Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (Opening Scene – WIP)

Eighteen-year-old Cassie Meadows was riding her bike to Jefferson High that early May morning when a light blinded her. She shielded her eyes as the bike spun out of control. When she opened her eyes, a wall of old books stared back. She blinked, taking in several of the titles: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ulysses, The Odyssey, La Commedia… The bindings were old, yet pristine.

She tried to focus, turning her head a bit. The shelves extended from ceiling to floor, the whole length of the room. Sunlight filtered in through thick parted drapes along a wall of windows. Unlike her house, where dust particles danced in the sunlight, the stagnant room was devoid of even that much life.

But how did I get here? she wondered. One moment I was riding my bike, then the next…

Her thoughts drifted off as she gazed across the room. Awe overtook fear in the moment. Marble pillars stood on either side of an archway leading into another room across the vast space. A large Oriental rug covered most of the hardwood floor. The wall opposite the windows housed a mammoth stone fireplace with a mahogany mantel. Cassie was remained of the ski lodge’s fireplace at the place in Calgary her parents had taken her and her younger brother last Christmas.

A wrap-around leather sofa dominated most of the central space. End tables with Tiffany lamps perched on either end of it. The room was the library in some wealthy person’s house, the type of place she’d never visited.

After her eyes settled on her surroundings, her hearing tuned in to a faint noise in another part of the house. Curiosity claimed her caution as she took a step. She glanced down and nearly fell over. Her hands were thick, hairy, and covered in blood!

She gasped, but the croak of a deep voice reverberated out of her mouth. Reaching for her throat, she felt her Adam’s apple bob. Her breaths came short. She was being doused with ice water, the burn throbbing through her body with each step. But her steps were short-lived. She halted as she noticed a trail of blood on the otherwise spotless floor leading to an archway. Her nerves fired in overtime, her head spinning. She followed the trail, exited the elaborate room into a hallway.

The sound was louder now. The unmistakable sound of running water.

“What’s going on?” Cassie whispered and stopped in her steps when a man’s voice came from her mouth.

Something moved out of the corner of her eye. She turned her gaze to the right and landed on her reflection, only it wasn’t her face. A tall, well-built man of about forty stared back at her. She ran her hands through the trim brown beard that contoured her strong jawline. Liquid brown eyes under a deep brow held confusion, panic. Her hair was wavy, thick, greying only at the temples. She was dressed in a black business suit, like a high executive wore to meetings overseas and then dined on caviar and Champagne under the lights of Paris. But against the black of her suit the blood that was on her hands extended, weaving an unknown horror story in her mind.

She shook her head. “This is impossible.” Yet the voice that wasn’t hers told a different truth.

Her body trembled, and she realized for the first time that her whole being felt different. Her eyes, if she could call them that, fell on a picture frame on the table below the mirror. With shaky hands, her ridiculously thick fingers fumbled to pick up the picture. The man in the photo was a younger version of the body she inhabited. He was smiling, his face next to a gorgeous auburn-haired young woman. The woman’s hazel eyes crinkled around the edges, her freckles standing out against her fair skin in the sunshine. This was a wedding photo of a happy couple.

Cassie returned the picture to its place, the frame now coated in blood, and swallowed, hating the feel of her Adam’s apple constricting. Her insides clenched with every step down that hallway. A drop of blood marked the floor every few inches. She knew this body must have taken this trip in the opposite direction, for how else could she explain the blood everywhere? She rested a hand on the railing at the base of the stairway and gazed up the twisting steps. The water was coming from upstairs. She took the first step and steadied herself. Something was drawing her to the source of that sound. Like drifting through a hazy dream, she moved without thought or purpose.

She reached the top of the landing and glanced behind her. Her mark was on the railing, another path of blood. The occasional drop of blood decorated the floor as she went down the hallway toward the sound of running water. Her knees wobbled as a dizzy spell overtook her. She steadied herself with a hand to the wall and blanched at the bloodied handprint she left.

Just call the cops. What are you doing?

The cops. Right. I don’t even know what the hell’s going on.

She questioned her sanity as she argued with herself. Either outcome, she’d lose this battle.

She pushed herself from the wall and arrived at the bathroom. Water leaked out from under the door.

What am I doing?

She turned the knob, and it slid under her slick hand. She used the end of her sleeve to grip it and pushed the door open enough to peek inside. Pinkish water covered the entire marble floor. Her gaze traveled to the bathtub, the source of the running water. A woman’s body lay sprawled in the tub, her vacant eyes staring at the ceiling, her mouth open in a silent scream. Her head lay at an odd angle, her neck nearly severed in two. Blood ran from the gaping cut into the water.

Cassie tried to scream, but her stomach tightened. Bile rose to her mouth, and she puked. She slammed the door shut and collapsed against the outside of it, pulling her knees up to her chest. The tall frame of the man’s body convulsed with the sobs of a teenage girl as she cried into her hands, which weren’t hers.

“I want my mom,” she whispered. “This…this can’t be happening.”

She couldn’t get the dead woman’s face out of her mind. As the scene replayed through her head, she realized where she’d seen the woman before. She had been this man’s wife.

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My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Old Family Pictures & Genealogy: Our Connection to the Past

grandma2I can still remember sitting at the dining room table in my grandma’s house and looking at old family pictures. Those days were at least 25 years ago now.

When you’re a kid, time almost seems to stand still. Those Sunday afternoons at Grandma’s house seemed like they would never end.

Now I cannot believe how much time has passed.

The photo to the right shows my grandma’s family around 1921. My grandma is the girl in the front, about 8 years old here. She grew up in a family of nine (her younger brother hadn’t yet been born here) in Cleveland, Ohio.

My grandparents in 1942: Love the hat!

Those old photographs now belong to my mom, but I have scanned several of them. They reside in a box in the closet, on my computer, and in my heart. I look at them now with an awe and appreciation I couldn’t as a child. Now I’m a mother. My mom is a grandmother, and so the cycle continues.

Seven years ago, I dove into genealogy and researching my family tree on both sides. I used Family Search as a free resource to find a lot of my information, but I was also fortunate to have documentation of my own. I used My Heritage to build my family tree online and share it with my family. Next week, I will share more about my experiences with family tree creation, so come back to check that out!

I wanted to update and document my family tree, as heritage is important to me. Knowing where I come from is part of who I am. When I see old pictures of family members, I can look into their eyes and smile with them, feeling that connection. I am transported back in time, and Grandma is sitting next to me at her dining room table again, telling me who all those people are in the photographs.


My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.


Excerpt from A Laughing Matter of Pain (Chapter 25)


harrykathy“Can you believe it? We’re married.” Her eyes dance in the low light from the bedside lamp.
I lean in and kiss her. “I’m the luckiest guy alive.”
The smile falters on her lips. Her eyes go glassy. A tear slips past, trailing down her left cheek.
“What’s wrong, doll?” I cup that cheek and kiss her again.
“I-I never thought this day would come.”
“What? Why not?” My heart hammers, afraid she’s having doubts.
A tiny, nervous laugh escapes. “Not because of you. You misunderstand. I mean, I didn’t think I’d ever get married, period. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting me.” Her gaze shifts to the mattress.
I wipe another tear away with my thumb, kiss the spot where it fled from her eye. “You remember what I said all those months ago? That you’re the most beautiful person I know?”
She lifts her gaze and tries to smile. “Yeah.”
“I meant that, Kath. Every word. I ain’t romantic. I mess up a lot. But you’re the one thing I know I got right. You deserve to be treated like a queen. To never hurt again.”
“I don’t deserve you, Harry.”
“Hush, now. None of that.” I pull her to me.
Our kisses deepen. Her hands caress the length of my exposed back. Our breathing heavy, we pull apart, resting our foreheads on each other’s.
“We don’t hafta do anything you ain’t ready for,” I whisper.
“No, Harry. I…I’m ready.” Her smile seems uncertain.
“You sure?” I run my hand through her curls.
“It’s you. It’s time we made our own memories.”
I kiss her again, then ease her down onto the mattress, with the deliberate care of handling something sacred. I close my eyes and let my heart and body show her my love.

A Laughing Matter of Pain
by Cynthia Hilston
(coming fall 2018)

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post an excerpt every Saturday.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.