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Thirty-seven-year-old painter Cassandra Mitchell is fourth-generation to live in the majestic Battersea Bluffs, a brooding Queen Anne home originally built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, and still standing despite tragedies that have swept the generations. Local lore has it that there was a curse placed on the family and the house is haunted, though opinions are divided on whether it's by malicious or benevolent spirits. Cassie believes the latter―but now she stands to lose her beloved home to mounting debt and the machinations of her dream-weaving ex-husband.
Salvation seems to arrive when a nomadic young couple wanders onto the property with the promise of companionship and much-needed help―until they vanish without a trace, leaving behind no clue to their identities. Cassie is devastated, but determined to discover what's happened to the young couple...even as digging into their disappearance starts to uncover family secrets of her own. Despite warnings from her childhood friend, now the local Chief of Police―as well as an FBI agent who pushes the boundaries of professionalism―Cassie can't help following the trail of clues (and eerie signals from the old house itself) to unravel the mystery. But can she do so before her family's dark curse destroys everything in its path?
Present day ~ Whale Rock, Massachusetts ~ Cape Cod
September ~ three days since the disappearance
Back at home, I took a good look at my beloved Battersea Bluffs, with its towering widow’s walk, double chimneys, and impressive wrap-around porch. It had become part of Whale Rock’s lore that the majestic Victorian sitting high above the cliffs on the craggy northern end of town was possessed by the spirits of my great- grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, its original owners. The legend evolved from a rumor initiated by my father when he was trying to take back his rightful home. It had been a successful strategy, but he could never have guessed how prophetic his fable would become—or maybe he’d already sensed the mysterious aspects of the old house. To be fair, Papa and I had never discussed the lurking scents and sounds presented by the spirits sharing our home.
I unlatched the gate, to a warm greeting of soft whimpers and an exuberant tail.
“You’re missing them too, aren’t ya, buddy?” I reached down to stroke the German shepherd’s glossy black fur, those usually erect ears momentarily relaxed. I widened the gate.
I followed the dog to the ledge of Percy’s Bluffs, so named after my great-grandfather’s dramatic leap from the cliffs overlooking Cape Cod Bay. I stared down to where the waves were crashing against the rocks below. Through the years, this spot had become my refuge, where I’d come to contemplate decisions or brood over troubles. Exhausted and numb, I sank to the ground and idly fingered an abandoned champagne cork, probably left here the night Vince and Ashley moved in with me. We’d brought a bottle down to the cliffs to toast our new alliance and the home they were going to help me save. I closed my eyes to bring to memory the feel of the fizzy liquid against my tongue, the first I’d tasted in years. There’d not been much to celebrate in recent times. But that night, a sense of hope had returned to me.
About the Author:
When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey, and their beloved Mr. Peabody, a sweet, devoted and amusing “Corgador”.
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