Hidden Under Her Heart By Rachelle Ayala

Monday, April 01, 2013

Who says a book on heavy subjects can’t be humorous?

Hidden Under Her Heart tackles some pretty heavy and controversial subjects. But underneath it all is a couple, a man with a quirky sense of humor who loves to pull pranks, and a compassionate woman who is a on the gullible side.

The story starts and ends with a prank, but in between Maryanne is taken on a tour of a haunted mansion completed with animatronic beings.

Here’s the excerpt from Chapter 29:

Maryanne looked in her e-mail for Melissa Bowers’ address. Her husband owned the largest gossip network on the Internet. The phone rang. It was Mrs. Bowers.

“Hi,” Maryanne answered. “I’m on my way.”

“Oh, goody!” Melissa squealed. “I can’t wait to meet you and show you the nursery.

Everyone’s having babies, and I’m not getting any younger.”

“I was about to enter your address into my GPS.”

“Oh, don’t bother. It’s really easy to find.” Melissa’s voice chimed through the earpiece.

“Come across the Dumbarton Bridge, go north on 101 and get off on Woodside Road.

Follow it and turn left on Mountain Home Road. It winds around for a mile or so. We’re on the left. Call me when you get to the stone gate. You can’t miss it. There are two snarling gargoyles guarding it.”

Maryanne gulped. “Gargoyles?”

“Only stone, of course. The gate has spikes on top. Gives it a really spooky cemetery look. And the house number is on a tombstone, 1305. Oh, and don’t let that hooded statue with the lamp scare you. He’s really quite a dear.”

“Sure, thanks.” Maryanne switched off the earpiece and smoothed her sweater. Her baby answered with a swift kick.

“So, you up for living at the haunted mansion?”

No answer. Not even a roll.

[conversation with Lucas deleted]

Twenty-five minutes later, Maryanne drove onto a heavily wooded lane. The clouds had lowered into a mist swirling through the wind whipped trees. Oak leaves fluttered, and angular cypresses and junipers stood like ghostly sentinels behind the gate.

Melissa answered the intercom, and the gate opened slowly. Maryanne pulled the mini-SUV up the cobblestoned circular driveway. The mansion loomed grey and ornate behind a stand of weeping willows. Turrets sported wrought iron bars around the balconies, and jagged lines of ivy crawled with spidery legs up the foreboding slate walls. Red and yellow streamers shaped like fire hung around the alcove entrance, and a graveyard display lined the lawn near the front door. A tumble-down wooden house with fake blood splatters sat on the porch.

Maryanne stepped out of the Honda and locked the door. At that moment, a rolling cloud lowered and lightning flashed. Large raindrops wet her nose. Crap, are we still in California? She ducked under the entrance foyer. A giant bat with a green face and bloody fangs shot at her. Maryanne startled and pounded on the stained glass door. It had a picture of a knight fighting a green dragon.

Cackling laughter sounded from her right. A grave flipped open, and a wild-haired ghoul popped out. The figure held a bloody zombie baby. Her heart hyperactive, Maryanne ran around the hedge toward the back. Perhaps Melissa hadn’t heard her knocking.

“Hello? Mrs. Bowers?” she called. “Anyone up there?”

A set of black window shutters flapped on the third story. Was that a woman up there? Dressed in white? In a hoop skirt? Maryanne blinked, and the vision disappeared. Had she seen a ghost? She circled back toward her car to retrieve her cell phone.
A shadow fluttered to her left. Maryanne yelped and jumped back.

“Ha, ha! Gotcha!” Melissa pulled off her pointy witch’s hat. Her hair was streaked black and white, and she wore a glittery sequined gown with a slit up to her hip. Her lips were blood red, and her false eyelashes spiked like daggers. Black fishnet stockings and stilettos completed her outfit.

Maryanne fanned her chest, her heartbeat fighting to escape. “You scared me.”

“I did?” Melissa’s mouth rounded. “Just getting ready for Halloween. Come on in. I can’t wait for you to see the nursery.”

“Oh, sure.”

Melissa led her through the front door. A tiered chandelier hung above them, filled with crystals and flame-shaped light bulbs. The hallways were paneled with dark wood, and feathery spider web decorations hung from the ceiling.

“Uhm…” Maryanne hesitated at the door to the nursery. “May I ask you why you want to adopt a baby?”

Melissa’s blue eyes widened. “I’ve always loved babies, but unfortunately I had ovarian cancer when I was very young. Besides, it’ll be so much fun. I do hope you have a girl. I have so many costumes and outfits.”

Well, sure, if the baby were a living doll. Maryanne pulled a notepad from her purse.

“What kind of educational plans do you have for your son or daughter?”

“Only the best. Private schools, a tutor, horseback riding and any sport the child has aptitude in. You needn’t worry.” Melissa patted Maryanne’s arm. “He or she will have the best childhood. I’ve already joined a network of adopting parents.”

“Will you hire a nanny?”

“Sure. Only the best for my little darling. But why don’t we talk about this over cookies? I have chocolate pecan chunk. I heard they were your favorite.” She opened the door to the nursery.

A furry wolf child with red pinpointed eyes growled from a crib entwined with scarlet streamers. A strobe light flashed over the rattling white closet door exposing bloody handprints, and a sign lettered with jagged handwriting said Rosemary’s Baby.
Maryanne gasped and her womb tightened. “Why are you doing this?”

“Oh, silly, this isn’t the real nursery! It’s for the big party coming up. Of course you’re invited.” Melissa’s eyes glinted as she advanced toward Maryanne, her hands outstretched. Organ music vibrated through the walls, and the lights flickered down the paneled corridor.

Maryanne screamed when something touched her shoulder from the back. She tore down the hallway and scrambled to the front door. Melissa chased her. “Wait, wait! Let me show you the real nursery. It has Winnie the Pooh decorations. I swear. Tigger and Piglet.”

“I’m sorry,” Maryanne said. “I’m having contractions, and my doctor says I have to avoid stress.”

She tore open the front door and ran out.

“But you haven’t seen Eeyore yet!” Melissa called after her.

But that’s not all. Lucas Knight pulls a prank of epic proportions in the Epilogue. I won’t spoil it for you here. You’ll have to read the entire book to enjoy it fully. –Rachelle

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