Samantha Montgomery is shocked to discover that she is the sole heir of her great aunt Violet’s will. With her world falling down around her, Samantha jumps at the opportunity to start afresh in a new town where no one will know her. What she didn’t expect was the isolated home in the middle of the woods and the feeling that someone—or something—is watching her. Even the howls at night seem as if they are coming from right below her window. Can she trust Lucien, the mysterious stranger who claims to have known her aunt? Or will he lead her even further into danger?
Age Rating: 18+
The rain was coming down so hard that I could barely see the stripes on the road in front of me. I had thought that just maybe my luck was changing, but now I wasn’t so sure.
Here I was in the middle of nowhere, miles from the last town, with no real clue as to where I was going.
I had always thought I had my life in pretty good order. I had been popular in school, made good grades. Things had just seemed to work out for me.
After graduation, I had moved to the city with my high school boyfriend, and for the past five years I had thought I was living the dream.
Six weeks ago, however, I discovered that my dream was actually a nightmare. The man who I had thought I would one day marry came home telling me he had met someone else and was moving out.
I had been shocked and left staring after him as he walked out of my life as if I was nothing more than a passing fancy.
I was left with nothing and no one. I had been laid off work, and he had insisted that I didn’t need to rush and find a new job.
My parents had divorced shortly after I graduated, and neither one of them really reached out anymore.
My dad had gone and started a whole new family in another state, and my mom… well, we had never really gotten along.
My savings could only last so long, and with no luck at finding a job, I was now facing eviction. It was there, at my lowest, that I had received the news that could possibly change my life forever.
That day would be forever etched in my memory.
It was a Friday, and I was over a week past due on my rent. I had the money to pay it, but it would take every single penny I had to do so.
All day I had sat in the apartment, with the lights and TV off, reading, trying to avoid the manager of my apartment.
I knew an eviction notice would appear on my door any day, but I didn’t want to actually have to face him.
When I heard the knock at the door, my heart stopped beating, and my book fell to the floor at my feet.
My first instinct was to stay as still as possible and keep pretending to not be home. But my curiosity got the best of me, and I found myself moving to look out of the peephole.
On the other side of the door was a man in a dark suit, holding a briefcase.
I still don’t know what made me change my mind, but I opened the door. I remember being afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.
The man on the other side looked to be in his late sixties. His kind blue eyes found mine. “Hello. I’m Simon Fitzgerald. Are you Samantha Montgomery?”
Seeing me swallow, he smiled. “You are not in trouble, Ms. Montgomery. I represent your aunt Violet. She has passed away and has left you a considerable fortune.”
I motioned for him to come in and shut the door behind him, trying to make sense of what he had just said. I had only met my aunt once, when I was about fourteen.
She had come to my grandmother’s funeral. I had never even known until that day that my Grandma Elizabeth had a sister.
Both of my parents had ignored her. In fact, everyone that attended the funeral ignored her.
I had thought it odd, but when I tried to ask my mother, she simply told me to shut up and mind my own business.
It wasn’t until after the funeral service, when I had made my way outside to await my parents, that I found her outside, sitting on the church’s side steps.
I slowly approached her. And when she looked up at me, I saw she had tears in her eyes. Still, through the tears, she smiled. “Come, Samantha. Come sit beside me.”
I had no clue how she knew my name. Maybe the same way I knew hers. We were both in the pamphlet they had passed out as we had walked into the small church.
She sat and explained to me who she was. She even acknowledged the fact that she and my grandmother didn’t get along.
As we sat on the steps, she told me stories of the two of them from back when they were children. I found her easy to talk to, and I even shared some personal things about myself.
When my mother came outside and found me on the steps talking to her, she about had a whole-ass heart attack. My aunt simply patted my hand and told me we would meet again one day.
I can remember looking back at her as I walked away, feeling as if she was the only person who really understood me.
That day never came. The man at the door explained to me how Aunt Violet had passed away, leaving all of her earthly possessions to me.
He laid everything out simply. I would only need to make the drive down to his office to sign some paperwork, and he would take care of the rest.
He dug through his briefcase and pulled out a letter, which he handed over to me.
“Your aunt left this in my possession, telling me to give it to you if anything ever happened to her.”
Mr. Fitzgerald opened the letter and sat on my couch, watching me read it.
I will never forget meeting you that warm day in July. You were the only one to speak to me the entire day.
In all of my years, I have acquired quite a few things. Having never had children, I am leaving everything to you. I tried writing to you years ago, but your mother sent them all back.
I have thought about you every day for years. You remind me quite a bit of myself. My lawyer will get everything set up for you.
I am leaving you my house. Don’t worry about money. I have enough that you won’t have to worry about things for quite a while.
If you need help getting down, just let the man who brings you this letter know. I left him detailed instructions to help you get set up.
I would prefer you to keep the house, even if you choose not to live there. It is a place of solitude, something we all need.
I closed the letter and sat in shock, wondering how this could be real. This was too good to be true. There had to be some kind of catch.
Mr. Fitzgerald waited a few minutes before asking me when I would be able to come to his office.
I was so happy to have a place to live that I blurted out “tomorrow” without even thinking.
He lifted a bushy white eyebrow and laughed. “Okay. Well, do you need money to drive down, or would you like me to wait and drive you myself?”
By the time he left, I was, for the first time in a while, hopeful. How could a woman I had only met one time leave everything to me?
I didn’t understand. But I believed that everything happened for a reason. Maybe I had been destined to talk to her that day.
Fitzgerald discussed the fact that the house was move-in ready. The electricity and gas were still turned on. He had even called in a moving crew to help pack up my apartment in the morning.
Fitzgerald had left me with more than enough cash to fill up my SUV for the drive, even though I had insisted I would be fine.
The drive to the small town on the border of Texas and Louisiana was a long one. But to be honest, the drive helped clear my head.
The meeting with Fitzgerald had taken a while, but by the time I left his office, I had signed a deed to a house and had gone to the bank to set up an account for him to transfer money into.
Fitzgerald had explained that he would stay on as my personal lawyer and continue taking care of things as he had always done.
My drive to the house had started out easy enough. But the longer I drove, the worse things got.
The rain seemed to come out of nowhere and had only gotten worse the minute I turned off the main road and onto an isolated county road.
I was tempted to pull over and wait for the rain to stop when I saw the private drive to my new home.
The only way you could even tell there was a drive was a small road sign that read Violet’s Lane.
I smiled, thinking of her, wishing I could have known her, and feeling some resentment towards my mother for never giving me her letters. From the road, you couldn’t see the house.
The long drive was a well-worn dirt road with huge oak and pine trees on each side, which seemed to drown out the sun.
After driving about a mile, the trees thinned, and I got the first glimpse of my new home.
I stopped the car and stared. The place was huge. It was something out of my wildest dreams. The house had so many windows I couldn’t count them all.
Not one of them had any mini blinds or drapes. That, I would have to change.
Even though I would be in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors in sight, I still couldn’t get over how someone could drive up and just look into the house.
Just from the outside, I could tell I would love the house. I loved all things antique, and this house certainly filled the bill.
I continued down the drive and parked my car in the half-circle in front of the house. I jumped out of the car and grabbed my purse and the box that had sat beside me in the front seat.
The moving van was scheduled to arrive later in the day with the remainder of my things.
My hands shook as I pushed the old, worn key into the doorknob and twisted it. The door opened in front of me, and I found myself frowning.
The furniture was all covered in white sheets, and there was a thin layer of dust everywhere. Fitzgerald should have told me I would need a cleaning crew too.
Setting my box down by the front door, I decided to explore my new home. From the front entrance, you had three ways to choose from.
I decided to take the path to the left first, and I found myself in a beautiful kitchen. The appliances all appeared to be new.
It didn’t take long exploring before I found out that the downstairs consisted of a kitchen, a large dining room, a half bath, and a huge library-type room that had shelves of books lining the walls.
The staircase upstairs was made of some antique wood. It led to four bedrooms, all with their own private bathrooms. After looking at all four rooms, I chose one that sat on the left.
The minute I opened its door, the room spoke to me.
The room had two beautiful stained-glass windows. It was wallpapered in a black and silver fleur-de-lis pattern. Dark wooden floors only made the room appear more mysterious.
The bed dominated the room, with a canopy of a see-through material. One corner had built-in bookshelves that blended in perfectly.
I walked into the room and ran my hand over the fur-like comforter, feeling the silky smoothness of it. Pulling it back, I found cool silk sheets underneath.
The silk against the fur felt amazing, and I couldn’t wait to spend my first night in this massive bed.
I couldn’t help but kick off my flip-flops, crawl into the bed, and close my eyes. I couldn’t have been there five minutes before I heard the honking of a horn.
I jumped up and went to the window and saw the moving truck. I sighed sadly. All of my belongings had fit into just one small truck.
Mr. Fitzgerald had all of my furniture sent to a consignment shop, so really all I had was clothes and little odds and ends.
I had never bothered to decorate my last apartment. I never saw it as home. I did miss that little one-bedroom apartment though. Memories of better times.
I slid my shoes back on, ran downstairs, and met the moving men.
After instructing them to just place everything in the entry, I decided I better make a list of things I needed for the kitchen and then pick up some cleaning supplies.
It didn’t take long before one of the moving men came into the kitchen so I could sign the form releasing them of responsibility for my belongings.
I thanked him and got up and showed them to the door. The rain had stopped, but by then it was already starting to get dark—the one downside of living in the woods in the fall.
I don’t know why, but as I looked out at the rising moon, I felt a shiver go down my spine. I was used to the city, and tonight I would sleep alone, in the middle of nowhere.
No one would hear me if I screamed out. No one would even know if I went missing.