This month's first chapter is from Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich. It's our curator Heidi's pick because:
The author’s ability to pull you in and set you down on that mountain right along with Roan is astonishing. We are introduced to the mountain straight away. Bring a flashlight because it’s dark up there!
There are three different time periods, which is cool because we see the sinister evolution of Mill House.
Creep factor galore! Fans of The Haunting of Hill House will love this book. Also, for readers who love audiobooks, this is one to experience. It’s complete with haunting background noises and creepy whispering.
Extra cool thing about this month's pick: If you'd rather listen to the first chapter instead of reading it, you're in luck! Listen to the first chapter of Teeth in the Mist here.
Will it be love at first chapter for you?
Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember--so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?
In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward--one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.
1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.
Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching...
She is a ghost ship sailing the mud of the mountain.
She is a specter parting the shrouding mists.
She is a shadow upon a midnight river; she is the eye of the storm.
In her hand, a heavy portmanteau. She drops it every few steps to catch her breath and pull her cloak closer about her face. Even her bonnet is black. She is searching for a dwelling she is beginning to think might not be there after all.
Though she is alone on the mountain, the solitary state being her preference, she looks around with a sense of unease. Like a trickster, the mountain is full of traps and twists, dotted with sharp slate rocks that protrude from the earth like jagged teeth, stretching skyward.
Silly, she tells herself, for one to imagine the mountain could be hungry. And yet...she can sense something considering her, and there is appetite in that regard. She bares her own teeth in defiance. Something shifts in the earth beneath her feet, and she has the peculiar sensation of someone having passed her by, suddenly. But under the moonlight, she sees how very alone she is.
She glances behind her, down the track, and can still see the moving black shape of the coach that brought her here. A trick of the mountain perhaps, but she can hear the angry hoofbeats of the horses and, she thinks, the carriage master's mutterings--"Stupid girl. Stupid, stupid girl..." No doubt it is true. To come all this way because of a slip of paper.
She pulls it from her pocket, unfolding it gently so as not to tear it. When first she found it, clutched in the hands of her dying father, it had been crisp and new. Now it falls like lace over her glove, threatening to disintegrate with one harsh touch. She knows the words by heart.
DR A. MAUDLEY
IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH, ROAN EVELYN EDDINGTON SHALL FALL UNDER GUARDIANSHIP OF DR. A. MAUDLEY OF MILL HOUSE UNTIL SHE HAS ACHIEVED THE AGE OF TWENTY-ONE YEARS.
MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON HER SOUL.
And beneath: two signatures. One of them is her father's. The other, she supposes, belongs to this stranger, Dr. Maudley. She wonders, even now, whether she was right to take the note. Right to come all this way.
But what choice did she have? Where else had she to go?
She lifts her portmanteau once more and faces upward. Step by step, she climbs. The mountain stills--attentive--and she wonders at the utter silence. No birds, no breeze, nothing but the squelch, squelch, squelch or her boots in the mud. As though the world is holding its breath.
Her focus is unbroken until she feels something pressing in, like someone suddenly standing too close. Breathing. Watching. It overwhelms her.
She drops her bag.
Raises her hands as if to defend herself, but instead of blocking a blow, her fingers begin to dance, drawing symbols or words or pictures in the air. All the while she is muttering beneath her breath, fighting off the thing pressing in.
It is large. So very large.
"Not today," she growls, her voice throaty and deep. "Back with you!"
Her fingers continue their dance, even as the presence retreats, and her skirts begin to smoke at the hem.
She stops when she feels safe once more, wondering at the strange sensation she'd had of someone turning to look at her, enormous, like the regard of a titan. After a moment, she picks up her portmanteau and continues on. A sudden energy, like the retaliation of a naughty child, sends her portmanteau flying backward. The clasps click open, scattering clothing, undergarments, ink pots, quills, and journals into the mud.
She ignores the delicates sinking into the mire, grabbing instead for the books, wiping them urgently on her skirt, heedless of the filth or the stains she is leaving behind.
"Do not haunt me, Father," she whispers, her gloves beyond saving. "I am paying the price. I have come here as you wished."
I am in exile, she reminds herself, staring at the barren earth, remembering the countless times her father had said, There is safety in isolation, Roan.
Get up, she tells herself. Keep walking. Do not look back.
At least, the sodden fabrics and stained books are back inside her portmanteau, pages pressed firmly together, like a lover's kiss. She peers up from under her bonnet to examine the heavens above as a rumble of thunder stutters across the sky; the darkness deepens as the clouds blot out the full moon. Then the heavens break open and drench her.
She takes a step...another...another. She is weighed down by the skirts, by the portmanteau, by a past whose burden she cannot bear. She does not see the figure watching her from within the heather and the slate rocks and the fog.
I am in exile. Keep walking. Do not look back.
Rapley Setters glimpses her on the track, standing on the mountain like a fey creature. She does not move, except to clean mud from the books in her hands with a grim expression, as seemingly solid as the mountain itself.
Why would a girl be walking up the mountain? There is nothing here except for Mill House. Surely she is not going there? She cannot be one of the three Dr. Maudley is expecting?
She is too young.
She is a girl.
He watches her struggle to her feet, her ridiculously wide skirts weighed down by the mud. She stumbles, and he sees her irritation, sees her pull once, twice, three times at her luggage before it finally comes free.
Sees the grim determination in her posture.
The thunder complains and she looks toward the sky, gazes in his direction, yet she doesn't see him.
Her eyes...they unsettle him.
It quickly becomes apparent to Rapley that she has set herself an impossible task, and when the rains descend, dousing the landscape in curtains of white, and Rapley sees her kick her case with a growl, it brings a rare and unexpected half smile to his lips. Wild thing, he thinks.
He stands, enjoying the familiar cold of the rain as it drenches his clothing, and walks toward her, using the mountain to camouflage his approach. As he watches, something catches her attention and she turns, then steps back, eyes wide in a suddenly pale face. A fallen slab of slate rock, like a shelf, lies not quite flat on the ground, and beneath: a dark, dry space, big enough to fit her. Does she intend to crawl below it to escape the rain?
But no, she moves away from it. The rain waterfalls off her bonnet, curtaining her expression from him, but he knows that she is afraid. He has hunted in these mountains long enough to recognize instinctive fear.
She backs away, one step at a time, her eyes never leaving that empty space. She moves gingerly, but then all at once; with a start and an indrawn breath, she turns and clambers up the mountain, her portmanteau forgotten. But where she has no doubt expected to find sheets of rain tumbling down upon the landscape, she finds instead: him.
Her cry echoes through the rocks and through Rapley's skin; she might have fallen if not for his two strong hands, which clamp down around her upper arms like claws. Surprised to find a woman's flesh beneath his palms, he lets go, pushes her away. Too hard. She stumbles, falls, landing in her wide skirts.
She looks up at him and brings her hands to touch the places his have just been, the fabric of her jacket wrinkling beneath her small fingers. Her teeth are bared like a wolf's.
Yet despite that--or because of it--she is...striking. Too-pale skin, too-dark hair. Too-dark eyes. He does not look into them. Full, pink lips, now pulled back to explore too-white teeth.
I'm sorry. The words linger in his mouth but he does not speak them. She is small. Birdlike. But vicious too, he thinks.
"Who are you?" she demands, and he struggles to meet her gaze.
"Who are you?" he returns, his voice curt.
She gets to her feet, so covered in mud that he cannot see where the mountain ends and she begins. His voice is gruff--more so than he intends. When was the last time he spoke?
"Answer," he snaps.
"What are you doing here?"
"My name is Roan Eddington--"
"Where are you going?"
"Mill House!" Her cheeks flush, like rose water dripped into cream. She is not embarrassed or afraid, however. He can see that she is enraged. This relieves and calms him.
Coming to Devil's Peak as well. So. She is one of the three. "Do you mean the old mill?"
"You know it."
"Yes. And I know Dr.--"
She points to her portmanteau. "Then kindly show me the way."
"Are you always so direct?" he asks through gritted teeth.
"I expect I'm as direct as you are rude."
They stare at each other for an awkward moment, him searching--searching for the reason she should unsettle him so. At last, he strides over, hauls her portmanteau up to beneath one arm, amused at her restrained anger, and sets off up the mountain at a stiff pace. This is no place for the likes of her.
He did not expect a girl. A highborn girl, at that.
"It's dark," he says, turning back when she doesn't follow. "The mountain is not kind in darkness."
If he were a different sort of man, he would offer his coat, if he had one. He would ask, Are you all right, miss?
Instead, he turns and walks on, carrying her load beneath his arm. He is not that man. Never was, and never will be. He frowns as a feeling of quiet discontent runs through his body, until he finally realizes what it is that bothers him so about the girl.
They have no walls.
Was it Love at First Chapter?
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