“It is,” she said. “And under any other circumstance, I would have already told Janie June that we’re buying it. I’m just afraid that if we live here, what happened will always be hanging over us. I know it sounds superstitious, but I’m worried that it’ll seep into our lives somehow.”

I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “It won’t.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because we won’t let it. That man—that Curtis Carver—he wasn’t well. Only a sick man would be able to do what he did. But we can’t let the actions of one disturbed person keep us from our dream house.”

Jess said nothing. She simply wrapped her arms around my waist and pressed her head against my chest. Eventually, she said, “You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”

“Let’s just say I know that every other house we look at is going to pale in comparison.”

This prompted a sigh from Jess. “Are you sure this is what you really want?”

It was. We’d spent years cooped up in a small apartment. I couldn’t shake the notion that a fresh start in a house as big and eccentric as Baneberry Hall was exactly what we needed.

“I am.”

“Then I guess we’re doing this,” she said.

A smile spread across my face, wider than I thought possible. “I guess we are.”

A minute later, we were back at Janie June’s car, me giddy and breathless as I said, “We’ll take it!”


I leave Arthur Rosenfeld’s office in a daze, my legs unsteady as I move down the brick sidewalk to the restaurant where my mother is waiting. Despite it being a beautiful day in May, cold sweat sticks to my skin.

Although I had expected a swell of emotions during today’s meeting—grief, guilt, a heap of regret—anxiety wasn’t one of them. Yet a thick, heart-quickening fear about owning Baneberry Hall is my overriding emotion at the moment. If I possessed an ounce of superstition, I’d be worrying about ghosts and curses and what dangers might be lurking within those walls. Being the logical person that I am summons a different thought. One far more nerve-racking than the supernatural.

What, exactly, am I going to do with the place?

Outside of what’s in the Book, I know nothing about Baneberry Hall. Not its condition. Not if anyone has lived there in the past twenty-five years. I don’t even know how much it’s worth, which makes me want to kick myself for being too stunned to ask Arthur.

My phone chirps in my pocket as I round the corner onto Beacon Street. I check it, guiltily hoping it’s my mother canceling lunch at the last minute. No such luck. Instead, I see a text from Allie giving me an update about the duplex in Telegraph Hill we’re remodeling. Two units means double the work, double the cost, and double the headaches. It also means double the profit, which is what drew us to the property.

Tile down in both master baths. Clawfoot tubs are next.

I can help, I text back, fishing for a good reason for me to cancel.

Allie replies that all is well without me. Another disappointment.

How did it go? she writes.

Surprising, I write back, knowing the morning’s events are too much to discuss over text. I’ll tell you all about it after lunch.

Tell Jessica I’m still available for adoption, Allie adds with a wink emoji. One of the many running jokes between us is that my mother would be happier if Allie, with her BeDazzled toolbelt and HGTV-ready smile, were her daughter.

It would be funnier if it weren’t true.

I pocket my phone and continue to the restaurant, an upscale lunching spot with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of Boston Common. Through the glass, I can see my mother already tucked into a rear booth. Punctual as ever. I, on the other hand, am five minutes late. Since I know my mother will be sure to mention it, I wait to go inside, watching as she takes a sip of her martini, checks her watch, then sips again.

Although she was born and raised in Boston, living in Palm Springs for a decade now makes her look like an out-of-towner. When I was growing up, she had a more casual style. Earth tones, flowing dresses, cable-knit sweaters. Today, her ensemble can only be described as Late-Career Movie Star. White capris. A Lilly Pulitzer blouse. White-blond hair pulled into a severe ponytail. Completing the look are oversize sunglasses that cover a third of her face. She rarely takes them off, forcing her coral-lipsticked mouth to do the emoting. Currently, it droops into a disapproving frown as I enter the restaurant and make my way to the table.

“I almost ordered without you,” she says, the words clipped, as if she’s rehearsed them.

I eye her half-empty martini glass. “Looks like you already have.”

“Don’t be fresh. I got you a gin and tonic.” She lowers her sunglasses to better study my outfit. “Is that what you wore to meet Arthur?”

“I was at a job site beforehand. I didn’t have time to change.”

My mother shrugs, unmoved by my excuse. “Dressing up would have been the respectful thing to do.”

“It was a meeting,” I say. “Not a memorial service.”

That had taken place a month earlier, at a funeral home mere blocks from where we now sit. Not many people attended. In his later years, my father had become a bit of a hermit, cutting himself off from almost everyone. Even though they’d been divorced for twenty-two years—and since my father never remarried—my mother dutifully sat with me in the front row. Behind us were Allie and my stepfather, a kind but boring real estate developer named Carl.