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Excerpt Thursday! The Scenic Route

How about a clip from my short story, The Scenic Route to take our minds off the latest round of snow?

The Scenic Route by Chrissy Munder. Available from Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=55_128&products_id=1863

Summary: It's the first time Ed Baldwin has ever taken his boyfriend Joe Sutton home to meet his parents, and nervous, he keeps trying to pick a fight with Joe to relieve his stress while they drive. When Joe's had enough they pull over in a very small town where the choice in motels only adds to Ed's anxiety. A series of strange happenings puts them back on the road sooner than expected, and it's at an all-night diner that they find out why the Easy Rest Motel didn't live up to its name. That's what Ed gets for letting Joe take the scenic route


“Fine. Make a joke.” Ed bit his lower lip as Joe drummed his long fingers on the steering wheel and let a few miles pass by in silence. “I’m too tired for this. We’re stopping for the night.”

“Here?” Ed glanced up and realized they had driven out of the darkness. From the scattered lighting he guessed they had entered the outskirts of a small community. “You’re kidding me, right?”

In answer, Joe pulled over into a parking lot and turned the key to off. Ed listened to the tick of the cooling engine and gazed at the flash of neon announcing a vacancy at the Easy R st M tel. Ed puzzled out the name despite the missing letters and protested as soon as he took a glimpse past the sign. “No way. We can’t stay here. This place is a dump.”

Ed watched as Joe slammed the car door behind him, and ran through the rain toward the office entrance marked with a red arrow. “We’re the only car, doesn’t that tell you anything?” He yelled at Joe’s retreating back.

The tall, outdoor fixture at the end of the parking lot offered a backdrop of yellowed glare, illuminating the individual drops of rain. Ed lowered his window and let the cooler air wash over him, inhaling the mixed aromas of car exhaust and wet earth. Viewed in the dim light the motel resembled the location used in a low-budget horror movie.

Years ago the tiny, individual log cabins nestled in the backdrop of dark woods had probably been the height of charming and rustic, now neglected and run down. Ed listened as the rain hit against the broken pavement and shivered. This was so not his idea of a good time. Even as a kid growing up in The U.P. he had instinctively hated anything to do with the woods and the inescapable sense something waited to pounce just out of his sight. Give him concrete, city lights and a respectable mugger any day.

“Never separate,” Ed murmured as he rubbed his arms and raised the window once again. “Isn’t that where things always go wrong in those movies?”

The clock set into the dashboard blinked as it turned 10:30 pm, but this town had already closed up for the night. He craned his neck past the rain streaming down the rear window, only a gas station at the end of the street bright enough to indicate life. “Great.” Ed watched as the distant fluorescent lighting flickered off above the pumps. Thinking about the station made him remember how much ice tea he drank and Ed fidgeted in his seat once again as he wondered what was taking Joe so long.

With nothing to focus on, Ed’s gaze centered on the small cabins in front of him. The exterior wood had probably started life a different color, but age and elements had oddly darkened the stain instead of lightened, and allowed the structures to blend into the over-growth of forest. Ed blinked and the black shapes swam before him, his imagination lending the inanimate shadows movement and menacing purpose. “Screw this,” Ed muttered as he grasped the interior handle and ducked his head down against the rain. A short run to the office and Ed gratefully stumbled inside.

The outer screen door loudly smacked closed behind him and the lobby smelled musty and old. A tiny space heater roared to one side of the counter, concentrating the odor into the air instead of removing the dampness left by the summer rain. Ed thought of his Aunt Cheryl’s basement, ripe with the ever-present smell of mildew and dog, and wondered when the last time the dingy, brown carpet under his feet had been cleaned. No one waited behind the counter; the only sign of industry some newspapers scattered across the top and one of those circular metal bells always visible in movies, but never in real life. Ed looked around for Joe’s dark head of hair and brushed the water off his jacket sleeves.

“Come here.” Joe stood at a wall covered in photographs to the left of the counter. “This place has been in business for over forty-five years. Some of these pictures are from the grand-opening.”

“Sure smells like it,” Ed said as the space heater coughed and died; the red of the glowing wires dulling back to gray. The mismatched display of chain store frames offended his hard-won sense of style and reminded him of the scattering of pictures along the hallway at his parent’s house. Little thought had been given to the collection, each image stuck wherever space allowed and his fingers itched against the urge to re-arrange them.

Joe gazed at the wall with the same intense fascination he gave every useless roadside marker he insisted they stop and read, no pulling him away any time soon. Joe’s interested voice indicated that his upbeat disposition had already moved on from their earlier disagreement and Ed wished he could as well. But his nagging apprehension of what lay at the end of the journey left him agitated and unable to let go of the smallest slight, no matter how foolish. “Can’t we find somewhere else?”

Joe turned and draped his arm across Ed’s shoulder. The heavy weight offered warm comfort and Ed longed to move closer despite his lingering annoyance. “I just want a shower and pillow for a few hours.” Joe squeezed Ed up against his side and leaned over to whisper into his ear. “Come on, it will be an adventure. We can have hot, no-tell motel make-up sex.”

“No one’s on duty.” Ed couldn’t pinpoint why he was so hesitant but he didn’t like the vibe of the place, even with Joe’s salacious suggestion. The overhead lights flickered as the thermostat on the space heater turned the unit back on, and for a second the two of them stood in darkness. Ed couldn’t help himself; his heart rate increased and he wrapped his fingers around the side of Joe’s jacket and tugged at the wet material. Time for Joe to put his money where his mouth was. All Ed had to do was ask? He was asking. “Let’s go.”

Too late. Joe had already leaned across the counter and tapped the silver bell twice. The clear chime rang out at the same time the lights flickered again. Ed tightened his grip and scooted infinitesimally closer to Joe. He had a bad feeling about this.

Interested in how Ed and Joe first met? Hop over to www.chrissymunder.com, click on the Free Read tab, and enjoy First Impressions.