Read an Excerpt
She Told Herself that there was no such thing as ghosts. That her imagination was running wild.
Alexandra stood outside of Blackwell House, alone in the dark, staring. She was passing through Boston on her way back to school, and stopping at the closed museum, once the actual home of one of Massachusetts's founding families, had been an impulse. Until a moment ago, it had seemed like a good idea as she was hardly ready for a solitary meal and bed. Her hotel was just across the Common. It would be a short walk back.
But now she shivered, even though it was a pleasant June evening despite the slight drizzle. Her small overnight bag was at her feet. She hadn't thought to bring an umbrella, and she was rapidly becoming damp. But that wasn't the problem. The real problem was that, until a moment ago, she had believed in ghosts, she had just never encountered one before. Now she was wondering if the house she stared at was haunted, or if she was merely imagining being watched.
Yet the eyes seemed to be coming from behind hernot from the unlit colonial house in front of her.
Alex glanced behind her, but saw no one, nothing other than a single passing car, its headlights momentarily blinding her. She stepped back but did not avoid the spray of water coming from beneath the sedan's tires. Her tired old penny loafers were probably ruined.
But there was no one behind her. Alex strained to see; the night remained still and silent around her. The sensation of not being alone, of being watched, was only that, a sensation. It was her very vivid historian's imagination, nothingmore.
Alexreturned her attention to the house. It was set back from the street on what appeared to be a half-acre plot, on the comer of Beacon Street and Spruce. A wrought-iron fence bordered the property, creeping vines clinging to it, and a broken brick path led to the three front steps of the porch. Faded, uncared-for lawns dotted with thick, old elms surrounded the house. The house was colonial. It was three stories high, completely square, made of white clapboard, the slate roof steeply pitched. The shutters appeared to have been painted a dark green. There were no lights on inside Blackwell House, of course, as the museum was closed for the night.
Alex imagined what it must have been like to five in such a house two hundred years ago. She smiled. She was a graduate student at Columbia University, and her specialty was the naval history of the early-nineteenth-century United States. She loved that entire time period, and she could picture the house lit up with kerosene lights and candle-topped chandeliers, the men in powdered queues and knee breeches, the ladies in empire-waisted silk gowns. She could almost hear the strains of a piano filtering from the salon. Alex continued to smile. She might be a historian, but she was also a romantic fool, secretly consuming romance novels, and she couldn't help wishing that she had lived in the past when the history she loved so fervently was actually being made.
Alex would have loved to attend an eighteenth-century ball. On the arm of some dashing rake, of course. But she would have been a Jeffersonian Democrat, not some meek Milquetoast, and being as young ladies did not study history, ride mountain bikes, or sail like the wind on the sea, she would have undoubtedly been a schoolteacher as well as a mother and a wife. A schoolteacher and a reformer . . .
Alex shook herself free of her fantasies with some difficulty, because they were so pleasant, unlike her present reality. She was single and very alone in the world. Alex had no family. Her best friend, her mother, Glory, had died last year from a sudden stroke. Her father had died in a car accident when she was a child. Alex couldn't really remember him, except for his frequent grins. She wished, selfishly, that her parents had had other children.
Alex felt a puff of air on her nape and she jerked. But it was only the wind and the raindrops, she thought. She glanced around, but the sidewalk remained deserted. The park appeared vacant too, except for several homeless people stretched out on park benches. Still, the hairs on her nape prickled, and she remained uneasy. Shivering, Alex tugged her navy blue blazer closer to her body and reached down for her bag. How had her thoughts become so morbid? She was happy, truly she was, for she was in Boston for the first time in her life, and she had all day tomorrow to explore the city's glorious history. She would return first thing in the morning when the museum was open, after an early morning jog.
Alex turned away from Blackwell House. And as she did so, she was suddenly certain that she could feel a powerful presence, just behind her.
Alex faltered, glancing around, and saw no one.
She faced forward, her steps quickening. She was suddenly quite certain that she was not alone.
"Everyone here in town knows all about the Blackwells. Although there are no real Blackwells left, so to speak." The blue-haired lady smiled at Alex, who stood impatiently in the foyer of Blackwell House, pushing her red bangs out of her eyes. Clad in her blue blazer, a white T-shirt, and jeans, Alex was the museum's first visitor of the day-she had just walked through the front doors.
The little old lady smiled. "They were one of the oldest, most respected and powerful families in Boston, of course. In fact, Blackwell descendants, most of whom are Mathiesons and only related to the family by marriage, still make the society columns.