Excerpt – Lori Wilde

The Lighthouse on Moonglow Bay

For over one hundred and fifty years, the Lighthouse on Moonglow Bay had been haunted and everyone in the sleepy seaside town of Moonglow Cove, Texas knew it. 

And avoided the place.

At 116 feet, it was the second tallest lighthouse on the Texas Gulf Coast, and the third oldest. Adorning the roof was a wooden widow’s walk outside a small, enclosed, glass cupola. The lighthouse sat at the farthest tip of a ten-mile curve comprising the charming, half-circle inlet. It was made of bricks brought from New Orleans by schooner in the late 1850s and covered with white plaster. 

But what made the structure singularly unique was the odd forward jut that gave the eerie illusion the lighthouse was about to fling itself into the ocean.

Beside the lighthouse stood the Keeper's Cottage. The house was two-story, eighteen hundred square feet with a square-box floorplan. A high-pitched gabled roof, gingerbread trim, twin chimneys, and window dormers lent the utilitarian design a whimsical air. Entry through the front door led to a living room on the right and a parlor on the left, which in recent years serviced as the master bedroom. The back door lead through a mudroom straight into the big country kitchen.

Despite its beguiling exterior, dark secrets lurked inside this house. Only one family had ever owned the property. A once large and prosperous family that was now almost extinct.

At four-thirty on a sunny afternoon in mid-April, a black SUV pulled to a stop at the end of the road three hundred feet below the craggy bluff where the lighthouse stood. 

Harper Campbell stepped from the Uber, cell phone in hand, and gazed out across the sea oats shimmering in the wind. 

Shading her eyes with the flat of her palm, she blinked at the bizarre obelisk overlooking the water. As she studied the imposing structure, two questions popped into her mind. 

Why wasn’t there a drivable road that went all the way to the lighthouse and caretaker’s cottage instead of this cul-de-sac that ended at the ocean? And seriously, why had she worn stilettos? 

Why? 

She had no answer for the first question, but as for the second? She’d wanted to look professional and thought the trip would be a quick in and out. Arrive, hear the reading of the will, grab a car back to the airport and return to the spiraling mess she’d left behind in Manhattan. No need for an overnight stay.

Um, unless you want to mend things with Flannery.

At the thought of her younger half-sister, Harper's chest tightened, and she closed her eyes against the onslaught of complicated memories.

Breathe.

Behind her, she heard the crunch of gravel as the Uber drove away, leaving her stranded alone in the middle of nowhere.

 Goosebumps lifted the hairs on her arms, and she shivered, unnerved by the strangest feeling that she’d come just home after an eternal journey, even though she’d never set foot in Texas.

Frankly, the sensation was creepy.

She wouldn’t mythologize this place, even though as an advertising and marketing expert that was exactly her job—to manipulate and polish reality into something more palatable. But while she often used nostalgia to her advantage in her work, it wasn’t a place where she personally cared to dwell. 

She wasn’t Flannery after all.

Wincing, Harper rubbed the pad of her thumb between her eyebrows where a headache had started gnawing as her plane took off from LaGuardia that morning. She should have had the Uber driver stop for aspirin. 

This wasn’t going to be easy, no matter how she stacked and sliced it. The lawyer, a Mr. Grayson Cooper, had called her two days ago, measured, and enigmatic. 

“Your grandmother,” he'd said in a placid tone, “has passed away.”

The real shock of that news?  

Here was the deal. Growing up, Harper’s mother Tia Campbell Dupree Johnson McGillicuddy Evans Pinkerton Blanks had told her that Grandmother Campbell had died long before Harper was born, walking into the Gulf of Mexico with a cinder block tied around her neck, and drowned herself. Not that her mother’s flexible relationship with the truth was an anomaly but the information that until recently, her grandmother was very much alive, was a lot to absorb.

 “Mrs. Campbell has left a valuable inheritance for you and your half-sister, Flannery,” the lawyer had continued. 

Harper pressed for details. He was straight-forward but stingy with information, dancing around her direct questions. She knew that waltz. She was an expert at deflection and sleight of hand.

“You’ll learn everything at the 5 p.m. reading of the will on Friday, April 18th, at the caretaker’s cottage next to the Moonglow Lighthouse.”

“This seems highly irregular,” Harper said. “Why can’t you just give me the particulars over the phone?”

“I’m simply obeying your grandmother’s wishes.”

The phone call had been such a frustrating exchange that if she hadn’t been in a serious bind, Harper would’ve ignored the whole thing. Who needed to jump through hoops to please some controlling, dead matriarch she’d never even met? Who needed this white elephant lighthouse on the Texas Gulf Coast? Flannery was welcome to it.

Aww, but she was in a bind, wasn’t she? 

A very serious bind. 

Worst chapter of her life bind and she needed a contingency plan, no matter how farfetched.

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