by Carla Caruso
Fledgling romance author Simona Gemella is hoping the rugged wilderness of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will help reignite her creative spark after her husband walked out on her (calling her a workaholic and filing for divorce).
She’s joined her best friend, Nessie, on a health and wellness retreat at a mysterious old manor on the island, run by an astrology guru.
Though Simona’s sworn off men, she can’t help being distracted by a darkly dangerous man with a scorpion tattoo – Denham Cobalt – who’s also staying at the manor. Then strange things start to happen, including uncanny accidents and even a possible murder.
It all culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse. Will Simona survive – with her heart intact?
Simona woke with a start, her heart pounding. A dream featuring dark-eyed strangers and clawing scorpions had been interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Real ones. Growing closer. Not far from her bed. She could have sworn it. Although, the pitch black revealed nothing.
The noise had seemed to come more from the right side of the room, behind the wardrobe. Almost inside the wall. Which was ridiculous. She turned her head, peering into the darkness. 3:08 glowed in fluorescent green digits on the alarm clock radio.
Grasping the covers under her chin, Simona lay still, waiting for more, her ears pricked. Three glow-in-the-dark star stickers shone down from the ceiling. She imagined a travelling mum sticking them there to soothe their child, remind them of home. Unfortunately Simona needed more than that to placate her.
Aside from the occasional breathy snort from Nessie, though, silence reigned. Her friend had finally hit the pillow after kicking on to play pool with some backpacker. She had called Simona a stick-in-the-mud earth sign for leaving the pub early. Nessie always had a knack for making her feel dull.
Simona strained her ears. Still nothing. Her writer’s imagination had obviously conjured up the footsteps. Pity, as she had found it hard to get to sleep in the first place. Phone in her possession again, she had been kept up, mulling over a three-star Goodreads review from a writers’ group pal. Yup, three measly stars. Friends were meant to give you five stars, or four at least to look realistic. It was an unofficial rule.
But her supposed mate, who had hidden behind a code name (undone by the profile pic of her pet dog), hadn’t been so generous. She had written: I fell in love with the rugged hero and the unique story. The only shame was that some of the more intriguing plotlines weren’t further explored, sacrificed for the romance aspect of the book …
Um, it was a romance novel, hence, the emphasis on that particular component. Really. Of course, any criticism only hurt because she feared it was true: she was her own worst critic.
Then, just as Simona was drifting off, Nessie had crashed home, flicking on the lamp so that she could put on her so-called ‘lucid dreaming’ sleep mask. Another bizarre Nessie-style item. This one, she reckoned, helped encourage creative thinking. Though what Nessie needed it for, Simona didn’t know. Dreaming up more crazy holiday ideas? If anyone required it, it was Simona with her severe case of writer’s block.
And now? Now she was imagining things that went bump in the night.
Why oh why had she been fooled into believing going on holiday with a friend would be fun? It never was. She would have had more luck with inspiration striking at home. Where the internet was never far from her fingertips, and her thoughts weren’t clouded by no-good men.
Willing sleep to come soon, Simona unearthed an arm from beneath the doona and stretched to tap the bedside table three times. For luck — in case she wasn’t crazy and someone really was lurking about. Touching wood was a vice of hers. Nessie would probably say it had something to do with her being an earth sign and needing to be close to Nature. Really it just meant she was a tad OCD. Besides, the footsteps she’d heard before probably were just in her head — a symbol of her fear of being walked out on again.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop.
These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. Visit www.carlacaruso.com.au.
Buy Link: AMAZON
What is a blood moon?
Guest post – by Starcrossed author Carla Caruso, www.carlacaruso.com.au
I’ve always been fascinated by the stars, the moon and all things celestial.
Hence, it was only natural I’d one day write a book with an astrology theme – cue Starcrossed. It follows four girls (one who’s a romance writer!) on a cosmic retreat on South Australia’s rugged Kangaroo Island… where strange things start to happen. The book mixes contemporary romance, suspense and magical realism. Did I mention there’s also a hunky hero with a scorpion neck-tattoo in the mix? 🙂
The story culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse.
Here’s an excerpt from the book when the retreat leader, Astrid, is asked to explain what such an eclipse actually is…
Astrid’s eyes glowed. ‘A total lunar eclipse is quite an extraordinary event, in fact — especially being at the winter solstice. One can only occur during a full moon, and if the moon passes through some portion of the Earth’s shadow, blocking the sun’s rays. It can be quite a striking sight as the moon often goes a vibrant red colour. Some call it a “blood moon”. It should bring a lot of lovely lunar energy about the place, which people can choose to tap into positively.’
Despite this, Simona shivered. ‘Blood moon’ didn’t exactly have the nicest ring to it…
And, from Starcrossed, on the night of the eclipse…
Looking up, Simona could see why a sudden hush had fallen over the crowd down below. A blood-red cape appeared to be being edged over the moon, as though swallowing it up, blotting it out…
On September 27-28 this year, people globally aimed their cameras at the sky in the hope of catching a real-life glimpse of a ‘super blood moon’ eclipse. Interestingly, ‘blood moons’ are actually a phenomenon that have been chronicled for, well, many moons – one’s even mentioned in a 19th century Thai manuscript. Such eclipses have often been interpreted universally as an omen of bad things to come. Thankfully, the world didn’t end last eclipse, though. 😉
So that concludes your Twilight-esque astronomy lesson for the day! And you thought NASA discovering liquid water on the ‘red planet’ of Mars was interesting stuff…
Carla will be awarding an eCopy of Starcrossed to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour, and choice of 5 digital books from the Impulse line to a randomly drawn host.