Blackthorn Manor Haunting
Chapter One Sneak Peek!
Addison Lockhart had expected to wake on the day of her wedding feeling refreshed, peaceful and calm. But ever since she’d arrived at Blackthorn Manor the day before, a distressing uneasiness had coursed through her body like an illness determined to spread. She’d tried meditating, tried focusing on wedding preparations. She’d even indulged in a glass of wine. It made no difference. Not only was she unable to quell her worrisome feelings, they persevered and grew stronger.
Even now, sitting on a chair in front of an oval antique mirror, twisting the ends of her long, auburn hair over a curling iron, her hands trembled and she felt anxious, like she wasn’t alone, even though no one else was in the room with her. It seemed every nook and cranny inside the manor had eyes, and all of them were watching her every move.
A gust of cool air swept across her back, causing the hair on her neck to stand on end. Startled, she dropped the curling iron and it clattered against the dark hardwood floor below. She reached down and picked it up, gasping when rose and gazed in the mirror again. She could have sworn she saw something—a shape maybe—the faint glimmer of an object behind her. It appeared only for an instant, and then it was gone.
Get a hold of yourself, Addison.
You’re working yourself up over nothing.
No one is here.
There’s nothing to worry about.
A hand pressed against the small of her back, and she shot out of her chair and whipped around, poised to strike with a hairbrush.
Luke, her fiancé, stood in front of her, his palms in the air. “Whoa, whoa. It’s just me. You’re really jumpy today. Is everything all right?”
She exhaled a long breath, lowered the hairbrush, and nodded. “I … yeah, I’m fine.”
“Really? Because you looked like you were about to beat me with that brush.”
“I’m sorry, Luke. I didn’t hear you come in. You’re not supposed to see me before the wedding. Bad luck or something.”
He leaned toward her, planted a kiss on her forehead, and smiled. “I think we’re all right. You’re not even dressed yet, and we still have a couple of hours before the ceremony. I thought I’d check in on you and see if I can get you anything.”
There was one thing he could do. One thing she wanted more than anything else.
“Has my grandmother arrived yet?”
He shook his head. “I haven’t seen her.”
“I tried calling, and she didn’t answer. If she’s not here soon, she’ll miss our wedding.”
“I’m sure she’ll be here anytime now. You know Marjorie. She’s all about making a grand entrance.”
He was right. Marjorie had more flash and flare than women half her age, and she never missed an opportunity to flaunt it. “When you see her, tell her I need to talk to her, okay?”
He leaned forward, gave her hips a squeeze. “Will do.”
She thought he’d leave the room, but he didn’t. He stood there, staring at her like he didn’t want to leave her alone.
“What is it?” Addison asked.
He shrugged. “I don’t know, to be honest. Maybe you can tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
“On the way here yesterday, you were so happy. Today you seem different. Are you second-guessing anything? Should I be worried?”
She reached out, swiping a wisp of his long, sandy-colored bangs out of his eye. No matter how many knots twisted her insides, she wouldn’t allow anything to ruin their day. “I’ve been ready to marry you for a long time, Luke. I can’t wait to be your wife.”
“Then what’s bothering you?”
Luke was aware of Addison’s occasional gift, her ability to communicate with the spirits of those who had passed on, but she didn’t want to worry him. Not today. And besides, there was nothing to confirm her suspicions.
“I haven’t eaten anything today,” she said. “I’m sure that’s all it is.”
“What happened to the breakfast the staff sent up this morning?”
“I’ve been too busy preparing for the wedding to eat it.”
Luke glanced around, his eyes coming to rest on a round metal tray. He grabbed it, set it on the dresser next to Addison, and removed the lid, staring at the food like it was no longer appetizing.
“You need to eat something, okay?” he said. “Even if it’s a piece a stale toast. I don’t want you passing out on me when we’re saying our vows.”
Addison smiled. “I will. I promise.”
“Hey, thanks for agreeing to get married here. I’m sure this place isn’t what you had in mind.”
He was wrong. It was exactly what she’d had in mind. She had seen her wedding day before, years earlier, in a vision. Not the manor itself, but the ocean in front where they were to be married. She’d seen those in attendance too, and everything had come to pass, just like she knew it would.
She gazed at her hand, at the engagement ring Luke had given her two years ago, a ring once belonging to his grandmother. “It’s only fitting we marry at the same place your grandparents did.”
“I just thought the owners would have done a better job of preserving the place. The paint, the exterior, the roof—it’s all falling apart. You deserve better.”
“It has sentimental meaning, and that makes it perfect.”
“If you say so.”
He grinned and stepped into the hall, closing the door behind him.
Addison walked to the closet and unzipped the plastic cover her wedding dress was wrapped in. She removed the dress, smiling at the slim A-line design she’d worked so hard to fit into over the last few months. She admired it for a moment before her attention diverted to her bedroom window. A young woman dressed in black stood in front of the manor, gazing at the sea, her hips swaying from side to side as if she were drunk. The woman was unfamiliar and seemed out of place, given they were miles from town, and Luke and Addison’s small group of family and friends were the only guests staying at the manor for the weekend.
Addison walked toward the window, wondering who the woman was, why she was there, and how she got there in the first place. The dress she wore appeared several decades old, if not older. As if she knew Addison was watching, the woman looked up, meeting her gaze. Before Addison had the chance to open the window and address the woman, someone knocked on her bedroom door.
Thinking it was Marjorie, Addison raced to the door. But it wasn’t her grandmother on the other side. It was Mrs. Ravencroft, the owner of the manor. She had a scowl on her face and a plate in her hands containing two pieces of toast and an assortment of fruit. She tipped her head to the side, glaring at the untouched tray of food on the dresser. “I heard you didn’t eat the breakfast my assistant sent up this morning. Your fiancé asked me to bring you a fresh plate. I agreed to it, but only this one time. I do not appreciate the food I prepare going to waste.”
“I didn’t mean to—”
“It doesn’t matter now.”
Mrs. Ravencroft shoved the plate into Addison’s hands, brushed past her, and scooped the tray off the dresser, before walking back out of the room.
“Wait just a minute,” Addison said. “Can I ask you a question?”
Mrs. Ravencroft sighed. “What is it?”
“You don’t have any other guests staying here this weekend, right?”
“Why do you ask?”
“There’s a woman outside. I don’t recognize her.”
Addison turned and pointed, only to realize the woman she’d seen was gone.
Mrs. Ravencroft glanced out the window, irritated. “Well, she’s not there now, is she? Are you sure it wasn’t someone from your wedding party? From this distance, it could have been anyone.”
The distance Mrs. Ravencroft had referred to wasn’t far, given Addison’s perfect vision.
“She was right in front of the manor, staring out into the ocean. There was a longing in her eyes, almost like she wished the ocean would open and swallow her up.”
“Swallow her up? What an odd thing to say.”
Addison supposed she was right, and since the woman was no longer in view, it no longer mattered. “Thanks for bringing another plate of food. I’ll eat it this time.”
Mrs. Ravencroft nodded and walked out, pausing a moment in the doorway. “I’m just curious. What did the woman you saw look like?
“She was tall and slim. She wore a black dress that went to her feet, and she had long, dark hair. Her skin was pale, almost white, and even though she seemed distraught, she was beautiful.”
Addison detected a look of shock in Mrs. Ravencroft’s eyes, though she did her best to hide it. She averted her eyes and said, “I’ll leave you to get ready, Miss Lockhart.”
She then closed the door behind her.
Addison set the plate down, walked to the window, and opened it. She peered across the shoreline. In the distance, she thought she saw the silhouette of the woman she’d seen, but the woman was too far away now. It was hard to know for sure.
Addison leaned out over the windowsill, trying to get a better look, until an intense pressure pressed down on her back—someone thrusting her forward. Addison grabbed the side of the window to brace herself, but it was too late. She was already falling.
END OF PREVIEW
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END OF PREVIEW
We hope you enjoyed this short preview. Pre-order links coming soon!