After losing her husband, Emily Adams leaves the life she has begun to hate and starts a new life in Maine, working for a well-known author. As she explores a path down to the rocky shoreline, she meets a very talented artist who is both attractive and mysterious. She finds herself falling for him, but there is something strange and puzzling about this man. Then Emily finds some old letters, journals and paintings which cause her to make a shocking discovery about the man she loves that changes everything about their relationship and everything she believed about the world.
Emily Adams brushed her long, dark hair behind her ears in a gesture that had become a habit in recent weeks. She looked up anxiously at the huge mansion, for it couldn’t be called just a “house”, and almost jumped back into the taxi. The house was made of stone and was three stories tall. There was probably a basement level, which would bring it to four stories total. She had never set foot inside a house of that size before. The taxi had crossed a stone bridge, which matched the house, over a small river in order to get to the house. There were lamp posts alongside the bridge as well as in the front of the house. The whole property screamed rich.
‘This was a bad idea,’ she thought. ‘I can’t do this!’
She had lost her husband six months ago in a car accident, and now she was without any family, except assorted aunts, uncles and cousins whom she had never seen before. Her apartment in New York had constantly reminded her of Tom, and the life she had before her world had come crashing down around her. She hated her job at an accounting firm, so she was miserable whether she was at work or at home. She was twenty-nine years old, already widowed, and already unhappy with her life.
She had been posting her resume online, hoping to just get away from the memories and misery, and someone finally responded. When she got an offer from Rebecca Winslow, a well-known author, to come to a small town in Maine and work as her assistant, she jumped at the chance. But now, looking up at her new residence, she suddenly felt small and inadequate, afraid she wouldn’t be able to do the job she had come to do. She and Rebecca had talked on the phone and corresponded by e-mail several times in the past two months. She already felt like she knew Rebecca, but what if she was different when they met in person? Or what if her new employer didn’t like her after meeting her? You couldn’t pick up body language or expressions through phone calls and e-mail.
Suddenly, out of the house burst two large Labrador retrievers, one black and one yellow. They came bounding up to her, their tongues hanging out, happily greeting their visitor. Behind them, more slowly, but still seeming to “bound”, came a tall, thin attractive woman with short, blond hair. She looked to be in her mid-forties. Emily had to smile.
“Hi, I’m Rebecca Winslow,” the blond woman said, extending her hand in greeting. “I’m so glad to finally meet you, although I feel like we know each other already.” Her handshake was firm, almost like a man’s.
“I’m Emily Adams. I’m really glad to meet you, too. I was feeling really overwhelmed and a little scared when I arrived, but your two friends here suddenly put me at ease!”
“Yes, sometimes people are a little intimidated by the size of the house at first, but when they meet Casper and Jake everything seems to be a little more down to earth. I promise you, we aren’t the typical “rich with the great big house” people. I just love having all the room and being able to roam about and decorate everything as I please. And since I can afford it, well……” She shrugged.
Emily smiled and said, “I don’t feel so scared now. I took one look at the house and almost bolted.”
“I’m glad the boys and I could put you at ease!” Rebecca laughed. “Let’s get you all settled in your rooms, and then I’ll take you for a little tour before dinner. Then after dinner, if you aren’t too tired, we can go over some of the things I have in mind for you to do.”
Emily followed her new employer into the house as a young man came out and went over to the taxi to retrieve her bags. Her apartment had been furnished as part of the rent, so she didn’t have any furniture or large items to bring with her. The stuffy suits that she was required to wear at the accounting firm were hanging in the cab and she almost hoped the driver would take off with them, so she would never have to look at them again. Ugh. But she supposed she would have to dress up when she was working for Rebecca, so she was probably stuck with them. When Emily dressed up, she preferred feminine, lacy things. And when she wasn’t dressing up, her favorite clothes were t-shirts and blue jeans. She was petite, only 5’ 3” tall, and 115 lbs. She was very curvy and very feminine looking, but she worked out often with weights and did aerobics every day, so there was a lot of strength hidden beneath the deceiving helpless little girl look. She hoped there was a gym nearby.
As soon as she walked into the house, she was overwhelmed by the beauty of it. The walls in the foyer were deep red with white wainscoting halfway up. There were antique brass candleholders, converted to electric lighting, hanging on the walls. There were also pictures of dragons, wizards and warriors in antique brass frames. She loved the theme.
They went up the stone staircase, turned down the hallway to the right, then to the third door on the left. She was beginning to wonder if she would ever learn her way around this house. Then Rebecca opened the door to her room and she was suddenly breathless.
“I had these rooms decorated especially for you, but I didn’t know you that well yet, so if there is anything you want to change, or even if you want to redo the whole thing, please let me know and I will have it done. I love to decorate and it was so much fun to do this room, just guessing about what you might like,” said Rebecca.
“I love it!” exclaimed Emily. She had been expecting just a regular bedroom, but this was a suite of rooms. The door opened into the bedroom. The bottom half of the walls were painted a dark forest green with a cream colored chair rail bisecting the wall and the top half was papered with English ivy. Not plain, but not too busy, either. The bed was huge, a king size, and the comforter also sported English ivy, and it looked so comfortable, Emily was tempted to lie down right then amongst all the fluffiness and go to sleep. Past the foot of the bed, there were two steps down to a small sitting room. There was a gas fireplace and two comfy looking armchairs, with small tables beside each one. A perfect place to relax, read a good book, and sip a cup of tea!
“I don’t know what to say!”
“Say you like it,” Rebecca said, smiling.
“This is wonderful. I can’t believe you‘re putting me in such beautiful rooms. I wasn’t expecting something so generous. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing about these rooms.”
Rebecca smiled. “I’m so glad you like it. I wasn’t sure, but I was hoping you would. You haven’t seen the bathroom yet.”
Emily went through the door adjoining the bedroom. She was once again awed by what she was seeing. There was a huge tub, big enough for four or five people. She saw that it had jets, so it was a spa tub. It was black with stone tiles surrounding it. There was also a huge shower, as well as the other normal fixtures, all in black. The walls were papered with cavorting dragons. This woman had the strangest mixture of tastes, and yet it all somehow worked. She loved it.
“You know, when I was in my apartment, my living room wasn’t much bigger than this bathroom. I’m not used to all this luxury. You’re too kind.”
Rebecca laughed. “Don’t think I don’t have ulterior motives! I plan to make you work hard for me, so I want to keep you happy. Jamie will bring your bags up in a few moments. Why don’t we finish the tour of the house?”
They went through so many rooms that Emily’s head was spinning. She was going to need a map! There were numerous guest bedrooms and baths on the second floor. On the first floor, there was the formal living room, the more casual family room, a library, game room, large dining room, family dining room, kitchen….it went on and on until Emily knew she was going to have to start leaving bread crumbs along the way.
“I know it seems overwhelming at first,” said Rebecca, “but you’ll get used to it, I promise. We’ll wait until after dinner to see the third floor. That’s where my offices are and where we will do most of our work. But I do want you to see the basement before we have dinner.”
They went down a flight of steps and walked into a world of delight for Emily.
“A gym!” she exclaimed. She rushed to each exercise machine, admiring the quality.
“You mentioned in your resume that one of your hobbies is working out. This way you won’t have to go to a gym. We have all these weight machines as well as the treadmill over there, and here is the big screen television where you can play exercise videos. All this equipment is brand new. We had all this done about six months ago. We all thought we could use some extra exercise. But it turns out, now, that Jamie is the only one who uses this room.”
“Well, he lives here, and he does a little bit of everything for us. You’ll meet him at dinner tonight. The entire household will be eating together tonight.”
“I can’t wait to meet everybody. This is great! I know I’m going to love it here.” She was overwhelmed by this place. But she really felt good about being here.
“Emily, you may use this gym as often as you like. As I said before, the only other person that uses it is Jamie.”
She opened a door and went inside, turning on the light. There was a huge screen, with a row of three sofas facing it. A projector stood against the wall behind the sofas.
“A theater room! This is great. And look, a popcorn popper just like they have at the movies! I feel like a kid in a candy store.” She began to wonder if she was acting too childish about everything.
“We all like to have fun. All work and no play….well, you know the old saying.”
Emily smiled. She felt like she had walked into a dream that she wanted to never wake up from.