I’ve been so busy writing lately, that my blog has taken a back seat, sorry. Today, I’d like to share a bit from my current WIP (work in progress). As I’ve mentioned, my last four books were fast-paced thrillers revolving around serial killers and I’m ready for a change. I’m not abandoning the SSCD crime series, just taking a step back into a simpler, more romantic genre.
The next series takes place in a sleepy little town located in the High Sierras, Starsdale. No, the name doesn’t meant that the place is overrun with Hollywood types, lol. Starsdale is an undiscovered gem; a place with stunning natural vistas and people who care about each other (sometimes a bit too much, but that’s another story).
After losing her mother and her fiance, Chelsea Bates escapes to Starsdale for a visit, but quickly realizes that it’s home. Enjoy the first chapter of what I’m tentatively calling “High Sierras Home.”
Looking up at the dilapidated façade that was the face of the antique Craftsman-style bungalow, Chelsea wondered for the thousandth time what had ever possessed her to buy the thing.
Shutters swung loosely astride tall, paned windows, now backed with plywood to keep out varmints and the weather. Layers of flaky paint dotted portions of the wood siding; three colors were evident at first glance, but Chelsea knew the home had boasted many different shades of the rainbow during its hundred year history. The deep front porch spanning the length of the home was more akin to a rutted country road than a place to relax and sip tea in the evening shade.
Sighing, Chelsea closed her eyes and visualized the home as it had been nearly a century before and would be again, no matter how challenging the prospect. All it needed was a little love and a lot of elbow grease. And money. Lots and lots of money; more than she would ever have access to, if the last contractor who quoted the job could be believed.
“No,” she said aloud, squaring her shoulders. “It is possible, it can be done, it will be my home.” Repeating the mantra silently, she hefted the bag of cleaning supplies and made her way gingerly up the front steps. Someone, the realtor she supposed, had braced the ragged wood with planks to make entry possible.
Careful to balance on the two four-by-six boards stretching across the rotted porch, Chelsea pushed open the thick, mahogany door to what had once been a grand foyer. The gently curving staircase, once elegant with carved spindle railings and lush carpeting, now sagged in the middle, threatening bodily harm to anyone who dared to ascend. A few of the railings remained intact, enough so that Chelsea could have new ones fashioned to mimic the old design.
Leaving the front door open wide, she set about turning on lights and opening shades that covered the few windows still in one piece. Dust particles danced in the light, prompting a sneezing fit as Chelsea made her way across the parlor, through the dining room and into the kitchen.
Dropping the cleaning supplies near the sink, she ignored the 1950’s era cabinets and walked swiftly to her favorite room in the house, the sunroom. Originally a sleeping porch, the sunroom looked over the back gardens, which led to a sweeping panoramic view of the snow-capped Sierras.
Opening the windows, Chelsea breathed in the fresh mountain air that rushed in to displace the stale, dusty interior. A feeling of peace settled over her soul and she knew without a doubt that, of all the places in the universe, this was her spot. It was the same each time she came; all of the misgivings, the warnings, the dire predictions of financial ruin fell away as she stood gazing onto natural beauty that never failed to take her breath away.
In the distance, granite peaks, more white than blue, kissed a nearly purple sky. Two crystal clear lakes nestled in the hills between her and the granite mammoths reflected a border of lodgepole pines and subtly changing streaks of feathery white clouds. Closer still stood a grove of bristlecone pines, their gnarly, bare branches appearing as sentinels in the afternoon sun.
“That’s quite a view you’ve got there, Missy.” The voice startled Chelsea from her reverie, making her jump and twirl to face the intrusion.
“Sorry, there. I didn’t mean to scare you. We had an appointment. I’m John Mills.” The man looked nearly as weathered as the house, but a lot more sturdy. Towering almost a foot above Chelsea’s five and a half-foot frame, John Miller looked like he’d just stepped out from the very mountains they both admired.
“No, it’s fine,” Chelsea gathered her wits and extended her hand. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I would’ve knocked, but I was afraid the walls would cave in,” grinning, he took her hand. “I called out, but you must not have heard me.”
“I do tend to get a little lost back here,” Chelsea grinned back.
“I can see why; that’s one amazing view. This place must have been a stunner, in her day.”
“And she will be again.” Chelsea infused confidence in her voice. “This is why you’re here. So what do you think?”
“I think you’d be better off with a bulldozer first, a contractor second. It would be a lot less expensive to start from scratch, than to re-do everything that’s wrong with this place.” John looked around, then down at the inspector’s notes attached to the clipboard he carried.
“So I’ve heard,” Chelsea didn’t bother concealing her aggravation. “Thank you for coming out, Mr. Mills, but I’m not interested in a rebuild. Sorry to waste your time.”
“Now hold on a minute, Missy. I didn’t say that’s what I’d do, just that you’d save money on new construction.” Tucking the clipboard beneath his arm, John walked the length of the porch, studying the rafters and pressing the walls as he moved. “No, if it was me, I’d want to bring the old girl back to life. She’s got good bones, just needs shoring up here and there, and a facelift overall.” He stopped inspecting the walls and looked back at Chelsea.
“That’s what I intend to do, bring it back to life. I plan to open a bed and breakfast, so I’ll need to modify a few things. Each bedroom upstairs needs a private bath and the maid’s room downstairs needs to be enlarged, as that is where I will live, but the main footprint can remain intact.” Chelsea stopped herself before she began gushing about her plans.
John appreciated the spark in the young woman’s eyes when she talked about the ramshackle house. He liked the idea of preserving a bit of history, bringing beauty back in place of the decay. It would be his final project; a gift to the town he’d called home for the bulk of his lifetime. Though she hadn’t a clue of his purpose, this project would also be a gift to the determined Miss Chelsea Bates, whose ambitious plans were the butt of many a joke around the tables of the town’s only diner.
“That sounds doable,” John nodded, glad to see the hope spring into her eyes. “I’d add another sun room, on the south side of the house while we’re at it. One for your guests so this one could be your own private retreat.”
His words were music to Chelsea’s ears, but as much as she’d dreamed of that very thing, she had to be realistic.
“I’d love that, but I’m on a budget. Maybe that could be a project for down the road,” She smiled wistfully. “So you’re interested in quoting the job?”
“Yes ma’am, I’m very interested. Why don’t you show me around?”
Let me know if you like the concept, or if you don’t. I always enjoy hearing from readers.
Photo credit: Palojono / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA