Caught with pot in her dorm room, Bailey Randolph is exiled to a relative's ancestral home in Virginia to straighten herself out. Banishment to Maple Hill is dismal, until a ghost appears requesting her help. Bailey is frightened but intrigued. Then her girlhood crush, Eric Burke, arrives and suddenly Maple Hill isn't so bad.
To Eric, wounded in Vietnam, his military career shattered, this homecoming feels no less like exile. But when he finds Bailey at Maple Hill, her fairy-like beauty gives him reason to hope--until she tells him about the ghost haunting the house. Then he wonders if her one experiment with pot has made her crazy.
As Bailey and Eric draw closer, he agrees to help her find a long-forgotten Christmas gift the ghost wants. But will the magic of Christmas be enough to make Eric believe--in Bailey and the ghost--before the Christmas bells ring?
Page Count: 100
Word Count: 24317
“Bailey.” He spoke softly, so as not to startle her.
She turned toward him. In her long, white nightgown, hair tumbled down around her, wearing that lost look, she bore an unnerving resemblance to the mysterious woman in Wilkie Collins’ classic mystery, The Woman in White. Eric fervently hoped the similarity ended there. As he recalled from the novel, that unfortunate lady had been unhinged.
Leaving the door ajar, he stepped inside. “We missed you at breakfast.”
She answered distractedly. “I wasn’t hungry.”
He limped to where she stood, the hitch in his leg a little less pronounced today. Maybe he was getting stronger. “Why are you here, looking for ghosts?”
“Or a door to the past.”
He tried to coax a smile to her trembling lips. “Did you check inside the wardrobe?”
“Eric, I’m being serious.”
“That’s what worries me.” Leaning on his cane with one arm, he closed his other around her shoulders and drew her against him. Such a natural act, and she accepted his embrace without pulling back. She smelled of flowers from her perfume and wood smoke. “Mercy, child,” he said in his best imitation of Ella, “it’s as cold as a tomb in here.”
“It wasn’t last night.”