Does a place ever just move you? This happens to me a lot. I’ll be doing something or visiting somewhere and I’ll look around and go, “Wow, I need to set a story here.”
That’s what happened to me the last time I visited Montana.
I’ve been going there since I was a kid to visit family. I’ve always loved the natural beauty of the place, but I must admit there were a few road trips where I had my Walkman on, earphones firmly over my ears, as my family meandered through parks and the adults in the car implored us to “Look at that spectacular view!” every ten minutes. I guess teenagers aren’t the best travel companions.
But my last trip there, I was one of those excited grownups who couldn’t get enough of the place. Around every bend was a beautiful view or pull-off that seemed to demand we stop the car and take a picture.
At one point we were traveling through several feet in snow (in June!) and I looked around and the suspense writer inside me woke up and said, “Hey, now this would be a good place for a murder attempt.”
That’s the inspiration behind my story “Nightfall,” in the super-fabulous GUNS AND ROSES anthology, that we’ve been talking about all week. I must tell you how very proud I am of this collection–more than 150,000 original words (that’s a book and a half), written especially for this project. We are so thrilled to bring you new stories, new characters, and also some familiar favorites, like Bobbie Faye, that our readers have been asking about for years.
Here’s a sneak peek at my story, set in beautiful Montana. I had to turn the pretty setting on its head, though, to make it creepy enough for a suspense tale. It starts with Holly Henriksen, who experiences one of my personal worst fears when she gets stranded on an icy road at nightfall and is forced to trust a charming stranger who she believes may be keeping a dangerous secret.
Anyone who comments on today’s blog will be entered to win a copy of GUNS AND ROSES by the authors of Murder She Writes. And if you already have the book, we can gift it to one of your friends!
Holly’s teeth chattered, and the man behind the wheel pretended not to notice. She glanced over at him. She’d never taken a ride from a stranger before. Probably not a smart move. Then again, it was smarter than cowering in the forest and dying of hypothermia.
She looked out the window as he pulled up to a small A-frame cabin. As promised, it wasn’t far from the crash site. But the house wasn’t quite what she’d expected when they’d passed through fancy electronic gates to enter the D&D Ranch. The massive ranch had been purchased recently by some rich software exec, and Holly had heard about the deal all the way in Bozeman.
A yellow light glowed from the front porch. He parked alongside a neatly arranged stack of firewood and cut the engine.
“Gonna get cold tonight,” he said as they climbed out. He grabbed a few logs before tromping up the stairs.
He turned to look at her. In the porch light, she saw that he was tall and broad-shouldered. He could overpower her in a heartbeat if he wanted to, and she was about to enter an empty house with him.
“I don’t even know your name,” she said.
“Colin Denton.” He gave a slight nod. “I’m the caretaker here, case you were wondering.”
She hadn’t been. That’s how frozen her brain was. It hadn’t even occurred to her to wonder what this man did for a living or why he happened to be out on the isolated stretch of highway where she’d crashed her van.
He arched his brows at her. “And you are…?”
“Holly.” Well, duh. He already knew that. “Holly Henriksen.”
The corner of his lip curved up. He stood there on the porch, not even shivering, in only a flannel shirt and jeans. He had brown-black eyes and a two-day beard, and it suddenly struck her how attractive he was—in a scruffy, lumberjack kind of way.
“You want to come in, Holly Henriksen, so I can see about that cut? Or we gonna stand here all night freezing our tails off?”
His tone was teasing, and something told her he was using it to relax her. It worked. There was something about his posture, his mannerisms, and his decisive response to everything that made her want to trust him. She climbed the steps and waited with her hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket as he unlocked the door.