Fifteen year-old Adley Lange has yet to learn that something sinister haunts her grandmother's old mansion and hides in a dark portal beneath her bed. And the demonic being born of a generational curse does more than put Adley in a continual bad mood. It kills the first born child in each succeeding family by their 16th birthday--and Adley's birthday is just around the corner! She meets seventeen year-old Victor Trumillo, a descendant of the original victim, and only he can destroy the hideous creature. Victor and Adley want to end the curse and save future lives, but will they succumb to fear just as they may have discovered true love?


Chapter Two EXCERPT

Caroline started toward a set of French doors that led to a partially covered patio, but Adley stood still and kept her eyes on the door leading back to the kitchen.

“Did you hear that?” she asked.

“Hear what, honey?” Caroline said.

“I don’t know.” Adley looked up at the ceiling. “I thought I heard something knocking or tapping. It came from the kitchen but like…above it.”

“It’s probably your dad carrying the luggage up.” “Huh,” Adley said.

The view outside the French doors claimed her attention. The breathtaking landscape she remembered as a child had served as a living watercolor, a masterpiece of flowers and shrubbery filled with cozy nooks for playing hide and seek. Now tall weeds, dead grass, and plenty of dried brush supplanted Adley’s memory.

A few odd spatterings of wildflowers reminded the Lange’s of the love that once thrived at the old manor.

Adley caught up to her mother who had walked farther across the expansive living area. She shivered and happened to notice her mother rubbing her arms.

“This place is pretty, but it always felt creepy to me.”

“C’mon. Let’s go over here,” Caroline said, ignoring the remark.

Adley stayed close to her mother as they passed a table and four chairs centered before a huge bay window. Instead of turning right, back to the entry, they walked down an L shaped corridor at the end of the family room and found a spacious maid’s quarters.

“If your grandmother wanted to entice a live-in helper this suite and bathroom would have done the trick,” Caroline said. “It even has its own kitchenette.”

“What are you talking about? I thought she didn’t want to hire anybody.”

“It’s nothing, really. It’s just that Grandma Aggie had a hard time finding a gardener and housekeeper after her accident.”

Adley would have made a snide remark, but her nerves were on edge after walking through the house.

Caroline and Adley backtracked and meandered through the formal living room filled with impressive antique pieces. 

They found themselves back in the foyer where Roger stood. Two straps of smaller cases crisscrossed his chest and a leather golf bag swung over his back. He held two of the largest bags in each hand. Suitcases flanked him on either side. “Can I stay in the big room downstairs?” Adley asked.

Her parents glanced at each other. “The maid’s room isn’t furnished with more than a few odd pieces, and I don’t want your dad to spend his summer moving furniture,” Caroline said.

Adley quickly offered a suggestion to make the large suite her own. “I can move the furniture.”

“Not these big antique pieces. Besides, there are plenty of rooms upstairs,” her father said.

Adley stomped her foot and fisted her hands at her waist. “It’s not like I’m a little kid. I’m almost sixteen years old!”

“End of discussion,” Roger said. “Now everyone grab a box or a bag and follow me.” He started up the stairs, his back to his wife and daughter. Adley opened her mouth and her father said, “Not another word, young lady.”

Adley clamped her lips shut, yanked on a piece of luggage, and followed her parents up the stairs. The suitcase knocked against each of the steps. Roger paused at the mid-way landing and hefted one of the smaller suitcases to get a better hold.

“Dad, did you put anything upstairs yet?”

“Not yet. Follow me, girls.”

Adley stole a glimpse at her mother, but Caroline showed no concern and trailed her husband with two small make-up bags.

Adley stayed close to the ornate iron handrails. A chipped tile provided a reminder that her grandmother had fallen down these very steps. The nearer she came to the top floor, the more uneasy she felt. Maybe this place really was haunted. Maybe Grandma Aggie’s spirit cherished her home so much, she didn’t want to leave. That wouldn’t have bothered Adley if the mansion didn’t feel so scary.

The alcove on the left of the stairwell marked the entry to the master suite on the east wing, Grandma Aggie’s former quarters. From her last visit, Adley remembered that two of the four rooms on one side of the hall faced the back yard, with an immense bathroom between them. The other two rooms faced the front yard and were separated by yet another restroom. Adley looked down the long hallway of the west wing.

A lone window marked the farthest point of the house, and the area was slightly darkened in shadow.

“Roger, will you put Adley’s bags in the room next to ours?” Caroline asked, startling Adley from her observation.

She and her parents set down the suitcases just inside the master bedroom.

“I don’t need to take the room next to yours. I’m not a little kid. I’d rather have the big room at the end of the hall. Dad said it’s been redecorated since our last visit.”

The idea of being in a newly decorated room wasn’t what made it Adley’s choice. It was the farthest room from the master suite. Lately, her parents were constantly nagging and treated her like she was a burden. Adley wanted to be as far away from them as possible.

“I’m not sure about you having that room,” Caroline said, and she looked at Roger for support.

“I’d feel better with you closer to our room, too,” her dad said.

Adley argued her point. “I’m being forced to live in the middle of the high desert during my school vacation in a house someone died in. I should be able to pick the room I want.”

“This is a big house, honey,” her mother said. “I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable sleeping near Dad and me.”

“That room is all the way on the other side of the house, Dee—I mean, Adley,” Roger promptly corrected. “If there was a fire or worse—”

His daughter rudely interrupted. “If someone breaks in or if my room catches fire I’ll scream my lungs out.”

“Believe me, we’re well aware of your lung capacity, but—”

Adley’s volume increased with the interruption. “I deserve to have that room in exchange for all the sacrifices I have to make by being here!”

“Now listen, Deedee,” her father said in his soft voice, but Adley screeched her reply.

“My name is Adley! Why can’t anyone respect what I want, like being called by my name? It’s Adley!” she shouted again.

“You need to watch your tone, young lady,” her father said.

Caroline closed her eyes for a brief moment. “Grandma Aggie didn’t get around to buying a new bed for that room,” she said evenly. “And even though she had the room refurnished, I don’t think she wanted anyone to use it.”

Adley felt her anger boil within. It shot into her balled up fists and tightened her facial muscles, a convincing sign of an impending outburst. She screeched every word of her upset.

“I’m not a little girl—I’m a teenager! And Grandma’s not here anymore, so it’s not like she’d care! There’s no reason why I shouldn’t have that room!”

“All right! All right!” Her mother raised her hands and relented. “Go ahead and take it!”

Roger shook his head and started to unpack a bag.

Adley lifted her nose above her haughty smile. Although it didn’t feel good to shout at her parents, she still did a little victory dance along the carpet toward the other end of the hall, resembling a grade-schooler more than the teenager she claimed to be.

☣☣☣

Adley noticed that, unlike all the other doors in the house fitted with elaborate crystal knobs, a piece of old silver hardware embellished the door to her new room. She took a firm hold of the ornate L-shaped handle, and the metal chilled her fingers. Her hand jerked back. Every part of her skin that touched the ice-cold handle looked practically frost-bitten. No wonder the knobs on all the other doors were different. Grandma Aggie must have forgotten to replace this one.

It didn’t matter why the fixture was freezing to the touch. If Adley complained about it, her parents were sure to make a stink and use it as an excuse to keep her from taking the room. She tucked her hand into the cuff of her long sleeved T-shirt and pulled down on the handle. The fixture clicked, and the door slowly opened.

It felt like she stood in front of a freezer door. The burst of arctic air felt like the same icy breath as when her father first opened the front door. Adley shivered, chilled from head to toe, and hesitated. The room had been closed off for a long time and that had to be why she felt a sudden chill when she opened the door.

Adley looked back down the hall. Her parents stood at their bedroom door watching her, as if ready to change their minds about letting her have a room so far from theirs.

Maybe they also felt like she did in that moment, as if it was a big mistake for her to take a single step into the room.