A cold breeze swept over Callie’s skin. “What the—”
Twisting, she looked under the table at the vent. She could feel heat on her ankles, so why did the room suddenly feel like it had gotten twenty degrees colder? The air wasn’t only downright chilly, it seemed heavy. Weighty, somehow.
The hair at the back of her neck rose.
“That’s it.” She scooped up the tray. It was late, and she was overtired. She put the platter back in the refrigerator, but kept the champagne. She scowled at the basement door.
She hadn’t liked it when she’d explored down there earlier today. Hadn’t liked it at all. The big, gaping room was unfinished and dingy. Maybe it was that emptiness that had bothered her. Light hadn’t even wanted to go down there.
She waited for the furnace a moment longer.
Once again, she was greeted with silence.
“Good,” she said. Still, she took another swig of champagne.
She nearly dropped the bottle when a long, drawn-out creak came from overhead. The sound was haunting, coming right down through the outer wall. She lasted only a half-second more before thrusting the champagne into the refrigerator and hurrying out of the room.
It was that annoying shutter, she reminded herself… the one on the second floor.
Not to mention some alcohol that had obviously gone straight to her head.
She found the thermostat in the hallway near her bedroom. The living room seemed warmer, but she could feel that chill seeping out of the kitchen. Almost as if it was pushing her away from it…
A shiver ran through her.
“Darn it.” The furnace needed help. She was going to have to get somebody out here to check on it.
Goosebumps dimpled her bare arms, and darkness pressed on her from all sides. The dim light from the old bulbs in the light fixtures couldn’t hold it back. Quickly, she scampered to her room. For one night, she’d have to survive the old-fashioned way of huddling under the covers. Her teeth were chattering by the time she closed the door behind her.
When she did, the chill disappeared, and she was practically bathed in warmth.
She frowned. Kneeling down, she held her hand out in front of the floor vent in this room. Warm air brushed against her fingertips. She sighed. No doubt about it, the heating system was screwed up. “Ka-ching.”
She was going to have to start writing again soon to earn the money to pay for all these repairs.
Fatigue suddenly hit her hard.
It had been a long day… A big day… The first in her new way of life…
She opened a box to search for something to sleep in. The only things she could find, though, were towels and bedsheets. Giving up, she shrugged out of her clothes. She slapped off the overhead light and dove, naked, for the bed. She pulled the covers up to her chin.
Sucking in a deep breath, she tried to relax.
This was going to have to stop. The house was old and needy. It didn’t make any sense why she was letting it get to her. She was used to noise. She’d moved here to get away from the hustle and bustle. On any given night in her old apartment in Boston, she’d had to sleep through music from next door, vacuuming from the obsessive-compulsive upstairs, or fighting from the newlyweds across the hall. A clunky furnace and a creaky shutter should be nothing.
Then again, it could be because she was alone.
The soft sound was impossible to ignore. Callie’s eyes flew open, and she sat straight up in bed. Her heart thudded as she reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. With wide eyes, she looked across the room.
And her heart nearly stopped.
Her bedroom door had just locked itself.
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