Jenna eyed the house with trepidation. Having inherited the crumbling pile, she felt obligated to check it out before selling the place. Orphaned at birth, Jenna was adopted by Silas Monterey. She'd been fortunate to lead a life of privilege and had a trust fund that guaranteed she wouldn't want for money. But looking at the giant house before her, she wasn't sure her bank account could handle a complete restoration.
Windmere Plantation had been in the Monterey family for four hundred years, and it showed. The paint was peeling, having turned yellow with age. The mosaic tiled porch, which she was sure had been added later, and the paint on the massive columns had cracked in several places. Silas had never brought her here, and now she understood why.
At least the windows are intact, she thought with a grimace.
Squaring her shoulders, she inserted the key into the lock and pushed the door open, cringing at the loud creak that echoed throughout the house. It was dark and dusty inside. The dank smell of stale air and moisture assailed her. She wrinkled her nose and shut the door, plunging herself into darkness, the windows so filthy that no light could penetrate the gloom.
She looked at the floor, wanting to set her heavy bag down, but didn't dare. It was obvious she needed a cleaning crew to come immediately. There was no way she was going to tackle the monstrous job herself. Besides, she'd probably break her nails and ruin her French manicure.
Before she could leave, a cold chill swept over her and she heard a man laugh softly in her ear. With a gasp, she spun around, but no one was there. Her heart thundered in her chest as her eyes searched the inky blackness. After a moment, she decided it must have been her imagination.
Opening the front door, she slipped back outside and locked it. She wasn't about to stay in the house before it was cleaned and the linens were washed. For that matter, she'd probably have to buy new mattresses. No telling what kind of creatures had made nests in them.
This was definitely not how she had intended to spend her holiday. While it was her first Christmas without Silas, she'd wanted to spend it someplace warm -- the Bahamas maybe. Instead, she was stuck trying to fix an old house she had absolutely no interest in, other than to sell it.
After heaving her bag back into her trunk, she got behind the wheel and drove to the closest hotel. First thing in the morning, she would call someone to scrub the house from top to bottom. Once it was clean, she'd have a better idea of what she would need to restore before she could sell the crumbling pile. In its present state, she doubted she could get so much as a hundred dollars for the place. Hell, she probably couldn't give it away for free!
Entering the lobby of the plush hotel, she walked up to the desk and rang the bell.
An elderly man walked slowly from the back office and smiled at her. "What may I do for you, young lady?"
"I'd like a room. I'm not sure how long I'll need it though."
"Certainly." He tapped away on the computer keyboard. "May I see your driver's license and credit card?"
She handed both to him.
He stared at her driver's license with interest. "Monterey. Are you related to Silas Monterey?"
"You knew him?"
"Very well. Everyone knows Mr. Monterey and Windmere."
"That's why I'm here. Windmere. Father left it to me and I came to assess its value."
"Value?" He looked startled. "You aren't selling it, are you?"
"You might have a problem with that."
"Why?" she asked with a frown.
"Because it's haunted."