Seren Grayson is a tempest. Heartless and destructive to anyone who crosses his path. But because of his good looks and talent on the football field, the students at Windham Prep adore him. They respect his boldness. They fear his wrath. And, they believe they know the real Seren.
But they don’t.
When I’m forced to move into Seren’s home, I unexpectedly unleash his wrath and become his latest target. He may think I'm easy prey because I’m the housekeeper’s daughter, but he’s wrong. I’m not someone who will cower or back down when I'm pushed.
I’ll push back. Harder.
The longer I spend in Windham, the more I unravel the mysteries of Seren and Grayson Manor. Who knew it would take an outsider to soften his tough exterior and discover the truth behind the lies.
My mom’s headlights cast the only light on the winding, tree-lined New Hampshire road. I toyed with the silver ring on my right ring finger, spinning it around and around. It was looser now. Lack of food would do that to a person.
“This isn’t going to be so bad,” my mom said softly from the driver’s seat.
Wasn’t going to be so bad? My dad just died, and I was being forced to relocate to Grayson Manor where my mom had been a housekeeper for over eighteen years—an hour away from my home. She might not have minded spending her week away from the common people of Coopersville. But, I was a few months shy of graduating. I had friends and a life in Coopersville. “I just don’t understand why I couldn’t stay with Holly or Laney until you’re home on the weekends.”
She sighed, and I hated that a sigh could carry so much meaning. Hated that after everything she’d been through—we’d been through—I was still giving her grief over moving to the manor.
“You and this job are all I have left,” she said. “We’re both grieving, Grace. You need me as much as I need you.” She reached over and placed her frail hand on top of mine, causing me to stop spinning the ring my dad had given me. “This is what compromise looks like. We move here and you still get to graduate from Coopersville High. This way we both get what we want—at least until you leave for college in the fall.”
I heaved a sigh. I had agreed to stay at the manor where she’d lived during the week for my entire life. Though now she wouldn’t be home for weekends. She’d stay here indefinitely. I understood with my dad gone she wouldn’t allow a seventeen-year-old to stay home alone for weeks at a time. I just wished she agreed to let me stay with one of my friends because the hour ride in every morning and afternoon was surely going to suck.
My mom hit her blinker which was unnecessary given we were the only car on the stretch of dark road. We entered a neighborhood with high walls surrounding the properties. No houses were visible from the road, and I wondered if it was due to the darkness or if daylight would bring the same scenery. I knew my mother worked for a rich family, but from the looks of the walls, the people in these neighborhoods were beyond rich.
My mom turned off the main road and onto another. The brick wall surrounding this property continued for what felt like a mile. It was clear that only one house sat on this stretch of road. We pulled to a stop at an entrance blocked by an elaborate wrought-iron gate. My mom put down her window, and I watched her punch a code onto a discreet number pad set into a stone pillar. The gate in front of us slid aside as she put up her window and drove up the long winding drive. I peered into the darkness ahead waiting for the big reveal. Because I was certain there would be a big reveal.
And, Grayson Manor did not disappoint.
As our car moved closer, the vastness of the property became apparent. It was as sprawling and grand as my mom had described it. The old cobblestone façade was a thing of beauty, even in the darkness. The chimneys. The gargoyles looking down. The circular drive with elaborate water fountain. This home was exquisite…and a little creepy. “They’ve got this big of a place and you stay in the basement?”
“It’s not the basement. It’s the helps’ quarters.”
I rolled my eyes. “The help? You grew up with Maureen. She refers to you as the help?”
She shrugged, and I knew it had to bother her. She and “the lady of the house” were best friends growing up in Coopersville. But one lucky blind date set Maureen on a road to riches and my mom to a life of servitude. Maureen thought she’d done my mother a favor by giving her the job. But what she didn’t realize was my mom saw it as a favor to Maureen, always keeping an eye out for her once-best friend. When you had money, people used you. And my mother hated seeing that happen to Maureen. And, even when Maureen lost her husband to a heart attack three years ago, my mother was the only one to be there for her and her three sons—well, my mom and Mr. Grayson’s business partner Martine who was now her new husband.
My mom pulled the car to a stop around the side of the house. There was a six-car garage set apart from the main house, but she parked beside the garage so that her car was concealed by the darkness of the nearby trees. She switched off the engine, yet she didn’t make a move to get out. Silence filled the car telling me what I already knew. Our lives were going to be irreparably changed once we moved into the manor.
Knowing someone had to go first, I opened my door. The squeak of the older door broke the silence. I stepped out and the cool April night air bit at my skin as I circled to the trunk. As I waited for my mother to pop it open for me, I glanced at the manor, unable to believe the curveball life had thrown us. A curtain moved in a window on the second floor, catching my attention. I squinted into the darkness but saw nothing but a shadow.
As if life hadn’t been brutal enough, now I’d be dealing with ghosts.