Home > All I Need

All I Need
Author: J.H. Croix


Chapter One






My headlights offered a narrow path of visibility through the falling snow. Fortunately, my little SUV navigated easily through the roughly six inches of snow piled up on the driveway. I also knew this driveway was a straight shot to the house from the road.

“Hello, Haven’s Bay,” I murmured to myself.

My dog’s tail thumped against the seat, and her furry face appeared in the rearview mirror. “We’re almost there, Matilda.” Her tail thumped in reply.

Although Boston, where I lived, was roughly four hours away from my old hometown, I’d only sporadically come back to the town in Maine where I grew up. The few visits I’d had over the years had been very brief.

The stately house came into view. It stood tall in the snowy darkness with my headlights illuminating the front steps. There wasn’t a single light on. It somehow made sense that my return to Haven’s Bay would be dark, snowy, and without anyone to welcome me.

The sound of my tires was muffled as they rolled through the snow, creating a little path in my rearview mirror. I came to a quiet stop. I didn’t wait because it was cold, and I needed to get inside and turn the heat on.

I left my headlights on, let Matilda out, and hurried toward the front steps. Blessedly, I was wearing a pair of practical black leather boots. Even then, the snow was cold over the tops. Light and fluffy, it slid down into my boots, dampening my socks as I dashed along the path lit by my headlights and up the stairs. I stumbled slightly, but I managed not to fall.

My friend Thea had mailed me the house key, and I fished it out of my pocket, fumbling to find the lock on the heavy front door. In another moment, I finally got the key in and turned it. I pushed the door open, the sound of my footsteps echoing in the tiled entryway.

I reached for the light switch to one side of the door. “Hello,” I whispered to myself as I pushed the switch up. Darkness reigned as nothing flickered on.

“Oh, shit.” My muttered imprecation echoed in the dark foyer.

This grand old colonial home belonged to my closest childhood friend and her siblings. They hadn’t lived here in years either, but they occasionally used it for vacations. Although it had been years since I’d been here, I recalled how it looked. I was standing inside a two-story foyer with a curved staircase along one side with a hallway straight ahead. Along one side of the hall lay the kitchen and the dining room, while what was once a formal parlor room was on the other side.

Despite its familiarity, the entire house now felt spooky and dark and decidedly cold. “Fuck.”

Thea must not’ve known the power was off. I didn’t know what to do. Should I call her? Double fuck. I hadn’t brought my phone in. It was sitting in my warm SUV, plugged into the charger.

I closed the heavy front door behind me, leaning against it and taking a deep breath. So much for my escape to the Maine coast.

I unclipped Matilda’s leash. She was going to sniff like crazy. Her claws skittered on the floor as she dashed forward. She was sniffing so hard that the sound of it echoed in the quiet space. If a serial killer was hiding somewhere in this house, she would find them.

Taking a deep breath, I pushed away from the door. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and I could make out the shape of the staircase and the banister I used to slide down with Thea when we were little girls. It was a most excellent banister for that, wide and glossy. The curve made it fun.

Once upon a time, we’d dragged out a mattress and put it at the bottom. We’d landed in a giggling heap. Those were the days. Our childhoods were anything but perfect, but our friendship had been just about flawless. We didn’t see each other much anymore, but we stayed in touch. Thea was one of those friends, the kind I could call no matter how much time had elapsed, and we could fall into a conversation as if we’d just spoken the day before.

When my teenage daughter had begged to go on a ski trip with her aunt for the holidays, I had hemmed and hawed because it would be my first Christmas without her. As a single parent who’d become a mother at the scandalous age of sixteen, it was hard to let go. Thea had told me it was the perfect time for a vacation and some time to myself. I couldn’t argue against that, and I didn’t want to be the kind of mom who clung too hard. My daughter, Quinn, was on her way to Vermont, and I had a week here on the windswept coast of Maine.

Thea had said, “It’ll be perfect. You can have the house to yourself and finally enjoy the pretty views again.”

At the moment, it wasn’t looking so perfect. I had no power and wasn’t quite sure what to do. Luckily, it wasn’t actually Christmas. It was a week before, so I had time to salvage this.

I decided to venture outside to get my phone and use it as a flashlight. It had one of those flashlight apps on it, although I hadn’t ever imagined needing it.

I could still hear Matilda sniffing about, so I stepped out quickly, dashing through the snow and following the tracks I’d created before. I grabbed my down coat out of the passenger seat and my phone before rushing back in. I knew where the fuses were in the basement. I also knew this house didn’t have one of those scary old basements.

The year before I was banished from town because I got pregnant, Thea’s parents had upgraded the basement. Matilda followed me as I carefully descended the stairs in the darkness, the carpeted stairs quiet under my footsteps. Memory was a funny thing. It kind of surprised me that I knew the old fuse box was in the back corner of the basement by the door that led to a set of stairs and another door that went outside.

Shining my phone flashlight on the fuse box, I scanned the rows of fuses. As far as I could tell, they were all on. My hopes for power tonight were dimming.

Turning, I made my way back up the stairs with Matilda bounding ahead of me. Her claws clicked on the hardwood flooring once she crested the top stair. I closed the basement door behind me and stood still in the middle of the hallway, wondering what to do.

Just then, I heard a soft click, followed immediately by Matilda’s sharp bark.

“Who the hell are you?” The voice was male, with the words delivered in a low, commanding tone.

Great. There was no power, I was alone with my exuberantly friendly dog, and now there was a strange man here. I was pretty sure I was being held at gunpoint in the dark. I was also getting cold.



Chapter Two






The woman squeaked. Her dog started sniffing my feet, its tail thumping my legs as it circled me excitedly. After its initial bark, this dog didn’t appear inclined to be intimidating.

“You know, it’s bad form to bring your dog to a break-in,” I commented.

Even though I didn’t know who this woman was, I was pretty sure she wasn’t a threat. But she was in my family’s old home, deserted and quiet in the darkness. Considering that the driveway was long enough that the front of the house wasn’t visible from the road, it didn’t really matter that she’d left her headlights shining on the house outside.

Maybe having my gun out was overkill, but then, when I came into the back of the house, I didn’t know she had a dog, nor that she was a woman. I watched her hands slowly lift in the shadowy hallway.

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