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For the past twenty-seven years, Kayla Grayson’s mother has refused to discuss Kayla’s absent father or explain why the two of them have been alone in the world without relatives. A mysterious email sends Kayla to a Maryland beach town and her grandmother’s home, Seacliff House. There, Kayla hopes to discover who she is and why her past has been shrouded in mystery.
When Tanner Bishop discovers an old diary among his grandfather’s possessions, his interest is piqued. Some of the entries speak of Pearl, a young woman who abandoned her son and fled Maine for Maryland in 1958. The journalist in Tanner wants to know what became of Pearl once she found her way to Seacliff House. But as the woman’s great-grandson, he needs to know.
Kayla quickly learns the whereabouts of her father and meets her formidable grandmother, while Tanner investigates his own connection to Seacliff House. Through a mutual interest in searching out their roots, romance blossoms. But events that cannot be stopped are quickly set in motion—including murder and a ghost sighting—to reveal secrets of the past that threaten the couple’s hopeful future.
After driving through an open gate flanked by brick pedestals with lion statues on top, Kayla parked her car in front of the house. She and Tanner got out and looked around.
In the center of the circular driveway was a lawn of flowers and manicured grass. The feature that drew Kayla’s attention was the magnificent sandstone fountain in the middle of the grass. The beautiful design was elaborate, with its bottom half shaped like a huge Greek urn, and the top part sculpted into five fish that looked to be leaping out of the urn. Water trickled from their open mouths. Kayla wondered if the fountain had been carved out of the stone from the cliffs.
“After you,” Tanner said, gesturing her toward a swinging gate and wrought iron fence that separated the driveway from the front garden. A long sidewalk made of stone pavers cut through the yard, leading to the front door of the Gothic-style home.
“It’s more foreboding in person than from a distance, isn’t it?” he said.
“Imagine living here in winter,” Kayla replied. “It would be so isolated. It’s hard to believe my mother grew up here. I had no idea.”
Before she stepped through the gate, her ears pricked at the sound of ocean waves breaking and pounding upon the rocks below the cliff. She craned her neck over her shoulder. The edge of the cliff wasn’t far from the house. This rocky piece of real estate would be perilous for a sleepwalker.
“I feel like we’ve been thrust into a Gothic novel,” she said, silently admitting she was glad Tanner was with her. Her nerves jumped under her skin.
As they strolled along the path to the door, her gaze perused the exterior of the house. With its wrap-around porch, steeply pitched roof, pointed arched windows, board and batten siding, widow’s walk, and a tall lighthouse-like tower jutting out from one side of the house on the second level, the place reminded her of the haunted houses she’d seen in horror movies.
Seeming to read her mind, Tanner smiled and said, “Do you think this place could be haunted?”
“Don’t be silly.” She playfully slapped his arm and told herself that was nonsense. At the same time, she found herself trailing behind and letting him lead the way up the steps.
When her feet touched the porch, something caught her attention from the corner of her eye. A curtain moved slightly in one window, and she knew someone had seen them approach. Before Tanner could ring the doorbell, an elderly woman opened the door and stood staring at them, her expression anything but welcoming. She wore a straight black dress that hung like a sack on her bone-thin body. Her gray hair was pulled into a bun at her nape, and her deep-set eyes were as vacant as a doll’s.