Wild Ice

By: Rachelle Vaughn

Chapter One

Teal Manor

JD Mason sat in his SUV and waited. Even though it was early November, the early morning sun shined down with a vengeance. The Realtor was five minutes late, but in her defense JD had arrived a half hour early. He raked a hand through his hair, irritated at how long he’d let it get. What was the point of cutting it? What was the point of anything anyway?

He rolled down the window, rested his elbow on the armrest and looked out at the sprawling mansion in front of him. It was a spectacular property. In fact, the house was downright magnificent. There wasn’t anything homey or cozy about it, but it looked like just what he needed: a fortress with a huge wrought iron gated entry planted out in the middle of nowhere. After what he’d been through, he had no problem locking himself away and this seemed like the perfect place to do just that.

Whoever had built this house had done so to make a statement. It looked like it belonged in Beverly Hills or Bel Air and not out here in Hayley’s Point surrounded by marsh grass and oak trees. The Mediterranean style architecture and cement tile roof looked out of place out here in the middle of nowhere where there wasn’t anyone to appreciate its grandness.

The square footage alone was enough to drop a few jaws. The house was far too big for JD, but it was the only place in the area that sat on more than five acres. When he decided to make the forty-five mile move from Red Valley, he couldn’t figure out if he was taking a step forward or backward.

In reality, JD didn’t really care about the actual house itself. What drew him to this place was the fact that he hadn’t seen a single person since he’d taken the exit off the freeway and driven the two miles down a dirt road to the house.

At the end of the long driveway the For Sale sign swayed in the breeze. JD didn’t know why anyone bothered to put one up—no one was going to see it way the hell out here anyway.

JD’s golden retriever, Mel, looked forlornly out the passenger side window. JD gave Mel a reassuring pat and looked back at the house. The beautiful leaded glass front door glimmered in the sunlight and the second story loomed overhead. Could he imagine himself living inside such a massive home? Did it really matter? The house he’d just sold in Red Valley was pretty damn big and he’d kissed it goodbye in a heartbeat. All he needed was a fridge, somewhere to prop up his feet and a place to sleep. It could be a shack or a chateau, just as long as he and Mel had a roof over their heads. Some peace and quiet might be nice, too. Lately, those two things were in short supply.

A flock of geese flew overhead, honking like crazy. JD looked up and watched the fluctuating V formation. So much for peace and quiet. The only thing JD wasn’t sure about this house was the damn birds. Birds chirped non-stop in the distance and in the trees around the property. He supposed it was better than living in the city with the sound of traffic or being right next to train tracks or near the airport, but it was still irritating.

The sound of tires on gravel brought JD’s attention away from the house and its winged nuisances. Beside him, Mel whined anxiously. A late model sedan with the words Red Valley Real Estate Group plastered on the door pulled up next to his SUV and parked. A middle-aged woman stepped out of the car and Mel squirmed in anticipation. The woman wore a tailored business suit in the same dark green as the car and her mousy brown hair was rolled into a tight French twist. She looked as out of place here as a boat on an ice rink. She shielded the sun from her face with her hand and smiled widely in JD’s direction.

JD sighed, instructed Mel to stay, and climbed down from his vehicle. In his opinion, real estate agents were just as obnoxious as car salesman and he couldn’t wait to get this ordeal over with. He wasn’t in the mood for phony smiles, sales pitches and enthusiastic conversations, but there was no delaying the inevitable. He needed a new place to live and this smiling woman was going to help make that happen.

Her high heels wobbled as she walked toward him across the gravel driveway. “Mr. Mason?” she asked, tottering over to him, her face stretched into an oversized smile.

JD nodded and shook her extended hand. When he let go, her hand lingered, clasped with his, until she finally let go an instant later. For a second there, he wondered if he was ever going to get his hand back.

“Hi, I’m Joan McKinnon,” she said, revealing a mouthful of bright white teeth. “We spoke on the phone.”

“Thanks for meeting me,” JD forced the reply.

“It’s my pleasure. It isn’t very often that I get to show such a stunning property.”