• Genre: Psychological thriller, suspense
  • Content Warning: Themes of violence and torture, foul language, and ambiguous ending ahead
  • Disclaimer: This is a complete work of fiction and in no way represents how hypnosis actually works.

I grabbed my keys and waved goodbye to my best friend.  “Don’t wait up,” I winked.

“The Grim Reaper again?  You’ve been seeing a lot of him lately.”

My bestie and roommate, Lexie, had resorted to calling the guy I’ve been seeing of late “The Grim Reaper” based on his love for all things dark and twisted.  If Halloween were a person, my boyfriend would be an accurate representation of it.  He’s actually famous for running the nation’s most extreme haunted house.

“His name is Dane.”

“Yeah whatever,” she replied.  He’s rich and hot.  Like, ‘gentlemanly hot’ if you know what I mean.  Those guys are the ones you have to watch out for.  They got a lot of kink on lockdown, but once that tie comes off it usually ends up around your throat.”

“One could hope.” I closed the front door behind me and drove to where I was meeting Dane. 

Tonight’s date was a nighttime hike through the local woods, allegedly haunted by the ghost of a woman named Diana.  The sun had set, and the sky was growing increasingly dark as I passed the empty guard shack at the entrance to the park.  It appeared I was the only one there as I navigated the winding road that ended in the parking lot. Dense trees lined the way, a thick canopy of leaves closing out whatever trace of light still hung on from the day.  Finally, my headlights illuminated Dane’s Corvette parked in the corner of the lot, just off the trail.

Dane was casually leaning against his car.  Gentlemanly indeed, I thought to myself.  He was usually dressed in a suit and tie but appeared to have “dressed down” for our hike. He stood tall and solid in a pressed, black button-down shirt untucked from black jeans.  His sleeves were rolled up exposing muscular forearms.  Every strand of his dark hair seemed to be in place, and his perfectly straight, white teeth flashed behind perfectly shaped lips. Dane may have been the crispest, cleanest, sexiest person I’ve ever known.  He exuded power, authority, and control at all times.

“Sara, you look amazing,” he said, taking me into his arms. His subtle, masculine scent intoxicated me. His fingers tangled into my long, deep-purple hair, and his lips found mine.  We stood there kissing at the edge of a haunted forest, under the moon, for what felt like forever.  I was lost in bliss. 

I reluctantly pulled away, slipping my arms into a long, dark grey sweater, closing it over my black tank top.  With my form-fitting black pants, we were almost matching.  Like all-black was some sort of unofficial uniform for ghost hunting or something.

Dane switched on his flashlight.  The tiny strip of light illuminated our dirt path while the shadows closed in around us.  I followed Dane into the tree line, feeling completely safe and at ease with him near me.  Mostly because we had already agreed that if a ghost or demon did happen to appear, I would hand him over as a sacrifice and run like hell.  Honestly though, in all of my macabre adventures, I’ve never actually seen a ghost or a demon.  I was more afraid of running into a rabid raccoon than Diana of the Dunes.

Leaves crunched beneath our feet as we went deeper into the woods.  I expected to hear crickets or racoons moving around, but the world was deathly still.  I thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eyes.  My adrenaline was pumping, and I wasn’t sure if there was truly danger laying ahead, or if I was just working myself up.  Probably the latter, I was known for being a little dramatic at times.  Either way, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was about to go down.

Dane grabbed me unexpectedly, throwing me up against the tree.  His lips found mine in the darkness. My senses reeled at the excitement of the moment, and my hands tangled into his hair.  His muscular fingers slid up my neck and tightened around my throat, squeezing ever so slightly.

“Is this okay?” his gruff, low voice whispered next to my ear.

I figured it was since I had goosebumps over every inch of my skin and my insides were tingling with anticipation. 

He pressed his hard body into mine and grabbed a handful of my hair, roughly pulling my head back exposing my neck, alternating between licks and bites.  I tried to slide my hands around his waist, but he grabbed both my wrists and pinned them against the tree over my head.

That night we didn’t find any ghosts.  But right there, in the middle of the woods, I had the wildest, most animalistic sex I’ve ever known in my life.


            “I can’t believe you’re still seeing that psychopath,” Lexie had said, looking up from the book she was reading.

“He’s not psycho.”  I didn’t understand her aversion to him, she hadn’t even met him.  Lexie actually thought that was odd, but Dane was just a busy guy, and at this time of year his haunted house kept him busy.  He was in high demand, doing at least two shows a week.  That’s what he called them.

People from all over the world would apply for a shot to make it through his extreme haunted house.  No one ever had ever succeeded, though.  It was just too intense.

“He just seems a little off,” Lexie pushed. “I don’t know how you can’t see it.  I mean, who runs a torture chamber for fun?”

“It’s not a torture chamber, it’s an extreme haunted house, and it’s wildly popular.  Dane told me I could give it a try if I wanted to,” I had told my friend.

“You’re insane,” she had replied.

Which I figure must be pretty accurate.  How else could I explain that I was out in the middle of nowhere, sipping wine in Dane’s living room, preparing to try my hand at a haunted house so extreme I had to sign a fifty-page waver?

The things I had just signed over permission for this man to do to me was unlike anything I’d ever given permission for in my life.  Shaving my head, pulling out my teeth, ripping out my nails, and injecting me with a needle?  Dane assured me it was all just bluster, adding to the psychological aspect of the show.  Everything was recorded and livestreamed, with people all over the world betting on when each contestant would tap out.  It had to be on the up-and-up or this man would be in jail, right?  Plus, he was my boyfriend.  Of course I trusted him.

Dane returned to the living room, rolling up his sleeves.  The muscles in his forearms flexed, and I had a vivid flashback of him pinning me down by the throat as he had me in ways I’d never been had before.

My life had been so boring these last few years.  So vanilla.  And Dane was the pop of wild flavor I needed.

“All finished signing?” he asked, taking the wavers from me.

“Yep.  I’m all yours.  Do with me what you will,” I teased.

“Oh, I plan to,” he said with a slightly devilish tone in his voice.  He gently grabbed my throat and devoured my lips slowly and sensuously.

“So when do we start?” I asked as soon as he let me have my mouth back.


I finished my drink and attempted to find the bathroom.  I’d been here once before, but the glass of wine hit me hard for some reason.  I was a little disoriented and stumbled into Dane’s office instead.

I struggled to focus through the haze.  This couldn’t be right.  There were several large monitors hanging around the room.  On each screen was a person in various forms of torture.  There was no sound that I could hear, but a girl on one screen had her bloody mouth open in a silent scream as a masked man pulled her teeth out one by one.

My eyes slid to the next screen where a woman was being dragged by the hair and repeatedly kicked in the ribs as she cried out for help.

On the next screen was an empty room.  It appeared dark and moldy.  The camera focused on a rusty tub filled with brown, murky water. I could only imagine what went on in that room.

“Sara, this isn’t the bathroom,” Dane chided in a calm tone.  He was leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed casually, as though the disturbing images weren’t playing out right there in the room.

“What is this?” I asked.  But I already knew.  This was the livestream of his show.  The show I just signed up to be on. “I want out.”

“Already?”  He sounded disappointed.



“What do you mean ‘No’?” I asked, my words slurring way too much for someone who only had one glass of wine.

“Sara,” Dane advanced closer, sounding ominous, “I thought you trusted me.  I already have bets on when you’ll tap out.  I can’t disappoint my customers; they’ll take their money elsewhere and I have bills to pay.”

I glanced to the monitor with the girl getting her teeth ripped out.  She seemingly passed out, as she hung limply from the chains that bound her wrists, blood slowly stringing out of her mouth and onto the ground.

The other girl was getting roughed up by some masked men.  They were smacking her around and ripping her mouth open with violent fishhooks.

“Well I’m tapping out now,” I tried to say, but my words weren’t coming out right. “I’m out.” I tried again.

“Remember, Sara, everything you see here is just an illusion I’ve created to test the limits of your mind.  You can do this.”

I could barely focus but was vaguely aware of Dane speaking to me.  He touched my forehead, and then slid his hand down my shoulder.  My body went limp, and everything went dark.  I felt my hands being tied behind my back and a sense of being dragged out of the monitor room.

I must’ve blacked out because my surroundings came into focus, and I most certainly was not in the room I thought I was in.  It smelled musty and stagnant, as though real, clean oxygen hadn’t found this room in decades.  I was on the cold, damp floor, propped up against the tub I had seen on the monitor.  A masked man emerged from the shadows.

“Dane?” I asked, my stomach turning.  I was done with this game already.

The masked man approached me and grabbed me roughly by the hair, forcing me to look up into his eyes.  They weren’t Dane’s eyes.  These eyes were blank, dark, and sadistic.  It was like looking into the eyes of a demon.

“Dane said you’re mine now.”  His voice was harsh and full of malice.  “I’ve got free reign, and by the time I’m done with you, you’ll wish you’d never heard of this place.”

He lifted me up without any effort at all and tossed me into the tub headfirst.  With my hands still tied tightly behind my back, it was difficult to right myself.  I gulped water, choking violently as I tried to spin around and sit up out of the filthy water.  It smelled like death.

Inhaling stagnant air and coughing water out from the back of my throat I yelled at the masked man.  “Stop!  I’m done, I’m tapping out.”

He grabbed me by the throat and squeezed, but not in a hot way.  In a completely sadistic way.  Slowly, he pushed my head down closer to the dirty water.  I fought to stay upright, but the water was slimy, and I had no leverage.  I had no free hands to grab onto anything.

The water tickled the back of my head, closing in over my forehead and chin.  My cheeks felt the ice-cold water and the masked man went blurry as the murky liquid closed in over my eyes.  I took a breath just before my mouth and nose went under.

The masked man held me down far longer than I could hold my breath, and I began thrashing around as the need for oxygen consumed me.  But he held me firmly under the water.  I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and I choked and gasped as the death-water filled my lungs.  A fire burned in my chest and panic consumed me.  I was going to die.  This man was going to kill me.

He jerked me up out of the water, and I coughed and sputtered in his face.  I wanted out and I tried to tell him that, but he shoved me back under the water.

I hadn’t had a chance to take a good breath, so I was already choking.  He brought me back out and then down again, his sadistic face coming into and out of focus as he ruthlessly half drowned me, half choked me.  I wondered who hurt him.  Who made him a monster that got off on doing this to me?  He was smiling, enjoying this little game as I tried desperately to hold onto life.

“Dane!” I screamed out.

The masked man laughed.  “Dane! Dane!” he mocked.  He grabbed me by the mouth and squeezed tightly, hurting my jaw.  “Dane can’t help you.  Don’t you get it?  You asked for this.”

He pried my mouth open with his dirty, salty fingers and shoved a substance that smelled like actual feces down my throat, gagging me before shoving my face back under water.  It was at that point that I blacked out.


I’m not sure how much time passed between when everything went dark, and when I came to, but I was back in Dane’s living room.  He was smiling at me.  “How are you liking my mansion so far?”

I stood; brows furrowed.  “It sucks you asshole!  I want out.”

“But you’re doing so well, Love.”

“I almost died in there!  That man tried to drown me.”

He laughed. “Nobody was drowning you, Sara.  You were under hypnosis.  We just made you think you were drowning.”

“But it was so real!”

“How could your hair and clothes be completely dry if you were just moments away from drowning?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because you were never actually in any water.  We just tricked you into thinking you were.”

Valid point, both my hair and my clothes were dry.

“Please, stay,” he motioned for me to sit back down.  “My money is on you lasting much longer than the first round.”

“This isn’t fun.”

“It’s not supposed to be fun; it’s supposed to be terrifying.  That’s the challenge.”

I considered my options as he stood and closed the distance between us.  His lips turned up into a sensual half-smile.  “Don’t you know I’d never hurt you?”

I mean, yeah, but I also didn’t enjoy feeling like death was coming for me.  He kissed me.  “I believe in you, you’ve got this.”

Dane touched my forehead and slid his hand down my shoulder, and once again a hazy calm came over me, my body went limp, and darkness closed in.  “You can do this, Sara.”

When I came back around, Dane was gone and a masked man towered over me.  Grabbing me roughly by the hair, he dragged me out of the room.  We went down the hall and around the corner where the light on the ceiling was flickering on and off.  He opened another door and threw me into a room filled with other people in various forms of consciousness.  All of them looked like hell.

The ceiling fan spun over the dim lightbulbs, creating a strobe light effect in the small room.  What appeared to be blood smears covered the dirty walls.  Some of the more conscious people were crying, some were moaning, while others writhed in pain.  I stepped over the bodies and made my way over to the closest wall.  I sat on the floor wondering how long I’d be in there.  A girl about my age crawled over an unconscious body that probably should’ve been checked for a pulse.  Her eye was dark and swollen shut.  Dried blood clung to her chin.

“This is intense,” she said, settling in next to me.

“This is bullshit, is what it is,” I replied.

She shook her head in agreement. “Yeah, maybe, but I’m going to be the first to make it to the end.  I’m going to earn that money.”

“Nobody makes it to the end,” I told her.

“Well, I’m gonna.”  She leaned against the wall, not seeming to mind the blood she was touching.  “It’s all just a game.  It’s mostly an illusion.”

I didn’t want to break it to her, but her face didn’t look illusory to me.  I’m pretty sure she was legitimately banged up.  How could Dane allow something like this to happen to her?  I don’t care if she signed a waver, this was extreme.  Unless…maybe she was an actress in costume and make-up.  Maybe she was part of the illusion?  That would make so much more sense than Dane being a psychopath.

I examined her face as best I could in the dim flashing lights.  It could be make-up.  Yeah, I was pretty sure it was make-up.  She was good, really had me going!  All of the people in there probably worked for Dane!  I relaxed a little.

The door opened and two masked men filled the frame.  One came in and grabbed the girl next to me.  She winced in pain but quickly regained her composure.  “Here we go again,” she said, winking at me with her good eye.  The masked man punched her in the back of the head as he shoved her violently out the door.  The second masked man walked to me, his heavy footsteps warning of impending doom.

He lifted me up on my feet with barely any effort at all.  I found myself staring into zombie eyes a shade of blue so light and icy they were almost white.  He dragged me out into the flickering hallway and slammed my head into the wall before shoving me to the floor.  I’d never been hypnotized before, but this sure felt real to me.  Pain seared through my head, and my shoulders burned as he pulled my arms behind my back, duct taping my wrists together.  It was painfully tight, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of calling out in agony.  I reminded myself it was all an elaborate illusion as he taped my ankles together, then brought them up to the middle of my back, taping them to my wrists.  I had zero leverage to move or stabilize myself and was now completely at his mercy.

He stuck the loose end of the duct tape to my temple, then wound the roll around and around my head to cover my eyes.  I had no mobility, and now my vision was taken from me.  I heard the familiar sound of duct tape ripping from the spool right before my mouth was taped in the same fashion as my eyes had been.

I felt the ground fall out from under me as he lifted me and dropped me on a cold, hard surface.  I could only guess I was being moved to another location as wheels bumped and squealed beneath me.  Multiple screams could be heard from around the house.  Maniacal laughter echoed from somewhere nearby before the sounds all disappeared in the distance.

I tried to control my breathing as panic began to tug at my lungs.  Dane wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.  I’d spent enough time with him to know he was a good guy.  This was all just part of the illusion.  It had to be.

The surface I was on stopped rolling, and a solid click echoed around me, followed by a creak of possibly a door opening.  Freezing cold air flowed over my body and I was pushed inside, an icy chill consuming every inch of me.  A door slammed loudly, and I sensed I was all alone.  At least I hoped I was.

Time seemed to stand still as my body violently shivered.  Eventually, my breathing seemed to slow as I felt more exhausted by the second.  This cold was sucking the life out of me.  Was this how I was going to die?  Where was Dane?

After what seemed like forever, the door opened, and I felt myself being wheeled out.  I was too tired and confused to try moving.  Someone grabbed me roughly by a chunk of my hair, ripping my head up into an unnatural position.  My skin stung as the duct tape was torn from my face, pulling out my eyelashes in the process.  My eyelids stretched beyond normal capacity, and clumps of my hair remained on the duct tape as it was discarded in a brightly lit hallway.  My eyes revolted against the harsh intrusion of light and tears blurred my vision.

A twisted, sadistic clown stood in front of me, its razor-sharp teeth pulled back in a grotesque, permanent smile.  He unbound me and ripped the last of the duct tape from my lips, leaving it tangled in a clump of my hair at the back of my head.  He pulled his fist back and punched me right in the mouth.  The hit didn’t hurt immediately.  Instead, a numbness settled in as the taste of blood touched my tongue.  My heart pounded in my chest, my frozen body too weak to fight.  He landed a second violent hit to my nose and more blood began to trickle down my face.

He lifted me gently, a confusing move under the current circumstances.  I dared to hope he had found some compassion for me.  But that hope was destroyed as he placed me into a small, metal chest.  I’d never been claustrophobic, but this chest was so small and restrictive I began to panic.  It was already so difficult to breathe through what I can only assume was a broken nose, but now it felt like an elephant was standing on my chest.  My body was so drained, and my mind was so numb I didn’t think I could take anymore.

“Please, make it stop,” I whispered.

He slowly lifted a finger to his frozen smile in an ominous gesture of silence.  He lifted the lid off a bucket and hovered the bucket over me.  He began tilting it and I prayed it wasn’t water again.  I couldn’t handle any more water torture.

But it wasn’t water.  Instead, hundreds of spiders cascaded out of the bucket, dropping down into the chest with me.  I could feel them sliding down my skin and crawling over my face.  I wanted to thrash around and stand up, but my movements were so slow and I lacked coordination.  It’s just an illusion, it’s just an illusion, I repeated to myself trying my best to remain calm. The demented clown sealed the glass lid on the chest.  I opened my mouth, and a scream from the very depths of my soul poured out.  In a pure panic, I slipped blissfully into darkness.


I opened my eyes and looked around the room.  I was in a huge luxurious bed, tucked under a cozy down comforter.  Sunlight poured in through the open window, a crisp fall breeze rustled the sheer drapes.

“Good morning, sleepyhead!” Dane’s husky voice called out from the doorway.

I sat up clutching the covers to my chest.  “I want to go home!” I practically screamed trying not to cry.

“Okay,” Dane replied.  “You’re free to leave.”

I jumped out of bed and realized I was only wearing an oversized t-shirt.  “Where the hell are my clothes?”

Dane motioned to a chair in the corner of his room.  “Don’t worry, I didn’t take advantage.  I just didn’t want you in my bed with dirty clothes.”

“What the hell is going on here?  I feel like I’m losing my mind!”  I stomped across the room to my clothes.

“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” Dane smiled.  “You are fucking killing it out there.  I’m banking here.  You’ve exceeded expectations!”

“I got my ass kicked by one of your criminal employees!  He busted up my face, poured spiders over me, and locked me in a freezer.  Do you think I give a damn about your profits?  You’re sick.”

“Sara,” Dane’s voice was gentle, “I told you, it’s all an illusion.  I’m a hypnotist and a Psychological Operations Specialist.  I’m an expert in the field of mind control.  I would never put you in any actual danger.”

“I saw the spiders, Dane!  I felt them.  I can still feel them.”

“They were plastic spiders.  I just made you think they were real.”

“My busted up, bloody face was real,” I snarked, just as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  My face was perfectly fine, and come to think of it, I didn’t have any pain.  If I had really been roughed up the way I remembered there’s no chance I wouldn’t see or feel some kind of evidence of it.

Dane smiled as I ran my fingers over my perfectly fine mouth and nose.  “I told you, Love.  It’s all pretend.”

I snapped out of my reflection.  “I don’t care.  I’m out.  And also, I think we should see other people.”  I grabbed my clothes off the chair.  Noticing all the blood stains on my shirt, I lifted it to show him while I glared.

“It’s fake blood.  I buy buckets of it.  I need the props to help convince your mind the illusion I’m creating is real.”

“Why do my clothes smell like old urine and shit?”

“More props, Sara.”

Wow, he really took this stuff seriously.  “Whatever, get out, I need to get dressed.”

Dane left the room closing the door softly behind him.  Once I was dressed, I opened the door and saw the long dark hallway to my left, and the living room to my right.  Oddly enough, the constant screams weren’t present.  Everything was quiet and seemingly normal.  I walked to the living room and retrieved my purse.  It was right where I’d left it.

“It’s a shame you can’t stay,” Dane said from his leather chair.  “You’ve done so well, people are betting you’ll make it all the way.  I’m one of them.”

“I don’t know how to put this nicely, but I don’t give a fuck.”

“I understand you’re upset.  Our minds can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality.  It’s a fact I manipulate expertly.  Even though you were never in any real danger, your mind has been through a lot.”

“That’s an understatement.”  I walked to the door.

“If you stay until the end, I’ll give you one million dollars.”

I stopped to process what he just said.  While I couldn’t care less about his profits, I was certainly interested in mine.  Who couldn’t use a million dollars?  “I’m sorry, what?”

“If you leave I’ll lose, but if you stay, I’ll make enough money to share with you.  And you’re never actually going to be in any real danger.  I just need your mind to stay strong for a while longer.  You’re almost to the end.”

“This is twisted.”  I couldn’t believe I was actually considering staying.

“Yeah, the dark web is a fucked-up place.”

I ran my hands over my face to loosen up my tense muscles.  My lips weren’t swollen, my nose wasn’t broken. It had clearly all been in my head.  Was I strong enough to finish this?  The stakes were high.  I’m not sure what you would do, but I put my purse down.

“I told you this was intense,” he said.

“Just make it quick, Dane.”

“I promise I will.  You stay strong, and I’ll keep you safe.  You know, you’ll be the first to ever make it through the mansion.”

I glared at him and then excused myself to use the restroom.

As I reached for the soap, I discovered a small, tender bruise on the back of my hand, just over my vein.  I caught the vague reflection of a digital clock in the mirror and turned around to face it.

This couldn’t be right.  The digital date was three weeks ahead of the date I believed it to be.  How could this be?  Did I lose time?  How long had I been out?  I assumed it had been overnight, but according to this clock…

I examined the bruise over my vein.  Something was wrong.  If this much time had really passed, Lexie would’ve come looking for me, so it must be an illusion.  I looked at the clock again.  What if she had come looking for me and now she was trapped in here too?  “What is happening to me?” I asked out loud.  There was a knock on the door followed by Dane’s voice.  “Are you okay, Sara?”

“No!”  The door opened and Dane stood there with the masked, zombie-eyed guy to his right, and the creepy clown to his left. 

“How long was I unconscious, Dane?”

“Just overnight.”

“Then why does the clock say…”

Dane gently touched my forehead.  “What clock?”

I glanced over where the clock had been, but it was just a blank wall.

Dane slid his hand down my shoulder.  My body went limp, and everything went black.


When the blur finally cleared from my eyes, I looked around the dark, damp room.  Rusty pipes of various sizes littered the ground.  A single, dim lightbulb swung from the ceiling.  My wrists were shackled above my head, my heels lifted off the ground, with only the balls of my feet to support my weight.

The masked, zombie-eyed man sauntered over to me, his figure blending with the shadows, and something metal glinting in his dirty hands. “I brought out the new pliers for you,” he said, as though I should be grateful.

He moved closer to me, and I was suddenly aware of how small I really was.  He reached out and squeezed my face.  I was still a little groggy as I tried to shake my head free, but he was relentless.

The creepy clown emerged from the darkness and they pried my mouth open, inserting a device that forced my jaws wider than was comfortable.  Zombie-eyes brought the pliers to my mouth as I protested, my body shaking, and tears streaming down my face.

I heard the tooth cracking in my head as the searing pain exploded through my gums and into my whole face. The taste of blood overwhelmed my tongue before spilling from my lips, and my stomach revolted, as the sadistic monsters removed the next tooth.  I screamed until my throat burned and my lungs were completely used and empty.  My long, matted purple hair stuck to the wetness on my face.

“Her damn hair is everywhere,” the clown complained.

“Get rid of it then,” the masked man answered.

Clown disappeared into the shadows, and the unmistakable sound of the clippers filled the musty air.  My head was snapped backward with a rough pull of my hair, and Clown was behind me, half pulling, half shaving random clumps of my hair off.

The masked man brought the pliers back up to my mouth. “No,” I cried, blood-soaked spit spraying onto his face.

His wild eyes widened, and his lips turned down in disgust.  He wiped my blood off his face then examined it on his fingers.  “You bitch!”  He brought his fist back and landed a punch to my face.  Everything went black before the pain even registered.


I once heard that people under extreme stress sometimes exhibit superhuman strength.  As they undid my chains and lowered my battered body down to the ground, this unexplainable strength was brewing inside me.  Deep in the pit of my stomach, growing in intensity like a spark that was destined to turn into a wildfire, destroying everything in its path.  I wasn’t going to die like this.  No fucking way.

The two bastards were a few feet away with their backs to me, discussing something that I couldn’t hear.  Pure adrenaline surged through my veins as I discreetly wrapped my hand around a spare pipe laying just within my reach.  I slowly moved it closer to myself, doing my best not to draw their attention.

I stood unnoticed and positioned the pipe over my shoulder like a bat.  I didn’t know where my strength and courage were coming from, but by the time the two men noticed I was right behind them it was too late.  I swung with a fierceness I didn’t even know I had, and the clown, caught off-guard, went down instantly.

The zombie-eyed guy was better prepared and able to block my second swing.  He ripped the pipe from my hand and threw it behind him.  The deranged man came toward me, and with the same sadistic determination I went toward him.  He reached for me and I gripped him in a bear-hug, clinging tightly as I tore his mask off and bit into his face, tearing shreds of skin and muscle off.  He howled in pain.

“Guess you shouldn’t have left me with so many teeth,” I said, reaching up and digging into his eyes.  He squeezed them shut instinctively and grabbed at my wrists, but I was already knuckle deep into his eyes.  Blood poured out, blurring his vision, and it was at that point that I made a run for it, leaving the screams behind me.

My head was throbbing, my mouth and face numb as I made my way out of the heavy door and into a dark corridor. There was only one way out.  I peeked through the exit, and then flung the door wide open.  Fresh air filled my lungs and hope ignited as I ran into the darkness, only the soft glow of the full moon lighting my path. 

“Sara!” Dane’s voice echoed into the vast night.  “You’re too deep into hypnosis!  Come back Sara!  I can help you!”  There was an urgency I hadn’t heard from him before.

I ran into the shadows behind a shed and crouched low, trying to calculate my next move.  I was surrounded by vast, empty land.

“Sara,” Dane tried again, “please, I need to bring you out of hypnosis.”

I reached up to my hair and felt the large patches of scalp.  I tasted the blood in my mouth and traced over the swelling on my face.  I was certain this was real.  Right?

The only chance I had was to make a run for it and hope I was faster than Dane.  I bolted out of the shadows hoping I had enough of a lead to outrun him.  Dane spotted me and called out my name. 

I pushed my legs harder and faster, propelling me to speeds I’d never reached before.  My lungs burned and my heart hammered in my chest as I ran blindly through the open land in the opposite direction of Dane’s house.  I didn’t look back, fearing any delay in forward movement would cost me my life.   I didn’t know where I was going, only that I had to keep going.  There was nothing in sight, nobody around.  Just a dark, endless void.

I heard heavy steps just as I felt him grab me from behind.  I tumbled to the ground and Dane straddled me, pinning me on my back with my wrists above my head.  I had no strength, and no leverage.  The night was silent as we struggled to catch our breath.

Dane’s face was mere inches from mine.  He smiled his familiar, sexy smile, but everything about him looked different to me now.  He touched my forehead and then gently slid his hand down my shoulder. “I’ve got you Sara,” he said.  “You’re safe now.”

Paranatural Circus (Black Widow)

Wednesday Writing Prompt: Begin a story with an upbeat sentence. End the story with the same sentence, only now it’s terrifying.

black widow

She walked down the corridor, excitement and anticipation pulsed through her veins.

It had been days since Widow was onstage, so she was itching to play.  The slow, deliberate clicking of her high-heeled boots against the floor echoed like an ominous warning.  She exited the darkened hallway and stood just offstage.  Widow ran her slender fingers through long, jet-black hair, while she waited for her introduction.

The ringmaster stood under the spotlight wearing a black top hat over long, dark hair, and a black cloak that hung to the floor.  His sharp, handsome features captivated the crowd almost as much as his truly hypnotic voice.  A natural gift that was of great benefit in their particular line of work. His smile grew wide enough to reveal fangs as he introduced Widow’s act.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here at the Paranatural Circus we have an act so daringly unique, you can only witness it here!  A balancing act that combines graceful acrobatics with gravity defying stunts! The most risqué, engaging, compelling tightrope act in the entire world!  Or as some would claim, in any of the worlds.”  His piercing green eyes scanned the crowd.  These insignificant, oblivious mortals had no idea.  “Without further ado, I present to you…The Black Widow!”

The crowd erupted into applause as Widow stepped into the spotlight.  The music roared to life as she moved across the stage.  Widow lifted her blood-red lips in a tantalizing smile while she slithered into the crowd.  The beat of the music was vibrating everyone into the next level of anticipation.  Widow lived for this part of her act.  The hunt.  Eager spectators held their breath either wishing to be invisible or hoping for a chance to be part of the show.  There was no method to Widow’s choices.  Her tastes varied based on the day and her current mood.  Sometimes she chose men, sometimes women, but never…ever…children.  Not for any moral reason.  After all, Widow didn’t have any morals.  Just raw, unapologetic instinct.

She twirled around the crowd searching for her volunteer the same way a person might search for a perfectly ripened peach, briefly touching and feeling her options, waiting for one to stand out above the rest.  Then she sensed him.  His heart was beating harder than the others, so hard in fact, she could hear it even above the music.  Widow opened her mind, searching him out across the crowd until her eyes connected with his.  Poor guy didn’t stand a chance.

Widow licked her lips and appeared to teleport over to him.  The crowd applauded her magic and she reveled in her devious secret. Clueless mortals. She straddled him in his seat and lowered her mouth to his ear just as the spotlight found them.

“Well don’t you smell delicious?” she purred, inhaling his scent.  “What’s your name?”

“Bryan,” he answered.  He was unsure of where to put his hands as his date looked on from the seat next to him.

Running a blood-red, long nail gently down his cheek and under his chin, Widow guided him to stand and follow her. Bryan’s pretty little date reached out to grab him, but it was already too late.  He belonged to Widow now.

He followed her onstage, and she shoved him down into a seat facing the audience.  Twenty-five feet above them, Widow’s elaborate spiderweb-themed tightrope course hung securely. Glancing out at the audience, Widow lifted her long, slender leg, placing her high-heeled boot in Bryan’s lap.  With her inner thigh just a foot away from his face, she made a show of unzipping it, all the way from the middle of her thigh down to her ankles.  She removed her boot and threw it off to the side of the stage.

Widow twirled and shifted around Bryan to the rhythm of the music, before seductively settling her other boot intimately into his lap.  This time, she instructed him to remove it.  Bryan hesitated briefly, then his face contorted in confusion as his hands began working Widow’s zipper.  The harder he tried to resist the stronger Widow compelled him to obey.  His fingers slid slowly down the inside of her leg, gently guiding her out of the boot. Widow found his date in the audience.  She had just gathered her coat and was currently headed for the exit.  Pity she couldn’t stay for the show.

Widow smiled, flashing perfectly white teeth.  The crew helped Bryan to his feet and removed the chair from the stage while Widow discreetly put on her leather slippers.  Widow approached Bryan, sliding around to stand next to him.  She opened her hands, palms facing and fingers spread wide apart.  A subtle, red glow began to form between her hands as the music rose to a crescendo.  The audience cheered her magic on as silky webs that seemed to come from her hands began to cocoon the volunteer, starting at his feet.  Widow shivered in anticipation.  Let the show begin.

black widow

This was supposed to be a fun night.  A first date at the circus seemed like a romantic idea, but now his date was gone, and he was getting wrapped up in a prop that felt far too constricting.  Who was supposed to be regulating this?  He wasn’t even sure what he did to get up on the damned stage, or what the hell he was thinking practically undressing this stranger.  How embarrassing.  Bryan was never one to volunteer, crowds made him self-conscious.  But still, she had picked him.  Had sought him out among the crowd.  What rotten luck.  He tried to reassure himself that it would all be over with shortly, and then he could go try to salvage what was left of his date night.  If he could even find his date.

The silken web crawled up his thighs and seemed to be coming directly from Widow’s hands. Being this close, he would think he’d see some sort of contraption or device assisting this performer with her magic, but he only saw the red glow and silk thread.

The web was around his midsection when he started to worry.  He wasn’t sure how this magic trick worked, or where it was headed, but Bryan didn’t feel like being a guinea pig.  How would it look if he left the stage?  Would he ruin the show?

He was in up to his chest, with his arms pinned tightly to his sides, as the silk spun higher and higher squeezing the air out of his lungs.  Bryan was on the brink of panic.  He decided he had enough and tried to leave, but he couldn’t move.  It was like his body wasn’t his anymore, and he realized it might be more than stage fright that gripped him.  Inside his head he was screaming wildly, but in reality, no sound came forth.  In his mind’s eye, he was violently thrashing around trying to fight his way out of this cocoon, but on stage, he was paralyzed.  The silk strangled his throat before covering his useless mouth, then his nose, and then everything went dark.

Bryan could still hear and breathe, but just barely.  He’d never been claustrophobic, but damn if he didn’t feel like the world was closing in on him.  His skin crawled and his muscles itched to move.  His lungs burned for oxygen but only got the crushing weight of terror and defeat.  His heart hammered in his throat as he felt hands on his entombed body, laying him flat on the stage.  Bryan was aware of being hoisted into the air by whatever was tied around his ankles.  Probably more of that god-awful silk.  How high up was he dangling?  Did anyone sense he didn’t want to be there, or did they all continue to think this was an entertaining show?

The horrifying thought suddenly occurred to Bryan that he might not make it out of there alive.  His silent scream was only heard in the confines of his own mind.

black widow

From up on her web of ropes, the audience looked so small to Widow.  She was untouchable as she placed her feet comfortably on the lines.  The song switched to a slower, haunting tune.  The music filled her with power as she twisted and contorted in a graceful display of choreographed movement.  Her body danced seductively over the ropes, her long legs and sculpted arms flowing with the rhythm of the sensual music.

This.  This is what Widow lived for.  Sex, death, and feeding.  It was her instinct, hardwired into the very core of her being.  She couldn’t be blamed for who she was any more than the lion could be blamed for eating the gazelle.

Sex, death, and feeding.  She continued to dance, gliding over the ropes, making use of the entire web.  Her body, the music, and the lights were all in perfect harmony, captivating the audience below.

Sex, death, and feeding.  Her next thrill hung cocooned just below her, helplessly dangling and at her mercy.  She wet her lips.

Widow slid headfirst down the line of silk that connected Bryan to her ropes.  The audience gasped and sat on the edge of their seats as she slid further down the silk and closer to the human-shaped cocoon.  When she reached him, she ignited a powerful flash of smoke, concealing the two of them from the audience.

She wrapped herself around Bryan, gripping him tightly between her thighs, and teleported offstage, cocoon and all.  The smoke cleared revealing their absence.  The last thing Widow heard was the thunderous roar of an entertained crowd.

Backstage, it was time to retreat to her dressing room.  Widow said “goodnight” to the crew and began dragging her cocooned volunteer by his ankles.

Sex, death, and feeding.  Widow was starving.

She walked down the corridor, excitement and anticipation pulsed through her veins.

What is The Facination With Vampires


My latest novel, Vital Spark, is a vampire romance set in New Orleans.  I’ve been a fan of mythical vampires since long before Twilight oversaturated the market.  In all the novels I’ve read, I never really questioned what it was that made the vampires so appealing.

Obviously they are written as gorgeous, so there’s that.  Then there’s the idea of superhuman strength and speed, which creates a situation that would make anyone feel safe and protected, and that’s a nice feeling.  Some people are a sucker for a tortured soul, which could also explain some of the facination.  A lot of us can relate to having that “darker side” of ourselves.  We bury it and struggle to keep it contained, but we all have our inner demons.

Then I got to thinking, what is it that most people fear?  Death.  And also aging, because that seems to lead to death.  But with just a little bite, a vampire can give you the gift of immortality and eternal youth.  The older I get, the more I realize there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for eternal youth.  Maybe not botox though, I’ve seen some pictures. But I have to do something because it’s not going to be pretty you guys…


A vampire can ease your biggest fears.  Can you imagine what you would do if you knew you couldn’t die?  I’d eat two pounds of bacon for breakfast every morning.  And a stick of butter covered in sugar.

I always say it would suck to live forever.  At some point, I’ll want to move on to the next realm so I can start haunting people or whatever.  But I can bet that on my deathbed, I’ll be screaming for Dracula.

What do you think?  Would immortality be a blessing or a curse?

It’s the Most Difficult Part of Being a Writer

No, not coming up with the idea.  That part is fun and easy.  I can come up with a million story ideas, and every now and then, one of them is actually pretty good!

snoopy dark and stormy

The next part is turning that good idea into at least sixty-thousand words.  If you know me, you know that I can talk for days…months, even!  It’s entirely possible that one day I’ll get started, and never actually stop.  So this part is not the most difficult part of being a writer for me.  Sure there are times when scene A doesn’t connect so easily to scene B, but eventually, a bridge is built and everything flows together.

snoopy plot

Then there’s the re-write.  It’s a little boring, in my opinion, because the novelty of getting your story written has passed, and now you’re left cleaning up your mess.  And I can leave one, big, hot mess.  It’s a lot of work, but not the hardest part, for me.

snoopy paris

Editing is a nightmare, I’ve made no attempt at hiding the fact that I detest editing.  Even saying the word “edit” makes me throw up in my mouth.  But I can push through and do my best.

snoopy edit.jpg

Then there’s the part where I have to come up with a title for my novel.  This part is only slightly worse than a root canal, but still not the most difficult part of being a writer.

snoopy title 2.jpg

After all that and a little more, it turns out the hardest part of being a writer, at least for me, is the marketing!  Nobody warned me how hard it would be.

First of all, I’m just a drop in the ocean over here!  I’m barely noticeable in a room of ten, much less a sea of millions.  It’s hard to stand out against a backdrop of so many fantastic writers.

Second, I’ve been conditioned to be humble and not brag.  A popular saying when I was growing up was “nobody likes a show-off” and that lesson really stuck.  So I’m supposed to be over here saying things like “Check out my awesome new book, I guarantee you’ll love it!” or “I really outdid myself this time, you have to read this!” or “Get your copy of the best book ever written!”  But inside my head it’s more like “Check this out if you want!” or “This one might be pretty good and if you think you might like to give it a chance that would be super!” or “I feel really bad asking you to buy this, I wish I could give it to you for free just in case you think it sucks.”  But according to my husband, that’s just bad marketing, and he’s a Virgo so he thinks he knows everything and, frustratingly enough, he’s usually right.

And lastly, I grew up in the Catholic school system, where (back then) from a very young age we were conditioned to believe that everything we did was a sin, and all of our choices are wrong and shameful.  I hear it’s a lot different these days, however, I did not escape without my fair share of guilt issues.  So anytime I ask someone to “like” and “share” anything promoting my book, I get heart palpitations over the fact that I’m asking them for something.  Like, no one owes me anything, what right do I have to bother them with my personal business?  And Lord forbid they don’t “like” or “share” because then I just know I’ve crossed a line and must hang my selfish head in shame.

Who knew promoting yourself was such a hard thing to do?  It feels uncomfortable and unnatural, and I wish it wasn’t a part of being a writer.  Maybe after my fifty-seventh novel, it’ll be less painful.

Thank you for letting me be honest!

Vital Spark: A FREE Peek Just For You!

Vital Spark Banner

Happy book release day!!!  Vital Spark is now available for purchase on Amazon!

In honor of book release day, I’m sharing the first two chapters of the novel for free.  So, check out your free sample of Vital Spark and if you like what you read, you can buy my latest novel, Vital Spark right here!  It’s available in both the Kindle and paperback editions.

Thank you for your consideration!  Happy reading!


Things I Would Rather Do Than Title a Novel

What happens when you pull his finger?
Longmire Does Romance Novels

My favorite part of writing a novel is creating the first draft.  With reckless abandon, I can type out anything I want, no matter how stupid it might be, because I know the first draft will never be seen by anyone but me.  I can unleash the creative monster in me and then reign in the insanity little by little with each rewrite.

I’m not a fan of editing.  Like, at all.  While I’m very particular about “your” and “you’re,” “there” and “their,” or “to and too,” everything else pretty much goes to hell in a handbasket.  I’m fairly decent at making crap up, but grammar and punctuation are not my strengths, and as an indie author, I don’t have thousands of dollars to pay a real actual editor.  (Which reminds me, how much are kidneys going for on the black market?  Asking for a friend…)

But figuring out a title for my novel is, by far, my least favorite part of being a writer.  Now, I’ve done some difficult things in my life.  I’ve squeezed some rather large-headed babies out of my teeny tiny girl-parts.  I’ve been through a divorce and I was a single mom for a bit.  I had to leave my newborn in intensive care for just over a month.  I’m a Marine Mom, I’ve had teeth pulled, and I survived Catholic school. I’ve even watched about thirty minutes of The Royal Tenenbaums, and believe me, that was extraordinarily difficult.  But every time I need to come up with a title that sums up a novel I’ve written, it’s just too hard.

So here is a list of five things I would rather do than title my novels.

  1. Vaginally deliver a giant, breech porcupine.
  2. Solve an algebra problem.  Sober.
  3. Lick a U.S. dollar bill.
  4. Get an enema.
  5. Get kicked in the face by a donkey wearing baseball cleats.

What do you hate most about your job?

The Search History of a Writer

I’ve always searched any topic without a second thought while writing my novels. Because who wouldn’t search “how long would it take to bleed out if your wrists were slit and you’re hanging upside down?” (A little odd for a romance author, sure, but I needed to know.)

It wasn’t until I searched “what kind of explosives would most effectively blow up a church” that I realized I might be red flagged by almost every U.S. federal agency. For the record, the church in my novel was abandoned, save for a vampire meeting that was taking place.

So I took a moment to review my search history. Here are a few things that might look bad if someone didn’t know I write fiction.

– Best blade to effectively decapitate a head

– Amount of explosives needed to blow up a brick building

– Where can you buy detonation cord (Quick shout out to the ATF- in case you’re watching!)

– Are feral pigs dangerous

– Can you ride an alligator (This one was just for my own curiosity.)

– How much blood can a person lose before they die

– Does a severed human arm float in water

– Can a vampire have babies with a human

It’s amazing, the things you learn while writing a story. I know a lot about airboats and how to drive them. I’m not sure what to do with that. I know what to do in the event of an alligator attack. I’m not sure why an alligator would be hanging around the Midwest, but you never know.

When I die, I’ll need someone to clear my search history for me. On second thought, leave it there. It’ll be more fun that way.

What’s the oddest thing in your search history that you’re willing to admit? Share in the comments!

Something About New Orleans

So, I’m getting ready to wrap up my latest novel, a paranormal romance set in New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter. I had the unexpected privilege of visiting the area last year, and along with a few souvenirs, I walked away with inspiration like I’ve never known.

I’m not much of a “city girl.” The fast pace, overcrowded, maze of buildings is overwhelming, and people who poop in the streets make me nervous. I’ve been forced to visit Chicago on many occasions, and San Diego once. I never had any desire to visit New Orleans. The only things I knew about New Orleans I learned from watching reruns of “Cops.” Beads, a million rowdy people screaming and vomiting in the streets, and one of the highest crime rates in our nation isn’t really my scene. I’m more of a get-lost-in-the-trees, sleep-under-the-stars kind of girl. But as usual in life, fate had other plans.

When I first heard I would be forced (by my husband) to visit New Orleans, I started my research. First I Googled “is it legal to murder your husband if he’s making you go into the city.” It turns out murder is illegal with pretty much no exceptions. Then I googled the city itself and learned a few things. First, it’s extremely dangerous there, statistically speaking. Also, there was something about scammers trying to guess where you got your shoes, basically waiting to rob you if you didn’t fall for their riddle. I don’t know, it sounded like you just shouldn’t talk to anybody. Second, it has a deep, rich history. And third, it is full of myth and folklore, mostly vampires. What?! Sold! Screw the statistics, they can have my dumb shoes…I want to see history and hear legends! I love a good story.

The first thing I learned is that New Orleans isn’t any more dangerous than any other major city. In my own experience, I never once felt threatened (by neither people nor the supernatural) or as though I was in danger. I should mention I kept my ass off Bourbon Street and followed common sense practices that should always be applied when in a new location jam-packed with unfamiliar people and places. I found New Orleans was pleasantly slower paced than other cities I’ve had to visit.  (I mean, they don’t call it The Big Easy for nothing!)  People were super laid back and friendly. img_3506

I’m not the type to ever venture out into a city by myself, but here, I was comfortable enough to grab my two kids and hop on the trolley to the Garden District. I was expecting it to be like the South Shore (train) in Chicago…eyes down, face forward, talk to no one. But it was more “smile at everyone, shake hands with strangers, young people giving up their seats for the elderly.” Our mission: to view the house where American Horror Story: The Coven was filmed. Any fans?

My daughter and I got hooked on the series, and we were so excited to be standing in this location. We did not see any witches, in case you’re wondering. But if witches are your thing, I highly recommend checking out my book, The Grimm Curse. And of course, season three of American Horror Story. Each episode has a hint of historical truth mixed in with its creative paranormal aspect.

Next stop, Jacques St Germain’s old place.

Gorgeous house, no? You can see the inside here. So in a nutshell, mysterious, aristocrat newcomer brings a horny chick home from Bourbon Street. She jumps screaming out of a second story window, breaking both legs in the fall. She claimed the guy attacked her with superhuman speed and strength, trying to bite her neck. When the police came by to investigate, he had disappeared, leaving behind barrels of wine that turned out to be blood. I guess he turns up every hundred years or so. You can read more about him here.

Next stop, Madame LaLaurie’s mansion, allegedly one of the most haunted places in America.

You can read more about this crazy lady here, but basically, she was accused of horribly abusing and torturing her slaves at this location. Her story is both repulsive and heartbreaking. Madame LaLaurie is a main character in AHS: The Coven, so it was a must see for us.

Our tour guide said Madame LaLaurie is buried here, and I’m pretty sure the iron bars are there to keep her evil spirit locked inside.

We couldn’t resist stopping by the Ursuline Convent, home of the Casket Girls legend.

They say that vampires are locked inside the attic, and the shutters are sealed shut with nails blessed by the pope. The convent says there are no vampires in there, and the shutters are just average, everyday hurricane shutters. Personally, I’m not sure why the convent would want to keep pet vampires in their attic, but who knows in today’s world.

Other cool highlights from the trip:

The streets themselves inspired feelings of desolation, in a lonely, romantic kind of way. The flickering lanterns cast dancing shadows on the old, historical streets. My imagination went wild with the endless possibilities of what could be lurking in the shadows. Mostly rats, I’m sure.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was by guided tour only, so as to protect us from getting mugged. By Ghosts.

Nicolas Cage’s future resting place. Some people say he’s a vampire, based on this photographic “evidence.”

Next up…Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen! It was interesting to hear about voodoo and its relationship with the Catholic faith in the French Quarter. People still come from all over to desecrate her grave in the hopes she will grant their deepest wishes. (I believe what you’re searching for is a lamp with a genie in it?) Seems like an odd way to gain favor from a powerful spirit, but what do I know about the afterlife?

Cafe Du Monde. These beignets were so flipping delicious, I didn’t even care that I looked like I’d snorted a pound of cocaine when I finished eating.

The following is the view from my hotel, The Doubletree, just across from the French Quarter. It was a nice hotel, and the best part was they gave you free chocolate chip cookies, served warm every time you came up to the desk! We stocked up and ate cookies for breakfast and lunch every day that week.

Here’s a creepy crow that kept screaming at us. Its shrill call echoed across the empty streets. It followed us for blocks, flying rooftop to rooftop just watching us and yelling. I’m not sure what I did to offend it, but the crow was definitely targeting me, and it freaked me out, how long it stayed with us. His creepy ass made it into the novel.

This building was so beautiful in a lost and haunting sort of way.

Pirate Alley. Historical shit went down here. A man ranting on a set of steps tried to lure my little guy over to him. We politely declined, and the gentleman inspired a character for a brief role in my novel.

The railings on the galleries were so intricate, I’ve never seen anything like it! And the ferns! Those ferns hung everywhere. I had a fern once. It didn’t make it.

I hope to visit this amazing city again one day. We walked away with some amazing memories. But best of all, I walked away with loads of inspiration for my latest novel, set to be released this October.

Have you been to New Orleans? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!

WORLDS APART Writing Playlist

“Words make you think a thought.  Music makes you feel a feeling.  A song makes you feel a thought.”   – E. Y. Harburg

I think music inspires most of us in one way or another.  This is a list of the songs that inspired me as I wrote WORLDS APART.  The first two in the left column inspired the basis of the entire novel!

Do you know any of them?  What kind of music inspires you?

Worlds Apart Playlist