I wasn't very far into the story when I became so immersed into it, I knew a novella just wouldn't do. The character, Addison Lockhart, is gifted in ways that make it easy for me to create a series just for her. I will keep on writing my other series, of course, but I am having a lot of fun with this. I am about 20K into it, and with discipline on my part, I am hoping to have it out by February 2013. But for now, I hope you enjoy chapter one!
Addison Lockhart watched the cab dart back down the country road, leaving nothing but a small dust cloud in its wake. She squeezed her eyes shut, taking a deep breath before spinning around on the heel of her boot. When her eyes reopened, she wasn’t prepared for the image before her. The house was much older than she thought it would be. It was dingy and needed work—a lot of it. Several of the wood shingles were missing from the exterior. A piece of railing on the left side of the porch had been partially ripped off, its jagged pieces forming splinter-worthy spikes. Still, there was a sense of grandeur behind the tattered facade—something regal in the architectural beauty of the domed turret and multi-gabled, steep-pitched roof. But even with all of its flaws, none of the windows on the house were broken, not even the magnificent stained-glass one in the center of the top floor.
The property surrounding the Queen Anne style house was heavily wooded, its thick, mature trees stretching over the back of the mountainside. Addison stood silent and still, taking it all in, hoping she’d made the right decision in coming here. An owl sounded off in the distance, making her aware of his presence. She glanced into the trees, knowing he could see her, even though she couldn’t see him.
Addison looked over the acreage to the house next door, noticing what appeared to be the pitch of a roof peeking through the trees. There was a good distance between the two houses, which was exactly what she was looking for. Peace and quiet. Serenity. No horns honking, no traffic jams, no sirens…just the faint sound of water coming from what she assumed was a nearby lake.
One week earlier Addison had been seated in a stuffy lawyer’s office, only half-listening to the man on the opposite side of the desk as he rattled off what had been left to her according to her mother’s will: money, jewelry, the autographed record collection that she’d never been allowed to touch, and a house.
And not just any house.
“I don’t understand,” Addison had said. “My mother owned a house in the country?”
The lawyer simply nodded, his eyes scanning the document for additional information.
“But my mother never mentioned it to me before.”
The lawyer gazed over the rim of his glasses, staring at her like she was a child who asked too many questions. “From what I understand, it was the home your mother grew up in. Are you sure you’ve never been there before?”
Addison shook her head.
“Says here your great-grandmother owned the house outright,” he continued. “It looks like it has been passed down over the last two generations from mother to child—the child always being a female.”
Addison slouched back into the sofa. “My mother was an only child, so was I. There wasn’t much of a choice.”
“Well, I suppose you could just deed it to your father if you don’t want to bother with it,” the lawyer suggested. “Or you could sell it.”
Addison snapped out of the memory and stared back at the house again, wondering why it had been abandoned for so long, forced to deteriorate year after year. If no one wanted it, why hadn’t it been sold? It seemed a shame for such a thing of beauty to go to waste.
She placed a foot on the front porch step, testing its durability by tapping it with the toe of her boot a few times until she was confident it wouldn’t cave in when she applied more pressure. When she felt certain that it would hold her weight, she stepped forward, continuing the ritual on the next step and the next one after that. She made it onto the porch and walked to the front door, stopping to notice a metal nameplate that had been drilled into place over the mailbox. It was too grimy to read. She looked around, seeing nothing she could use to clean it off. She pulled the sleeve of her sweater over her hands and wiped the nameplate down, reading the words aloud: “Grayson Manor.”
Addison reached into her pocket, pulled out a key ring, and inserted the largest of the keys into the door. It clicked, unlocking instantly, but when she pushed against the solid mass of wood, it didn’t budge. She tried again, this time ramming the side of her body into the door, shoulder first. It hopped forward an inch, but it still wasn’t enough. She backed up, gripped the handle, and tried again, this time with more force. The door swung open, almost flinging her to the floor in the process. But she didn’t mind—she’d gotten what she wanted—she was in.
The inside of the house was as run down and charming as the outside. Addison expected to find rooms full of furniture with sheets thoughtfully placed over the top, preserving their integrity. Instead pieces were haphazardly strewn about in piles, many of them broken. The place appeared to have been looted—maybe more than once.
Off to one side was a kitchen, but it didn’t look much like one. All of the appliances were missing, and the drawers and cabinets contained nothing but layers of dust and rat droppings. Addison ran a finger across the front of a cabinet door, wiping the dust off on her jeans. The dark walnut cabinetry was simple, yet refined and beautiful.
She left the kitchen and entered a large, open living space with wood floors. The room reminded her of a dance hall and was large enough for a banquet or a large party. A trio of sullied chandeliers was suspended from the ceiling, the one in the center being far more grandiose than the others. It may not have been what she expected, but with a lot of restoration work, she could create the house she’d always wanted. A house she could call her home. It felt good to finally be alone. The only problem was: she wasn’t.