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Sneak Peek of Nine Steps to Sara

Nine Steps to Sara

Nine Steps to Sara is coming along well, and I’ve only got one more scene to write before the grand finale. Here is the proposed cover art (thanks Cap’n for the design!) for the book. I thought I’d share a little taste from chapter one. Please keep in mind that this is a rough draft and not the polished final version. :)

*****

“Repeat after me, I am Sara J Darling; millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht.”

The corner of Sara’s mouth tilted up into a faint smile as she conjured images of Elmer Fudd going through psychoanalysis to cure him of his rabbitosis. “I don’t own a yacht.”

“You could own a yacht…” Joanie’s green eyes darted to the dark window for a brief squint before they returned to regard Sara steadily. “You don’t know.”

“That’s true, I suppose,” Sara allowed, leaning back against the supple leather seats of the chauffeured Mercedes. Despite the fact that the car was at least thirty years old by the body style, it’d obviously been kept in mint condition and still impressed the hell out of her. It was the first time she’d ridden in a car that cost more than her college education and for sure was the first time she’d been driven around in the back seat unless she counted the time she took a cab to the hospital on the night Jack was born (but somehow, she didn’t think that fell into quite the same category).

Joanie had a good point though, she had very little understanding of her inheritance so far, only that it was big enough to earn her a plane ride and an all expense paid trip to England in style, and there was a manor house somewhere in the countryside with a family history she knew nothing about. After the year she’d had, it hadn’t taken more than thirty seconds to decide to go check it out, especially when her best friend offered to come along for the ride. Still, Joanie’s excited speculation had spilled into the ridiculous after so many hours spent traveling.

“Why would I have a yacht? It’s a land locked estate.” Probably. There could be a lake, she supposed. If she hadn’t been so excited to get the heck out of town, she might have asked a few more questions. As it was, she had a vague sense that the estate was somewhere in the south, but that was about it.

Joanie waved her hand back and forth, unconcerned with logic. “So? England is basically an island. It’s like a nothing commute to get to the water.”

A snort came from the front seat, and Sara looked up to catch a flash of the driver’s grin. “I’m not too sure about that,” she murmured, looking out the window, but she couldn’t penetrate the gloomy fog apart from the occasional glimpse of an empty paddock or a copse of dark trees. “We’ve been driving an awful long time.”

“You’re telling me, I shouldn’t have had those drinks on the train,” Joanie muttered, shifting in her seat. “Excuse me, driver?” she leaned forward, bright auburn hair glowing as it caught in the dashboard lights. “How much longer is this gonna take?”

“Just until we arrive, Miss.”

“Okay, thanks,” Joanie slumped back against the seat and Sara looked up again, teeth pressed against the inside of her lips to keep from laughing as she caught his wink in the rearview mirror. Had he introduced himself? Sara couldn’t be sure with all the rigmarole to get their luggage to the car and make sure Jack didn’t go wandering off on his own. What he must think of them… Sara wasn’t sure what to expect from the locals yet. Would they accept her as the new heir or did they have their hopes set on a different disposition for the estate? Would they even care? It wasn’t clear just how much her family’s estate was tied up in the local community, but for a town called Darlington, she imagined it was close.

Incapable of maintaining silence for more than a few minutes, Joanie snuck her way back onto Sara’s train of thought. “Thank God you got the call after your divorce came through,” she said, out of the blue.

“What?” Sara blinked, not tracking the change in subject right away. “Oh I don’t know, I could have used the luck a little earlier in the game.” When she thought of the tiny little apartment they’d been crammed into for the past six months… the call couldn’t have come soon enough.

“Are you kidding me? Peter would have pissed it all away inside of a year.”

“Joanie!” she exclaimed, somewhere between a whisper and a hiss.

“What?”

“Shh, I don’t want him to hear you,” Sara scowled, even if it was true.

“Oh please, you know Jack can sleep through a hurricane,” Joanie demonstrated by poking the boy in the ribs with no response. But for the slight rise and fall of his chest, Jackson appeared dead to the world.

“Still…” Sara looked down at her sleeping son, slumped over on the seat between them. Small for a boy of eight, his dark brown hair was the exact shade as hers, blue eyes hidden behind round glasses that slipped low on his nose in his present position. Despite the fact that she knew he wasn’t listening, it didn’t feel right to talk about his father with him right there, even if she did agree with her friend’s opinion of the guy.

“I’m just saying, it gives me a happy to think he won’t get his hands on all your money. Can you imagine Peter with some serious cash behind him?” a roll of the eyes was given.

“I’m having a hard enough time picturing me with money,” Sara answered diplomatically, hoping to change the subject. For the next twenty minutes they chatted about what might be waiting for them at the end of their journey. Joanie seemed to think they’d land in an episode of Downton Abbey; the liveried servants lined up in front of the building, neatly dressed and pressed to greet her. Sara couldn’t imaging owning something so large; she was convinced it’d be more along the lines of a cottage with some pretty gardens. At least she hoped so; gardening was one of the few things she missed about the three bedroom split level home in LA.

A crunch of gravel alerted them as the car pulled onto the private road. “This is it, we’re almost there,” Sara breathed in excitement, wondering if she should wake Jack or let him keep sleeping. As they drew closer to the hulking shadow of the building, she decided to go with the latter; for the moment there was nothing to see. The house was completely dark, no signs of life to be found as they approached.

“Are you sure you have the right place?” Joanie frowned, leaning forward with a squint that couldn’t penetrate the darkness.

“This is Darling Park right enough,” the driver spoke, the lilt of his accent reminding Sara of the brief wink she’d seen in the mirror. “Don’t worry; I’m sure they’re about somewhere. Hold on a tick, I’ll get things sorted out. I’ll leave the engine running to keep the car warm for you.” Before either of them could so much as blink, he was out the driver’s side door and bounding into the fog that closed ranks behind him, enveloping him into the velvet murkiness.

“See, I told you it wouldn’t be like in the movies,” Sara’s voice fell to a whisper as she focused her attention on the stone drive.

“Sure it is; it’s just the type of movie where we get murdered in our beds before sunrise,” Joanie replied sourly and Sara gave her a playful shove.

It was pretty creepy out there, the fog encasing them in a cocoon of silver mist, completely obscuring the house from view. She got the sense it was big, bigger than she’d thought, but that was about it. “At least we’re warm enough.” No sooner had she made the pronouncement, than the fates intervened, the car engine dying with a sputter. “I’m sure he’ll be back in a minute,” Sara added, unsure which one of them she was trying to convince more.

“This is stupid; why don’t we just get out and go up to the front door?” Joanie muttered, unbuckling her seat belt.

“Yeah, okay,” Sara nodded, preparing to do the same. All at once, the mist swirled higher, cloaking the car in darkness. Sara shivered as the temperature plummeted, her breath visible in the sudden chill. “On second thought…”

Joanie pulled up the fur collar of her coat, bringing her hands up to blow on them. “Did I say murdered in our beds?”

“It’s just fog,” the words full of false bravado, Sara leaned against the window, desperate to find anything in the swirling fog to give her a point of reference. They could be completely cast adrift at sea for all she could tell; even the hulking shadow of the house was entirely hidden. Another shiver went through Sara as her fingertips pressed against the frigid glass; the sudden crunch of gravel the only warning before the door flew open and she nearly tumbled out, if not for the strong arms of the driver.

“Careful, my Lady,” he smiled, restoring her balance. Behind him, she could just make out the entrance of the house and then the fog seemed to dissipate, the porch lights dispelling the gloom with warm, yellow light.


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