Petals on the Pillow

 

When Kelly Donovan arrives by ferry on an isolated island in the middle of the Puget Sound, she only wants to paint the mural she has been commissioned to create for the daughter of world-renowned financier and entrepreneur Harrison St. John, and then move on. 

But from Kelly's first night at the Manor, a mysterious woman in yellow begins to haunt her dreams urging Kelly to "find the truth." Petals from a gardenia, the signature flower of Elizabeth St. John who died tragically in a drowning accident two years 
earlier, show up on Kelly's pillow that night after night. Like it or not, Kelly is swept into the maelstrom of emotion and intrigue that surround Elizabeth's death and Harrison's secret pain.

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EXCERPT

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Something rustled under the bushes. Twigs

snapped and leaves crackled under the feet

of something live, but unseen, as it made its

invisible escape. Kelly Donovan whirled around,

half expecting to find someone—something—

staring back at her from under a shrub, but

there was nothing there except waving leaves in the stiffening breeze.

 

Fat gray clouds scudded across the sky. Low and pregnant with the promise of rain, they pressed down on the dense growth of pine and fir that surrounded her. The bushes rustled again. This time she knew it was only the wind. Still the breeze raised goosebumps on her bare arms and she hugged herself to stop the shiver that swept through her.

“What do you want to do, Kell?” Lisa asked. “Hoof it, I suppose.” Kelly smiled down at her friend’s anxious face and then back up the hill before her. “It’s not that far.” Kelly looked through the iron gates that had stopped their progress from the little village on the other side of the island to the great house that stood alone on this isolated hill. The drive twisted away from them, a single ribbon winding through the overgrown woods. Branches coiled out of the dense growth to intrude on the narrow pathway as if malevolent arms were trying to grab even this slim slice of civilization back into the wild. The house loomed at the end of the half-mile of tortured gravel beyond the bars. House. Kelly nearly snorted. The place could hold a half-dozen of the little three-bedroom bungalows that clotted the neighborhood where she’d grown up, yards and all.

 

“You know, we could get back in the car and be home in Seattle by nine. They’d never even know you’d been here,” Lisa suggested.

 

Kelly looked sidelong at her. “And do what for the summer?”

 

“Stay with me and my folks,” Lisa answered, head bobbing eagerly, brown curls bouncing around her cherubic face. She looked younger than her 24 years—something she often used to her advantage and that occasionally came back and bit her squarely on the behind. Right now, she was using her best ingénue stare on Kelly, but they’d been friends too long for it to have much effect. “You know they’d love to have you. Come on, Kelly, it’d be fun. We’d still be roommates. It’d be just like school, but with better food.”

 

“Would you and your parents also love to support me? You seem to be forgetting the small matter of my financial situation.” Kelly fell willingly into the role of older, cynical friend. The cynicism wasn’t much of a stretch, but she only had two years on her friend and roommate.

 

Lisa’s pink lip extended into the beginning of a pout. “You wouldn’t have to pay for rent or food. You could practically flip burgers for the summer and save enough money for school in the fall.”

 

“I might be able to make enough money flipping burgers to cover living expenses next semester at school, but you’re ignoring the fact that I have other commitments, too. Besides I’m sick of food service jobs.”

 

Lisa’s lip pushed out further. “Fine, then. You could paint pastel portraits at the mall. God knows you’re fast enough to rake in a bundle at that once word gets around about you. Once people saw your stuff, you’d be rolling in work and you could paint all summer. You know, Kelly, you could probably quit school and do that full time and be fine.”

 

“It may yet come to that.” Kelly jabbed her thumb at the gate’s buzzer, cringing a little as she noticed the nail was chewed to the quick and a smudge of brown paint ran down the side of her hand. It wouldn’t exactly make a great impression.

 

That was assuming, of course, that she’d get to make any impression at all. No answering hum or click signaled the unlocking of the gate. Kelly squinted her eyes, but couldn’t make out even a flicker of light in any of Hawk Manor’s dozen or so gracefully proportioned windows that faced this way. From this distance, she couldn’t tell if the shades were drawn or if the interior was simply dark. They were just regularly spaced dark slashes in the monumental gray stone of the building.

 

Lisa sighed and tucked a strand of dark hair behind one ear. She turned her back to the house and leaned against the gate. The iron spears were easily twice her height and the massive stone columns they connected towered above them. “If you ask me the whole thing is a little weird.”

 

“I didn’t ask,” Kelly replied as she started to unload her cases.

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