Since tomorrow is release day for This Wicked Game, I’m giving you a bonus sneak peek of the book. Woo-hoo for sneak peeks!
Also, don’t forget to enter for the $250 gift card and assorted awesome prizes in my launch giveway. You can also win prize packs with bloggers on the This Wicked Game blog tour. Read my interview with Another Novel Read, and my guest post, The Truth About Voodoo Dolls, (open to US and Canadian residents) on Beauty and the Bookshelf’s tour stop and enter for chances to win a signed hardcover, one of those gorgeous one-of-a-kind bohemian Voodoo bracelets, and more.
Here’s your peek!
There were five rooms on the second floor, two of them with closed doors. Claire was willing to bet they were empty. The air was too still, the atmosphere devoid of life. She stepped toward the open doors first, peeking inside each before she lost her nerve.
No one was there, and she breathed a sigh of relief as she took in the two standard issue bedrooms, each of them holding a bed, bureau, desk, and chair.
The third open door was a bathroom. She left it alone. No one hid anything important in the bathroom.
She looked at Xander, raising her eyebrows in silent question and pointing to one of the closed doors.
He nodded, and she stepped toward the first room.
She eased the door open carefully, wincing when it creaked. Despite her belief that no one was in the house, she was relieved when an empty room was revealed.
This was where Eugenia slept, Claire was sure of it. The ghost of a heavy, classical perfume hung in the air; a set of elegant luggage stood against the wall. An iron banister was visible through a pair of French doors. Claire guessed it was the balcony at the back of the house.
Just to be safe, she turned and pushed open the door to the final room. Empty.
“No one’s home,” she said to Xander, tipping her head to the room that had been behind the first closed door. “I’m going to check out this one. Want to take the first two?”
He nodded. “We’ll do the last one together since it fronts the street. That way, one of us can keep watch.”
He disappeared through one of the doorways and Claire stepped into Eugenia’s room, her eyes coming to rest on a desk near the glass doors.
Something was tacked to the wall in front of it.
Stepping toward it, she stopped when she saw what was on its surface. She leaned in to get a better look at the photograph staring back at her.
It was a picture of Xander, walking one of the city’s streets, his hands shoved carelessly in his pockets. Claire recognized the blur of storefronts behind him. Probably somewhere near her house, though she couldn’t be sure. Xander, obviously the target of the photograph, took up almost the whole frame.
Claire’s heart thudded in her chest as her eyes surveyed the wall around Xander’s picture.
His wasn’t the only one. There was a photo of Charlie and William Valcour, sitting side by side at an outdoor café.
But this one was different; a red X was drawn through it.
The next picture was of Allegra St. Martin. Even through the red X, Claire could tell Allegra was in her car. Her black hair was shiny and full, her arm resting on the open window frame as she sat in the driver’s seat, probably stopped at a red light or something.
She thought of Allegra at the ball, how unexpectedly nice she’d been, and a chill ran up Claire’s spine.
“What the . . .” Xander said behind her, leaning over her shoulder. “What is all this?”
Claire was both mesmerized and horrified by the images in front of her. “I don’t know.”
The next picture was of Laura, a lock of curly hair falling forward as she bent her head to a book. The photo was crossed through with a red X just like the others.
Next to Laura’s picture was a photograph of little Daniel, walking next to someone much taller as he ate a dripping ice-cream cone. His picture had an X, too.
There was only one more image, tacked next to Daniel’s. Claire’s heart almost stopped when she saw Sasha’s smile, brilliant even in the black-and-white photo, the strap of her yoga mat just visible on one shoulder. Claire didn’t know whether to be relieved or scared that Sasha’s photo, like Xander’s, lacked the red X.
Her eyes roved the photographs, trying to figure out why the woman named Eugenia would have photographs of all of the young Guild members.
No. Not all.
All of the oldest children of the Guild’s most prominent families were represented on the wall—except for Claire.
“I don’t know what this is,” Xander said, “but we should hurry if we’re going to check out the other room. We’ve been inside for almost half an hour, and we have no idea how long they’ve already been gone and when they’ll be back.”
Claire nodded, pulling out her phone and taking a quick picture. The sight of the wall covered with photos—photos of people she knew and loved—was undeniably disturbing.
She glanced around, wanting to make sure they weren’t missing anything obvious, as they headed for the hall.
As soon as they entered the final room, Claire guessed it was Maximilian’s. The furnishings were just as generically antique as everywhere else in the house. A leather valise sat on top of the desk under the window and the heavy draperies were pulled shut as if to block out the modern world.
But it was more than that. The air was heavy with something bleak and dangerous. A palpable darkness, an ominous vibration she could feel under her skin. She had to fight the urge to run from the room. Fight the need to escape the feeling that something evil was wrapping its fingers around her heart and soul.