Title: Owl Manor – the Dawning
Author: Zita Harrison
Stifled by the repression of women in the 1800s, trapped in a loveless marriage, Eva lives a life of dissatisfaction and frustration. The tide sweeps her to the Rocky Mountains during the gold rush in 1859, where she finds unexpected hope at Owl Manor, a strange, dark place with owls in the very fabric of its walls.
But the stakes are perilous. Shadows wander the dim corridors. The owner of the manor is moody, volatile. And spellbinding.
"An astonishing piece of fiction that is both addictive and fast-paced!" - Aimee Ann, reviewer
Filled with Poe-esque atmosphere, dark desires and supernatural elements, this book is a must read for fans of Gothic Suspense.
A fierce gale blew that night, asserting its dominance over nature. Rows of conifers lurched from side to side, and swirling leaves blocked his sight. Gilbert rode up to The Brass Nugget and tied his horse to a tree, then looked through the window to see if he could perchance spot the master. But, of course, Mr. Bradstone would not be in the saloon; he did not like to be around people. The door to the gambling room slammed open, and a young woman walked unsteadily into the bar. A tattered hat with a big flower covered her dirty, brown hair, and she wore an old, worn bustier under a shabby, lavender jacket—a street walker. She had probably been entertaining the gamblers. A few people glanced up at the clatter of her high heels and looked away, too inebriated to care. The girl walked over to the bar, grabbed the few dollars the proprietor slapped onto the counter, then headed out. She was just the sort who would attract the master’s attention, Gilbert thought. So he waited and watched.
As she walked down the street, a man stepped out of an alley. From the cloak he wore, Gilbert knew at once who it was. They spoke in low voices. The girl giggled. The man put his arm around the woman and steered her back into the alley. Gilbert’s heart clenched in fear. Please, Master, please, Gilbert thought. Just have your way with her, then let her go. But he knew what the master intended, and it was not sex. He walked stealthily up to the alley and dared to peek around the corner.
There was no one in there. It yawned like a great, empty mouth, black and cavernous, all the way to the opposite end, past which Gilbert could see the vague contours of trees.
The master and the girl were gone. In the throes of panic now, Gilbert sweated and trembled. He could not breathe. He wanted to turn back and forget about the whole thing, return to the safety of his room at the manor, huddle in front of the fire, have a glass of brandy.
Slowly, he entered the alley. It stank of something foul, echoes from his past, a time when he slept on the streets and ate rotting food. At the end of it was a small path that led to some woods behind the buildings on Main Street. There was no sight of either the master or the girl. His mind screamed at the thought of entering those woods, of witnessing what he knew would be transpiring there. But he had to. He needed absolute proof. But did he really? Did he really need to see to know? Maybe if he actually witnessed the atrocity he was helping hide, he would be able to summon the strength to stop it. And there would be no further questions.
He entered the woods. A short distance ahead, he could hear murmurs—the master’s low voice and the girl tittering. Keeping behind the tree trunks, he followed the voices and soon came to a small clearing, in shadows except for one sliver of moonlight that pierced the trees, setting the stage for a macabre performance. Two shapes shifted in the dark, one larger and one smaller, and fragments of them lit up in the moonlight as they moved. Gilbert heard the shuffling of their bodies as they came together. He heard the smacking sounds of their kisses, heard the girl moan. They continued like that for a few minutes. Perhaps the master was only interested in sex after all, he thought.
Then, in a split second, it changed. The larger shape was suddenly bearing down on the smaller one. He felt rather than saw the smaller shape begin to convulse, and all at once, the stabbing moonlight fell on her face. Gilbert watched in transfixed horror as her countenance showed first confusion, then terror. He wanted to rush out and drag the master off her, to stop the abomination that was taking place. But he was frozen in both mind and body, arms and legs leaden, breath coming in shallow, rapid bursts through his dry mouth. He wanted desperately to look away, to run, but he could not. He was bound grotesquely to the scene.
Drowning in abject misery, Gilbert watched helplessly as the woman struggled, gasping and thrashing like a fish angled, and finally, after one last shudder that wracked her body, was still. In his head, he heard her heartbeat go from a rapid thudding that echoed through the trees, to a slow, labored plodding, and then to a boundless silence. He felt like his own heart stopped too. And then he felt nothing. A crushing numbness engulfed him that he had no wish to emerge from. Because to emerge would be to acknowledge what he had just seen, felt, and he did not think he could survive that. Without a sound, Gilbert turned and returned to where his faithful horse waited patiently. He could have done something, should have done something, but had failed to. His fear of the master had held him captive. What should he do now? As he mounted his horse, his heart leapt in terror.
An owl sat on a wooden post by The Brass Nugget, deathly still, its pale eyes piercing, accusing.
If you could dress up as anything or anyone this Halloween, what or who would it be and why?
A Gothic bride. It satisfies my dark side.
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Filled with Poe-esque atmosphere, dark desires and supernatural elements, this book will jolt you out of your safety zone and throw you into a world of delicious madness!
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Runs October 1 – 31
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Zita Harrison, writer, artist, is a lover of Gothic literature. Dark personalities and settings, tortured romance, the supernatural. An avid reader of ghost stories as a child, she fell in love with Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte in high school. For her masters in English literature, she did a thesis on Gothic literature vs. the work of Pablo Picasso, who once said: “A work of art must make a man react, feel strongly … He must be seized by the throat and shaken up … he has to be made aware of the world he’s living in and for that he must first be jolted out of it.” Zita writes with this very purpose in mind. Owl Manor – the Dawning is the first of a trilogy of Gothic Romantic Suspense novels Zita is working on. Next in the installment is Owl Manor – Abigail. Zita Harrison lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and can be found on www.zitaharrison.com
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