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Sneak Preview of Under Glass And Stone

Read the first few chapters of my new gothic mystery

Under Glass And Stone is almost here! It has so many of my favorite things: a creepy Victorian mansion, unsolved disappearances, paranormal happenings, swoon-worthy romance, and historical mysteries.  It releases on April 7, 2020, but I'm so excited to share a sneak preview with you all today. Enjoy!

Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and the iBooks app. Find it on Goodreads here.

Chapter 1

The day Milo Foster disappeared, no one could say what he’d been doing up in the tower. A few neighbors even insisted he’d never gone inside Byrne House at all. But Evelyn knew what she’d seen. She would never forget the discordant whiteness of Milo’s face, small and pale as a fish in the round mouth of the tower window. Later, when Evelyn reported the sighting, she left out her unsettling first impression: that it was her own face she was seeing, about to be swallowed up by the mansion.

For as far back as she could remember, maybe ever since she’d been tall enough to see above the sill, Evelyn had liked to watch Byrne House from her second-floor bedroom across the street. When Evelyn was little, her mother asked why the sprawling Victorian fascinated her. Viv Ashwood was making Evelyn’s bed and pretending to be focused on her task. But Evelyn could tell by the slow rhythm of her mom’s hands that Viv was listening carefully.

“Is it because of Nana?” her mom prompted. “Is she still telling you those stories?”

He’d gotten trapped behind the walls, Nana had whispered. They could hear him knocking.

“No,” Evelyn said. She didn’t want to get Nana in trouble. But it wasn’t just the bedtime stories, not really. “It’s because of my dream. I’m trying to find the part that's missing.”

Her mom had gotten very still and very quiet. She hadn’t asked again.

Even now, at seventeen, Evelyn would glance over at the tower whenever she passed by her window or when she turned onto the street on her walk home from school. And always before she went to bed at night. It was a little ritual, an itch to scratch. It wasn’t because of the dreams anymore—her nightly dreams of Byrne House had eventually turned to a nightmare and then morphed into something worse. Something she didn’t like to think about. But those dreams had stopped years ago and still she watched, unable to say why. She knew better than to mention the habit around her mother.

Until the day Evelyn saw Milo, the tower window was always dark. A hole punched into the stone. Reginald Byrne lived alone in there, a forgotten king in his walled-up castle.

Evelyn never saw anyone go in or out of Byrne House’s wrought-iron gate except the cleaning lady. And Mrs. Lake only came the last day of each month. She’d walk over from her own home several streets away and stay all day. Then she’d reappear just as darkness fell, red curls tucked into a wool cap, bag hitched into her side as she marched down the mansion’s front path. An official emissary returning from a journey into a foreign land.

On July 31—the day Milo would disappear and all the trouble would start—Mrs. Lake spent only a few minutes inside the mansion before she ran back out, screaming.

Up until that moment, Evelyn had been lying in bed, immersed in a horror novel. Her window was open, curtains lifting and falling with each breath of wind. Evelyn’s room was tiny, just big enough for a twin bed and an antique secretary desk that doubled as a dresser. Her tiny collection of vintage, thrift-store clothes was tucked carefully inside. She also had a narrow closet, but she certainly couldn’t put her clothes in there. That was where she stored all her books.

“Help! Please, help!”

Evelyn froze, and her hands tightened on her book. The cry had come from the street. Then there was a slamming door. Evelyn tossed her book on the bed and rushed to the open window.

Mrs. Lake was running across Byrne House’s yard, crying. She yanked open the iron gate and ran into the street, then started turning back and forth like she couldn’t make up her mind where to go.

A bike turned onto the avenue. Immediately the rider had to swerve to avoid hitting Mrs. Lake. Evelyn recognized his closely-shorn brown hair and chunky black-frame glasses. It was Milo Foster. He must’ve been on his way to visit his grandma. In one fluid motion, Milo jumped off the bike and left it lying by the curb. He went to Mrs. Lake, who kept shouting and gesturing at the house behind her.

Milo seemed to get the gist. He ran up the mansion’s front steps and tried the door. It wouldn’t open. He said something else to Mrs. Lake, who was sobbing actively now. She pointed him to the side of the house. Milo ran in that direction.

All this had happened in the span of a minute, maybe two. Evelyn grabbed her phone and ran downstairs. By the time she got outside, a handful of neighbors were streaming out of their homes. Several held phones to their ears.

She paused at the sidewalk, looking up at the mansion. She couldn’t explain her hesitation, only that something seemed different. Strange. Her pulse seemed unsteady, too fast. Now too slow. Then, from the corner of her eye, she spotted movement near the top of the tower.

It was gone. The tower’s round window was just reflections laid on top of black. Nothing there.

Her eyes traced the mansion’s rough stone facade and the curve of the porch railing. Then back to the tower with its cone-shaped roof.

There—the curtains in the tower’s highest window were shifting. Now, an oval of white appeared within the larger black circle. Like the opening of a milky, reptilian eye.

A face.

For a surreal split second, Evelyn imagined she was seeing her own reflection, though the angles were all wrong. But then she saw the square-frame glasses, and the illusion dissipated. It was Milo again. Why had he gone inside? Was Mr. Byrne alright?

A siren whined, the pitch climbing. An ambulance with flashing lights skidded down the road. The loiterers on the street scattered toward the park, and the ambulance’s tires squealed to a stop a few yards from the Byrne House gate. A patrol car pulled up a heartbeat later.

She’d only glanced away for a moment. But when Evelyn looked up at the tower window again, Milo’s face was gone.

She hurried across the street, joining the group standing by the mansion’s front gate.

“Everyone back, please!”

One of the officers was waving the neighbors away from the mansion. Reluctantly, the crowd relocated to Walter Park, where they’d still have a clear view of the goings on.

Evelyn crossed over with her neighbors. She saw Ms. Foster—Milo’s grandmother. Joyce Foster was sitting on a park bench beside Mrs. Lake, the cleaning lady who’d recently run screaming from Byrne House. Mrs. Lake was still crying, her hand held over her mouth. Ms. Foster murmured something to her. When she spotted Evelyn, Ms. Foster stood up.

“Goodness, Evelyn! It’s all just awful!”

They hugged, and Evelyn inhaled her neighbor’s clean-laundry scent. Ms. Foster had pulled her long white hair into a ponytail. She’d asked Evelyn to call her Joyce, but Evelyn couldn’t think of her grandmotherly neighbor as “Joyce.” Ms. Foster was the resident social butterfly of the streets surrounding Walter Park. Evelyn had always liked her because she bore a strong resemblance to Evelyn’s own grandmother, though Nana Stanton had been more the quiet and intense type.

“What happened?” Evelyn asked.

“She’s had a shock,” Ms. Foster whispered, nodding her head at the cleaning lady. “She hasn’t been making much sense.”

“Have you seen Milo?" Evelyn asked. "Has he come out yet?" But Ms. Foster had knelt beside the cleaning woman again, and so she didn't hear.

A couple of detectives had now arrived. One was a woman wearing a navy windbreaker and a necklace-badge. She took out a small notebook and flipped it open. The other, a man who was squeezed into a gray blazer, came across the street to Mrs. Lake.

“Ma’am, you’re the one who found him?”

Him?” Evelyn said to Ms. Foster. “Does he mean Mr. Byrne?”

Ms. Foster stood and hugged Evelyn to her side. “We’d better wait for the official word. But it doesn’t look good.”

The detective guided Mrs. Lake across to the mansion. To give a witness statement, Evelyn assumed, based on the police shows she’d streamed.

An SUV pulled up and double parked beside the ambulance. A young woman got out, ribbons of dark hair flying. She clutched her phone. “Where's my father? Where is he?” The woman’s eyes darted around, large and frightened, and Evelyn felt a pang of sympathy as she realized who it was. Daniella Byrne.

She hadn’t seen Daniella or the other one—the younger brother—since they’d left for boarding school years ago. Everyone said Daniella was a genius, graduated from college when she was just eighteen. The Byrne siblings would be in their twenties now. They hadn't been back to Byrne House in all that time. Not until now.

The windbreaker-wearing detective ushered Daniella toward Byrne House’s door. Evelyn watched Daniella’s sheet of black hair disappear into the mansion, where Mrs. Lake had also gone.

Evelyn glanced up to the tower window. Scratching that familiar itch. It couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes since Mrs. Lake first screamed. She thought of Milo’s face, the strangeness of seeing him there, and how quickly he'd gone. Both real and not-real, like this entire day so far. Blurry at the edges.

Milo had been Evelyn's classmate since forever. He was the backbone of the school’s academic decathlon team; quiet, nice, kind of nerdy. Like Evelyn herself, minus all the obsessive tendencies. But aside from that, Evelyn hadn’t known him that well until this summer.

Starting in late May, Evelyn and Milo had spent several afternoons a week helping clean out Ms. Foster’s overstuffed attic—Milo because he was a dutiful grandson, and Evelyn because it was easy to pass off to her mother as a summer job. Ms. Foster wanted to write a book about the history of Castle Heights, but she had so much material she didn't know where to start. She’d been collecting old photo albums, boxes of newspapers, and treasure-filled antiques from her neighbors for years. Evelyn, of course, always kept an eye out for anything related to Byrne House. She wanted corroboration of her Nana’s creepy but vague stories about the place. Tales of children gone missing, lost lovers driven mad. They had dragged crate after crate out of the attic in the past two months.

At the end of each day, she, Milo and Ms. Foster would sit down in the dining room and comb through their finds over pitchers of iced tea. Evelyn wasn’t great at striking up new friendships, but she could imagine Milo becoming a good friend. And now that Milo had actually been inside the mansion? Evelyn couldn't wait to talk to him. She just hoped Mr. Byrne was alright. And that Milo wasn’t, somehow, in trouble. But maybe the police just needed to interview him, like they were Mrs. Lake.

“Have you seen Milo?” Evelyn asked Ms. Foster again.

The older woman looked confused. “Was he here? I wasn’t expecting him today.”

Evelyn explained what she’d seen earlier in the day: Milo arriving on his bike and running into the house, presumably from the back door. How she’d seen him in the window. As she spoke her anxiety increased. Was he still in the house? Why would the police be holding him? He'd been justified in going into the house, surely. Mrs. Lake had been screaming for help.

“I wouldn’t worry,” Ms. Foster said. “If Milo’s a witness, they’ll need to find out what he knows. Then we can ask him all about it,” she added slyly.

The afternoon wore slowly on, and Evelyn got more and more worried. The police finished interviewing Mrs. Lake and several of the neighbors and released them. Word went around: Mrs. Lake had found Reginald Byrne unconscious, and she’d panicked. But there were no other details.

Evelyn walked around the block, getting as close to the yellow line of police tape as she dared. She even asked an officer if he’d seen a boy in thick-framed glasses. But there was no sign of Milo.

Finally, the EMTs rolled a stretcher with a body-shaped lump on it, covered with a thick plastic sheet. The murmurs around her confirmed it. Reginald Byrne was dead. Nobody knew yet what had happened to him.

But Milo, Evelyn kept thinking. Where is he?

The EMTs packed the stretcher into the ambulance, clamped shut the doors, and drove away. No more flashing lights. A couple of officers milled around the lawn, but they looked like they were just chatting.

Evelyn went back to Ms. Foster in the park. “I still can’t find Milo.”

“I’ll just try him.” Ms. Foster pulled up his number on her phone. Then held it to her ear.

“Is Milo answering?” Evelyn asked. Her chest was starting to squeeze, tighter and tighter. She kept thinking of the pale face in the window. The pale plastic sheet lying on the stretcher. The images flashed one after the other, faster and faster. She struggled to breathe.

“No.” Ms. Foster turned off her screen. “But he leaves his phone at home half the time. Or forgets to charge it.” She looked around and then pointed to the uniformed man and woman still in front of Byrne House. “Why don’t we just check with one of those officers? They’ll know.”

Evelyn and Ms. Foster crossed the street. The two uniformed officers saw them and ambled over to meet them by the mansion’s gate. Ms. Foster explained the situation to the officers. But they just shook their heads. They hadn’t seen any teenage boy, and no one matching his description had been detained as a witness. Though they offered to double check inside Byrne House, just in case.

“I know I saw him in that window,” Evelyn said to one officer while the other went inside the mansion to check. “And what about his bike? He left it by the curb at the end of the street. He couldn’t have gone home.” Evelyn turned to point out where she’d seen Milo drop the bike. Way down at the other side of the block. But the street was empty.

Milo’s bike wasn't there.

“Where was it he left his bike?” the officer asked.

This made no sense. Evelyn ran down the sidewalk and back again, scanning for any sign of it. She couldn’t remember when she’d last seen it. The bike had seemed so unimportant. She hadn’t given it a second thought until now.

“He left it by the curb down there,” she said. “A red mountain bike with white lettering. But it’s not there anymore.”

Ms. Foster chewed her lower lip. “That does sound like Milo’s bike …”

“We’ll make a note of it,” the officer said.

Again, Evelyn thought of the body under the sheet. "What happened to Mr. Byrne?" she asked the officers. "Was his death, you know, suspicious?" She didn't want to say the word murder.

"We can't give out any information." The officer looked at her pityingly. "But there's no reason to be concerned. Guy getting on in years…these things happen.”

His partner jogged down the front steps of the mansion to join them. “I walked the entire house,” he reported. “Didn’t see anybody inside who didn’t belong.”

“Are you sure?” Evelyn asked. “You definitely checked the tower?”

Ms. Foster tugged at Evelyn's elbow. “We’ve been out here all afternoon. I think we could all use some rest. I’ll have Milo call you later to let you know he’s alright.”

Evelyn said a half-hearted goodbye and walked back home, doubting herself more with every step. She had seen Milo in the tower, she was sure of it. But why did that bother her so much? Milo had taken his bike and gone home, he was fine. He had to be. She’d just missed him. Yet she still felt dread coming from the deepest part of her, a place too dark to see.

“Don’t look,” she said to herself as she jogged up her porch steps. “Just this once, don’t look.” But just as she opened her front door, she turned back. Her eyes connected with the round black window.

She wanted not to look. But she always did.

August 6, 1898

Byrne House

Dearest Mary,

I must first apologize to you for not writing sooner. As you might have guessed, I have not had many happy things to write to you about. You and I have never lied to each other, even to ease the other’s mind. Life in Denver has been hard. Much harder than I imagined when I left you and set out on my own the day I turned nineteen. But I hope—no, I am sure—that my luck has changed. I have met someone.

In fact, I think I am in love.

I know you’re already skeptical. ‘Silly Ada,’ you will say, ‘don’t fool yourself into seeing Cupid’s wings in lust’s shadow.’ I’d expect no less of my stern elder sister. Easy for you to say with a dashing husband in your bed. (You see? I am still playing our old game, trying to make you laugh.) So please let me go back to the beginning, to give you a clear picture. Indeed, so much has happened that it would do me good to set it all down and consider it myself. In some ways, it feels much too good to be true. But it is true. It must be, for this is no dream. I am wide awake.

My first difficulty was the governess position that your dear Christopher secured for me in one of the fine homes of Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, the pay was far lower than advertised. So I immediately set out to find new employment. But I quickly learned that jobs are scarce here, especially positions in reputable households. When I asked again after the governess position, I found it had already been taken.

You know I’d be the last to hold grand notions about myself. I ask no pity for our family’s downcast fortunes, or where they’ve led me. But am I so naive to have thought an educated young woman—who can recite Emerson, conjugate French verbs, and (almost) fudge her way through a Beethoven piano sonata—might earn a decent living?

I shouldn’t complain. As I’ve told you, my luck has since changed. But I’ve come to realize just how precious a warm bed, a good meal and a shelf of books can be. I’m filled with gratitude that you and Christopher sheltered me for so long despite the strain on your finances, and I can only hope that one day I’ll repay you. If only father hadn’t died. If only we’d received the pension that the church had promised him.

But—to continue with my story.

A girl I met at the employment office, Daisy, told me about a boardinghouse on the outskirts of town where young ladies could rent a room for a very cheap rate. With no other options to speak of, I moved that night to the extra bed in Daisy's small room.

This is the point that my story gets harder to tell.

In addition to our rent, we girls were expected to work in the dining club next door. You will probably guess that this club catered to men, and served alcohol and allowed gambling. It served only well-dressed gentleman, and the proprietress claimed to tolerate no inappropriate behavior from the customers. But she turned her head more than I think was wise. There was an innuendo of seediness to which the men seemed drawn. Even some of the girls, for that matter. But I won’t speak more about it. Suffice to say, I navigated the place as best I could.

After a few months, a fever confined me to bed. Daisy worked extra hours to cover my rent in addition to hers. When I finally came out of it and returned to the dining club, I noticed a man with beautiful blue eyes and a charming smile sitting alone at one of the tables. Daisy said he’d asked several of the girls about me in my absence.

He called me to his table. I was on my guard at first, but he simply ordered a gin. At the end of the night, he left a silver piece on his table for me. He left without a word, without even an improper glance. Each night for the next two weeks, he was there. He would only order drinks from me, and left another silver piece on the table each time. By then, some of the other girls were jealous and told the owner about him. She cornered me in my room and demanded the money. She said I could either return the “stolen” silver to her, or take my belongings and sleep on the street.

I was ready to hand over the silver when we heard a knock at the door.

Daisy stood there with a woman I had never seen before. She told me she was Mrs. Trilby, the housekeeper for the young man who had given me the silver pieces. “Mr. Simon Byrne,” she said, “wishes to hire you as a maid.” I refused, of course, but the housekeeper assured me that Byrne’s intentions were honorable. I’d live in his house under her protection. And it was true that I’d not seen anything threatening in his behavior toward me. So, reluctantly, I agreed.

I packed my meager belongings and boarded Mr. Byrne’s carriage, his housekeeper the only other passenger in attendance. The congested city quickly receded, replaced by gentle foothills and woods as we moved south. The mountains were an ever-present border to the west. We passed the time silently; Mrs. Trilby was rather stern, but nodded with approval when I mentioned our late father’s vocation.

“Prayer will serve you well at Byrne House,” she said. When I asked her to elaborate, she said that there was little else to do. “The master’s home is a large estate, and isolated.” Mrs. Trilby straightened the fingers of her gloves. It is a tic of hers. “We have rules that must be observed. It is imperative that you stay in the house at all times. It is dangerous to go wandering.”

As you may imagine, this sort of talk only increased my unease. I asked Mrs. Trilby to explain what dangers one could meet on Byrne’s estate. But she would not say more.

After a half-day’s journey, the road began to descend along a gradual slope. A tower of rough-hewn stone appeared, and then the shoulders of a great house isolated on a barren stretch of plain. Its windows winked in the sun like blinking eyes, watching my approach. I could not tell if it watched in welcome, with indifference, or with some darker intention. In fact, I felt an unsettling chill, as if I had tread upon a grave.

I laugh at myself, now that I know more about Byrne House. A building is defined by the people in it, and so far I have found them all to be kind enough. If perhaps a bit aloof.

For the first few days, I saw nothing of my new master. His house is enormous, one of the largest I've ever seen, yet much of the house is still under construction. The sound of hammering echoes even in my dreams. Mrs. Trilby and the butler together manage an entire staff of maids, servers, cooks and footmen. There are so many that I don't even know all their names yet. The house is three floors and rooms beyond my count—many of them closed to me on Mrs. Trilby’s orders.

On my third day here, Mr. Byrne appeared while I was dusting a parlor. I gasped to see him in this new context. His skin was paler than I’d remembered, the half-moons darker beneath his eyes. He seemed a man with many worries on his mind. But he was far handsomer, too. His expression was more open here, in his home, than it had been in the dining club.

“Miss Ada,” he said, with utmost sincerity, “would you do me the pleasure of joining me for dinner?”

These were more words than he had ever spoken to me before.

We dined in his study, at a small table set before a roaring fire. Bookcases surrounded us, a comfort only my sister could truly appreciate—imagine, even more books than Father once had in his library! Mr. Byrne told me about his work in the mine on his property here before he made his fortune. He told me about his family, too—parents who left him an orphan, and a brother who is distant in both body and spirit. I told him about our family, too. Our whole sad history. And not only this; we discussed literature, philosophy. We lost all track of time.

Oh Mary, how can I explain to you what I felt as that night progressed? The sense of friendship and connection, after so many months trapped inside of my own head? Mr. Byrne understands what it means to begin again from nothing, to feel that a clean bed, a hearty meal and a bit of kindness are the greatest luxuries. And he has lofty ambitions: to build a community here united by a common sense of purpose. I humbly believe that Father would approve.

I see something in him, Mary, when I look into his eyes. Like a reflection of the best aspects of the city itself—vast and exhilarating, the promise of excitement, the triumph of dreams over circumstances.

There is darkness there too, of course. An undercurrent of pain, regret and longing. And if I dare say it—dangerous desires. It is sometimes enough to make me afraid, more of myself than of him. For who has not felt that same darkness deep within?

I suspect that I have much to learn, both about myself and Simon Byrne.

But now, finally, to the most pressing matter. Simon—as I call him now—asked me to marry him just a few hours ago, this very night. The proposal was certainly not expected, and I can hardly believe how rapidly my fortunes have changed.

I do care for him. And I cannot deny the attraction I feel. I think that I will say yes. But I need your advice, sister. In person, if it’s possible.

Simon has asked me to invite you to visit us for as long as Christopher can get away. He would like to arrange the wedding to coincide with your visit, though I haven’t yet decided on that. But I do look forward with greatest anticipation to the day you meet him. For I owe him everything; he has saved my life in every way.

I have no good reason for my lingering doubts. I am convinced that, once you are here to witness his kindness and affection, I will accept his offer without the slightest hesitation.

All my love,

Ada

Chapter 2

Of all her Nana’s bedtime stories, the one about Ada Byrne was Evelyn’s favorite.

Once there was a girl named Ada, who fell in love with two brothers: first Simon, a charismatic businessman, and then Walter, a young inventor. She nearly broke her heart trying to choose between them. But of course, Ada could marry only one. She made her choice, and devoted herself to her husband. Mind and body, heart and soul. Together, they lived in a grand house, almost a castle. They had a baby girl.

 

But Ada’s husband was ambitious. He dreamed of creating something that would astonish the world. His small, precious family was not enough. His dreams turned to obsession. By the time Ada realized the danger, her husband had wandered too far.

 

Remember, Ada loved him. She vowed to save her husband. But when she tried to follow him, Ada got lost, too. And by the time her husband realized his terrible mistake, it was too late.

 

“Did Ada’s true love ever find her?” Evelyn would ask, cuddling against her grandmother’s side. She’d often ask about the other parts of the story, too, but Nana just as often refused to explain. This was the only question that Nana always, always answered.

 

And her Nana would say in her hoarse whisper, “He tried to bring Ada back. But her mind was gone, forever wandering. Because that was easier than facing the truth.”

 

Evelyn didn’t understand. She was only six years old, and truth was something you told. Not something you could see.

 

Her Nana would say, “Listen to me very carefully, Evelyn. If you face whatever you fear the most, no matter how bad, no matter how frightening, you’ll take away its power. Then it can’t hurt you. That’s what I want you to always remember, even when it’s dark. Promise me.”

 

Evelyn nodded faithfully, believing every word.

 

Later, when she was years older, she’d realize how strange it was that Nana told a child such stories. She figured that Nana had wanted to teach her how to be brave. Nana must have seen some weakness inside of her, something that needed to be patched over and shored up. And it worked, or so Evelyn thought. She was never afraid.

 

But after Nana died, when the nightmares started, Evelyn learned the truth. It hadn’t been her bravery but her grandmother’s steadfast presence that kept the fearful things away. When you were all alone and dared to look into the dark, sometimes the bad things looked back.

Once there was a girl named Ada, who fell in love with two brothers: first Simon, a charismatic businessman, and then Walter, a young inventor. She nearly broke her heart trying to choose between them. But of course, Ada could marry only one. She made her choice, and devoted herself to her husband. Mind and body, heart and soul. Together, they lived in a grand house, almost a castle. They had a baby girl.

But Ada’s husband was ambitious. He dreamed of creating something that would astonish the world. His small, precious family was not enough. His dreams turned to obsession. By the time Ada realized the danger, her husband had wandered too far.

Remember, Ada loved him. She vowed to save her husband. But when she tried to follow him, Ada got lost, too. And by the time her husband realized his terrible mistake, it was too late.

“Did Ada’s true love ever find her?” Evelyn would ask, cuddling against her grandmother’s side. She’d often ask about the other parts of the story, too, but Nana just as often refused to explain. This was the only question that Nana always, always answered.

And her Nana would say in her hoarse whisper, “He tried to bring Ada back. But her mind was gone, forever wandering. Because that was easier than facing the truth.”

Evelyn didn’t understand. She was only six years old, and truth was something you told. Not something you could see.

Her Nana would say, “Listen to me very carefully, Evelyn. If you face whatever you fear the most, no matter how bad, no matter how frightening, you’ll take away its power. Then it can’t hurt you. That’s what I want you to always remember, even when it’s dark. Promise me.”

Evelyn nodded faithfully, believing every word.

Later, when she was years older, she’d realize how strange it was that Nana told a child such stories. She figured that Nana had wanted to teach her how to be brave. Nana must have seen some weakness inside of her, something that needed to be patched over and shored up. And it worked, or so Evelyn thought. She was never afraid.

But after Nana died, when the nightmares started, Evelyn learned the truth. It hadn’t been her bravery but her grandmother’s steadfast presence that kept the fearful things away. When you were all alone and dared to look into the dark, sometimes the bad things looked back.

Her mother was waiting for her when she got home. Viv stood at the base of the stairs, blocking Evelyn’s way up to her room. “Where have you been?”

“I dunno. Outside.” She brushed past her mom. “I’ll order some dinner.”

“I saw you. You were over at Byrne House talking to those police.”

So she knew about that. Crap.

“Whatever happened over there, it has nothing to do with us,” Viv said.

Evelyn looked at her mother. People always said that Viv was Evelyn’s mirror image. Same oval face framed by blunt bangs, and sapphire eyes beneath prominent dark brows. Viv sometimes still got carded when she ordered wine at restaurants. Oh, you must be sisters. Evelyn didn’t get it.

To be fair, she sometimes wore her mom’s old clothes from the ‘90s; long-sleeve flannels and oversized denim overalls. But in her mom’s face she saw only the permanent dark under-eye circles, the hard twist at the edge of Viv’s mouth. Her mom had won a seat on the city council two years ago, on top of her already demanding position as a consulting school administrator. Now Viv spent her days trying to solve other people’s problems since she couldn’t solve her own daughter’s. And as for Evelyn’s dad, he was in Baltimore three weeks out of four these days, opening a new office for his company. No doubt his daughter rarely crossed his mind.

Evelyn went to the kitchen, scrolling through the bookmarked takeout menus on her phone. “Mr. Byrne died. But I guess you don’t care.”

“Why were you talking to the police?” Viv asked.

“I just thought I saw something.”

Don’t say it, she told herself. It would just end badly, like all the other times she'd opened her mouth even though she knew she shouldn’t. This was why Nana didn’t like explaining herself. Somebody always got pissed off about it.

“Why would you have seen something at Byrne House? You didn’t go over there, did you? Evelyn, look at me.”

Evelyn slammed her phone on the counter and spun around. She was still smarting from confusion and self-doubt, and her mother kept poking at the raw spot. Sometimes, no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t stay quiet.

“I thought I saw Milo Foster in the mansion’s tower window. And now, nobody can find him. But Ms. Foster doesn’t think it’s a big deal, so it’s obviously not important. Okay?”

Viv stared at her daughter, breathing hard, visibly trying to stay calm. That muscle in her neck was twitching a warning. “We’ve talked about this so many times. Your obsession with that place isn’t healthy. You know that.”

Evelyn felt her defiance slip. She looked at the tile floor.

“I’m sure it was upsetting with all the activity, the police and the ambulances, over at that house today,” her mom said in the kitchen. Years away from where Evelyn's mind had gone. Viv lifted Evelyn’s chin with her fingers, made their eyes meet.

“Ev, we can’t go down that road again.”

Evelyn felt exposed. Her weakest, ugliest parts in full view. She pulled away. “It was one time. It’s been almost three years, and I’ve been fine.”

“The doctor said that it could happen again if we weren’t careful.”

She could still feel it. That horrifying helplessness, lying paralyzed in her bed. Hearing the voices cry and plead, so loud Evelyn felt the tearing in their throats. She’d woken up from a nightmare—that nightmare, the one about Ada Byrne—and suddenly she was surrounded with screams. Disembodied voices full of pain and despair.

They were coming from the mansion. She couldn’t explain it but she knew.

Their voices became hers, and she screamed them out until her parents came running and didn’t stop until her vocal cords gave out.

A sleep hallucination. That’s what the doctor called it. Brought on by the stress of freshman year and a childhood of too many scary bedtime stories told by Nana Stanton. Evelyn was supposed to relax more, avoid potential triggers. As if the problem was in her brain. As if it was her fault.

Back in the kitchen, Evelyn broke for the stairs. Hungry or not, she couldn’t stand another moment of this.

“Evelyn. Stop.”

She kept going. Turned the corner, started jogging up the stairs. The old wood protested.

“Stop. Right now. Hand over your phone.”

She stopped mid-step. “You cannot be serious.”

“I pay for it. That means I own it. Your phone is a stressor, and I’m removing it. Now give. Me. Your. Phone.” Viv stood by the bottom staircase and held out her hand. “If you make me force this, then you won’t get it back.”

Screaming curse words inside her head, Evelyn stomped down the stairs and thrust out her phone. Viv palmed it without another word. She headed toward her office.

“I wasn’t hallucinating!” Evelyn shouted after her.

She didn’t just mean the sighting earlier that day of Milo in the tower.

Under Glass And Stone is available on April 7, 2020 in ebook and paperback. Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and the iBooks app. Find it on Goodreads here.

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