Carved in Cherry Chapter One


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 New Adult Paranormal Romance
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Chapter One 
“It’s a magical, invisible antique shop,” Jo said. “Obviously.”
Rachel laughed at her sister, before pulling out her cell phone. She brought up the directions and frowned at the screen. “It says that it’s off Gristmill Road. Right?” She held the phone out for Jo to double-check.
“Gristmill Road.” Jo gestured to a nearby street sign. “We’re on it. And we’ve walked up and down it a dozen times.”
“Well, Aunt Lydia’s antique shop has to be somewhere.” Rachel shoved the phone back in her pocket and started walking.
Jo fell back into step with her. “What is ‘grist’ anyway?”
“Just an old-timey word for grain. Stuff like wheat, rye, bar-“
“Okay, okay! History nerd.”
“Shouldn’t you know that, writing geek?” As she spoke, Rachel turned and shot a silly look at her sister. The action loosened her scarf, just as a cold gust of wind blew against her back. Several drops of icy water dripped down her back. She gasped in surprise and turned to find the source.
“You okay, Rach?”
Rachel reached back and brushed at the nape of her neck. “Yeah.” She looked up and spotted a rusty, iron sign, swinging from the side of the building. A few drops of water slid from the icicles clinging to the sign.
Antiques
“Hey! I think this is it!” Rachel stepped back for a better look at the old building. The first story was made out of old, worn brick and the second was wood. Rachel tried to picture what it must have looked like when it was new. When had that been; two-hundred? Three hundred years ago? Most of Old Town had been built in the early eighteenth century. Rachel could see a pair of paned windows. She squinted up at them, wondering if the glass was handmade.
Jo’s voice broke into her thoughts, “Where’s the door?”
That was a good question. Rachel looked back and forth along the building. Nothing but brick.
“Well, it must be somewhere.”
They walked along the cobblestone sidewalk toward the edge of the building. There was a space – hardly large enough to call an alley – between the antique shop and the building next door. Rachel and Jo didn’t have enough room to walk side by side. Halfway down the alley was a door, covered in peeling green paint. A little plaque by the door read: Lydia’s Curiosities.
“Guess this is it,” Rachel said.
The windows were so dusty Rachel could hardly see the word Closed on the sign behind them. She tried the knob anyway and wasn’t surprised when it was locked. She pulled off a mitten with her teeth and started rummaging in her purse for the key. ”Where is that key…”
Buscar la clave,” Jo said. “Or wait, is it llave?” She had recently taken an interest in her Mexican heritage and started learning Spanish.
“Beats me. It’s yournative language. Which reminds me, has it started coming back yet?”
Jo had been fluent, or at least as fluent as a two-year-old could be, when she was adopted. She picked up English rapidly and hadn’t spoken a word of Spanish since. She had been hoping her past fluency would help her in class, but so far she was on the same level as the other students.
“Not yet. Oh my God, did I tell you my professor said my accent is terrible?”
“Tell her to kiss your culo. Ah-ha!” Rachel triumphantly fished the key out of her purse and worked it into the lock.
Jo pulled out her phone. “I should text Angie and let her know how to find the place.” She looked back out toward the street. “We’re across from the Haber…”
“Haberdasher. And you’re supposed to be an English Major.”
“I know the word, I was texting,” Jo said. “And it’s a haberdashery. A haberdasher is the person who…haber…dashes.”
The door clicked open, just as she finished texting, and the two peered into the dimly lit shop.
“Do you remember Aunt Lydia at all?” Jo asked, as they nervously walked in. She vaguely remembered their recently deceased aunt visiting when she was younger. Rachel, three years her senior, probably had better memories.
“Sort of.” Rachel remembered a quiet, older woman. A little strange, maybe even whimsical. Like the sort of woman who had twenty cats and knit tea cozies. She couldn’t remember many details about Lydia herself. Unmarried, no children, as far as she knew. In fact, Rachel hadn’t even known about the antique shop, until Lydia’s lawyer arrived to tell her and her sisters, that they were the proud new owners.
Rachel moved further into the shop and looked around eagerly. She was almost disappointed as she took in just how small it was. The building had looked so much bigger from outside; the shop must have shared the space with other stores.  A solitary, dirty, bare light bulb hung from the ceiling, casting just enough light for Rachel to see around the entire room. There were bookcases, lined up to form aisles, and shelves along the walls. There were a couple of large cabinets and a handful of bigger pieces of furniture. Everything else was neatly stacked up on the shelves. Rachel had been hoping for more.
“Having a histor-gasm?” Jo quipped from behind her.
Rachel snorted and punched her sister. “There could be some cool stuff here,” she said, hoping she was right. “And you’re the fiction writer. Something here could inspire the Next Great American Novel.”
They both giggled. Jo pulled the door closed behind her. Without the light from the street, the shop seemed even darker. The two slowly walked through the store. A shelf full of old books caught Jo’s eye and she drifted over toward it as she went. Rachel started to follow her, but spotted an old cash register sitting on the counter. She wondered whether or not their aunt had been using it to ring up customers and decided to investigate it. The counter was high enough that Rachel had to stand up on her toes to lean over to look behind it. It looked like the cash register was still in use. There was also a yellowed ledger. Rachel picked it up and skimmed over the most recent transactions.
Jo was almost to the bookshelf when she spotted a door labeled Private. She took one last glance at the books and headed over. In spite of the fact she technically owned the shop, she felt just a little rebellious opening the door. She paused, confused, when she realized there was no knob. Instead, there was just a simple keyhole, framed by a slightly decorative piece of metal, carved into the door.
“Hey, Rach,” she called. “You see any keys behind that counter?” Jo poked at the keyhole. “Any hugekeys,” she added. Based on the hole, the key that went to the door must have been enormous. She gave the door a push, just in case it was unlocked, but it didn’t budge. She poked her finger into the keyhole and pulled, just in case, before giving up and turning her attention to one of the nearby shelves. It was full of wicker baskets, which were almost overflowing with odds and ends. There was a basket of coins, one filled with little glass animals, and one of keys. Jo pulled off her mittens and stuffed them into her coat pocket, before leaning over the basket. She stirred the keys around with one hand. “Never mind, I just found an overabundance of them,” she muttered.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Rachel had joined her and was examining the door.
“I already tried,” Jo said, as Rachel started to push on the door. “It’s loc-“
The door easily swung partway open, revealing a dark room beyond. Rachel raised an amused eyebrow at Jo.
“You mean unlocked?” she snickered.
“Well, I loosened it for you.”
 The door was old and worn. Rachel ran a hand over the smooth wood and traced around one of the large iron hinges.
“I think these are handmade,” she murmured. The door was very, very old. Probably as old as the building. Rachel took a step back and frowned at it. It looked more like a door to the outside, than an interior door. She leaned back and looked at the wall, wondering if the shop had been added on at some point.
“Are you going to go in or keep fondling the door?” Jo asked.
For an answer, Rachel pushed the door further open and led the way in. Jo followed.
“Jeez. I think we found the Room of Requirement.”
“No kidding,” Rachel chuckled.
The room dwarfed the first room and it was absolutely packed full of antiques. Everything was covered by a thick layer of dust. There was so much stuff crammed into the room that neither girl could see the walls. The only space to walk was a narrow aisle between stacks of junk. Even smaller paths broke off and wove through the antiques and out of sight.
Rachel’s laugh turned into a sneeze. “It looks like she died years ago, not days. I don’t think anyone has been here in ages.”
“Not entirely true.”
Jo pointed to the floor. A path, mostly clear of dust, wound away from the door and deeper into the room. Several sets of footprints split off from it and led in different directions. Someone walked around in here, but not often. She spotted a bunch of paw prints too; probably from a cat or small dog.
“Storage?” she asked.
“Must be.”
Rachel looked around for a light switch. The dim light from the main room wasn’t nearly enough. Nowshe was excited. Even though she and her sisters were planning to just sort everything and clean the shop, Rachel was hoping she’d find something cool to keep. The massive storage room had exponentially increased her chances of finding something neat.
Something moved. Rachel gasped and moved closer to her sister. She squinted into the darkness, heart pounding.
“When do you think Angie will-”
“Shh!” Rachel clamped a hand over Jo’s mouth. “Someone’s here!”
“What?”
“Over there!” Rachel pointed and pulled her sister closer to the door.
Jo freed her arm from Rachel’s grasp. “Are you kidding? You better not be trying to scare me.”
“I’m serious!” Rachel’s eyes frantically scanned the area where she had seen movement. “Hello? Is somebody there?” she called.
“Should we call the police?”
A low, menacing voice filled the air, “What are you doing here?”
The girls stared in horror as a figure stepped out from behind a bookshelf. He was tall and hooded, and his face was hidden by shadows. He took a step toward them and raised a sword.
“How did you find this place?” he demanded. “Who sent you?”

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