© 2014 by Maddie and Dani Thompson
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means–electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other–without the prior written permission of the publisher.
When Victoria Hale’s father gets a job relocation and her family is forced to move from NYC all the way to a dusty, musty, old estate in Colorado with the name of Presstone, Victoria will discover the secrets of the mansion’s past. . .and not all secrets are pleasing to keep. What happens when Victoria finds out something that may alter her and her family forever?
Chapter 1: Entering
The sky was a soft gray hue, not unlike the fur of a gray kitten. It filled Victoria with a sudden sort of sadness. She figured it was the memory of the neighborhood kitten she’d had to leave behind. The front doors of Presstone Estate had once been covered in yellow paint (now only a few splotches here and there remained– the rest had cracked off, revealing the dirtied original surface). Two grand metal handles were secured onto the inner brinks of each of the two front doors; and a pair of rusty old lion knockers fixed loftily above their heads gave the appearance of watching over the place, almost like guards.
Mrs. Hale unlocked the door and motioned for them to go inside.
The house seemed to groan as the newcomers entered. Victoria tipped her head back and observed what she would now call home. When her father had gotten a job transfer from NYC all the way to Colorado, Victoria would never have imagined ending up here. Yes, the place was big, but something didn’t seem right about it. It seemed as if the house hadn’t been occupied for quite some time.
Victoria felt a slight chill come over her body. The air was different—musty and stale. Sneezing at the dust kicked up by her movement, she looked around uneasily. This was not where she belonged. This was not where anyone belonged, for that matter.
Victoria as she dropped her two bulging suitcases at her sides; the leather rubbing against her legs. Her hands tingled as the blood ran through them again, now that she wasn’t clutching at the thick plastic handles. “Can we find our rooms now?” she sighed.
“Wow,” murmured Victoria’s father, always finding a lesson in everything, “have you guys seen this marble? It must have been from a century ago!”
“Dad…the rooms,” Victoria muttered.
“Oh yes, here you are,” said Victoria’s father a bit absentmindedly, handing her a map. “This came with the key.”
“Thanks,” muttered an annoyed Victoria. Why didn’t he tell us about this earlier? She shared a knowing look with her mother.
“Why don’t we go upstairs?” proposed Victoria’s mother.
“Okay. I’ll meet you up there later,” said Victoria’s father, now looking at an old piece of furniture. “This is amazing!”
No one thought to look under the winding staircase, where a pair of eyes watched them very intently from a shadowy doorway below.
Victoria began heading up the stairs. Following the map, she led her parents to their room and then proceeded to finding hers, which proved to be a much bigger challenge. We already know that the estate was very big. Because of this, one would assume that there would be very many bedrooms. That is true, yes, but all of the other bedrooms on that side of the house were mysteriously locked. After trying every door, Victoria was left with only one option—the attic.
When Victoria finally reached her destination she plopped on the small bed in satisfaction. She had made it!
There was a knock on the door and a fat, potbellied man—who seemed to have followed her—presented himself. “You are the new owner’s daughter, I presume?”
Victoria sat up with a start. So much for waiting to be let in! And who was this man, anyways? “Who— Who are you?” stammered Victoria as she narrowed in on his face; and a dreary one, at that. His smile was as dull as a butter knife, his gray eyebrows were oh-so-bushy. They knit together above his nose, appearing to be one large line. The line was so prolonged and bushy that it cast a shadow over his melancholy eyes; which peered at her with a gray, unending glare.
The man suddenly switched his gaze from unsettling to a false, ‘the door’s always open’ look. “I am the house caretaker, with whatever you need.” Although he put on a smile, you could see that it was fictitious by looking at his eyes. Swinging one of his stubby forearm across his belly, he gave a strained bow.
“Uh, okay…” Victoria muttered, still wondering where this man had come from. It was a shame she hadn’t looked under the stairs, because if she had, she would have made a startling connection. But even so, remembering her manners, she mumbled a “thank you” and put on a false smile as her tongue clattered clumsily over the words.
“My mother never said anything about any caretakers…” challenged Victoria, tilting her head to the side in curiosity; waiting for this man to leave her alone.
Mr. Tully stood quietly, as if contemplating something. “I’ve been here my whole life, and have seen this house with many owners. I just wanted to be here to help all of you out! Moving can be terribly hard for people.” He flashed another smile.
“Hmm. Okay, then. I’ll just be up here unpacking,” muttered Victoria in a curt manner.
Another suspicious look played across Mr. Tully’s face, but was again masked by false cheeriness. “Alright. Don’t hesitate to call if you need anything!” and with that Edmond turned around rather clumsily and left. She shuddered. That man gave her the creeps. There was something wrong about him, Victoria knew. And she also knew that she would get to the bottom of it, whatever it was.
Victoria stayed in her new room until she was sure that the man named Edmond was far, far away. She then decided to explore the house, making sure to avoid her father, in case he was in the need of giving another lesson. After exploring for some time, Victoria finally found what she was looking for the whole time—the library. Oh, how grand it was! It had all sorts of marvelous books, and a great deal of comfy chairs in which to read them in. My, it even had a grand piano! Victoria imagined herself reading while her mother tickled the ivories. Her mother’s piano music was the best she had ever heard.
Sadly, she was plucked right out of her daydream by Mr. Tully. It seemed he had come to give her something.
🌲 🌲 🌲
Victoria’s skin was overcome with goosebumps as she gazed to her left and saw Mr. Tully peering over her shoulder. Where had he come from? She marveled at how such a big man could suddenly appear out of nowhere. “Here,” Edmond said, handing over a thick book with a golden cover. Victoria could now see him better. Edmond’s skin was old and wrinkly; his nose was as long and as big as a cucumber.
“Uh, thanks…” returned Victoria, who would have liked to read a book of her own choosing.
“What you have in your hand is a great story,” droned Edmond, “or so I’ve heard. You see, I am not able to read it.”
“You can’t read?” asked Victoria, incredulous.
“I can read, and I’ve read many books in this library. But as much as I want to read that book, I can’t. It only opens for the owner of this estate.”
“Why?” Asked Victoria. “And wouldn’t it be for my parents, then?”
“I’m sorry. I guess I was not clear enough. This story is not for any owner. It is for the youngest owner. And that, my dear, is you.”
Victoria tried to open the book. Open it did. “But why? What is so special about this book?”
“That book is said to tell your future. Now read it.”