A zombie. A vampire. A witch. Nora Travers is none of these things.
But the former mean girl has to hide behind costumes if she wants to scare the pants off Brendan, the horror geek with the power to make or break her haunted house. Because Brendan is the nerd Nora used to torment in middle school. But now he’s all grown up and so scary hot, even her zombie heart starts beating.
And he’s looking a bit too long at her bloody fishnet stockings.
Nora has to be everything she’s not this Halloween so she can hide her true self and terrify Brendan. Not to mention protect her heart.
Because what happens when he realizes she’s a monster behind the mask?
CRAZY, SEXY, GHOULISH is 22,000-word gothic romantic comedy novella. Called “sweet, smart, sexy, and funny,” it’s the perfect length to read on a chilly October evening–and beyond.
Twitching, I dragged my left leg behind me, the limb clad in ripped white fishnets and smeared with blackened blood.
A grunt came from behind. It was Chris, his white button-down shirt bloodied and torn into long shreds, his dark skin an unhealthy gray in the dim light of the room, creased with shadows that shouldn’t be there.
My croak filled the small, cold room, echoed off the slabs of woods that served as floors and walls. A howl came from another part of the house, followed by a deep growl that shook the floorboards—then a terrible scream.
The scent of sawdust and cigarette smoke was heavy in the house, but there was something else underneath, something sweaty and all-too-human.
It might’ve been mine.
To my right was a darkened hall, and along with a cold draft the walls could never contain, there came a sound. Whispers.
They were here.
Before they appeared—before I saw him—I checked my white nurse’s costume. It was stained with blood, and so were the long clumps of matted hair which I tugged over one eye.
I was unrecognizable. I needed to be unrecognizable.
I wouldn’t let him remember me.
The whispers grew louder and suddenly he was there with his friends. Six feet away from me.
Brendan Forrester, creator of HorrorMonger, the popular horror website with thousands of followers.
The guy I needed to terrify.
But I jerked to a stop at his face. Stared. My mouth gaped open and drool threatened to spill out.
My heart started thumping wildly in my chest, like it’d just learned how.
Brendan Forrester was hot.
Brendan had been my middle school classmate. Not a friend. A guy we—I—made fun of. At thirteen, he’d been bony under his black hoodies, unnaturally pale, one eye peeking out from a shock of black hair.
This Brendan still had the dark hair, but he was about six-foot-three. And solidly muscled, like he spent half the day doing pull-ups on low ceiling beams in some industrial warehouse, his torso bare and gleaming sweat.
To recap: hot.
My gaze met his. I froze, every muscle in my body tense, waiting for him to recognize me. A shiver ran through my body as we locked eyes, like an icy breeze had blown across my skin.
Behind him came a sandy-haired guy and a pretty redhead in skinny jeans. Chris thumped his feet heavily behind me, groaning and moving towards them, but I was rooted in place.
I needed to do something here. Be undead. Stop staring at his pecs.
I reached a crooked arm out and closed and opened my mouth a few times, probably looking like a dying trout, until I finally managed to rasp, “Going to eat your…broad chest…strong thighs…”
The redhead clamped a hand over her mouth and started giggling.
“Braaaiiinnnssss!” Chris shrieked from behind me. “We’re going to eat your braaaiiinnnssss!”
It was more a reminder to me than an attempt to scare the three of them. Which completely hadn’t happened.
It was dim where they stood, shadowy, but I saw the corner of Brendan’s mouth turn up into a smile. His eyes flicked down my body quickly, taking in the fishnets and my tight white uniform.
“Braaaiiinnnssss! I’m going to eat your braaaiiinnnssss!” I screamed quickly.
But it was over. His two friends were trying to hold back laughs—and not in a nervous, scared-but-excited way, but like they were watching Monty Python. Brendan was more subdued, trying to be polite and contain his amusement—and throwing frequent glances at me.
“Uh, thanks,” he said, smiling a little.
They strolled by us to the nearest exit unconcerned, unhurried, as if we weren’t two hungry undead ready to consume their flesh.
Chris reached out a clawed hand to them, but Brendan’s friend just brushed it off like a gnat, still laughing.
They disappeared into the shadows as the guy stage-whispered to Brendan, “I think that zombie nurse liked you, bro.”
They reached the next booth with the Mad Scientist. There was a metallic zap as he rent the air with his electrodes and the redhead screamed. So at least there was that.
Chris sighed dramatically and straightened up.
I turned to face him, still in a trance.
“Hey, Nora, if you want to know the moment you lost us our Halloween bonus tonight, it’s the point when you went from scaring the visitors to sexually harassing them.” Chris unearthed a granola bar from the pocket of his blood-splattered pants, unwrapped it, and took a bite.
“Sorry.” Dammit. I’d really needed that money.
Tim, our manager at the Haunted Shack, had given us a Special Talk before we opened earlier that Monday evening. “Everyone needs to be at their freakiest tonight,” he’d said. “We’ve discovered that Brendan Forrester is going to be coming through our house sometime in the next six hours.”
I’d flinched at the name. I hadn’t heard it in a long time. Hadn’t wanted to.
“As some of you may know, Brendan is the king of horror geeks in our region of the country. He runs HorrorMonger,” Tim explained, the gravity he was trying to impose on his words somewhat ruined by the fact he was dressed as a clown with crazily-smeared red lipstick. “By all rights we should hate him because he’s twenty and already has a successful website. But he’s visiting all the haunted houses in the area and ranking them this month. And that means something to a lot of horror fans.”
Tim cleared his throat and adjusted his bright orange wig before continuing.
“If we make the top three this year, we’re going to make a killing with the publicity. And that’s all of us.” He twirled his index finger around the room. “You get us to be at the top of the HorrorMonger haunted house list in the region, and I’m giving you all a big fat Halloween bonus. So let’s give him some nightmares, shall we?”
I’d straightened up, tugging my nurse costume down over my blood-splattered legs. I needed that money—desperately. I vowed to put on extra makeup to disguise myself and scare the crap out of Brendan Forrester. I’d done it years ago; how hard could it be now?
Back in the zombie room, I groaned, resting my forehead against a wooden support beam next to Chris. It had been hard. Brendan wasn’t going to have any nightmares about me, but I’d sure as hell be having daydreams about him. That face. That body.
That person who hates you, a little voice inside me said.
I groaned again, but there were shuffles and more voices nearby, from the darkened hall on the right. Chris stuffed his granola bar back into his pocket. “Showtime again. Try not to eye-fuck any of these people. Not that it matters anymore.”
My forehead still against the beam, I closed my eyes and listened for a second for Brendan and his group in the opposite direction. From the sounds of the past two minutes, they’d gone past the vampire and the werewolves and were nearing the Bigfoot room—which was really the weakest link in our haunted house. After that they’d stumble down a dark hallway, until they exited outside where Ryan chased them with his chainsaw all the way out.
I opened my eyes. Jerked my head up. “It’s not over. I can still get him.”
Chris, ignoring me, started grunting and clawing for the next round of visitors.
I ran to the back of the room, sliding open a panel and slipping into the bowels of the house.
There were corridors we haunted house workers used to move in and out of position, communicate, have a quick smoke. The scent of cigarettes hung heavy there, and on cold nights your skin puckered into gooseflesh immediately because it was so drafty.
The hall was also shadowy, lit only by the subdued light seeping from the rooms, but I knew my way around.
I moved quickly towards the exit, my fingertips grazing the walls.
Here’s what you need to know about me: I’m a monster. I’m very good at it. You could say I’ve been practicing all my life.