Dark Heart Series
Genre: New adult gothic/paranormal romance
Publisher: Kensington Books
Date of Publication:February 23, 2016
Number of pages: 320
She never wanted to return.
He wants nothing more than for her to leave.
But the fire between them is as strong as the past that haunts them.
Annie Freemont grew up on the road, immersed in the romance of rare things, cultivating an eye for artifacts and a spirit for bargaining. It’s a freewheeling life she loves and plans to continue until her dad is diagnosed with dementia. His illness forces them to return to Moonhill, their ancestral home on the coast of Maine and to the family they left behind fifteen years ago, after Annie’s mother died in a suspicious accident.
Once at Moonhill, Annie is shocked when her aunt separates her from her father. The next time Annie sees him, he’s a bizarre, violent shadow of his former self.
Confused, she turns to an unlikely ally for support Chase, the dangerously seductive young groundskeeper. With his dark good looks and powerful presence, Chase has an air of mystery that Annie is irresistibly drawn to. But she also senses that behind his penetrating eyes are secrets she can’t even begin to imagine. Secrets that hold the key to the past, to Annie’s own longings and to all of their futures. Now, to unlock them, she’ll have to face her greatest fears and embrace her legacy...
“There are things darker than night, darker than the souls of wicked men or a woman of unchained passions. Believe me, for I have known them well.”
Josette Savoy Abrams
Beach Rose House. Bar Harbor, Maine
Most people went to church to save their souls, but not Dad and I. We went there to see the priest about treasure.
It was a cold day in February and the church was an abandoned stone chapel on a back road near our home in Vermont. With its gloomy stained-glass windows and carvings of gargoyles under its sagging eaves, the chapel was exactly the kind of place where antique pickers like Dad and I could find the weird treasures and the gothic furniture our customers loved to buy. And, as luck would have it, the bishop had given the local priest permission to sell the entire contents as he saw fit.
The priest glanced once more at the grungy pews and the statue of St. Anthony with its chipped fingers and peeling paint. “Now that you’ve seen everything, are you still interested?”
Dad gave my shoulder a squeeze. “What do you think, Annie?”
“Ah--” I let my voice crack as if my jitteriness was nerves instead of excitement, then I met the priest’s eyes. “One price for everything, right?”
“For all the contents. That doesn’t include anything that’s part of the structure. No windows, attached light fixtures, doors, none of those sorts of things.” His tone left no room for debate.
Dad looked down, scratching his elbow while I took a scrap of paper and a pen from the turned up sleeve of my bulky sweater. I jotted down the offer he and I had covertly agreed on when the priest had turned away for a moment, then handed it to the priest.
The priest’s brow furrowed as he studied the paper. He ran a finger under his collar, cleared his throat, and finally glanced at Dad. “Perhaps you should look at this before we agree?”
Dad waved off his suggestion. “This was her idea. The offer is hers to make.”
“All right, then,” the priest said. “We have a deal.”
I counted out a thin stack of hundreds and gave them to him. In turn, he passed Dad the church keys, all neatly labeled. The truth was, he wasn’t the sort of person who would have ever believed a twenty-year-old girl with ripped jeans and a stud in her nose could know the first thing about valuing antiques—as Dad and I had hoped.
“Sorry I can’t stay and help,” he said, “but I have to get back to St. Mary’s in time for Mass. When you’re finished taking what you want, leave the keys in the box outside the door. I hope you find enough to make this worth your effort.”
“I hope so too,” Dad said, without cracking a smile. But, as soon as the priest went out the front door, he did a little victory dance and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Perfectly played. If I’d given him an offer that low, he’d have thought I was up to something for sure.”
Every inch of me tingled with anticipation. “So, where do you want to begin?” I asked.
Dad jangled the keys. “It appears the priest neglected to give us one very specific key. The one to the only room he didn’t take us into or even mention. I don’t know about you, but that makes me curious.”
“The sacristy?” I said.
“That would be the one. Did you notice how he fidgeted with his collar, too?”
“I figured he thought everything was junk—that he was nervous I’d offered too much and that you’d back out.”
“That’s possible. But don’t ever underestimate your opponent. There could be something else behind his uneasiness. Perhaps he hid something in the sacristy, something of value he hoped the diocese would forget. Priests are men, after all. They come in all shades of honesty, like the rest of us.” He stroked his chin, a sure sign that he was about to launch into one of his home-brewed tales. “You remember the story about my wicked great-uncle Harmon and the Canary Island sirens? He always claimed to be a spiritual man, forthright and faithful to his wife. . . .”
I loved listening to Dad’s crazy stories. But, as he began an abridged version of a tale that easily could have gone on for an hour, the word faithful sent my mind veering in a different direction--to me and Taj and a matinee of Romeo and Juliet, to his practiced fingers slipping under my skirt, up my inner thighs. The rush of desire. His words hot and moist against my neck: “Oh, baby, c’mon. I want you so bad.”
Men come in all shades of honesty for sure.
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About the Author:
Pat Esden would love to say she spent her childhood in intellectual pursuits. The truth is she was fonder of exploring abandoned houses and old cemeteries. When not out on her own adventures, she can be found in her northern Vermont home writing stories about brave, smart women and the men who capture their hearts. An antique-dealing florist by trade, she’s also a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and the League of Vermont Writers. Her short stories have appeared in a number of publications, including Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, the Mythopoeic Society’s Mythic Circle literary magazine, and George H. Scither’s anthology Cat Tales.
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