by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
Shannon Delaney Series, Vol. 1
Shannon Delaney's writing assignment in San Diego opens new doors for her young career. She has no idea that her temporary home, the Victorian-era Blackthorne House mansion is a portal to a century-old mystery. On her first night a ghostly encounter entagles her in the spectral mission of the mansion's original owner-Eric Blackthorne, master magician.
Complicating matters is Alex Blackthorne, handsome and charming descendent of the ghostly magician. Also, there's Zach Zavala, who has guy-next-door good looks and a straightforward manner. Plus, Zach's grandfather Francisco is a retired detective and a kindred spirit who appreciates Shannon's apprehension about her paranormal experiences.
Things-that-go-bump-in-the-night clues haunt Shannon's sleep. By daylight eerie occurrences make it crystal clear what path Shannon must take. After solving the Blackthorne House mystery, Shannon is left with the biggest question of all…
What about Alex and Zach, must she choose between them?
ISBN 978-1-59431-629-6 Romance / Romantic Suspense/ Inspiration
Cover Art: Shelley Rodgerson.
Also available in RTF and HTML formats.
“Are you sure this is the correct address?” I questioned, not believing what I was seeing with my own two eyes.
“You asked for 571 Yorba Lugo Road. Blackthorne House, right?” The driver replied.
“Yes, that’s it.” I paid the fare and stepped out of the taxi to face my new home.
Blackthorne House wasn’t a house, per se. It was a mansion done up in the high-Victorian hues of rose, brown and green. I stared up in wonder at the home’s intricate gingerbread trim and counted seven gables, four recessed porches, three balconies and one turret.
That command scrambled my thoughts. I turned my attention toward the voice to find the familiar figure of Sister Rosario Santiago waving to me from the mansion’s front porch. Not one to disregard sage advice, I made haste up the front steps and into the inviting warmth of the front parlor.
“Neither this house nor the cold weather is what I expected to find in San Diego,” I remarked as I dropped my luggage and shrugged off my coat.
“I think the chilly wind followed you in from Chicago,” Sister Rosario teased. “Even for February this is unusually cold weather for us. As for Blackthorne House, it is atypical of San Diego architecture. However, it is exemplary of a classic painted lady Victorian house. I’m sure you’ll be comfortable here while working on our project.”
“House? You mean mansion, don’t you?” I teased back. “Does this place come complete with a hidden stairwell and things that go bump in the night?” I was on a roll; “There must be some aura of mystery to this mansion.”
“Now, now,” Rosario deflected my query, “enough of this nonsense. Shannon Delaney, you haven’t changed a bit since you were a little girl. Always looking for a good scare. And such an imagination you have, why, it’s no wonder you’ve become a popular author.”
I couldn’t help noticing that Sister Rosario hadn’t lost her talent for turning a chide into a compliment.
“Okay, you’ve called my bluff. But…” I paused. “There must be some history to this house, it’s just too old not to have a fascinating bit of mystery. And, knowing you, I bet you’ve looked in all the nooks and crannies only to discover a back-door story about Blackthorne’s mansion.”
“Later, Shannon. I promise you can pick my brains over lunch. Which, by the way, is just about ready. Now, go on up to your room and unpack. It’s on the second floor, first room on the right as you enter the corridor. We’ll chat over lunch.”
I rolled my eyes to heaven, made a funny face at my favorite nun and trudged up the stairs thinking—Foiled, again, by the good sister’s quick draw!
Lunch was laid out on a small table at a windowed alcove in the front parlor. I welcomed a cup of Sister Rosario’s Mexican coffee—brewed strong with a touch of cinnamon, every bit as delicious as I remembered it. The coffee revived my jet lag and my appetite. Sister Rosario said a few words of grace and then I dove into the salad and soup. We ate in silence until I looked up and out the window.
“It’s amazing how very different the outside seems from in here. It’s so bright. The only hint of winter weather is in the wind. What a contrast to Chicago! I’ve always associated cold temperatures with an overcast sky.”
“It’s the Santa Ana winds,” Rosario offered. “In winter they bring freezing temperatures and a crystal clear sky. It’s peculiar, though, for the Santa Anas to howl this far south. Usually, it’s the inland area and coastal region north of here that gets the brunt of them. More coffee? More soup? Maybe a few more bites of salad?”
“Yes to the coffee, no thanks to seconds of the chowder and salad. As always with your cooking, everything was scrumptious. I suppose your strategy is to keep me chewing so I won’t pester you about this mansion? But I’ve had enough, so please… tell me everything you know about Blackthorne House. How did it come under the auspices of the local diocese?”
“Long story,” Rosario answered. “I’ll attempt a Readers’ Digest version.”
“I’m all ears.”
“The house was closed and boarded up for nearly two decades and prior to that various members of the Blackthorne family lived here. Last year a relative of Blackthorne’s designated the parish as trustee of the estate with the binding stipulation that the property be put to use to benefit the local parish. After much consideration, it was decided to renovate the mansion and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast inn. I was put in charge of the entire project.”
“I see… and that’s where I come in?”
“Certainly is, what with your writing credentials and passion for history, I was adamant about hiring you to chronicle the project and design the advertising campaign.”
“Rosario, I’m thrilled to be the bard of choice for the Blackthorne House project, but do you mean to say—you didn’t have in mind I needed some place to stay after my home caught fire and burned to the ground?”
“Now, Shannon, I always keep my word and I promised your parents I would look out for you, to the best that a nun can, that is. The fact that you were living out of a suitcase when this project came up is pure coincidence and a great amount of faith. God works in mysterious ways, therefore it’s not for me to question the circumstances that made an award-winning writer available for this project.”
“Amen to that. I’m thankful for this job and a place to live. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined residing in such a grand dame of a Victorian. But, I’m letting you get off track, let’s see… you were about to reveal the history of this place and its mysterious owner?”
Sister Rosario sighed and took a deep breath. She met my gaze with the look of a confidant.
“Near as we can discern, this mansion was built in the late 1880’s, the same era as the great real estate boom in San Diego. That was a period of Old West grandeur. Wyatt Earp lived here, so did a dog named Bum. Who, for lack of a better description, was San Diego’s canine mayor. Anyway, the boom attracted people from all walks of life. Americans, Europeans, Asians and the founding California Hispanics mingled and created their own unique society based on Hispanic and American culture. The original owner, Eric Blackthorne, fit superbly into the social scene of the time. He was quite a charmer, and wealthy to boot.”
“So, he made a killing on the high tide of real estate investments… Is that how he managed to build this mansion?
“No, not at all. Blackthorne the Magician, that’s what he was,” Rosario said with a mischievous smile. “Stories abound about his antics and affairs. Parties ‘til dawn with elaborate entertainment, including tables of faro and poker. He even hosted seances for the traveling circuit of clairvoyants. And then there were the scandalous relationships with San Diego’s most prominent women. Quite a lady’s man he was. Of course, there was a respectable side to the man as well. Blackthorne sponsored numerous charitable organizations and events.”
“Sounds like he was a regular rogue,” I surmised. “Is he buried near here?”
“Shannon! Leave it to you to sniff out the mystery in a man. Not a living soul knows where he is buried, let alone when he died. Blackthorne, the magician that he was, seems to have just vanished from the living.”