Today we have a sneak peek of Stacey Cochran’s book, The Loneliest:
One year after the heartbreaking loss of his wife, novelist Jason Roberts discovers a cabin hidden far away from the world in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. Jackie, his wife, was far too young to die. Now Jason must come to terms with grief and loneliness.
Under pressure to deliver a new novel, Jason’s mind begins to shatter. He hears voices in the woods, begins seeing children playing in the forest, and starts to lose his hold on reality… as the characters from his latest novel begin appearing in the real world around him. Jason slips into the delusion that he can materialize the very things he’s writing in his book. But the cruelest trick of all comes when he writes Jackie into his story… and is visited by her beautiful, ghostly presence in a cavernous underground lake. For Jason, he must make a decision to join her in the afterlife by taking his own life, or by holding on to the tattered remains of life without his one true love.
Now, from The Loneliest:
Jason Roberts saw the FOR RENT sign buried behind a thicket of honeysuckle a half mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was an accident that he’d seen it at all, that he’d gotten off of the Parkway onto the unmarked gravel road in the first place. He’d been looking for a safe place to turn around, and the Appalachian forests on either side of the Parkway allowed for no sight lines to do so.
The sign was written in red lettering against black, the kind found in any Home Depot in America. It was brand new but was hardly visible through the green foliage. Nails pinned it to a tree.
Had he been at any other place in his life, he would have passed the sign by with little more than a second thought, but he’d just sold his home in Arizona where his wife had died of cancer fourteen months before. He’d finally emerged from a year-long battle with suicidal depression following her death. He was a writer, and he needed some place quiet.
The gravel under his truck’s tires crunched as he slowed to a stop. He peered out the passenger-side window through the leaves and branches. A narrow gravel driveway disappeared into the woods beside the sign.
He could see no house.
He stared at the sign for a full ten seconds. He looked around him in the thick woods. He rolled down the windows. Birds in the forest canopy whistled back and forth in a language only they understood.
His truck engine idled, and he almost spooked. He almost drove on.
“For rent,” he whispered. “I don’t even see a house.”
His olive-green eyes narrowed.
He turned the steering wheel and proceeded up the driveway. Upon closer inspection, he saw a blank white space under the words “For Rent” where a phone number could be written. There was no number.
Jason eased forward up the narrow gravel driveway. Branches and damp green leaves clawed at the sides of his truck, and he was struck with the fear that he’d round the corner and some farmer with a shotgun would be standing in the middle of the drive. Or, more likely, somebody’s German Shepherd.
Then, he saw the cabin through the trees. It was painted red.
He slowed his truck to a crawl, looking for a dog. He saw none. The place seemed vacant.
“Well, that’s kind of cute,” he said.
And indeed, the cabin was attractive.
He pulled his truck up beside the place. A long wide porch ran along the front of the cabin with banisters that were painted white. Windows gazed like eyes from either side of a screen door. The trim on the cabin was white, as was the front door behind the screen door. The driveway wound back around behind the place.[subscribe2]