A fresh start. That was what Becca hoped the move from New York to Redemption, Wisconsin, would be for her troubled family—a way to get her crumbling marriage back on track, and to bond with her difficult 16-year-old stepdaughter.
But instead of a new beginning, Becca is thrust into a mysterious past she barely remembers … a past that includes complications from interacting with her teenage crush, Daniel, as well as living in her aunt’s old house (aka “The Witch House,” according to locals).
But is the house really haunted? Or is there something far more sinister out to destroy them?
Chrissy gave me a withering look as she furiously pounded on her iPhone. I opened my mouth to say something—I had no idea what … something to bridge the gap that yawned between us—but Mia’s voice interrupted me. “Daniel! Look who’s here! It’s Becca!”
I closed my mouth and turned to look. A police officer was standing at the counter watching Mia fill up a to-go container with coffee. Could that be Daniel? I searched the room, but only saw only a handful of people finishing up their breakfast. It had to be him.
I looked back at the cop. Broad shoulders and dark blonde hair—Daniel. Mia glanced at me and winked. I made a face back at her.
He turned. He was older of course, but yes, it was most definitely Daniel. He wouldn’t be considered traditionally handsome—not like Stefan with his almost pretty-boy looks. Daniel’s face was too rugged, with sharp cheekbones and a crooked nose. But his lips were still full and soft, and his eyes were still the same dark blue. I found myself suddenly conscious of my appearance. I hadn’t taken a shower in two days, and I was wearing an old, faded New York Giants tee shirt. I had scraped my unruly mass of reddish, blondish, brownish hair back into a messy ponytail in preparation for a full day of cleaning and organizing. But I quickly reminded myself that I was being silly. I was a married woman, sitting with my stepdaughter, and he was engaged.
Besides, he had made it more than clear years ago he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in me.
“Becca,” he said coming over, his face friendly, but not exactly smiling. “Welcome back to Redemption.” It didn’t sound much like a welcome.
“Thanks,” I said, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything better to say. Instinctively, I reached up to smooth out my hair, since as usual, a few curly tendrils had escaped and hung in my face. “Not much has changed.”
He studied me, making me really wish I had taken an extra five minutes to jump in the shower and dig out a clean shirt. “Oh, plenty has changed.”
“Like you being a cop?”
He shrugged slightly. “Pays the bills.”
I half-smiled. “There’s lots of ways to pay the bills. If I remember right, you always seemed more interested in breaking the law than upholding it.”
“Like I said, things change.” He lifted his to-go coffee cup and took a swallow, dark blue eyes never leaving mine. “I take it you’re still painting then.”
I dropped my gaze to his chest, feeling a dull ache overwhelm me—the same pain I felt when I heard the name Becca. “As you said, things change.”
“Ah.” I waited for him to ask more questions, but instead, he changed the subject. “So, how long are you staying?”
I shrugged. “Not sure. We’ve actually moved here.”
His eyebrows raised slightly. “To Charlie’s house? You aren’t selling it?”
“Well, yes. Eventually. That’s the plan. But, at least for the foreseeable future, we’ll be living in it.” I sounded like an idiot. With some effort, I forced myself to stop talking. Why on earth did I share so much detail? How was this any of his business?
He looked like he was going to say something more but was interrupted by a loud snort. The two pant-suited women both scraped their chairs back as they stood up, glaring disgustedly at all of us before heading to the cash register.
“What’s with them?” Chrissy asked. I had forgotten she was there.
I shrugged, before remembering my manners and introducing Chrissy to Daniel. I made a point of gesturing with my left hand to flash my wedding ring.
His head tipped in a slight nod before looking back at me. “Will you be around later today? I’d like to stop by and talk to you.”
There was something in his expression that made me uneasy, but I purposefully kept my voice light. “What on earth for? I haven’t even unpacked yet. Am I already in trouble?”
The ends of his lips turned up in a slight smile, but no hint of warmth touched the intense look in his eyes. “Should you be in trouble?”
I let out a loud, exaggerated sigh. “Why do cops always answer a question with a question?”
“Occupational hazard. I’ll see you later.” He dipped his chin in a slight nod before walking away. I noticed he didn’t give me the slightest hint as to what he wanted to talk to me about. That sense of unease started to grow into a sense of foreboding.
Michele Pariza Wacek (also known as Michele PW) taught herself to read at three years old because she so badly wanted to write fiction. As an adult, she became a professional copywriter (copywriters write promotional materials for businesses, nothing to do with protecting intellectual property or putting a copyright on something) and eventually founded a copywriting and marketing company. She grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and currently lives with her husband and dogs in the mountains of Arizona. You can reach her at MicheleParizaWacek.com. She’s published two novels, “The Stolen Twin” and “Mirror Image,” both psychological thrillers/mystery/suspense books.