Only 16 days until release day! That means teaser time. 😀
I loved writing Royal Enchantment. It’s fun, sexy and full of action. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as I do. Here is the first part of chapter one. Come back on Friday for the second half.
Get the buy links HERE
There it is.
A thrill skittered up Ava’s spine as she parked her Audi in the gravel driveway of a Victorian tucked in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beautiful didn’t seem like the right word to even begin to describe it. Three stories of grey stone with green moss growing up one side loomed over her.
Emerging from her car, she gathered her purse and pulled out the keys to the home. While the outside looked decent enough, she feared the inside needed a lot of work. After all, it’d been empty for almost a decade. But it was the gamble she took when buying the place without doing a walk-through, which her business partner had said she was crazy for doing.
She did, however, ask the seller why it’d been empty for so long. All they said was that the family simply didn’t want to deal with it.
Ava didn’t know what it was, nor did she care. She’d bought the house to flip. And that was what she was going to do. She just hoped she hadn’t bitten off more than she could chew.
She tested each porch step before putting her weight on them. Hmm, pretty sturdy. Once inside, she scanned the foyer that was bigger than her one-bedroom apartment. Dark, hardwood floors stretched on to a staircase wide enough for four people to walk up side by side. About halfway to the second level, the stairs split into two different sets of steps, each leading to opposite sides of the house.
Glancing up, she gasped at the elegant and very large crystal chandelier. Man, she wished the electricity was already on. She could only imagine how beautiful it was illuminating the entryway.
Jeff, her business partner, had said she was crazy for wasting money on the place. But she couldn’t pass it by. It was weird, but she got the feeling that she needed to buy the house, almost like it called out to her. So she’d purchased it with her own money. Sight unseen. Thanks to the inheritance from her parents.
She climbed the stairs and admired the hand-carved rose vine wrapping around the wood rails. Beautiful and detailed. Quickening her steps, she made it to the top of the north wing in record time. Excitement stirred up the butterflies in her belly at what secrets the house might hold. And there were secrets. All old houses had them.
Each room she passed had the same layout, but they were each unique in their design. Color-coded from the walls, to the carpet, drapes, and bedding. Wow. Had it been a B&B?
She came to a closed door at the end of the hallway. It was smaller than the other doors, and oddly placed, like it could be a closet. When she tried to open it, she found it was locked. Studying the handle, she noticed that it was the type that took a skeleton key. There weren’t many of those locks these days, and she hadn’t met one she couldn’t break in to.
Ava pulled a hairpin from her bun. She’d picked locks like this one in her grandmother’s old house all the time when her cousins had tried to keep her out of their rooms.
It was all in the wrist… The lock didn’t release. Hmm. She tried again with no luck.
Damn. She stepped back and scanned the door. The hinges were on the inside. Odd.
Just then, her cell rang. Turning from the door, she pulled the smartphone out and answered. “Ava Green speaking.”
Kathy, her office assistant, hesitated for a moment before speaking. “Jeff fired me.”
“What! He can’t do that.”
“That’s what I said when he called me to tell me not to bother coming in.” Kathy released a heavy sigh. “I thought he was joking or mad at you for buying that house. So I went into the office.”
Dread slammed into Ava’s gut, burning a trail of cold fear through her. “What happened?”
“The place was cleaned out. Furniture, computers, clients’ files…”
Ava leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. She and Jeff had been friends for as long as she could remember, and business partners for five years. Sure, he had been having issues with his marriage. But the separation had gone pretty smoothly. Well, as far as Ava knew, anyway. It didn’t make sense for him to screw her over. She wasn’t divorcing him!
“Maybe he found a new office and wanted to surprise me.”
A grunt from Kathy soured Ava’s mood further. “You are a very smart woman. I know you don’t believe that.”
“I don’t understand why he’d do something like this.” Ava searched her memories for signs she may have missed that would have told her this was coming. She’d dismissed his behavior change, blaming it on his separation and pending divorce. Not once had he come into the office smelling of alcohol. Could he have been using drugs? Wouldn’t she have known?
Then she remembered the argument they’d had over buying the Victorian she currently sat in. He’d told her they didn’t have the funds in the Line of Credit for it. At the time, she thought he was just being difficult because he wasn’t getting what he wanted.
“I’m here.” Ava stood and moved to the stairs. She’d left her computer in the car in all the excitement of seeing the inside of the house. “I hope Jeff didn’t screw me royally, because I don’t have the money to start up another company.”
Fucking jerk was going to pay. She’d have to go back to working for a larger realty company until she saved up enough funds to start over.
“I know. I’m just lucky that Frank has a secure job and is able to support both of us.” Kathy sighed again. Or was it a sob? Ava’s chest tightened.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. None of this is your fault. I’ll be in touch.” Kathy hung up.
Ava descended the stairs with a heavy heart. She punched in Jeff’s number and waited. A recording came on saying the number was no longer in service. Figures. Deep down, she knew Jeff had screwed her and skipped town. She couldn’t explain it. Her intuition had always been spot on. This time, the knowing was too strong. It also told her that there was something much larger going on.
Her phone rang again. Well, wasn’t she the popular one? “Hello.”
“Ava?” A female voice on the edge of tears stilled her as she stepped off the last stair.
“Alice, are you okay?”
Alice was Jeff’s soon-to-be ex-wife. Even though they weren’t close friends, they still talked on occasion, mostly about Jeff being a jerk. Alice sniffed once before answering Ava’s question. “Jeff…had an accident.”
Oh, dear God. Ava sank down to sit on the bottom step. “Is he…?”
“He’s dead.” Alice broke into sobs.
Ava squeezed the phone to her ear, not believing that her friend was dead. “What happened?”
After several long moments, the other woman answered. “He was shot.”
“Wait. You said he had an accident.”
Another sniff, then her soft reply. “Yes. I mean… He was shot which caused the wreck.”
Apparently, Alice was confused and in shock. As was Ava. But there were too many questions whirling in her mind, and they kept the grief at bay. Then again, she hadn’t been married to the man for fifteen plus years. “Are you alone? You should be with family.”
“I’m with my mom and sisters.”
“Good.” Another ache shot through Ava’s chest. The one thing she both loved and hated about her life was that she didn’t have any living family. No one to mourn her if she disappeared or died. No one to fight with or to love. In fact, she’d made it her mission to not get attached to people. She could pick up everything and move on at a moment’s notice.
Something her parents had done every couple of years. It just seemed natural to her to move. That was another reason she’d bought the house for no good reason.
However, her life was lonely and sad at times.
“Alice, if you need anything, just call me.”
There was a softer whisper of a “Thank you” before the line went silent. Tears filled Ava’s eyes. Her earlier anger was whisked away, replaced with a sadness she knew too well. Jeff was gone. How? Why?
Opening the local news app on her phone, Eva scrolled to see if there was anything on Jeff’s shooting. After about five minutes of scrolling and searching, she found it. The police said it was a possible drive-by.
Man, of all the dumb luck. She logged into her bank app and her password didn’t work. After trying two more times, she gave up and called the branch. When the rep answered, Ava gave him all her information. The rep said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but that account has been closed.”
“A few minutes ago.”
Ava frowned. How does a dead guy close an account? Or did he? “Who closed it?”
“Thank you.” Ava hung up the phone and squeezed it. The business was in Jeff’s name, and there was no official agreement between him and Ava. A mistake she was currently paying for. All Alice had to do was show the death certificate to close the account. But even that thought didn’t hold much water with Ava. Something weird was going on.
Ava let out a frustrated growl. Damnit. Why was she so naive and stupid?
“Why can’t I just be swallowed by the earth or something?” Rising to her feet, she climbed back up the stairs, and before she realized it, she was standing outside the locked door again. It bothered her that she couldn’t get in. But it was just like her to obsess over something like that. Besides, it didn’t make any sense why the door was locked.
She turned and sighed. She really had other things to worry about. One of them was moving her things to the house. It seemed she was out of a job, and had depleated a large chunk of her savings buying the house outright instead of taking a mortgage on it.
You’re in deep now. Might as well push ahead and make the best out of the crap situation. Damn Jeff. She’d trusted him.
When she reached the stairs, she spotted something on the floor, a reflection of light like a prism. She bent down to take a closer look and discovered a glass skeleton key sticking out from behind the railing post. It was about four inches long and made of thick glass with a skull on the top. The bottom key portion looked like…well, human teeth.
She picked it up and tested the weight. A couple of ounces, she guessed. Studying it for several moments, she wondered where it had come from. Her thoughts turned to the locked door. No. That would be too easy. However, it was a skeleton key. Literally in this case.
What did she have to lose? Pivoting on her heels, she walked to the door, glad no one was around to witness her state of crazy.
She took a deep breath and stuck the key into the lock. Turned. A click sounded a moment before the door swung open. A smile lifted her lips, but it was short-lived as she stared out into a forest. What-the-ever-loving-freaking-hell?
Instantly, she closed the door. Surely she was seeing things and needed to call a shrink. Hell, maybe just go to the nearest liquor store.
Okay, Ava. You’re not crazy. You may be a little weird at times, but you are not crazy.
She opened the door again and let it swing wide. Holy crap. There really was a forest in one of her upstairs rooms. Well, she had asked for the earth to swallow her. She laughed at her attempt at a joke and stepped through the door.
Once she crossed the threshold, the door vanished behind her. Whirling around, she scanned her surroundings. Nothing but trees, bushes, and a whole lot of nature. The house was gone. Everything was so green and full of life, almost magickal.
I’m definitely not in Georgia anymore.
© Lia Davis 2016 All Rights Reserved.