Cliffs of Starsdale

By: Tallulah Grace

Seeking a fresh start after her mother’s death, Chelsea Bates lands in the picturesque town of Starsdale, California. Nestled amid the peaks of the High Sierras, Starsdale defines the term ‘small town’ with well-meaning residents who always seem to know everyone’s business.

The one thing no one knew, couldn’t have predicted, was the evil lurking beneath the surface of Chelsea’s ex-fiancé. Preston Beecher follows her to Starsdale with the intentions of taking everything she owns, including her life. Will Preston destroy her dreams before they begin, or will bonds forged in a small mountain town be the pathway to her future?


“But I can’t leave her. She’ll be all alone.” The voice was weak and hoarse, but the sense of urgency came through.

Chelsea heard her mother speak as she came into the bedroom, a small bowl of ice cream in one hand and a best-selling novel in the other. Since moving into hospice care, ice cream was the only thing her mother would eat.

“Who are you talking to, Mom?” Placing the book and the ice cream on the nightstand, Chelsea checked the morphine drip that offered only minimal relief to her mother’s cancer-ravaged body.

“Your grandmother. She insists that I come with her.” Catherine Bates looked up at her only daughter, a mixture of love and sadness filling her eyes.

Chelsea gasped and felt her heart clench. She knew her mother was close to the end, but she still wasn’t prepared to let her go. She doubted if she would ever be ready.

“Is Grandma here?” Chelsea’s voice caught on a sob.

“Yes, she’s right over there.” Catherine sounded a bit exasperated that Chelsea had to ask. “She says it’s time.”

Feeling her knees give way, Chelsea sank into the chair at her mother’s bedside. Reaching for her hand, she didn’t even try to stop the tears from flowing. Searching her mom’s face, she saw lines of pain, etched there by months of debilitating, intense torture. The cancer in her bones had stolen any semblance of the full, rich life she had once lived, leaving no hope for a future and no peace in the present.

The beautiful woman who loved and nurtured Chelsea all of her life now needed something that only she could give. She needed Chelsea to let her go.

“Then you have to go, Mom. It’s okay.” Chelsea clutched her mother’s hand in both of hers.

“No, I can’t leave you, honey.” Catherine’s voice was becoming weaker, but her grip was fierce.

“Yes, you can. I’ll be okay, Mom, I promise. You taught me how to be strong.”

“I’m so sorry, Chelsea. I wanted to see you marry, play with my grandchildren…” her voice trailed off, silent tears streaking hollow cheeks as her eyes refocused on the corner of the room.

“Oh, Gary,” her eyes lit with sudden joy. “You’re here.”

“Dad?” Chelsea followed her mother’s gaze, but saw nothing.

“Yes, honey. Your dad’s here too. He says that he loves you and that you’ll be fine.” Catherine’s face glowed with love for the man who had left her so many years ago.

“I love you, too, Dad. And Grandma, I miss you both so much.” Chelsea felt the warmth of peace and instant serenity stream through her soul.

“Mom, go with them. It’s okay, really. I love you; go and be happy.” Her tears hadn’t stopped, but the gut-wrenching pain diminished in the light of her mother’s joy.

“I love you, Chelsea; please take care of yourself. Remember that life’s too short, enjoy every moment.” Taking a final gasp, Catherine released her grip on life and on her daughter’s hand.

Chapter One

Looking up at the dilapidated façade that was the face of the antique Craftsman bungalow, Chelsea wondered for the thousandth time what had ever possessed her to buy the thing.

Shutters swung loosely astride tall, paned windows, now backed with plywood to keep out varmints and the weather. Layers of flaky paint dotted portions of the wood siding; three colors were evident at first glance, but Chelsea knew the home had boasted many different shades of the rainbow during its hundred year history. The deep front porch spanning the length of the home was more akin to a rutted country road than a place to relax and sip tea in the evening shade.

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