Monday, 17 October 2016

BELONGING - New Release!

Introducing Belonging by Selaine Henriksen.




Summary

Morgan Campbell doesn’t know what is wrong with her. She is seeing things in the shadows everywhere—a dog that could be a wolf and a man staring up at her window. She feels like she’s losing her mind.

When she is summoned to her grandfather’s sickbed, she jumps at the chance to leave the city, and her messy life, behind. But, after a less than warm welcome at the creepy old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with its strange inhabitants, she’s not sure she made the right decision.

And then there is the hot man who appears, naked, to save her from a pack of wolves when she strays off the track in the woods.

What Morgan discovers about the truth of her heritage will change her life forever. 


Excerpt:

Enjoy this first look at Belonging.



The snow began to fall as Morgan left the restaurant through the kitchen door. A single bulb cast a feeble light over the exit. Dark shadows filled the silent alley, clustering around the dumpsters. Morgan felt eyes on her, intense, watching. She shivered and turtled her shoulders deeper into her parka. A car drifted by on the street at the end of the alley, its headlights flinging a slice of light across the opposite wall. Morgan couldn’t help herself. She watched out of the corner of her eye and, yes. For the third time in as many nights, she saw the head. It looked like a huge dog, a shepherd perhaps, or a wolf even. The shadow crawled across the wall as the headlights crossed the opening of the alley, the snout elongating into a grotesque parody of itself, and then the darkness snapped back into place.

Morgan stared, then slowly reached behind her and reopened the door. She kept her eyes on the alley as she stepped back through the doorway into the warmth and brightness of the kitchen. Paulo was sweeping, getting ready to close for the night.

“Forget something?” he asked.

Morgan shook her head. “Could you let me out the front? Please?”

Paulo gave her a sharp look. “Everything all right?”

“I thought I saw a dog in the alley. My imagination’s running away with me.” Morgan managed a grin as Paulo laughed and began to sing the song by the Rolling Stones. Morgan followed him through the darkened dining room. The white tablecloths covering the tables looked like humped dwarfs silently watching her in the gloom.

Paulo unlocked the front door and locked it behind her, waving good night through the glass. Morgan waved back and stepped to the side of the doorway. She waited, looking all around. There was nothing. At this time of night, people were snuggled in at home and only the occasional car passed. Morgan inched her way to the opening of the alley. She looked for anything that might cast such a strange, wolf-like shadow. There wasn’t even a dumpster in a likely spot. She took a deep breath and began the walk home.

The snowflakes in the light of the streetlights were pretty, sparkling like fairy lights as they skipped to the ground. Once there, they disintegrated to muddy slush as they melted under foot. Morgan’s apartment was three long blocks from the restaurant. Once again she felt eyes watching. She was sure she heard a sound behind her, footsteps, a soft splash. She began to run, dashing from the circle of light around one streetlight to the next until the lobby door was in front of her. Her key was already in her hand then she was through. She closed the door and peered through the glass into the dark beyond. Just as she turned to cross the lobby, a dark form darted across the puddle of light formed by the streetlight out front. Morgan whirled around to stare out of the front again. Nothing moved but the swirling snow.

Blue light flickered from the TV as Morgan entered the apartment. Carol, her roommate and best friend, as well as co-worker at the Thai-Italian restaurant, was still awake. She took one look at Morgan’s face and turned off the TV.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

Morgan hung up her coat. “I think I’m losing my mind,” she said and, to her own surprise, burst into tears.

Carol wrapped an arm around Morgan’s shoulders and led her to the couch. She went to the kitchen and brought back two beers. “Tell me all about it,” she said.

Morgan did, feeling like a weight was lifting. She told how she felt watched all the time, night and day. How she’d see a dog, a big dog, out of the corner of her eye, but when she looked it would be gone. She told Carol she was sure she was being followed.

“By a dog?” Carol raised an eyebrow.

Morgan giggled. “Silly, right?”

Carol shrugged. “They say there is a lot of wildlife living in cities, feeding off dumpsters and so on. I’ve never seen anything around the restaurant, but you never know. Could be a raccoon or fox. I mean,” Carol leaned in and sniffed Morgan, “you do smell like food, and now I’m hungry.”

She jumped up from the couch. “I brought home left-over chicken after my shift. Do you want some?”

“No.”

Morgan’s stomach was in knots. She felt like she would never eat again. She stood and went to look out of the window. Carol was probably right. Even a racoon’s shadow thrown huge onto a wall like that could look like a wolf’s snout. Or a fox. She looked down and gasped. A dark form, a man, stood at the edge of the streetlight’s glow. His head was turned to look up at her, his face in shadow. Watching her, she knew.

Her heart pounding, Morgan stepped back from the window. Carol came in carrying her plate of fried chicken. She set it down on the coffee table and crossed to Morgan’s side where she peered out of the window. “There’s nothing there.” She glanced at Morgan with a quizzical frown, quickly replaced with a bright smile.

“Have some chicken,” she said. “You’re barely eating these days.”

“I think I’ll just go to bed. Thank you, Carol. You’re probably right.” Morgan gave her a hug.

She was tired. Her eight-hour shift had extended to ten, and she’d been on her feet the whole time. Tired as she was, she tossed and turned all night.

She awoke still tired and disoriented from her restless night. She had to rush to shower and dress for the lunch shift. The winter sun hung low in the sky, glowing brightly yet throwing no heat.

Morgan made it into the restaurant a few minutes late. She had hoped her boss, Mario, wouldn’t be in yet, but, as everything seemed to be going wrong for her these days, he was there. He scowled at her and tapped his watch. As she hung up her coat, she suppressed a flare of temper at the injustice of him giving her a hard time. She had been waitressing a long time, and she was good at her job.

Morgan smiled weakly and mouthed a “sorry.”

It was Friday, a busy day for lunch. Every table was taken. Morgan rushed from the kitchen and back, barely looking up from the plates she balanced until something, a dark shape, a sense of being watched, made her glance out the front plate-glass window. She saw the dark form of a man standing there. The sun was behind him, leaving his face in shadow, but she was sure he was watching her. She started and dropped the plate of pasta in her hands.

“I’m sorry, so sorry,” Morgan apologized to the patrons who pulled their legs back in disgust from the splash of white sauce.

Paulo quickly came out and cleaned the mess. Morgan could feel Mario’s furious eyes on her, and she avoided going into the back until the lunch crowd had dwindled.

“What is wrong with you,” he hissed when she finally had to face the music. “You used to be such a good waitress, Morgan, but not lately. Pull yourself together or you’ll be out of here for good.”

Morgan apologized some more, fighting back the tears. Her chin trembled as she pulled on her coat. Couldn’t he give her the benefit of the doubt? She didn’t know what was wrong with her. She felt like she was losing her mind. Seeing shadows—shadows with nothing there. Anyone could have looked in the window of a busy, well-known restaurant. It didn’t mean she had a stalker.

The tears flowed as she stumbled home. The sun was already sinking deep into the west, the street a dark canyon. Morgan brushed angrily at her face as she stepped out onto the crosswalk. The driver making a right turn on red didn’t see her, and she didn’t notice the cab until she was suddenly jerked backwards. Wet slush splashed her legs, and the cabby yelled at her. Strong arms wrapped around her, keeping her from falling to the sidewalk. An electric shock jolted through Morgan’s whole body, raising the hair on the back of her neck.

Her heart thumped wildly. The arms let her go, and she stumbled. She turned around. A tall man stood behind her. He was holding his hands palm up, staring down at them. His hair was long and dark, and Morgan couldn’t see his face. “Thank you,” she said.

He simply shook his head, still staring at his hands. “Oh no,” he muttered, and to her surprise, turned and stalked away.

“Hey,” Morgan called after him, but with his long, loping stride he was gone around the corner.

She made it back home on trembling legs; from the shock of nearly being hit or from her reaction to the strange man, she didn’t know.

Carol was getting dressed for her evening shift. She demanded to know what was wrong. Morgan told her about dropping the plate, Mario saying she’d be done if it happened again, and almost getting hit by a cab. Something stopped her from mentioning the strange man who’d pulled her away from the car. She was afraid even Carol would start believing she was nuts too.

“You need a night out,” Carol decided. She had her phone in her hand in an instant. “Kayla and Lindsay are going to the Triad tonight. Kayla got the night off just to see this DJ. We’ll join them.”

“And your shift?” Morgan asked.

“I’ll find someone who wants it.”

It didn’t take Carol long to find a replacement for a busy Friday night shift. She texted Kayla and Lindsay and arranged to meet.

“We’ll do it right,” Carol said. “You’ve been moping about for days. We’ll go for a nice dinner that none of us have to serve and then dancing at the club.”

Morgan smiled and nodded. She didn’t feel much like going out, especially not with Lindsay and Kayla. They were Carol’s friends and only tolerated Morgan. Still, it would make Carol happy, and maybe getting drunk would be a good thing. Wipe out her brain and start with a fresh slate. Her stomach growled so loud she and Carol both burst out laughing.

“There’s still chicken.” Carol brought out the bucket and watched in astonishment as Morgan ate it all.

Morgan wiped her mouth. “I had no idea I was so hungry.”

“Good to see you eating.”

Morgan took a shower, wishing the water could wash away her strange visions as easily as the grime of the day sluiced off. She dressed in jeans and a silk shirt, tying a shiny scarf around her neck.

Carol sighed when she came out. “Really?” she asked. “We’re going dancing.”

“I’m not looking for anyone.” Morgan shrugged.

“You should.”

Morgan’s stomach growled again. Carol raised an eyebrow when Morgan made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “We’re going to dinner,” she remarked.

“This will tide me over. I’m starved.”

Carol laughed. “Are you pregnant?”

“Right, ’cause that makes sense.” Morgan swatted at Carol, who ducked.

When Kayla and Lindsay arrived at the apartment, Kayla took one look at Morgan’s outfit, rolled her eyes and didn’t even say hello. All three had dressed up in clingy spaghetti-strap dresses and heels.

“Which one of these four ain’t like the others?’ Lindsay sang. “Boots too?” She shared a look of disgust with Kayla.

“They have a heel,” Morgan said.

The women chose a restaurant that served nothing fancy, nothing fusion. They were all in the mood for pub fare. As soon as their waitress set the breadbasket on their table, Morgan’s stomach growled. The others were trying not to eat so Morgan ate all the bread, loaded with butter, too. Morgan felt flushed all of a sudden. She removed her scarf and rolled up her sleeves. Still hungry, she ordered a steak and baked potato with veggies and still had room for chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.

Carol was outright gaping. “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”

Kayla and Lindsay both looked up from their plates. “Pregnant?”

“No, no, I’m not.” Morgan glared at Carol and kicked her under the table.

Morgan didn’t put her coat on when they left. The cold night air felt good on her over-heated skin. They hailed a cab to the club. Morgan hadn’t expected to have a good time, and she didn’t. She sat, sipping at a drink, watching everyone else enjoy themselves. After an hour or so with Kayla and Lindsay no longer speaking to her for not even trying to have fun, even Carol had given up trying to get her to loosen up. Morgan was uncomfortably hot and sweaty as though she had danced all night.

She caught Carol’s eye and motioned she was leaving. Carol simply waved from the dance floor. Morgan knew they were mad at her. She found out the next day just how mad. At the end of her shift, Mario took her aside. “I’ve heard rumours you’re pregnant. That would explain a lot,” he said. “You’ve been making a lot of mistakes, and mistakes cost me money.”

Morgan spluttered her denial, but he waved it away.

“As soon as you show, you’re done here.” He stalked away. “Sue me if you can afford it,” he called over his shoulder.

Kayla came into the kitchen. “Trouble?” She smirked.

“What’s the matter with you?” Morgan demanded. “Why would you do that?”

“What’s the matter with you?” Kayla shot back.

Morgan had no answer to that. She grabbed her coat and left. What was wrong with her? Why was her life falling apart?



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Author Profile:

Selaine lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her family and a growing pack of dogs and cats. Her other publications include short stories available on the webzines littlefiction.com and spinetingler.com, as well as works on smashwords.com and Amazon Kindle Worlds.

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and @SelaineHenrikse on Twitter.

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