Anna Hyde in Jekyll Park is book 2 in the Twisted Fairy Tale Series due to come out next month! Inspired by a recent question on my Facebook page: What’s a quirky and/or unique trait you have, I decided to post this teaser.
I normally wouldn’t post this long of a teaser, but based on the inspiration – felt it was imperative. This one’s for you, Melissa!
Like tendrils, the Willow branches whipped against itself in the onslaught of rain and biting wind. It was possible a frog croaked somewhere near the base of the tree. Though, it was hard to tell with the angry sounds the late summer storm brought. The lake was in danger of spilling over onto the roadway if the relentless rain didn’t stop. Yet, I found solace on the park bench. I wrapped my arms around myself and I was sure the glint in my eye would reveal my intentions.
“Everyone has a price,” I said, loud enough to be heard over the rush of the storm.
Gannon chewed his lip nervously. I could tell he wanted to argue with me and I mentally dared him to.
He nodded. “I have nothing to put a price on,” he said so low I could barely hear him.
“I’m not sure I heard you.” I leaned in, lowering my head and forcing him to make eye contact with me. His eyes glistened and threatened to spill tears.
“Ms. Hyde, you’re quite caustic, aren’t you?”
“What makes you think I’m being anything but serious?” I narrowed my eyes. Surely he didn’t think this was a joke.
I laughed, even though it was anything but funny. He shook his head at me and then turned his gaze toward the lake. Something skimmed the surface of the water. Perhaps a drowning beetle, I hoped. I hated beetles.
“As I said – what makes you think I’m being anything but serious?”
His chest rose and fell with a deep sigh. “And as I said, I have nothing to put a price on.”
“Well, you and I both know that isn’t true.”
He clenched his fists for a brief moment. If I hadn’t been looking in his direction, I would’ve have noticed. It was the first reprieve he gave me and I was taking it. I felt the corners of my mouth turn up against my will.
“You’re smiling,” he said, sounding defeated.
“It’s a beautiful day.”
Gannon grunted. A garter snake slithered along the rod-iron leg of the bench, unknowingly heading toward my right foot, just eight inches away. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three inches.
On the intake of a breadth, I threw my foot out and pressed the toe end of my boot on top of the snake’s head, crushing its head against the drenched grass. The tail slithered and twitched as I pressed harder. My heart drummed gloriously in my chest. Disappointingly, the twitching was over too soon and the snake went still.
I sighed in relief.
“That wasn’t necessary,” Gannon said. He frowned, looking at the dead snake by my foot.
I shrugged at his remark. “Animals are unsatisfactory,” I said. “When you snuff them out, it’s like turning off the light. There’s no prelude, no climax, no twist. It’s a very boring story.”
Gannon shifted in his seat, sliding an inch away. It opened room for me to turn and face him. I rested my left arm on the back of the bench, grazing my thumb against the wool of his coat. With my right hand, I touched his cheek, feeling the rough stubble beneath my fingers. Ignoring his flinch, I continued running my fingers down his throat and felt his pulse beat frantically under my palm.
“You’re nervous,” I whispered. If the rain didn’t pound down on us I was sure he’d be covered in sweat.
He chewed on his lip again. “I don’t understand what you want from me.”
“I already told you.”
He laughed, surprising – then delighting me. It was the unexpected human reaction that fed me. I took a deep, cleansing breath. Yes, I could smell his sweat – I was sure of it.
“It will never happen,” he said, his voice strong.
So the dance began again. “Gannon,” I whispered, edging closer to him until I was sure he could feel my warm breath against his rain slicked neck. “Everyone has a price. Just think of what the money will do for you.” My hand on his thigh, squeezing softly – reassuringly. “You need the money,” I reminded him. “Are you really going to deny what it will do for you? For your family? Are you really willing to make that sacrifice?”
It was strange how I could tell the difference between the tears on his cheeks and the raindrops. It was as if the tears were escaping a certain fate, falling quickly to his chin while the raindrops stayed where they were – completely oblivious to the danger lurking just a few inches away.
A worm lost on the sidewalk, desperate for dryer soil. A frog croaking in the long grass. And then there was the snake under the bench.
“You poor thing,” I whispered while petting its smooth scales, though, it was long gone. I placed a small daisy by its head, disturbed by the grotesque nature in which its life had ended. My stomach churned at the site.
Then, one-by-one, I placed each worm in the grass, hoping it had dried enough for them to find their home. “Bye bye little one,” I said – mentally giving each a name; Joe, Sandy, Rylan, Chris, Alex, and Bobby. I was careful to select unisex names for the worms. They were hermaphrodites after-all.
On the park bench was a single gold coin. “Thank you,” I whispered as I slipped it into my pocket. Nature always rewarded me. Nature was kind. Nature was beautiful.
When my work was done, I removed my boots and my favorite purple eyelet socks with the yellow lace trim around the ankles. There used to be tiny yellow bows on the lace, but they had long fallen off – or washed away in the magical place where all the mysterious items in my wash had gone. A sock here, a shirt there, a scarf somewhere…
I waded into the lake, feeling the ice-cold water and mud between my toes. I squealed in the loveliness of it all. As my body adapted to the shock of cold my thoughts drifted to the snake under the bench. I knew in my heart someone had killed that poor snake and it made me sad.
It was difficult to enjoy the beauty of the lake after the rain when I was haunted by what happened. Whoever it was would be back and they would hurt more of my animals. I just needed to find out who and stop them.