Authors: Janice Kay Johnson
All Through the House
Copyright 1992 Janice Kay Johnson
All Rights Reserved
Cover Art by Rae Monet, Inc. Design
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters,
locations and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been
used factitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales,
or events is entirely coincidental.
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I’m really excited to be making three of my earlier romances
available again. One of the big drawbacks to writing series romance is that
the books don’t stay on the shelves very long. As much as I love real books (I
confess, I even love the
of new books), I’m sold on e-books if
only for the amazing benefit of having them readily available for purchase and
to be read at any time. We all know how frustrating the hunt can be for that
elusive book written ten or fifteen years ago by your new favorite author!
Working on these three books to make them ready to go up
online turned out to be fun. I was a little nervous – after all, I’d like to
think I’m a better writer now than I was then, right? – but I was also happy to
find I really liked every one of these books, originally published by Meteor as
Kismet Romances. The biggest difference I could see is that there’s more of my
life in these books than you’d find in my more recent ones. I wrote more about
what I knew. No, I’ve never had to flee from Mafia hitmen, like Megan does in
DANGEROUS WATERS, but I was quite a serious competitive swimmer from the time I
was nine years old until college. Didn’t make the Olympic team, but I know the
sacrifices that have to be made to compete at that level. I worked as a
lifeguard, too, through high school and college. Long days at a beach, keeping
the kids safe? Been there, done that. HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE? I had young
daughters when I was writing it, and had grown up with horses. Yes, I’ve
always especially loved Arabians. And
fell off the swing when I was
five years old and knocked myself out. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE? Well, there’s
the daughter again (one of my two is even a Katie, I was really getting close
to home there), and I really love old houses – the first house my husband and I
bought was an old farmhouse and we discovered the never-ending surprises that
accompany each project. (New vinyl in the bathroom? Oh, gee, the floor is
rotting. Solution? Completely gut room.) Plus, I have to tell you this town
is, thinly disguised, my own small hometown. The hike to the ice caves? A
One warning, just in case you read Kismet Romances –
DANGEROUS WATERS was originally published as LIFESAVER. I always hated the
title, and decided now to go back to my original. The other two books have
retained their original titles.
I love to hear from readers! Look for my Facebook page and,
coming soon, my website at
"You'll be able to catch a glimpse of the house as soon
as we go around this next bend."
Abigail McLeod was looking forward to her passengers'
reactions. She deliberately hadn't prepared them, not even showing them a
picture. That way the impact would be greater. Abigail was convinced that the
old Irving House was perfect for the Petersons, a middle-aged couple in the market
for an executive home. She had become the listing agent for the historical
mansion only two days before, and she was determined to sell it herself. Having
the Petersons walk into her office this morning was pure luck. Buyers who could
afford the million-dollar plus price tag were few and far between.
The last curve of the narrow country road circled up and
around the flank of a small grassy hill crowned with an orchard of ancient,
gnarled apple trees. Wild flowers bloomed beneath them. Abigail heard Mrs.
Peterson's drawn-in breath, sensed Mr. Peterson's stillness after he'd leaned
sharply forward. It was the sight of the first turret that had done it, with
the delicate pattern of shingles and the tiny round window high up catching the
afternoon sunlight. Abigail smiled with quiet satisfaction, although she didn't
take her gaze from the road. It was too easy to miss the drive, which these
days was little more than two ruts that cut through the waist-high,
golden-green grass of the pasture.
As soon as she'd turned her red Honda Accord into the lane,
however, her own gaze stole up to the house. With its conical towers and small
balconies, the intricate patterns of the fish scale shingling and the delicate
gingerbread, it would to Abigail be forever evocative of princesses and
dragons, of Rapunzel letting down her hair from the tower.
"It's magnificent!" Mr. Peterson murmured as the
car crested the drive and the house came into full view, down to its
granite-block foundation. "When was it built?"
"Eighteen ninety-one," Abigail answered matter-of-factly.
"Locally it's called the Irving House. William Irving was a timber baron.
His wife was English, and apparently he promised that if she married him, she
wouldn't have to give up anything. Remember that Washington had only been a
state for two years and the Puget Sound area was still practically a frontier.
It probably sounded like the ends of the earth to a well-bred Englishwoman, but
when the house was finished in 1893, she married him."
Mrs. Peterson looked enraptured with the story. "How
romantic! And did they live happily ever after?"
"They had eight children," Abigail informed them.
"Who fought tooth and nail over Papa's empire after he'd died. In the end
two of them won. The oldest son took the timber business and the house, and
another the railroad and shipping interests. A couple of the daughters married
other local businessmen, and several of the children went back to England with
their mother, never to be heard of again. The house has been occupied by a member
of the family until the old man who owned it died just recently. That partly
explains why it's in such excellent condition."
"But you said it's occupied?"
A tiny frown creased Abigail's forehead, although she didn't
let her tone reflect her uneasiness. "Yes, by a renter. I called to let
him know we'd be coming."
Abigail couldn't entirely explain, even to herself, why she
was so worried about the renter. He'd been perfectly pleasant on the telephone,
informing her agreeably that he would be there, but he'd try to stay out of
their way. The man couldn't help the fact that he had such an unusual voice,
low and a little gravelly. Actually, it was rather sexy, bringing to Abigail's
mind a fleeting but all too vivid image of the rasp of a shaven chin against
Maybe that was the only reason she had this odd feeling
about him; he'd unwittingly reminded her of her own vulnerability, something
she'd as soon not think about these days. She was too busy supporting herself
and her four-year-old daughter, as well as trying to be a good single mother,
to waste time on romantic—or sexual—fantasies.
She suspected, however, that the small worry in the back of
her mind had originated the day she'd looked over the house with the present
owner, Ed Phillips, a great-nephew of the old man who had died. Standing out in
front by her car, she had asked him about the signs of occupation. The unwashed
breakfast dishes, the faded jeans tossed on the bed, the razor lying by the
bathroom sink, had made her wonder if whoever lived in the house had expected
Ed Phillips was the area's biggest contractor, a strongly
built man in his early forties who was starting to put on a little too much
weight, although in his case it simply made his presence more imposing. He could
be very charming, although Abigail had a feeling that charm would disappear
quickly if he were crossed. She wasn't sure she liked the man, but she was very
eager to sell this house for him. He'd promised to throw more business her way
if she did, business she desperately needed.
At her question about the house's occupant, he had frowned
and glanced over his shoulder, as though he expected someone to appear on the
porch. It remained empty, of course, but for a moment he continued to stare
moodily up at the house. Clearly, Abigail had reminded him of something
unpleasant. It was an odd reaction, one that made her apprehensive.
But then, few things were ever as perfect as this deal
seemed to be. Wasn't there always a catch? The only question now was what Ed
was going to spring on her. Did the renter keep a killer Doberman pinscher
roaming the grounds that she would be expected to decoy whenever she wanted to
bring buyers out? Or did the man work at night, so that she would never be able
to show the house during the hours any sane person would want to see it? Or...
She rummaged in her mind through past experiences for something suitably
But then Ed Phillips gave himself a little shake and turned
back to her with an easy grin. "Sorry. Did you ask about the renter?"
Abigail raised her brows slightly and nodded.
"He won't be any problem," Ed said. "I'm
lucky to have someone to keep the place up. Really lucky. And quite a bit of
the furniture in there is his. Dresses the house up a little. So don't worry.
It's a good thing he's here."
Abigail didn't probe. She also didn't believe him. He'd
sounded too much as though he were trying to convince himself. She could only
trust that he would have been honest with her if the renter was likely to
present her any particular problem.
Now, as she eased her car to a stop in front of the house,
Abigail could see the rear end of a pickup truck in the shadowy recesses of the
old clapboard-sided carriage house. She ignored its presence, however, as she
switched off the ignition and smiled at Mrs. Peterson, who was in the front
seat with her.
"It's too bad that the landscaping has been
neglected," she commented, having found in the past that bringing any sore
points out into the open worked best. In this case, the knee-high weeds that
choked the formal flower beds and the straggling boxwoods could hardly be
ignored. "But there are plenty of beautiful old plants here to work with.
Well, you can see that for yourself. It wouldn't be at all like starting from
scratch with a new house."
It was true. Huge old rhododendrons promised a spectacular
spring. Following the curve of the drive was a row of peonies with only a few
gaps, the plump deep-pink and white heads showing through the long grass. The
scent of the roses that scrambled up trellises beneath the front porch drifted
in the open car window along with the faint buzzing of the bees. Abigail didn't
make a move for a minute, subtly letting the sheer quiet of the country make
its effect felt on the Petersons. At last she opened her car door.
As they climbed the front steps, Mr. Peterson said,
"You're sure the place has been completely redone? It's impressive, I'll
grant you that, but Betty and I aren't prepared to pour time and effort into
the bottomless well I know these old houses can be."
"People do get in over their heads, don't they?"
Abigail agreed pleasantly. "But the Irving House is different. As I
explained to you, the owner, Mr. Phillips, is a highly respected local
contractor. Under his direction, the roof, the plumbing, and the wiring have
all been replaced. Mr. Phillips supervised the work himself. All that's left to
be done is decorating. I'm sure you'll find the wallpapers old-fashioned, for example.
But picking your own is the fun part, isn't it?"