Home > Windswept Way (Hope Harbor #9)

Windswept Way (Hope Harbor #9)
Author: Irene Hannon

Maybe buying a haunted house wasn’t her best idea.
Stomach churning, Ashley Scott braked as Windswept Way dead-ended at two open but imposing iron gates bookended by a tall, overgrown hedge. Surveyed the large, faded “Private Property—Keep Out” and “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted” signs posted at the entrance. Read the word carved into the weathered stone block on the left.
Also known as Fitzgerald’s Folly, according to local lore. A place with a storied past filled with triumph and tragedy. Where nocturnal sightings of a woman in white and ethereal music seeping from the house fed the rumors that the estate was haunted.
Ashley massaged her forehead and blew out a breath.
No wonder her mother thought she’d gone off the deep end.
But after forking out the money for a cross-country trek to Hope Harbor, Oregon, it would be even crazier to turn tail and run without keeping the appointment she’d made last week with the owner.
Besides, after all the times she and her father had driven by these then-closed gates during summer vacations and speculated about what lay on the other side, she owed it to both of them to check the place out.
Especially since the money that might or might not be used to buy a stake in Edgecliff had come from the inheritance Dad had left her.
Tightening her grip on the wheel of the rental car, Ashley transferred her foot to the gas pedal and—
Sweet mercy!
Gasping, she mashed the brake to the floor again as a tall, muscular man emerged from behind the hedge, brandishing a chain saw and wearing a black, Covid-style mask that covered his nose and the bottom half of his face. The brim of a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead shadowed the rest of his features.
Ashley groped for the auto lock button and secured the doors as he stopped in the center of the driveway, blocking the entrance.
Now what?
Before she could decide, he began walking toward her.
Pulse skyrocketing, she raised her window. Scanned both sides of the shoulderless narrow lane.
No room for a U-turn.
All she could do was put the car in reverse and back away.
As she fumbled with the gears, the man picked up his pace, heading straight for the hood.
Heart galloping, she tried to engage the left side of her brain.
Did she have a weapon?
No. Not unless a nail file or three-inch dress-shoe heel counted. But both were in her luggage in the trunk anyway. And her key-chain pepper gel was languishing in a bin of confiscated items at the airport back in Tennessee.
Ruing the day she’d decided to embark on this uncharacteristic adventure, she tried to coax the unfamiliar gearshift into reverse with one hand and lifted the other to the horn, prepared to press and hold on the off chance someone would—
All at once, the intimidating stranger veered toward the passenger side of the car, brushed past the door, and strode away.
For a long moment . . . or two . . . or three . . . Ashley remained frozen in place.
Only after the thundering in her chest subsided did she peek in the rearview mirror.
The guy had vanished.
Meaning he hadn’t had any nefarious intent after all.
Sagging in her seat, she lowered her forehead to the steering wheel and faced the truth.
She’d overreacted. Big time. Jumped to the wrong conclusion, thanks to every nerve-racking headline she’d ever read about lone women in isolated places meeting untimely and gruesome ends.
No wonder Jason had preferred someone who was more daring and exciting and bold.
Maybe she ought to eat the cost of this trip, can her half-baked idea, and slink home. Like she’d done the day their so-called relationship had crashed and burned.
As all the emotions she’d felt in those first devastating moments—hurt, resentment, anger, shock—swept over her again, Ashley clamped her lips together and straightened up.
She was not going to run at the first little glitch. She would see this through, even if the trip ended up being a bust.
Easing back on the brake, she continued through the gates and into a tunnel of dense foliage that put the brambles and thorns Sleeping Beauty’s prince had battled to shame.
Thank goodness a passageway had been cleared for vehicles.
But if the rest of the grounds were as overgrown as this, and if maintenance on the house had also been allowed to slide, she was out of here. She may have let herself get carried away with the fanciful notion of owning a piece of a historic property, but she wasn’t about to get lured into a bank-account breaker.
Blue sky appeared around a bend at the end of the tunnel, and she pressed harder on the accelerator. The house should be—
Ashley jammed on her brakes yet again as she exited the warren of tangled greenery. Stared at the house, situated across a wide expanse of lawn dotted with stately evergreens and deciduous trees and backed by the deep blue June sky.
Double whoa.
The pictures supplied by the owner hadn’t lied. Nor had they done this place justice.
Edgecliff wasn’t crumbling. Or overgrown with vegetation. Or missing any vital parts.
It was beautiful. Stunning. Exactly what a classic 1910 Queen Anne Victorian-style house should be.
And the setting?
Surrounded on three sides by the sea, the house had a commanding view from its perch on the ten-acre promontory it had claimed as its own long ago.
Easing back in her seat, Ashley studied the details of the ornate three-story home. The wide wraparound front porch, with a rounded, domed-roof extension on the right and decorative railings, posts, and spindles. The asymmetry of the façade, with a section bumped out beside the front door. An octagonal turret on the left, its roof steeply pitched. A multitude of windows, all different shapes and sizes.
The brick exterior also gave it a sense of permanence and stability often lacking in shingled Queen Anne houses—but unusual for this part of the country, particularly in that era.
Even more unusual given that a lumber baron had built it.
But perhaps the solid construction was why it had held up despite its exposure to the Oregon coast’s notorious fall and winter storms, when powerful winds and the raging waters of the Pacific put on quite a show.