On today’s spotlight, we have Hunter Frost’s States of Love novella, Cemeteries by Moonlight. I’m looking forward to reading it too. Enjoy the excerpt!
When a serious bout of writer’s block threatens to delay mystery author Drew Daniels’s newest book, his aunt offers her New Orleans apartment in the heart of the French Quarter as a writing retreat. She neglects to mention that it’s occupied by the enigmatic and sexy Finn Murphy, a cemetery tour guide with a penchant for Victorian attire and a Cajun accent.
A body discovered in an open crypt forces reclusive Drew to deal with Finn’s eccentric group of friends and his underlying attraction to the hot Cajun—despite warnings about Finn’s violent past. Drew might write this stuff, but he’s never had to solve a real-life murder. With a deadline looming and a killer on the loose, this retreat is proving to be anything but helpful for Drew’s novel. Drew can only hope he won’t end up a tragic tale for the Ghostly Legends & Lore, Inc. haunted tour.
States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.
Hitchcock ruined birds for me.
Dad took me to see the film when I was seven years old at a theater that ran old classics. He didn’t think it would be a big deal, considering horror movies were a hell of a lot more frightening by the eighties, and I had cut my teeth on those. He was wrong. It scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t see those winged devils without imagining them trying to peck out my eyes with their sharp beaks. I hadn’t turned my back on a seagull or crow since. Didn’t help I shared the same last name as the main character, Melanie Daniels. But I was no Tippi Hedren, in more ways than one, and as I pulled up to the curb across from Royal Street, deep in the heart of the French Quarter, I told myself this wasn’t Bodega Bay, despite the large black crow perched on the apartment balcony.
At least it was alone as it stared at me, its coal black eyes reflecting the last rays of sun before the day descended into twilight. Thick strokes of orange, red, and pink painted the sky behind the two-story building in front of me, with its light gray walls, slate trim, and wrought-iron lacework lining the balcony. I had my sights set on the large car-width door off to the right side. Creole-style parking, Aunt Celia had called it. I fished the key she had sent out of my jeans pocket.
I felt the urge to tic as I got out of the car, keeping my eye on the folks who walked up and down the street, preparing for a typical Bourbon Street evening of drinking and debauchery. The urge increased, as it commonly did, like an oncoming sneeze, but I could control the Tourette’s for now. The hit I took back in Biloxi would last another hour if I took it easy.
I unlocked the garage-like door and pushed it open the rest of the way before hurrying back to my car, not wanting any curious onlookers to sneak in. With one last glance at the crow, I started the car and entered the dark passageway, as if descending into a massive crypt.
Driving forward, I slowly emerged into the light and a neglected courtyard. A small detached cottage stood to the left behind the apartment. No cars here but mine, now parked on the dirt pad amid overgrown ivy and trees.
Once I had gone back through the dark corridor on foot to secure the door, I grabbed my oversized duffel from the trunk and slung my laptop bag over my shoulder.
To get to the second-floor apartment, I had to unlock yet another door that led to a narrow stairwell where my bags buffeted the walls at every step. Finally, I reached the last entrance at the top. Three doors just to get in? I didn’t want to be ungrateful, but so far the place was more work than respite. Why couldn’t Celia have an antebellum house in the middle of the Garden District?
Once I stepped inside, I stopped whining. Stained wood floors, updated appliances, quartz countertops, open floor plan—the apartment was a renovated dream. I walked toward the windows of the balcony, bypassing the hallway to what must be the two bedrooms and bathroom. The living room had a nice deep sectional and big coffee table that I couldn’t wait to put my feet up on as I worked on my manuscript. Hell, if the weather kept up, I’d rise with the sun and write in one of the cushioned chairs on the balcony, provided that crow stayed away.
I dropped my bags and stretched my arms over my head, rolling my shoulders and neck as I admired the view of the Crescent City.
“Allô?” said a male voice behind me.
My head whipped around so fast it hurt. “Who the hell are you?” I searched the room for anything I could use as a weapon.
“That’s some attitude for a guy who just broke into my home.”
His home? I was sure my eyes widened, and I fought the urge again to tic. This had to be the right place. The address, the keys… could I disable him with a jab from my keys? I sized him up. He was taller than me and bare chested, with countless tats covering a lean and muscled body. The color of his eyes was lost in the shadows, which for some reason disappointed me, and his hair was dark and short, gelled straight up. He wore low-slung basketball shorts in navy blue, red, and gold. New Orleans Pelicans colors. And he held a laundry basket filled with clothes down against his thighs. Not very threatening. However, the most captivating part about him was the gigantic tattoo near his hip: an ornately handled dagger that disappeared into the waistband of his shorts.
He cleared his throat, and I tore my gaze from his body, my cheeks heating.
“This is my Aunt Celia’s place. She told me I could use it for the month.”
“Oh, she did, did she?” He snorted and shook his head. “You must be Drew. The writer?”
“How did you—?”
“She brags about her talented neveu all the time.”
“Nephew?” I asked, hoping I understood the Cajun French he threw at me. He nodded. “She must have another one, then,” I deadpanned.
He smiled, white teeth breaching sexy lips. Definitely no longer a threat. Or at least now a different kind of threat.
“She led me to believe the apartment was vacant.”
“Doesn’t surprise me. No offense, but the woman may be a few cards short of a full deck. I think her memory might be slipping.”
I sighed. After driving all this way and rearranging my life to be here. Damn it, Celia. “So you rent the place?”
He let go of the basket, and it landed at his feet with a thud. “At a total steal. But don’t tell her that.”
I laughed, more at my shit luck than anything else, and ran a hand through my hair. I suppressed another urge to tic.
He raised one eyebrow. “I’m not using the second bedroom.”
He had such an unusual drawl. Like some sort of Parisian Matthew McConaughey.
“I thought about making it into something, maybe a big dressing room, but I’ve never gotten around to it.” He shrugged. “It’s still furnished.”
I looked at him. He didn’t know me. I didn’t even know his name. And I couldn’t stop staring at that tattoo.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Hunter’s early addiction to the smell of printed books led her to spend most of her childhood in libraries and bookstores. There she fell in love with stories featuring medieval castles, ghosts, and handsome heroes. Though writing has always been a part of her life, after college she went on to explore careers in graphic design, the culinary arts, and dog grooming before returning to graduate school to get her MA in British history. To pay the bills she spends her days working for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but to appease her overactive muse, she writes the kind of fiction that keeps her sane. She adores romance in all forms, but prefers her stories with two heroes that find their happily-ever-after with each other.
Hunter would rather watch Spaceballs (or any Mel Brooks movies really), despite being born in the same year as Star Wars. She loves Monty Python, MST3K, and cheesy rom-coms from the ’80s and ’90s. Her wacky sense of humor is only paralleled by her hopeless romanticism. She’s a goth at heart and a sucker for men with long hair. She adores everything British, but insists tea be drunk without milk. She’s a pescetarian with vegan tendencies and has two fat little cats named after her favorite beverage – Latte and Java. She dreams of coastal living, marshmallows, and Matt Bomer.
Feel free to connect with her through any of her social media accounts, or send her an email. She welcomes messages from readers and/or Brits looking to adopt.
Fridays with Friends & Favorites is a weekly post featuring authors, designers, editors, and anyone else brave enough to show up. And sometimes, my favorite book of the week might take the spotlight.