Monday, February 16, 2009

He felt as though he’d handed over a portion of his soul when he gave Rachael Payne the down-payment check. It was due upon commencement of work, however, which had already started. Despite the fact that he secretly thought the only thing Bayview Manor needed was a very large wrecking ball, Rachael was plainly enthralled as she scribbled notes in her plan book, tagging along behind him through the house.

Well, she trailed behind him, Geoffrey Windsor was forced to admit, but he held no illusions as to who was in charge of this expedition: Rachael Payne, the interior designer whose bid he had joyfully accepted despite the bottom-line cost that had made his bank account shriek in mortal agony. Of the three designers who had bid the job (and his mind still couldn’t bend around the fact that only three designers had been interested), she was the only one who had specialized in the restoration of Gothic Revival mansions.

Not that Bayview Manor had yet been identified as such. In fact, even Rachael was having a hard time pinpointing exactly into which period the mansion fit. While very much Gothic Revival, it predated that era. From all history at hand, it post-dated Gothic. As the Manor had been discovered already built when a lumber baron named Michael Fotheringham had cleared the forest around it in the late 19th century, it was doubtful anyone would ever be able to accurately define its architectural style.

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth—or a gift house in the deed, as it were—the gentleman fancied it up and moved in his family. After all, it boasted a heavenly view of the Pacific Ocean near Perkins Reef. Forty years later, the last of the Fotheringhams lay dead in the Manor. Driven to jealous insanity by his wife’s indiscretions, Jonathan Fotheringham had slaughtered his entire family, including his widowed sister who had been visiting.

It wasn’t exactly a pristine history to entice a buyer. In fact, Geoffrey was the first to purchase the house in sixty-three years—sixty-three unkind years; the Manor had fallen into disgraceful ruin. Shutters and clapboard siding hung askew, the roof had sprung several leaks, and several of the intricate stained glass windows in the ballroom had shattered, which in turn had let in the elements to ruin the hardwood floor. The mosaic patterns in various different hardwoods told him that restoring the ballroom floor would be a very expensive venture.

Although the upstairs windows had been boarded up (and he shuddered to think of that monumental job, installing sheets of plywood on the third story and attic windows), many of these windows had been broken as well—from the inside. He didn’t know what kind of person would seek shelter in a huge, abandoned, and reputedly haunted mansion, but he did know that it took someone with immeasurably more courage than he himself possessed. He didn’t even like walking through the house with an entourage of construction professionals in broad daylight.

It didn’t matter; he wasn’t going to live here himself. He’d purchased Bayview Manor for his mother, who had seen it from the sky while on a aerial coastal tour in a small aircraft. She could stay as long as she wanted, but he was going to make certain that sundown never found him inside. The house gave off a vibe that made his teeth ache and his nerve endings scream.

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