Prologue

Abigail Taylor grew up in the backwoods town of Grundy Hill, West Virginia, which was nothing to speak of, really. A pretty girl—though some would’ve considered her plain—she stood out in a small town with a population of only 2,098. Her long, caramel brown hair and large brown eyes were enticing to many young men, but her peculiar father kept most men away. Standing at six feet tall with shoulder length black hair and a few days’ dark shadow,  Arlington Domitius was unkempt and wore a dark, hooded cloak. Everyone knew there was something strange about him, though no one quite knew what it was. Even still, they feared him and stayed away.

The people of Grundy lived a quiet life and liked to be left alone. In fact, most outsiders didn't even know the town existed. That is until they found out about her.

It all began the previous year on her 21st birthday …

SEPTEMBER 12, 2017

“Abs!” her mother, Janette, called from their living room as Abigail finished getting ready upstairs.

“I’m almost ready!” Abigail hollered back.

“She’ll be down soon,” Janette said to Abigail’s friend Jack Lacombe, Grundy’s local sheriff. He and Abigail’s other friend Lacy were celebrating her 21st birthday that evening. Secretly, he’d always admired Abbi and had other intentions with her. He offered willingly to be the designated driver for the evening, not knowing what lay ahead.

“You look fabulous, Abbi,” Jack said as he eyed her black mini skirt and the cheetah print halter crop top that Lacy made her borrow—though not normally her style—because she’d said it was a special occasion. Walking down the stairs, she smiled bashfully at Jack’s comment.

“You always say that,” Abbi said, reaching for his hand.

They walked outside and Abbi commented on the cool fall air and the beautiful sunset, trying her best to keep things friendly as she knew that Jack wanted to make this a formal date though she did not. They got in the sheriff’s car and headed for the town bar to meet Lacy. Being a few months older than Abbi, Lacy had already landed a job as the bartender at Suds—the local favorite—and was eagerly anticipating Abbi’s arrival. Lacy was smiling and waving as Abbi walked in with Jack.

“Abs! Happy Birthday! What time is it? It’s only 6:30? You’re 30 minutes early! That’s okay. You can be my first customer. I just clocked in. Let’s get you wasted!!” Lacy exclaimed as she tightened her short black ponytail before tying on her waitressing apron.

Abbi took her seat at the bar and Jack hopped onto a stool next to her, hoping to win her heart by the end of the night. However, Abbi saw him as no more a friend and nothing would ever change that.

“What’ll it be first, Abs?”

“Abbi’s always seemed to me as a mojito kind of girl,” Jack chuckled.

After an awkward pause and no response from Abbi, Lacy piped up, “Okay. A mojito it is. Coming right up!”

“How are things going with your job at the mayor’s office?” Jack asked.

“Oh, um … It’s the same as always,” Abbi answered, glancing over to Lacy.

“I feel like it’s been forever since we’ve had the chance to talk,” Jack said as Lacy handed Abbi the mojito.

“Enjoy! I’ll check back on you two in a few minutes. I need to wait on my other customers.” She nodded to the men who were seated a few stools down from Abbi and Jack.

“Thanks, Lace,” Abbi said and waved.

“So, um, … we’re still friends, aren’t we?”

Abbi felt the cold drink in her hands before drinking down the mojito, trying to decide if it was her drink of choice.

“Of course, Jack. Why would you ask that?”

“It just seems as though things are different between us now.”

“Now?” Abbi asked, looking up at Jack.

“You know what I mean.”

“You mean since we left high school?” Abbi asked.

Jack nodded, his blue eyes pinning her to her bar stool. Lacy handed Jack a glass of Coke on her way back from taking drink orders from other customers. He took a drink as he said, “We used to be really close growing up, Abbi. Hell, we’re neighbors! I remember you coming into my yard and hiding in my tree house when your dad left your mom.”

Abbi sighed and turned to Jack, “We aren’t kids anymore. Things are different now.” She took a sip of her mojito, savoring the sweetness of the white rum against the menthol flavors of the mint as the club soda fizzed against her tongue. She tried again to decide if she liked or hated it.

“How’s that drink, Abs?” Lacy hollered as she poured vodka for a man at the other end of the bar.

Abbi looked to the end of the bar and nodded, holding up her half-full glass, “I’m still good!”

“We need a pic of your 21st!” Lacy hollered towards them. “Jack, snap a selfie!”

Jack took out his cell and posed with Abbi in front of the bar, quickly taking a pic. He posted it to social media with the tag: “Abbi turned 21 today! Time to partay!”

While Jack was busy making posts and the notifications on Abbi’s phone started buzzing, Abigail looked around the bar. Arlington was right when he told her this town was no good for her. Though she’d never knew why he’d cared so much since he’d left her, and she’d always wondered what he’d meant when he’d said that. Now, as she stared at the choices in dating as she looked around the bar, she was beginning to understand.

Jack pocketed his phone, returning his attention to her, “Come on, Abbi. You know I’ve always been—”

Abbi cut off his words with the frustrated look in her eyes, “Just don’t. Don’t ruin what we have.”

Abbi didn’t want to admit that there was no one in her mind worthy of dating, not even Jack. She blamed the cause of this on Arlington. Her thoughts were distracted by the voice of a young girl and she looked down the bar to her left.

A young girl with black hair stood facing the wall, whispering in a man’s ear. Dressed in Georgian period clothing, Abbi thought the child must’ve been celebrating Halloween early.

“Are there any Halloween parties in the town tonight?”

“None that I know of. Why?”

Jack reached his glass out to Lacy as she walked past and ignored what Abbi was trying to show him.

“Back to our previous conversation, I never see or hear of you going on dates, Abbi. This is a small town and people talk. Is there a reason for this?”

“You mean other than that my dad is a whack job?”

“You’re an attractive woman. You mean to tell me that you don’t intend on dating at all because of your father?”

Abbi quickly turned to face him and folded her arms, “What are you getting at?”

“I was sort of hoping, um, I …”

Jack trailed off, swirling the ice around in his glass. Abbi shook her head at him.

“You’re my friend, Jack. You’re my very good friend.” Abbi hollered to Lacy, “Hey Lace! How about something else? Maybe stronger?”

Abbi glanced back towards the end of the room where the young girl had been standing, but she was no longer there. She was gone. Abbi felt a gentle tap on her shoulder. She turned around on her stool to see the mystery girl standing there.

“He is coming,” the girl whispered before skipping out the front door of the bar.

Feeling completely confused, Abbi looked to Jack and said, “Did you just see that?”

He took another drink and scowled, “See what?”

“The girl. Did you not see the girl?”

He shrugged, “I didn’t see any girl. I think you’ve had too much to drink already, Abbi.”

 © 2019 Meg Sechrest. 

This is only an excerpt. This novel may be purchased in its entirety in either digital or paperback version. 

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