Secrets of Hallstead House
By: Amy M. Reade
Releasing July 17th, 2014
Macy Stoddard had hoped to ease the grief of losing her parents in a fiery car crash by accepting a job as a private nurse to the wealthy and widowed Alexandria Hallstead. But her first sight of Summerplace is of a dark and forbidding home. She quickly finds its winding halls and shadowy rooms filled with secrets and suspicions.
Alex seems happy to have Macy’s help, but others on the island, including Alex’s sinister servants and hostile relatives, are far less welcoming. Watching eyes, veiled threats…slowly, surely, the menacing spirit of Hallstead Island closes in around Macy. And she can only wonder if her story will become just one of the many secrets of Hallstead House…
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Pete turned the knob and the enormous front door swung open soundlessly. We stepped into a large, sparse foyer. The floor had an intriguing harlequin look, with black and white marble tiles set on point in a diamond pattern. A small bench covered in a rich red fabric sat next to the door, and a grandfather clock ticked quietly to my left. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, casting a soft glow over the foyer. Straight ahead was a broad staircase leading to the second story, and next to the staircase a wide hallway stretched toward the back of the house.
It was very quiet at first. Then I heard muffled, angry voices rising from within the residence somewhere. I couldn’t tell if the voices were male or female, or what they were saying. Pete threw me a quick glance and shouted, “Hello! Anyone home?” The heated voices
stopped abruptly, and after a minute a tall, thin woman came into the front hall from the back of the house, wiping her hands on a dingy apron. I looked at her and was struck by how gray looking she was. Her hair, gray and shaggy, hung limply to her shoulders. She had watery gray eyes that looked slightly sunken, and even her skin had a tinge that reminded me of dirty dishwater.
She paid no attention to me as she greeted Pete, saying in a raspy voice, “Shut that door! It’s cold in here.” She reached past him and gave the door a shove, closing it with a thud. She inspected me through narrowed eyes and asked Pete, “Is this the new nurse?”
Pete answered her, “Yes. This is Macy Stoddard, Miss Hallstead’s new nurse. Macy, this is Valentina Byrd, the housekeeper and cook at Summerplace.”
I smiled and held out my hand to Valentina. She ignored me. Instead she turned to Pete and said, “You’d better go out and fix that damned awning over the porch before it starts to rain harder. It’s leaking like a sieve. Miss Hallstead keeps asking me about it.”
“No problem,” he said, and turned to me. “Vali will show you where your room is.” With that, he turned around and left, closing the door quietly behind him. I was left alone with Valentina.
She looked at me balefully and said, “Get your bags. I’ll show you where you’re gonna stay.” I took my two suitcases and lugged them up the stairs behind her. At the top of the stairs Valentina turned to the left and walked toward a closed door. I glanced around me while she fumbled with a set of keys that she withdrew from her pocket. The second floor
reminded me of a hotel, with its closed doors and dim wall sconces.
It was chilly up there and I shivered. I glanced up and saw a cavernous space rising to a point above the second-floor hallway. That must be where the weathervane is mounted outside. Valentina finally found the key she was looking for. She inserted the key into the door and swung it open on slightly creaky hinges. The noise made the second floor seem positively haunted. I shivered again, though not from the chill this time.
“This here is your room. Your bathroom is inside to the right. If you need something, I’ll be downstairs. Miss Hallstead told me to tell you that you can look around or rest until dinnertime. She is working in her rooms and doesn’t like to be bothered while she’s working.
Dinner’s at six o’clock.” With that, Valentina turned her back to me and started to close the door. Then she opened it again and glared at me, her watery eyes narrowing. “Don’t get too comfortable—I don’t think you’re going to be here too long.” Then she was gone. I listened as she clumped down the stairs. After such a reception, I felt thoroughly alone, and I was becoming increasingly apprehensive about this new job.
Amy M. Reade is a debut author of romantic suspense. A native of upstate New York, she grew up in the Thousand Islands region and was inspired by the natural beauty of that area to write her first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House. She now lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children, a Bouvier des Flandres named Orly, and two rescued cats who refuse to answer to their names of Porthos and Athos.
Upon graduation from Cornell University and Indiana University School of Law, Amy practiced law in New York City, but soon discovered that her dream job was writing. In addition to volunteering with school, church, and community groups, Amy is currently working on her second novel, set in the area around Charleston, South Carolina.
Though Amy lives within sight of the Atlantic Ocean, she is partial to the blue waters of the Pacific and spends as much time as possible on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the setting of her as-yet-unwritten third novel.
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