Anita Higman

 

 

ANITA HIGMAN loves good movies, traveling to exotic places, and inviting her friends over for brunch. She is a best-selling and award-winning author of forty books, and she’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston. She has a BA degree in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita would love to hear from you. Please visit her website at www.anitahigman.com and drop her a note by clicking the “Contact Me” button.

My Sweaty Little Grasp

By Anita Higman

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b (NIV)

Life can be like a pretty yellow kite, soaring and dipping in the breeze, but that same kite can also plummet to the earth in an unexpected gust, breaking it into pretty yellow pieces.            In other words, I can’t fully control the kite. It’s controlled by the currents that are out of my reach. The kite string may be in my sweaty little grasp, but its final destination is anyone’s guess.

That was a lesson I learned when I traveled to Australia to meet up with my husband who was working there temporarily on assignment. I left the house, knowing I wouldn’t be back for three weeks, so I planned for every kind of troubling scenario. I made sure all the faucets weren’t dripping. Check. Gates closed. Check. Electrical devices unplugged. Check. Windows and doors locked, alarm system armed. Check.

To be honest, my slight case of OCD flared up into quite a blaze. After I checked and rechecked everything as best I could, I finally let the house go. When the driver picked me up to take me to the airport, I felt satisfied that our home was somewhat disaster-proof. Yeah, right. Not even close. There was no way I could have known that my husband and I would have to fly home from Australia early because Hurricane Ike would hit our neighborhood and ruin one of the rooms in our house. It was impossible to plan for everything because I never really had our home under my control. Not even for a minute. I only thought I did.

The spiritual lesson here was hard to miss. Only God was and is in control of our house, my life, this world. We cannot know what tomorrow will bring, whether our pretty yellow kite will soar into the sky or smash into bits, but I do know God has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He will always be right here, holding us and helping us, ever by our sides working things for good no matter what life may bring. These are the kind of promises the world loves to make, but only the Almighty can keep.

Lord Jesus, I thank you that even in this fallen and broken world, you will never leave us or forsake us. Amen.

 See below for the first chapter of Another Stab at Life

 

A dying wish alters the course of a young woman’s life.

Life hadn’t been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness—caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother’s bookstore—she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only tries she had at love… didn’t turn out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something—or someone.

Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer’s past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

With lovable characters and surprising twists, Summer’s List is a simple delight. AMAZON

 

Trudie Abernathy is a little inelegant and she’s never had much luck in love. To make matters worse, her thirtieth birthday is fast approaching and her sister, Lane, has decided to “treat” her to a makeover and a few blind dates. Trudie is about to protest, but then she meets the kind and handsome Mason Wimberley.

In spite of her dowdy appearance and sometimes awkward manner, Mason finds Trudie attractive, funny, and smart. But Lane inexplicably pushes Trudie away from Mason and toward the other willing suitor.

The makeover has transformed Trudie from ordinary into stunning but she isn’t sure how she feels about all the attention from men. Can Trudie stay true to her humble self and find her heart’s desire in the process? AMAZON

 

Holly Goodnight’s store has just been voted best Christmas shop in America. All the publicity draws flamboyant novelist Van Keaton to the cozy town of Noel, Missouri, demanding to write Holly’s story—a dramatic tale of misfortune and triumph. She is swept up in his world of beautiful words until a local named Owen Quigly launches a plan to win her back—not just as Holly’s dearest and oldest friend—but as the love of his life. AMAZON

 

 

Lily Winter’s wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily’s lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger to her—a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she’d been hiding for decades—Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were babies. Without looking back, Lily embarks on a quest to find her sister, which takes her all the way to Melbourne, Australia. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to reconciliation and to the one dream she no longer imagined possible—the chance to fall in love again. AMAZON

 

 A Merry Little Christmas is about Franny Martin—a woman who isn’t afraid to dream big. But most of all, A Merry Little Christmas is a love story about two people who come from different worlds. Charlie is all wealth and polish while Franny is a simple farm girl who has more spirit than money. In the process of making a “trading places” arrangement between them, they unearth some discoveries of the heart—that sometimes love comes when you’re least ready for it, and that love can bring the most impossible dreams within reach.
Make yourself merry this holiday season with A Merry Little Christmas! AMAZON

 

 

 

 
 
 

Larkspur Dreams, The Love Song, Castles in the Air

 

Two opposite teenage girls agree to a social experiment that is meant to breach the invisible walls of high school cliques. One girl is an in-your-face, flaming diva named Audrey Slater, and the other girl is a dejected outcast named Piper Collins. After they agree to participate in this curious human test, will Audrey and Piper clash and self-destruct or could it bring Audrey and Piper to place of understanding and enduring friendship?

AMAZON

 

When Anne’s mother agrees to marry a wealthy, mysterious man, she expects a nice mansion in the hills. But their new home, Belrose Abbey, is more like a castle—imposing, cold, and full of shadows. The more Anne explores the corridors and vacant rooms and dusty crannies, the more she discovers about the abbey’s master—her soon-to-be stepfather—Ivan Helsburg. As her mother’s wedding draws closer, Anne begins to harbor a creeping suspicion that all is not well at Belrose Abbey.

KINDLE

 

In the time it takes for a villain to breathe his last, Anne and her mother, Dauphine, suddenly inherit Belrose Abbey—a gothic castle set on a monstrous estate, complete with devious servants, mysterious forests, and the darkest of secrets. The more they settle into their new home, the more unsettling the house becomes. What do all the unmarked graves mean? Where are all the people who had arrived on the estate but then vanished? And could there really be an abandoned insane asylum on the property? Although Anne and Dauphine are determined to purge all the horrors from Belrose Abbey, this new mystery could very well be their undoing… AMAZON

 

Lucy O’Brien is about to be given ten millions dollars and a chance to live a life she never imagined. Will this new found wealth be Lucy’s undoing, or can she rise above the temptations within high society and choose to become a nobler version of herself? And will the solitary Andrew Whitfield—a man who watches over Lucy as she adapts to her new lifestyle—cause her to close the door on her dreams or be the key that opens the rest of Lucy’s destiny?

KINDLE

 

Olivia Lamington—a recluse who’s just inherited an estate from her employer—meets Noah Hansel, the rightful heir to the estate and a man everyone thought was dead. At first Noah may appear like another enemy from her past, but little by little he turns her gray skies into a glimpse of heaven and offers her a truth she’d only dreamed of—that love is the best homecoming of all. Previously published by Harlequin as Home At Last

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#1 – In order to honor her grandmother’s wishes and stay at Volstead Manor Bailey must unravel a string of mysteries and secrets, which all seem determined to stay happily ever buried. AMAZON

#2 – WHERE BAILEY WALKER LIVES, BEING NEIGHBORLY TAKES ON A WHOLE NEW MEANING. . . AMAZON

#3 – Will the foul surprises never end at Volstead Manor, and will Bailey’s burning desire to marry Max go up in smoke? AMAZON

Quote from Another Stab at Life by Anita Higman“My body went into high alert. I leaned down to see a man standing in the entry. No waiting for a buildup of nerves. Fear injected itself straight into my veins.”

Quote from Another Hour to Kill by Anita Higman “No one except God and the three of us knew of the tragedy, unless, of course, someone else out there knew—someone who may have hastened B.J. Ware’s departure into the next world.”

Quote from A Question of Destiny by Anita Higman “If Lucy O’Brien could write out the story of her life, she would want it to be like Camelot—where the underdog always has a fighting chance, adventure is only a page away, and every woman can wake up looking like Guinevere.”

 
 

 

Meredith Steinberg takes the stage again in A Matchmaker in Middlebury and is given another chance to dance with destiny and meddle in the romantic affairs of two lovelorn singles. But Meredith’s skills as a yenta are stretched to the limit as she discovers that her golden egg-of-a-plan has a perilous crack. In the end, however, heartstrings are indeed knotted together as two singles find tender love—they’re just not the two people Meredith paired for marital bliss…  AMAZON

 

The Café Rose is a place for great coffee and an even better place to fall in love. Jacques, the resident matchmaker and owner of the Café Rose, places his successful friend, Hamilton Wakefield, at the same table with his quirky, loner friend, Kasey Morland. Hamilton discovers that Kasey’s business life is a wreak, and since he is a prosperous entrepreneur, he lets Kasey know he’s just the man to straighten her out. Sparks fly, coffee is poured, and with a little finesse from Jacques, perhaps love will arrive as sweet as his chocolate éclairs…

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Childish bickering had become a way of life for the Butterby sisters, even though they were all grown up. It was certainly easier than dealing with the past. Their resentment over parental favoritism had smothered much of the warm glow of sisterly affection, which had been a big part of their youth. But one Christmas Eve, a letter was discovered—a letter that had been written by their father just before he died. Would the heartfelt words of their dad stir the embers of forgiveness, understanding, and love? And on this Christmas, would the Butterby sisters come to believe in miracles again? AMAZON

FIRST CHAPTER OF ANOTHER STAB AT LIFE

1 – Irony at Its Best

What a steamy night for breathing. The August air dripped with a tropical heat that could make sweating an amateur sport. It’s one reason I vowed never to call Houston home.

I glanced in the rearview mirror at my dissolving makeup and wooly hair. “Wow. Serious meltdown.”

I groaned one of those long and inward groans that only God could hear. How did this happen? Here I am, driving to my newly inherited home, a sinister-looking mansion nestled in the heart of. . .Houston.

“Irony at its best,” I whispered. “Bailey Marie Walker, you will not have a nervous breakdown,” I muttered to myself. “There’s no time for it, and there’s certainly no money.”

I assessed my surroundings. Towering pines jutted up on both sides. The darkening sky sealed off the tomblike passage. Storm clouds. I hoped they didn’t decide to stay and play.

Suddenly my car’s right front tire plunged into a hole. I yanked the wheel to the right, sending my vehicle careening toward a tree. I swung back just in time to avert a disaster. With a clawlike grip on the wheel and ragged breathing, I steered my car ever so slowly back onto the road. I wondered if the pothole was allegorical somehow.

I felt like pounding something, but I knew it would be wasted energy. Okay. God, maybe I need some help here. I’ve lost everything. My family. My job. My apartment. Our friend Job is starting to look like a long-lost relative. Lord, I’m really not talking to myself here, am I? I felt my forehead, noticing my recently sprouted frown lines.

I turned the corner onto my new street, Midnight Falls. Is that supposed to be a joke? I cut the engine to take in a deep visual drink of the surroundings. In general, the neighborhood didn’t look too dire, since some of the other houses appeared refurbished, but a little gasp escaped my mouth as my gaze landed on my ghoulish- looking mansion. The house, which was illuminated only by the full moon and the street lamps, rose up like a medieval horror with its two stories of wood and stone, a third-story belfry-looking tower with a spire, and Gothic windows. But hopefully, no dungeon.

The house had been an indulgence when Granny was young. She’d purchased the home not to live in, but because it looked exactly like a house from one of her nightmares. Granny had been madcap in her approach to life, but this house was certainly more macabre than madcap.

“Wow. And I’m going to make my home in that thing?” I mumbled. I think my frown lines deepened just then. Out of desperation, I decided to think of a positive. The house did appear very spacious, and it certainly had a lot of personality, but besides the creep factor, its chipped gray paint, moldering stone, and drooping balustrades stole away any possible bragging rights. Portions of the house were even covered with vines as if they were hiding like a guilty child.

Bottom line—no putting a pretty face on this ugly reality—the house was one gargantuan wreck. In fact, if I did an appraisal tonight, I’d probably be in the hole because somebody would want to charge me to tear it down.

Shame pinched at my heart. I’m not acting grateful for this love-gift from Granny Minna, am I, God?

Still, too bad Granny’s attorney, Mr. Lakes, hadn’t given me more information. He’d just licked his slightly bluish lips and said, “You might discover a certain. . . unwholesomeness about the house. . .which you may find on occasion. . .disconcerting.” Then Mr. Lakes took a long puff on his cigar as he tossed me the key. And that was that. Before I could inquire as to what horror awaited me, I was jostled out the door with a deed, a key, and copious amounts of anxiety, all offered by a lawyer who sported a fake British accent and an unmatched plaid suit. I hadn’t known which to be more terrified of—the house or the malodorous Mr. Lakes.

I drove up to the house and got out of my car.

Come on. I’m a survivor. Not a wimp. I rolled the corroded key around in my fingers as I glared up at the house. This is a really old building, but I can make it a home. Somehow. Eventually. But why was there always a prologue to every story in my life? And why can’t I get my hands to stop shaking?

I looked from the house to my meager possessions in my pretend luxury car with no air conditioning. How could a Realtor get into such a mess? We’re not the kind to feed off angst. I sighed, grabbed some of my belongings, and started up the walk.

The key in my hand suddenly glowed. I stared upward. The full moon, which had broken free from the storm clouds, bathed the neighborhood in an unearthly radiance. How fitting. I wondered if one could get a werewolf howl as a freebie along with the lunar show.

The house also brightened in the moon’s light, but it looked older and peelier than ever, with a sufficient number of bare windows to keep the local peeping toms in business for years. Even the square tower with the spire had casements. Or was that a turret instead of a tower? Guess if I’d learned my architectural terminology better while I was training in Oklahoma City, I would have made more money as a Realtor. And if I’d made more money as a Realtor, maybe they wouldn’t have let me go.

I yanked the iron gate open a little harder than I needed to. The pathetic thing wobbled off its rusty hinges and fell with a loud clanking sound on the sidewalk.

Smart move, Bailey. I glanced around. All quiet again. “Whew.”

With cautious steps, I headed up the path to the front door. Some creature, which gave off a quack like a duck, ceased its performance. Now all my own noises seemed amplified. My shoes crunched on the cement walkway as if they were attached to microphones. Like the weighty cadence of an Edgar Allan Poe poem, each grinding step made its own lonely statement.

Oh brother. My imagination had definitely kicked in. Come on, Bailey. Just a few more steps.

As I walked toward the house, I quietly sang what-ever popped into my head. I tried “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” to a jazzier rhythm. Even when I was a kid, singing had always helped me melt away all things frightening.

I caught a whiff of roses. Nice. But brambly weeds tore at my legs. I swiped away a vine caught on my capris and then climbed up the steps to the front door. I peered in the bare windows hoping a Cyclops wouldn’t appear. No faces materialized, one-eyed or otherwise. No one at all. In fact, except for the attorney who’d given me the key, no one on earth knew I’d come.

I steadied my right hand to get the key into the hole. “I have nowhere else to go, so this is it,” I said, giving myself a pep talk. My finances were in such disarray, I couldn’t even afford a hotel. “Open this door, Bailey!” I yelled. “Now.” Then I shushed myself so the neighbors wouldn’t release a pack of mongrels on me.

I expelled some air I’d been holding in. Fortunately, there was substantial space between the houses, and each home was made more private by enormous cedar trees. But in spite of the seclusion, I noticed something coming from the neighbor’s house—a strange blinking light, which appeared to come from the upper window. Not just a flashing light, but what appeared to be Morse code. Whatever happened to cell phones?

I stopped for a second to see if I could make out the signal. I’d learned a bit of the code from a mystery I once read entitled Laid Out in Lavender.

Okay, there’s a dot and dash. And then a dash. A and T. The word “at.” What does that mean? I must have missed the first letter. Okay, this is ridiculous, Bailey. It’s just some kid messing around with a flashlight.

I turned my attention to the business at hand, and bit by bit, I turned the key. Success. I smashed the lever down and pushed the huge ornate door. Nothing. No movement. Okay, looks like you’re going to put up a fight. “You want trouble?” I asked as I gave the heavy door another prizefighter shove with my left arm. Either the key didn’t work, or the door had swelled shut just like the rest of my life. Probably swollen with the same humidity that made my wiry hair look like Medusa.

Maybe I could sleep out on the damp, insect-infested lawn tonight. With that thought, I gave the door one more heave with my shoulder. The door flew open in a wild swing, causing me to burst into the house.

After I recovered, I dragged my stuff inside and flicked on my jumbo flashlight. I shined the beam around, stepping gingerly about, half expecting the floors to give way into another dimension.

I shined the beam upward and took in a rather formidable-looking entryway with a vaulted ceiling. The heat and moldy odors nearly snatched my breath away. Such an oppressive, airless place, as if the rooms were waiting to inhale.

Bailey, get a grip.

The words of Mr. Lakes could almost be heard in the still room: “There’s an unwholesomeness about the house, which you may find disconcerting.” I should have come in the daylight. What was I thinking?

As I maneuvered my light around, I saw a large dining hall to my right and, to my left, an even larger living area, which was embellished with a gray stone fireplace. On both sides of the hearth, carved figures were positioned as though they were holding up the mantle. I moved in closer.

Gargoyles, no less. Oh, my. If I hadn’t been so shaky I would have laughed. “Granny, you had the most remarkable sense of humor of anyone I’ve ever known.” The sound of my voice echoed slightly through the living room, making me shudder.

I backed up slowly and then bumped into an old couch. Rather than sitting, I took in a deep breath for support. Okay. What’s next? I swiveled my beam between the two main rooms and discovered a rather decrepit-looking staircase curving its way up to the second story. Just left of the staircase was a hallway crowned with a pointed archway. I stood there for a moment, taking in the whole of what I’d seen so far. The house must have been grand when it was built ages ago, but now it was definitely a timeworn relic. “It probably has hieroglyphics for wallpaper.” I chuckled nervously at my own joke.

I suddenly noticed a switch on the wall. Well, someone must have modernized a bit. But surely the lights didn’t work. I flipped the switch up. Lights! I couldn’t believe it. That was way too easy. Even though the lights were bare bulbs, a bit of my confidence returned. The house certainly gave me the creepy crawlies—kind of like a tarantula tiptoeing on my bed pillow—but I knew the worst was over. Light had come into my shadowy world. But who had turned on the electricity? Certainly not the illustrious Mr. Lakes.

Taking advantage of the illumination, I glanced around again. Boy, this house certainly wouldn’t show well to a buyer. My gaze fell, and I noticed something by the staircase. A big box with a pretty bow sat there as if just waiting to be opened. A present for me? Couldn’t be a housewarming gift from Lakes, yet he was the only one who knew I was coming. Oh, well. Maybe there’s a glimmer of humanity in him.

As I tugged at the orange bow, I realized the container was taped shut. Heavily taped shut. I picked up the box and gave it a shake or two, but the weight seemed unbalanced as the insides shifted awkwardly. Well, whoever sent it, I hope they have expensive taste. I set the box back down, and with one grappling movement, I raked my finger across the tape. My stomach growled, and I suddenly hoped the contents of the box included something to eat.

I lifted the lid and took a peek inside. I stumbled backward, shattering the air with screams. A rat lay lifeless in the box—its black beady eyes staring at me. My hands slapped against the floor, trying to catch myself, but I landed hard. I scooted myself away from the box until I backed against the front wall. I hugged my arms around my knees, hoping for comfort.

One short phrase echoed in my head. Who would do such a thing? Was it Lakes? How could it be? He was an insensitive moron with a weird gleam in his eye, but Granny must have found something redeeming in him, especially since she’d kept him as her attorney even after she’d moved from Oklahoma. And surely Lakes had better things to do than drive all that way just to give me a dead rat.

Was someone trying to scare me? But why? Who would want this place? I don’t even know if I want this place. It’s a mess. It’s one huge, gargantuan mess. And my housewarming gift was a dead rodent! I screamed again for good measure. I felt a little better.

From across the room, I glared at the package, which was really a tiny casket. The box seemed to stare back, mocking me.

Okay, the situation did indeed fall into the category of ghastly, but I could get through ghastly. I had before. Maybe another scream would be helpful. I paused, ready to let another one fly, but decided to groan instead. My throat already hurt from screeching. I was grateful I hadn’t eaten much all day, since a dry heave seemed to be working its way up my stomach. I coughed and swallowed hard.

A plan. I needed a plan.

Okay, I’m going to get up and mosey over to the box. I’m going to place it outside for now on the front porch, and then in the morning, I’ll bury it. “Good.” Solid plan. “Good.” Already said that.

I sat perfectly still. Apparently, I couldn’t follow my own orders.

What do I do?

I finally rose—and while shivering from head to toe—I strolled over to the box. As I peered over the edge of the package and gazed at the rat again, I couldn’t believe how alive it looked. The animal had no injuries, yet I knew the thing was dead by the way its neck was resting at an odd angle.

Even though my mind was reeling, I forced myself to focus. If the rat had been dead for days, the stench would have been stifling. Yet there was little odor. I moved in for a closer inspection. Even though I was usually disgusted by rats in general, I still wondered who could do such a thing to an innocent creature.

Bailey, stay calm.

Then I thought of the more menacing ramifications of my grisly present. If no one had the key but me, then how did someone get in my house? That’s breaking and entering and the little gift was called harassment.

But most importantly—was the perpetrator merely playing a demented trick on me, or did the culprit have darker intentions? Oh, I was going to lose a lot of sleep over that one. I knew what my Realtor coworkers would say back in Oklahoma. They’d say, “Why don’t you just call the police?” But ever since my police officer fiancé, Sam, turned to the dark side, I hadn’t been one to ring up my local sheriff. Especially since he’d hired somebody to wreck my apartment just to remind me he was trashing our relationship so he could marry my best friend. Yeah, boy, it was hard to forget that little piece of history.

So, I would handle this incident on my own, even if I had to buy a gun to protect myself. Although I’d probably end up shooting my toe off or worse. But even with the fear growing inside me, there was a kernel of something else—a resolve not to allow anyone to manipulate or terrorize me.

I sighed as I looked at the box again. In a sudden rush of adrenaline-laced courage, I closed the box tightly and hid it on my front porch.

Before I collapsed from exhaustion, I’d need to search each room to make certain no one was prowling around, and then I’d have to find a bed. I felt so wiped out I wouldn’t even be able to fend off any monsters should any decide to have me for a midnight snack.

I stopped in front of a moldy mirror in the hallway; one that looked like it had been feeding on itself for sustenance. I leaned in for a closer look. Besides the lingering terror in my eyes, I simply appeared tired. But oddly, my crow’s-feet seemed softer, my face rosier. How did that happen? My gray eyes hadn’t become dazzling, but my frizzy shoulder-length auburn hair had turned into damp ringlets. Maybe humidity had its upside. “Kind of schoolgirlish, but not bad,” I said to the mirror, hoping to lighten my anxieties. But enough cosmetology updates.

Time to snoop through the rest of the downstairs. First, the hall closet. Deep and dark, but no scary visitors there. Or dead rats. Emptiness never looked so good.

Then I found the downstairs bathroom. Needing to freshen, I turned on the faucet. Rusty liquid spewed and then something like real water gushed out. I splashed my face and rinsed my hands. Ahhh. That cool water felt good. Of course, there were no towels, so I dried myself off on my shirt. Okay, bathroom, weird, but doable with decontamination. Mental note—buy disinfectant.

Next, a cave-like hallway led to an extended kitchen with an adjoining sitting room. Wow. Ancient, but roomy. I flipped on more lights and noticed some chairs that looked as if they’d been excavated from the city dump. Out of curiosity, I pounded my fist on one of the chairs. Dust rose up in a suffocating brown cloud, making me sneeze. Okay, moving on. Another hallway led to the east side of the house. Leaded glass doors opened into a smoking-jacket-type library, but thankfully, the only things dwelling there were shelves upon shelves of dusty books. Secure? Check.

After exploring the first floor, I slowly made my way up the stairs. I listened to the creaking of every single step, concerned that the whole staircase would collapse. Finally, after a few more steps, I realized the wood was solid. Perhaps it’s only the railing that’s crumbling. But as I tiptoed closer to the first landing, just before the stairs made their turn, the murkiness and the groaning steps began to take their toll. Suddenly scenes from every scary movie I’d ever seen started to flash before me.

“If you silly stairs didn’t creak, I would be disappointed,” I told them.

I started up another hymn and could almost hear Granny’s words. “You can do anything, Bailey girl.”

My shoulders relaxed a bit.

Just as I reached for a light switch, I heard the front door open. Was that a sudden breeze playing with the door? Had I left it ajar? I couldn’t make myself breathe. Then I heard a sound that hammered the final nail into my coffin of terror. The front door moaned shut. And not like the wind sucking it back, but a deliberate closure followed by a shuffling of feet.

Wind does not shuffle.

My body went into high alert. I leaned down to see a man standing in the entry. No waiting for a buildup of nerves. Fear injected itself straight into my veins.

I swallowed a scream. God help me! What do I do now? Maybe while the stranger went into another part of the house, I could sneak out.

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