Laziness Strikes Again!

While I’d love to have some good reason for abandoning my website, the truth is… I don’t. I’m doing my best to try and catch up on the last year or so and make a more concerted effort to keep this page running and up to date. Soon, the page will be updated with all my current releases as well as information, news, and future blog posts. I intend on posting here regularly, as well as setting up a mailing list/newsletter so you know what’s going on in the mind of your favorite author. Am I being presumptuous?

I appreciate all the amazing feedback I’ve received for my work in the last two years and I hope you stick around to see what else is on the horizon. This includes a top secret anthology appearance in spring/summer, and the early 2019 release of my latest novel, ‘Tenants.’

My pre-readers have called my latest offering a mix of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ with a touch of ‘The Sentinel’ thrown in for good measure. I’m very proud of this book and can’t wait to see your thoughts and opinions.

Would you like a taste?

Here’s an exclusive look at the first couple pages of ‘Tenants.’ This has not been edited, so bear with me.

***

Chapter 1

Linda Gianni stood in front of the Blackridge Apartments with a crumpled piece of notebook paper clutched in her hand. Of all the addresses she’d written down, the imposing, brick structure on Delaney Street was the only one remaining. She’d been waiting on the landlord for twenty minutes under a low, slate-gray sky, scanning the neighborhood for signs of life. A block away, a small pizza place stood out in the gloom, marked by a tacky, pink neon sign that appeared left over from the days of disco. The sidewalks were barren and most of the parking slots along the potholed street were empty. If there was anything going for this rundown section of town, it was the lack of traffic and an almost eerie calm.

She checked her watch and saw it was nearing five o’clock; the landlord was almost a half-hour late, and if he expected to show her the apartment, he was quickly running out of time. It would take her over an hour to get back to her parents’ house in Scranton, and she’d never been a fan of driving at night. The thick cloud cover had already dressed the surrounding buildings in a cloak of murky gray, and before long, Linda expected the fine drizzle to become a full-fledged rain.

Five more minutes, she thought, checking her cell phone to make sure she hadn’t missed the landlord’s call. Instead, she saw a half-dozen texts from an unknown number. It didn’t take long to figure out who had been trying to reach her.

WE HAVE TO TALK.
CALL ME.
WHY ARE YOU BEING SUCH A BITCH?
I’M SORRY!
GO TO HELL, LINDA!
PLEASE CALL ME!

The texts were all five minutes apart, no doubt sent by Christian Barnes, her ex-boyfriend and current stalker. He was part of the reason she stood on this lonely street, miles from where she’d grown up. Christian had a really difficult time taking no for an answer, and her parents were getting tired of midnight phone calls and random knocks on the door. They’d dated for three years when things fell apart, but Linda quickly discovered she was the only one that realized the relationship was over. Christian had hounded her incessantly, filling her inbox with hurtful messages followed by drunken apologies and professions of undying love.

It had ended in a restraining order after a physical altercation on her parents’ lawn, but Christian wasn’t taking it seriously; he saw it as a hurdle on their way to a happy reconciliation. Linda saw it as a well-defined punctuation mark on a three-year sentence.

She deleted the text messages and dumped the phone in her purse just as the streetlight overhead buzzed to life, bathing the sidewalk in a muted yellow glow. She looked up at the apartment building and shivered; it loomed over the street, devoid of any noticeable life. The windows on the first floor were all covered by green, peeling shutters; the six floors above were dark and seemingly abandoned. Weather-worn bricks appeared black in the failing light.

“Okay, pal,” she muttered. “I don’t have time for this.”

She stepped off the curb and walked to the side of her Prius, digging around in her purse and feeling for the plastic Snoopy attached to the end of her keyring. A pair of white headlights cut through the fog as a sleek, black Lexus slowed and pulled into the empty parking space behind her. She raised a hand to shield her eyes, feeling naked in the harsh glow. The engine stopped and the lights went out as a man exited the driver’s side door, whistling tunefully. He walked toward her as she blinked away the afterimages of the headlights; for a few seconds she could only ascertain his location by the rhythmic tapping of his approaching footsteps.

“Ms. Gianni?” he asked. “I’m terribly sorry for making you wait, but I was tied up on the other side of town. I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

“No,” she lied. “I’ve only been here a few minutes. You’re Mr. Sterling I presume.”

“You presume correctly,” he said, extending his hand, “but please, call me Albert, or just Al if you like.”

“Al,” she repeated. “I’m Linda. We spoke on the phone.” She shook his offered hand, taken aback by its softness and pleasant warmth. Based on this and his luxury transport, she assumed hard, physical labor had never been part of his daily routine.

“The apartment is still available?”

“Sure, sure,” he said. Linda tried placing the man’s accent. It had the hard edges of Germanic descent, but had softened over time. “It’s hard to find good tenants these days with the unfortunate state of our economy. People come, they look, some stay for a month or two, and I’m left holding the bag when they skip out on their last month’s rent.”

“Is there a lot of crime in this area?”

“Here?” he chuckled. “There’s not enough left in this part of town to satiate even a beginning petty criminal. You’re lucky to see a dozen people on any given day. Some find that creepy while others find it rather charming. I’m one of the latter. Who wants to live in a place where crossing the street is a daily adventure? People come here to get way from the bright lights and the loud parties. Everything you might need is only several blocks away: a clothing store, a grocery, a video game shop if that’s your thing. There are some wonderful restaurants in walking distance; I’d suggest Abruzzi’s if you’re in the mood for inexpensive Italian fare.”

Linda nodded and smiled, casually glancing at her watch.

“My apologies,” Al exclaimed. “You’re here for the apartment, and I’m prattling on about nonsense. Forgive me.”

“No, really, it’s fine. I was just hoping to get home before dark.”

“Ah, someone is waiting for you there? Boyfriend? Husband?” he asked, briefly looking down to see if she was wearing a wedding ring.

“No, nothing like that. I live with my parents right now,” she said, embarrassed. “It’s only temporary.”

“Understood. Sometimes leaving the nest is easier said than done.”

“Oh, it’s not that…”

“So, would you like to see the room?” he interrupted.

“Uh, yes. That would be great.”

Without waiting, Al Sterling hopped onto the sidewalk and approached the steep flight of concrete stairs leading to the front entrance. He stopped, bent, and snatched something from the sidewalk. He held it out in front of him and shook it between his thumb and forefinger with a jangle.

“My keys!” Linda exclaimed. “I was looking for those.”

“Good thing I found them, then.” He dropped the keys into Linda’s outstretched hand with a sly grin. For the first time, she noticed that Al Sterling was a rather attractive older man. His hair was combed back and clung closely to his scalp; streaks of gray radiated from his temples and disappeared behind his ears. His eyes were the color of emeralds, topped by thin brows that were likely sculpted in a bathroom mirror. He wore a plain, but immaculately ironed button-down shirt, and black, pleated slacks. A gold chain hung around his neck and vanished into his shirt collar, where several curly strands of white hair peeked above the fabric.

Linda cleared her throat and looked away for fear that he’d see her lingering gaze and get the wrong impression.

He really is a good looking guy, she thought. The fine scent of his cologne touched her nose before being scattered by the breeze. If his clothes and his car were any indication, his cologne probably cost more than her entire outfit.

“So, how did you find the place?” Al asked as he mounted the steps.

“I saw the ad in the Gazette,” she replied. “The rent is surprisingly low.”

“Well, it’s a very competitive industry, as I’m sure you’re aware. Charge too much and your rooms remain empty, charge too little and prospective tenants assume there are rats in the walls. I assure you, there are no rats.”

Al opened the front door and walked inside as Linda’s purse buzzed with the muffled vibration of her cell phone.
Give it a rest, Christian, she thought as she entered. If this attempt at leaving her past behind was going to have any hope of success, she’d need to change her number immediately.

“Something important?” Al asked over his shoulder.

“No, no, nothing,” Linda replied.

This guy must have ears like a fox.

While she was busy considering the man’s supernatural hearing ability, she stepped into a room that quickly brought her out of her reverie. If she could have seen her face in a mirror, she wouldn’t have been shocked to see her mouth hanging open; catching flies as her mother was wont to say.

“Christ,” Linda blurted. “This is an apartment building?”

Al turned and smiled, clearly thrilled by her reaction. “It wasn’t always. It was built in 1922 as the Hotel DeMarco, but by the 1960’s, this town could no longer sustain a hotel trade. Those ramshackle motor inns started springing up all over the place, and suddenly people no longer cared about comfort. It changed hands several times before I got my hands on it in 1990, and I’ve been running it ever since as affordable apartments. I thought about calling it The Sterling, but I’m a man without ego. It seemed too… tacky.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Linda said.

And it was.

She’d expected a grimy foyer, a small enclosure with cracked linoleum tile and smelling of the thick, acrid odor of thousands of smoked cigarettes, but instead she was treated to a massive room that wouldn’t have been out of place in a five star hotel in New York City. The ceiling arched thirty feet above her head, the plaster painted a clean, eggshell white. Art Deco designs accentuated the dozen large pillars that supported the floor above; four bronze and crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling – one in each quarter of the room – with an even larger fixture centered directly in the middle, surrounded by a hand painted, golden sunburst. The floors were marble with a repeating, interwoven, gray and black design. It appeared to be a later remodel, with some styles seeming to clash, but it was still elegant and well-kept and had the faint, pleasant smell of fresh lilac.

“I’ll give a brief tour if you have time,” Al said. “There’s plenty to see, and although some parts of the building have been blocked off to tenants, there’s no lack of old-fashioned charm.”

Linda nodded without even thinking. It was too good to be true, and for five-hundred dollars a month it was an absolute steal. She dangled from the hook like a fish out of water, listening to his every word and waiting for the inevitable catch.

“You’re sure the price in your ad was accurate?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am. I haven’t raised the rent in fifteen years, and that price covers your electricity and cable as well. You’re responsible only for your own food and upkeep of your unit.”

“Upkeep?”

“If something cosmetic needs fixing, you fix it, or have it fixed. I think it’s only fair.”

“Of course,” she agreed.

“If I had a nickel for every time I had to clean blood from a carpet, or fish a shitty diaper from a toilet, I’d be a very rich man.”

“Uh huh.” Linda was paying very little attention. She had become transfixed by the strange pattern etched into the marble beneath her feet.

“Would you like to see the common room?”

Linda nodded and followed Albert Sterling, forgetting all about the time, and all about boyfriends intent on unwanted communication.
In that moment, she belonged to the handsome older gentleman, and hung on his every word as if it was gospel.

From then on, Linda had no doubt she’d do just about anything to become a resident of the Blackridge Apartments.

This was going to become her home, come Hell or high water.

***

Thanks for reading! ‘Tenants’ will be available in paperback and for Kindle (including Kindle Unlimited) Q1 2019.

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