Last Fall

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Summary

Three years after a life-changing decision, Hadley DeWitt is finally living her idea of a perfect life. She has her dream job, her dream house, and most importantly, she has her solitude. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, she is a sweet and charming young woman. Behind that perfect facade of hers, though, lies an entangled mess of deceit and betrayal that she has forced into the depths of her mind. It all changes one lonesome August night when Hadley receives an unexpected visit from smart and mysterious Adrian Lancaster, the CEO of a major architectural firm who is also her boss. Enter a visit from her estranged mother and the arrival of an old friend, Hadley soon realizes that the past that she has desperately kept from resurfacing will do just that. After all, secrets don't last forever, especially those founded in, well, death.

Genre:
Mystery / Thriller
Author:
A. I. Céleste
Status:
Excerpt
Chapters:
8
Rating:
5.0 1 review
Age Rating:
16+

A Visitor

I stare out at the lake, its waves catching the moonlight before they crash gently onto the dock where I am standing. The cold lake water splashes at my feet, forcing me to take a step back and wrap my shawl around myself tighter. It’s definitely windier tonight than other nights, but I’m not complaining. The wind brings character to the otherwise still waters in front of me.

I’m not sure why I come down to the dock every night when I can’t stand being here during the day. I like to tell myself that maybe I just enjoy looking out at the lake and feeling the cold night air, but I know it’s not the slightest bit true. To be honest, I don’t think even I know the full truth of why I come down to the dock. All I know is that whenever I’m here by myself, I don’t feel alone.

As I close my eyes and inhale the cold night air, I am transported back to my childhood. I see my sister running along a dock just like this one and jumping off into the murky waters with me following behind shortly after. I feel a smile creep onto my face as these fond memories resurface. What happened to us? We used to be so happy.

What did happen to us? I ask myself that more often than I can admit. The irony in it is that I already know the answer to that question, but I like to repeat it to myself secretly hoping that the answer might change.

I let out a deep sigh. I can’t change what happened. I was the one who wasn’t there that night all those years ago. Everything that happened was my fault and there is nothing that I can do to change what happened. Nothing.

“Three years,” I whisper even though there is nobody around. Hell, I could shout it if I wanted to and not a soul would hear me. I guess that’s one of the perks of living alone and outside of town. Nobody can hear your frustration. And they definitely cannot hear your pain.

They also won’t hear you scream, I think about what my brother had jokingly said when I first purchased the property. Well, he wasn’t wrong.

Two and a half years ago, I was fresh out of college and looking for a job. For the first few months after graduation, it was difficult to find a job. Luckily, I ended up getting an internship at Lancaster Enterprises, a large architectural firm. The salary, even as an intern, was enough to allow me to invest in a property of my own. And that is just what I did.

The lakehouse that I have been living in for the past seven months used to belong to an elderly couple. They put the house up for sale when they moved in with their daughter. I had been in Metclaff, at the time, for work when I overheard someone mentioning a house for sale. I had been saving up to buy my own place for sometime now, and seeing as Metclaff was only a one hour drive from the city, I could commute to work with ease. So I bought the house.

No, I didn’t buy it to get away from my family, although my mother would beg to differ. I wanted a place where I could grow as an individual, not someone who followed in her sister’s footsteps. What good would following her have done, anyway? She’s not even here anymore.

My sister was two years older than me. She was my best friend, and probably my only friend because of how awkward of a child I was growing up.

She was so cool.

I remember one day in the fourth grade, I had to build a volcano for science class. She helped me everyday until the night before it was due, so that I would have the “best goddamn volcano this state had ever seen”.

My eyes begin to water at the thought of her. I miss her.

A wave crashes at the dock, this time with more force than before. The cold water soaks my feet. “Shit,” I say, pursing my lips together. I hate water. And now I’m even colder than before. This is probably a sign for me to be heading back inside anyway.

I make my way up to the house. The walk back seems to take a lot longer than usual even though the house is only twenty yards or so away from the dock. I find myself breathing heavily by the time I reach the porch. Note to self, exercise more.

Once I’m inside, I head straight for the shower. I find that a hot shower after spending an hour outside in the cold really helps to relax my thoughts and results in better sleep. The nights when I’ve skipped out on the shower have been the days when I’ve gotten little to no sleep. The house has three bathrooms, but the only one I use is the one in my bedroom. That way I can go straight to bed afterwards.

Just as I turn off the water, I hear my phone ring. I quickly wrap a towel around myself and head over to my bed where I could’ve sworn I left my phone before hopping into the shower. I hear my phone ring again, this time more clearly than before. It’s coming from the room adjacent to my bedroom. Ah, I must’ve left it in the study, I think as I walk over to the other room.

I search for my phone underneath a pile of papers, still ringing. An inexplicable feeling overcomes me when I realize that whoever is calling me this late at night is probably calling with good reason. My heart skips a beat when I see the name on the caller ID: Adrian Lancaster.

“Hello,” I answer nervously. I don’t know why, but I always get nervous around Adrian. Maybe it’s because he’s my boss, and he’s not exactly the most compassionate person. His sister, Thea on the other hand, is much more easy-going.

“Hey, Hadley,” his voice sounds shaky when he says my name. He’s nervous, too. Good. “I’m so sorry for bothering you this late at night, but I wanted to ask if you had the floor plans for the Becker estate.” I hear him swallow. He’s really nervous. But why? And floor plans? This late at night? I glance at the time on my phone. It’s almost twelve thirty.

“I do,” I reply. I hear a sigh of relief.

“Perfect, so can I come over and get them right now?” he says. Hold on. Right now? He wants to come to my house to get floor plans in the middle of the night. I would expect him to order me to bring them to him. Not the other way around.

“Um sure,” is all I can say. Realizing that my boss is coming over, I rush over to my bedroom and put on a white t-shirt and a pair of black yoga pants. Then, I rush back into the study to search for the floor plans. After some searching and no luck at finding the plans, I hear the doorbell ring. Great! He’s going to see for himself how unprofessional I am.

I head downstairs, making sure to fix my hair and t-shirt before opening the door. There, in front of me, stands Adrian Lancaster looking rather smart in semi-formal attire. He’s wearing a navy blue blazer over top a plain white t-shirt and a pair of black jeans. At the age of twenty-two he became CEO of Lancaster Enterprises when he inherited the company after his father, Julian Lancaster’s passing. That was four years ago. At the age of twenty-two, I was still looking for a job to help me pay off my student loans.

“Hi,“I say looking up at him. He looks less intimidating in the moonlight. It’s always been weird thinking of him as my boss since he’s only a year older than me. I wonder what I could’ve possibly done to be here, at one o’clock in the morning, standing in front of my boss as he patiently waits for me to invite him into my home.

“The floor plans?” Adrian says running his fingers through his hair. I bite my lip. I can see how someone could find him attractive.

“Right, sorry, ” I reply. What is up with me tonight? Why am I so nervous. Calm down, Hadley, I tell myself. Just give him the papers and he’ll be gone. That is if I find the papers. “Come on in,” I say motioning towards the sofa. “The floor plans are upstairs. Just make yourself comfortable and I’ll be right back.”

Adrian hesitates for a few seconds before walking in and sitting down on the edge of the sofa. I try to keep my composure as I walk up the stairs, feeling his eyes on me as I ascend. As soon as I’m out of his sight, I make a beeline straight for the study. The sooner I find those floor plans, the sooner Adrian can leave.

After shuffling through the stack of papers on my desk and rummaging through my drawers, I sigh out in frustration. Where are those papers? I’m about to go back downstairs and tell Adrian that I can’t find the floor plans and that he’ll just have to get them from someone else when I spot a black drawing sheet container behind the door. I’ve had so much on my mind lately that I had completely forgotten that I had put the floor plans in a case to prevent them from getting damaged. I grab the case and jog out of the room.

When I get downstairs, Adrian is standing by the fireplace looking at the various photographs on the mantle. I feel my cheeks burning from embarrassment. It’s one thing to have to invite your boss into your home in the middle of the night, but to see him go through your photographs makes the top of the list. I suppose it’s my fault. If I had found the floor plans earlier, I wouldn’t be in this situation right now.

I clear my throat and he turns around. “Here they are,” I force a smile and hold up the case. Please just take the case and leave. Adrian takes a few steps toward me, not breaking eye contact or uttering a single word. I notice my breathing becoming heavier as he gets closer. Now, he’s only a foot away from me. We stand there in silence for what feels like a minute when in reality, it’s probably just a few seconds.

I hold out the case to him. This action seems to break our eye contact and he looks down at the plastic cylinder I hold in front of him as if inspecting it. His fingers brush my hand as he takes the case from me. My eyes widen and I suck in a breath. What the fuck? He could’ve easily taken the case without touching my hand. This sneaky bastard did it on purpose.

“Thanks,” he says running his fingers through his hair again. Why does he keep doing that? And why is it driving me crazy?

“Sure no problem,” I reply. Now, here’s the thing. For the two years that I’ve been working at Lancaster Enterprises, Adrian and I have had only professional interactions. I deliver my share of the work and get paid. That’s it. Most employees don’t even get to speak to him since he is the CEO, so the fact that I have worked with him on some projects is a big deal. Having him standing in my living room is an even bigger deal.

“Look,” Adrian says taking a step closer so that our faces are closer than I’d like them to be. “I didn’t come here for the blueprints.” My eyes widen at his words and I instinctively take a step back.

“Then why did you”- I swallow hard - “come here?” I notice the corners of his mouth twitch and his jaw clench briefly at my words. My face starts to feel hot from fear of what he’s about to say and I feel my palms begin to sweat, a feeling I have only ever felt once before.

“I came here for you,” he replies, and I run.

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