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Excerpt Alert: THE UNLEASHED

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If The Haunted terrified you last summer, get ready! In the chilling sequel to The Haunted, Hendricks discovers that even though Steele House is gone, the hauntings in Drearfield are far from over — and it’s up to her to stop them.

Scroll down to start reading the sequel, The Unleashed!

THE-UNLEASHED-cover

The clock beside Samantha Davidson’s bed read 3:17 a.m.

Then 3:18 a.m.

3:19 a.m. 3:20.

9:22.

Samantha blinked. The clock didn’t read 9:22, of course. It read 3:21. She groaned. Her eyelids felt gluey. Heavy. Forty-nine was too old for insomnia, she thought. Her body wouldn’t be able to take much more of this. But whenever she closed her eyes and tried to tell her spinning brain to just shut up and go to sleep, the still, dark world around her seemed to . . .

Change.

It was only small things. The little dorm room where she slept was already small and stuffy, but when her eyes were closed, she could swear that the walls inched a little closer, that the ceiling sunk lower, that the floor beneath her narrow twin bed shifted in place. The air felt heavy. It felt like someone was holding their breath, watching her.

Her heart beat hard against her chest. She opened her eyes again, fumbling beneath the sheets until her fingers touched the handle of the knife she kept tucked between her mattress and box spring.

It was only a butter knife. Longwood Farm didn’t allow its residents anything sharper than that. But still. It made her feel better, safer. A butter knife could do a lot of damage, if you put enough muscle behind it.

Samantha curled her fingers around the cool metal handle and, without realizing what she was doing, began to hum under her breath. The words to an old Prince song floated through her head.

The woman in the bunk next to her groaned and turned over in her sleep. She was new to the community, in for depression. Samantha was in for schizoaffective disorder. Technically. What she really had wasn’t so easily diagnosed.

She pressed her lips together, heat rising in her cheeks. She’d had that song stuck in her head for more than thirty years. She hardly even noticed when she started humming it, anymore.

Stop it, she told herself. Go to sleep.

She closed her eyes.

Maybe I’m just too . . .

She opened her eyes. She’d definitely heard that. Had she started humming again? A glance at the next bunk told her no, she hadn’t. Her roommate was now fast asleep, mouth slightly open, snoring softly, even as the music filled the room and grew louder, practically pulsing off the walls, and drifting down the hall.

Samantha sat up, looked toward the door. She squinted. Just there, in the inch of space between the bottom of the closed door andthe scarred, wooden floorboards, she saw a kind of dizzy, shifting light. It danced across the floor outside her dorm, casting off rainbow shards of color.

Samantha felt a bead of sweat drip down her back to the base of her spine.

That light . . . It was like the light of a disco ball.

She put one foot on the floor, and then the other.

It’s not real, she told herself. It’s the disease, it’s all in your head. Her doctors had spent thirty-two years drilling those lies into her, and she’d never once believed them, so it was hard to convince herself that they were true now.

She crept toward the door and pressed her ear to the wood.

The music was still out there. Maybe I’m just like my father . . .

All in your head, she told herself again. She tightened her grip on the little butter knife. Or maybe you’re dreaming. Maybe you finally fell asleep, and now you’re dreaming of your senior prom . . .

That would’ve been a logical thing to think, except that Samantha had barely slept in over three decades, and when she had, she’d never dreamed.

Something moved over her shoulder. It was light as a feather’s brush, barely there at all. Samantha flinched and went to swat it away, thinking a bug must’ve gotten in through the window.

But it wasn’t a bug. It was a single piece of confetti. Samantha held it on the tip of her finger and thought of him. His terrible face, his rasp of a voice.

I’ll be back for you.

Acid rose in her throat. She pushed the door open and stepped into the hall.

Samantha Davidson had lived at Longwood Farm her entire adult life, and she knew every inch of its halls by heart. Tonight, they were different. Blue and purple streamers hung from the ceiling, and confetti blanketed the floor. It was the same shiny, silvery confetti that had landed on Samantha’s shoulder back in her dorm. Empty plastic cups rolled along beside the walls, giving Samantha the feeling that other people had been here, that she’d just missed them, and now they were waiting for her somewhere deeper in the building. A disco ball spun above, sending light dancing around her.

Samantha’s pulse thudded in her ears. She sensed movement and whirled around to look down the dark corridor behind her. There was nothing, and yet there was a strange twitch in the corner of her eye, like whatever was there had leapt back into the shadows the moment she’d turned.

Her right hand was sweating around the handle of her knife. She switched it to her left and went to wipe her palm against her cotton robe—then froze.

She was no longer wearing her robe. Instead, a white gown with tiered skirts floated around her feet, the hem dragging along the floor. Her arms and shoulders were bare, and when she went to touch her hair, she found that it’d been twisted into a complicated bun.

Her legs swayed with fear. She could hardly keep hold of her knife. Suddenly, she realized what was happening. After thirty-two years of waiting, it was finally time. The taste of dread filled her mouth, but there was nothing she could do. It was much too late.

She turned and he was there. It was as though he had appeared from the darkness, shadows still curling around his arms and legs, caressing him. His eyes were lit with a black, murderous glow, and his mouth was twisted in a familiar, garish grin.

He had his head bowed, and Samantha knew he was preparing to run full tilt toward her. She had a split second to decide what to do: either she could let him take her, or she could run, too.

Just as he took his first step, she turned and raced for the opposite end of the hall.

His voice echoed behind her, barely audible over the music. “I told you I’d be back.”

She was running as fast as she could, but it still felt much too slow. It had been so long since she’d run. Her legs were like lead, her joints creaky from not being used.

The floor rumbled beneath her. He was getting closer.

Samantha pushed herself forward, chest bursting, and veered into another hallway. She saw a window: dead end.

No.

She didn’t stop running but pumped her legs faster. She was only on the second floor. She could survive that jump. There was no time to struggle with the latch. She threw her arms over her face and barreled into the window.

A shriek escaped her as the sound of breaking glass filled the air. She was falling now, tumbling head over feet. The ground rushed toward her—

She still might’ve survived. The ceilings in the dorms weren’t very high, and so the second floor wasn’t that far above the ground. If she’d landed right, she might’ve gotten away with a broken wrist or a sprained ankle.

But Samantha was still holding the butter knife. As she spun toward the ground, she struggled to get her hands beneath her, to cushion the fall and, in doing so, she managed to arrange the knife so that it pointed directly beneath her ribs. When she landed, the ground pushed the blade right through skin and muscle, between two of her ribs and through her chest.

She released a single, dull ah as the knife cut into her. She opened and closed her mouth, blood oozing up between her teeth. She was surprised by the feeling that flooded through her: not horror but relief.

It had happened finally, and now she didn’t have to dread it anymore. Now she didn’t have to worry about anything. It was time to sleep.

Seconds later, she was gone.

Above, moonlight glinted off the broken glass still clinging to the window frame. But the hall inside was dark.

 

Pre-order The Unleashed here!

 

 

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