an excerpt from Taylor Young’s novel “Autumn and the Moon”

While the leaves fell and the kids cheerfully screamed, Bentley knew that there was magic in the air. The stillness within it. The nostalgia surrounding it. The anticipation to see everyone’s costumes and the candy you would receive when you were a kid. Most of all, it reminded her of Maeve, and how they used to go into the basement, and talk to spirits. But instead, it just led to them being too scared, and running back upstairs with their backs against the wall. Halloween night always resonated with her, and tonight would be no different.

The children’s parents looked on as the kids weaved in and out of the corn maze. More people were at the local vendors that had set up in the back yard. There were people dressed as clowns and various TV characters. There was a booth for face painting, and several carnival games to enjoy; prizes included. Out of all the people in town, she couldn’t believe that Paxton held the biggest Halloween party every year. He loved his community, and she loved that about him.

“You’re thinking hard…” Paxton said, observing the focused gaze in Bentley’s eyes.

“My brain is trying to wrap around the fact that you do this every year,” she replied, shifting the bowl of candy that sat upon her legs.

“I do this for the citizens I protect. Everyone trusts me. Everyone feels safe at my house. It’s a place where timid parents can just let their kids be kids without any hesitation. They love coming, and I love setting it all up. Like I told you the first night I cooked for you, I love to host.”

Bentley looked as a younger toddler dressed up as a pirate stepped onto the back porch, waddling over for candy.

“Trick or treat,” he blabbered, his Ninja Turtles pillowcase dragging along the porch. Smiling, Bentley placed some candy into the child’s pillowcase.

“For a minute there, I didn’t recognize you Jordan,” Paxton smiled, nodding to Jordan’s parents in the distance. Jordan didn’t say anything, just smiling, waiting for more candy.

“Okay. Just between us three,” Bentley whispered, placing another candy bar in his sack. He blabbered a ‘thank you’ as he walked off, the duo being left on the porch again. The air wasn’t as humid as it had been, the music was still going, and everything about this party made Bentley flashback to Paxton’s birthday.

“Are we going to bring it up?” Paxton asked, both of them watching as everyone enjoyed the Halloween party. Fairy lights and Halloween music surrounded the farmland. It was the All Hallows’ Eve party you would dream up when you were a kid.

“The case went cold. I’m needed back home. I don’t think there’s anything left to bring up,” Bentley said. Sighing, Paxton rocked back and forth in the ivory rocking chair.

“I didn’t think you would leave this soon. We have so many families to provide answers for. We can’t sum this up as a cold case.”

Both of them knew that this wasn’t a conversation that needed to happen in front of all of these people. “I know that. You don’t think that I want to find this guy? Unless he surprisingly comes back before I leave and if we somehow find another body; fine. I’ll stay. But if not, then. Our little romance has fizzled out, this case eventually goes cold, and I’m back home in Norman.”

That didn’t sit well with him. “I don’t think our little romance could ever fizzle out, Ben. We go together, even when it feels like we shouldn’t.”

She hesitated, looking over at the broodingly attractive man that she had fallen for on the first night she came to his house. “But let me guess, we go together like autumn and the moon?”

Paxton’s mouth widened into a smile; he adored the fact that she remembered everything that he said. In the end, he knew that’s what would get him in the most trouble. But before all of that, he found it endearing and cute. Bentley paid attention to him. She was clearly in love with him, and he knew that. Hell, he was in love with her, but he was good at concealing it. Just like how he was good at concealing everything else. No one at the Halloween party knew that the maze they were running in was actually used as the cat and mouse mechanism in the Ridgeland murders. No one knew that the land they were on was the victims’ final destination. Paxton had no problem concealing all of this from everyone else, but concealing it from Bentley? That was the most painful thing of all.

Maybe that’s what stung the most to Paxton. This woman that he had mercilessly fallen in love with was about to leave and go back to Oklahoma. He wouldn’t see her anymore, and that struck something inside of him. He wouldn’t get to see Bentley blush whenever he complimented her. He wouldn’t get to follow her up to her hotel room anymore, and eat cheap Chinese food and watch bad television with her until they both fell asleep. He wouldn’t get to see her in the golden hour of the evening when her hair reflected gold against the sunset. There would be no more midnight diner runs, or bringing her coffee by her desk every morning. There wouldn’t be anymore opportunities for him to observe Bentley’s serendipitous beauty. She was kind, graceful, beautiful, and overall witty. He had started his crimes way before Bentley was even around. Without even knowing it, she changed him. She revealed things that he never saw in himself before. She humbled him, made him feel things for the first time, and ultimately made him want to do better, even though he knew that it was impossible. He was a monster, and she still had no idea. She trusted him, she was delicate with him, and he was going to try and be the same way to her when he brought his true self into fruition. She deserved that much. Paxton wasn’t looking for someone to fall in love with, but oh, how he was damn pleased that she found him.

~ Taylor Young

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