Home > What If You & Me (Say Everything #2)

What If You & Me (Say Everything #2)
Author: Roni Loren



Chapter One

   Andi Lockley was halfway convinced her new neighbor was a werewolf.

   She’d never seen him outside since she’d moved into the duplex, and she’d only heard him moving around at night. The nocturnal wanderings might’ve made her lean toward vampire, but this guy made too much noise to be a vampire. Thump. Thump. Thump. His heavy steps paced back and forth as if he couldn’t wait for the full moon and an opportunity to terrorize the villagers.

   The old floorboards creaked again as neighbor dude made another round, and Andi tried to concentrate on the unfinished sentence on her laptop in front of her.

   Blink. Blink. Blink.

   That blinking cursor was a judgmental sonofabitch. She narrowed her eyes, trying to zero in on the words she’d written. The scent of wet fur and death filled the small cabin, Collette’s breath making clouds in the frosty air as she…

   As she what? Contemplated running? Took a nap? Knit a sweater? Ugh. Andi leaned back in her desk chair and rubbed the spot between her eyes where a headache was forming. How had the band-camp slasher story she was supposed to be writing morphed into some werewolf tale?

   Thump, thump, bang!

   She startled and turned her head, eyeing the pale-green wall that separated her from her neighbor. Her shelf of horror Funko Pops rattled with another bang, almost sending little Hannibal Lecter over the edge. She reached over and righted the doll.

   This wasn’t going to work. Maybe she needed to try writing while wearing her headphones, even though being unable to hear the noises around her tended to put her on edge. She usually only used headphones when she was editing the podcast. How many horror-movie scenes had she watched where some unsuspecting victim had headphones on or was listening to music too loudly while the deranged killer stalked around their house?

   But she was running out of options. Nine to midnight was her magic writing time. She’d moved into this place because…well, mainly because the 1920s double-shotgun house was cheaper than her old apartment, but also because the cute office off the kitchen at the back of the house had seemed perfect for a horror writer. Creaky and cozy with a view of a tangled, overgrown garden in the back. She had loved it on sight, even though her parents would be horrified by the place and probably see it as one step up from living in a cardboard box. Anything that wasn’t their sprawling mansion overlooking the golf course in Georgia looked like the slums to them.

   Andi didn’t need a mansion. This place was more than enough for now, but she hadn’t anticipated such a noisy neighbor. At her old place, she’d shared a wall with Dolores, a septuagenarian who had gone to bed by nine and who had regularly brought her Tupperware containers full of delicious slow-cooked things like shrimp and crab gumbo and white beans and rice.

   This guy seemed to be a creature of the night, and he’d never brought her so much as a bag of potato chips to welcome her to the neighborhood. Andi turned back to her computer, swept her bangs away from her eyes, and deleted the line about wet fur. No werewolves. That was not in the proposal she had sent to her literary agent.

   She needed to stay on track. Despite the growing audience for her What Can We Learn from This? horror and true crime podcast, her advertising income was meager. The majority of her pay-the-bills money came from the minor success she’d found with a series of horror novels. But that series had wrapped up, the money from royalties was dwindling, and her publisher had decided they wanted out of the horror business, so no new contract. Now she needed to prove to her agent and other publishers that she wasn’t a one-series-and-done author so she could get another book deal. She needed to send her agent a winner.

   She focused on her screen again. Deranged killers. Deranged killers. Must write a crazed summer-camp killer with a fresh twist. Music started up next door.

   She cocked her head.

   “Oh sweet baby Jesus.” The werewolf listened to country music. Would the torture never end?

   She wanted to bang on the wall or storm next door and demand that he have some consideration for his neighbor. What if she’d been a normal person who was sleeping at this hour? She imagined the finger-wagging lecture she could give him about the importance of being an unselfish human, about realizing the world doesn’t revolve around you and your big feet. But she knew there was no way she was going over there. She was a badass in her imagined scenario, but she’d covered enough true-crime documentaries on the podcast to know that no good would come of knocking on some stranger’s door alone in the middle of the night. Scary news stories started like that.

   And the last time anyone saw Andi Lockley, horror author and podcaster, was…

   The music switched off. Small mercies.

   She stared at the laptop screen again and then, with a huff, snapped her computer shut. The words weren’t going to happen tonight. She might as well get something watched for the podcast instead and at least be able to check one item off her list. She pushed her chair back, the wheels rolling over the worn floorboards and making them creak. She stood and stretched, grabbed her cooling green tea, and headed toward the living room at the front of the house.

   She’d left a lamp on, giving the room a warm glow, and she checked all the locks and windows before turning on the TV and shutting off the lights. Proper horror-movie watching required the dark. She grabbed the colorful afghan her former neighbor had made her when she’d moved. She’d told Andi, “This is for all those movies you watch. You can cover your eyes with it but still see the movie a little. And it’s big enough to share with a date.”

   Andi smiled at the memory. Dolores had been very interested in Andi’s love life—or lack thereof. She’d not so subtly work into their conversations things like Have you met that nice blond boy down at the coffee shop? So tall and never charges me for extra whipped cream. Or, You know Mrs. Benoit’s boy just graduated with a master’s degree in English. I’ve always thought men who read are so much more interesting, don’t you? And she’d even tested the waters with Mercy’s granddaughter, Jess, just broke up with her lady friend. I think she’s a movie buff like you.

   Andi appreciated her neighbor’s effort and the sentiment behind it. Dolores would make a killer wingwoman, but Andi hadn’t had the heart to tell her that the afghan didn’t need to be big enough for two. She didn’t bring guys home. Dates were reserved for public places only. Not that she dated much anyway. The minute she would imagine taking the next step with a guy, she would be seized by all the what-ifs, get that queasy feeling in her gut, and shut the whole thing down. Post-traumatic stress was hell on a love life. Her former therapist had assured her that it wouldn’t always be this way, but Andi was beginning to wonder if the “post” part of post-traumatic would ever really arrive.

   She curled under the blanket and scanned her streaming playlist, looking for something that would make for interesting fodder on the podcast. On What Can We Learn from This? she featured true-crime documentaries and horror films because much could be learned from both. Tonight, she needed a movie that could feed the creative part of her brain to help with her story, so she went through the slasher options, settling on one of her comfort watches. Scream.

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