It was raining. Isn’t that the way all great love stories start? And also usually end? The midnight air was cool against my skin as I stared off that bridge. My blond wig was secured in place by a headband, and chunky sunglasses covered my whiskey-colored eyes. I didn’t look like myself any more than I felt it. Bruises from the night before painted my legs while fresh scabs covered my knees, but it was the hollowness in my chest that hurt the most.
Yep. Still me.
Which was exactly why I was standing on that bridge, wishing for the mental fortitude to hurl myself off.
A man’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “You finally gonna do it tonight?”
I instinctually smoothed my fake hair down and pressed the bridge of my glasses closer to my face, sealing out any possible glance he could catch. I stared ahead as I snapped, “Excuse me?”
“I’ve seen you here three nights in a row now. I was just wondering if tonight was going to be the night you finally jump.”
My eyes flashed wide, but since they were covered by the dark glasses, my reaction remained hidden. “I just like the view. That’s all.” What a load of shit.
I watched him nod out of the corner of my eye. “Yeah me too. It’s gorgeous up here.”
Shuffling my feet to the side, I attempted to slip away as he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and offered it my way.
“You want one?”
I shook my head and then crept down a few inches to put distance between us.
“Suit yourself.” He used a hand to shield the lighter from the wind, but the constant sprinkle of rain made his task impossible. “Damn it,” he cursed with the cigarette tucked between his lips. “Little help?” he asked, swinging his gaze to mine.
Arching an eyebrow, I asked, “With what?”
“It’s raining…and windy…and I’m trying to burn one.” He tilted his head, equally as incredulous.
“You want me to call God? We had a bad breakup recently, but he might be willing to do me one last favor.”
He breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief. “That would be fantastic. What’s the big guy’s response time like these days? Last time we spoke, it was”—he paused to look at his watch—“oh, twenty-seven years.”
A soft laugh bubbled from my throat, and one side of his mouth lifted in a gorgeous grin.
“I’m not exactly in the mood to wait that long, so maybe you could just block the wind with your body?” His smile spread as he stepped toward me, forcing my gaze to nervously bounce away.
“Sorry. Can’t help you there. Lung cancer and I broke up too.” After gathering the back of my wig into a ponytail, I pulled it over my shoulder and turned away from him. The chill of the wind blasted my face and roared over my ears as it rushed past me.
I went back to staring out at the dark, choppy water, becoming lost in the idea of how cold it might be.
Is tonight the night?
My feet would more than likely never leave the edge of that bridge, but there was a definite reason why I was imagining ending it all. Exactly zero other people in the world would understand why. I had it all, and I dreamed about losing it all—more often than I would ever admit, even to myself.
After stepping out of my heels, I slipped my foot between the bars on the railing. The wind slammed my bruised leg against the metal. “Shit,” I hissed as pain shot through me.
“You think that hurts? Imagine falling twenty-five stories then crashing into the water, which might as well be concrete, at speeds upward of seventy miles per hour,” the man said, leaning on the metal railing next to me.
“Wow. Someone’s done some research,” I said sarcastically, barely sparing him a glance.
“Daily,” he responded frankly, causing my surprised gaze to swing to his. Simply shrugging at my reaction, he turned his back to the railing and propped himself up on his colorfully tattooed forearms. “You forget I’ve been here the last three nights in a row too.” He smirked, lifting the cigarette up to his lips for a deep inhale.
“Listen, I’m not going to jump if you’re some kind of caped crusader on a mission. I just needed some fresh air.” I pointedly glanced at his cigarette.
A laugh escaped his mouth in a grey puff. “Fresh air is overrated. Especially given the reason you’re standing here.” He knowingly arched a dark-brown eyebrow.
“Riiiiight,” I drawled, rolling my eyes behind my glasses. “Okay, well, I was just heading out anyway.”
“Then my work here is done.” He bowed, and the corner of my mouth lifted in a smile as I stepped back into my shoes and walked away.
I shook my head at the random stranger. Then, a thought struck me, stopping me only a few feet away. Spinning back to face him, I asked, “Wait. Were you reaching out to me as a cry for help?”
“Oh look. Designer Shoes has a conscience!” He dropped his cigarette to the damp ground, stepping on it with the toe of his well-worn, black boots. Bending over, he picked the butt up and tucked it in his pocket.
At least he didn’t litter.
“Oh look. Tattooed Stalker has jokes!” I smarted back.
He smiled, pulling another cigarette from his pocket and then pausing just before guiding it between his lips. “Were you judging me based on my tattoos? I’m offended.” He feigned anguish then laughed while lifting his lighter to once again battle the wind for a nicotine fix.
I wanted to walk away, but he wasn’t wrong. I did have a conscience, and right then, I was worried that it might really be his night to make good on his apparent numerous visits to the bridge.
With a huff, I headed back towards him, praying that I could wrap it up as quickly as possible then head back to my house for a few hours of sleep. Or, more likely, lie awake while staring at the ceiling and crying.
“Are you planning to jump for real?” I asked.
His smile fell as he focused on the water. “Nah. I don’t have the balls to do something like that. Talking to you wasn’t a plea for help or anything. You just look worse than usual tonight.” His gaze slid down to my battered legs.
“Oh!” I exclaimed in understanding. “That’s not at all what you’re thinking. I fell down some stairs.”
He quirked his lips in disbelief.
“I’m sure you are,” he told the wind. “You can go. I’m good.”
I could have walked away, but for some reason, I pulled my jacket tighter around my shoulders and silently stood there while he finished his cigarette.
After a final deep inhale, he flicked it over the railing of the bridge.
Apparently, he does litter.
Turning to me, his face became serious. “You need to call the cops before he makes the decision to end it all for you.”
“Who?” I asked, watching the burning ember hit the metal column then explode in a million different sparks before disappearing down to the water below.
“The stairs…and whatever inanimate object you’re blaming for those bruises you’re hiding behind sunglasses at one in the morning. You should call the cops before…” His voice trailed off, but his dark gaze narrowed on mine. His eyes bored into my hidden stare, combining with the rain and wind to send chills down my spine.
I took the moment to secretly assess him. He was insanely sexy, but nothing like the men I was accustomed to. His chin was the kind of scruffy that made women weak, but it was obvious he didn’t pay four hundred dollars for his personal hairstylist to shape it. Judging by his shaggy, brown hair that begged for me to thread my fingers in it, I wasn’t sure he was even a barbershop kind of guy. He stood a few inches taller than I was in heels, so I pegged him at around six one. And while his tattooed forearms were deliciously sculpted and his shoulders were notably defined, his body didn’t appear to be swollen with muscles from hours spent at the gym. By the aura of bad boy he gave off, I would have expected him to be a self-consumed, arrogant prick.
He wasn’t though.
He was just an average guy worrying about the well-being of an average girl.
Only he couldn’t have been more wrong, and a pang of guilt hit me hard.
Just not hard enough for me to do anything to correct his assumptions about who I was.
Very softly, I attempted to put his fears to rest. “I promise it’s not what you’re thinking.”
“Okay,” he responded, unconvinced. He nodded to himself before dragging another cigarette from his pocket.
I watched him struggle for a second before I scooted towards him, using my body to block the wind.
Biting the cigarette between his straight, white teeth, he smiled devilishly around it. “Thanks.” Flicking the flame to life, he hunched over until a stream of smoke swirled up from the red tip.
“You should stop smoking.”
“Noted.” He exhaled through his nose.
We went back to silently staring over the side of the bridge. The familiar lights of the San Francisco skyline danced all around us. And, even as tourists and locals alike passed by us, I felt an odd, and unbelievably comfortable, isolation standing there with him.
When my teeth began to chatter, his attention was drawn my way. “I’m not here to jump. You really can go.”
I nodded but didn’t move away.
He chuckled, crossing his arms over his chest and rubbing his biceps for warmth.
“How are you not frozen?” I asked, taking in his thin Henley for the first time since we met.
Shrugging, he dropped his cigarette, answering as he bent to retrieve it. “Thick skin? I’m used to it? I come here a lot? I’m half Eskimo?”
I eyed him suspiciously. “You’re cold, aren’t you?”
“Fucking. Freezing,” he admitted, tucking his arms close to his body and blowing into his hands. “I just came up here for one smoke. Then I saw you. Now, come on. Be a lady and loan a man a jacket,” he joked, tugging on the edge of my coat.
I laughed, hugging it even tighter around my body and stepping out of his reach. “How about we both just leave? Then neither of us have to worry about the other plummeting to their death.”
“Sounds like an amazing plan.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of the tattered jeans riding low on his hips. As we began the hike back down to the foot of the bridge, he asked, “You have a name, Designer Shoes?”
I smiled and shook my head, not willing to lie—or divulge the truth.
“Yeah. Me either,” he replied.
I bit my bottom lip to suppress a laugh.
Side by side, we trudged the rest of the way in silence.
When we got to the foot of the bridge, he turned to face me and sighed. “Well, I genuinely hope I never see you again.”
My head snapped back in shock, and maybe a little hurt.
But he quickly corrected himself. “No! I just mean… Shit.” He ran a nervous hand through his hair while I watched, amused. “I just mean, given the way we met… I…um. I hope you never have a reason to go back up there.”
I teasingly tipped my head to the side. “But I really like the view.”
He cleared his throat. “Right. Of course, the view. Okay, well, have a good night.”
“You too.” I smiled tightly, but my feet didn’t budge. I told myself that it was because I didn’t want him to see my car or the bodyguard waiting for me behind the wheel. But, in reality, I just wasn’t ready to leave. Home wasn’t where I wanted to be. I didn’t actually want to be anywhere.
Not even standing at the foot of a bridge, talking to a witty and sexy man.
Okay, maybe I wanted that a little bit.
“Yep. Have a good night,” he repeated, shoving his hands inside his pockets and slowly backing away.
I gave him a quick wave, which he returned before he jogged in the other direction.
I smiled to myself, shaking my head at the entire interaction—secretly lamenting that it hadn’t been longer.
Maybe there’s only one direction to go when two people fall
in love at rock bottom—up.
Add The Fall Up to your TBR list on Goodreads!
RELEASE DATE: October 26th
I wanted to jump.
He made me fall.
As a celebrity, I lived in the public eye, but somewhere along the way, I’d lost myself in the spotlight.
Until he found me.
Sam Rivers was a gorgeous, tattooed stranger who saved my life with nothing more than a simple conversation.
But we were both standing on that bridge for a reason the night we met. The secrets of our pasts brought us together—and then tore us apart.
Could we find a reason to hold on as life constantly pulled us down?
Or maybe there’s only one direction to go when two people fall in love at rock bottom—up.
About the Author:
Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, Aly Martinez is a stay-at-home mom to four crazy kids under the age of five, including a set of twins. Currently living in South Carolina, she passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a glass of wine at her side.
After some encouragement from her friends, Aly decided to add “Author” to her ever-growing list of job titles. Five books later, she shows no signs of slowing. So grab a glass of Chardonnay, or a bottle if you’re hanging out with Aly, and join her aboard the crazy train she calls life.
Canvas Bound by Laura M. Kolar
(Captive Art #1)
Publication date: July 3rd 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Sixteen-year-old Libby Tanner’s art comes to life. Her painted skies turn from day to night, leaves rustle on trees, and sometimes, a mystery boy appears.
While attending England’s Aldridge Art Academy, Libby meets charming Brent Henderson, a performing arts student who showers her with attention. But his rival, gorgeous Dean James, is the one who occupies her mind, even though he’s very much attached to his current girlfriend.
Libby soon learns there’s more to both Brent and Dean than she ever imagined. In order to save her future and the boy who’s captured her heart, she must unlock the secrets behind her art by entering the most dangerous place of all… the world within her paintings.
But once she steps into the canvas, she risks being trapped forever.
(The book will be on sale for 0.99c during the blitz.)
The early afternoon sun cascaded in through the bare window as I sat alone in my studio. The hazy golden glow surrounded me, warming my face. We’d already gotten a few inches of snow, but the crisp white blanket dappled with a jewel-like shimmer inspired me rather than chilled me.
I’d almost finished a snowy bridge scene. The honey-colored stone pillars and iron railings of the bridge blended effortlessly with the trees in the background, glistening in the burnt-orange sunlight. With a final dab of dark purple, the painting was complete. Hope bubbled inside me when delicate white flakes began to float down inside the canvas. I shivered, then held my breath until the last snowflake fell, but my mystery boy never came, and the painting went still once again.
“As if I didn’t have enough going on right now.” I smacked my paintbrush down on the easel. “You couldn’t show up just this once when I’d really like to see you.”
You’re losing it, Libby. Or maybe it’s already gone?
It’d been over two months since I’d painted the orchard and seen my mystery boy, and I sometimes wondered if the magic was lost to me. Even my classwork lacked... something. My mind was so unsettled and my painting so sporadic lately that I ached deep inside. I was so disconnected... from him.
When I was sure nothing more would happen within the bridge scene, I set the whole thing aside and gathered my paint-soaked brushes. The colors spilled down the drain as I washed the brushes, wishing the murky swirl would carry my sorrow away with the pretty hues. I glanced over at the picture of my parents. If I’d been in the same mood at home, my mom would force me out of my studio. We’d go get ice cream and pedicures, and when we got home, an empty canvas would be waiting for me on my easel.
I intended to walk away and do something else for a while, but I couldn’t. Without someone there to distract me, I was a slave to the canvases lining my wall, waiting to be painted. I placed one of them on the easel then dragged my fingertips across the clean, taut cloth.
It shimmered like the sun setting in the horizon, with vibrant pinks, yellows, oranges, and even some purples. I jerked my hand away, and the canvas went blank again.
That’s never happened before.
My pulse quickened as an image formed in my head. I rushed to open my paints and fumbled with the brushes as I set to work. As if the image would be lost if I didn’t go fast enough, my hand flew from my palette to the canvas and back again.
By the time I was done several hours later, my hands and neck were stiff, and my jeans and T-shirt were ruined. But I didn’t care. All I cared about was that he was there, leaning against a tree.
The tree’s leaves had turned burnt sienna and ocher where it stood at the edge of a wide creek. The iridescent water in the creek glided over the rocks in its path, determined, flowing to an unknown destination. In the distance, the sandy slopes of a hill rose just high enough to allow the sun to shine down on the tall grass.
I reached out and brushed my fingertips across the painting. It shimmered as the boy looked up, his eyes widening in surprise. Then he scowled and shook his head. He pushed away from the knotted trunk of a massive walnut tree, turned his back to me, and vanished. The leaves on the tree rustled, and the ground beneath it quaked. The large tree came crashing down inside the painting, falling directly over the creek. Then everything froze, as if I’d painted it that way.
My heart sank, and tears pricked my eyes. I wanted him back. I wanted to know why he seemed so miserable. And most of all, I wanted to know why he was in my paintings in the first place.
Laura M. Kolar lives with her husband and daughter in a one-stop-light town in northern-lower Michigan. Though she didn't discover her love of books until she turned thirty, as a self-declared hopeless romantic, she has spent the past few years reading and writing stories with mostly happy endings. If not at her day-job or with her family, you will find her sipping a cup of chai latte while sitting in her favorite rocking chair, hunched over her laptop writing or spending entirely too much time on Twitter.
Title: The Position
Author: Dahlia Salvatore
Genre: Erotic Romance
Publisher: Entice by Booktrope
Dylan Farrow puts on his pants every morning one leg at a time, just like everyone else at the Kerrigan Advertising Agency. He handles high-pressure projects with a fast turnaround. He's prized for his keen intellect and admirable performance. But how did he get where he is today—to the level of Junior Executive of Design Production?Well, that involves how he takes his pants off...And for whom...Hoping to break through the glass ceiling under which she's been trapped for years, Valerie Caplan picks up her life and moves to Seattle. After hearing about the position of Senior Executive of Design Production from an art director at Kerrigan, she decides to apply. When she lands the big interview, she never thinks for a minute that she'll have any serious competition. She assumes that she has the job in the bag...until she discovers that the only competition has something she doesn't have—the willingness to go outside the office to impress Danica Stewart, their uptight female boss.
Book Title: The Secret of Sleep Hollow
Author: Andi Marquette
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: October 9, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Abby has no reason to expect anything of Sleepy Hollow beyond immersing herself in archival collections and enjoying its Halloween festivities, but then she crosses paths with Katie, who makes her head spin and her heart pound. When Katie invites her on a nighttime visit to the glen where the horseman allegedly rides, Abby can’t say no, upending her plans for a quiet research retreat. And when Abby and Katie, who has her own ties to the famous story, find what may be the key to the disappearance of Ichabod Crane all those years ago, love, legend, and magic intermingle, making clear that Sleepy Hollow has plans of its own for yet another Crane.
Galloping your way next month! Stay tooooned!
Abby parked in a space practically in front of the Sleepy Hollow Historical Society, a one-story unremarkable brick building with a plain glass door. It blended well with the other structures, a mixture of brick and clapboard. The city fathers probably wanted to maintain a quaint, small-town charm in addition to the appeal of the village’s historical significance, which included its paranormal allure.
Abby picked up the book from the passenger seat and opened it to the page she’d flagged with a Post-it note, to the story in this collection that teased her some days, haunted her others. How many times had she read this damn story, looking for clues to her own history? The title seemed to both mock and entice her. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Did Washington Irving have any idea, when this story was published in 1820, how it would wend its way into the American psyche? How the legend of the headless horseman in this corner of New York and the disappearance of Ichabod Crane would spawn first speculation and later, movies?
She doubted it. No writer imagines that, even though Irving got a taste of it when he was alive, enjoying acclaim in the States and Europe. Abby flipped through the pages until she came to the first appearance of Katrina van Tassel, daughter of Baltus, one of the wealthiest men in Sleepy Hollow in the late 18th century. The Van Tassels were one of the founding families here, and when Ichabod arrived in 1799, Katrina immediately caught his attention.
And then he disappeared one October night. Irving left this event open to speculation. Was it the headless horseman that haunted the area since the Revolutionary War who caused it? Or a cruel joke perpetrated by another of Katrina’s suitors, Abraham van Brunt, known as Brom Bones? Regardless, Ichabod disappeared in Irving’s story and from the historical record, leaving behind the legend of the headless horseman. And, Abby thought, lots and lots of questions.
She got out of the car, still holding the book, and stretched. Though the late afternoon sun was warm, she grabbed her sweatshirt out of the back seat and put it on. This late in October, Abby knew the evening would be cool. Her laptop bag was on the floor behind the driver’s seat and she slipped the book into it then slung the bag over her shoulder and locked the car.
An elderly man strolled past with a tiny dog dressed in an equally tiny blue sweater. He nodded at her and she smiled back. The dog glanced once at her, but clearly wasn’t interested in stopping for a pat from a stranger. It had other business to conduct, like sniffing a nearby tree, whose leaves were a blaze of fall colors.
Abby approached the historical society and hesitated at the front door, her attention caught by a poster hanging on it below the open sign. The poster advertised the Sleepy Hollow Halloween festival, which was this weekend. The graphics included a creepy bridge, jack o’ lanterns, and a galloping horse whose rider had no head. She stared at it for a few moments and thought about Washington Irving, writing the story that would be the root of all of this hype, and the cause of her current fascination with American folklore. She wondered, if the horseman weren’t tied up in her own family’s history, would she care as much about Sleepy Hollow and its history? Probably not.
A soft tone like a doorbell sounded somewhere in the back, when Abby entered, but it wasn’t necessary because a woman stood at the counter, engaged with a stack of papers. She wore a faded denim shirt and her dark hair, streaked with gray, was pulled back from her face.
The woman looked up over the rims of her reading glasses and smiled. “Hi, there. How can I help you?” She took her glasses off and set them on the counter.
“Hi. I’m Abby Crane.” Abby unfastened the clasp of her bag. “I made an appointment a month ago to do some research here and I confirmed with someone—I think it was Robert—on Monday.” She pulled a business card out of her bag and handed it over.
“Of course. Ms. Crane.” The woman picked up the card and glanced at it. “Tabitha.” She looked back at Abby. “There’s a name you don’t see every day.”
“It has yet to make a comeback,” Abby said with a smile. She got a comment every time, when people realized her full name wasn’t Abigail.
“It’s a lovely name.” She set the card on the counter. “You made the original appointment with me. I’m Luanne, but most everybody calls me Lu. How was your drive?”
“Fine. I just thought I’d come by before you closed to introduce myself.” Abby re-fastened her bag.
“You didn’t have to do that, but I do appreciate it. Where are you staying?”
“The Maple Tree Inn.”
Lu smiled again. “Then you’ve already met Eleanor. She volunteers here. A font of information about local lore.” The phone rang. “One moment,” she said.
Abby nodded as Lu answered and used the time Lu was talking to have a look around. The interior of the building was sleek and modern, unlike its brick exterior. This was an older building, completely refurbished, and painted in a ubiquitous museum-style shade of white, but the track lighting created a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Several display cases decorated the adjoining room, some on the walls and larger ones in the middle of the room. All but one held historic artifacts, including tools, daily implements, and explanatory cards that provided provenance and significance in the community. Sleepy Hollow was closely linked to Tarrytown. North Tarrytown had actually renamed itself Sleepy Hollow in 1999 in honor of Washington Irving’s story. But the focus in this room was on the agricultural and manufacturing base of the city, made ideal because the Hudson River was so close. Plus, its natural beauty had drawn lots of people, including the elite. The Rockefellers had a house here.
The remaining display cases focused on prehistory, and included artifacts from the local Indian tribe that had occupied the area prior to white settlement. They’d done a good job setting it up, Abby thought. Someone had put a lot of thought into the choice of artifacts and how to display them, as well as what to write in the descriptions. It was better than some larger museums she’d been to.
She was about to go into the second room when Lu joined her.
“We’ve tried to ensure that we don’t forget the people who were here in this area before us.” Lu motioned at the prehistory case. “We maintain relationships with current tribes, and they graciously send us people to give talks throughout the year. Always well-attended, I might add.” Lu slipped her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. “History is important in places like this. Many of the people currently living here can trace their roots back to the original settlement. And a few can trace to a tribe.” A smile twitched at the corner of Lu’s lips. “People are people,” she said. “They tend to mix and mingle no matter what the conventional wisdom suggests. Of course, it’s very different in some ways here now. We’re a bedroom community for people who commute into Manhattan, but we’re pleased that we’ve been able to maintain a small town sort of ethos.”
Abby smiled back. She liked Lu’s vibe. Professional but approachable. Abby guessed she, too, was serious about history. “Who did the displays here? They’re great.”
“All of us had a hand in them. Robert and Eleanor and a few other volunteers helped me with the artifacts. Robert’s better with turns of phrase, so he did most of the informational cards. I did the brunt of the arranging within the cases.”
Abby nodded. “They’re really excellent.”
“Good to know that graduate degree in museum studies I got paid off, eh?” Lu winked at her.
“So you’re saying there’s hope for me outside academia?”
Lu grinned. “You never know where life will take you. At any rate, the materials you’ve requested we keep in the vault.” She laughed at Abby’s expression. “That’s what we call it. It’s our climate controlled storage area. We bring materials up to the reading room.”
“Wow. Could I see the storage area?”
“Certainly. Tomorrow morning. Go ahead and finish looking around. I have to do a few things before we close up. Let me know if you’d like a more in-depth explanation of anything.”
Lu returned to the counter and Abby walked slowly through the second room, which led to a small third room that was designed for showing films. Six long carpeted benches faced a blank screen. A sign explained that the movie—a documentary that provided an overview of the history of the area—showed every hour at the top of the hour and lasted twenty minutes. The last showing was at four each afternoon. Abby had arrived at four-thirty. Sometimes the short films at historical societies were informative. Other times, not so much. Maybe some day she’d do a documentary on Sleepy Hollow, and it would show here, too.
She moved to the display cases that she hadn’t seen. One held her attention. “Ghostly Legends,” the sign on this case said. A pen-and-ink drawing in the style of the eighteenth century depicted a man on a black horse. He was dressed in a uniform—presumably for war—and he held a long sword. The information card next to the drawing provided a short paragraph about him, and referred to him as “The Hessian.”
Abby knew the legend by heart. This particular Hessian soldier had come to the Sleepy Hollow area, where he fought for American forces against the British in the Revolutionary War. He died, the legend suggested, when his head was shot off by a cannon ball during a battle and he rode after death, the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. She studied the drawing, but there was no indication in the man’s features that he was the type of guy to ride long after death looking for his missing head. She’d always wondered why he’d want it back after a cannon ball got through with it. Seemed like a wasted effort. But there was no accounting for the motivations of ghosts, or, more importantly, the development of a great story.
She took the book out of her bag and reread Irving’s description of Ichabod’s encounter with the horseman. Gigantic in height, Irving had written, and the horseman’s head rested on the pommel of his saddle. That’s what he had thrown at Ichabod, the story went, and it hit him and then...he was gone, from the legend and the historical record.
Abby put the book back into her bag. The other ghostly legends included references to the Hollow as a place brimming with paranormal activity since the Dutch settled it. Another suggested an Indian medicine man may have been responsible for imbuing the area with lots of otherworldly powers. Regardless, the information cards said, “rumors of spectral sightings and strange occurrences are woven into the fabric of Sleepy Hollow.”
Which made for a fascinating community study for her dissertation – how certain places were shaped by beliefs in paranormal phenomena that had become part of the local and regional history. It helped, of course, that she had an ancestor who was part of one of those legends.
Abby returned to the counter. “Thanks,” she said to Lu. “See you tomorrow.” She turned to go.
“Do you have plans for dinner?”
Abby stopped and looked over in surprise. “No, not really.”
“Would you like to join me and Eleanor for a bite? You can get an earful of local lore. Some of it is true.” She smiled.
“Wonderful. How about in an hour? You can walk to the restaurant with Eleanor. It’s only a couple blocks from the Maple Tree.”
“Sounds great. Thank you so much.” Abby started for the front door, guessing that Lu probably wanted to close up.
“We historian-types love to chat each other up. See you soon.” She closed the door behind Abby and flipped the sign to “Closed.”
Abby returned to her car, but she didn’t get in right away. Instead, she stood and admired the town. She looked back toward downtown, thinking that this could be a classic New England village postcard. A group of kids with backpacks had congregated outside what looked like a bakery across the street. Abby estimated them as junior-high age. Some of the trees that lined the street still retained their fall colors, rich reds and yellows trembling in the breeze. As Abby watched, a few let go of their moorings and fell to the sidewalks and street.
Banners for the annual Halloween festival hung over the streets, attached to the black Victorian-style lampposts on either side. The closest one included a black horse rearing up on its hind legs in the banner’s center, and its black-clothed rider held a leering jack-o’-lantern in his upraised hand. The rider had no head. A chill shot down her spine, a sense of expectation and something else she couldn’t name.
“Will you stay for the celebration?” Lu asked, and Abby tore her gaze away from the picture on the banner to look at her. She had put on a jean jacket and had a backpack slung over one shoulder. She gripped the handles of a tote bag filled with books in one hand.
“I was planning on it, yes.”
“It’s quite a spectacle. Sort of a combined harvest festival and nod to Samhain, and we do have quite a frightening haunted house here in town. We have our own addition, of course.” Lu looked at the banner. “The rider begins his rounds usually around eight-thirty or nine, so the younger kids can get a look at him before they go to bed. Depending on who it is, he’ll ride for an hour or two, though a couple we’ve had in the past have gone a little longer than that.”
“You mean you actually have a headless horseman?” Abby glanced at the banner again.
“Of course. It’s Sleepy Hollow, after all. One of the locals volunteers every year.”
“Where does he ride?” That was something she wanted to see. It would be a great addition to her research. A legend kept alive by a town’s culture.
“All over. Mostly the outskirts, and through the real Sleepy Hollow glen. We’re named for that, which is where all manner of ghostly things are alleged to happen. As I’m sure you know.”
“Has anybody ever seen the real horseman?”
Lu gave her a mischievous smile. “Before or after he died?”
Abby grinned. “After.”
“Yes. People have been seeing him since the Revolutionary War.” Lu adjusted the backpack. “At least, they claim they’ve seen him. Others say they’ve heard his horse, galloping through the Hollow. They all lived to tell about it, clearly.”
“Not all,” Abby said and she looked up at the banner again. “According to legend.” She turned her gaze back to Lu.
“Well, yes. There was one who disappeared, according to legend.” Lu’s expression turned quizzical. “Tabitha Crane,” she said, as if testing the way it sounded. “I wondered when you first called to set up the appointment. What’s your relationship to Ichabod?”
“He was a brother of my father’s direct ancestor. A great-great-great-great uncle to me or something like that.”
“Doing a bit of family history, then, in addition to your community study?”
“I thought it might be interesting, to see if I could find anything along those lines.” She’d wondered, actually, most of her life what had happened to Ichabod.
“Well, you’re in luck. Eleanor has been through our collection of the Van Tassel papers dozens of times.”
“And the Van Brunt?”
Lu smiled. “We do have quite a bit of their papers, too. Eleanor helped catalogue them, but she’s more familiar with the Van Tassel collection. But even in terms of the Van Brunt papers, she can probably point you in any direction you’d like to go.”
“That would be great.”
“And she loves talking history. You’ll see for yourself. At any rate, I’ll see you at the restaurant. I have to run home and drop a few things off.” Lu lifted the tote bag just as an SUV drove past and its driver honked and waved at Lu, who waved back with her free hand. Abby caught a glimpse of the driver—female—and her dark hair and a flash of a smile.
Small towns, Abby thought. Everybody knew everybody else. “See you in a bit,” she said to Lu as she opened her car and put her bag on the floor behind the driver’s seat. She was looking forward to being able to walk most of the time while she was here, to get a real feel for the place. She slowly backed out of the space and headed down Main Street, toward downtown.
When she’s not writing novels, novellas, and stories or co-editing anthologies, she serves as both an editor for Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine that features speculative fiction written by women and as co-admin of the popular blogsite Women and Words. When she’s not doing that, well, hopefully she’s managing to get a bit of sleep.