When the Night Whispersby Savanna Welles
A riveting, modern-day gothic tale about a woman who succumbs and then must save herself from a dark lover
That night was the first time I tasted champagneFrench he told me, and as I loved all things French I was enchanted. I barely remember what we saidonly that I did most of the talking: about leaving the South, my dreams of becoming a writer
A riveting, modern-day gothic tale about a woman who succumbs and then must save herself from a dark lover
That night was the first time I tasted champagneFrench he told me, and as I loved all things French I was enchanted. I barely remember what we saidonly that I did most of the talking: about leaving the South, my dreams of becoming a writer, my thoughts of Harlem . . . and of you. He said very little, only this: "The moment I saw you I knew you would be mine forever. And even death, even that, could not part us."
Jocelyn's life feels empty, devoid of passion and purpose. After she finds a journal written by her "doomed" great-grandmother, Caprice, she is spellbound by her story: the escape from a loveless marriage, her seduction by a nameless lover who is both "demon and savior." Then, as if stepping out of a dream, Jocelyn meets Asa, her mysterious next door neighbor.
Asa is charming, handsome, and daring and, as if by magic, she is drawn into his hedonistic lifestyle. Yet there is something unsettling about Asa. Luna is suspicious of this man, and although Jocelyn is dismissive of Luna and amused by her friend's warnings, she can't completely ignore them. She begins to wonder if things with Asa aren't quite what they seem.
“An undiscovered grandmother's journal, a mysterious and alluring new neighbor, and obsessive attraction mark this paranormal debut by Savanna Welles. Keep the lights on while you enjoy the ride.” Tananarive Due, bestselling author of MY SOUL TO TAKE
“Jocelyn's need for family, friendship and passion will be familiar to any contemporary woman trying to balance life and not be overwhelmed by it. It's her bad luck and the reader's good fortune that Savanna Welles sends her Asa, a compelling, seductive, demonic lover willing to minister to all her needs--at the price of her soul. Equal parts family saga, erotic adventure, and compelling supernatural thriller, When the Night Whispers takes readers on a journey that is like Asa--exhilarating, terrifying and irresistible.” Jill Nelson, author of Let's Get It On
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
When the Night Whispers
By Savanna Welles
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Valerie Wilson Wesley
All rights reserved.
Smells like old women. Jocelyn sat for a moment, taking it all in, wondering if this gloomy house filled with odors and fear would be the end of her. All her "old women" had lived here: ill-fated great-grandmother Caprice, grandma Nana France, and mother, Constance — Judge Connie to the courtroom minions she ruled.
And just how do old women smell? Constance would have asked in her take-no-crap voice.
Like Chanel No. 5, burned biscuits, Bombay and tonic, Jocelyn replied in her thoughts with a wistful smile.
Never burned a biscuit in my life!
"Come on, Connie!" she said out loud.
"Mom, who you talking to?" asked eleven-year-old Mikela, her eyes wide. She had her father's lashes, so thick they got in her eyes when she blinked, along with his round face and quick grin. As a matter of fact, Mikela was the spitting image of Mike, Jocelyn's ex-husband, despite Constance's insistence that the child looked like her. Unlike gentle Mike, scrappy Mikela loved a good fight, a trait she inherited from her grandmother. She was also strong. Without breaking a sweat, she had helped her mother haul five suitcases filled with clothes, books, and miscellaneous junk into this old house, which was now to be their home. Exhausted, Jocelyn had sunk into the nearest chair.
"Me. I'm talking to me," she answered her daughter.
"That's weird. I don't like it! Don't start going crazy in this creepy old place."
"This house isn't creepy, and don't worry, I'm okay. We both are." You sure about that? Mikela's doubtful eyes asked.
"Listen, Miki, we're going to be fine. Grandma isn't here, but she'll always guide and look down on us." Or up popped into Jocelyn's mind, and she quickly reprimanded herself.
The "guiding" bit was certainly true. Constance had, for better or worse, been the guiding force in both their lives for as long as either could remember. Despite her objection to Jocelyn's "teenage" marriage, she had supported her through poorly paid stints as a teacher's aide, health food store manager, and lately, part-time assistant librarian. She held Jocelyn's hand in the delivery room when Mike, her "jackass-of-a-husband" (Constance's words), fainted as Mikela squeezed out of her womb. She financed Jocelyn's divorce, scrutinized her friends, and now she was gone, taken at sixty-two, eight months ago, by a fatal heart attack.
"You are breaking my heart, Jocelyn! Shattering it!" Constance exclaimed more times than Jocelyn cared to remember, and here she stood, child in hand, broke-ass as ever, fearing her mother's words were literally true. It had taken four months of uncontrollable weeping to finally admit that Constance was gone, and another four to decide to move back home — as good a place as any to grieve. And truth be told, she had nowhere else to go.
Despite her best efforts, and with ongoing shame, Jocelyn knew she had never measured up to her mother's lofty dreams. Both Constance and Nana France were women of consequence in a world that tried to deny them both. Jocelyn followed in no one's footsteps — with the sorry exception of one.
"Just like Caprice! Won't amount to pee!" Nana France wheezed when Jocelyn turned fifteen. "Looks like her, too! Walks, talks like her ... and that is not a compliment, my child!" she added, peering at Jocelyn over red bifocals as she lit her thin black cigar with the sterling silver lighter that was always at hand. She had bought it with her first paycheck, and it was a beautiful thing, heavily embossed with delicate roses. It had fascinated Jocelyn ever since she'd been six and Nana France had let her flick it.
"Caprice?" Jocelyn asked innocently, speaking the rarely spoken name as if she'd never heard it before.
"Capricious Caprice, foolish Caprice. My poor doomed mother!"
"Doomed?" Fifteen and sick of the expectations of hard-driven women, Jocelyn considered "doomed" a romantic thing to be. "What'd she do to doom her?"
Nana France snorted and said nothing.
The story was that Caprice had left her husband and child, then met some mysterious man who used, abused, and tossed her away, condemning her to live her last days in poverty and shame. Clementine, Caprice's ill-tempered sister, had claimed little France (named after the place Caprice dreamed of living), took the child north when her father died, and raised her in Philadelphia with stern eyes and rough hands. Until the day she died, Nana France dipped her head whenever she spoke the woman's name.
"Aunt Clem wasn't a cruel person, just raised during trying times," Constance would explain when Jocelyn asked about the grim-faced woman in the photograph on Nana France's bureau. "Unlike her sister — my grandmother Caprice — Aunt Clem took life seriously."
"But all Caprice did was fall in love!" Jocelyn would say dreamily, intrigued by the subject.
"And abandon her child and life!" Constance answered with a scowl. "And maybe someday you'll understand what an evil, stupid, destructive gesture that was!"
At thirty, the same age as Caprice when she left, Jocelyn now understood. Mikela was older than Nana France had been, but Jocelyn was sure nothing could drive her to commit such a terrible deed. Yet, of what could one really be sure? Jocelyn's life had come undone. All of her dreams, the foolish as well as the noble, had come to nothing. By now, she hoped she'd either be happily married (despite the history of the women in her family) or fulfilling herself in a job that would make her proud of herself and her mother beam. Her goal had been to become a social worker.
Years with critical, occasionally difficult women had given her an empathy with troubled kids, and she had an easy knack for getting them to open their hearts. After college, she'd interned at a school for emotionally disturbed children and quickly became the adult children always sought — like a mother hen spreading her wings, her supervisor teased her. She knew she'd found her calling and did a year of graduate school, but dropped out when she became pregnant with Mikela. She couldn't bring herself to ask Constance for the money to go back. Too much money — with no return — had been given already. Last Mother's Day, when an acquaintance bragged about the luxury spa to which she'd sent her mother, Jocelyn tried hard not to think about her own gifts — the paltry CVS card and drooping pink roses from ShopRite.
As for men? Mike, a sweetheart of a jazz pianist, had been her great love, but their young marriage had gone south as fast as his behind hitting the floor the night Mikela was born. A year ago, she'd fallen wildly in love with Andrew, a stalwart, sharp-witted young lawyer in her mother's old firm. Constance, who usually kept a level head in such matters, was convinced he was the perfect match, the one Jocelyn — and she — had been waiting for. Constance had all but priced wedding caterers when he abruptly stopped calling and returning her calls — breaking Jocelyn's heart, self-confidence, and hopes and making her believe that — yet again — she had let her mother down. To add insult to injury, he had shown up at Constance's funeral sporting a twenty-something with a blond weave bouncing off her tanned, bony shoulders.
But why should she have been surprised? Jocelyn asked herself, when she saw the two of them laughing together. It was common knowledge that the Markham women, pretty and smart as they were, lacked good sense when it came to men; they all seemed plagued by bad luck and worse judgment. Jocelyn's father, an artist with a weakness for vodka, died in a car crash when she was three. Nana France's husband had been a well-respected lawyer before he swindled rich widows out of hard-saved cash. Done with husbands, Constance was outraged when Jocelyn chose to name her daughter after Mike. Thinking of him now, Jocelyn asked Mikela, "So have you heard from your dad?"
"Yeah, I told him we were moving."
"So what did he say?"
"Nothing." Mikela was secretive when it came to conversations with her father. Awkwardly, she changed the subject, avoiding her mother's eyes. "So Ma, what do you think Grandma would say if she knew we were living here now?"
"She'd be glad," Jocelyn said, deciding not to push it.
"She'd probably say, get yourself a plan, huh?"
Jocelyn nodded. "That's exactly what Constance would say."
"Daddy said you shouldn't call Grandma by her first name. It's disrespectful."
"Daddy should mind his own business," Jocelyn said, thinking that if Mike knew what Constance had to say about him, he'd keep his mouth shut. "Here's our plan, Miki. First, we'll open some windows in this dusty place and let in some air. Then we'll haul our things upstairs, make our beds, and start putting stuff away. Then we'll order pizza."
Mikela glanced at the ceiling and scowled. "Pizza first."
They studied the take-out menus stacked neatly in a kitchen drawer and ordered a pepperoni with mushrooms and double cheese that Jocelyn decided she'd finish off for breakfast. Several years ago, her mother had redecorated the room in her particular take on Country French. Pale blue walls were edged with stark white trim and accented with lidded baskets (courtesy of Pottery Barn rather than Provence). But there was no escaping the darkness that shadowed every corner of the room, or the smell: a damp, lingering mustiness impossible to dispel.
Jocelyn brought nothing of her own when she came; she was at the house's mercy. Selling nearly everything she had in a hasty fire sale, she'd rid herself of the remaining pieces of her short-lived marriage to Mike, telling herself that with the house's dubious blessing, she'd be off to a new start. Yet she was intimidated by the place, with its squeaks, groans, and memories. Her best friend, Luna, claimed houses had souls, the same as people, and she wondered whose soul lived here. She was also worried about Mikela, who was nervously playing games on the cell phone Mike had given her for Christmas.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"After the pizza, it will be time to go upstairs, okay?"
"My God, Miki, you aren't scared are you? You weren't scared when Grandma lived here."
"That's the point, Ma, Grandma lived here." The girl was right; Constance's presence could scare away any imagined bump in the night.
"There's nothing to be afraid of."
"I know that. I'm not a kid!" Mikela scrolled to a different game. "It's just so big! I'm not used to big."
"Anything is big compared to where we lived."
"It's too big."
"There's a lot to discover. You'll ..."
"You'll have a bedroom now, as big as our old living room. And it has its own bathroom! You've always wanted your own bathroom. How many times have I heard you complain about sharing the bathroom with me?"
"A modern bathroom, Ma. I wanted a modern bathroom. Not one with a creepy old tub, like somebody drowned in it."
"Oh, God, Mikela! Give me a break!"
The bell rang, a heavy, lingering chime installed by one of Constance's ex- boyfriends, and they both jumped. "First thing to go," Jocelyn muttered.
Constance left an estate large enough to take care of Jocelyn's immediate needs. The only other recipient mentioned in her will was The Haven of Mercy, a women's shelter in Providence, Rhode Island, founded in the early part of the nineteenth century. Except for that annual bequeathal, everything had been left to her, and for the first time in years, Jocelyn wasn't compelled to count every penny. Feeling temporarily rich, she pulled a fifty out of her fire-sale stash and headed for the front door as the chime rang again. "Wait if you want your tip!" she muttered as she rushed into the dining room, with its monstrous mahogany table, then past the shadowy living room. A short, plump woman bearing a turquoise tote bag and loose sage branches waited impatiently on the porch.
"Open the damn door, honey. It's cold out here!" she yelled. Jocelyn quickly turned the latch, and Luna Moore stepped into the foyer followed by a rush of damp October air. "Hunter's moon," she said, nodding toward the sky.
"Look at the moon. See how bright it is." Jocelyn glanced up, not realizing until now that the porch was lit by the moon. "It's almost orange. Like a pumpkin. Hungry men once hunted small prey in moonlight like this. They'd smoke what they caught and devour it during the winter."
Jocelyn shuddered as she hugged her friend. "Leave it to you, Luna Moore, to know something like that."
"I do know moons! So who owns that monstrosity?" Luna nodded toward the unlit house next door looming large at the end of its pebbled driveway.
"Don't know, except I heard it might be turned into condos. The owner sold it before my mom died."
"So I guess the new owner came to check on the progress. I saw him zoom around to the back."
"Right before I rang the bell."
"Maybe the pizza guy got the wrong house."
"No. It belongs to him," Luna said firmly, her certainty surprising Jocelyn. "He was in a silver Jag."
"So was he old, young, hot?"
Luna avoided her eyes. "I didn't get a good look."
"Yes, you did! He was hot, wasn't he?"
Luna shrugged. "Couldn't tell."
"Hot guy, hot car; sounds interesting. Wonder if he's married."
"Be careful," Luna said too quickly, then changed the subject, pulling her lips into a tight, awkward smile. "I've fantasized about this place for years! How come you never told me your mother lived here?" Saying nothing, Jocelyn took her coat and hung it in the hall closet; Luna was one of those friends Constance couldn't abide.
Jocelyn had met Luna six years ago when they both worked at Marley's Farms, a health food store turned restaurant that was nearly struck dead when Whole Foods moved in around the corner. Luna, Jocelyn often joked, was a jack of all metaphysical trades — astrologer, spiritualist, soothsayer, and dispenser of general wisdom. She had immediately claimed Luna as a long-lost older sister. Though sisters in spirit, only a blind man could mistake them for kin. Jocelyn was tall with pecan-brown skin, sparkly dark eyes, and hair that either sprouted in thick twists or hung long down her back according to mood or humidity. Pearl or diamond studs were her jewelry of choice, and she was partial to knits that clung gracefully to her lithe body.
Luna's reddish brown hair was streaked with gray and bunched into a sloppy knot on top of her head. Her square face was dotted with mocha-colored freckles, and she wore no jewelry save a copper-and-turquoise pendant, which she was never without, that she claimed warded off bad energy. She always smelled vaguely of one herb or another, which comforted Jocelyn whenever she hugged her. She breathed in Luna's fragrance now, an antidote to the "old women" smells confronting her earlier.
"Hey Luna, you got the pizza?" Mikela asked, looking up from her game as they entered the kitchen. Luna kissed the top of her head. "Wow, you smell like cookies."
"Ginger to be exact," said Luna, producing a brown paper bag of gingersnaps from her tote. "Baked them this morning. So how do you like your new house?"
"Well, this house is all we've got, Miki. So get used to it!" Jocelyn snapped as the chime heralded the arrival of dinner.
* * *
As Jocelyn divided the pizza, Luna pulled a bottle of Chianti from her tote bag and poured some into Constance's fancy crystal glasses.
"Red! How did you know we were having pizza?"
"Lucky guess. So what's going on?" Luna dabbed oil off her lips with a napkin as she polished off her first slice.
"I need to change my life," Jocelyn said softly, in deference to Mikela, who always reported everything she heard back to Mike. Thankfully, she was listening to her iPod. "No man. No money. No mama. I need to get back to the original me. Pull her out. Dust her off. I know she's hiding somewhere inside. I just need to find her again."
"Original you? Sounds good to me. If life is about anything, it's about second chances. Your mother is gone, but her spirit is with you. As for money and men —"
"I've had it with men. I'm scared I'm turning into one of those angry, bitter black women always looking for the worst, not believing in men or love anymore, like my mom and Nana France. That's my big fear, that I won't know it when it comes along and I'll be afraid to give myself completely." Jocelyn took a swallow of wine, finishing off what was left in her glass. "Obviously, I'm still pissed about Andrew."
Excerpted from When the Night Whispers by Savanna Welles. Copyright © 2013 Valerie Wilson Wesley. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
SAVANNA WELLES is a New Jersey-based writer. She loves jazz, cooking for friends, and spontaneous trips to distant places. Although she has written books using another name, When the Night Whispers is her first paranormal romance.
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