Monday, December 5, 2011
YA Paranormal Romance
Where there is mystery, it is generally suspected there must also be evil.
Headlights burst from the open gate, blinding me in a flash of white.
I flinched, reaching for the dash. Seashell gravel pelted our Toyota
like rain when the oncoming car hit their brakes and veered to miss
us. Mom swerved to stop on the shoulder of the private driveway as the
other vehicle, a shiny black Vette with lots of chrome and dark
windows, roared angrily, accelerating.
“Idiot!” Mom dropped her forehead on the steering wheel.
I craned in my seat, watching the guy’s thoughtless retreat. A license
plate reading “GEOFF” in reflective blue letters disappeared into the
gloom. My heart thudded.
Mom released her breath and sat up beside me. “That was close.”
Rubber squealed in the distance as the other car spun away onto the county road.
I scowled at her calm reaction. My own instincts told me to hang my
head out the window and call the driver the name he deserved.
I rolled my neck, forcing myself to relax. “Think that was your new boss?”
“No. That definitely wasn’t Ben Ramsey’s type of vehicle.” She steered
the Toyota back onto the gravel.
“At least the jerk left the gate open for us.”
We rolled slowly past the entry’s digital keypad. The white bars
closed automatically behind us with a metallic clank as we left the
lighted gateway for the blackened woods of the estate ahead.
“I’m not sure it wasn’t my fault.” She lifted a shoulder and took her
gaze off the road to offer an embarrassed smile as she drove. “It’s
private property, and it’s night. The guy didn’t expect anyone to be
out here. He was probably Ben’s—”
The driveway curved and a mammoth building emerged from the thick
trees. Ground lights lit the ginormous pillars surrounding the white
I clamped a hand over my mouth and glanced at Mom who glared at me.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean it. But holy crap—is that Mr. Ramsey’s place?”
“Chelsea Ann!” she scolded. “Yes, this is Antonia. It’s a
plantation-style house. Our new home on the May River. What do you
think?” She pulled up the circle drive in front of the home where
ancient oak trees covered in wispy, gray Spanish moss reached over us
like twisting lace-shrouded limbs. Her eyes were wide and hopeful when
she glanced at me for my reaction and parked the car.
At the moment, I couldn’t offer my thoughts. I was out the door in a
flash. I walked backward with my head back so I could take in the
whole building. I’d lived in Atlanta, Richmond, Birmingham, but I’d
rarely seen a house as big. It was three stories high with balconies
and a huge wraparound porch. An ideal setting for a landscape
More outdoor lights flooded the lawn, highlighting sculptured hedges.
I floated along a brick walkway past short palmetto trees and ran my
fingertips along the pink petals of a flowering shrub near the porch.
An impressionist’s dream, soft and sharp textures competed against
each other. “Maybe you should write mysteries, too, Mom.”
She draped an arm around my waist and gave me a squeeze. “I’m so glad
you approve. It means a lot. But I think I’ll stick to biographies and
ghostwriting. Come on. Let me introduce you to my boss.”
Mom nearly danced up the steps leading to the big wooden double doors.
Whatever the cause of her present mood—the new job, the boss, or just
being away from my dad and his skeevy new girlfriend—maybe she
wouldn’t be sad anymore.
We would be living just like the characters from some old Civil War
movie. Except the place didn’t seem old. The porch looked brand new.
Fresh white paint. Solid. I hoped it was new. I didn’t want to deal
with sleeping under the roof of former slave-owners.
My stomach twisted as Mom rang the brass doorbell. I was a little
shaken up after our near miss with the reckless driver, and my hands
were still trembling. Why did I dread meeting Mr. Ramsey? I’d never
heard anything bad about the British author. Lots of people I knew
read his bestsellers. My grandma, for one. His readers wanted to know
more about him, but for whatever reason, he couldn’t manage to write
his own story. Too humble, I guessed. Or too boring. Mom had spent
hours chatting with him on the Internet before they’d decided to work
on his memoir together in person.
Still, I held my breath as the door opened, bracing for a guy with a
pointy black beard and a shock of white hair like a villain from a
Instead, a man wearing a blue dress shirt, unbuttoned at the collar,
and khaki trousers, blinked at us under metal-rimmed glasses. His
expression slowly smoothed from a look of utter disgust to dawning
“I’m sorry we’re late, Ben. I guess I should’ve called.”
“No. We’ve been expecting you.” His graying brown hair and wide smile
reminded me of Bill Gates. Rich and nerdy. “I was afraid you’d had car
trouble or something. Dinner’s still warm, as a matter of fact.”
“I want you to meet my daughter, Chelsea.”
Ramsey shook my hand in his cool grip. “Chelsea, I’m so very glad to
finally meet you. Come inside.”
His face didn’t register any of the shock I was used to when Mom
introduced me. Apparently she’d already clued him in about my father,
so my skin color came as no surprise.
He ushered us into the foyer, an open expanse of gleaming white marble
and crystal chandeliers. An enormous arrangement of fresh tropical
flowers towered over us. God, I would’ve loved to capture those
beauties on paper with gouache paints. But Mom grabbed my elbow and
pulled me along, trying to keep up with our host, winding through the
velvet furniture and blue-veined columns into a different room.
We washed up in the guest bathroom, where I was afraid to touch
anything for fear someone would smack my hand and say I wasn’t allowed
to handle stuff. Then we joined Mr. Ramsey in the dining room.
“So how do you like the Lowcountry so far?” He pulled out a
heavy-looking dining chair for me at the table after seating my mom. A
serving woman wearing a gray uniform brought in a covered tray, which
she set on the table, and then lifted lids off the platters already on
“The Southern area of coastal South Carolina and Georgia is called
Lowcountry.” Mom picked up a biscuit and passed the bowl to me.
Mmmm. Cheese biscuits. Was that Southern lady from TV our cook? The
woman taking care of our table had auburn hair, not white, but if
she’d made the heavenly food in front of us, I knew I would like her
“It’s okay, I guess. I’m really not sure yet.”
“It was getting dark when we arrived but we saw lots of young people
leaving Hilton Head Island. It’s a popular place, isn’t it?” Mom said
cheerily. “I mean, it’s not Myrtle Beach, but there’s plenty for
teenagers to do.”
Ramsey nodded. “Absolutely. I’ve made an appointment for Chelsea to
meet with the director of admissions at the prep school tomorrow. He’s
a friend of mine.” He lifted a piece of something covered in golden
cornmeal batter. “Fried pickle?”
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