Friday, February 27, 2015

The Secret (Seacliff High Mystery Book 1) by Kathi Daley Excerpt

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Alyson Prescott moves to Cutters Cove, Oregon, after being placed, along with her mother, in the witness protection program. In her previous life, Alyson was an A-list heiress with the excitement of a trend setting lifestyle and the security of old money. After witnessing a murder executed by two members of a powerful gang family, she is forced to leave her old life behind and become a middle class girl, living in a middle class town. Alyson struggles with the duplicity in her life as she strives to reconcile her new life with the old.

In the first book in the series, The Secret, Alyson and her mother buy a dilapidated old mansion on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Alyson soon finds that the house holds a secret that only the recently deceased resident of the property seems to know the answer to. Alyson and the new friends she meets at Seacliff High, set out to find the answer to a fifty-year old mystery that will reveal a trail of murder, embezzlement, lies, and deception. As the journey intensifies, friendships are forged that will last a lifetime.


Though he’d been dead for nearly four years, he stood at the end of the bed, silhouetted in the darkness. His features were faint, like a blurry watercolor that hinted at images not clearly defined. Eyes that were felt more than seen beckoned her toward him. Alyson didn’t believe in ghosts, but somehow she wasn’t at all surprised to find him standing there. She’d felt his presence for days, watching her, judging her, waiting to make his presence known at just the right time. He looked just like she’d pictured him, gnarled and wrinkled, his back curved with age.


The image faded into the darkness. Alyson rolled over onto her side and switched on the bedside lamp. Nothing. Old houses tended to be temperamental and unpredictable. This wasn’t the first time the electricity had failed.

Fumbling around for some matches, she lit the candle she kept for just such occasions. The flickering light illuminated the room, casting eerie shadows on the faded wallpaper. A Prada wrap dress tossed haphazardly across a three-legged chair came alive as the breeze from the cracked window caused it to flutter and sway. An empty coatrack, abandoned by a previous resident, reached out to her, arms broken and splintered like a frail old man.

Alyson slipped out of bed and wrapped a white silk robe around her body. She curled her toes against the cold as she made her way across the scuffed wooden floor, pausing to listen, as she turned the knob on her battered door and opened it just an inch.

Peering into the inky darkness, she searched for any sign of her nocturnal guest.

“Barkley? Are you out here?”

Taking a deep breath, she listened. A steady ticktock as the grandfather clock at the end of the hallway marked off the minutes. The muffled sound of waves crashing on the rocky shoreline beyond the thick walls of the ancient house. The thundering of her own heartbeat as she slowly released the breath she’d been holding. She looked toward the sanctuary of her bed, then opened the door an inch further. A sliver of light from the third-floor window pierced the darkness, casting shadows that appeared to waltz across the landing.

Opening the door enough to squeeze through, she crept into the hallway, shining the light from her candle toward the narrow staircase. Glancing toward the haven of her mother’s closed door at the other end of the hall, she edged toward the stairs with her back to the wall.

“Barkley?” she breathed.

She paused and listened with each step she took. One, two, three, four, remember to breathe, only nine stairs more. Stepping over the third stair from the top, which tended to creak under your weight, she reached the landing and looked around. Four doors, all closed. Three led to bedrooms, one to a bath. Glancing up the staircase, which continued toward the fourth-floor attic, she hesitated. The attic had been securely locked ever since she and her mother had moved in three weeks earlier. They’d tried to open it several times, but it had obviously become solidly rusted over the years, like a weathered seal on an ancient tomb. The handyman had informed them that the door would need to be removed; sometimes old locks became frozen with age.

Taking a step toward the first closed door, she looked again toward the impenetrable entrance at the top of the rickety stairs. It beckoned her to try once again. It wasn’t rational; rusted locks don’t suddenly free themselves to reveal their treasures. Alyson turned and stepped cautiously onto the first wobbly stair leading to the attic. She’d always been more curious than rational, and more often than not that had landed her in trouble.

The stairs were uneven and decaying; one wrong step and . . . Alyson didn’t want to think about that. She wondered about residents past. Had anyone stumbled on them? Maybe even fallen? A trip down the steep wooden stairs wouldn’t be pleasant at all. Gripping the wooden railing tighter, she stepped over a broken floorboard and scampered safely onto the fourth-floor landing.

Pausing in front of the door, she slowly turned the knob. The door opened effortlessly, groaning under the strain of years without movement. The windowless room, damp and musty with age, echoed the silent voices of lives past and secrets long buried. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling, their intricate patterns crisscrossing across the doorway. Standing on her tiptoes, she tried to peer over the boxes and furniture piled from floor to ceiling as far back as her limited view could discern. She wondered about the owners of the long-forgotten cache, the generations of men, women, and children who had once stored their most precious memories and prized possessions within these very walls.

Barkley had led her here; she felt it in her gut. Somewhere among the discarded remnants of lives past was a secret he wanted her to find. Tiffany would love this—a mystery to solve. Tiffany had always been the more adventurous of the two of them. Too bad she was dead.

Alyson closed the door, being careful not to trip the rusty lock. Barkley’s secret would have to wait. Tonight she needed her sleep. Tomorrow her new life would officially begin. A life that would be totally different from everything she had ever known. Alyson smiled as she pulled her robe more tightly around her shivering body and started back down the stairs. Ghosts and hidden secrets; who would have thought that her life could get any crazier than it already was? Her court-appointed shrink would have had a field day with this.

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