Madison is thrilled her cousin Corrie is moving home, but her emerging psychic abilities warn that something’s wrong with the beach house Cor’s parents just bought.
Once the home of a famous painter, the house has “peculiarities”. At first, its weirdly painted walls and secret rooms are an exciting adventure. Even when Madi and Cor hear whispery voices and see ghostly shadows, they’re unsettled, but not afraid -- until they accidentally discover the mysterious tunnels.
Madi also has a secret—a glowing chest she found in her Gram’s attic, that somehow followed her home. Now it suddenly appears, revealing disturbing truths and visions about Cor’s house, the tunnels and her little brother, Todd’s “imaginary” friend.
When Todd suddenly goes missing, the girls must uncover the truth to save him.
The first in the Light-Bearer’s series, Madison’s Secrets is an eerie, fun mystery. Are you ready to seek the truth?
Oh my God, I was losing the sky! Every time I looked up, there was less blue, making fear ball in my chest and push me harder, harder. Panting and gasping for air, I realized that I couldn’t outrun it! My only chance was to get to the tree line, but no matter how fast I skied, the thundering roar behind me was gaining ground. “Don’t look, don’t look,” I screamed silently, as I lunged for the trees. Too late! Swinging right, I twisted to grab a small, bare tree… and froze. A massive crest of snow curled high above me, ready to crash down like a tsunami wave.
I woke up in a white tunnel—just me and the bent little tree, surrounded by icy snow. I could bend my head back just enough to see daylight trying to push through a deep layer of snow above me. My left arm was somewhere up there, too, but I couldn’t feel it at all. Somehow my right arm had created a small pocket around the tree and my new air bag had burst open, producing a little tunnel of air between me and the tree. Straining my neck to look downward, I gasped. The rest of me was gone, buried in snow, snow that was packing in harder by the moment. Feeling the icy cold pressing in and cementing my legs, I moaned in despair. I wasn’t gonna’ make it after all.
But wait! Voices! Yes, someone… Someone was calling my name!
“Madison… Madison! Wake up!”
I bolted upright in bed with my heart pounding and my whole body quaking. Mom was standing in front of me. Wait… Mom? What the…? Unable to understand what was happening, I stared at her blankly, caught between the frozen world I’d just left and the soft warmth of the bed. Whoa! Was that a dream? But, it felt so real! I’d never skied before in my life, yet in my sleep I’d shushed like a pro—until the avalanche had started.
I shook my head to clear it, but the dream was still right there, the fear and cold as real as the sheets around me, as if I could go back into it if I tried.
“C’mon, Mad, get up and get a move on! I told your Gram we’d be there by one, and it’s already eight. If we don’t get out of here soon, we’ll blow the whole day.”
Okay, that was real. And, aw geez! Mom was still mad. She wasn’t singing this morning, or even trying to be nice. For sure she hadn’t made a special breakfast, like she usually did before our first summer trip to the Cape. I jumped into shorts and a tee shirt and flip-flopped downstairs. Our bags were already packed into the Jeep, no doubt put there by Dad before he and Megs sneaked away, the rats. This June only me, my little twin brothers and Mom would be vacationing at Gram’s beach house. Even after the big fight, Dad and Megs still weren’t coming. I sighed and grabbed a box of cereal. It was gonna’ be a really long ride.
“Mad, go find Mikey’s Kindle, will you?” It wasn’t a question. “They’re already fighting over Mark’s. No way are we leaving this house without both of them.” Filling her travel mug with steaming hot coffee and closing her eyes, Mom breathed deeply and tried to smile. “I know you can’t wait to see your cousin, kiddo, so help me out here, okay?” She flipped down her little TV from its hiding place under the kitchen cabinets to check the “real weather” again. Her iPhone was predicting rain later this morning, and Mom hated driving in the rain.
I couldn’t believe I had to look for Mikey’s stupid tablet. Mom babied those boys too much! She knew that he liked to pretend that his bed was a fort and he was always losing his Kindle under the covers. Sure enough, it was right there. She should have made him get it! Oh, well. At least now we could get going.
Mom was right about one thing, though. I couldn’t wait to see Corrie. It’d been so hard since they moved to Chicago! We texted and face-timed every week, but it just wasn’t the same. And lately, for some reason, we hadn’t even been able to do that. It’d been almost two weeks since I’d heard from her.
I bounced into the sunny kitchen holding my trophy high, but Mom didn’t even notice. White-faced, she was staring across the room at the drop-down TV. “Turn it up, Mad,” she ordered as she finished packing our cooler.
“Sources have confirmed that Aldrich Jenkins, Mayor of Branhaven, may have been one of the skiers caught in the Alps avalanche. He and his family are said to have been seen in the area of the snow slide just moments before it happened. News Channel Seven will keep you updated as more information comes in…”
Mayor Jenkins? Dad’s boss? I grabbed a stool because my legs had turned to jelly. An avalanche… just like in my dream! What did it mean?
She bent her head to pray and mom’s blond hair seemed to glow as it swished over her folded hands and onto the counter. When she looked up again, tears glistened in her eyes. “Say a prayer for them to be safe, Mad,” she whispered. “They’re wonderful people.”
“Okay. But, uh, Mom, I think…”
Suddenly remembering the time, Mom’s head snapped up. Clicking off the set, she grabbed the cooler. “Oh, my gosh, I forgot! C’mon Mad. The boys are already in the car.”
“Whatever it is, it can wait! Let’s go.”
Watching Mom slam the cooler into the cargo bay, I decided to be smart. I’d sit in the back seat between my three-year-old brothers during the ride. That way, at least she wouldn’t be mad at me! But, by the time we drove up to Gram’s rambling grey, beachfront colonial I was the one ready to scream. If I wasn’t keeping them busy with games, the boys were play-fighting, which always turned into real fighting…all the way to Cape Cod! Lucky for them that Mom kept saying she “owed me one.” Plus, they were cute and still Gram’s “babies,” which meant she’d keep them and Corrie’s brother Todd busy all week. Cor and I would be free.
Gram’s short, silver and cinnamon-colored hair bounced up and down as she hurried out to meet us. Taking one look at our exhausted faces, she hustled us right into her massive kitchen. She’d remodeled it last year, adding a huge island that turned into a round table at one end. Plus she’d put in a whole wall of sliding-glass doors to let in the light and sound from the ocean. It was like something you’d see on HGTV, but it was… empty. Where was Cor and… and everyone? Aunt Crys and Uncle Ed were always here by now, waiting for us. They always flew in from Chicago on Friday.
Of course the boys noticed right away, too. “Gram, where’s Todd?”
Mom sat down, smiling. “They’re late this year, huh? Did they get stuck at the airport? ”
Gram gave her a funny look, while she motioned for the boys to sit on the high stools. “You don’t know? Here, kids, go ahead and eat.” She sighed. “I don’t know what’s going on with you and Crys this year. You call me last night to tell me Stuart insists on working on that house with Norman—well, okay, I do understand that they need to work while they can…”
“You do?” Mom interrupted. “Well I don’t!” She swallowed hard and stared at her food.
“But, these darn summer camps!” Gram kept right on talking as if she hadn’t even heard Mom. “First its Megs who just has to go to dance camp—I know, I know, she’s ‘at that age’,” Gram smiled a little and lay her tanned fingers over Mom’s hand as if to say she understood. “But now Crys says they won’t be out until next weekend either, because Corrie has to go to soccer camp! Whatever happened to family traditions?”
“What? That doesn’t make sense! Cor never goes to the early soccer camp!”
Mom shot me a warning look that said, “Not now!” Gram was fighting back tears, but she just sighed again. “I know how bad you feel, Hon, and I’m sorry.” To Mom, she added, “and Ed has some kind of meeting on Monday that he can’t get out of any way, and…”
I’d stopped listening. Gram had no idea. I felt like I’d been sucker-punched! Cor was my best friend, so how come she hadn’t told me anything? I’d been texting and texting—hey, I’d even called her! But…geez, it was as if she was hiding from me. My stomach cramped, thinking about it. It was just like when my other ‘friends’ had stopped being nice to me.
Okay, them I could understand. My being able to hear their thoughts and know things before they happened freaked them out a little. And then, a couple of months ago, when some of the cool girls were teasing me in the hall, this cute boy had suddenly been standing by my locker, smiling at me like I was the cool one…. Only no one else could see him. But they could see the strange bubbles of light swirling around my locker! After that, they all just stayed away from me.
But, Cor? She was different. After all, she was my cousin and… and a real friend. She loved weird stuff and was learning how to be an actual ghost-hunter! And she could remember everything—I mean every-single-thing that she saw. Plus, she could even make things happen sometimes, just by thinking hard about them. Corrie got me! We’d been BFF’s since I could remember; even after they moved to Chicago. Until now…
I pushed my lunch around so it looked like I’d eaten a little and then I volunteered to take our bags upstairs. Anything to get away! I couldn’t breathe and my throat was so tight that I was afraid I’d start crying right there. Mom and Gram were still discussing Dad and Uncle Norman’s latest fixer-upper and how the guys were sure this one would make them rich, so Mom just threw me the keys with a tired smile and a surprised, “Thanks, kiddo!”
As I hurried outside to get our suitcases, I heard a crash in the kitchen. Had to be the boys… but I really didn’t care. Right now I just needed some space away from everyone.
Huffing all the way, I dragged Mom’s suitcase up the wide, dark staircase to the second floor, then stopped to catch my breath. Her and Dad’s room was always on the third, top floor and all three boys slept in the room across the hall from them. I rolled the suitcase around and started pulling it up the next set of stairs, still murmuring about Cor. Halfway up, icy prickles had the hair standing up on my arms. The air smelled funny-fresh, like after a thunderstorm.
“Look up!” called a voice from above me—and there he was! The same boy I’d seen at school now leaned against the wooden banister at the top of the stairs. His curly reddish hair was a dead giveaway. Only now, even I could see that he sparkled like he was made of light. He grinned down at me and said something like, “You never know until you know. You know?”
“Wow, Madi! Mikey! You see dat?”
Yelping, I jumped and grabbed the heavy railing to keep from falling backward with the heavy suitcase. Without making a sound, the boys had crept up right behind me! “What’re you doing here?” I yelled at them.
Poor Mikey! His golden brown eyes grew huge and his bottom lip jutted out. He started to stammer, “W… we’s helping!” Tears sparkled on his eyelids. “The… the clock fell off the wall and it wa… wa… was sc… scary! So we’s helping you!”
“Oh honey,” I dropped down onto the stair next to him, immediately sorry I’d upset him. His little blue backpack had tumbled to the landing below us. “It’s okay. You scared me, that’s all!” Grabbing Mark, too, I hugged them both. I’d been helping Mom with the twins since they were born, so teeny and helpless. Sometimes I have a real soft spot for them; ‘course it doesn’t happen very often! Not my sister Megs, though. She kind of liked them at first, but got sick of taking care of them pretty quick. She was always telling me that she had a life.
“But, Madi!” Mark interrupted my thoughts, excitedly pointing up, “D’you see dat?”
“See what?” I asked nervously, thinking he couldn’t possibly…
“Dat light! Like… like bubbles!” He danced a little. His silky, dark brown hair swished around his head as he started running back down the stairs. “I gotta’ go tell Mommy!”
“No! No, Marky. It was nothing! Just the sunlight hitting dust balls, that’s all! A… a trick of light!” I looked up, almost afraid of what I’d see. Thankfully, the upstairs hall was empty now. “See? The sun moved and it’s all gone now…”
“All gone,” Mikey murmured in a soft, sing-song voice.
“Oh… Okay.” Mark plopped down, disappointed. Of course, a second later he jumped back up and tugged his little backpack up the rest of the stairs to check out the spot for himself.
I helped Mikey pick up his backpack and headed to their room. Rounding the top of the stairs, I noticed a wide, new door tucked into the wall on our right. Aw, geez! How could I have forgotten? The boys would love this! And maybe they’d forget to tell Mom anything.
“Hey guys, who wants to take the new elevator down to the kitchen?” I called out as I crossed over to the spot where the boy had been standing. I could still see the air moving a little, but I didn’t feel a thing. And now I couldn’t even remember what it was he had said.
^ ^ ^
Mark could barely contain himself when we hopped off the elevator near the kitchen door, landing right behind the tall island seats. “Surprise!” he yelled. “Gramma, you got a great e-vator! Oh, and Mommy,” he gasped. “We saw… we saw…”
“Oh! Mom,” I interrupted him. But Mom and Gram weren’t listening anyway. Standing in the archway of the family room, they were glued to the news on the high, flat-screen TV across from the couch, where the avalanche in the Alps was the main story. “Did they say anything…?”
“He’s still missing,” Mom said softly, “but his family was found and they’re okay.”
Even as she talked, this morning’s dream came back to me, as real as if it had actually happened to me. I had to tell her… “Um, Mom? I might know something…”
Gram had turned around and was watching me closely, frowning a little. “Boys, let’s go get one of those 3-D puzzles you like. Oh, and I bought a new one for you, too.” Grabbing their hands, she led them through the family room into the den, so Mom and I could be alone.
I told her everything I could remember from the dream—and she didn’t laugh or tell me I was being silly. Instead she whispered, “a premonition.” Sounding very serious, she asked me to think—hard—about what I had seen around me before I grabbed the tree. She even had me draw the area of the tree line for her. When I was done, she sent me to take over with the boys so that she and Gram could make a phone call. I knew it would be Gram doing the calling, because she had connections. Not only had Gramps been a respected Police Captain, but his oldest son, my uncle Mike, was a Massachusetts Senator. They wouldn’t dare laugh at Gram.
^ ^ ^
It wasn’t until later, while we were eating dinner at Mom’s favorite Italian restaurant, that I remembered the strange riddle-like words the boy had said, “You never know until you know—you know?” Maybe he was trying to tell me something about Cor? Thinking it over, I suddenly realized how I could find out what I didn’t know. I couldn’t wait to get back to Gram’s!
As soon as we got home, I borrowed Mom’s iPad and raced up to the second floor room that Corrie and I shared when we visited Grams. Dropping down on the twin bed, I quickly checked her Facebook page. Nothing new was posted. Not-a-single-thing! That was weird.
Whenever Cor was at soccer camp, she posted pictures and funny notes every day. But in her one post on Facebook last week, she’d never even mentioned soccer camp! Back then, I’d just assumed it was because she was getting stuff done to come to Grams, but now I wondered. She was supposed to be at camp, but what if something had happened so she couldn’t go?
I checked the soccer team’s website and they’d already posted pictures from today’s arrivals and the opening training routines. I enlarged every picture, but Corrie wasn’t in any of them. She wasn’t there. So… maybe she wasn’t ignoring me? Maybe something really had happened. Something bad? Or maybe something that she couldn’t talk about? Quickly, I checked Instagram, too, where Aunt Crys posted pictures nearly every day. Nothing new there, either.
At twelve, I wasn’t allowed to have an iPhone, so I texted Cor on my flip phone, very slowly punching the letters out on the number keys. Mom didn’t know it could text, so I didn’t do it very often. Plus, it was hard. Now I wrote, “I know you’re not at camp! Where are you?”
After a while, when I didn’t get an answer, I gave up and tromped downstairs to watch TV. Gram had put on a family movie and Mom had made popcorn, smelling up the whole kitchen. I’d just grabbed a bowl for myself and was sprinkling it with “real salt” when Gram’s kitchen phone started ringing. Holding my breath, I prayed that Aunt Crys hadn’t seen my text to Corrie!
As soon as Gram took the call, though, she headed out into the mud-room for privacy. It seemed like forever before she came back, but she motioned for me to stay in the kitchen with her and she called Mom over, too. “That was my friend in the Boston PD. The rescue patrol found Stuart’s boss! Even with his safety vest, it’s an honest-to-God miracle that he was still alive! They’re pretty sure he’ll make a full recovery.” Blinking back tears, she grabbed our hands and together we said a quick “thank-you” prayer.
Afterward she flashed her great, toothy smile at me and said, “Oh Madi, it was just like you dreamed,” as if I had done something good, when I really hadn’t done anything at all. She grinned at Mom, too. “Turns out they’d been looking in the wrong area, because he wasn’t with the other skiers. Once they checked out that tree line, they found him buried right next to a small tree, with one finger just barely sticking out of the snow.” She ran her hand down my long, sandy-brown hair. “Your dream helped them find him.”
“But, they don’t know about the dream, right?” Mom sounded worried, just when I was starting to feel proud. “It’s not like Madi did anything, Mom. She just received the energy.”
“No, no. Don’t worry. I never mentioned that at all. Donohue just thinks I had one of my premonitions, that’s all.” She shrugged at me, smiling. “I get them now and then. And I guess, now, so do you!”
“Let’s hope not!” Mom flashed a worried look at Gram, who seemed really surprised by Mom’s outburst. She quickly explained, “It’s hard enough to be a teenager these days without being different!”
Staring down at my cold popcorn, I groaned inwardly. If she only knew!
^ ^ ^
I’d been asleep for hours when my phone chimed. A text! Suddenly wide awake, I flipped it open and read, “Closer than you think! Be there soon.”
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