Home > Maggie Moves On

Maggie Moves On
Author: Lucy Score

 

 

1

 

“Did you consider just setting a pile of money on fire instead?”

“Har har, smart-ass,” Maggie quipped over Aerosmith wailing through the speakers.

She was used to Dean’s overprotectiveness toward her home renovation budget and his consistent mistrust of her ability to turn nightmares into dreams.

The house rose in front of them through the rain-slicked windshield as the truck squeezed through the overgrowth on both sides of a rutted lane. Three stories. A massive porch that disappeared around one side. Shingles and carved wood with several layers of peeling paint battled it out to draw the eye first.

But nothing could compete with the turret. Part of the porch on the first floor, it became a balcony on the second. The third and final level was closed in with rounded windows and a needle point–tipped roof. The view from up there was one she predicted that even the pragmatic Dean would get excited about.

He flopped back in his seat and shook his head. “This better be the first and last time you buy a property sight unseen.” His voice was its usual morning rasp when Maggie dragged him from his beauty sleep.

The property wasn’t exactly unseen, but she doubted the truth of it would make her business partner feel more confident. “I saw pictures,” she argued instead.

“I saw the same pictures and distinctly recall trying to talk you out of it.”

“Whine later,” Maggie told him as they got out of the truck. The ground was soft and wet beneath her work boots.

What had once been an elegant, tree-lined drive was now an overgrown trail. The neglected trees and shrubs seemed determined to force the property’s surrender to nature.

But the house? Well, there was magic here on this bluff. She could feel it shimmering just beneath layers of rotting wood and what was most likely lead paint. Like a buried treasure waiting to be unearthed.

Maggie cocked her head and studied the exterior. Rain pattered off the bill of her cap.

Whimsical maybe. Dilapidated definitely.

“We’re not in Oregon on the beach anymore, Toto,” Dean said, eyeing the monstrosity.

“No, we’re not,” she agreed, tucking her hands into her coat pockets and wishing she had the keys. She’d closed the deal on her last flip, a charming beach bungalow, a handful of days ago. With the largest check to date burning a hole in her pocket, she’d packed up and hit the road, heading east for the new adventure.

“What the hell is it even?” he asked, zipping his vest to his chin. “What’s it doing here?”

The fact that the once-grand fever dream of a mansion didn’t fit was precisely what she loved best about it. This part of Idaho was full of timber cabins, smart lakeside cottages, and a tidy downtown of kitschy brick and clapboard buildings. But here, surrounded by mountains and aspen and river, the Queen Anne Victorian reigned over it all.

Proudly, unashamedly different, the Old Campbell Place had claimed this spot on the bluff without regard to any other outside forces for well over a century. She’d have bought it even without the house tangling up briefly in her own history.

“It was originally built by Aaron Campbell for his wife, Ava, allegedly a romantic at heart,” she said, warming to her topic.

“Oh goodie. A lecture.”

“Mr. Campbell’s family owned jewelry stores and a timber operation in the area.”

“Must have been a lot of money in murdering trees,” Dean mused as he tested the first step leading to the porch.

“Actually, Campbell’s money came from the fifteen western novels he wrote.”

He groaned. “I hate it when houses have backstories. It makes you spend more.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Campbell spent four years building this place, making sure every inch of it was perfect.”

“And then they died tragically of typhoid and lead-based paint?” he guessed.

Maggie gave him a playful shove and danced up the steps onto the porch. “No. They lived happily ever after for forty-plus years, giving generously to the town. Raising a family. Throwing spectacular parties.”

“And then they died.”

“And then they died—romantically—a few months apart. The house was passed down through the generations—some with better taste than others. When the family money ran out after a few generations, the house was donated to the town in the 1980s.”

“What did the town ever do to them?” Dean quipped. He gave the porch railing a shake and shot her a smug look when two of the spindles fell to the ground.

“I can fix that,” she said with confidence.

“The town turned it into the Campbell House Museum and ran it for just over a decade. Which is why the place comes chock-full of family artifacts.”

“Don’t even ask me to run the cash box at the yard sale, Magpie. I’m busy that day.”

“Come on. It was cute when you haggled with the church bingo lady in Aberdeen. The viewers loved it.”

She cupped her hands to one of the dingy front windows and peered inside. Wallpaper. Gloriously hideous pheasants in blue and gold climbed the walls of the study like an invasive ivy. Her fingers itched to touch it. It was so aggressively eye searing it might actually work. There were a few pieces of art, including what looked like a portrait hanging above a blackened fireplace. She gave the glass a swipe with her wet sleeve but only succeeded in smearing the layers of grime.

“Speaking of, when are you announcing this new ‘guaranteed to bankrupt you and lose all of your followers’ project?” Dean asked, clomping down the steps.

In Maggie’s opinion, the man spent entirely too much time thinking about numbers. Budgets, YouTube subscribers—all 900,000+ of them—and advertising dollars. But that was why they worked so well together. Dean obsessed over numbers on the page while she turned disasters into dream homes.

She followed him around the side of the house to the uneven stone terrace. The whole thing needed to be relaid. “We’ve still got three episodes banked on the beach bungalow. But I’ll start teasing this place on Instagram.”

He tripped, stumbled, and then kicked at the offending stone that had caught his shoe.

“Wait until tomorrow when the place is ours and there’s insurance before you fall and break your face,” she advised.

“What the hell is that?” he demanded, gesturing toward a concrete monument.

Maggie grinned. “A fountain.”

Four nearly life-size stone horses stood in the center of the base. One pawing the air, the others frozen midgallop. “That looks like the four horses of the apocalypse guarding a communitywide West Nile virus infection waiting to happen,” he said, eyeing the foot of black, murky water and debris clogging the fountain’s pool.

Despite the snarky, uncaffeinated grump show, she could tell he was starting to thaw…marginally. Dean had a soft spot for the quirky. Which was why he’d tolerated Maggie for so many years.

“Tell me they piss water.”

“I’m sure it can be arranged,” she mused.

He grunted and continued across the terrace toward the backyard.

“That’s a sizable problem,” he observed, coming to a stop.

She ducked around him and eyed the fir tree that leaned lazily against the back of the house. That hadn’t been in the pictures.

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