It's that time of year again! The leaves are turning, the air is cooling (finally!), and we're craving something creepy to read. For any horror fan or spooky lover, a fall book list is sacred. It is Spooky Season, after all—and we want to make the most of it!
So that's why I'm here: to help you with your creepy fall reading decision-making process! Today I am bringing you an excerpt of Winterscroft by Anita Waller. It's a gothic thriller with all my favorite things: an old English manor, an angry spirit, and a thrilling yet spooky plotline.
When Matt lost his fiancée Lavendar Pauline in a devastating car accident years ago, he was brokenhearted—and he thought that would be the end of love for him. But time has begun to heal the wounds of loss and Matt announces his engagement to Beth to the Pauline family—whom he's remained close to. They're excited for him, but as the wedding plans commence, it would seem that maybe Lavendar isn't really gone after all...
Read on for an excerpt of Winterscroft, and then purchase the book.
24 September 1991
‘Lavender, are you ready?’ Rose shouted up the stairs to her younger sister, hoping she could hear and she wouldn’t have to go up and get her.
Lavender picked up her bag and cast a swift glance around the bedroom. She loved living with her Mum and Dad in their half of the massive house they shared with Rose, John and the children, but today she was going into Sheffield to stay with her grandparents; a music fest was on the menu at the university and it was easier to stay overnight with them.
Her precise way of viewing life meant she liked to leave her things in order with everything in its place, especially before an extended stay in The Elms, the house her grandparents had always lived in. She checked her appearance in the mirror and picked up a brush to give her long blonde hair a final tidy before putting on the blue baseball cap to complete her outfit. She slipped on her sunglasses, hiding the azure of her eyes, and closed the door behind her.
She’d had to make decisions over the weekend, and now she felt easier in her mind. She walked down the stairs and Rose looked at her with a thoughtful expression on her face. Lavender was a beautiful girl, her mind acknowledged, and the white jeans and blue shirt showed off her shapely figure. Even the baseball cap atop her head looked right.
‘Things any clearer?’
Lavender nodded. ‘Yes. I’m going to tell Matt yes, we can get engaged but we will have to wait until I’ve finished at uni before we think about a wedding. I don’t want to lose him, Rose, and wearing his ring is my commitment to him. Don’t tell Mum and Dad, though. I don’t want them to know until it’s official.’
Rose pulled Lavender towards her and gave her a hug. ‘I won’t, and I’m so pleased you’ve been sensible. And it’s a good excuse for a party! Now come on, Nan and Grandpops are already waiting in the car.’
They walked out of the front door together. Robert Paulson was deep in conversation with John, Rose’s husband. Rose went up to them and slipped her arm through her husband’s.
‘John, leave Grandpops alone. You’re like two old washerwomen when you get together.’ Iris was waiting in the front passenger seat and smiled through the open window at her granddaughter. ‘They’ve spent all weekend nattering. You’ll be glad to see the back of us.’
Rose laughed. ‘Never. Grandpops looks tired, Nan. Make him go see a doctor.’
‘I will. He said yesterday he felt a bit uncomfortable but he didn’t expand on it, so I don’t really know what’s wrong. I’ll ring the surgery tomorrow. A check-up won’t hurt.’ Flora and Alan both leaned into the window to kiss Iris, and she smiled at her only daughter. ‘Take care of them,’ she said, ‘and don’t take any lip from young Holly!’ Flora laughed. ‘As if. Our granddaughter is one smart, beautiful cookie. Her head’s never out of a book long enough to be lippy towards anyone.’
Lavender got into the back seat and took out her book. She pulled a cushion up behind her neck, stretched her long legs out on the seat and covered them with the car blanket; she settled down for the twenty-minute drive into Sheffield.
‘Seatbelt,’ her grandmother said.
‘I can’t sit like this with my seatbelt on.’
Iris shook her head in exasperation. ‘Are you as argumentative as this with Matt?’
Lavender grinned. ‘Que sera sera, Nan, que sera sera.
Matt understands me.’
Iris couldn’t help but smile. ‘That’s all I ever hear from you these days, que sera sera. That Doris Day should be banned from making films.’
Lavender grinned. ‘I absolutely love her films, she makes me laugh.’ She began to sing the words to Que Sera Sera and her Nan threw the small teddy mascot at her.
Robert got into the car still chatting with John, and put his seatbelt on before closing the door. He wound down the window. ‘Thank you, Rose, sweetheart. It’s been a lovely weekend.’ He waved to Holly and Jacob and started the car. Rose saw him rub his arm and grimace; she mouthed the word doctor to her grandmother, who nodded.
The six of them stood and waved as they watched the
BMW disappear down the drive and then went back inside,
Alan carrying his grandson on his shoulders.
Iris put her window up once the car began to pick up speed on the long stretch of road between Bamford and Hathersage. She reached to switch on the car radio and saw Robert wince, then rub his arm again.
They reached the end of the fast stretch and Robert didn’t seem to be slowing down for the village. She glanced at him; he made a strangled sound and his head fell back. The car’s speed continued to increase as his foot pressed ever more heavily on the accelerator, and she tried to move the steering wheel to go around the gradual left hand curve. His grip on it was locked and they continued in a straight line until the car smashed into the railway bridge at something over 70 miles per hour.
Robert was dead before they hit the bridge; Iris followed him by thirty seconds. Lavender lived one week.