Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores July 2024.)

CHAPTER ONE
WEDNESDAY

A fat harvest moon hung low over the beach the night Tidebury House washed ashore—over the wet, packed sand and ragged black rocks, all the way past the edge of the high-water line. It dripped with dirty foam and seaweed, and it rested crookedly, draped with rotting nets, crusted with barnacles. Tiny clicking creatures with small sharp claws climbed the teetering two-story structure and then—finding nothing at the top but a collapsed roof and the ghosts of broken chimneys—retreated again to the shelter of briny pools, where they waited for the waves to return.

Tidebury House never sheltered anyone. That's not what it was for.

The brutal, late-autumn storm had not quite receded when Charlotte Culpepper grabbed her house robe and slippers. "It's not possible," she muttered as she crammed her naked feet into the soft satin shoes. She threaded her arms into the robe's sleeves and cinched its belt around her waist. "Not possible, no."

She stumbled at the edge of the hallway runner and caught herself against the wall. Must be careful. Mustn't fall. Not again. She'd never recover from another one, not at her age. Where was her cane? She'd left it behind, beside her bed, leaning against the nightstand. No matter. She wasn't going far.

Her heart thundered in her narrow chest. She clutched it, and she fought for balance. One hand against the wall, her fingertips sliding down the textured grasscloth wallpaper. One foot in front of the other.

"It won't be there," she lied out loud. "I hid it from the world. I sent it away."

A sleepy, confused voice called out from the bedroom down the hall. "Grandmother?"

She shouted back, "You heard it too, didn't you? It was loud enough to wake the dead!"

Simon opened his bedroom door and yawned. "Did a tree fall on the house?" Then he noticed that the elderly woman was hustling toward the front door in her night clothes. The realization woke him much faster and more thoroughly than the crash outside. "What are you doing? Are you all right?"

Beside the front door, a wicker basket offered three umbrellas. She ignored them. The coat rack held two of her raincoats—one for lighter weather, one for wetter and colder. She left them both behind and reached for the dead bolt. She twisted it hard and then released the chain above it. She did not so much open the door as yank it inward.

Rain blew sideways into the foyer. The sharp, wet wind clutched at the dangling light fixtures and flapped through the raincoats. It rattled the umbrellas, the pillows on the parson's bench, and the philodendron with the long green tentacles and heart-shaped foliage. The sprawling old houseplant swayed and fluttered; its loose leaves fell free. They bounced and lurched in the spiral gust that circled the elderly woman like a spell.

"Shut the door, please!" Simon begged. "Stop it, Grandmother. I'll go check. I'll find out if there's any damage. I'll go see how bad it is, you stay here."

"The damage," she muttered.

She already knew it was no tree. Not even the hundred-foot alder behind the house would've made such a racket. She'd heard that sound before: the violent crunch, and the teeth-splitting scrape over the peculiar thunder that shook the night in a rumbling, protracted roar. It could be nothing else.

Except it wasn't possible. It was too cold for thunder. Far too late in the season for this sort of storm.

Wasn't it?

Leaning hard against the weather, she launched herself onto the porch. Her feet hit the cedar boards; she slipped, she steadied herself.

The air sizzled with ozone and fire. A flash too close, too hot and sudden.

The power went out.

All the ambient light in the big old house disappeared in an instant. No glowing clock numbers from the stove in the kitchen, no soft night-lights in the hall to guide the way to the bathroom. No lamplight spilling out of her grandson's room.

No moon. Nothing, except...
...

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Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores July 2024.)

CHAPTER ONE
WEDNESDAY

A fat harvest moon hung low over the beach the night Tidebury House washed ashore—over the wet, packed sand and ragged black rocks, all the way past the edge of the high-water line. It dripped with dirty foam and seaweed, and it rested crookedly, draped with rotting nets, crusted with barnacles. Tiny clicking creatures with small sharp claws climbed the teetering two-story structure and then—finding nothing at the top but a collapsed roof and the ghosts of broken chimneys—retreated again to the shelter of briny pools, where they waited for the waves to return.

Tidebury House never sheltered anyone. That's not what it was for.

The brutal, late-autumn storm had not quite receded when Charlotte Culpepper grabbed her house robe and slippers. "It's not possible," she muttered as she crammed her naked feet into the soft satin shoes. She threaded her arms into the robe's sleeves and cinched its belt around her waist. "Not possible, no."

She stumbled at the edge of the hallway runner and caught herself against the wall. Must be careful. Mustn't fall. Not again. She'd never recover from another one, not at her age. Where was her cane? She'd left it behind, beside her bed, leaning against the nightstand. No matter. She wasn't going far.

Her heart thundered in her narrow chest. She clutched it, and she fought for balance. One hand against the wall, her fingertips sliding down the textured grasscloth wallpaper. One foot in front of the other.

"It won't be there," she lied out loud. "I hid it from the world. I sent it away."

A sleepy, confused voice called out from the bedroom down the hall. "Grandmother?"

She shouted back, "You heard it too, didn't you? It was loud enough to wake the dead!"

Simon opened his bedroom door and yawned. "Did a tree fall on the house?" Then he noticed that the elderly woman was hustling toward the front door in her night clothes. The realization woke him much faster and more thoroughly than the crash outside. "What are you doing? Are you all right?"

Beside the front door, a wicker basket offered three umbrellas. She ignored them. The coat rack held two of her raincoats—one for lighter weather, one for wetter and colder. She left them both behind and reached for the dead bolt. She twisted it hard and then released the chain above it. She did not so much open the door as yank it inward.

Rain blew sideways into the foyer. The sharp, wet wind clutched at the dangling light fixtures and flapped through the raincoats. It rattled the umbrellas, the pillows on the parson's bench, and the philodendron with the long green tentacles and heart-shaped foliage. The sprawling old houseplant swayed and fluttered; its loose leaves fell free. They bounced and lurched in the spiral gust that circled the elderly woman like a spell.

"Shut the door, please!" Simon begged. "Stop it, Grandmother. I'll go check. I'll find out if there's any damage. I'll go see how bad it is, you stay here."

"The damage," she muttered.

She already knew it was no tree. Not even the hundred-foot alder behind the house would've made such a racket. She'd heard that sound before: the violent crunch, and the teeth-splitting scrape over the peculiar thunder that shook the night in a rumbling, protracted roar. It could be nothing else.

Except it wasn't possible. It was too cold for thunder. Far too late in the season for this sort of storm.

Wasn't it?

Leaning hard against the weather, she launched herself onto the porch. Her feet hit the cedar boards; she slipped, she steadied herself.

The air sizzled with ozone and fire. A flash too close, too hot and sudden.

The power went out.

All the ambient light in the big old house disappeared in an instant. No glowing clock numbers from the stove in the kitchen, no soft night-lights in the hall to guide the way to the bathroom. No lamplight spilling out of her grandson's room.

No moon. Nothing, except...
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...