#TeaserTuesday - Heartbeats in a Haunted House (Hedge Witches Lonely Hearts Club Book 4) by Amy Lane

Once again, we bring you a delicious exclusive excerpt - this week we feature Heartbeats in a Haunted House (Hedge Witches Lonely Hearts Club Book 4) by Amy Lane 


Dante Vianelli and Cully Cromwell have been in love since college, when Dante saved Cully from the world’s worst roommate and introduced him to his friends. Seven years later, they’re still roommates and they’re still in love… but they’ve never become lovers.

Now a catastrophic spell gone wrong has cut them off from their coven. Wandering their suburban prison alone, separated by the walls of their own minds and gaps in the space-time continuum, Cully and Dante are as stuck as they have been for the past seven years.

And they’ll remain lost in their memories—unless they confront the truths that kept them from taking the step from friends to lovers and trust their friends and coven to get them out. But it’s easier said than done. Those walls didn’t build themselves. Dante’s great at denial, and Cully’s short on trust. Can they do the work it will take to get into each other’s arms and back to the sunlight where they belong?

Exclusive Excerpt 

Time is a Yawing Vessel DANTE FRANCIS 

Vianelli and Thomas Cully Cromwell had been inseparable since their first day at California State University, Sacramento. Cully had been assigned to a dorm with  a seven-foot redneck, who had taken one look at him and said, “Wait, I got a girl?”

Dante had been passing by, and he’d seen Cully’s ginormous eyes, bright blue, grow red-rimmed and shiny, and had stuck his head in the room and said, “No, he’s with me.” Then he’d walked into the room, grabbed Cully’s stuff, and gone to find the little drone in charge of dorm assignments, because those eyes. Cully had followed him, carrying a box of fabric that was trailing pink plaid and gazing up at Dante like he’d hung the moon.

God no. Nobody was going to make those eyes well up with tears.

Seven years they’d known each other. They’d gotten through school together, they’d moved out and roomed together—they hadn’t been lovers, but they’d been inseparable.

But they’d never experienced anything like the night before.

“Dante?” Cully said, frowning and disentangling himself from Dante’s protective arm as they huddled under the garage. “Did that really happen?”

Dante turned and waved at Bartholomew’s van as it carted their friends downtown to a convention, where they would sell Barty’s baked goods and an assortment of other items that the lot of them had created or assembled. All of them—Dante, Cully, and their friends, Jordan, Bartholomew, Alex, Josh, and Kate—lived in one of the four houses in a little cul-de-sac. They’d rented the three newer ones cheap from Jordan’s dads, which was pretty funny, because Jordan had ended up in the witch’s cottage at the end by the corner. The witch had simply walked up to Jordan one day and said, “Take care of my stuff but don’t use my distilled oils,” and then had taken off. The place turned out to be a treasure trove of magic: crystals, spell books, tarot decks, enchanted objects. It was like a library for the magic user, and Jordan had embraced the arts with all the intensity he’d shown for entomology in college, and his friends, Dante and Cully included, had thrown themselves in after him.

Dante had turned out to be pretty good at magic—he’d been surprised. Cully had always been the creative one of the two of them, but something about Dante’s focus made him surprisingly good at the words. If magic was direction plus intention plus elements, Dante was good at finding the words for the intention. What did they want the spell to do? Well then, what elements did it need? Barty was good at combining elements, because hello, baker! and while Jordan was their scientist and good at distilling oils and potions, as he had been all through school and beyond, his true strength was direction.

It was a good system, and Dante, for once, was glad to have something creative he could stick his name to.

But the night before had been….

“I don’t even remember what happened,” Dante lied, and then scowled as his mouth filled up with spit like it was trying to ward off an acrid taste. Above him the damned birds who had been acting up all morning squawked menacingly, and he glared at them and brandished the umbrella Jordan had broken out for the sole purpose of keeping them away from the baked goods.

“Me neither,” Cully said, but his voice wobbled, and Dante could hear him gulp like the same thing had happened to him. The birds squawked again, and Dante thought, How long are we going to keep lying to each other?

Dante remembered all right. How was he supposed to forget? Jordan had gotten home that Friday, tired and disheartened, a romantic setback having taken the wind out of his usually full sails. Of course his friends had gathered round him—it was just something they did. And then Josh—a giant of a man, cheerfully dim and unashamed of it—had broken out the good alcohol. A lucky spell had landed him a dream job as an alcohol distributor—his good alcohol was pretty damned awesome for a bunch of twentysomethings still getting used to having paychecks.

So the seven of them, working on altruism and too much wine, had come up with the harebrained idea of casting a heart’s desire spell. Each of them had contributed something to the spell according to their skills, but the direction of the spell had been Jordan’s, and the words that had gotten them there had been Dante’s.

Well, not all the words. Everybody had done their part, and written a little verse describing the thing they wanted most in the world.

Sort of.

Dante wasn’t sure about the others, but he knew he’d lied his ass off, at least on paper. And the magic seemed to know it, because Barty—poor, shy, timid Barty—had barely gotten his own personal verse out when the magic had gotten big and bright and showy in the center of them, and then it had exploded, ripping one word from everybody all at the same time and knocking them on their ass.

Dante had been too horrified to hear his own heart’s desire spoken aloud to know what anybody else had said—but from the shame and fear in Cully’s eyes, he had a feeling he knew what Cully had wanted as well.

They’d pulled themselves up, all seven of them, avoiding eye contact and saying general bullshit like, “The fuck was that?” And then they’d cleaned up Jordan’s little witch’s cottage, gone over to Barty’s house, and helped Barty bake for his event the next morning.

Nobody had really wanted to talk about the spell gone wrong—Dante certainly hadn’t. Because that one word, his heart’s desire, had been the elephant in the room for seven long years.

BARTY’S BAKING had gone long into the night. He and Alex, his roommate—the platonic sort of roommate, because Dante and Cully had both reported that they’d seen not a spark of romance between the two of them over the last seven years—had paid to adapt Barty’s kitchen into a catering-worthy affair, with multiple ovens and a big stainless-steel sink and dishwasher to sanitize things. Barty’s day job was IT, but his passion—the thing that got him up in the morning and that he dreamed about before going to bed—was baking. A slight young man with enormous gray eyes and longish sandy-brown hair, he looked like a stiff breeze could pick him up and waft him to a faraway place, but when it came to pursuing his dream, he had a will of iron.

And it wasn’t only his dream. While some of their group of seven friends, their coven, as they’d started calling themselves, helped him bake, others loaded their own goods into the back of his new purchase, a van outfitted with racks to carry his baked treats.

Cully was a happy contributor to the stock. He made small bags that Kate filled with sachets, and smaller bags that held vials full of Jordan’s carefully distilled essential oils. Kate—with help from her fiancĂ©, Josh—also made soaps and face scrubs, and Cully supplied washcloths and face towels that they bundled and labeled under Kate’s Boudoir. And of course, Cully made hot pads and oven mitts, all in brilliant colors with cunning little innovations such as magnets to keep the things on the oven or oven hood so they could always be found.

With everybody’s contribution, Barty’s booth, Shortbread and Shadows, was always busy, and the lot of them had gone from earning pin money to bill money over the last few years since they’d escaped, erm, graduated from college. Dante was mostly labor, but he was still proud of the business. Dante himself didn’t really create anything, although he’d helped come up with some of the branding, such as the name Shortbread and Shadows and the idea that the logo should have a pentagram on it, since by the time they’d gotten to the point where it was a joint venture, they were all witches, right? And he had built the shelves—the badly made, fragile, craptastic shelves that Barty kept out of loyalty to him, and had not once complained about when Dante was so embarrassed about how bad they were he’d been tempted to sneak into Barty’s van and steal them so Barty could hit up the young woodworker he was crushing on and ask him to make some.

Alex, an avid bicyclist by hobby and accountant by trade, didn’t make anything either—but he did the business finances for free, so he was still more valuable than Dante.

A thing that usually bothered Dante a lot. But not the morning after the spell.

The morning after the spell, Dante awoke with the most delicious man in his arms. Tight, compact, smelling faintly of lavender, with blond hair and big dark blue eyes, Cully Cromwell hadn’t changed much from that moment Dante had spotted him in the dorms. But they didn’t usually spend their nights together. Yeah, sure, after a bottle of wine with a group, they were the most likely to fall asleep leaning on each other’s backs, but this here, Cully on his lap, in his arms, pressed up against his chest—this was living the dream, it most definitely was.

Although Cully’s rather startled squeak wasn’t so dreamy, and neither was Dante’s delayed shock. Both of them stared at each other, first from six inches away, and then, after they’d scuttled away from the middle of the couch to the ends, from six feet away. As they did so, Glinda, Cully’s bichon frise mix Dante loved like his own kid, leapt off the couch in confusion, because she’d apparently been on Cully’s lap, much like Cully had been on Dante’s.

Then Kate, whose curvy body had been tucked in her beloved’s muscular embrace, scowled at the window and said, “What woke us up? The fuck is that?”

And Josh, her beloved, who was sort of a meatloaf most days, but Dante’s favorite kind of meatloaf, the kind with the big heart, stared out the same window and said, “Those fucking birds are fucking flying fucking upside down.”

And then Barty started hyperventilating about being late, and the morning turned into Abbott and Costello meet the Keystone Cops meet the Police Academy movies for good measure.

There was running around and getting the orders together and making sure what they’d packed the night before was good. Then, as they were running outside to put the stock in the van, the “fucking birds that were fucking flying fucking upside down” fucking attacked. They got tangled in Kate’s hair and went after the specialty breads and generally made a nuisance of themselves until Jordan—white-blond hair askew, intense arctic-blue eyes smoldering with irritation—had come out of the house with umbrellas that he and Dante had flapped at the dive-bombing birds, while Cully gathered Glinda with a shriek and ran her under the garage overhang so she wasn’t in danger either.

And that was before the squirrels started marching across the three driveways of the newer houses, single file, in an infinity-symbol configuration.

Dante and Josh got boxes and blocked the robotic little bodies so Barty could back out without any tiny furry tragedies, but it was so damned weird! And Dante didn’t even mention the snake hanging out of the apple tree because he didn’t want to scare anybody more than they already were.

Finally the van was loaded, and the five occupants—Jordan, Josh, Kate, and Alex, with Barty at the wheel—all looked unhappily at Dante, who stood under the garage overhang with an umbrella in one hand and a protective arm around Cully.

“I might come back early,” Alex said, glancing around at their neighborhood. Dante nodded as he closed the side door, and then he and Cully waved goodbye.

And then they’d lied again about the night before.

But as they turned toward their own little house—the new one in the middle—Dante broke. He put an arm over Cully’s shoulder and pulled him tight.

“Don’t fight me,” he begged wearily. “Not now. Cully, baby, we need to talk. I mean, we need to sleep, but we gotta talk. Last night… you and me, we said….”

Cully nodded and leaned into him, which was surprising enough. Then he shifted the dog into his outside arm, and as Dante stepped away to let him, he took Dante’s inside hand.

“Yeah,” he said, lacing their fingers.

A sweet rush of warmth passed under Dante’s skin. Oh God. The simple intimacy of holding hands. It was something Dante had craved for years, but not once had it seemed like a thing they should be doing.

And suddenly—confusingly—it felt like a thing they had been doing all along. They walked slowly to their house, the odd and frightening perils of the neighborhood dissolving into mist. They didn’t exist. It was just Dante and the man he’d loved all his life, returning to the home they shared. Why shouldn’t they hold hands? They’d been holding hands since… well, they should have been holding hands? They should have been leaning into each other once the door was closed behind them. They should have been pausing to close their eyes, right before their lips touched.

Why the hesitation? Hadn’t they been kissing since that first day? Shouldn’t they have been kissing since that first day?

Had they been kissing from that day forward to all the days afterward?

Dante couldn’t remember. It was the dumbest thing. He could feel Cully’s breath mingling with his own, and as he opened his mouth to say, Cully, baby, how long we been a couple? a swirl of mist captured him, and he went tumbling into the past."

Heartbeats in a Haunted House releases on January 17th and you can pre-order it now so it will be delivered direct to your kindle on release day!  You can also start by catching up on the first three books in the series by clicking the graphic below: