hours, and it was an entertaining story.” ~ AmAtHome
“It was night time when I started reading this, that didn't last long, I had to finish it during the day! This was one scary good thriller, just in time for Halloween.” ~ Melinda H.
“I couldn’t put this book down until I finished it. I found the story and the characters really interesting. What’s not to love with a haunted house, and a young woman trying to open a bed and breakfast and lots of other interesting things that she encounters on the way. I will look for more from this author and look forward to reading her next book.” ~ Phyllis Jackson
“I was riveted to the pages, couldn't flip 'em fast enough.” ~ D.M.E.

Guest Post by the Author (a Halloween short story by London Clarke)
The Man on the Train
Over the course of her lifelong search for the perfect man, Devon had learned two things: 1) There were perfect men in the world, and 2) they were not interested in her.
Those men usually went for her best friend, or they already had a girlfriend, or she just wasn’t their type. “You’re too nice,” a “perfect” guy had told her once. “I need someone who’s a little less … nice.” He wanted the bad girl. Devon had tried to be the bad girl, but it hadn’t worked out so well. Leather made her hot and itchy, and she’d nearly thrown up while sitting in a chair waiting to get a tattoo. In the end, she’d fled the scene, inkless.
She assumed this meant she was destined to be alone like her Aunt Mary, who she was on her way to visit by train this very evening.
The man sitting across from her on the train was perfect. She could tell. Maybe it was just that he looked perfect, but that was enough for the moment.  He stared out the window, his hand fisted and pressing against his chin and mouth. His brows sank low over his eyes, and his dark, curly hair hung just over the collar of his long, gray trench coat.
Devon wondered if he was traveling to Scotland, as she was. Or would he disembark at Darlington or Durham? It hardly mattered. She would never know him. She’d only have the luxury of staring at him for the few remaining hours that the train was in motion, and then they would part ways, and she’d never see him again. Wasn’t that the way it always was?
When she’d boarded the train at King’s Cross Station that evening, the train had been standing room only. Now, two hours later, the train had cleared out, and she’d taken a seat next to this heartbreakingly attractive man.
But it was Halloween, and she was on an adventure. If she’d been at home, she’d have been sitting with her flatmate in their tiny flat, eating popcorn, and watching horror films.
The train’s brakes squealed as it began to slow, and her purse fell from beside her and onto the floor. Her cell phone shot from the opening and under the seat of the gorgeous man sitting across from her.
He had not quit staring out the window, even as the train howled to a halt and stopped altogether.
Devon shifted forward. “Excuse me.”
The man turned. His dark eyes touched hers, and something in her belly flipped. Yes. Definitely perfect.
“I-I’m sorry, but my phone slid under your seat.”
Without dropping his gaze, he reached under his seat and retrieved the lost phone. He handed it to her.
“Thank you.”
He smiled a little. “We’ve stopped.”
Devon nodded, glanced out the window into the darkness. “We’re somewhere near Darlington, I think.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the muffled announcement reverberated through the carriage. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be stopping here momentarily. Please do not leave your seats. If you are in the food car, please remain there until we give you further instructions. As soon as the situation is resolved, we hope to be on our way again shortly. Alternatively, we will move you to another train if the need arises.”
“Must be mechanical problems,” Devon said.
The stranger nodded slowly, his eyes fastened to hers. “Must be.”
Moments ticked by. The couple in the seat behind her grumbled about the delay. Everyone was in such a hurry. But she wasn’t. No, once the train was on its way again, the beautiful stranger would be that much closer to parting ways with her.
“Are you going to Edinburgh?” Devon asked.
“Not quite that far. Just to Newcastle.”
He had a low, melodious voice that rippled through her. She swallowed. The man’s dark stare was so intense. “Family there?”
She waited, but he didn’t elaborate. Okay. Obviously, he wasn’t going to reveal much about himself.
“I’m headed to Edinburgh,” she offered. “Visiting my aunt.”
He nodded, his gaze remained fixed on her.
She looked away. Her body heated as weird, wild snippets of fantasy ran through her mind. The lights going out in the train, two strangers grappling in the dark, kissing, unclothing one another, silent writhing in the darkness. She shook her head. Where had that come from? When she glanced up again, he was still staring.
“Do you ever wonder about the safety of public transportation?” he asked. “I mean before you get on a train or a plane or a bus, do you ever stop and think—this could be the last time I do this? There could be a terrible accident. I might not make it off of this.”
“Not really.” Strange line of conversation, but she was willing to go for it. Anything to keep talking with this guy.
“Is that because you’re young?” He continued, arching a dark eyebrow. “You assume you’ll live because you’re too young to die.”
Devon shrugged, and a strange, prickly sensation prodded at her skin. “I don’t know. Maybe. How old are you?” She would have guessed he was mid-twenties. Thirty at the most.
“Older than I look.”
“Okay.” She’d never been good at determining ages anyway. It really didn’t matter how old he was. He was perfect. Whether he was twenty or forty, he still made her heart flutter.
The train began to move again, but slowly.
“We’re moving again,” Devon said, slightly disappointed. She turned back to the man, determined to maximize whatever time they had. “What do you do … for work, I mean.”
His mouth twitched into a smile. “I’m a vampire.”
Oh, ha-ha. Right. It was Halloween. Even so … wow. This guy really didn’t want her to know anything about him.
The train inched into the station, and as Devon glanced out the window, she glimpsed the sign for Darlington.
Another garbled announcement vibrated the walls of the carriage. “Passengers for Darlington, please disembark at the station. Passengers traveling on to Edinburgh, please disembark and transfer to the train on the opposite platform.”
Devon locked eyes with the vampire sitting across from her. “I guess that means we’re switching trains.”
He nodded. “Yes.”
He stood, and so did she. The back of his tall, lean body was in full view as he turned and filed down the aisle. Devon quickly followed, but when she reached the luggage receptacle, her bag jammed against another’s, and it took her a few minutes to pull it from the tight space. In the meantime, the perfect vampire had left the carriage and disappeared into the mix of people milling around the station.
She suppressed the disappointment. Now she’d have to look for him in the next train. Otherwise, so much for her shot at the perfect man.
A crowd had gathered just in front of the train, and Devon stared down the length of the platform, where police darted in and out of the last carriage, calling out orders for everyone to keep moving, stay away from the carriage car. Emergency technicians quickly followed them, and all around, the air echoed with sounds of concern.
Devon turned to a middle-aged woman standing next to her. “What happened?”
The woman stared at her. “Did you just get off that train, love?” She pointed at the door from which Devon had just exited.
Devon nodded. “Yeah.”
The woman patted her arm. “You’re that lucky.
Devon glanced again at the last carriage as two emergency techs carried two stretchers out … and were those … bodies that they were transporting, covered with sheets? “What happened?” she asked again.
The woman’s brows knitted. “I overheard one of the police say that there were four dead people on that carriage. Killed. A Halloween murder spree.” She shook her head.
Devon felt a chill run through her. A murder spree. How was that possible? On the very train she’d been sitting on moments before… talking to the perfect man.
The woman continued. “All of the bodies drained of blood.”
Devon’s breath caught in her throat. “What?” At that moment, she looked up at the train on the opposite platform. In the window of the first carriage sat her perfect man, his dark eyes staring out at her, a slight smile gracing his lips.
She found she couldn’t move until the man in the window had passed by her, and she’d missed her train.

About the Author
London Clarke
Obsessed with vampires and haunted houses from a young age, London grew up reading gothic tales featuring romantic and tragic heroes. Wuthering Heights and Dracula are her favorite novels and, although now happily married, she readily confesses that she is a recovering runaway, who once moved to England in search of a man who was the perfect amalgamation of Dracula, Hamlet, Heathcliff, and Mr. Rochester. London holds a B.A. in Music and M.F.A in Creative Writing. She’s had an eclectic array of jobs including receptionist, legal secretary, literary assistant, high school English teacher, and freelance editor.
London lives in a Washington, DC suburb with her husband and three greyhounds. She’s happiest when she’s writing novels, reading books, or binge watching her favorite programs like The Vampire Diaries or Being Human.

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