What happened to Irene?
When Anna Coughlin, a modern 1920s woman, travels to the secluded hills of Virginia to work for wealthy Lawrence Richardson, she discovers that the previous secretary, Irene, mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before. Upon arriving at the castle-like mansion to begin working, Anna finds that Lawrence’s handsome, but antagonistic son, Tyler, wants nothing more than to have her gone. And he isn’t the only one—
After Anna sets out to find the truth behind Irene’s disappearance, a series of frightening incidents ensnare her in a maze of intrigue. Anna is helped—and often hindered—by the temperamental Tyler Richardson, who—despite her best intentions—begins to steal her heart.
But even as Anna begins to uncover dark secrets in a troubled household, she must continue to hide a significant one of her own. When her life is threatened, Anna is left to wonder if she’ll be able to unravel the mystery before she disappears as mysteriously as the unfortunate Irene.
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The tallest parts of the mansion—fanciful turrets and a circular tower—were visible only in glimpses Anna caught between lofty oaks and towering pines as her cab wound through the knolls and hills of eastern Virginia.
When the cab turned up the long driveway lined with dogwood trees in full bloom, Anna Coughlin reached for her handbag, gripping it with a tension that had knotted her muscles ever since getting on the train.
The vast estate stood on a hilltop, like a castle—and she craned her neck to better view the starkly impressive gray-stone mansion of Ashton Hall—where she hoped to be hired. With its arched, leaded windows and slate roof with numerous chimneys, the house rivaled pictures she’d seen of castles in Europe.
Instructing the driver to wait, she climbed out, patted her hat in case it was askew, then smoothed her gray suit with gloved hands in hopes of presenting a professional appearance. Anna had no confidence she was clever enough or bold enough to pull this off, but she had to try.
Her eye was drawn by a tall man—more than six feet—who came from the side of the house. Since the man was striding toward her so purposefully, Anna stopped and waited. As he drew near, Anna noted his deep-set eyes were as black as his hair. His skin was tanned, his thin, long-fingered hands brown and strong.
“Miss Coughlin?” He stretched out a hand and shook hers, but there was no warmth for her in his eyes. “I’m Tyler Richardson. Unfortunately, your services are not needed after all.” A touch of arrogance marked his manner, as though he was long accustomed to command those around him.
“Your father called only last week to have someone come out,” Anna blurted in dismay. “May I ask what caused him to change his mind?”
A fleeting glimpse of discomfiture crossed Mr. Richardson’s face. “I wasn’t consulted about his hiring another secretary to replace the one who left so suddenly. My father isn’t in good health, and the last thing we need is someone coming in and upsetting him by making a muddle of things.”
His words kindled a fire that glinted in Anna’s eyes. How dare he make such an assumption? It was difficult to hang on to her temper, but there was too much at stake to let his boorishness sidetrack her. “Since I’m here, I’m sure you won’t mind if I keep my appointment. After all, your father is the one who requested my services. I’m sure he’s expecting me.”
Her words hit home.It took a few bitter seconds, but he finally acquiesced. “Come in, then,” he muttered ungraciously before leading the way up the steps and opening the door.
Following his rigid back down the narrow hall, Anna’s brows furrowed as doubts crept in. How wise had she been to come to this remote place? Especially when the previous secretary had disappeared so mysteriously? Even her employer thought it odd that no one in this mansion seemed to know where Irene had gone or where she was now. It was as if Irene had vanished into thin air.
Marlene has been a favorite author of mine for a long time, and I'm happy to help her celebrate this new release. Don't forget to check it out by clicking here, and you can learn more about Marlene by clicking here.