Authors: Tara Brown
A Novel by Tara Brown
Copyright 2013 Tara Brown
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like
to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for
each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was
not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you
for respecting the hard work of this author. No alteration of content is
This book is a work of fiction
any similarities are coincidental
. All characters in this
fictional story are b
ased entirely on the crazed mind of the
author and are not based on any human. Any similarities are by chance and not
This book is dedicated to my fans—thank you so much.
The interest and support has been amazing. I also must thank my husband and
children. You supported me, even when I was in my writer’s frenzy.
Cover Art by Once Upon a Time Covers
Edited by Andrea Burns
Thank you Nick (sexiest proofreader ever).
A special thanks to Mani, Katy, and my
friends The Nators.
Thank you all.
To the girls at Triple M, I love you ladies.
Other Books by Tara Brown
The Devil’s Roses
The Born Trilogy
Born to Fight
The Light Series
The Light of the World
The Four Horsemen
The Blood Trail Chronicles
The Single Lady Spy Series
The End of Me
The End of Games
The Long Way Home
A note from the author
This is another one of those weird books I fear you will either love or
I don’t know why they always end up weird
you like it
There is a house at the
end of an empty road, where many a man
Sweetest love's first
kiss is enough to guarantee the payment to the dead.
It was there in the
mist and the warmth of her embrace, I met my end.
I shall never rest
Nor shall any man who
gives his heart to a lady of The Loch.
The leaves scuttle along the road, scratching in protest as
the wind forces their destination.
The cool spring breeze that comes off the lake is worse than
any I recall this late into spring. It’s nearly the middle of June, and I am
still clinging to my sweater as I hurry to my gig. I wish I had put on an
undershirt, but I had to hurry before Mary saw me leaving. She has been prickly
lately, more so than normal.
Unfortunately for us all, Maine isn’t typically what you would
call a warm state but this spring has been ridiculous. I can’t fight the small
niggle inside of me that says the cold wind is my fault. The way it follows me
about is odd, even if I pretend it isn’t there.
I try not to see the way the leaves fall from the trees, long
before they're due, as I walk under them. I work hard at not noticing the way
the breeze seems to follow me, cooling everything around me. I have to try to
ignore it all. It really is the only way.
In my family, pretending none of it is there is survival. Our
lives have been this way for hundreds of years. Or so
been told by the gracious people of our town
. Their families have passed
down stories of things my family has done.
I walk through the back door of the pub, clinging to my guitar
and taking deep breaths. I try not to think about the crowd or the eyes that
will be upon me, judging me as I always imagine them to be.
I stand in the back, in the dark little room and wait. It's
there in the dark that I can't help but feel like maybe something has changed
in the air. If I really look there is a difference, like the air sparkles
somehow. Normally, for me change is good and different is like a miracle, but
this change doesn’t feel like an improvement. It feels like danger. There is
something in the back of my mind that is picking at me, trying to warn me
Whatever it is, I can't worry about it now. I have to perform.
I need the money. At least the wind hasn’t followed me inside, this time. That
is one of the harder things about me to ignore or explain—the indoor
breeze that always seems to be
rattling doors or
I look around and wait for Mike to announce me. My fingers
tremble a little, but I know that once I’m up there, it will be better. Somehow
and some way, it always is, like exposing myself to the evil townsfolk makes me
In a twisted way.
They all hate me or at the very least, fear me, and yet, I
want nothing like I want to show them how normal I am. I can't stop caring
about the way they see me. I can’t stop wishing I fit in.
"You're up. I’ll announce you now."
I lift my face and grin at the man standing in the sliver of
light of the open door. "Thanks, Mike."
"Yup." He is always cool toward me. Most men are.
Most men fear the curse. I blush and try not to think about it. If I ignore it,
it isn’t real.
I take a deep breath and open the guitar case, pulling the
six-string from it. My palms sweat and my heart beats like mad as I walk to the
stage door. I’m shivering but I’m excited.
Again, in a twisted way.
"Next up, we have the talented Erralynn Lake performing
for you. This is her last summer here in Lakeland, so let’s help her out by
leaving tips at the bar. College
Please, give her a round of applause."
As I walk on stage, the room cheers. It isn’t their best
effort. I’m not like the other performers this stage sees. I have to earn their
applause. I have no family or friends in the crowd.
A trickle of guilt hits me when I think about the fact they'll
be leaving tips for college. I’m not going to college. I never went last year,
and I have no intention of going this year. Even though I don’t plan on going
to college, the tips will help me move. Because, like the man said, this is my
last summer in Lakeland—it has to be. I have to get away from here, from
her, but I can’t leave before I turn nineteen. I hate this town, and I hate who
I am here and nineteen is almost here. I can’t wait to get away. I’ve never
liked it. We moved here when I was ten, and it has never gotten
better—not even a tiny bit. I had to fit in the best way I could but I am
still one of them—one of the Lakes, or Lachlans before we changed our
name to Lake, following so many accidents.
The bar goes silent. Creepy quiet. I can hear my heartbeat and
exhales, as if I were alone in the dark closet Mary used to lock me in when my
mom first died. The heat from the lamps blinds me and makes me sweat.
The applause comes softly as my fingers lightly grace the
guitar strings, just testing the sound. The clapping starts slowly but builds
up into wild gratitude and excitement as my lips turn up into a grin. I stand
in front of them all and look into the lights. My nerves vanish as I let the warmth
of the room wrap around me. I close my eyes and lean into the mike.
"Good evening. Thanks for coming
out tonight." My voice cracks. The talking, for me, is worse than
I clear my throat and let it all go.
It takes a second for my body to relax into it. I pick at the
strings softly, dragging my callused fingers in a fluid motion. My flawless
sound is honestly made. It is from the pure love I feel for the music. I have
always loved music. It is one of the few joys in my life. My lips part and the
out, lazily at first. I always imagine
it is like making out. Slow and flirtatious initially, then the kisses become
desperate and the fingers knead with hopeless passion. Eventually, the two
bodies move against each other in opposite directions, and yet toward the same
This is how I feel about music. Mostly because all I can do is
imagine making out. I have never kissed a boy. I may never kiss a boy. I must
never have a child to carry on the curse. Not that I am silly enough to believe
a child comes from kissing, but it all starts somewhere. Sometimes, in my
family, death comes from a single kiss.
My guitar and my voice battle to a climax that makes beads of
sweat drizzle down my throat and into my shirt. I am part of it all, yet feel completely
detached from it. Like I’m watching myself perform. Like I am someone else.
Someone on a horse, riding through the countryside like in the dream I have
Or the other dream where I am the girl in the
mask at the ball, having my first of true love’s kiss.
When I sing I am there. I can feel the wind in my hair. I
don’t notice them, the people in the crowd. I don’t notice the way they shout
and cheer. I ignore it all. I rock and sway with the music and my guitar and I
imagine a world where I am something beyond the curse girl. I don’t notice how
long I am there on stage or how many songs I sing. I just sing until I feel
The music stops like it’s turned off. I pause and I look up,
noticing the lights again. When I see them, I know I’m finished.
I tremble and take a bow, wishing Sarah were here to take my
guitar, but she had studying to do for the end of the year. Silence fills the
room, just as it always does. It’s like the crowd needs a second too, before
they erupt into violent cheers.
I turn and leave the stage, waving at them all.
"Erralynn Lake, people. Give it up for Lakeland's very
own." Mike's deep voice calls out to the crowd.
It always takes me about fifteen minutes to come back down
afterward. The high I get is intense.
I sit on my barstool in the back and take a deep breath. I
watch a trickle of sweat slither down my arm; it’s familiar to me somehow. Not
the sweat but the arm. The way I have a few freckles on it or the slender look
of it. It is like my mother’s. I know I look so much like
we could almost be mistaken for twins. I like that because not much is ever
familiar. I don’t recall a lot about my family. My memories have been pushed to
the back of my mind to make room for the horrible things Mary does to me. They are
all I seem to recall. I have flashes of memories, of Mom. That’s all that’s
left of my family, flashes. Rosie is the only one I really remember.
Mike comes backstage as I’m doing my case up and slaps a wad
of cash into my hand, “See ya next week, kid.”
I nod, “Thanks, Mike.”
“Yup.” He waves and walks away. My fingers twitch as I finish
putting the guitar away and walk out the back door, to where the wind has
waited for me. I shiver when my sweat and the cool breeze meet on my exposed
throat and I stuff the majority of the money into my back pocket. I always do
so I only have the fifty to give Mary in my main pocket. She doesn’t know about
the tips; she doesn’t need to.
"Ready?" a voice asks from the alley as I get
I look sharply to where a group of girls waits for me with
smiles. We agreed they would pick me up from the pub when I finished. I nod,
"Can I stash the guitar in the back of your car?"
My bestie Lune, short for Luanne, laughs. "Yeah. Let's go
before all the hotties are taken and we end up either alone or with the bottom
I roll my eyes and link arms with her, “I never end up with a
Sarah, my other friend, giggles, “Maybe tonight is the night.”
I stick my tongue out at her. She smiles, "How was it?
Sorry I had to study."
"It was a good one, I think."
"Let's go get Lynnie some man meat!" Lune does a
kissy face at me and moans.
"Lune, you're a weirdo." I say in the most loving
way. She really is but that is the thing I adore about her. When I got here as
a new kid at school, she was the first one brave enough to befriend the Lake
girl. She is the only reason I haven’t run away or done something worse.
The blonde's face splits into a grin, "Yet, you love me.
What fun is it to be a wanker, if you’re all alone? You, my friend, are in good
I laugh and shake my head, "Sometimes, I think you need a
She winks a blue eye, "Oh, I got one. Don’t you worry
Now, I need some hot-boy loving, so let's
A brunette named Maggie, getting into the car on the other
side, laughs, "Dirty ho."
Lune puts her
hands up innocently and gives
us a mischievous grin, "You know it. Best friends with the one and only
Erralynn Lake. You have to be weird to keep up."
The brunette nods, "Agreed."
I frown, trying to make a joke out of it all, "I’m not a
dirty ho. When did being dirty amount to being weird? And how is it I'm the bar
for what's weird in this town?" I speak before I really think it through.
My face flushes crimson when they all stop talking and climb into the car.
Of course, I am the bar for what is weird. In this town and
every town. I don’t remember what my town was like before we moved here, but I
bet I was weird there too. I bet the wind chased me and boys feared me.
I look down and carry my guitar to the trunk. I slam it and
climb into the front seat, looking down at my jeans and trying not to let it
get to me. I’m almost free of it all, and then I can be the girl from my
Lune turns around to look at the girls in the back seat but
points at me. "This girl is the most normal person you all know. Just for
They laugh. Maggie crosses her arms and gives me a smirk,
"Your family makes you guilty by association, Lynnie." She winks but
I know it is the truth. I am guilty because of my last name.
I cock an eyebrow at her, "Guilty by relation, and I
choose not to believe in any of it." And that is the truth. It is a choice
to be cursed and I choose no. No curse, no bad juju, no family problems. Well,
except for insanity and being horribly gullible, that we are famously guilty
of. The rest, I force myself to believe is a lie, a con, and a joke. I am
guilty of being named Lake but that is all.
Jenny, the raven-haired girl in the back left corner, puts her
knuckles forward, "I don’t believe it either."
I pound my knuckles against hers.
Lune points a finger at the other two, "You morons are
easily fooled. A couple freak accidents and the whole town
screaming witch and you whores jump on the bandwagon. Lynnie never even grew up
here, she’s from Maryland."
Maggie laughs, "Few accidents . . . dude. There isn’t a
Lake man alive. And how do we know there isn’t a Maryland chapter of evil
I turn around in a fake huff, "It isn’t a club. You guys
suck." I don’t mean it and I hope they don’t
either. I can't even help but be glad
they’re all home from college for the summer. It’s been a hard year being here.
Mary has been worse than usual and Sarah is busy a lot with
guys. She dates and I sit at home until she gets home and calls to fill me in. I
close my eyes and listen to the details and wish they were mine. Lune, Maggie,
and Jenny do the same from school. They don’t know silent tears roll down my
cheeks as they tell me about their wonderful nights, the boys and the kisses,
the sex, and butterflies in their tummies. The horrid feeling the next day,
when they realize he wasn’t as hot as their beer goggles told them he was, or
he's married. I wish it were
. I wish for once I
could regret everything. I wish I could just be reckless. But it isn’t my life
I’m gambling with. No, the Lake women always live through it. The men are the
Lune smiles and nudges
me, "Let’s get
trashed and see if any suckers try to hit on you."
I scoff, "You know they don't mess with the Loch
Jenny whacks me on the top of the head softly, "You're a
We laugh. They laugh at me and I try to laugh with them.
“I can’t believe school is finally over and we are all home!
This is going to be the best summer ever.”
They all scream and shout. Lune presses the stereo on and cranks the
newest Kesha song. "You see the video?" she screams over top of the