Giveaway noted at the end
I’m not even going to pretend I didn’t want to go. In fact, I would say it was entirely my idea, which is not to say he hasn’t considered taking me to an asylum, but rather that if he did so on his own accord, he’d chose one that was still accepting patients. Alas, this one, The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, is only open for tours. It was creepy, it smelled funny, the halls echoed with age and sorrow.
You guys, it was perfect.
My husband and I have traveled extensively (like, literally over 48,000 miles in the car road-tripping together and still speaking) and oddly, have always had perfect weather at our destinations. The day we arrived at the asylum, however, thunder rumbled. Low storm clouds make for some pretty awesome pictures of that classic sprawling batwing facade, but—and maybe it’s just me—walking into a widely-considered haunted building, largely empty and falling into disrepair, while thunder groaned and torrential rain made the walls wet with sullen tears felt a bit too B-horror for me. Don’t get me wrong—I loved it—but if ever I expected to find myself on the evening news, it was then.
Now, I’ve trudged through more historic buildings than I can remember, but walking into that asylum left me feeling hot and feverish (no worries—this was a couple of years ago, back before hot flashes left public favor). This excited me. Ghosts, I thought. My husband surely saw the anticipatory light in my eyes when he rolled his, but whatever. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, so I’m going to one day haunt him just to get in that final told ya so, but I digress.
We both enjoy history, so when I booked the tour I chose the historical one—a fortuitous choice for two reasons. One, the paranormal group that day was more like a made-for-TV frat party: large, boisterous, and borderline obnoxious. Two, my husband and I ended up doing most of our tour solo with the guide, which left us wandering the upper floors alone. The only light filtered through dirty, aged windows, and with the storm churning outside, there wasn’t much of it. Water dripped aimlessly, particularly on the top floor, where I most vividly remember ducking from one wing to the next through these mini corridors that connected sections of the sprawling building. The overall effect was claustrophobic. Endlessly long hallways, and the only way out was through a little door like you’d find on a baseboard in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.
I say this all in jest, but believe me when I admit I was uncharacteristically on edge. So much so that when a bunch of birds took off right above my head—yes, indoors—I almost had a heart attack. (My husband laughed. Y’all know he did.) In case you hadn’t guessed, the sudden flapping of wings by several perturbed avians in a long, vacant building make a tremendous amount of noise.
Oddly, that wasn’t the most disconcerting moment of the trip.
We usually travel with our six kids and pull an RV, but we didn’t need to sleep ten. So I had the bright idea to take the back seats out of our rather large SUV, rent a tent site, and sleep in the car. Well, just imagine the look on the face of this poor woman at the campground as we rolled in, reeking of stale asylum air, asking for a tent site during a steady rain and flash flood warning. She took our $16, though (how’s that for overnight accommodations?) and directed us to the tent sites.
Y’all, we had to drive through running water to get it. My husband is smart with this stuff, so after giving me a healthy side eye, he found a safe spot to park. It was, of course, approximately seventeen miles from the bathrooms, and also utterly isolated. Which is how we came to spend a chilly night on the side of a mountain in rural West Virginia, flood waters rushing gaily past, sky black as pitch, serenaded by odd creature noises from outside the *very locked* car.
And you guys, it was fabulous.
Anyone can pull off flowers and candlelight and rose petals on the beach. Find yourself a person who will tolerate (ahem) or make awesome a trip like this, and you’ve got the HEA to beat all HEAs…to say nothing of the the glorious gift of a romance that can burn fiercely absolutely anywhere.
Even within the damp halls of a rain-soaked asylum.
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For Lexi Dean, burning down her kitchen was disaster enough. Agreeing to move in next door with her totally off-limits best friend, Matt Freeman, until her house is livable again?
They’ve always been close, but this is ridiculous. If she’s not bumping into him at the refrigerator, he’s at the front door giving her date the third degree. And slipping between his borrowed sheets? That’s about as distracting as listening to his shower run, because suddenly all she can think about is rivulets of water cascading down is spectacular body—the one he seems to be going out of his way to make sure she notices.
Not that it matters. He can flaunt his firefighter abs around her all he wants. They already share everything—their jobs, their friends, their backyard, even their dog—and that means only one thing: Lexi is not going to risk losing any of it by dipping a single toe in the temptation that is Matt Freeman.
Lexi may not know how to handle a fire extinguisher, but this is one fire that just might burn them both if they’re not careful…