An excerpt of Uncharted Territory, Book Two: Alcatraz and the Winchester Mystery House:
"Life is uncharted territory. It reveals its story one moment at a time."
Leo F. Buscaglia
Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Nightmares had haunted Bethany all night—images of murder and insanity had tormented her until she'd finally surrendered to consciousness. Disentangling her legs from beneath Josh's heavy thigh, she pulled on the hotel robe, cinched it tight, and walked to the French doors leading to the balcony.
Fog hung eerily over the Golden Gate Bridge beneath the pink glow of pre-dawn. Somewhere beneath the marine layer sat the rocky island containing the famous prison, Alcatraz. A shudder slithered down her spine.
"I'm waiting for you..." a ghostly voice from her nightmare whispered through her mind.
Straightening her shoulders, she refused to give in to the fear. As a paranormal investigator, she'd seen more than her fair share of creepy entities and experienced illogical situations that made for great television but poor sleep habits.
"Beth? What's going on?" Josh sat up in bed and blinked at her through the shadows. "We were up until three and have a long day ahead of us. Come back to bed."
Unsmiling, she looked at the disheveled hair, bare chest and tangled blankets gathered around narrow hips. "I might go for a run, burn off this excess energy."
"I'd offer to help you with that if I weren't exhausted." His sleepy grin made her heart flip.
"Go back to sleep. I didn't mean to wake you." She returned her focus to the top of the bridge piercing the fog below it.
"Skin so soft..." the ghostly whisper pierced her consciousness.
She frowned and wrapped her arms around herself in a tight hug. Just a dream. We haven't been to the island yet. No way they know we're coming.
"But we do..." the whisper answered her thoughts.
"Beth? What's wrong? You look petrified." Josh had moved from the bed and padded on bare feet to her side. He followed her gaze toward the fog clinging to San Francisco Bay. "Are you having nightmares again?"
"Maybe we should go back to having separate rooms when we travel with the show," she said.
"Or maybe not." He wrapped his arms around her from behind and rested his chin on the top of her head. "We'd just end up in the same room anyway, why waste the network's money?"
"Since when do you care about that?" She finally smiled and leaned back against him.
"I'm a responsible network employee. I would never abuse an expense account."
"Such a liar." She slid her hands over his strong forearms and sighed. "I should go for that run so you can get some rest."
"What has you nervous about this investigation? You were fine when we first arrived. "
She moved away and shook her hands at her sides. Nervous energy amplified despite her resolve to shake it off. Not able to answer him with any kind of rational explanation, she walked to the open suitcase and rifled through the clothes until she found her running shoes.
"Not now, Josh. Go back to sleep. I need to run. I'll be back before you know it." She pulled on her yoga pants beneath the robe before reaching for a loose fitting t-shirt that screamed Uncharted Territory across it in bloody red letters. Dropping the robe completely, she pulled on a sports bra before donning the shirt. The need to flee compelled her to move at a frenzied pace.
"This is about us, isn't it? What you're doing right now has nothing to do with Alcatraz."
"Not now," she said between clenched teeth.
"Damn it, Beth, you need to know if you start pulling your old shit I won't put up with it. Separate rooms? How many times are we going to do this dance? Now you're off for an impromptu run instead of—"
"Not everything is about you, Josh, I know that's hard to wrap your mind around." Avoiding eye contact, she tied the laces of her shoes. Hands shaking, she frowned.
Something waited for them on the island—something demonic—she could feel the evil reaching out to lace its cold fingers around her neck. How could she explain that to him without sounding like a lunatic? She'd spent most of their explorations as the skeptic, the one who doubted psychics, mediums, and any other type who claimed to speak to the other side.
But ever since the Stanley Hotel and the possession... She shook her head to rid herself of the thoughts. No, she couldn't go there. Wouldn't.
Josh dropped back into bed with an exaggerated sigh and made a production of pulling the covers up to his chin as he snuggled his head back into the pillow. "Do what you want to do, Bethany, you always do."
Deciding to let that go, she hesitated at the edge of the bed and looked down at him. Josh Ryder had a way of looking too good to be true even when pissed off and exhausted. Partners for years, bed buddies here and there, an official couple only a few weeks, they were in the awkward stage of a relationship where history existed yet every moment felt like undiscovered territory and each word carried more weight than perhaps it should.
"It's not about us, okay? Maybe I did too much research for this trip, I don't know, but I get more agitated by the minute," she confessed with a slight grin when he stared at her from half-closed eyes with dark blond hair draping across his forehead.
"And what?" She frowned.
"Will you bring me back a treat?"
She laughed at the unexpected request. "Like a pastry of some kind? Is that what you mean?"
He snuggled deeper into his pillow, shut his eyes, clenched the blanket wrapped around his neck, and smiled as his answer.
Shaking her head at his boyish charm that both amused and irritated her depending on the circumstances, she left the room feeling lighter than she had moments ago. A good run in Golden Gate Park would alleviate the tension pulsating in her veins.
Moist air tickled her face. The marine layer had yet to lift from the bay. Traffic stirred with the dawning of the day. Scents of baked goods and coffee wafted to her from a kiosk resting at the corner of the park.
Bethany stretched at a bench, enjoying witnessing the city stir to life. San Francisco had always been one of her favorite places to visit while growing up. Trolley cars, sourdough bread, China Town, the seals in the bay, the fog, the steep hills lined with narrow homes decorated with tumbling bright flowers—she and her siblings had devoured the place while her parents had worked at whatever consulting job had lured them here for weeks at a time.
But they'd never visited Alcatraz. Her brothers had teased her mercilessly about the legends and, she had to admit, maybe some of their old taunts were undermining her logic.
Rolling back her shoulders, Bethany started jogging along the trail. A man appeared along side her, also running, but dressed in baggy black-and-white striped clothes that looked almost like an old-fashioned jail uniform. She shook her head, amused at herself for thinking the strangest things since arriving in the city. Okay, so maybe the guy didn't have great fashion sense, so what?
He fell behind her when she stepped up the pace to gain some distance between them. Her breath formed its own puffs of fog as she ran, gaze locked on the pavement in front of her, music blaring in her ears from the headphones, and feet falling in a steady rhythm.
As she rounded the corner, she saw the same man who had been behind her now in front of her by several feet.
Maybe I didn't notice him passing me. No big deal.
She slowed the pace, letting him get ahead even further. Even though she couldn't explain her adverse reaction to him—maybe it was his poor choice of jogging attire—she wanted her space.
"I know what you're most afraid of..." a loud ghostly whispered echoed in her ear.
She stumbled, barely maintaining balance. Dizzy, she slowed to a walk, shoved her hands through her hair, and caught her breath.
"I know everything about you," the whisper persisted.
She yanked the headphones free of her ears and looked around the park. No one seemed to notice her as they went about their morning routine. A woman ran with a jogging stroller. A man roller-bladed. A couple walked a poodle.
Beth's heartbeat escalated when she made eye contact with the man in the striped outfit who'd been running but had since stopped to stare at her from across the park.
He had no eyes, only black gaping holes. When he smiled, he had no teeth.
She stepped backward and collided with a woman who'd been jogging.
"I'm sorry," she muttered an apology before turning around to run back to the hotel.
He stood in her path, about ten feet away, back to her. When she looked across the park, he was there, too. Slowly, she turned in a circle. Wherever she looked, he appeared.
"Are you okay?" The female jogger asked. "Do you need some help?"
"No, I'm fine."
"You look ill."
"Yeah, well, I've had better mornings." She attempted to smile but her lips wouldn't cooperate. "Maybe I just need to eat something or get some water."
"Okay, well..." the woman didn't look convinced, "if you're sure you're okay..."
"I'm good." She looked over her shoulder. The man in stripes stared from the center of the park. "Do you see that man in the stripes?"
The jogger followed the gaze and shook her head 'no.' "Is there someone following you? I can stay with you, if you'd like. We're headed in the same direction."
"So you don't see him?" She couldn't tear her gaze away from those hollow eyeholes.
Ignoring the woman, she gritted her teeth, stepped off the path, and walked straight toward the apparition. A few feet away from him, he vanished with a laugh.
"Listen, ghost, I've dealt with worse than you and won't be bullied," she whispered, conscious that to anyone who observed her she probably looked like a raving lunatic talking to the air. "Stop this."
No response, not that she had truly expected one.
Or maybe she had because a strange sense of disappointment sagged her shoulders when no confrontation came.
She shoved the headphones back in place and ran back toward the hotel. With every step, she felt watched but refused to take her gaze from the path in front of her.
Seeing the kiosk serving pastries, she remembered Josh's request for a treat and decided to surprise him by delivering him breakfast in bed. Smiling to herself as she paid for the sugary warm doughnuts, she thought about the day ahead with renewed enthusiasm.
If ghosts were trying to scare her now, then the investigation would be one of her best. Questions about why and who filled her mind as she adjusted her grip on the pastry bag so she could grab the coffee cups that radiated steam on the counter top.
"Aren't you Bethany Colton?" A male voice asked from behind her shoulder. "From that show, Uncharted Territory? I'm a huge fan."
Grinning, she turned.
No one was there.
* * *
He smelled delectable sweetness and felt the warmth of a tongue slip across his neck. Moaning, he opened one eye and saw Bethany leaning over him. Her hair had come loose from the haphazard ponytail she'd worn to jog and tendrils stuck to the side of her face. Smiling, she held up a pink bag.
"Did you run off your edginess?" he asked.
"I met our welcoming committee." She dropped the bag between them and sat cross-legged on top of the blanket. "Wake up. I need to talk to you."
"Beth, c'mon, we've got a long day and night ahead of us."
She opened the bag and tilted the opening toward him, a devilish smile on her face. "Josh...I know you want a taste."
Oh, he definitely wanted a taste. His erection tented the sheet at the thought of stripping her naked and getting her back in bed where she belonged. Surrendering, he pushed up on his elbows and let her feed him a bite of the chocolate doughnut.
"It's warm," he said, surprised at the hot cream filling that squirted into his mouth.
"Freshly made." Without breaking eye contact, she stuck her tongue into the yellow cream gushing out of the side of the doughnut and licked it before taking her own generous bite.
He swallowed hard, unable to look away from her vivid blue eyes. He didn't think he'd ever get used to the idea that she truly wanted him as much as he wanted her. When she extended the pastry in his direction again, he took a bite before sitting up fully and grabbing her wrist.
"Hey, look at me." He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and smiled at her look of confusion. "You're all over the place this morning. I need you to focus."
She slid her hand over the erection lifting the sheet and grinned, a tiny fleck of chocolate frosting on her lip. "Anything specific area where you'd like my undivided attention?"
He kissed the corner of her lip and removed the remaining chocolate with his tongue before whispering, "I want you to simply stop moving. Can you do that?"
He silenced her with his mouth fully engaging hers. She tasted like Bavarian cream, chocolate, and all of his dreams come true. He kissed her until he felt her physically sag against him and heard her sigh.
"Josh," she whispered against his lips, "I need to talk to you."
"Talk later." He pushed the pastry bag aside and shifted his weight so that he pressed her back onto the mattress. Getting her to settle down became his sole focus. Manic energy pulsated off of her with the intensity of a summer storm.
He yanked her t-shirt up to her shoulders before shoving the sports bra beneath her armpits. He nipped first one breast before focusing on the other. All of his attention centered on calming her down and satisfying them both so that maybe—just maybe—they could get a few hours of sleep.
He liked her sweaty and pumped up. Her heartbeat pulsated against her chest while he caressed one breast and savored the other with his mouth. Her fingers slid into his hair. He nibbled his way from breast to pelvic bone while he shoved the tight yoga pants down her hips.
He slipped his tongue over her clit in a feather-like movement meant to tease rather than please while he peeled the remaining clothes from her long legs. He'd never get tired of stripping her naked.
He twisted free of the sheets tangled around his waist and adjusted her legs around him. Meeting her gaze, he laughed when he noticed she held the half-eaten doughnut in one hand.
"Am I boring you? Are you snacking while I'm playing?" he asked.
She turned her head toward her hand and laughed. "I forgot I had it."
"Feed me." He crawled over her, his erect penis pressing against her abdomen while he claimed his treat.
She put the pastry into his mouth before taking a bite for herself. Chocolate and cream slid over his tongue while his eyes locked on hers. They swallowed before kissing each other, the sweetness lingering on their lips as they savored one another.
Beth slid her feet up the back of his legs before linking her ankles behind his thighs.
He'd wanted to linger, toy with her, make her squirm, but now he simply wanted to be inside her warmth. Without breaking the kiss, he reached under her hips, squeezed her ass, and adjusted himself to sink deep inside her. He moved slowly, going deep inch by inch until she arched upward demanding his full length.
Eyes wide open, they stared at each other as their mouths clung and their hips rocked. She sank her fingers into his lower back as he deliberately kept the pace slow and steady.
"Faster," she urged into his open mouth.
So he went slower, pulling his cock out of her and then easing back inside until she moaned with frustration. Smiling, he dragged his mouth from hers and kissed the side of her neck where she still smelled like sweat, fresh air, and pastry.
One hand went to her breast while the other supported his weight. He liked making her beg, enjoyed the twisting of her hips against his, loved the feel of her heartbeat pulsating beneath his hands, thrilled at the darkening of her blue eyes as desire consumed her from the inside out and savored the clenching of her pussy around his cock.
"Josh." She caught her lower lip between her teeth while her fingernails embedded themselves in his back.
Unable to remain calm and controlled, he slammed himself deep inside her at an increased pace. Her body convulsed beneath him, vagina clutching his penis as her orgasm ripped through her like a wave. He rose up, grabbed her hips with both of his hands and rammed faster until he came with a force that rendered him blind and spent.
He fell against her and simply breathed for a minute while her arms wrapped him a fierce hug. "That's why we're never going back to separate rooms again."
She laughed against his shoulder, her breath hot against his skin. "You think sex solves everything."
"It does." He rolled from her and eyed the pink bag and the coffee going cold. With a long sigh, he propped up to sitting and gave her a sidelong glance. "So, what were you saying about a welcoming committee?"
She pulled the t-shirt and sports bra free and crawled beneath the sheets before answering, "You know what? It doesn't matter. Now I'm tired."
"Our coffee is going cold."
"There's a microwave." She pulled her hair free of the ponytail before curling around a pillow. Hesitancy entered her eyes when she met his gaze. "Josh...let's not split up at all today. Not just us, the entire crew. I think we need to stick together at all times."
He frowned because that's not how they worked in venues this large. A lot of planning had already gone into deciding on different staging areas. He grabbed the remaining doughnut and took a few bites before looking at her face again. When he saw that she still stared at him with sleepy yet worried eyes, he turned on his side and held the last bite of the doughnut to her lips.
She smiled before eating it. "You do strange things to my equilibrium, Josh Ryder."
"That's my plan." He joined her beneath the covers, too tired to shower and not really caring to leave her alone. Twisting onto his side, he mirrored her action with the pillow and grinned. "I figure that if I keep you off balance, you'll be too busy trying to figure me out to ever leave me."
"Oh yeah?" She touched her fingertips to the side of his face. "You're excited about this Alcatraz investigation, aren't you?"
"Are you going to tell me why you suddenly have cold feet about it?" He scooted closer, exhaustion from traveling and only having a few hours sleep before her abrupt departure earlier creeping into his bones after a mind-blowing orgasm. He wanted more than inside her body...he wanted inside those inner recesses she kept locked away from view. He sometimes doubted he'd ever gain access, though.
"They're waiting for us," she whispered. "The ghosts know who we are and that we're on our way. I saw one—he was as clear as day in the park. They want us there."
He nodded slowly and absorbed the fear that trickled from her at the words. After all they'd witnessed, nothing about the paranormal surprised him anymore. "We'll be okay, Beth. We'll adjust the plan accordingly."
"We've been through worse things, right?" She grinned and dropped her hand beneath the sheet.
"Definitely." He scooped her close and rested his chin on top of her head. He held her until he felt she'd finally drifted off to sleep.
He twirled a finger in her hair and thought of whatever waited for them on Alcatraz. He'd been having strange dreams for the past few days, almost like echoes of past prisoners who demanded attention. Sighing, he closed his eyes and fought the urge to lash out against whatever darkness lurked in the shadows of that empty prison. Provoking usually led to disaster, he knew that, yet his protective instincts rattled at the idea that any otherworldly entity would harm Beth.
Not this time. Never again.
Even as he thought the words, he knew he couldn't control destiny.
* * *
Uncharted Territory--a paranormal erotic romance series featuring sexy duo Bethany Colton and Josh Ryder.
Stars of the successful television show that travels the world in search of the truth behind legends, myths and all things unexplained, the world's sexiest paranormal team is considered fearless by their fans. There is only one thing that they're secretly afraid of...love.
Each book in the series contains two episodes filled with adventure, mystery and erotic exploration.
Book Two: Series Episode Three: The team heads to Alcatraz where a ghost attaches itself to Bethany and locks her in a transitional world that could become her prison if the team can't break her free.
Book Two: Series Episode Four: Josh and Bethany travel to the infamous Winchester House where it's rumored the souls of all who perished due to gun violence haunt the halls. Will they become trapped in the house of endless stairs leading to nowhere and doors that bridge more than rooms?
**An ongoing series, Uncharted Territory will publish two episodes every other month. Each book contains sexually explicit situations.
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