Steady as the Snow Falls

BOOK: Steady as the Snow Falls
3.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Steady as the Snow Falls





Lindy Zart




Steady as the Snow Falls

Lindy Zart

Published 2016 by Chameleon Writer

Copyright 2016 Lindy Zart

Cover by Cover to Cover Designs

Cover Photography Credit: Wendi Stitzer

Cover model: Kailey Dobson

Formatted by Nancy K. Mueller

Edited by Words and Alchemy




This book is a work of fiction.


Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.




I’ve come to realize that you should surround yourself with people who make you feel good, who laugh with you, and bring a smile to your lips. The people who believe in you. Thanks for being you.







THE FIRST SNOWFALL of the season began as she drove her beat up and rusted forest green Chevrolet Blazer along the winding driveway to the house set on a hill. She’d never seen it up close before, even though she’d trekked the road that ran along its borders countless times. It was miles from town, alone and out of place in a small farming community.

Beth Lambert’s gloved fingers tightened on the steering wheel, her breaths coming short and uneven. She felt insane, a sliver mad, but also excited. Life was an adventure, and in believing that, sometimes she jumped without knowing where she was going to land. Those around her who didn’t understand said it was a regrettable part of her personality. But Beth didn’t understand how anyone could expect great things to happen when they didn’t go after what they wanted.

You can’t stand still and hope to dance.
You’ve been standing still for a long time now, Beth.

“This is me, going on a journey, how ever impractical it may be,” she told herself, ignoring the swirling sensation inside her stomach that said she wasn’t as brave as she presently acted. Telling her she was beyond dancing, beyond second chances.

Beth scowled. No one got to decide that, not even her.

“Jumping without a landing in sight. I am a bad-ass.” Beth’s voice lacked conviction and she made a face as she pictured her ex-boyfriend. She couldn’t get away from him in the compact town in which they both lived, and she couldn’t get away from him inside her head. At least with her new job, she could physically avoid him for substantial periods of time.

Ozzy would smile patronizingly and tell her she had a better chance of cutting off her finger with a spoon than going on a great quest just a few miles outside of town. And Beth would smile in return and not say anything back, even as a thread of her joy unraveled.

Beth turned her thoughts back to her destination. Destination. Destiny. She was on a destination to find her destiny. A muscle beneath her eye went into a spasm, either in agreement or protestation.

Everyone said a man lived there—that he’d made Crystal Lake, Minnesota his residence two years ago. Whispers and slanted looks accompanied each vague, gossipy detailing. They talked about the wealthy recluse who’d been seen in public only a handful of times, and even that was rumored. No one could give an accurate account of his looks, or character. No one knew his age. Versions ranged from a man in his thirties to one in his eighties. No one even knew his legal name; the mailbox at the start of his driveway simply read ‘C. Harris’.

It was said he was grotesquely deformed, and that was why he hid. It was said he murdered his wife when he caught her with another man, and that his money bought his innocence in a court hearing. It was said any who’d gone to his home never came back. She didn’t believe the stories, and yet her whole body was stiff, as if seized by fear. No one really knew anything as fact, and that made people worry, and worrying people were the worst. They let their imagination overrun common sense.

Trepidation traveled with her, bringing the cold of outside into the vehicle, clutching her nerves. Freezing her. Beth turned off the radio, finding silence an appropriate passenger to make the journey with her. When the Blazer felt like the front of it was standing upright instead of flush with the road, and she could see nothing but frosty skies and the SUV’s dash, the world evened out. She took her boot off the accelerator, the vehicle creeping forward as she stared.

Don’t be scared. It’s just a house—with a stranger inside.
Her pulse shot into overdrive.
Don’t be scared.

The lightly falling snow made it seem like a scene out of a snow globe. A house painted clover green stood proud and sure, snow-tipped pine trees hugging either side of it, and white-cloaked hills beyond. If there were Christmas lights, or any kind of decoration, it would be inviting. As it was, unadorned and dark, it was eerie. She swallowed, straightening the wheel when the Blazer slid toward the lawn. Beth parked on the left side of the garage, as per the emailed instructions she had read one thousand times.

Weightless snowflakes fell upon her stocking cap and coat as she removed her laptop case from the passenger seat. The snow was coming down faster, and in bigger flakes. Beth didn’t like to drive in snow, and the forecast for the upcoming hours and days did not look promising. There was no way she was going to cancel the meeting, not with the amount of money offered—money she needed to continue to have a house, food and heat for the house, and other necessities. She would take her time driving back home, and if it took an hour to travel six miles, she would do it.

Her fingers that held the handle of the laptop case were clenched tight, causing pinpricks of pain, and she relaxed them as much as she could without dropping her most prized possession. The whiteness of her surroundings hurt her sensitive eyes, and she blinked as she looked back toward the SUV, and escape.

There’s nothing to be scared about. You’re fine. You’re here to do a job. Be professional. Here is your awaiting dream. Take it, and don’t let go.

Taking a deep breath of icy air, she walked toward the house, looking for signs of disuse or abandonment. Everything was clean, updated. Well cared for. No dirt, no cobwebs. No broken windows, or mold covering the siding.
No blood
, her conscience mocked. Beth’s boots sank in the fast accumulating snow, the scent of pine fresh and welcome. She hesitated before the white door. The emailed instructions she’d received two days ago said to enter without announcing her arrival. That seemed ill-mannered to her, but she didn’t want to mess up on her first day at the new job.

Beth gripped the doorknob in her trembling hand, and turned it. She stepped inside, quickly closed the door behind her, and looked around. It felt like a large, carnivorous cavern. A lifeless structure that swallowed those who entered. The pale coloring of the bare walls and uncovered windows allowed light into an otherwise dark foyer. On the outside, the house appeared imposing, but inside, it was empty. Where were the memories, the pictures—the personality able to be detected in a piece of furniture or decorative piece?

“It’s okay,” she whispered to herself, her throat thick and her mouth dry. “He’s frugal, that’s all. Frugal is good.”

The scent of bleach and synthetic lemons entered her senses, and beneath that, something acridly sweet, like death covered up by the façade of life.
Leave, Beth. Leave and never return
. Her feet unconsciously turned to the door, and she forced herself back. Leaving would be cowardly, and she only wanted to be brave. The laptop felt heavy, the weight of her agreement dragging her hand to the hardwood floor. She tried to remember in which room she was supposed to set up, but the emails over the last few weeks jumbled up in her mind until they became indecipherable lettering with no meaning.

She removed her outerwear, including her boots that were leaving puddles on the black floor mat. A shelf with hooks covered part of the wall, and she hung up her coat, setting her hat and gloves above on the shelf. With panic racing over her back in chilly sweeps, Beth turned right and walked through a wide hallway to a kitchen. It was pristine, without a single item out of place. She lingered long enough to note the black appliances and cream-painted walls before turning and heading the other way.

It was too quiet. Beth’s palms sweated, and she rubbed her free hand against her blue jeans, switching hold of the laptop case to do the same with the other. Her pulse was churning out a beat that was pure mayhem. She wondered if she was alone in the house. It felt like she was. She didn’t want to call out, because then it would be obvious she was lost, and then her reliability would be put in doubt. He’d given explicit orders, and she was unintentionally disobeying them.

Beth cursed under her breath, staring at the stairway that ran along one wall of the entryway. Had anything been mentioned about an upstairs or a second level? She couldn’t remember, but she didn’t think so. She had two options. She could go forward through the closed French doors across the spacious room, or she could go through the hallway to the left.

The outrageous, and of course, untrue tales, told by family and friends, and even Ozzy, shot through her brain, dizzying in their forceful clarity. Crystal Lake was full of yapping jaws and not enough logic. She knew—she’d had her share of mistruths spread about her over the years without much thought to her feelings. Beth shook her head at the echo of the words, clamped her lips shut, and marched for the French doors. She opened the right side of the doors and went still.

All the materialistic items lacking in the other rooms were arranged in the space before her. Though the walls were painted a cold gray, the furniture set up invitingly in the middle of the room was the bluest of blues, the kind of bold hue of blue found in peacock feathers. A bookcase was built into one part of the wall, filled with a rainbow of books—more books than she could read in two years, maybe three. Beth’s favorite books were the kind that made her want to write, and that made her wonder how someone else could write in such an impactful way.

The smell of strong, black coffee was present, with underlays of spices and hazelnut. Her eyes followed her nose to the stand where a coffeemaker rested, half a pot’s worth of the delicious brew inside, beckoning her forth. Creamers and sugar packets abounded from a basket beside it, spoons and cups nearby. Beth’s mouth watered and she swallowed, turning away before she was tempted to help herself without asking.

Windows lined the farthest wall directly from her, showcasing the winter scene outside. A wooden bench with a plump cushion in cream, abundant with light and dark blue pillows—all the different variations of the sky found in the paddings—rested beneath the row of windows. It would be a perfect place to snuggle up and enter another reality through the pages of a book.

She looked up, and her breath caught at the beauty of the snow on the trees and earth, sparkling like millions of tiny diamonds littering the terrain. It was simple, and majestic. She inhaled deliberately, deeply, committing the sight to memory to later attempt to bring forth in words. Words were Beth’s friends, the truest form of understanding herself available to her.

Caught up in the wonder on the other side of the windowpane, it took her a while to realize she wasn’t alone. Beth went still, feeling the heated look of someone watching her a moment before a voice spoke.

“You’re late.”

Beth froze at the sound of the raspy male voice, and then she carefully turned, her heart following her body at a slower pace, and stared. In the one corner of the room where shadows played and teased, sat a man. His legs were long and clothed in jeans, sprawled out like he was carefree, or bored. The biting quality of his tone countered that. He didn’t have the voice of an old man, but it was hard to place his age without a clear view of his face.

“Hi. I’m, um, Beth. Beth Lambert. You hired me to write your book,” she said shakily. She wanted to sigh at the lameness of her greeting. Of course he knew who she was, and that he’d hired her.

“Beth Lambert who I hired to write my book…you’re late.” There was no humor in his voice, no emotion to give away his thoughts.

More curious than afraid, she took a step toward him, wondering why he’d watched her for as long as he had without letting his presence be known. His legs stiffened, as if silently telling her not to come closer. Beth opened her mouth to refute his claim, but a glance at the antique grandfather clock said it was true. It was eight minutes past one in the afternoon. She hadn’t been late when she’d first arrived at his house, but by the time she entered this particular room, yes, she was.

Beth bowed her head. “I—yes, I am. I suppose. I apologize.”

“You were scheduled to be here until five this afternoon.” He paused. “Now it’s until eight after five.”

She shrugged nonchalantly, even as her pulse sped up in faint irritation. From the communication with him over email, she’d gathered that he was a control freak, a man who needed power to feel important. All the same, it chafed being told when she was allowed to leave.

“We both know I’m paying you a more than adequate amount. Because of that, I expect you to be here when you’re supposed to be. It isn’t asking much.”

Ignoring that, Beth gestured to the couch diagonal from the chair he occupied. Her face burned, her next words stiff and sharp. “May I sit?”

“You may,” he bit out, his voice a low rumbling thunder.

Once seated, she unzipped the laptop case, setting it on the plump cushion beside her. She used the motions to calm the rampaging nerves within. His voice was harsh, as were his words, and yet, she wasn’t entirely put off by them. There were undertones of velvet and power that spoke to her body, flipped a switch of awareness. It was easy to be attracted to someone’s physical appearance—a voice that could demand the same took something more.

Notepad and pen out, she returned her attention to the enigma before her and asked a question she hadn’t planned on asking. “Why did you?”

The entity paused. “Why did I what?”

“I don’t have any references, no credentials, nothing really, other than college transcripts and awards to back up my writing. I’m a novice, barely out of school, and other than a part-time job, I’m pretty much unemployed. You could have hired anyone. And you’re right—you are overpaying me. Why?”

He leaned forward, revealing pale forearms covered in fine red hairs; his facial features were blurred edges without distinction. All she caught was a flash of black, hollow eyes with dark smudges beneath, and a glimpse of a long, proud nose. The slice of a hard mouth before he resettled against the back of the chair, away from her eyes. She let out an uneven exhalation. It disconcerted Beth, made her feel like she was looking at something out of focus with the shades claiming most of his face.

BOOK: Steady as the Snow Falls
3.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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