Friday, June 27, 2014

Bound Souls - Chapter Three Part Four


As Aaron walked into the house from the garage, his phone buzzed. He smiled and got a warm feeling in his chest when he saw it was a text from Hannah. "Miss u already. I feel like a silly schoolgirl." He chuckled and texted back. "You are a silly schoolgirl. ;-) But, yes, I miss you, too."

He headed to his bedroom. It wasn't even ten yet, too early to go to bed, but he figured he might as well get an hour or so of reading in. He'd been hard at work on early revisions of his latest novel that he'd neglected his "to-read" pile — both physical books and those on his e-reader.

Before he made it to the bedroom, his phone buzzed again. "Swooning cuz u miss me 2, but you weren't supposed to agree with the silly part! LOL" He actually did laugh out loud at that and replied only with a winkyface. ";-)" He leaned against the door frame of the bedroom and wrote a new text. "Is The Burger Joint okay for tomorrow night? Also, don't forget to text me the address where you want me to pick you up."

He hoped she knew what The Burger Joint was. It wasn't a dive or fast-food restaurant like the name suggested. They served gourmet burgers with any kind of topping one could imagine, plus a half-dozen different choices of fresh-baked buns. They also had top-notch fries and onion rings. It all added up to his favorite place to eat, and if it wasn't so lovingly fattening — at least what he liked to order — he'd eat there every night. Ah well, it was a better treat when he saved it for special occasions. Like tomorrow night.

"I <3 2="" address="" am="" any="" burger="" but="" didn="" forward="" incoming.="" it="" joint="" look="" more="" night="" p="" possible="" t="" the="" think="" tomorrow="">

He laughed, glad she was happy. He also laughed at himself for finding her texts, with their spelling shortcuts and extra exclamation points and all, cute. That stuff usually drove him nuts, and he took care to always craft his messages with perfect spelling and grammar (besides the occasional emoticons, which he enjoyed). He realized he was the oddball in that regard, that the bulk of society was fine with text-speech, but he stuck to his guns. Would Hannah corrupt him, or would he rub off on her?

The text with her address came a few seconds later, and he found she lived in Anaheim, probably in the ritzy Anaheim Hills section, judging by the street name, though he wasn't positive. He'd plug it into one of the map sites in the morning to find out for sure. Either way, she wasn't that far from him.

"Got the address. How about I pick you up at six tomorrow evening? If not, you choose a better time." After sending that text, he walked into the bedroom, but froze after a few steps. Jenna? He looked around, positive he sensed her close by. She wasn't there, which was no surprise, her being dead and all. Hannah's latest text buzzed on his phone, but he didn't check it right away. With the hair on the back of his neck still standing at attention, he wasn't ready to drop his guard.

He let out the breath he hadn't been aware he'd been holding and laughed. He'd felt Jenna's presence before, like this, usually when he was pining for her. Tonight it must have been because of Hannah. His subconscious felt guilty.

"So I met someone tonight, Jenna," he said aloud. He knew she wasn't actually here, but he liked to talk to her. It eased his mind, comforted him. "Her name is Hannah, and she actually reminds me a lot of you. Not physically, but in some of her mannerisms, in some of the things she does." He stopped and chuckled. "She's really young, though. Eighteen. Can you believe it? Half my age. Should be creepy, right?" He shook his head and thought about it for a few seconds. When he continued, his voice was low. If he'd actually been talking to her, she might not have heard. "But it's not. It feels right. I don't know why."

He walked into the bathroom, flicked on the light, and almost screamed as he looked in the mirror. Jenna's corpse stood upright in the bathtub, blood spilling out of her wrists, dripping over the lip of the tub into pools on the floor. The wall behind had bloody, smeared hand prints, as if she used it to help push herself up. Her dead eyes looked right at him, past his eyes, and into his soul. This all reflected in the mirror, but when he spun to see, neither she nor the blood were there. He looked back to the mirror and saw the same — white porcelain tub and light blue tiles on the walls. No corpse or gore. He gave a shaky laugh and went to sit on the bed. Guilt. That's all it was. He wasn't ready. Maybe he'd never be ready. He turned his attention back to his phone, set to text Hannah that they'd need to cancel, when he saw he hadn't yet read her last text.

"6 is wonderful!!! See you then!!!"


He sighed. Yes, six was wonderful, and he did want to see her. "Sorry, Jenna. I really like this girl. I owe it to her, to me, to see where it leads." He groaned. How could something seem like both the absolute best and worst choice at the same time?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bound Souls - Chapter Three Part Three


She didn't say anything for a few seconds, probably thrown by the quick turn of conversation, but she could also likely tell he needed the topic changed. Really, he had no doubt. They were that eerily connected already. "I'm focusing on my undergrad requirements at the moment. I haven't decided on my major yet. I think I want to be a teacher, but I'm not sure which route I want to go. I could get my degree in education, but I love reading and writing, so I might major in English Lit."

"Either way you'll be fine. I'd suggest choosing the one you'll have the most fun with. You'll get more out of your classes that way."

She smiled and nodded. "That's good advice. Everyone else picks a side and tries to get me to agree with them. Thanks."

"I aim to please." He took another drink. "So do you have a weekend job to support your horror novel habit?"

"Believe it or not, your books are the only horror I read. I'm usually a mystery reader, sans monsters and ghosts."

He toasted her with his cup. "I thank you for that."

"To answer your second question, no, I don't have a job. My parents made me a deal. If I get good grades and make studying my priority, they'll pay for things as I need them."

"Sweet deal. I wish I had a ride like that when I was your age."

"Yeah. I almost feel guilty when my friends have to go off to work."

"Don't. Enjoy it."

"I did say almost."

They both laughed and finished their drinks. She looked at her cell phone, frowned, and gave a sigh. "I should probably get going. I still have some homework to finish up."

"Can I escort you to your car?"

Her face lit up. "Please."

As they walked through the parking lot, he said, "You realize I'm twice your age, right? I mean literally twice as old as you."

"Math isn't my favorite subject, but I did manage to figure that out."

"All I'm saying is, don't you think 18 years is a bit much of an age difference?"

She looked at him, bit her bottom lip, and said, in a low voice, "Not with you."

His heart jumped into his throat. Yeah, she had a point. They meshed in a way that shouldn't be possible, not yet. He always believed Jenna to be his one and only, that he was destined to exist on his own for the rest of his life. But now? Now that seemed silly.

"There's my car," she said, breaking him out of his thoughts. He hadn't seen what she'd come in earlier, but now saw she had a nice, safe economy car. No doubt it had been a gift from her parents, either for her sweet sixteenth or a graduation present.

As they stood next to her car, he pulled out his phone and got to the contact screen. "Here, program your number in. I don't think either of us wants to wait until my next signing to see each other again." He made sure to touch her hand as he passed it to her, and she didn't miss the contact, staring into his eyes for a few beats until she turned her attention to his phone.

She handed it back and pulled out her own phone. "Text me so I have yours."

He did, and then sighed.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know. This is weird. I haven't even thought about wanting any sort of relationship since I lost Jenna, but now that I've met you, I can't help but think about it."

"And? Why is that bad?"

"It's not. It's just … I have this awful feeling that the first time we kiss, really kiss, you're going to think about how much older I am and not want to see me anymore. It's stupid, but …"

She reached up to the back of his head and pulled his face down to hers. Their lips touched, gently, probing, and then with more ferocity. Passion overtook both, and their tongues intertwined. Only the thought that they were in a shopping center parking lot kept him from losing control and pushing her onto the hood of the car.

After a few moments, much too short a time in his mind, they broke apart. She smiled up at him, and then melted into his arms. He kissed the top of her head and ran his fingers through her hair. She glanced up, a look of wonder in her eyes, and he knew exactly how she felt. He felt the same way.

"That was amazing," she said. "I don't think you have any worries about me not wanting to stay with you."

"Good. I don't think I could bear to lose you after that."

She giggled, and reached her face up again, which he met halfway. This kiss didn't last nearly as long, but it was no less sweet.

"I really do need to go," she said. "But maybe tomorrow night we can do something?"

"I never did delve into why you like my novels," he said. "Why don't we go to dinner and discuss it?" A thought from earlier popped into his mind. "Hey, in the midst of everything, I never did sign your book."

"You didn't, did you?" she said with a laugh. "I didn't notice, either. It'd be silly to go to a book signing and not get my book signed."

She reached into her car, grabbed the book, and handed it and a pen to him. He wrote, "To Hannah, my best reader," and then scrawled his signature underneath. When he handed it back, she looked at him and smiled. "Do you write that to all your female readers?"

"Nope. You're the first to get that particular message."

She hugged the book to her chest and reached up for another kiss, which he gladly gave. Then she sighed. "I don't want to, but I really do need to go."

He held the door open for her as she climbed in. She told him she'd text him her address, and he told her he'd text her what time he'd pick her up. After one more kiss, this one too quick for his taste, she drove away.

As he watched her go, a single thought ran through his mind: What the hell just happened?


*****

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bound Souls - Chapter Three Part Two


He took another sip of coffee. "It didn't happen often, but occasionally I had to go out of town for conferences or conventions. I hated leaving Jenna alone, especially that time, since our baby, Zach, wasn't quite two months old."

Hannah gave a sharp intake of breath. "I didn't know you had a son." She put her other hand onto his, and that was the only thing that gave him the strength to continue.

"It was a quick trip up to San Francisco, a one-nighter. I called Jenna that evening and found her and Zach doing fine. She missed me, but the feeling was mutual, so it wasn't a big thing. When I got home late the next afternoon, I knew something was wrong the second I walked in. The house was too quiet, and both Jenna's car and the stroller were there, so they couldn't have gone anywhere. I walked into Zach's room and found him asleep. Or so I thought. He lay too still and when I touched him, he was so cold. Shock and panic hit me at once, and I screamed for Jenna. I'm sure the entire neighborhood heard. I stumbled out and into our bedroom. The adjoining bathroom door was closed. I burst in and found her in the tub, both wrists slit wide open. I don't know how much water she'd let in because it all looked like blood. All the way to the top and spilled over. But the worst part was the expression on her face. One of absolute horror."

He stopped and took a deep breath. That was the most he'd said about the incident to anyone since the original police investigation. His whereabouts had been easy enough to trace, so it had been officially ruled a crib-death and suicide. The only thing keeping the tears at bay now was his new angel sitting across from him. He looked up and found tears trickling down her cheeks. He picked up a clean napkin and lightly brushed her face. It earned him a smile, and she took over.

"I'm sorry," she said. "That's so sad."

"No, I'm the one who should be sorry. I didn't mean to upset you." He lifted her hand and kissed it without thinking. She smiled and rubbed his cheek. Her eyes were red and puffy, but only Jenna could match her beauty.

He chuckled. "What would your boyfriend say if he walked in and saw us like this?"

Confusion clouded her features, and then she laughed. "Is that your clumsy way of asking if I'm single?"

"I'm just assuming you're not. You're much too pretty, much too nice, not to have someone."

She looked down at her hot chocolate and whispered, "I don't."

"Are all the young guys dumb as dirt nowadays?"

"No. Well, maybe," she said with a giggle, meeting his eyes. "I've been on a few dates, but no one has really interested me enough to be beyond superficially attractive."

He sat back, took another pull from his coffee, and let out a sigh. "I wish I was younger so I could see if I proved worthy."

She leaned forward and captured his full attention. As she spoke, her voice had that raspy quality of lust permeating her entire being. "Why would you need to be younger? You're perfect the way you are."

He expected her to blush again and look away, but she didn't. Her eyes devoured him, and for a minute nothing existed but the two of them — not the coffee shop nor any of the patrons, not the immediate future where they'd be forced to part for the night, and certainly not his past with Jenna. All that mattered was him, Hannah, and where this budding relationship, or whatever it was, might be heading.

Finally he broke eye contact and took another drink. She did the same, and now her cheeks were flush. He wasn't sure this time if it was embarrassment over whatever it was that just played out, or excitement over the prospect of what it meant.

"So what happened?" she asked, her voice stiff, as if she'd forced herself to speak.

"What do you mean?"

"With your wife and son. Did she leave a suicide note or anything?"


He shook his head. "The police came to the conclusion that Zach died an accidental crib death, and when she found him, she couldn't take it. She likely went right from his room to get the razorblades, and then to the bathtub." He stopped to keep the sadness from dragging him under. "But enough about that. What about you? What are you studying?"

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bound Souls - Chapter Three Part One


Aaron's stomach did handstands and back flips as he sat across from this beauty, Hannah. He had a Venti mocha with whipped cream, the perfect dessert drink, while she ordered a hot chocolate, no whip. She claimed even decaf would keep her up all night if she drank it this late. He put his head down, as if mourning, and said he was sorry she had to live like that, earning him a laugh and a touch on the arm, which sent a warm current through him. She felt it, too, as she pulled her hand away quick and blushed. What was it about this girl?

They'd chosen a Starbucks a few miles from the bookstore, figuring there'd be less of a chance his fans would run into them. Not that he usually minded, but tonight he wanted to keep his undivided attention on her, and the looks she gave him proved she felt the same. They'd driven separately, meeting in the parking lot of the strip mall where the Starbucks was located, but now that they were here and sitting across from each other, they could have come together. They hadn't had much of a chance to talk yet, but he already knew he'd never get tired of her company. It was like he'd known her for years, not for less than an hour. To be honest, as comfortable as he was with her, he might as well have been sitting across from Jenna.

"I've always wanted to go to one of your signings," Hannah said, breaking the comfortable silence, so unusual for a first date, if that's what this was. He hoped so.

"What stopped you? Nell has had me in for each of my books." He chuckled. "Actually, I begged her to set up the first one, but after that she invited me back each year."

"I knew about them, but my parents wouldn't let me go." She blushed and looked down at her hot chocolate. "Lame, right?"

"Nah. Gotta listen to the parental units. So why did they relent this time?"

"I'm a college girl now, so I didn't ask."

"Good reason. Where do you go?" While Orange County University was the biggest campus in the area, there were plenty of smaller colleges, especially community colleges, around.

"OCU. I love it there."

"That's where I went," he said. "I met my …" He stopped, kicking himself for almost bringing up Jenna, and then again for not. What was the etiquette for talking about his late wife? Things like that obviously hadn't come up when he dated Jenna back in the day. But, really, since she was the only girl he ever dated, he didn't have much experience to draw on for anything.

Hannah reached across the table and took his hand. This time the touch felt comfortable, right, like they should always be in contact. She gave him a look of sympathy, and said, "Your wife?"

He nodded, not sure what to say.

"I read that you lost her."

"I don't mind talking about it. I hesitated because I didn't think it polite to bring up."

"It's fine. I'd like to hear. I mean, if you don't mind telling."

"No, I don't mind at all." And he didn't, not to her. He rarely brought it up to anyone, since reliving that, even five years later, brought pain. But here with Hannah, whatever it was they were sharing, it seemed all right. He'd be fine, and the hurt wouldn't overwhelm him. This girl, this woman, would give him all the strength he needed. That inexplicable, unexplained thought brought a lump to his throat, which he quickly covered by taking a long pull from his mocha.

"Five years ago, I was the store manager at the Yorba Linda Gadgets 'N Gizmos 'N More."

"Oh, I love that store. I can browse in there for hours." She blushed and put a hand over her mouth. "Sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt."

He smiled and squeezed her hand, which he forgot he was holding. Wow, how comfortable with her could he be? This was uncanny. "This is a conversation, not a monologue. Speak your mind."


"Okay," she said with a giggle. "But go on. I want to hear. I think."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bound Souls - Chapter Two Part Two


This vision, this girl, this woman, looked at him, and her sparkling blue eyes captivated him. He couldn't talk, couldn't breathe, couldn't think. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized he had the same effect on her. She was equally incapable of speech.

In their forced silence, he drank her in. She had the face of an angel, every inch of it meshed into absolute glory, perfection. Her blue eyes stared into him the way no one except Jenna ever had. Long wavy blonde hair ran down past her shoulders, and some rested just above the top of her breasts, which were small but perky, perfect. Her lithe, supple body, one only youth could display with such brazen bravado, ran down to painted on blue jeans that took his imagination to blistering heights it hadn't been in over five years.

Good god, what was going on here? He hadn't been truly attracted to another woman since Jenna, and now this goddess, this girl … She was just a girl, not a day over eighteen. If that. Oh, lord, let her be at least eighteen. Not that he expected anything to happen except for him to sign her book once he snapped out of this trance, but he didn't want to be lusting after an underage girl. These thoughts about an eighteen year old — literally half his age at 36 — were bad enough. He didn't need to consider himself a pedobear on top of it all.

He tried saying "Hi," or "How are you?" or anything to snap himself out of this, but words refused to wind themselves from his brain to his mouth. His throat and chest clutched tight, his heart hammered, and he felt lightheaded, dizzy. Jesus, Jenna hadn't even struck him this hard when they'd first met. (Though, to be honest, she had plenty of times later.)

Nell cleared her throat at the head of the line where she kept everything organized. Oh, crap, how long had he been lost? He smiled up at the girl, and she seemed to break out of her own trance.

"Hi, Aaron Welch." He stuck out his hand for her to shake. Oh, jeez, how dumb was that? Could he be any more of a lame-o? Of course she already knew who he was, but instead of laughing at him or rolling her eyes or anything else, she gave him a huge, dazzling smile and took his hand. Electric sparks jumped through him, and it was all he could do to not spasm right along with it. By the look on her face, she experienced the same.

"Hi. I'm Hannah. Hannah Bailey." He grinned at how she had to force her voice out louder than a whisper. What was it about her? She was that wonderful mix of drop-dead gorgeous and cute as a button. But, hell, he'd seen many beautiful ladies in the past five years, and none made him feel like this.

He shook his head fast to clear the fog. He was the professional here, and it was time he acted like it. "Well, Hannah, Hannah Bailey, did you wander into line by mistake? You look much too young to be reading what I write."

"Oh, no, I'm here to see you. You're my favorite author. I've bought all your books on the first day they were out. Well, not the first one, but I did get it the first time I saw it. I was drawn to it for some reason, and when I read it, I was hooked on you. Your writing," she quickly amended, her cheeks flushing red.

"But how was a ten-year-old drawn to such an explicit book?" he asked, purposely giving her a much younger age in hopes of revealing her real one since Bloody Waders only came out four years ago.

And, bingo, it worked. She scoffed and said, "How young do you think I am? I was fourteen when that came out. I'm eighteen now, I'll have you know."

He smiled, his unnatural hunger for her stronger than ever. Not that it mattered for anything other than his own peace of mind, but at least she was of legal age to lust over. He'd have been disgusted with himself had she only been seventeen. He wasn't real pleased anyway now that it was official — she was literally half his age.

She blushed. "You were teasing me. Sorry. I love your writing so much, and meeting you is a dream come true, and …" She trailed off, a wistful look on her face, one he suppose matched his.

At that moment, Nell caught his eye, trying to get him to hurry this along. He nodded, offering her an apologetic look. He wished he could talk to Hannah all night, but there were others waiting.

"Listen," he said, again taking in her hypnotic blue eyes. "I'll be done here in less than an hour. Would you like to grab some coffee or something?"

"Yes, I'd love that." Her most brilliant smile yet illuminated her face, making it hard for him to breathe.

"So I can pick your brain about why my books appeal to you," he quickly added, trying to convince himself of that as much as her.

"Of course," Hannah said. She stepped away from the table. "I'll be browsing until then, okay?"

"Yeah, good." He didn't want to lose sight of her, but the next person was already on the way to the table. It was only after he'd given his signature to that fan and made a few seconds of small talk that he realized he hadn't signed Hannah's book. Ah well, he could do it at the coffee shop. As long as she didn't come to her senses, realize the huge age difference, and leave.

The rest of the signing took forever, but also went by in a blur.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bound Souls - Chapter Two Part One


Right Off Campus Bookshop was jumping, and Aaron Welch couldn't be happier. He enjoyed interacting with his fans on his website and through social media, but meeting them face-to-face at these book signings always proved to be the best treat. Everyone turned out to be so nice, so glad to meet him and share the joy his books brought them. Which always made him laugh when he thought about it. His books weren't about joy; they were full of terrifying images, horrific violence, and graphic sex. In his first book, Bloody Waders, he vividly described a scene where the killer gutted a victim using only a fish hook, some fishing line, and a paper clip. He'd expected first his agent, then his publisher, to ask him to tone it down, but the scene stayed. Now, four years later, he still had readers tell him how that bit kept them up for nights on end, and then they'd shake his hand or slap his shoulder like he did them some huge favor. His next two books, and now his fourth, the reason for the signing tonight, all shared scenes of comparable gruesomeness, and instead of revulsion, his loyal readers heaped on the praise.

"Ready to start, Aaron?" Nell Hanson, the owner of the shop, asked from the head of the line. She always did a great job of organizing and publicizing his appearances here, and tonight was no exception. Though it was a Thursday, a school and work night, the place was packed. He hoped most people were buying, if not his, then other books. With the scarcity of independent book stores nowadays, every bit helped. Nell kept the place safe by both carrying current textbooks and offering a small student discount, but her true love was fiction, and the more she sold, the more she could carry. That's why he gladly offered his services whenever she asked.

"All set, Nell." He had a half-dozen pens ready to go, along with a pile of custom-made bookplates with his name, the title of his newest book, Dead Wrong, and a spot for his signature, which he liked to sign right in front of his fans so they knew it was genuine. Those were for the fans that already had his book and didn't bring it with them, or, as was becoming more common, had purchased the e-book. He embraced the new technology, and had an e-reader of his own he enjoyed using. Whatever got people reading was fine with him, paper or not.

A middle-aged man and woman, his first two fans of the night, approached, smiling, both holding a hardcover copy of Dead Wrong. Each said hi, shook his hand, and told him how much they enjoyed all of his work while he signed their books. Unless specifically asked, he only penned his name. He was happy to write a short, personalized message, but most people, like these two, were thrilled with his simple autograph.

The first half-hour of the scheduled hour-long event went much the same. He heard which books meant the most to people, which scenes struck home for various reasons, and which characters became long lost friends. The normal questions came out, those which he could answer in his sleep: Where did he get his ideas? Did he live in a house of horrors? And what did his family think of him writing such scary and disturbing stories? He had standard answers for each: His ideas came straight from his dreams, or, more appropriately, his nightmares (which wasn't entirely true, but tended to get a better response than how he really did it, which was doodling words on a blank page until an idea struck him as interesting enough to devote a half-year or more to); no, his house was boringly mundane; and his family loved that he penned such scary books, though he did often catch them watching him a bit wearily when they thought he wasn't looking. He added a spooky little chuckle to that last part, and it never failed to earn him a laugh.

But, in truth, Mom and Dad loved that he wrote these tales of horror. They knew it helped him work through his past, the loss of his beautiful wife and infant son. Five years ago, Zach died in his crib, and Jenna took her own life because of it. That he hadn't been home when it happened still haunted him. He might not have been able to save Zach — crib deaths happened — but he would have kept Jenna alive. That's where the writing came in. He wrote horrible things on his word processor to keep from doing equally horrible things to himself. Truth be told, the thought of joining Jenna in the murky world of suicide had occurred to him on more than one occasion.

He kept the light and (hopefully) witty banter up so he wouldn't dwell on these memories. And, as usual, it worked. He took down Twitter handles so he'd remember who they were when they later mentioned or retweeted him. He smiled when he got a face of someone to go along with their name from the message board on his website. He enjoyed the touching stories people told regarding his books.

And then she stood in front of him.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bound Souls - Chapter One Part Two


BOUND SOULS
CHAPTER ONE - PART TWO

She nodded and stepped towards the room. Poor Aaron. How was he going to react to this? Not well. But she couldn't gamble with Zach's immortal soul. Aaron would never do anything to hurt Zach's chances at Heaven, but … If anyone other than Jesus had instructed her to do this …

Zach knew she was there the moment she stepped into the room. He fussed a bit louder, and she imagined him telling her it was about time. Normally she'd take a few seconds discovering what he needed — changing, feeding, attention, or something else — but not this time. She placed one hand over his mouth and plugged his nose with the other. He stared daggers into her, and then struggled, though he had neither the strength nor the weight to break her hold.

She kissed his forehead. "I'm sorry, baby. I know it hurts, but it'll be over soon. You'll be in the happiest, best place possible. I promise." Tears leaked out of her eyes as she said it, but she kept a smile on her face for Zach. He turned blue, then purple, and then stopped struggling altogether as the color drained from his tiny, angelic face. She held her hands in place for a few seconds more. He was gone; her Zach, her baby Zachary, was gone. She slumped against the crib and this time didn't hold back the tears.

"We both know it's for the best, Jenna."

Her head snapped up. Jesus' voice wasn't inside her mind this time, but beside her. There he stood, as if he'd walked out of one of his iconic paintings. He had long brown hair, a brown beard, and wore a white flowing robe and simple wooden sandals. His entire being glowed, not with a halo around his head, but as if he had one around his entire body.

"You've done the right thing. Now join your child in salvation."

She stared at him, not quite comprehending. He motioned her towards her bedroom. What? Then it dawned on her — the bathtub in the master bathroom. She could run a hot bath, put a razor to her wrists, and be with Zach forever in paradise. But where did that leave Aaron?

"No need to worry about him," Jesus said, touching her shoulder. Peace and acceptance flooded her, and she left Zach's body where it lay. He didn't need it anymore.

She walked out to the garage and grabbed a razorblade. Aaron had some in his toolbox. The ones they kept in the house were for shaving, and those were the disposable safety razors. Jesus kept pace with her the entire time. He didn't say anything, but his presence comforted her, kept her on task. All that mattered at the moment was getting to Zach in Heaven.

Once she had the bath steaming hot, she stripped and stepped in. She didn't mind showing her nude body to Jesus. Why would he care? The scalding water bit into her as she sat down and laid back. Jesus stared down at her and smiled, the loving smile of her gentle, omnipotent Lord. He'd see to it that everything turned out perfect.

He nodded towards the brand-new, never sharper razorblade on the lip of the tub, and she picked it up. Without another thought, she sliced her left wrist from her hand to her elbow. The flesh opened, almost delicately, and spilled blood down her arm and into the water. She took the razor in her now-damaged hand and slit her right wrist the same way. When finished, she tried placing the blade back on the tub's lip, but no longer had the dexterity to do so. It bounced on the porcelain and clanked to the tile floor.

The light-headed feeling that came right before passing out had already taken hold. She looked up at Jesus, ready to bask in more of his beauty, but instead let out a gasp. Jesus, her Lord and Savior, no longer sat next to the tub. Instead, a being made entirely of shadows took his place. It had no face, but she could feel it staring at her. She wanted to cry, to thrash about, to rise out of the crimson pool and strike down the evil, lying monster. But she couldn't. Her strength had already poured into the tub. All she could do was bleed out and die, knowing this evil entity tricked her into killing not only herself, but her beloved son.

With her final few breaths, as the invisible smile on the hidden face of the evil beamed down at her, she whispered to her Aaron, her beloved. "Sorry. So sorry."

Click to go to Chapter Two Part One
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Bound Souls - Chapter One Part One

BOUND SOULS
CHAPTER ONE - PART ONE

Jenna Welch sat half-watching the cooking competition on the Food Channel. She was more in the mood to curl up with a book, but Aaron couldn't stand these shows, so she should take advantage of this opportunity to not have to listen to him laugh at the whining chefs. Okay, it was a reach, but she needed to pull one positive from his absence.

She hated when he had to be away. It hurt her, made the air a bit tougher to breathe, and made her world, her senses, dull and muted. Good thing these overnight conferences were few and far between. Since he was manager of the Yorba Linda branch of Gadgets, Gizmos, 'N More, the highest-grossing Southern California store in the chain, he couldn't say no when the district manager suggested he attend.

She sighed and turned her attention back to the chefs on television rushing to construct a five-star meal using chicken breasts, soda crackers, assorted fruits and vegetables, and ketchup. Too tell the truth, as much as she complained, this wasn't nearly as fun without Aaron's snipes. She took no solace in the knowledge that he was as miserable as her. She wished he'd go out for a night on the town, but he wouldn't. While his fellow conference-goers enjoyed the San Francisco nightlife, he sat in his hotel room, not really watching his favorite TV shows, same as her.

She glanced at the phone and thought about calling him again. They'd talked for an hour earlier in the evening, so why not a few more minutes? It'd do them both good.

Before she could grab the cordless, Zach's cries erupted through the baby monitor. He'd been asleep for a solid hour, and was now probably hungry. Or had a load in his diaper. Or simply didn't like waking up alone. Heh, she couldn't fault him that.

As she walked towards his room, the heavenly voice entered her mind. Jesus. Her Lord and Savior. He hadn't graced her with his presence in nearly two months, right before Zach's birth.

"Good evening, Jenna. I pray you are doing well?"

She chuckled. As if he didn't know. He'd proved to know her better than she knew herself. "Yes, Lord, I'm fine. Except for Aaron being so far away."

"That's why I'm visiting you tonight. Your husband."

She stopped in the hallway, a few feet from Zach's bedroom. He'd stopped crying, but she could still hear him fuss. She'd be in soon enough; another few seconds wouldn't hurt. "Is something wrong with Aaron? I was just about to call him."

Jesus didn't say anything right away, as if weighing his words. "Yes, there is something wrong with your husband, but not in the immediate way you fear."

"Then what?"

"He's a heathen. He doesn't believe in me or my Father."

"But he believes in something," she said, leaning against the wall. Her legs suddenly felt weak. "He just doesn't know what that something is. It's not like he's an atheist." She and Aaron had argued enough about religion over the years for her to know his position.

"That's my point, Jenna. He's an open book. When Satan gets a hold of him …"

"Satan?" She gave an exaggerated shake of her head. "No. Aaron's a good man. He wouldn't turn to the darkness. I know him, Lord."

"As do I. Have I ever misled you?"

She wanted to come up with something, anything, to say he was mistaken, but that was a fruitless task. "No, you've always been right about everything."

"I don't enjoy sharing news such as this. In fact, if it were only his soul at stake, I may not have interfered. I trust you. I know the goodness in your heart. You might be enough to save him."

"But?"

She felt him smile, and she couldn't help smiling in return. "You know me well, child. That's an excellent sign for your eternal soul. The problem is that it's not merely his soul at stake, but your beloved Zachary's, as well."

"Zach? What about Zach?" She turned her attention back to her sweet baby. He still fussed, in need of her attention, but she had to know.

"If you allow Zachary to live with his father, he will grow up perverted and spiritually deformed. He will seem like a bright, well-adjusted child, but the threat will always be there."

"The threat?"

"The threat that he will snap at any moment, like his father."

"But Aaron hasn't snapped, and he won't. He believes something is out there, and I'll get him to see it's God. It's you. He's a good man."

"If Zachary lives, he's going to end up in Hell. You must know that."

"No. No, I don't. How can you say that?"

"I asked you before, and I'll ask you again. How many times have I misled you?"

Tears formed in her eyes. "You've never misled me, Lord. But what do you want me to do?"

"Send Zachary to my Father. Send your child to Heaven. Now, before it's too late."

Yes, that made sense. Didn't it? But in order to do that …

"Jenna, my child, you need to do this. If you love Zachary like you say, you don't have a choice."

Click to return to the preview hub

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bound Souls Hub


Bound Souls is available for purchase:
Kindle book on Amazon
Coming soon in paperback

Description of Bound Souls: Description

Link to Sample Chapters:
Chapter One Part One
Chapter One Part Two
Chapter Two Part One
Chapter Two Part Two
Chapter Three Part One
Chapter Three Part Two
Chapter Three Part Three
Chapter Three Part Four

Cover Reveal for Bound Souls

Here it is, the cover for my upcoming novel, Bound Souls. It'll be available as an e-book for the Kindle at Amazon on June 30th or July 1st, and as a paperback from Createspace and Amazon soon after. You can also see the description of the novel here.


I should add that this premade cover came from Kage Covers Design, and I got it via the premade covers page at Author Marketing Club. It was an easy experience!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bound Souls Description

As I said last week, I plan on releasing my next book, Bound Souls, on Tuesday, July 1st. It's a supernatural horror/romance book (or, maybe more appropriately, a supernatural romance/horror book). Today I'd like to share a quick synopsis/description of the novel, which clocks in right around 80,000 words. This is mostly a first draft of the description, but it will likely be pretty close to this when it goes live on Amazon. And, yes, it will only be available on Amazon for the e-book, and Create Space/Amazon for the paperback. That may change in the future, but for now I'm going to take advantage of the Amazon KDP Select program. I'm shooting to reveal the cover next week, but I don't have a definite time-table set for that. Anyway, I hope the description tickles your imagination.

BOUND SOULS
by Eric J. Krause

When 36 year old Aaron Welch lost his wife, Jenna, and his infant son, Zach, five years prior, he figured he'd never again find love. So when he falls head-over-heels for 18 year old Hannah Bailey -- at first glance, no less -- he's not quite sure what to make of the situation. She may be half his age, but she feels as perfect as only Jenna ever had, physically and, more importantly, spiritually. Not only does he not understand how this could happen with a girl so young, but after Jenna, how it could happen at all.

To complicate matters further, two ghosts emerge in their lives -- a jealous Jenna and, much more scary and dangerous, an evil presence intent on destroying all three of them. Everything, from Hannah, to Jenna, to the evil entity, baffles Aaron beyond belief until he learns of a person, a soul witch, who very well could hold the answers to not only his intense attraction to Hannah and how to best help Jenna, but also how to destroy the evil entity.

But is it too powerful to be defeated?

 I'd love to hear any thoughts on this short description!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Next Book

Earlier today I teased a bit on Twitter (and a 2nd tweet) and Tumblr that my next book, this one a supernatural horror story called Bound Souls, is coming soon. This one will be my first novel aimed at a more adult audience, as opposed to the three YA novels I've put out. (Check over to the right if you're interested in any of those.) I've decided I'm shooting for Monday, June 30th or Tuesday, July 2nd to release it. That's the beginning of a holiday week here in the US, but I'm hoping that may work in my favor, as people will want new reads for the upcoming long Fourth of July weekend.

I don't yet have much detail for you as of yet, but I'll have plenty in the weeks leading up to the release. I'll reveal the cover, the "back of book" plot summary, and a few free sample chapters. (I'm not sure how many at this point, but it'll be at least five and maybe up to ten of the thirty-three chapter book.) So stay tuned! I'll post here, on Twitter, and Tumblr. I know I'll be publishing it on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback, and I may release it in Smashwords, which should place it in other markets, though I'm not sure yet. I'll announce that, as well, when I've made a decision.

So stay tuned! Exciting times ahead! Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #171

Here is this week's speculative fiction writing prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. 

A spider in your backyard spins webs much stronger than any other material on Earth.
 
As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #170

Here is this week's speculative fiction writing prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. 

Something is moving in the floor as if the carpet was water.
 
As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #169

Here is this week's speculative fiction writing prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. 

A candle flame flickers in a strange pattern that can only be a code.
 
As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.