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A letter from Starcrossed heroine Simona Gemella to her ex-husband Carmine
I know I will never send you this letter, but it feels good just to write it.
To let you know that I’m not a bitter divorcée, that you haven’t sucked the life – the passion – out of my romance-writing career just yet by walking out on me.
Okay, so I’ve had a bit of writer’s block since you left, but I’m on my way to fixing that. I’ve joined my best friend, Nessie, at a girly, cosmic-inspired retreat on Kangaroo Island.
The island is rugged, windswept and isolated – just the sort of place to get the creative juices flowing again. And I’ve got a whole week here to soak up the wintry vibe.
The retreat’s being run by an astrology guru called Astrid. You’d probably agree with her description of Capricorns, like me, being ‘workaholics’. Isn’t that one of the reasons you walked out on me?
Anyway, I’m having fun learning about New Age-y stuff at the retreat, like astrology and Auro-Soma, plus doing morning yoga and hanging out with the other holidaymakers, including Raquel (who’s a real sweetie) and Jordana (nice, though I don’t much fancy her frowny husband who’s tagged along).
There’s also a cool guy called Denham Cobalt, who helps out at the old manor where the retreat’s being held. He’s so different to you. He even has a scorpion tattoo on his neck. I couldn’t even imagine you getting one!
The manor can be a bit creaky and spooky, but right now, it just feels good to be a long way from home. Plus, there’s a masquerade party on the last night of the retreat, coinciding with a total lunar eclipse. If only you could see how hot I’ll look in the frock I bought for it!
Fledgling romance author Simona Gemella is hoping the rugged wilderness of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will help reignite her creative spark after her husband walked out on her (calling her a workaholic and filing for divorce).
She’s joined her best friend, Nessie, on a health and wellness retreat at a mysterious old manor on the island, run by an astrology guru.
Though Simona’s sworn off men, she can’t help being distracted by a darkly dangerous man with a scorpion tattoo – Denham Cobalt – who’s also staying at the manor. Then strange things start to happen, including uncanny accidents and even a possible murder.
It all culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse. Will Simona survive – with her heart intact?
Simona woke with a start, her heart pounding. A dream featuring dark-eyed strangers and clawing scorpions had been interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Real ones. Growing closer. Not far from her bed. She could have sworn it. Although, the pitch black revealed nothing.
The noise had seemed to come more from the right side of the room, behind the wardrobe. Almost inside the wall. Which was ridiculous. She turned her head, peering into the darkness. 3:08 glowed in fluorescent green digits on the alarm clock radio.
Grasping the covers under her chin, Simona lay still, waiting for more, her ears pricked. Three glow-in-the-dark star stickers shone down from the ceiling. She imagined a travelling mum sticking them there to soothe their child, remind them of home. Unfortunately Simona needed more than that to placate her.
Aside from the occasional breathy snort from Nessie, though, silence reigned. Her friend had finally hit the pillow after kicking on to play pool with some backpacker. She had called Simona a stick-in-the-mud earth sign for leaving the pub early. Nessie always had a knack for making her feel dull.
Simona strained her ears. Still nothing. Her writer’s imagination had obviously conjured up the footsteps. Pity, as she had found it hard to get to sleep in the first place. Phone in her possession again, she had been kept up, mulling over a three-star Goodreads review from a writers’ group pal. Yup, three measly stars. Friends were meant to give you five stars, or four at least to look realistic. It was an unofficial rule.
But her supposed mate, who had hidden behind a code name (undone by the profile pic of her pet dog), hadn’t been so generous. She had written: I fell in love with the rugged hero and the unique story. The only shame was that some of the more intriguing plotlines weren’t further explored, sacrificed for the romance aspect of the book …
Um, it was a romance novel, hence, the emphasis on that particular component. Really. Of course, any criticism only hurt because she feared it was true: she was her own worst critic.
Then, just as Simona was drifting off, Nessie had crashed home, flicking on the lamp so that she could put on her so-called ‘lucid dreaming’ sleep mask. Another bizarre Nessie-style item. This one, she reckoned, helped encourage creative thinking. Though what Nessie needed it for, Simona didn’t know. Dreaming up more crazy holiday ideas? If anyone required it, it was Simona with her severe case of writer’s block.
And now? Now she was imagining things that went bump in the night.
Why oh why had she been fooled into believing going on holiday with a friend would be fun? It never was. She would have had more luck with inspiration striking at home. Where the internet was never far from her fingertips, and her thoughts weren’t clouded by no-good men.
Willing sleep to come soon, Simona unearthed an arm from beneath the doona and stretched to tap the bedside table three times. For luck — in case she wasn’t crazy and someone really was lurking about. Touching wood was a vice of hers. Nessie would probably say it had something to do with her being an earth sign and needing to be close to Nature. Really it just meant she was a tad OCD. Besides, the footsteps she’d heard before probably were just in her head — a symbol of her fear of being walked out on again.
About the Author
Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop.
These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. Visit http://www.carlacaruso.com.au.