Very happy to see my first two reader reviews of VERTIGO up on Amazon and Goodreads--both five stars. Also happy to report that RISKING ETERNITY is still on the free bestseller lists for urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy and horror. Tomorrow is the last free day, so pick up a copy if you haven't already done so.
I've pasted the prologue to VERTIGO below. Enjoy.
Eagle Point Light, Maine
There was no way out.
Lucy Stone gripped the railing on the lighthouse balcony, searching for a sign of her husband’s boat. The fog had rolled in at sunset and settled across the horizon, making it all but impossible to see more than a few feet beyond the rocky shore below. The wind tore through her thin blouse and cotton skirt, chilling her to the bone. Her chattering teeth told her what she already knew—if she stayed out on the catwalk much longer she would freeze. But somehow freezing was preferable to what awaited her.
As she peered into the impenetrable blackness she could hardly breathe, as if someone had thrown a wet, wool blanket over her face. Despite its dangers Lucy had always loved the fog, the way it enshrouded reality in mist and made anything seem possible. It held the promise of magical things, a life of enchantment and adventure. Or it had seemed to.
Until she met Billy.
No light shone from the tower—her husband had seen to that—and the darkened shore seemed devoid of life. Had the weather caused a delay? Or had Billy accomplished what he needed to and headed home? To hope his task would take longer than usual seemed almost as horrific as the crime he was about to commit. But every minute he was delayed meant she had one more minute until he arrived back at the lighthouse. A little more time to come up with a plan to save herself and Hazel.
At the thought of her one-year-old, her heart knocked against her chest. Leaning over the railing, she strained to hear her daughter’s cry but the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks below was deafening. Would Billy keep her locked up there all night? Or would he let himself into the tower and drag her back to the keeper’s house to receive the worst beating of her life? Even more important, would he hurt the baby?
She had no idea. The only thing she was certain of was her husband’s wrath. To think Billy might have a change of heart and forgive her was as fantastical as the dreams the fog had carried to her as a girl.
Billy Stone had no heart.
Over the course of three years Lucy had learned that lesson well. The handsome nineteen-year-old sailor who had charmed her with stories of adventure on the high seas was the opposite of what he’d seemed. Beneath his devil-may-care demeanor was a man who knew nothing of love or tenderness. Sometimes, in one of the intervals when Billy’s cruelty waned, she told herself it was the monotony of life on shore that drove her husband to violence.
Of course, it was hard to believe for very long. When they were first married she had done everything in her power to please her new husband. But somehow she never did please him. The biscuits were hard as rocks—or they were soggy in the middle. The blueberry pie was runny, the fish undercooked, the kitchen a filthy, stinking mess.
By the end of the first year she knew that it mattered not that the biscuits were hard or the fish undercooked. Nor did it matter that the keeper’s house was neat as a pin or that she had learned never to raise her voice to him or look him in the eye.
What mattered was survival. The handsome boy Lucy had fallen in love with had been replaced by a grim stranger and if she wanted to live she had better endure it. Or at least that’s what she had thought until Hazel came along.
By that time she had already spent two years doing what she could to avoid her husband. She went to bed early and woke before sunrise. If Billy was too drunk to man the lighthouse, she volunteered. She spent hours polishing the lens and the lighthouse glass, hours writing in the logbook and inventorying supplies in the service room. The longer it took her, the happier she felt.
It wasn’t until after Hazel’s first birthday that she started to think about escape. Though Billy had never hit their daughter, Lucy didn’t trust him with her. She would carry Hazel up to the tower and let her watch as she manned the light, a task she had been doing more and more in recent months. If she hadn’t been so frightened it would have struck her as funny—the fact that Hazel was safer 100 feet above the treacherous, unforgiving sea than in her own home. At night, after Hazel was asleep in her crib and Billy drifted off into a drunken sleep, she formed a plan that would free them both and put a stop to Billy’s nocturnal activities.
She had come so close.
She was putting up the last of the dinner plates when his arm clamped around her neck. Before she knew what was happening Billy hauled her across the yard and threw her into the lighthouse. The door swung shut, and the key turned. The tower base was pitch black but she’d inched her way forward until she reached the spiral staircase that led to the lantern room. She was locked in, away from Hazel, but at least she could light the lantern as a warning to nearby ships.
Or so she thought.
When she climbed nearly to the top her foot missed a rung in the darkness. She slid downward, catching herself just before she fell to the cement floor below. Slowly, she regained her grip and climbed on until she wondered if she would ever reach the top. At last her hands brushed against the trap door and she pushed it upward with all her strength. To her surprise, its ancient hinges creaked and the door lifted. Had Billy forgotten to secure the padlock? Surely he wouldn’t have wanted her to gain access to the light. Carefully hoisting herself into the cold room, Lucy stood half bent for several minutes with her arm braced against the glass. It had been a long climb and she couldn’t catch her breath.
The door to the catwalk was a few feet away. Normally she didn’t like to go out onto the balcony. Though it didn’t bother her to spend time in the lantern room, the catwalk truly scared her. She had a fear of heights and it was more than a hundred feet to the rocks below.
So easy to lose one’s balance.
But she couldn’t breathe. She waited several minutes and her gasps didn’t lessen. If anything, the wheezing was getting worse. Finally she crossed to the door and stepped outside. The wind swept back her skirts as she leaned forward, taking big gulps of air. She felt better.
The door slammed shut behind her, and she gasped in shock. Frantically, she rushed over to it and grasped the iron handle with both hands, pulling on it with every ounce of strength she possessed. The door, locked from the inside, didn’t budge.
No way to escape and save herself. No way to light the lens and save anyone else.
Far below, at the base of the tower, a dark form emerged out of the blackness then disappeared so quickly she could almost convince herself she had imagined it. But the part of her that had grown adept at dodging blows knew better. After three years of violence it was as if she’d developed an extra sense. Her intuition had been honed to an infinite thinness, a kind of internal blade that snapped open when danger was near. Within her, the blade sang with fear.
He was coming.
The scream rose from the deepest part of her. Though she couldn’t hear his footsteps mounting the stairs, she knew he was on his way. The screams kept coming, reaching a mad crescendo that was lost in the breaking storm.
The sky opened and sheets of rain pelted her face as Billy lifted the trapdoor to the lantern room and hoisted himself up inside. A slow smile lit his face when he looked up and saw her watching him from the other side of the glass. Despite the stumble in his walk, there was nothing uncertain about the heavy-lidded look he gave her. It was the drowsy, hypnotic stare of a cat that’s finally got its mouse.