Isabelle looked up at the old Victorian house centered on the grassy, oak-shaded hill. She’d always been fascinated by this place. Built post-Civil War, the history surrounding it was sketchy. Rumor had it the original owner was the widow of a wealthy collector who had made the home into a museum in homage to her husband.
She wasn’t so certain, since she’d found no documentation to back up that story. There were plenty of tales of it being haunted as well. Someone always claimed to know someone who knew someone who had experienced ghosts in or around the place. Isabelle had spoken to several old-timers in the area. They all agreed the stories were true, and that they’d heard them from their parents and grandparents.
The moon glinting off a window caught her attention. Isabelle often wondered if the tale of ghosts had been generated by one of the loose ladies of the house during its presumed brothel period and perpetuated by adults since then to keep adventuresome kids away from the property. The brothel rumor held some weight. Ghosts…she wasn’t so sure. She’d experienced no hauntings in all the times she’d been there.
Spanish moss draped among the ancient tree limbs waved a greeting to her on the summer breeze. Its presence helped lend a sense of spookiness to the area, as did the cemetery, whose ravaged marble tombstones no longer bore the names of those buried there.
A winding cobblestone driveway large enough for two cars to pass threaded its way up the sloping rise to the house. A more direct stairway built into the lawn from the road also led straight to the driveway.
Isabelle slung her backpack over her shoulders and took the steps two at a time. She’d planned this night for months, counting the days until school was out and she had no responsibilities to take up her time. And no parents hounding her every step to talk about their “darlings.” Light from the full moon guided her way.
For some reason, upkeep on the property had ceased about twenty-five years ago. She’d toiled to keep the stairs and the driveway accessible, had even hired someone to come by once a week to trim the lawn and someone else for pest control. A house this beautiful deserved care, and she’d been doing that in some fashion for thirteen years now—ever since she was twelve years old.
She knew everyone thought she was nuts. As the years passed, the comments and the weird looks that came her way died off. Everyone seemed to accept that she’d become obsessed with the place. A few family members, even some friends, had tried to find out who owned the property so she could purchase it. Isabelle sighed. That would have been a dream come true. But the aloof owner—the mysterious Daniel Braddock Estate—wasn’t interested in selling. Odd that her attempts to purchase it never brought him—or her, or them, or any representative thereof—around to investigate her handiwork on the place. She’d always fantasized the owner would be so grateful for her meticulous and loving care that he would have no choice but to grant her the deed. After all, she visited it nearly every day and had yet to see another soul there besides the handyman and exterminator. Even her hope to snatch it up in a tax-lien sale hadn’t come to fruition. The taxes were always paid on time, in full, every year by the estate. She looked around as she crossed the lawn. If they loved it so much, why did they stop taking care of it?
Trying to find out was driving her nuts. What little information she could find only led to more questions. Upon the wealthy widow’s death, the house had passed into the hands of Penelope Marsden, a single woman of presumably ill repute. She’d owned and operated the Victorian around 1880. Upon her death eighteen years later, it had passed into the hands of Thomas Braddock. He seemed to have disappeared around 1900—no record of death, just disappeared. He did, however, have the foresight to deed the house to his younger brother Daniel…who’d also disappeared two years later. That didn’t help the house’s reputation any. Given the house’s scandalous reputation, its lack of repair, absent owners, and the missing prior owners—it all coalesced into tales of murder, mayhem, and all manner of nefarious doings, which added even more grist to the rumor mill.
Isabelle scrunched up her nose as she puzzled through her thoughts. People didn’t disappear without a reason. Although, considering what she’d found in the basement… She shook her head. No. They had moved away, died, procreated. The Daniel Braddock Estate was evidence of that. Someone had obviously planned for something, had an heir or heirs. Someone somewhere had answers, and they were being very tight-lipped about it. She shook her head again to get rid of the rambling thoughts. Her mind needed to be clear tonight, not jumbled with a puzzle that had thwarted her for years.
She paused at the edge of the lawn. Moonlight bathed the three-story house in a wash of silver that was almost magical. She took that as a sign, a blessing for what she was about to do. At night, the wear on the place wasn’t as apparent as it was during daylight. Alas, her expertise and pocketbook only went so far. She could keep the interior clean and pest-free—quite a feat when there was no running water or electricity—but outside, the best she could do was keep the yard up, brush the cobwebs from the shingles, and nail the loose shutters back into place. Oh…and keep the windows sparkling, at least the ones she could reach. She’d even replaced those broken by time and hurled rocks.
Determined, she refused to give up. One day this house would be hers. Her efforts had to win her that right. She refused to entertain the possibility of failure or how illogical her actions might seem. She was desperate. Where else could she turn except to the house she’d loved all these years? She’d cared for it as if it were her very own, loved it as no one else did. Surely that devotion would be returned.
Isabelle crossed the cobblestone drive and retrieved the skeleton key from beneath the garden rock where she’d first found it thirteen years ago. Her parents would have had a fit had they known she’d been inside the house back then. She never told them, although they knew she frequently visited the place. She’d seen them follow her a time or two, but they’d never stopped her visits.
She trotted up the marble steps and, once she stood on the old wooden porch, she paused to look back. In its heyday, she imagined it was quite impressive to see carriages dispelling visitors at these steps. Day or night, it would have been wondrous.
The creak of the slowly rocking swing in the corner of the porch caught her attention. How many lovers had sat there? She could almost imagine their ghostly presence as they watched her. In all the years she’d been coming here, no spirit had ever made its presence known.
Isabelle shoved the key into the lock. The door swung open on well-oiled hinges. Amazing what two cans of WD-40 could do to make the squeals and groans disappear. She wished she could have done something like that about the wooden floors. They creaked with every step she took. But at least they were clean.
Her first visit inside the house had left her a dust-covered, cobweb-draped mess. Every visit left her that way until she’d finally decided to clean it years later. She’d dusted, swept, and polished everything she could. Scrubbed the grime from the windows inside and out. Everything might be threadbare and worn, but it was at least a little cleaner. Well, at least as clean as could be, given twenty-five years of neglect. The rugs, drapes, and upholstery had been too fragile, so she’d left them as is.
Isabelle shut and locked the door behind her and set her backpack on the floor. The grandfather clock always greeted her first upon entry, its hands frozen at the twelve o’clock position. She remembered the day she’d polished it until the dark wood gleamed. Fixing it, though, was way beyond her expertise. She’d flirted with the idea of hiring someone to get it working again, but since she didn’t own the place, she wasn’t sure that was a wise move. No one minded that the yard and house were kept in order. That benefited the neighborhood by keeping the rodent population at bay and the yard from being a true eyesore as well as helping resale values in the area. However, openly acknowledging that she’d actually breached the front door—that she had been inside the house on multiple occasions—was a different issue. While the temptation to do so in the hope it would drag the owner out made her consider it, the threat that it might backfire and she’d lose access to the house stayed her hand.
She brushed her hand down the side of the huge clock. Midnight or noon? What momentous event had stopped time? The voices of the past were as silent as those mysterious trustees who held the ownership reins.
Isabelle inhaled. The wild-berry air fresheners she’d placed there three days ago had put a crisp, fresh scent throughout the house. She stood there and absorbed the house’s energy. A feeling of warmth surrounded her. Maybe those voices weren’t so silent after all.
She picked up the box of safety matches from the Queen Anne console across from the clock and lit the new candles in the sconces on the foyer wall. Using them for light, she wandered into the main parlor and lit all the remaining candles there as well. Faded mirrors reflected the golden, flickering flames, adding coziness to the warmth she’d perceived earlier.
It was going to be a wonderful night. She just knew it. By the time she left in the morning, all her needs and most of her wishes would be fulfilled.
Dark, gleaming stairs beckoned her upward when she returned to the foyer. Was that how previous occupants and guests felt? Drawn into the very heart of the house? Or did they prefer to wander into the basement playroom just off the empty wine cellar to engage in harder sex play? She didn’t know much about that aspect of sex but was pretty sure that every bondage toy in existence back in the day was down there.
Isabelle laughed. She’d thought it was a dungeon when she’d first seen the room. Whips, chains, collars, cuffs, tables, and racks—they’d stirred something deep inside her. She’d like to say it was curiosity, but her pounding heart and raised pulse told her it was much more than that. Even as young as she’d been when she’d first stumbled upon them, aspects of the room had inspired her imagination and excited her in ways she’d eventually learned were sexual in nature. That room and its contents had given Isabelle her first taste of adult horny.
She’d spent as much time exploring that naughty basement playroom as she had the rest of the house. She had even indulged and had lain naked on the rack, her arms and legs spread wide and her eyes closed as she’d imagined the flogger being laid across her bare ass.
Her breath quickened at the thought. Her pussy moistened with the throb of her clit. Yes, she’d imagined the fire building in her ass until she couldn’t stand it any longer. Then she’d remove the soft leather strap from its nearby hook—the strap she’d bought to keep there—whip herself with it, then rub it over her clitoris until she came.
How many others had “suffered” such a fate down there? Or maybe upstairs in one of the many lavishly decorated bedrooms with those sturdy four-poster beds?
If the rumors were true, thousands had been pleasured in those bedrooms. Judging from the fact that the basement toys did exist, Isabelle had no reason to doubt those particular tales.
Set away from the main city and protected by the many oak tree sentries around the property, it would have been a popular brothel. Discreet. There were those who claimed Penelope Marsden was a madam who had passed the house into the hands of her nephew—or son, depending on who told the story. Thomas Braddock presumably added to the home’s hedonistic history with grand orgies and parties, where bondage and discipline were as prevalent as the food and wine that freely flowed.
As for the man himself, no one seemed to know what had become of Thomas or his successor. Daniel Braddock simply disappeared one night in the early 1900s. Some said he ran off with the daughter of a wealthy banker. Some thought he might have met with an untimely end, perhaps while strapped to the very rack Isabelle indulged herself on. Some hinted that he’d gone into service during World War I and either died or met a French bride and stayed in Europe. Maybe both men had served in the war, and their stories had become entangled over the years. Maybe that explained why the house still remained with the estate—perhaps a descendant had kept the place for sentimental reasons. That was so much more pleasing than to think the heirs battled over the old place. If only that person would come here, could see how much she loved this house…
Her rambling thoughts had distracted her again. At this rate, she’d never get to the point of her visit. She needed to hurry so that she could take advantage of every second that still remained.
Isabelle retrieved the backpack and returned to the parlor. Candlelight reflected off the mirrors around the room, brightening it as well as electricity would. Out of the whole house, this was her favorite room. Threadbare gold brocade flecked with splashes of red covered the chairs and the love seat, while remnants of matching curtains flanked the windows. A black-marbled fireplace veined with gold dominated the far wall. She’d love to see it alive with a toasty fire. She pictured herself entwined in the arms of a lover before it. A good lover, one who knew how to stoke a woman’s desires. Not like the men she’d known thus far.
She glanced up at the portrait hanging above the mantel. Now there was a woman who knew what good loving was about. Black hair tumbled down her back, revealing a glimpse of creamy white skin beneath. Her face was turned away, barely visible from the shadows of whatever blocked the light. But it was obvious from the arch of her body that she was in the throes of pleasure. She stretched on the red covering that draped over her breast and one hip. Isabelle had found the remnant of what she thought was the covering upstairs.
The woman in the painting had been real.
That was what Isabelle wanted—intense pleasure at the hands of another. She’d even let her own black hair grow into a cascade of curls, hoping to somehow channel the woman’s spirit. Her long hair had definitely gotten her male attention, but none had possessed the skill her body craved.
With any luck, that would change after tonight. She’d have not only the knowledge but also the experience to get what she needed in the bedroom. A little luck wouldn’t hurt either. Or a lot of magic.
The alarm on her watch alerted Isabelle that midnight was fast approaching. She had little time to prepare. Everything had to be ready, so she could execute the spell when the full moon was at its zenith.
Isabelle unzipped the backpack and started to lay out her materials. She’d done a little preparation the day before—moving furniture, rolling up the rugs she’d prayed wouldn’t fall apart—and had exposed a large section of the bare wooden floor. She wanted to do this spell before the fireplace with the woman’s portrait in full view. Her desire was simple—to increase the sexual quality of her life and find the perfect match for her. What better way to draw that to her than by appealing to the notorious qualities of this house?
The spell was sure to work. In fact, she was sure it would. Madam Delores at the New Age shop where she’d purchased the spell kit was more than adamant of its success as long as Isabelle followed the directions.
She’d written down everything she wished for and had committed the words to memory. Madam Delores had also insisted that Isabelle give her
the words to write down along with the instructions.
“Things happen in the heat of the moment, in the rush of the mystic vortex,”
As Isabelle placed her white votive candles in a wide circle, she repeated the words again in her mind.