An unexpected collaboration between two authors that’s hot enough to spark a fire...
After an excruciating loss, I’m desperate for a fresh start.
Away from the painful memories.
Away from everyone I know and anyone who knows my story.
That’s how I end up in Eagle’s Landing, Pennsylvania.
As a bestselling author, my main reason for moving to a remote mountain cabin is to overcome the writer’s block that crushed my creativity for the past two years. My hope is to rediscover my words in the quiet, small town where no one knows me. Or my past.
A place where I can blend in enough that I become invisible.
Even though Chase, one of my favorite authors, insists he wants to be left alone, I refuse to let him wallow in whatever’s drowning him.
As a local bookstore owner and author myself, I’m intrigued by the man who’s a master of the written word. Unfortunately, his social skills could use a lot of work.
Even so, I’m determined to pull the irritable and frustrating man out of the dark pit he’s fallen into and back to the surface, no matter how hard he fights it. I only hope dragging Chase down that fiery path just might reignite his spark and that I don’t get burned in the process.
Note: This is a slow-burn, emotional romance that deals with love after loss. Please check the content warning before reading or purchasing. Find it on my website here: https://www.jeannestjames.com/reignitingchase. This standalone has a guaranteed HEA, no cheating and no cliffhanger.
Release date: July 30, 2022
Publisher: Double-J Romance, Inc.
Content advisory: Discussion of suicide/loss of spouse
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
Jeanne St. James
Escaping the Darkness
The Ford Bronco Raptor was put to the test as it rocked and rolled up the dirt lane. As best as I could, I skirted the massive potholes filled with mud from the last storm, overgrown weeds and brush encroaching on the path making it even more narrow, and long, deep ruts reminding me of miniature versions of the Grand Canyon.
I had traded in my Audi A8 for this very reason.
Buying the four-by-four had been the right choice. The real estate agent had warned me about the lane, not to mention the amount of snowfall the area received in winter. I had taken that warning seriously.
Especially after the agent sent me pictures. Tons of pictures.
Of everything. Not just the run-down lane.
Pictures that anyone in their right mind would have them immediately walking away from the property. No, not walk, sprint.
As much as the agent wanted the commission, he also wanted to be upfront with me since I was buying the property sight unseen.
A risky buy for sure.
A risk I was willing to take for privacy and some peace.
I needed a fresh start in a place where no one knew me or about what happened. The remote cabin on a mountain right outside of Eagle’s Landing, Pennsylvania, seemed to be the perfect spot.
I hoped so.
I needed to find my mojo again as soon as possible. It had been gone as long as…
I slammed the brakes on that thought before it festered.
I bounced wildly in the driver’s seat as the Ford crept up the last few yards of the lane and finally arrived at the edge of the clearing.
A clearing that needed just as much work as the dirt lane.
I paid the agent to have someone trim it back as best as they could, to have the shabby shingled roof replaced with metal, install a large emergency generator—since power failure up on the mountain was a given—and have the five-hundred-gallon propane tank filled. But the rest… I had decided to tackle that after I arrived, either by attempting to do the work myself or hiring local people. Attempt was the key point since I didn’t have any kind of construction experience. I’d never done any handiwork around my previous homes before.
There was a first time for everything. Luckily, YouTube was full of tutorial videos for everything under the sun.
I figured being forced to do some manual labor could be good therapy. It might also help spark my creativity. That had been in the toilet since… that day. The day I was trying not to dwell on.
After shifting the Bronco into Park and shutting down the engine, I stared at what was in front of me. My “new” home.
At that moment, I realized I had really lost my fucking mind.
Now that I was seeing the cabin in person… reality smacked me across the forehead with a sledgehammer. It appeared way worse in person and I hadn’t even seen the inside yet.
For a second, I wasn’t sure I should.
“What the fuck are you doing, you idiot?” My whisper replaced the silence in the Ford’s interior. “What the fuck were you thinking? Why did you ever think you could do this?”
Jesus Christ. I should turn my Bronco around and…
No. I should first burn that rat-trap cabin to the ground, then turn my Bronco around, head back down the mountain, find a comfy motel and then another place to live. Tell the agent to sell the two hundred acres of wooded mountain land to someone who could build something better from scratch. Someone other than me.
I had bought this property mainly because the amount of acreage surrounding the cabin insured I’d have no neighbors. Plus the fact it butted up against a huge pond or small lake, however the hell it was classified. No matter what it was called, it was a nice sized body of water.
As a bestselling author, I should know how to describe things better. However, right now, I didn’t give a shit about accurate descriptions. Instead, my focus was on how the hell I would survive here.
I scratched at the week-old growth of stubble on my face as I contemplated both my next steps and the cedar-plank-sided cabin before me.
“Fuck,” I muttered under my breath and shoved open the driver’s door, unfolding myself with a groan.
My forty-fifth birthday had come and gone a few months ago without any fanfare, but left behind gifts I could’ve done without. Aching bones, insomnia, stiff joints, blurry vision and more.
But all that I had expected. Growing old alone, I had not.
I blew out a sharp breath. I needed to stop procrastinating, go inside, check out the cabin and see if it was possible to sleep there tonight or if I’d have to backtrack into town and find somewhere better. At least until I could make the cabin somewhat habitable.
With a hand clamped around the back of my neck, I ground it back and forth and gave myself a short and to the point pep talk. “Let’s do this.”
The wooden steps creaked as I climbed them up to the porch. They weren’t spongy and I couldn’t see any obvious rot or broken boards, so that was reassuring. The wood porch was tiny, but then from what I’d seen in the photos, the door I was approaching was the rear entrance. The true front door faced the ten-acre lake.
Lake something. I couldn’t remember what it was called.
Not that it mattered. Since I owned it from shore to shore, I could name it whatever the hell I wanted.
Lake Leave-Me-Alone had a nice ring to it.
I dug out the key the agent had overnighted to me from the front pocket of my jeans. I had never met him since everything had been done virtually. Even the closing.
As I went to slide the key into the lock, I realized the door wasn’t completely closed. It was open barely a crack. Did one of the workers leave it open? Or had it already been open and nobody cared enough to close it? They probably did the work they’d been paid for and left as soon as possible.
The hinges creaked as I pushed open the thick, rustic wood door.
Mental note: Grab a can of WD-40 next time you’re in town. If that doesn’t work, a can of gas and a lighter would solve the problem.
Standing before the threshold, I sucked in a few deep breaths of the warm but clean mountain air. So different from where I just came.
The air wasn’t the only thing different. I paused to listen.
So was the quiet.
No traffic. No voices. Pure fucking bliss.
The only sound, besides the birds and small mammals scurrying in the underbrush, was the one in my head telling me on an endless loop that I was crazy to buy this place.
Maybe all the silence wasn’t the best idea. My own internal voices might become amplified, maybe even deafening.
On the trip here, I’d listened to a couple of long audiobooks since my thoughts tended to drown out music. With audiobooks, I was forced to concentrate. A good, well-written mystery was able to pull me from those dark, wandering thoughts and into someone else’s story. One other than my own, both the crime thriller I needed to write and the depressing Nicholas Sparks story I was currently living.
But it also reminded me that I needed to rediscover my creativity. I sure as hell hoped this place would help with that.
That was the whole point of moving to this remote area.
When I stepped over the threshold, I had to stop myself from turning around and escaping as fast as possible. The pictures didn’t make it look this bad. Now I wondered how long ago they were actually taken and why the agent hadn’t provided a virtual tour. But in truth, the agent hadn’t been lying. It certainly was an old hunting cabin that was, at this point, not much better than camping.
Unfortunately, I knew nothing about roughing it or living off the grid. Even though it was debatable whether this cabin was actually considered off-the-grid living. Mainly because it had a well with a working pump, and water already tested and deemed safe. It also had electricity and soon would have satellite internet so I could get back to being productive.
If that was actually achieved, my literary agent might do some backflips. So would my reader base, who’d been clamoring for the past two years for the next book in my bestselling series.
When it came down to it, so would I, since writing was my sole source of income and my royalty payments had been slowly dwindling every month I went without a new release.
While I currently had a nice cushion in my bank account, it would be quickly eaten up by getting the cabin and its sparse amenities into shape.
No matter what, I’d have to actually write a book first. And with all the endless work that came after the first draft—editing, cover art, marketing, and more—it wasn’t like it would be published soon after.
I was giving myself six months to write the next book in my popular crime thriller series. By the time it hit my readers’ hands, it would probably be a year and a half from now. If not longer.
I didn’t want to think about it. I might be dead broke by the time I received my first royalty payment on a new book, depending on how generous the publisher’s advance was.
My publisher had been hesitant to give me one this time after I’d spiraled into a dark place. They told my agent Randall that once at least three “well-written” chapters landed in their hands, they’d consider sending an advance.
Just fucking great.
Grudgingly, I couldn’t blame them since severe writer’s block had crushed some authors’ careers. I held out hope it wouldn’t end mine.
Hence, the reason I stood where I currently did.
Shoving those depressing thoughts aside, I concentrated on the depressing view directly in front of me, instead.
At first glance, it appeared as if no one had been inside recently except for local wildlife.
I walked deeper into the fifteen hundred square foot cabin. It wasn’t a bad size for me since I’d be living alone and I didn’t need much in terms of space. A place to lay my head, a place to eat and somewhere to write.
The cabin had only two rooms walled off—the bedroom and bathroom—but other than that the floor plan was completely open. Dust kicked up as I wandered around the main area of the cabin, inspecting everything a bit closer and making a mental checklist of what needed to be done.
It wasn’t long before I realized I should actually write it down since the list might be longer than my brain could handle.
The little bit of furniture the previous owners left behind was covered in an inch of dust or was broken. All of it needed to be either tossed or broken up and used for firewood. The kitchen cabinets were empty with the doors hanging wide open as if the contents inside had been stolen or packed up and removed.
Ghost-like cobwebs clung in every corner.
Every window was cloudy from years of neglect. One was completely shattered and would need to be replaced. Actually all would need replaced with new double-paned windows to help keep in the heat come winter. Even with the light early spring breeze, drafts could be detected when I ran my hand along the edge of the nearest window frame.
I shook his head and spotted scat on the floor. Lifting my gaze, I saw why. A half dozen bats clung to the open rafters above having a little afternoon siesta.
Besides the bat shit, I recognized what animal the little black grains of rice come from. A small rodent related to Mickey.
“You’re all getting your eviction notice in the next day or so,” I warned the bats and any mice listening. “Freeloaders.”
I continued around the main living space. Luckily, the large fireplace built out of mountain stone seemed to be in good shape. As was thick, wide wood mantelpiece over it. At least something wouldn’t need replaced or repaired.
Actually, the structure of the cabin was basically sound. It had “good bones.” Most of the repairs would be cosmetic or to make it more energy efficient. The wide-planked wood floor boards simply needed a good scrubbing as did the kitchen sink and appliances.
Luckily, that was something I could easily handle on my own. I didn’t mind using a little elbow grease.
The filthy woven rug in front of the hearth needed to be tossed. Firewood scattered on the floor needed to be neatly stacked. The pile of cold ashes in the fireplace needed to be removed and a chimney sweep would be hired to avoid any fires in the flue.
I peeked my head into the bathroom. Since it was the only one, it was a decent size. It didn’t include a tub, only a stand-up shower stall missing a shower curtain, a filthy window, a toilet that needed scrubbed, and a free-standing sink marred with hard water stains.
Next to the bathroom was my bedroom. Also not a bad size since it was the only one. A broken metal bed frame sat in the center of the room, and an old wood dresser was against one wall. I was afraid to open the drawers since I was sure families of mice had turned it into a condominium complex.
But it was the large windows in the room that caught my attention. They might be dirty now, but the view from them of the lake was spectacular. I imagined myself opening them wide and hearing owls, fox and even loons at night along with getting a breeze.
I added several ceiling fans to my list. One for the bedroom as well as a couple for the main living space.
My king-sized bed would fit perfectly in that room as well as the dresser I brought along and waited to be unloaded from the U-Haul parked at the bottom of the mountain.
Both my SUV and the enclosed trailer were packed full with only the necessities, like clothes and my bed. Everything else I had given away to organizations that helped veterans and the homeless after selling my house on Long Island.
After stepping out of the bedroom, I headed to the back door—No, the front door—to find it had been left unlocked, too. Pulling it open, I walked out onto the covered porch that spanned the whole length of the cabin and stared out at what I now owned.
The spectacular and breathtaking view of the lake from that wide porch had called my name when I had scrolled through the pictures on the real estate listing. Beyond the lake were more trees and the mountain continued rising as a backdrop.
That picture perfect view had been what sold me on the property and blinded me enough to ignore the rest of the issues.
I imagined myself in a rocking chair, enjoying my morning coffee. Or setting up a little place on the porch to write.
The tension I’d been holding suddenly disappeared and my shoulders dropped a couple of inches. My spine softened and my thoughts immediately became clearer.
This. This was what I needed.
At least once the major work was done.
Like the rest of the cabin, the porch needed a fresh coat of stain and a protective coating, something I could handle on my own.
I glanced over to my right to find a three-sided open shelter half-full of split firewood along with a stump clearly used for splitting that wood. After descending the three steps, I made my way around to the front of the cabin—no, the back—to where I was parked.
On my route back to the Bronco I paused at the large propane tank along the exterior cabin wall on the same side as the kitchen to check the gauge. Thankfully, it was completely full as promised.
I kept going until I stood next to the Bronco and gave the outside of the cabin another once over.
It would do. It had to.
I undoubtedly needed a change and this would definitely be a major one.
If moving here didn’t help, then I’d need to face the fact I was helpless.
But for now, I needed to head back to town, find a place to stay for the night and buy a bunch of cleaning supplies so I could tackle the filth.
Before I could do that, I needed to empty my packed Bronco and only take an overnight bag and my laptop along. When I came back tomorrow, I’d begin cleaning as best as I could, then attempt to tow the U-Haul up the lane from where I left it at the bottom without it breaking an axle.
Also while in town, I’d ask around at both the diner and motel to find someone to replace the windows. In the meantime, I’d buy some plastic sheeting to cover the broken one to keep the bats and critters out.
I also needed to rent a post office box.
Damn. The list was endless.
By the time I had the cabin in a somewhat livable condition the words better be ready to flow.
If not, I needed to find a new career.
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