Authors: Kathryn le Veque
The sound startled Elliot from
her observations of the house. “Alec, what in the heck are you doing?”
Alec blew at his index finger,
dissipating imaginary gun smoke. “Killing the zombies.”
Elliot shook her head at him
reproachfully and he grinned, moving off curiously into the room with the
imaginary zombies. The old wooden planks of the floor creaked and popped under
his weight, echoing in a house that had been left to the ravages of time.
“So tell me about my investment,”
Elliot said to Louise. “You described it to me very well but seeing it in the
flesh is a different experience. You said that the same family has owned this
house since it was built?”
Louise nodded, following Elliot
as she pursued her son into the big room on the south side of the house.
“The very same family,” she
confirmed. “The house went to probate when the owner died and it’s been on the
market off and on for about six years.”
Elliot turned to look at her
curiously. “Six years?” she repeated. “Why so long?”
Louise shrugged her shoulders,
lifting a hand as if to indicate the very walls.
“Places like this are a rare find
but they are also extremely expensive,” she said, then lowered her voice as if
to disclose a great secret. “Plus, I heard there was a lot of fighting amongst
family members because the house had been in the family so long. Some wanted to
sell it and some didn’t.”
Elliot absorbed the information,
her gaze moving over walls that had faded, dirty wallpaper with huge blue
cabbage roses on it, and the tatters of white chiffon curtains still on the
windows. Somewhere, a breeze lifted the shredded curtains, giving them a very ghost-like
There were various pieces of
furniture still in the room, extremely dated, shoved up against the wall and
covered with dust. It looked like a tomb, the skeleton of a great home that was
now just bones.
As Elliot stood there, digesting
the visual aspects of the room, she imagined it as it was when it was first
built, with ladies in fine dresses gliding across the floors and gentlemen with
cutlasses and flint-lock pistols engaging in a game of cards. She could almost
hear the wine glasses clinking and the sound of soft laughter.
Gazing up at the ceiling, she
could see that it was dirty, more so over by the fireplace with the ornate
hearth. Two centuries of soot blackened the white plaster of the mantel and
“What about this furniture?” she
pointed to the pieces against the wall. “Is someone coming to get it?”
Louise had been busily checking
text messages on her cell phone, shoving it back in her purse when Elliot
“Yes,” she replied. “Actually, he
said he’d be stopping by at some point this afternoon. If you see anything you
like, I’m sure he’d sell it to you for a fair price.”
Having absorbed enough of the
room with the blue rose wallpaper, Elliot turned her attention to the room on
the other side of the entry hall.
“Who’s coming?” she asked.
“The grandson of the woman who
last lived here,” she replied.
The second room was larger than
the first – in fact, Elliot could see that it was attached to another enormous
room, separated by giant pocket doors that were half exposed from their dens.
Even in the dimness of the room,
she could see that the doors were of dark wood and very beautifully carved. The
hearths in both rooms had detailed marble mantels. In fact, the entire room was
ornate, indicative of the former grandeur of the house. Cobwebs covered
exquisite moldings and the wide-planked wood floor was dusty but still strong.
“A double parlor,” she muttered,
more to herself. “Look at the size of these rooms. Those pictures you took
didn’t do them justice.”
Louise was peering at the room
over Elliot’s shoulder. “I know,” she replied. “What you have here are the
double parlors that most of these great houses had. They used them for formal
entertaining. The room across the hall, the one with the blue rose wallpaper,
is the library although when Ms. Jewel lived here, it was her bedroom for the
latter part of her life. She was too old to make it up the stairs.”
Elliot caught a glimpse of her
son as he wandered back in the shadows of the second half of the double
parlor. His silhouette was eerie against the covered-up windows. She turned to
“Why on earth did the family sell
this house?” she wanted to know. “It’s like… like this is their heritage. It’s
part of the family. I just don’t get it.”
Louise lifted her shoulders
casually. “Who knows? Maybe they just couldn’t afford it.” She eyed Elliot
rather solicitously. “You really got this place for a steal but it’s going to
take a lot to get it put back together. But I guess all you have to do is write
another bestseller and you won’t have to worry.”
Elliot eyed the woman, thinking
it was either a haughty or condescending statement. She couldn’t figure out
“It’s not as easy as you make it
sound,” she said evenly. “Seven hundred thousand dollars isn’t exactly a steal.
It’s still a heck of a lot of money.”
Louise shrugged in agreement.
“Fully restored plantation homes go for millions of dollars. If you restored
it, you could turn it around for a hefty profit.”
Elliot inspected the molding of
the doorway, carved into what looked like vines. “I’m not sure I’d sell it,”
she said. “But I
really excited about restoring this house to its
She left the double parlors and
moved back down the dark central hall, inspecting the gracefully curved staircase
that lifted to the second story. There were no supports to the staircase as it
wove, in a half-circle shape, up to the next level. The banister and railings
were carved into the shapes of magnolia blossoms and trees. It was
There was a doorway under the
stairs leading into a darkened room, and she peered into the blackness to see
if she could make out any features of the room.
“That’s the entrance to the
second parlor,” Louise came up behind her. “You could actually turn that second
room into an office to write your novels. By the way, I purchased one not too
long ago after I found out who you were. I loved it.”
Elliot turned to her casually.
“It was called
River of Dreams
Louise replied. “You have a great talent for writing. It must make you
Elliot could sense that all
Louise was interested in was money, not that she blamed the woman. Commission
from this house would probably support her for an entire year.
“It pays the bills,” Elliot
They delved further into the
house. All of the floor-to-ceiling windows were covered with cloth or some kind
of newspaper, taped to the wood, so the house itself was very dark as they
Alec was off on his own trek, in
and out of rooms, as Elliot and Louise wandered into a small room off the
dining room, then to an enormous room that ran nearly the entire back span of
the house that had once been a ball room, and then the kitchen. When they
reached the dark, dirty room cluttered with broken cabinets and a giant iron
sink, Elliot came to a halt. For the first time since entering the house, her
spirit started to sink.
“Good grief,” she breathed.
“Would you look at this kitchen?”
Louise had disdain on her face.
“Like I said, I think the last time this house was updated was back in the
1930’s,” she looked around the space. “My great-grandma had an old iron sink
Elliot leaned against the
doorjamb, imagining all of the work she had before her to make the house
habitable. Even though she had a good idea about the fixer-upper when she
purchased the house, still, the reality was something different entirely. She
looked up at the peeling ceiling, the faded yellow walls with grease and dirt
on them, and the dark and creepy back staircase built against the western wall of
the kitchen that led up to the second floor. The whole thing was enough to make
“I’ve already called a contractor
to come in and help me evaluate the place,” she said, seeing dollar signs flash
before her eyes. “He’s coming on Monday.”
Louise looked at her, an earnest
expression on her face. “My husband is a contractor,” she said. “He’d love to
help ya’ll out with this place.”
So the woman is going to
double-team me for money
Elliot thought. Maybe the dollar signs weren’t flashing in front of her eyes so
much as they were flashing in front of Louise’s eyes. She smiled thinly.
“Sure,” she replied evenly. “Send
him over on Monday. I’ll get an estimate from him, too.”
That answer didn’t particularly
please Louise but she smiled in return, weakly, and agreed. Elliot was starting
to think that the woman was only in this to see how much she could bilk her for
when a voice suddenly emitted from the front of the house.
It was a male voice, deep and
smooth. Louise rushed back into the central hallway, heading for the front
“Hello?” she called, coming
around a corner and gaining a view of the entry. She lifted her hand in
greeting. “Well, hello there! How are you?”
Elliot was still in the kitchen,
looking with increasing depression at the state of the room. It was going to
cost a fortune to restore it. She could hear Louise and the unidentified man
chatting as they drew closer to the kitchen.
Elliot mused that it was probably
another of the woman’s cronies come to drain her of more dollars, maybe a
landscaper or roofer. God knows, the place needed both, but Elliot would have
to prioritize what needed to be done. It wasn’t like she was made of money but
the way things were looking, she was going to be pumping a significant amount
of cash into the Sorrento economy.
As she wandered over to the
enormous tank-like kitchen sink, she heard Louise’s voice in the doorway.
“Ms. Jentry, I’d like for you to
meet the former owner,” she said. “This is Nash Aury.”
Elliot turned around, disinterested, until she saw
the man standing next to Louise. The first thing she saw was perfectly combed
brown hair and seductive hazel eyes. Then she noticed the rest of him; he was
dressed in a sheriff’s uniform, a tall, dark and handsome drink of water that
threw Elliot completely off guard. He was a few inches over six feet, very well
built, with big hands and broad shoulders. His chisled, handsome face gazed
back at her with warmth and curiosity.
Startled, and struggling not to
make a fool of herself with her gaping-mouth reaction to his presence, Elliot
forced herself towards the man with her hand outstretched.
“Hi,” she smiled. “I’m Elliot
Jentry. It’s very nice to meet you.”
Nash’s striking face broke into
an easy smile and Elliot wasn’t surprised to note that the man’s physical
perfection included his teeth. He had a beautiful smile. He took her
outstretched hand in his big mitt, shaking it firmly but gently.
“The pleasure is all mine,” he
said in his rich voice. He just seemed to stare at her for a moment, holding
her hand, before realizing he should probably let it go. He indicated Louise.
“I told Ms. Dawn I’d be dropping by to pick up the rest of the junk around
here. I hope my timing isn’t inconvenient.”
Elliot could have listened to
that voice all day. The man had a smooth, deep Louisiana drawl that was sexy
“Of course not,” she replied,
realizing the man made her feel somewhat giddy. “We just got here. Louise was
just giving me the grand tour.”
Before Nash could reply, Louise
interrupted. “Actually, I need to make a couple of calls to my office, so if
you don’t mind, maybe the Sheriff can show y’all around. This is his house,
after all. He can give y’all a better tour than I can.”
Louise disappeared before either
one of them could say a word. They watched her dash off before turning to look
at each other, somewhat awkwardly. After a moment, they both broke down into
“I guess you just got appointed
my tour guide,” Elliot said. “But I completely understand if you don’t have
time. I’m sure you’re very busy.”
Nash’s hazel-eyed gaze lingered
on her a moment before reaching for the radio microphone clipped to his shirt.
“I’m not busy,” he told her,
engaging the mic and speaking into it. “This is S 1-A. Code four at Purgatory.”
The radio crackled back at him in
acknowledgement. When he returned his focus to Elliot, she was looking at him
with some curiosity.
“Purgatory?” she repeated.
Nash smiled at her, shrugging.
“Well, I suppose I can tell you the whole story since you’ve already bought the
house and can’t back out.” He watched her giggle. “The original name of this
house was Sophie, but over the years, it developed another name. The locals
call it Purgatory.”
Elliot’s eyebrows lifted. “Nice,”
she said sarcastically. “Why didn’t anyone tell me this before I bought a piece
of Satan’s backyard?”