The Horseman is unending,
his presence shan’t lessen.
If you break the curse,
you become the legend.
Washington Irving and Rip Van Winkle had no choice but to cover up the deadly truth behind Ichabod Crane’s disappearance. Centuries later, a Crane returns to Sleepy Hollow awakening macabre secrets once believed to be buried deep.
What if the monster that spawned the legend lived within you?
Now, Ireland Crane, reeling from a break-up and seeking a fresh start, must rely on the newly awakened Rip Van Winkle to discover the key to channeling the darkness swirling within her. Bodies are piling high and Ireland is the only one that can save Sleepy Hollow by embracing her own damning curse.
But is anyone truly safe when the Horseman rides?
If his wife hadn’t let her ass grow to the size of a sofa, Vic wouldn’t have to cheat. Shrugging his navy blue sport coat over his shoulders, he stepped forward, allowing the hotel room door to shut behind him with a soft thump. A smug smile curled across his face, his chest puffing with pride at his own prowess—thanks in part to those spiffy little blue pills his doctor prescribed. The heels of his wing-tipped loafers clicked against the cement stairs, one impeccably manicured hand running along the handrail as he descended. The rusted metal rail squeaked its protest under the faint touch. Taking its suggestion, he retracted his hand.
Why he humored Karma by letting her drag him to this dive every week, he had no idea.
Her firm little apple bottom isn’t that great, he mused to himself, snorting a quick, dry laugh.
Of course it was. She made good money with it at the Sugar Shack down by the airport. Grinding to R&B’s raunchiest hits, while clad only in a sequin thong. She was a sweet, albeit naïve, girl that believed if she stroked Vic’s … ahem, ego just the way he liked, she would someday find a fat rock on her finger and the title of Van Tassel behind her name. Hence her insistence on the flea bag hotel. She had
flipped her bleached blonde waves, batted those ridiculous fake eyelashes, and pouted that she couldn’t be seen as the “other woman” by the same crowd she would soon be rubbing elbows with. As if he would ever let that happen. Karma’s airbrushed nails and hooker heels would never fit into his world. After all, in Tarrytown the Van Tassel name meant something, and not because of the stupid legend the residents of the small glen of Sleepy Hollow mercilessly clung to. No, as one of the founding families they helped build this town. Meaning, here, he might as well be a Rockefeller. A fact he reveled in and would never tarnish with outward displays of his cheap conquests … no matter how well she could wiggle.
Vic crossed the parking lot, lit only by one humming street lamp, with a wide, jovial stride. As he shook his keys from the pocket of his slacks, thumbing the button to unlock the doors, his phone buzzed from the breast pocket of his Armani shirt.
Snatching it from its resting place, he tapped to answer. “Yello?”
“Don’t you sound chipper for someone working late?” Yvonne slurred, the only hint he needed that she’d already cracked open tonight’s bottle of wine.
“Why shouldn’t I be chipper?” he playfully asked, turning to glance back up toward the room Karma had rented. A flash of her blonde locks appeared from behind the stained drapes. He raised his hand in a casual wave, but couldn’t tell from this distance if she returned the gesture. “I just finished showing a multi-million dollar estate that the buyers are very interested in, and now I get to head home to my loving wife.”
“Yeah, right,” Yvonne openly scoffed, her voice muffled by her glass as she took another sip. “We’re the friggin’ Cleavers. Hey, Cassidy is at the mall. I need you pick her up on your—“
Vic jerked his head to the right, in the direction of the neighboring gas station. Between the normal ebb and flow of rushing traffic, he heard the distinct snap of hoof beats pounding over pavement. “What kind of idiot would bring a horse out this close to the highway?”
“The highway? Where the hell are you, Victor?”
A moment ago the drum of the approaching rider had been coming from the south of him, Vic was sure of it. Yet somehow, without so much as a faltered step, it shifted to the north. “Stopped for gas, that’s all.” Vic paid little attention to the lie rolling off his tongue as he rose up on tiptoe and craned his neck to peer into the darkness.
“Oh!” Her momentary flash of accusation was all but forgotten at the exciting prospect of fresh booze. “Are you near Gordon Bleau’s? I need a bottle of Amaretto.”
Vic stifled a cringe at the thought of his wife’s mixed drink induced wandering hands. If he wanted to fend off an overly Botoxed hag that reeked of booze, he’d go visit Nana at the home. Her old biddy friends loved him, and putting in his time there helped secure his spot in her will. “I’d love to, pet, but I’d hate to keep Cass waiting.”
A hot, snorted breath heated the exposed skin of Vic’s neck, tickling down the collar of his shirt. He spun, his heart pounding painfully in his chest, and pressed his back to the car door. Chills raced up and down his spine, electrifying his entire body. Nothing. There was nothing before him but that lone buzzing light and the seedy motel. “Damn it! Punk kids!”
“And they have a horse?” Yvonne’s giggle morphed into a hiccup. “You better watch out, Vic. It could be one of those lesser known equestrian gangs.”
The lightning that flashed on the otherwise calm night was the only omen Vic needed to spur him into action. Throwing himself off the car, his trembling fingers fumbled with the door handle. Behind him, metal hissed free from leather. Slowly—with a cold, hard fist of dread clenching his gut—his head swiveled.
“Oh,” he said with a nervous lilt of laughter to the ominous symphony of black before him. “That’s … good. You got me. I really believed for a sec—”
Vic’s anxious, cracking plea morphed into a scream as the figure pulled back. The blade of their arched sword gleaming gold under the yellow-hued light.
Victor’s hands raised in the only defense he could offer. “No! Noooo!”
He sucked in one last gasp as metal winged through the air.
“Vic? Victor!” Yvonne screamed, panic clearing her alcohol induced haze. “What’s happening?”
The only response she received came in the form of a ghostly whinny … followed by a soft thump. Her shrieks were muted as the phone tumbled to the ground—right next to Vic’s still rolling head.
RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013
Stacey Rourke lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant, dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.