The door to Addison Lockhart's room opens. Six-year-old Sara Belle walks in. The child seems lost and confused. Addison reaches out, grabs Sara's hand, and the room goes black.
Addison's eyes open to find she's been transported several decades into the past. She's sitting in the back seat of a car. Sara is beside her. The car stops at an intersection. Moments later another vehicle in the opposite direction barrels through the stop sign, slamming into the car before jerking the vehicle into reverse and fleeing the scene. Who is the driver of the other car? And what secrets within the walls of Belle Manor provide the answer to little Sara's untimely demise?
If you enjoy a mystery with a supernatural twist, you'll enjoy this fast-paced, bestselling series written by a New York Times bestselling author.
Release date: February 29, 2020
Publisher: Pixie Publishing
Print pages: 195
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Belle Manor Haunting
Addison Lockhart was holding a jar of tomato sauce in her hand when her water broke. She’d been shopping at the local grocery store when her unborn child decided she’d grown a bit tired of sitting inside of a stuffy womb for so many months. She was ready to make her grand entrance into the world, even if it was nine days ahead of schedule.
Shocked and unprepared, Addison stood for a moment, frozen, staring down at the combination of tomato sauce, glass, and amniotic fluid that had splattered all over the supermarket floor.
A young male employee stepped into the aisle, glancing at the mess as if confused about what to do next.
He looked at Addison and said, “Ma’am, are you all right?”
She stared at him and then tipped her head toward the wet patch on her dress. “I don’t think so. It seems my baby’s coming.”
The employee’s eyes widened, and he held his hands in front of him. “I … ahh … you just wait here. I’ll get someone to help.”
He scampered off, and moments later, a voice came over the store’s intercom requesting a cleanup on aisle three. Addison reached down, attempting and failing to grab her purse at the bottom of the shopping cart before a sharp pain ripped across her abdomen. She gripped the cart’s handle in her trembling hands, trying her best to breathe through it.
I can do this. It’s just a contraction. All I need to do is breathe through it, and everything will be all right.
If only she believed it.
A bit farther down the aisle, an elderly woman rushed to Addison’s side. The woman leaned over the cart, lifting the purse like it weighed nothing. She handed the bag to Addison and said, “Here you go, hun.”
Addison forced a smile. “Thanks for your help.” Then she unzipped the top of her purse, fumbled around for her cell phone, pressed the first number on her speed dial, and waited for the call to go through.
Seconds later, Luke answered, saying, “I was just getting ready to call you. Want to grab lunch somewhere?”
“I think I’m in labor. My water just broke.”
“Already? Where are you?”
“I’m at Fresh Pantry, the one by our place.”
“I’m on my way. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
Addison ended the call, slid the phone back inside her purse, and slung the purse over her shoulder. She glanced over to see the elderly woman still standing by her side, smiling.
“Is this your first baby?” the woman asked.
The woman reached out, patting Addison’s hand. “Now, don’t you worry. Everything is going to work out. How about I walk you to the front door and wait with you until your ride gets here?”
“I appreciate your help. I think I can make it.”
Addison abandoned the cart and started walking toward the end of the aisle. Several steps in, another wave of contractions began. Addison bent down and reached out, clutching the shelf next to her.
The woman wrapped an arm around her and said, “Let’s get you through this one, and I’ll help you get where you need to be. Okay?”
The woman remained by Addison’s side, humming a soothing tune as they made their way to the door. The tune seemed familiar. Addison was sure she’d heard it before—somewhere. She glanced over, giving the woman a closer look. She estimated the woman to be in her eighties, and she had short, gray hair styled into a messy pixie cut. The woman was thin but much stronger than she appeared.
They walked outside, and the woman guided her to a bench. They both sat down. Addison turned toward the woman. “I didn’t think my baby was coming yet or I wouldn’t have gone to the store today.”
“Hard to know with babies, isn’t it? They’re unpredictable little bundles. You have a name picked out yet?”
Addison nodded. “Amara Jane.”
“It’s lovely. How did you choose it?”
“It may sound strange, but her name just came to me one day.”
Addison thought back to the day of her grandmother’s funeral. As she left the graveyard, a breeze had kicked up out of nowhere, and with it, Addison swore she’d heard someone whisper “Amara.” As her pregnancy progressed, Addison and Luke considered several names, but no matter which ones they liked, she always came back to Amara.
“Do you have any children?” Addison asked.
“A daughter, a son, and one granddaughter.”
“I’m Addison, by the way. What’s your name?”
“Josephine. You can call me Jo.”
“Do you live around here?”
“Not far. I always thought I’d move on from this place one day, take a journey, see the world, but I’ve always found it hard to be away from my children for long.”
“My father feels the same way. He just bought the house next door to ours.”
“Do you mind him being so close?”
Addison shook her head. “Not at all. I love my husband, but my dad is the only family I have left.”
A car raced into the parking lot, not bothering to brake when it hit the speed bump near the store’s entrance.
“I’m guessing your ride’s here,” the woman said.
Addison stood. “It is. Thanks again for looking out for me today. I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t there.”
“You would have been just fine, but I was happy to help. Maybe one day we’ll meet again, and you can return the favor.”
Luke jerked the car to a stop next to Addison, hopped out, and rushed around the side. He jerked the passenger-side door open and eyed Addison. Then he placed his hands on her shoulders and squeezed. “How are you doing? Are you okay? I mean, are you all right? Are you in pain? What can I do? I’m here. Just tell me. Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.”
Addison grinned. “For starters, you can ease up on your grip a bit and calm down.”
“Calm down. Right. Sorry.”
He helped her into the car, buckled her into the seat belt, and raced to the driver’s seat.
“I know how much you want to hurry,” Addison said, “but let’s just concentrate on getting there safely, okay?”
Luke had always been the calm, collected type, while Addison had always considered herself to be a bit unsure about things and scattered. Seeing his cork come undone shouldn’t have been satisfying, but somehow, it was.
“How are you feeling?” Luke asked.
“I’ve had a couple of contractions since my water broke. I honestly didn’t know what to do, and then this sweet woman offered to help me. She walked me outside and stayed with me until you got here.”
“Too bad I didn’t get the chance to thank her.”
“I’m sorry. I was concentrating so much on getting out of there, I didn’t give it much thought. I should have. She was sitting right next to me.”
“Just now. On the bench when you pulled up.”
He shook his head, confused. “Sweetie, I saw you as soon as I drove in. You were alone on the bench. There was no one else with you.”
Four hours later Amara Jane entered the world at seven pounds, one ounce. After bundling her tiny frame inside a blanket, the nurse placed her in Addison’s arms. Addison stared down into the bright, sparkling eyes of her newborn daughter, feeling a rush of overwhelming joy and love. A kind of love she’d never experienced before—not like this.
Addison reflected on how much had changed in her life over the last few years. Following her mother’s death, she’d learned of Grayson Manor, a home she’d inherited in Rhinebeck, New York. It was there she’d first met Luke and reconnected with her grandmother, Marjorie, who had made Addison aware of who she was, and the supernatural power the women in their family possessed.
Addison now understood why her mother had kept her from becoming who she was meant to be all those years ago. She’d tried to protect her, but she hadn’t protected her at all. Even as a child, Addison had still experienced visions and saw things she couldn’t explain. Looking back on it now, Addison made a promise to herself. She wouldn’t allow her own child to suffer as she had. She’d raise her from the start knowing who she was, the power she held, and what she would become.
Luke slipped his hand inside Addison’s and bent down, kissing Amara Jane on the forehead. He brushed a wisp of Addison’s hair off her face and said, “You look tired. You should get some sleep.”
“I know,” Addison replied. “All I want to do is hold her in my arms and never let go. I have no idea how I’m going to handle being away from her one day. Is that weird? I mean, she just arrived, and already I can’t imagine a day where I have to let her go out on her own in the world.”
Luke squeezed Addison’s hand. “It’s not weird. I understand. I feel … I don’t know how to describe it. Having our little one has made our lives so—”
“Complete?” Addison suggested.
He nodded. “Yeah, complete. We’re our own family now.”
“I have been keeping her all to myself since the nurse handed her off to me. You’re right, though. I should get some rest. I know you’ve waited for your turn with her. Ready to take her?”
Luke nodded and bent down, lifting Amara Jane into his arms. “Looks like she’s waking up. Why don’t I walk her in the hall for a while?”
Addison nodded. “All right.”
Father and daughter left the room. A few minutes later, the door creaked open. Addison opened her eyes and looked over, wondering why Luke had returned so soon. She was surprised to find he wasn’t the one who’d entered the room. Standing in front of her was a little girl who looked to be around six years old. Her long, brown hair was in pigtails, and she wore a pink zip-up jacket and matching pink pants. Her arms were clutched around a stained, ratty-looking, brown teddy bear.
The child blinked at Addison and said, “I can’t find Scarlett. I think she’s lost. She said she’d come back, and she didn’t. Do you know where she is?”
Addison sat up. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I don’t know Scarlett.”
The girl nodded and then burst into tears.
“It’s going to be all right,” Addison said. “Is Scarlett your sister?”
“She’s my nanny. She takes care of me sometimes.”
“Why is she in the hospital? Did something happen?”
The girl shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t remember. I’m scared.”
“You don’t have to be scared. I’m sure she’s not far. What’s your name?”
Sara sniffled and said, “Why are you in the hospital? Are you hurt?”
“I just had a baby.”
Addison pushed her blanket to the side, wincing in discomfort as she scooted off the bed, and bent down toward Sara. “How about we go find Scarlett together? I bet if we talk to one of the nurses, they’ll know where to find her.”
Sara shrugged. “Okay, but I talk to them, and they don’t talk back.”
The comment seemed odd, and when Addison reached a hand out to Sara, she discovered why. Sara took her hand, and the room went black.
Addison glanced around, taking in the strange surroundings. One thing was certain: she was no longer in a hospital room. At present, she was in the back seat of what appeared to be a vintage car. Sara was seated next to her with her arms wrapped around the same teddy bear she’d been holding moments before.
The car’s speakers blasted Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” at full volume, and in the front seat, a college-aged boy and girl attempted to sing along. The girl was in the driver’s seat, and the boy was next to her, bouncing one of his tan, suede boots on the car’s dashboard. The song came to an end, and when the next one began, the girl leaned over and switched the radio off.
The boy glared at her, annoyed. “What did you do that for? I liked that song. It’s groovy, baby.”
“Yeah, well, I’m tired of it. They play it all the time. I won’t be able to get it out of my head for the rest of the day now.”
He laughed. “Yeah, well, that’s why it’s so good, and you’re not the only one in the car, you know. Maybe we should put it to a vote.”
The girl looked over her shoulder at Sara and said, “What do you think, hun? Do you want the radio on or off?”
Sara thought about it. “I want ice cream.”
“Good answer,” the boy said. “I want ice cream, too, just as soon as the song is over.”
He reached over and turned the radio back on. The girl rolled her eyes, but this time, she gave in to his wishes.
It seemed Addison was in one of Sara’s memories. If so, she assumed Sara brought her there for a reason, to show Addison something she wanted her to see.
Addison turned toward Sara. “Where are we? Why have you taken me back to this particular memory?”
Sara didn’t respond.
“Sara, can you hear me?” Addison asked. “What is it you want me to see? It’s okay. You can tell me. Whatever happened before, you’re safe now.”
When there was still no reply, Addison tried placing a hand on Sara’s shoulder, but her hand swiped right through it.
Sara turned toward Addison, pressed a finger to her own lips, and said, “Shhh. Just wait. We’re almost there.”
“Wait for what? What’s about to happen?”
“You’ll see,” Sara said.
The boy up front leaned over and kissed the girl on the cheek. “Hey, baby, how about we go to the drive-in and see American Graffiti after you put the little one to bed?”
“I can’t,” the girl said. “Not tonight.”
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