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Authors: Karen White

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The Girl On Legare Street

BOOK: The Girl On Legare Street
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Praise for the Novels of Karen White

The House on Tradd Street

“Engaging. . . .The supernatural elements are not played for scares, but instead refine and reveal Melanie’s true character. . . . A fun and satisfying read, this series kickoff should hook a wide audience.”—
Publishers Weekly


The House on Tradd Street
has it all: mystery, romance, and the paranormal including ghosts with quirky personalities. For me this is White’s best work and I am looking forward to the sequel.”—BookLoons

“White delivers funny characters, a solid plot, and an interesting twist in this novel about the South and its antebellum history.”—
Romantic Times

“Has all the elements that have made Karen White’s books fan favorites: a Southern setting, a deeply emotional tale, and engaging characters. ”

—A Romance Review

“The key to this quirky charmer is the depth of the lead characters, especially the heroine and even some of the ghosts. Fans of paranormal romantic suspense will want to read this wonderful tale as Karen White provides a fine treasure hunt mystery with a nasty spirit inside a warm romance in which readers will say yes that they believe in ghosts and in love.”—
Midwest Book Review

“If you enjoy ghost stories with some mystery thrown into the mix, you are going to love this one.The sights and smells of the old house, along with excellent dialogue and good pacing, add up to a wonderful, mysterious, and ghostly tale.”—Romance Reviews Today

“Brilliant and engrossing . . . a rare gem . . . exquisitely told, rich in descriptions, and filled with multifaceted characters.”—The Book Connection

“Karen White is an extremely talented and colorful writer with tons of imagination. If you are not a believer of paranormal, you will be after reading this novel.”—Fresh Fiction

The Memory of Water

“Careful plotting, richly flawed characters and a surprising conclusion mark this absorbing melodrama.”—
Publishers Weekly

“Beautifully written and as lyrical as the tides.
The Memory of Water
speaks directly to the heart and will linger in yours long after you’ve read the final page. I loved this book!”—Susan Crandall, author of
Pitch Black

“Karen White delivers a powerfully emotional blend of family secrets, Lowcountry lore, and love in
The Memory of Water
—who could ask for more?”

—Barbara Bretton, author of
Just Desserts

Learning to Breathe

“White creates a heartfelt story full of vibrant characters and emotion that leaves the reader satisfied yet hungry for more from this talented author.”


Booklist

“One of those stories where you savor every single word . . . a perfect 10.”

—Romance Reviews Today

“Another one of Karen White’s emotional books! A joy to read!”

—The Best Reviews

Pieces of the Heart

“Heartwarming and intense . . . a tale that resonates with the meaning of unconditional love.”—
Romantic Times
(4 stars)

“A terrific, insightful character study.”—
Midwest Book Review

The Color of Light

“[White’s] prose is lyrical, and she weaves in elements of mysticism and romance without being heavy-handed. An accomplished novel.”—
Booklist

“A story as rich as a coastal summer . . . dark secrets, heartache, a magnificent South Carolina setting, and a great love story.”


New York Times
bestselling author Deborah Smith

“As lush as the Lowcountry, where the characters’ wounded souls come home to mend in unexpected and magical ways.”

—Patti Callahan Henry, author of
Between the Tides

More Praise for the Novels of Karen White

“The fresh voice of Karen White intrigues and delights.”

—Sandra Chastain, contributor to
At Home in Mossy Creek

“Warmly Southern and deeply moving.”


New York Times
bestselling author Deborah Smith

“Karen White writes with passion and poignancy.”

—Deb Stover, award-winning author of
Mulligan Magic

“[A] sweet book . . . highly recommended.”—
Booklist

“Karen White is one author you won’t forget. . . . This is a masterpiece in the study of relationships. Brava!”—Reader to Reader Reviews

“This is not only romance at its best—this is a fully realized view of life at its fullest.”—Readers & Writers, Ink


After the Rain
is an elegantly enchanting southern novel. . . . Fans will recognize the beauty of White’s evocative prose.”—
WordWeaving.com

“In the tradition of Catherine Anderson and Deborah Smith, Karen White’s
After the Rain
is an incredibly poignant contemporary bursting with Southern charm.”—Patricia Rouse, Rouse’s Romance Readers Groups

“Don’t miss this book!”—
Rendezvous

New American Library Titles by Karen White

The Color of Light
Pieces of the Heart
Learning to Breathe
The Memory of Water
The House on Tradd Street
The Lost Hours

NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,
Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,Victoria 3124,
Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,
New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, November 2009

Copyright © Harley House Books, LLC, 2009

All rights reserved

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

White, Karen (Karen S.)
The girl on Legare Street/Karen White.
p. cm.

eISBN : 978-1-101-15564-6

1.Women real estate agents—Fiction. 2. Mothers and daughters—Fiction 3. Haunted houses—Fiction.
4. Historic buildings—South Carolina—Charleston—Fiction. 5. Charleston (S.C.)—Fiction I.Title
PS3623.H5776G57 2009
813’—dc22 2009024592

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

http://us.penguingroup.com

To Claire White Kobylt, who’s known me longer than just about everybody,
and who likes me anyway. Thanks for your friendship.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you to my readers, whose letters and e-mails inspire me to continue writing. Although—in answer to your most frequently asked question—I can’t write any faster, I will continue to write books for as long as you will read them.

Thanks again to Nancy Flaherty, for the use of your name as well as your golfing and knitting hobbies for shameless use in this book, and to my brother-in-law, Rich Kobylt, for your cameo performance as a plumber. I hope you both enjoy your character incarnations as much as I enjoyed creating them and as much as readers enjoy reading about them.

To Klara Rehm and Joyce McDonnell, thank you for your time and expertise on the German language translation and for saving me from embassassment.

Thanks also to my publisher, New American Library, for taking a chance on a “different” kind of book series and for all of your support and for giving my books fabulous covers as well as for getting them into as many readers’ hands as possible.

And thanks to my critique partner and talented author, Wendy Wax, and to Tim, Meghan and Connor for your support, words of wisdom, and for not slapping me silly even when I deserved it.

Last, but not least, thank you to the beautiful city of Charleston and its citizens, who welcome me warmly on each visit. I hope I have faithfully portrayed your “holy city.”

CHAPTER 1

The milky glow of winter sun behind a sky rubbed the color of an old nickel failed in its feeble attempt to warm the November morning. I shuddered in my wool coat, my Charleston blood unaccustomed to the infrequent blasts of frigid air that descend on the Holy City from time to time to send yet another reminder of why we choose to live in this beautiful city, whose inhabitants—both living and dead—coexist like light and shadow.

I yanked open the door to the City Lights Coffee Bar, the wind behind me threatening to close it again before I’d gone through it. Glancing around, I spotted Jack at a table by the front window, a latte with extra whipped cream and a large cinnamon roll already sitting on the table across from him. Immediately suspicious, I approached the table with caution.

“What do you want?” I asked, indicating the latte and cinnamon roll.

He looked up at me with a pair of killer blue eyes that I’d spent the last six months of my life trying not to notice. His look of innocence would have made me smile and roll my eyes if I didn’t still have the lingering aura of dread that had dogged me all the way from my house on Tradd Street to Market. It had been a strong enough feeling to make me pause outside the café for a moment longer than necessary, hoping to identify whatever it was. I wanted to think it was my grogginess, caused by a phone call at two o’clock in the morning after which I’d been unable to fall asleep. That would have been an acceptable explanation, but in my world—where phone calls from people long dead weren’t as unusual an occurrence as most people would expect—I wasn’t satisfied.

“Good morning, Melanie,” Jack said cheerfully. “Can’t a guy just want to buy breakfast for a beautiful woman without expecting anything in return?”

I pretended to think for a moment. “No.” I unbuttoned my coat and folded it neatly on the back of my chair before sitting down, noticing that all of the women in the restaurant—including the gray-haired woman with a walker at a table by the bar—were staring at Jack and regarding me with narrowed eyes. Yes, Jack Trenholm was way too good-looking to be a writer, especially a writer of historical true-crime mysteries. He should have been bald with a gray beard, wearing thick turtlenecks that protruded over his paunch, his teeth tobacco stained from his ubiquitous pipe. Unfortunately, like so much about Jack, he didn’t even try to fit the stereotype.

“So, what do you want?” I asked again as I took out the bottle of hand sanitizer from my purse and squirted a dollop on my palm. I offered the bottle to Jack, but he shook his head before taking a sip of his black coffee. Emptying two packets of sugar into my latte, I looked up at him again, then wished I hadn’t. His eyes were certainly bluer than they needed to be, their intensity not needing the help from the navy blue sweater he wore. But something flickered in his eyes as he regarded me—something I thought looked a lot like concern—and it made me squirm in my seat.

“How’s General Lee?” he asked, ignoring my question and glancing out the front window, then down at his watch.

I swallowed a bite of my cinnamon roll. “He’s fine,” I said, referring to the small black-and-white dog I’d reluctantly inherited along with my historic home on Tradd Street.

“Are you still keeping him in the kitchen at night?”

I avoided his gaze. “Um, no. Not exactly.”

A wide grin spread over Jack’s face. “He sleeps in your room now, doesn’t he?”

I took a huge bite of my roll to avoid answering, annoyed again at how astute Jack could be where I was concerned. After having failed to foist General Lee off on my best friend, Dr. Sophie Wallen—who’d turned out to be allergic—I’d sworn to all who would listen that I wasn’t a dog person and had no intention of actually keeping the animal.

“He’s sleeping at the foot of your bed now, isn’t he?” Jack couldn’t keep the glee from his voice.

I took a long sip of my latte, studiously avoiding looking at him.

Jack crossed his arms over his chest and slid back in his chair, a smug look on his face. “He’s on the pillow next to you, too, right?”

“Fine,” I said, slamming down my coffee mug. “He wouldn’t sleep anywhere else, okay? He’d cry if I left him in the kitchen, and when I brought him up to my room he’d sit next to the bed staring up at me all night until I brought him up there with me. Sleeping on my pillow was his idea.” I slid the mug away from me. “It’s not like I actually like him or anything. He just seemed . . . lonely.”

Jack leaned forward, his elbows on the table. “Maybe I should pretend I’m lonely and look up at you with sad puppy eyes and see what happens.”

I stared at him for a moment, suppressing the unwanted trill of excitement that settled somewhere near my stomach. “You’d end up in a crate in the kitchen.” I pushed my empty plate away and signaled the waitress for another.

Jack laughed, then shook his head. “You know, one day those calories are actually going to stick to you, and you’ll have to watch what you eat like the rest of us mortals.”

I shrugged. “I can’t help it. It’s hereditary. My maternal grandmother was as slim as a reed until the day she died, and she ate like a linebacker.”

“Is your mother the same way?”

My eyes met Jack’s and I saw he wasn’t smiling anymore. “I wouldn’t know, would I? I haven’t seen her in more than thirty years.” This wasn’t precisely the truth. I had accidentally spotted the famous soprano Ginnette Prioleau several times while surfing channels on the television, the remote control in my hand unable to flip quickly enough from the PBS station broadcasting a production of the Metropolitan Opera. The exact truth was that my mother was still as slender and as beautiful as she’d been when she abandoned her seven-year-old daughter without a backward glance.

The darkness that had been hovering over me all morning now seemed to descend on our corner table, obscuring the light as if someone had hit a dimmer switch. I fought a wave of nausea as the hairs on the back of my neck rose, and I looked at Jack in panic to see if he’d noticed a change, too. But he was too busy staring past my shoulder to notice anything else.

“You look a lot like her, you know.” Jack’s eyes slid back to mine and I saw his look of concern quickly switch to one of apology.

“Oh God, Jack, you didn’t!” I made a move to stand but he placed a hand on my arm.

“Melanie, she said it was a matter of life or death and that you wouldn’t see her or return her phone calls. I was her last resort.”

I looked around blindly, searching for an exit other than the door through which I’d entered, and wondered if I could run through the kitchen before anybody noticed me. A small gloved hand gripped my shoulder as a bright light seemed to pop in front of me like a curtain being pulled back from the window to reveal a sunny day. The darkness dispelled as she squeezed my shoulder and dropped her hand, but the light remained, leaving me to wonder if the sigh and whisper I’d heard as the darkness dispelled had been only in my imagination.

I looked up into the face of the woman who’d once been the world to me, when I was too small to understand the vagaries of human nature and that calling somebody “Mother” didn’t always mean what you wanted it to.

“Hello, Mellie,” she said in a soft, melodious voice that had haunted my dreams for years until I’d grown old enough to believe that I didn’t need to hear my mother’s voice anymore.

I winced at the sound of the nickname she’d given me—the nickname I’d never let anybody call me until I’d met Jack, who persisted in calling me Mellie regardless of whether I wanted him to.

I faced Jack, and my fury easily turned on him. “You set this up, didn’t you? You knew I didn’t want to see her or talk to her but you set this up anyway. How dare you? How dare you involve yourself, uninvited I might add, in something that has nothing to do with you and something I explicitly made clear to you that I wanted nothing to do with.” I paused just for a second to catch my breath, ignoring my mother’s presence completely since that was the only way I could remain relatively calm. “I don’t want to see you again. Ever.”

He raised his eyebrow, and I knew we were both remembering another time when I’d said the exact same words. I leaned forward and pressed my finger into his sweater-covered chest. “And I really mean it this time.”

I stood, intending to make a graceful exit, but managed instead to bump the table and spill the remainder of my latte in addition to two tall glasses of water. I slid to the next chair to escape the deluge, and while a busboy and our waitress were cleaning up the mess, my mother used the opportunity to slide into my vacated chair, effectively holding me hostage between her and the window.

She faced the side of my head because I refused to look at her. “Please don’t be angry with Jack. I’ll admit to using my friendship with his mother to coerce him into helping me. It’s hard to say no to Amelia Trenholm, even if you’re her son.”

I knew Amelia, and even liked her, but it didn’t stop the need I had to get out of that restaurant and away from my mother as fast as I could. Staring down at the wooden tabletop, I said, “I haven’t had anything to say to you for over thirty years, Mother. And I don’t think anything has changed. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to go. I’m meeting clients at nine to show them houses in the Old Village and I don’t want to be late.”

She didn’t move and I was forced to continue staring at the darkened wood of the tabletop because I didn’t want to look across from me and see the reproach in Jack’s eyes.

My mother folded her hands on top of the table—still wearing her gloves—and I wondered if she wore them out of habit now or still out of necessity.

“I need your help, Mellie. Your grandmother’s house on Legare is for sale again and I need your professional help in purchasing it. Everyone says that you’re the best Realtor in Charleston.”

Finally, I faced her for the first time, seeing the dark hair swept back in a low ponytail, her flawless skin and high cheekbones, and the green eyes I had always wanted instead of my father’s hazel ones. Only the hint of fine lines at the corners of her eyes and around her mouth showed that she had aged at all since the night she said good night to me when she really should have said good-bye.

“There are hundreds of other Realtors in Charleston, Mother, all as qualified as I am, and a hell of a lot more willing, to help you purchase a home. In other words, no, thank you. I don’t need to make a buck that bad.”

To my surprise, she smiled. “You haven’t really changed all that much.”

“How would you know?” I asked, needing to wipe the smile from her face.

I heard Jack suck in a breath. “Mellie, I know you’re hurt, and I wouldn’t have had any part in this if I thought your mother was here just to make you feel worse. But there’s more, and I think you need to listen to her. She believes you might be in danger.”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “Right. Well, tell her that I can take care of myself. I’ve been doing it for more than thirty years, after all. And I’m not speaking to you, remember?”

My mother spoke quietly beside me. “I’ve been having dreams. Every night. Dreams about a boat at the bottom of the ocean rising to the surface after many years. There’s something—evil about it.” Her eyes met mine and darkened. “And it’s looking for you.”

My throat tightened as a lungful of air escaped through my mouth. I recalled the phone call I’d received the night before and the feeling of dread that had followed me all morning, and I had the odd sensation that I had just fallen through thin ice into freezing water. I swallowed, giving my voice time to find me.

“It was a dream, Mother. Only a dream.” I slid on my coat and fumbled with the buttons with shaking fingers before giving up on them. “And I really must go. If you need a recommendation for a good Realtor, call our receptionist, Nancy Flaherty, and she’ll put you through to somebody.”

“I tried to reach you, after I left. I did.”

I thought of all the things I wanted to say to her—all the things I’d rehearsed saying to her if I ever saw her again—but they all seemed to fall short now that I had the opportunity. Instead, all I said was, “You should have tried harder.”

To my surprise, my mother slid out of her chair and stood, a printed card held out to me between two gloved fingers. “Take my card; you’re going to need it. This isn’t the first time it’s sought you out, you know. But it is the first time you’re old enough to fight it.” She paused. “We are not as we seem, Mellie.”

Again, I was consumed with the feeling of plunging into icy water, and I couldn’t speak. I stared at my mother without making a move to take the card. After a moment she laid it on the table, and with a brief good-bye to Jack she walked away, leaving the lingering scent of orchids and stale grief behind her.

I turned to Jack again but he held up his hand. “I know. You don’t want to speak to me or see me again. I get it. But I think you need to listen to your mother. Her psychic abilities are well known and she knows what she’s talking about. Sure, she could be wrong. After all, you have the gift too, right? And you’re not seeing anything. But what if she’s right? What if you’re in some kind of danger? Don’t you think you should know?”

“Why would you care?” I began to move away but he grabbed my wrist.

“I care a lot more than you’d like to think.”

Our eyes met briefly but I found I couldn’t hold Jack’s gaze. He dropped my arm and I turned around and headed for the door. I didn’t have to look back to know that he’d picked up my mother’s card and was now carefully placing it inside his wallet.

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