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At last, after miles of winding, narrow country roads, the headlights of the rental car picked out rough stone, straight cedar walls and overflowing flower boxes. They marked the outline of a house. Cindi knew it must be Magnolia House, her final destination after thousands of miles of headlong flight. Flight from San Francisco, then earthbound in a small car from Shreveport Airport.
The house perched on a rugged Louisiana hillside, its appearance as natural as the huge magnolia trees that sheltered and named it. It pulsed with living energy and drew all the light of the rapidly sinking sun. Cindi swung the steering wheel, following the curve of the driveway. She stopped before the closed doors of a double garage. FedEx had delivered the front door key to her in California days ago, but she had no way of opening the garage doors.
"Consuelo should have sent the remote control instead," she grumbled, her nerves tingling with fatigue. A prickly, uneasy feeling flooded her as she left the cloistered safety of the car.
The day's light continued to fail rapidly. She hadn't meant to arrive so late, it just happened. First her flight from the West Coast had been delayed in Dallas so her arrival in Shreveport was later than she'd expected. Then after landing, she impulsively rented the car and ignored every tempting motel sign she passed. Wrong turns and unfamiliar roads delayed her even more. Now on this midsummer evening, darkness was fast approaching.
"I hope the electricity is turned on," Cindi muttered half under her breath. Fumbling in her bag for the house key, the unexpected rumble of a husky male voice caught her unprepared.
"All the daylight will soon be gone. I'm glad you got here before dark," someone said. "You must be Cindi Lynn."
Turning toward the voice, sudden fear stabbed Cindi. At the sight of the young man who stood before her, her fears calmed. His casual stance reassured her. His friendly but puzzled smile sat easily on his handsome, finely chiseled features as he stared back openly.
"I'm Lucinda Lynn, sometimes known as Cindi," she acknowledged in a starchy tone. "You must have heard I'll be staying here awhile."
"That's right, but it's hard to believe you're Cindi Lynn. You look younger than I expected."
Stung and embarrassed, she replied, "Well I'm old enough to drink, old enough to gamble. Old enough for most anything else. Would you like to see my driver's license?"
Now the young man had the grace to look embarrassed. "No need for that," he mumbled. "I'm Dell Comeaux." He stuck out his hand.
Cindi took it. An electric tingle surged through her at the contact. She eyed the man. His appearance was unexpected. Disappointment filled her for she had expected to be alone at Magnolia House. She needed that. She needed a solitary place to flee her mother's house in California, a solitary place to mourn her mother's death and her father's disappearance, a solitary place to rest and recover from recent surgery on her vocal chords. But he was so attractive she found her disappointment fading.
"Hi, Mr. Comeaux. I was told I'd be alone at Magnolia House," she challenged.
"You will be. My quarters are over there." Dell gave a vague wave toward the side of the house. "Miss Flowers just didn't think to tell you I live on the premises and take care of the grounds."
"A caretaker?" Cindi started to add he looked too young for the job, but stopped herself.
"That's right. You'll find I'm right handy to have around."
Somehow that answer gave her even more reassurance. Now she could see he was older than he first appeared. Wide shoulders strained the worn fabric of his faded denim shirt. Shaggy, shoulder length hair and a virile appearance bewitched her.
"Can't we go inside? I've been waiting for years to see this place."
"Your pa built it didn't he? For Miss Flowers."
"Yes." As she met Dell's quizzical look, Cindi felt her pale skin redden. He must know about her father's illicit relationship with the owner of the house. But he couldn't know how much hurt and bewilderment that relationship had caused Cindi and her mother over the years since her father left them.
"This place is a prototype for all the other solar homes my father built." The stilted words left her mouth and the unwilling attraction she felt for Dell grew. Uncomfortable, she turned once more to the house.
From the outside, it looked to be a closed secretive sort of a place. Few windows graced this westward facing side. The front door was sheltered and opened onto a trellised porch where pink climbing roses bloomed and released their fragrance. Opposite the entry, small awning-covered windows opened from what Cindi knew from study of the blueprints to be the laundry room.
"Please, let's go in," she said. Her voice sounded weak, its waning strength depleted. She handed her key to Dell and hoped he didn't already have a duplicate in his jeans.
Dell opened the massive door and stood aside allowing her to pass through first. Finally she was inside the house of her dreams. Dell silently followed. Cindi noticed then he was barefoot and knew how he had taken her by surprise earlier. His narrow elegant feet intrigued her. As did the elegance he gave even his very casual apparel.
They entered the house from the foyer, and a marvelous vista opened before them. Ahead lay a softly lit indoor garden, separated from the rest of the house by glass walls and sliding glass doors. The skylight above it captured all the fast-fading daylight. Living plants everywhere, both inside and outside the glassed-in space, gave tropical lushness to the interior. The scent of orchids and bougainvillea perfumed the air along with the fragrance of other exotic plants Cindi could not name. Beyond the atrium, she could see a formal living area complete with grand piano and long, sumptuous couches.
"It's fabulous," she breathed. "I've never seen anything so lovely."
"It is that. Too bad it's haunted."
Cindi moved away from Dell in a daze. Bewitched by the beauty that surrounded her, sated with the flowery fragrances, she knew Dell was only playing a game by claiming the place to be haunted.
"How could anything this lovely be haunted?" she asked.
"I don't know how, but I've seen the ghosts who haunt it. You'll likely see 'em, too. You'll probably hear them first, though. That is if you stay long enough."
His last words taunted her, held a threatening ring. An involuntary shiver rippled through Cindi…
"I'm prepared to stay until Miss Flowers comes back," she asserted.
"Maybe you will. Maybe you won't."
Annoyed, Cindi glared at Dell. Her intent to stare him down and put him in his place became lost in his hooded gaze. He reached out as if to touch her, but she moved away and dropped her gaze toward the cool Italian tile beneath her feet. A beautiful inlaid sunburst design rewarded her. She studied it with feigned interest.
Copyright © 2002 by Evelyn Morgan
Posted May 20, 2010
This book has everything you would want in a good read. Mystery, Romance, Thrills. Cindy has arrived at her fathers house to think things out, her father is being held capative in another country and shes not sure if she will ever see him again. She has recently lost her mother and is invited to magnolia house by her fathers mistress who is also missing. Upon arriving she meets Dell sexy young caretaker of Magonlia house they our attracted to each other instantly. The maid is mysterious women who claims she worked for her father in her homeland. Cindy starts to hear and see things at Magnolia house is she going insane? or is it haunted? Or is the maid trying to scare Cindy away? The maid becomes more and more mysterious who is she really? Cindy and Dell start to investigate the strange happenings and fall more and more in love, then out of the blue Cindys old beau comes to Magonlia House and trouble really heats up. This book holds your attention from the first page to the last, its a keeper, the lovely descriptions of Louisiania makes you want to be there. Would recommend to anymore.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.