BEFORE MY WORLD TURNED BLUE is a paranormal time travel romance about two star-crossed lovers whose affair could change the future of planet Earth. Atmospheric, sensual and full of mystery, it’s the second book in a series about a small town turned gateway to an apocalyptic ghost war and the men and women on the front lines fighting to save humanity from extinction.
The Haunted Hollow ~ Book Two
What if the impossible is just a kiss away from reality?
Long before she became the witch of the Haunted Hollow, Ruby Radley was just a girl in love with the wrong boy. Step into the past and find out if Ruby is doomed to become the terrifying Scheherazade or if, with a little help from unexpected places, she can change her destiny.
It’s 1942 and Ruby, a beautiful heiress to a massive family fortune and the step-granddaughter of a powerful necromancer, has no say in man she marries. She’s tried sabotage, prayer, even charms and hexes and nothing has succeeded in preventing her impending marriage to a man she hates. Secretly in love with town outcast, Justin Wyatt, Ruby finally turns to morally ambiguous shadow magic in a desperate attempt to rewrite her fate. But all magic has a price.
Justin Wyatt knows he has no chance with a girl like Ruby and is headed off to war with nothing to come home to. Until Ruby turns a farewell with friends into the most incredible night of his life. And the strangest. When a time traveling detective from the future and two meddling ghosts get involved, who knows how events will unfold this time. What price is Ruby willing to pay and how far is Justin willing to go for true love?
This is a well written, complex, and riveting story. Beware: there are lots of story strands that will secure you in a web of pain, deceit, and regret. But there is also love and while it did not conquer all just yet, it did manage to take a bite out of evil and create the possibility that in the future Love can win.
The story begins near the end of human life and true love. There is no saving our world unless the time travelers can locate when all went irrevocably bad and fix it. So our angry, resentful time traveler, Sam, heads back in time.
WARNING: Because I could not put this book down, I am now at risk of starving.
But first I wish to tell you: Buy and Read this book, but begin reading in the morning because there are way too many creatures of the dark and ghosts in this book to dare take them to bed with you.
Retail Price for Print: coming soon
Print ISBN: n/a
Retail Price for eBook: 1.99
eBook ISBN: 9781533765093
Author Website: www.tessrider.com
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/TessRiderAuthor
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/TessRiderAuthor
The Radley Winery sat atop one of the hills surrounding Radley’s Hollow and appeared on the ridge like a citadel to a long-gone empire. It was nothing more than a mammoth silhouette in the night, but Ruby knew the tall, stone walls and twin round, ivy-covered towers well. She’d played in the cavernous hall and outbuildings of her family’s winery as a child.
The breeze tugged at her hair as they roared up the hill and she hugged herself tighter to Justin’s strong torso. Leather scent filled her nose, his jacket well-worn and perfectly fitted to his broad shoulders and lean body. Now that she finally had her arms around him, she never wanted to let go. But one night together didn’t necessarily mean they had a future. There was still the matter of making the choice Madison said would satisfy their bargain. The ghost had given her no indication of when she’d be asked to make this choice and so it loomed like dark clouds on the horizon.
Justin pulled the motorcycle into the circular driveway and parked in front of the winery’s main doors. As soon as he shut off the engine, silence descended. Then the critters in the dark all around them came to life —crickets, frogs, the rustle of mice and raccoons in the vineyards on the slopes below. The moon, clear of the tree line now, turned the grape leaves to silver and bathed the rolling western hills in a benevolent glow. Off in the distance, a bank of black clouds gathered and the winds had picked up, making the trees planted along the drive dance as if underwater.
Ruby reluctantly let go of Justin. She swung her leg over the bike and dismounted. The silk dress ripped further up her leg in protest. Fine by her; she hadn’t bought the dress. Irene had, just like she controlled everything else in Ruby’s life. Tonight, she was free. Free to be messy. Free to laugh and swear and live. Free to love. Ruby released the catch on the helmet and took it off, shaking out her hair. She caught Justin watching her and electricity shivered down her spine.
Justin quickly looked away to the view on the other side of the circular drive.
She followed his gaze to the east. All of Radley’s Hollow spread out in the tree-filled hollow below the winery. The white steeple of the old church pierced the canopy of oaks as if breaking through a cloud bank. Not too far away peeked the tip of the Radley Bank clock tower and the spiny, wrought iron edge of the widow’s walk of the Radley Mansion. At the far end of town stood the bulbous water tower and in the middle ran the railroad tracks that sliced through Main Street like a giant scar. Her family owned just about everything in sight.
“It’s amazing up here,” she said. “You can see the entire hollow. I’ve been to New York, London, Paris and Rome, but I think this is the most splendid place on Earth.”
“I’ve never been anywhere but here, combed every inch of this countryside. It is beautiful, but in a raw and wild way, not easily tamed.”
“Like you?” Her glance shifted to him.
Still squinting at the view, he asked, “Is that what you’re doing with me? One last grasp at adventure and freedom before it’s gone?”
Ruby shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. Was it the sudden chill of the winds gusting past them or his words that echoed her thoughts so well? Justin shrugged off his jacket and hesitated just a moment before laying it gently over her shoulders. Ruby pulled the jacket around her, his scent embracing her. Clean soap and open air. Yes, he smelled like freedom.
“Would you hate me for saying yes?” she asked, looking up at him. “I’ve never had a say in the man I marry. I’ve been promised to Hamilton all my life. It’s been understood between our families, both of them conveniently ruled by the same woman.”
“I was wondering how you got out of the house tonight. I sure can’t imagine your step-grandmother sanctioning a bachelorette party at Cole’s.”
“To be honest, I had to use a bit of trickery to get out. But after yesterday at the dinner I had to come see you.”
Justin took a deep breath and let it out slowly, still facing the view. His expression was unreadable, his body stiff, something holding him back, that same something she’d been seeing all night. He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “So this is a one-time thing? You get married tomorrow and I…I go on with my own life.”
“Tonight can be anything we want it to be. I just needed to get to know you before I lost the chance forever. Talk to me, Justin. Tell me about wine. Tell me stories about this place and its ghosts. Tell me about you.” Because she had so many questions. If only she had time to really get to know him, in body, heart and mind.
His rigid posture eased and he met her look head-on. The moonlight glimmered over half of his face, leaving the other half in shadow. A smile slowly graced his lips. Her heart fluttered, filled with butterflies of hope.
“You sure you won’t be scared of the ghosts?” he asked.
“I’m not if you’re not.”
“I never said I wasn’t scared.” He laughed. “Let’s just say I much prefer working in the vineyards, even on a blazing hot day, to working in the cellar.”
“So you do believe in ghosts?”
“I sure as hell don’t want to believe in them. But you live in Radley’s Hollow long enough and, well, it gets real hard to deny their existence.” Justin nodded to the winery’s massive door, made of solid oak and banded with iron. “This place is almost one hundred years old. It’s seen its fair share of drama, especially during Prohibition.”
“So let’s go see if we can find some of these dreaded ghosts.” Ruby marched to the door. With a soft chuckle, Justin followed. He heaved the heavy door open with little effort, betraying his strength. Watching him in action sent the blood pumping through her veins. Like the way he’d so effortlessly handled the motorcycle. What would it be like to feel him handle her?
“You know there’s talk the ghost of your, what is it, five greats-great-grandmother, Madison Radley, shows up here once in a while,” Justin said. “But then again, people say they see her all over town.”
“Anywhere one of her portraits hangs,” Ruby clarified, pleased to have someone she could talk to outside of the mansion about the secret world of Radley’s Hollow. “My five times great-great-grandfather, JD Radley, was so broken up after she died that he had dozens of portraits of her commissioned and hung them in almost every room in the mansion and at every establishment he owned, which were many, plus town hall. And Madison and I aren’t actually related. She was JD’s second wife.”
The heady scent of wine wafted over her the moment she stepped inside the main hall, hitting the back of her throat with its distinctive pungency. The vast interior lay before them like an unlit cavern. No telling what waited for them in the dark. And it was dark, so dense even her breath stopped up in her chest. Fear snaked little tendrils down her back, so she did something she used to do as a kid when she woke with night terrors. She sang.
“‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,’” she called out into the dark, singing the words to an old spiritual that had always resonated with her. Her voice bounced off the stone walls of the giant hall.
Then Justin’s voice echoed hers, rich and deep and totally unexpected. “‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.’”
“‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long, long way from home,’” she finished, her voice cracking at the end. She hugged herself for a moment. That old loneliness that had haunted her since her parents died threatened to make her cry, and bawling on Justin’s shoulder wasn’t something she wanted to do tonight.
“The acoustics in here are great,” Justin said as he moved away from her through the darkness. A few moments later, light crackled through the bulbs strung above the storehouse and production areas. More than a dozen shelves of bottled wine occupied half the enormous hall while the other half housed the bottling and corking equipment. The thick stone walls kept the temperature even and cool.
“Oh my goodness, have you ever seen so much wine!” Ruby skipped over to the wine racks and sauntered down an aisle. She grinned. Footsteps strolled after her. She ran down one aisle and up another, laughing, urging him to find her. For a few minutes they were just a couple of kids goofing off. She laughed and scurried down another aisle just as he turned the corner of the last one. She ran past a few more before turning.
A hand grabbed at her shoulder.
Ruby stumbled and turned her head, only no one was there. Admittedly, she was a little tipsy so she may have imagined it. Pretty sure she’d lost Justin a few aisles back, she tiptoed down the row, the racks of wine towering above her just like they had when she was a child. In a strange way, they seemed to grow even taller. She stared up at row after row of wine bottles, all reds, their necks pointed outward, round corks creating a wall of eyes looking out at her. A soft tinkling rippled through them.
Ruby blinked. The bottles sat on their shelves, silent and normal. She stopped smiling. “Justin?”
She paused and waited. She’d come to the very end of the last aisle at the rear of the warehouse. The lights weren’t as bright at this end. One flickered on and off intermittently, popping every so often. Every time, she jumped. Behind her, slow, steady footsteps echoed off the walls.
“Are you trying to scare me?” she called out.
A cold chill spread out across the floor, icy tendrils reaching for her. It emanated from the arched doorway to the cellar only several feet away. Ruby stopped dead in her tracks. She remembered this belly-sick sensation from childhood when she’d played here with her cousins. There were things down in that cellar she still had nightmares about.
Rooted to the spot, a scream bubbled up in her throat as the cold slithered up her legs and froze her to the spot.
“There you are.” Justin arrived behind her.
Ruby sagged in relief at the sound of his voice and at the gentle hand he put on her shoulder. She covered it with hers.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
She turned around, gave him a wobbly smile and nodded to the open archway. Beyond it gaped only darkness. “I already feel them. The ghosts.”
“Yup, that’s the aging cellar down there. It’s one of the creepiest places in town, if you ask me. It’s got a pretty ghoulish history starting with when Madison Radley’s body was found down there on the night of the town founding. Then there was the Prohibition Stomp of ’25, a gun battle between police and bootleggers that left ten people dead. I think something bad happened several years back. Are you sure you want to go down? We really don’t have to.”
“No, I want to. I need to know if…if it’s the same as it was when I was young.” The nightmares. The visions. The strange window into a terrifying future. Her future. Had it only been a product of her overactive imagination or had she truly seen what she would become?
Not sure what to share and what not to, she started babbling. “I read in a book that Madison was called the Madonna of the Hollow when she was alive because she helped so many people. Did you know the entire town was devastated and in mourning for a whole year after she passed? She became an instant saint to the community. Now everyone says you can make a wish to one of her portraits if you know the right spell.”
“So she’s kind of like a genie in a lamp.”
“Exactly.” Ruby smiled up at him.
Justin nodded to the stairway down to the cellar and mimicked the drama of a radio announcer introducing an episode of Dark Fantasy. “Are you prepared to find out what lurks down below?”
“Oh, stop,” Ruby said, playfully slapping at his shoulder.
Justin laughed and clasped her hand in his. He looked down on their entwined fingers. A muscle ticked in his jaw.
“Together,” she said, nodding to the darkness.
“Together.” His throat worked. “God, Ruby, I wish—”
At the same moment, she popped up on her tiptoes and kissed him. Just a light buss on his soft, cool lips to give her courage. But when she moved to back off he didn’t let her go. Looking her directly in the eyes, he slid his hands up her arms and then over her shoulders. Ruby returned his look, never wavering. A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips and her heart beat as fast as a hummingbird’s. He dragged his fingers up either side of her neck, sending electric shivers of pleasure across her flesh, his touch so perfectly delicate, as if tuning to her. Then he cupped her cheeks and kissed her with such hunger her entire body caught flame. She wound her arms around his neck and pressed herself against his long, lean length. He let out an animal growl, arms going around her to pull her in tight…
A soft cry escaped her. “Justin, please—”
Another cry echoed up from the stairwell. Soft, eerie. Easy to ignore. Then came another cry, more desperate. Then another and another. What was it? A child? A small animal? The sound escalated from a sob to a wail to a screech.
Help me! I’m lost.
She and Justin sprang apart.
“Did you hear that?” Justin asked, eyes wide.
Ruby nodded, breathing in sharp, quick pants. “Yes.”
As one, they raced down the stairs into the cellar.