When Maddi Drake inherits an old house from her great aunt, she decides to move in and fix it up. But it seems she isn’t quite alone there. Then she meets the perfect man…so she thinks. But someone in the house disagrees.
This novella combines a little mystery, a little humor, and a little romance for a quick, entertaining read.
As Maddi drove up the long, winding driveway, she had a sense of foreboding. The trees on either side were close, with branches hanging over, forming a canopy through which very little light could penetrate. Weeds were growing up through the sparse gravel that covered the driveway.
Without warning, her little Toyota broke through into a clearing and she could see the house. The monstrosity of a house that her great aunt had left her in her will. She looked up at it in dismay, seeing the broken windows, the sagging steps going up to the front porch, and the lichen growing on the bricks. The yard looked just as bad, with dead leaves scattered about, and the moss hanging from the trees gave the whole property an ominous look. She shivered as little prickles of dread ran down her spine. What had she gotten herself into?
Her parents had decided to move to a retirement condo in Florida, so it was perfect timing when her aunt, who was as old as dirt, passed away and left her a house. She knew it was large and old, but she didn’t realize that it would be in such disrepair. The attorney who handled her aunt’s estate warned her that there would have to be repairs done, but she didn’t know it was this bad.
She pulled the car into the circular part of the driveway that took her right in front of the porch and stopped there. With a sigh, she got out of the car, opened her trunk and lugged her suitcases out of the car and up the rickety steps, taking care not to step on the questionable areas. The porch itself seemed sturdy, but she walked carefully in case there were unstable spots in the wood. She used the key that the attorney gave her and opened the door cautiously. It creaked as it swung open.
“Great,” she said out loud. “This is just like a horror movie.”
She stepped inside the house and felt for a light switch, holding her breath until the click of the switch caused the large chandelier in the entryway to illuminate at least part of the area. There still wasn’t enough light to chase all the shadows away.
She left her bags right inside the door, went back out to the car and got everything she had brought in two more trips, then locked the front door behind her when she was finished lugging everything in. Not really sure what to do next, she just started with the bottom floor of the house, peeking into all the rooms. Everything was covered in dust except for the furniture, which was all covered in sheets. She walked into the room that would probably be considered a parlor, although she wasn’t really sure what made a room a parlor, and removed one of the sheets, revealing a beautiful sofa covered in deep red velvet. Much to her surprise, it was in perfect condition. She covered it back up with the sheet and walked through the rest of the room, peeking under the white sheets covering the furnishings. Everything under the sheets was spotless and as good as new. She knew her aunt hadn’t lived here in many years, so nothing had been touched in a very long time. But she had expected to see at least a little wear on the objects that were here.
She was pretty tired, having driven all the way from northern Georgia to southern South Carolina, so she decided the most important thing to decide right now was where she was going to sleep. She hesitated to go upstairs, wondering what she would find there, but she knew she couldn’t sleep anywhere downstairs. She left her bags where they were for now and stepped carefully up the stairs, pleased to find they were sturdy, even though they creaked just a bit. She checked out a few of the rooms, finding that they, too, had sheets covering the furniture. There were mostly bedrooms up here and it looked like each one had a bathroom.
She finally opened the door at the end of the hallway and drew in a sharp breath. This room was at least twice as large as the others. It must be the master bedroom. She took the dust sheets off the furniture and bed and smiled in delight. The bed was a large four poster and each post was carved with cavorting dragons. The wood was dark mahogany and there was a matching dresser, chest of drawers, night stand, and wardrobe. The wardrobe was so large that it took up almost a whole wall, so there was no need for a closet. There was a door that opened up into a large bathroom which had a large, black claw foot bathtub, a black sink on a pedestal and a black toilet with a pull flusher. There was a cabinet finished in black lacquer for towels and toiletries.
Maddi decided she would sleep in this room, so she went in search of a broom for the floor and a cleaning rag for the fireplace mantle. Most of the furniture was dust free because of the dust sheets, but she wanted it to be cleaner before she slept in the room. She found what she was looking for in a closet downstairs, but as she was closing the closet door, she heard a sound coming from inside. She groaned. Mice! She opened the door again and peered inside, but she saw nothing. In fact, she hadn’t seen any signs of mice in any of the rooms she had explored. Maybe she hadn’t really heard anything. She was tired and in a new place, so maybe her ears were just playing tricks on her.
Maddi carried her cleaning supplies upstairs and made the room presentable. She found clean sheets and blankets in one of the drawers in the chest, surprised that no signs of mice were in there, either. She wondered what could possibly keep mice away from a house that had been unoccupied for so long. Probably the lack of food in the house.
Thinking of food made her realize she was hungry, so she went downstairs and lugged all of her belongings up the stairs. Going through her overnight bag, she pulled out a bottle of water and a couple of energy bars. When she finished eating, she sighed, wishing she had something better. She decided that she would go out for breakfast the next morning, and then buy a few things for the house, including food. She hoped the refrigerator and stove worked!
She burrowed under the sheets, pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the big bed was. It wasn’t long before she slipped into an exhausted slumber.
In the early hours of the morning, Maddi was awakened by a sound. She strained her ears to hear the sound again, and she heard something that sounded like whispering. Her heart started pounding in her chest as she sat up in bed and tried to listen more carefully. Maybe she was still groggy from a dream. After a couple of minutes, she decided it was just her imagination and she lay back down again. She was just about to drift off to sleep when she heard it again. She jumped up from her bed and hurried over to the light switch and flipped it on. She looked around and saw nothing. She didn’t hear the sound, either. Her heart was still beating wildly as she wondered what in the world she had heard. Was she wrong about there being no mice here? There certainly was no indication that mice were in the house. But what else could be making the sound? Could there be even bigger, more dangerous animals in the house? Trembling, she opened the door and peered out into the hallway. There was a faint glow coming up the stairs. Did she leave one of the lights on downstairs?
Maddi put on her robe and slippers, and then slipped out into the hallway, flipping on lights as she went. She started down the stairs, still seeing the faint glow coming from below. It really didn’t look like electric light glow, but she couldn’t imagine what else it could be. As she continued down the stairs, she felt a cold draft coming from who knew where. She shivered and almost didn’t continue, but then she gathered all her courage and went on down. She wasn’t going to let anything scare her in her own home. And that’s what the house was now…her home.
When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she turned left toward the glow. It seemed to be coming from the parlor. She had left the door to that room open when she was in there earlier. She entered the room, and when she did, suddenly the glow was gone. It was pitch black in the room. Then, she felt something lightly brush against her arm and she screamed and ran back toward the door. She misjudged where the doorway was and she ran smack into the door facing, bumping her head and sending her flying backward and onto the floor. She scrambled back up and felt her way toward the door, a little more cautiously now. She found the light switch and suddenly the room was flooded with light. She looked around fearfully, but she didn’t see anything or anybody that could have either made the glow or brushed against her. She realized she was holding her breath and let it out slowly, and then laughed shakily at herself. Of course, nothing had brushed against her. And she probably imagined the glow, still under the influence of a dream.
Maddi traipsed back up the stairs, determined not to be afraid of the house, although she was awfully tempted to leave a light on in the hallway. But she was stubborn and wouldn’t admit that she was afraid of her own house, so she flipped off all the light switches and went back to bed. She lay in the bed, trying to breathe normally, but it was a long time before sleep came to her. She knew there had to be some explanation of the events of this morning, but she didn’t want to worry about that yet. She finally drifted off to sleep and awakened the next morning to the chime of her doorbell.