Douglas McCarthy is a vampire haunted by the screams of his victims. After killing a woman accidentally, he vows he will never kill again, and entombs himself within the walls of his own cellar.
Diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, Holly Cartwright knows she only has months to live. Buying the Whispering Pines Plantation with her life savings was, perhaps, the best thing she ever did. But Holly doesn't care that the manor appears to be haunted, as she'll soon be joining the "ghosts" herself.
But what she discovers behind the walls is more than she ever dreamed possible...
“If, in your mortal prison, you wish not to be alone, then in the cellar you shall find him, behind a wall of stone.”
Holly Cartwright read the poem a third time, furrowing her brow in confusion. Who’d sent her these pink roses? And why in God’s name had they sent a macabre poem along with them?
The flowers made a beautiful centerpiece on her second-hand dining table, but she hadn’t given anyone her new address just yet. So who’d set the flowers? The card was signed with only one name—Aidan. She didn’t know anyone by that name. But that didn’t seem to matter, as she’d also received mail early that afternoon. One envelope stood out against the junk. Plain and white, postmarked El Dorado Springs, Colorado, 80025, but clearly addressed to her. She heaved a deep sigh. Did the entire world know she’d moved here? So much for trying to be discreet.
Moving in to the Whispering Pines Plantation had probably not been the smartest move she’d ever made, but when Holly had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, rational thought flew out the window. Buying the plantation just south of Atlanta, Georgia had taken every last red cent of her savings, but she’d been drawn to the old, run-down structure ever since she was a little girl. It had been on the market for months, and she knew the reason why. The old plantation was rumored to be haunted, but Holly didn’t care. She had six months to live. If there was a ghost in the house, she’d soon be joining them.
Without another thought, Holly ripped open the envelope. Inside was some kind of tarot card. Turning it in her hand, she chewed the inside of her lip. A picture of the plantation’s front gates greeted her, along with a man’s golden-brown eye, staring intensely. Shivers raced up her spine. At the bottom of the card was one word in white lettering. Tomb. Was someone playing a joke on her? Did they know of her fatal condition? How quaint. How fitting. How unimaginably cruel. Tears burned her eyes and she sniffled, determined not to cry. What kind of person would do such a thing?
Weaving around boxes she hadn’t yet unpacked, Holly tossed the card into the open box she’d been using as her trash can. She would have chucked the flowers too, but they looked so nice on her table. A morbid reminder that she was soon going to die.
Her head began to pound, a throbbing that started behind her eyes, then spread to every inch of her brain. Stumbling to the sofa, which was still devoid of its cushions, Holly sat down clumsily, holding her head in her hands. She futilely rubbed her temples, trying to get the pain to stop, but she knew it wouldn’t go away for hours. At any sign of stress, her headaches overwhelmed her. She wouldn’t get any more unpacking done today.
She hadn’t wanted to spend her last days in a hospital, and she barely had any family to stay with. Her mother had skipped town when she was a baby, leaving her with her grandparents, who’d been entirely too old to raise a child on their own. Her grandmother had died when Holly was seventeen, and her grandfather now lived in a home for the elderly. She had nowhere else to go, but she didn’t mind. Holly needed to be alone to face her fear of death. It was still surreal to her, knowing she wouldn’t live to see Christmas or the New Year.
Curling into a ball on the couch, she shut her eyes tight and tried to make the throbbing go away. If she could just shut out the world, she’d be all right. At least, that’s what she kept telling herself.
* * * * *
Someone was in the house—a woman—he could feel it. He knew her pain, her uncertainty. In the darkness, he moaned, wishing he could see what she looked like, smell her sweet scent, taste her warm blood…
But that was never to be.
His hand rested on the cool stone that separated him from the world. He’d chosen his prison, never wanting to kill again. The thirst for blood overwhelmed him at times, and his gnawing hunger wouldn’t leave him alone. But all he’d had for sustenance in the last hundred years were the mice that lived with him behind these walls.
Douglas McCarthy had been a vampire for almost as long as he could remember, ever since he’d walked down that alley in London to meet his sire. The man had promised him eternal life, and at the time, Douglas would have done anything to obtain it. After he’d been turned, Douglas had lived with his guilt for a hundred years before entombing himself within the walls of his cellar. The deaths of the people he’d feasted on in those early years burned in his heart, especially the death of Penelope Randall.
She’d been a woman who’d fancied him, and he’d found his pleasure within her more than once. But he’d taken too much from her one evening, and her life ebbed from her veins. The only way to save her had been to turn her, but Douglas had decided long ago never to turn anyone into the monster he was. Living eternally as a vampire wasn’t truly living at all. If all his life had to offer was killing people for food, then he would never turn a soul. How could he live with himself, condemning someone to the hell in which he now existed?
Douglas’ thoughts once again turned to the woman in the house. Her pain became more intense, and he could feel the pounding in her head. He always knew the pains and pleasures of the ones who’d lived in his house over the years, and sometimes he couldn’t help himself. He’d wailed and pounded on the walls in an effort to break free, but the stones wouldn’t budge. Thank God. There would be no leaving this cell of his own making.
Silent, weary tears slipped down his cheeks. All he wanted was death, blessed death. But by walling himself up within his cellar, he’d succeeded in prolonging his hellish existence.
Dear God, the woman was sobbing now.
Douglas caressed the stones, crying with her. He understood her agony and found solace in her weeping. He longed to comfort her, despite what he was, if only to comfort himself. How long had it been since he’d been with a woman? Douglas couldn’t remember, but his body tightened regardless.
Calling out to her with his powers of suggestion, he soothed her headache and sent her warmth. Perhaps she’d find him—perhaps she’d release him.
Perhaps…it was too much to hope for.