See the cover for The Lies of Alma Blackwell by Amanda Glaze

Don't miss the cover and an excerpt from The Lies of Alma Blackwell by Amanda Glaze.

The Lies of Alma Blackwell. Image courtesy Amanda Glaze. Cover art © 2024 Elena Masci.
The Lies of Alma Blackwell. Image courtesy Amanda Glaze. Cover art © 2024 Elena Masci. /

While most readers won't admit it, most of us do judge books by their covers. Getting to reveal the cover for The Lies of Alma Blackwell by Amanda Glaze proves just that.

In addition, the publisher was also kind enough to give us an excerpt to share, too. I don't know about you but that makes a cover reveal all the sweeter. Not only do you get to see a new cover but you get a look at what's inside, too.

The Lies of Alma Blackwell is Amanda Glaze's sophomore novel but you might recognize her from her debut which was The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond. That book has a hauntingly beautiful cover so I feel like the cover for The Lies of Alma Blackwell feels like a similar vibe without being too similar if that makes sense.

Either way, I'm going to feature the full cover below along with the excerpt so if you're looking forward to picking up Amanda Glaze's upcoming release or want to see the cover, you're in luck.

Don't miss the cover and an excerpt from The Lies of Alma Blackwell.

The Lies of Alma Blackwell. Image courtesy Amanda Glaze. Cover art © 2024 Elena Masci. /

As far as book covers go, this one definitely screams dark and ominous in the best way. Considering that it's a gothic mystery, that makes a lot of sense. With that being said, I'd like to make sure the artist gets credit so thank you so much to Elena Masci as this is truly an eeirely beautiful cover.

In addition, I'd also like to Union Square & Co along with Amanda Glaze for allowing me to share this cover and excerpt with all of you so let's get into it.

Amanda Glaze
Author Amanda Glaze. Image courtesy Union Square & Co /

Chapter One

The whispers follow me as I walk down Ocean Avenue, a low hiss that rises above the gentle breeze sliding in from the sea. A veil of damp, somber morning fog blurs the picturesque Victorian storefronts, but it’s not heavy enough to hide the eyes that narrow as I pass. Not thick enough to obscure the lips that flatten into grim lines at my approach.

There’s been another drowning.

A foghorn sounds beyond the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean, and I think about the red whistle the janitor found floating next to Mr. Harrison in the shallow end of the high school pool. No one in Hollow Cliff needs a reminder that Tom Harrison was an excellent swimmer, that he coached our championship-winning water polo team for the past fifteen years, or that he won the open-ocean swim race every summer. They don’t need a reminder that his drowning couldn’t possibly have been an accident, but that’s exactly what that whistle was.

The spirits always claim their kills.

The churning fury of their rage is what woke me up in a cold sweat an hour before dawn this morning, the unnatural chill of their touch scraping clawlike against the barrier of my mind. They’re never satisfied with the single life they take. Each drowning only makes them more ravenous. More desperate to break through the binds that rein them in. More savagely determined to complete the vengeance they began more than a century ago.

When I pass by the central square, it’s not only Mr. Harrison’s name swirling in the misty summer air. His death is a stark reminder to the people of this town that in a week, I’ll become the youngest Blackwell ever to take the Vow that protects them from the worst of the spirits’ wrath.

Except it isn’t my youth that’s furrowing Willa DeLongpre’s brow as I pass by DeLongpre Apothecary. And the hasty, last-minute planning of my ceremony that no one—least of all me—thought would come this soon isn’t what’s curling the lips of the locals gathered around the memorial fountain. They’re watching me because, even after all these years, they’re still afraid I’ll follow in my mother’s footsteps.

They’re afraid I’ll run.

The bell above the door to Curious Blooms jingles as I walk in, and Francesca looks up from arranging a bright yellow Euphoria bouquet behind the counter. Everything about her is a direct contradiction to the gloom outside, from the fuchsia scarf tying up her tight black curls to her colorful floral blouse and bright red lipstick. Her large eyes search my face and her brow immediately creases, but unlike Willa DeLongpre, it’s not in wariness or suspicion.

“Nev, sweetie. You look exhausted.”

“Hey, Cesca.” The door closes behind me and I’m engulfed in that dewy, floral-scented air no perfume could ever replicate. “I’m a little tired, but I’m fine.”

She hums softly, like she wants to say more but is holding herself back. I suspect my mom’s former best friend knows more than she should about where I go and what I do after a drowning, but we’ve never broached the subject directly, and we never will.

“Are these new?” I wander over to a display rack half full of pale blue bouquets. “I don’t think I’ve seen them before.”

“Bea’s latest creation.” The motherly pride in her voice is impossible to miss. “Forget-Your-Worries bouquets. Flew off the shelves yesterday.”

I skim the pad of my finger over one of the velvety, bell-shaped flowers. From a distance, the arrangement looks like one solid color, but up close, it’s several shades of blue. My fingers twitch with the urge to take out my sketchbook and pencils, but I don’t have time today.

“Willa DeLongpre didn’t think I’d notice,” Francesca continues, her brown eyes sparkling like they only do when discussing her rival across the street. “But she sent her grandson over to buy two yesterday. I have no doubt she’ll be rolling out a Forget-Your-Worries tea in a week tops.”

She pins me with a look because, five years later, she still hasn’t forgiven Gran for stocking some of DeLongpre’s more popular tinctures and teas in the Blackwell House of Spirits gift shop. But I know better than to wade into that particular battle, and I’m saved from having to change the subject because at that moment Bea flies in from the back of the shop. In the week since I’ve seen her, she’s added a fresh streak of pink to go with the fading purple in her thick, wavy bob, and her arms are brimming with more of her new blue bouquets.

It takes her an extra second to notice me, and when she does, she narrows her eyes at me like I’m the guilty perp in a police lineup. Hastily, I try to calculate just how many of her text invitations I failed to respond to this week. She doesn’t normally hold my lack of response against me—Bea’s always been better at keeping up her end of our friendship—but she’s clearly pissed about something.

“Um. Hi, Bea. Is everything––” She cuts me off with a shake of her head.

“You’re early.”

It’s not the accusation I was expecting, but before I can ask what she’s talking about, she rushes over to the counter, unceremoniously dumps her beautiful bouquets in front of Francesca, and points at me. “Don’t move!”

Without another word of explanation, she darts back through the saloon-style double doors.

They’re still swinging when Francesca turns to me, eyebrows raised, but I shake my head. “I honestly have no idea.”

Her mouth quirks and she points at the blue bouquets Bea dropped on the counter. “Would you mind putting these with the display up front while I pop back for your arrangements?”


“Thanks, mijita.” She smiles at me before following Bea into the back, and I gather up the flowers and start arranging them in the galvanized buckets. I’ve known Bea long enough to guess that she’s up to something, and if I thought a bouquet to ease my worries would help me get out of whatever that something is, I’d buy a dozen. But Beatrice Diaz is a difficult person to say no to, magic-infused flowers or no. We may not spend as much time together as we did in the years after my mom left, but she’s still the closest thing I have to a friend my age in this town, and when you’re a Blackwell, that’s not something you take lightly.

The double doors creak open again and Bea bounds back into the shop. This time, she’s holding a spray of dark and light purple flowers that have been artfully fastened onto the back of a hair barrette. “These are for you.” She holds them out to me. “For tonight.”

I take the flowers gingerly. “They’re beautiful. But what do you mean they’re—”

I break off as realization dawns.

The party.

I forgot about her party.

“The star-shaped ones are astrantias,” she continues, pointing at the varietal in question as if I hadn’t spoken. “And the tiny light purple ones are thyme. Both are good for courage.”

She looks up from the hair clip, her flashing eyes making it crystal clear that she has no intention of letting Mr. Harrison’s death nullify my promise to attend the party she and her friends have been planning at the cove for tonight. Canceling it would of course be out of the question. Clinging to life amid death is a lesson the people of this town learn early, and if anything, the news of the latest drowning makes the party even more necessary.

But it’s not the same for me.

And Bea knows it.

“Bea,” I begin, but she cuts me off with a wave of her hand.

“I’m sorry, but no. You’re not hiding away tonight. This is your last chance to let loose before the ceremony, and I refuse to let you miss it.” She plucks the flower barrette from my hand and moves behind me. “But look, I know you’re nervous.”

“That’s not—”

“And I know the last time you came out with us, it wasn’t exactly . . . ideal.” I flinch at the memory of my ill-advised appearance at a graduation party earlier this month. Bea’s a year below me and didn’t graduate this year, but she and her friends were far more welcome at the party than I was.

She separates a few curls from my perpetually messy mane of black hair and pretends not to notice my reaction. “But it will be different tonight because this is my party, Nev. And you have to trust that I’ve got your back.” The barrette clicks softly into place, and she turns me around by the shoulders. “I absolutely promise that you’ll have fun. Way more fun than you ever would have had at those sad-sack art college parties.”

I shrug out of her grip. “Can we please not—”

“Not what?” She gives me a shrewd look. Bea and Francesca are the only people, apart from Gran, who I told about my acceptance into the Rhode Island School of Design. An acceptance I turned down the day after we got Gran’s diagnosis. “Not admit that you’re disappointed?”

“Here we are!”

We both turn as Francesca backs in through the double doors carrying a cardboard tray of the clean, white flower arrangements that Gran loves. We order them every Friday to place in the entrance hall where the tours begin, and the familiar sight now, in the midst of so much change, is surprisingly comforting. Here, at least, is one part of our lives that hasn’t been turned on its head.

I take the tray from Francesca and as soon as my hands are full, Bea squeezes my arm. “I’ll pick you up at eight. Don’t forget to wear the flowers.”

I open my mouth to protest, but she skips out of the shop before I can, and Francesca offers me a sympathetic look. It’s been just the two of them since Bea’s dad drowned when she was a baby, and Francesca is just as bad at saying no to her daughter as I am. She asks if I need help getting the arrangements to my car, but I tell her I’m okay and step back out into the grey June morning.

The sidewalk is clear since everyone has retreated into their shops and cafes to prepare for the horde of summer tourists who’ll be descending on these picturesque streets in less than an hour. They flock to our small coastal town two hours north of San Francisco because of Alma Blackwell’s legacy and the world-famous Blackwell House of Spirits that she built. But there will be repeat visitors in the crowds today, too. Vacationing families and couples who return to our hazy shores year after year to sample the offerings of a town that pretty much every tour book and travel guide has summed up in a single word.


But they don’t call Hollow Cliff magical because of our majestic coastal redwoods that rise up through sparkling layers of fog. Or because of our dramatic bluffs, sweeping ocean views, or even our Victorian-era charm. They say Hollow Cliff is magical because when someone reads your tea leaves at Mystery Grounds Coffee and Tea, the future they reveal often does come true. Because the thrill of inhaling one of the Euphoria bouquets at Curious Blooms can be more potent than the strongest of drugs. Because the Dreamless Tea at Delongpre Apothecary will give you the best sleep of your life, and because the protective crystals you buy on Ocean Avenue really do warm in your palm when danger is near.

They call our town magical because as children, they rode through the redwoods in a handcart on the Railroad That Never Was and will swear for the rest of their lives they heard the echoing screams of the people who died that horrible day. They say it’s magical because when they grow up, they bring their own kids here and give them a penny to throw into the memorial fountain in the center square, reminding them to think carefully about what their wish will be because, in Hollow Cliff, some wishes do come true.

My steps slow now as I pass by that fountain, the stone carving of Alma Blackwell kneeling in its center shrouded by silvery mist. But it’s the thirty-four names carved along the base of the pool that draw my eye this morning. Names that were carved over a century ago to honor the victims of the 1903 massacre that only ended with Alma’s Vow.

Tom Harrison’s name won’t be added to this stone even though he, too, had his mind seized by the spirits. Even though he, too, was a victim of their vengeance. Even though he, too, was driven by them to his death. But that’s the way it is in Hollow Cliff when the spirits break free and take one of our lives. The ghost-hungry vacationers who crowd our streets browsing for mood-enhancing chocolates and protective talismans will hear no mention of the former water polo coach. Nothing will be written about his death in the Hollow Cliff Gazette. No investigation will be launched by the sheriff. In our town’s public record, the coroner will record yet another drowning as an accident. It’s not good for business otherwise. Not good for the town. It’s better for everyone if the world believes that our ghost stories stayed in the past.

I turn away from the fountain and immediately crash into someone’s side. The box holding the flowers slips from my grip and I tighten my hold, grunting as the sharp cardboard corners dig into my palms.

A yelp and a thud draw my attention to the ground, and when I see the wispy white hair of Fern Fairchild—her multicolored skirts and scarves sprawled out on the ground around her—I crouch down and set the flowers aside.

“Fern?” I help her back up to sitting. “Are you all right?”

Her perpetually hazy, unfocused eyes settle on me and her thin, wrinkled lips break out in a delighted smile that’s completely at odds with the situation. “Well, aren’t you a sweet one, pet?”

I check her over, but Fern doesn’t seem to have sustained any damage from the fall. The contents of her patchwork bag, however, have spilled out onto the ground, and I quickly gather them up. Several of the tarot card decks have mixed together, there’s a crack in her crystal ball that may or may not have been there before, and a couple of her loose-leaf tea bags have emptied onto the pavement. But Fern just keeps smiling at me as I repack her possessions like I’m the hero here instead of the person who sent an almost eighty-year-old woman tumbling to the ground.

When I’m done, she pats my cheek. “Home is where the heart lives, pet,” she says like she always does.

“I know, Fern,” I say like I always do in response.

She nods, pleased by this exchange, even though it’s the same one she’ll have with every Hollow Cliff resident she encounters today. Sometimes, she insists on repeating the ritual a couple dozen times with the same person, but everyone is always patient when it comes to Fern. Outsiders may look at her and see a rambling, eccentric old lady with a few screws loose, but we all know the truth.

Fern Fairchild stayed away too long.

I help Fern to her feet and hand her back her bag, but when I move to pick up the flower arrangements, she snatches my wrist, halting me. “Come along now, pet. I’ve got a new brew all ready for your reading.”

Her grip is surprisingly strong as she tries to tug me toward the patio of Mystery Grounds, but I set my feet and gently pry her fingers loose. “I’m sorry, Fern. I can’t today.”

She clucks at me, shaking her head because this is also a thing I always say. Except for the one time. And one time was enough.

When I bend down to pick up the flowers again, she cocks her head and peers at me knowingly from behind her red-rimmed glasses. “Go on then, pet. But don’t take too long. Not all futures are content to wait.”

I stiffen, my gaze flying to hers, and when our eyes meet, I’m reminded of why I never told anyone—not even Gran—about the words Fern Fairchild muttered into a chipped blue teacup three years ago. The expectation in her gaze—the fervent, breathless hope—shook me to the core in a way the coldest, meanest look from Willa DeLongpre could never do.

It still does.

Overhead, seagulls shriek, and one of them swoops so low that the flap of its wings ruffles Fern’s frizzy white hair. She turns to follow the bird’s flight and when it lands on the ground a couple of feet from her, she makes a tsking sound in the back of her throat. “Taking your time as well, I see.”

Reaching into her coat pocket, she pulls out a small paper bag and tosses what looks like crumbs from a blueberry muffin in front of the bird. It immediately dips its curved yellow beak and gobbles up the offering. Fern tosses another handful of crumbs and—without so much as a backward glance in my direction—ambles away toward the coffee shop patio.

The prickle of unease I always feel in her presence follows me as I leave the square and head toward the bluffs where I parked the car. I’m almost there when an entirely different kind of prickle runs up the back of my neck. Less of a prickle, actually, and more of an unsettling, whole-body tremble. There must be eyes on me, but when I look over my shoulder at the front patio of Mystery Grounds, there’s only Fern with her back to me as she sets up her table.

A cold wind pushes in from the sea, plastering strands of my hair against my cheek, and I turn my face directly into the breeze, shaking off my unease. Then I dart across the narrow road, look up, and freeze.

Not two dozen feet away from me is a guy I’ve never seen before leaning back against the wooden railing at the edge of the bluffs. His arms are folded, his head is tilted to the side, his dark hair is wild in the wind around his face . . .

And he’s staring directly at me.

Our gazes lock, and the second they do, my stomach jumps into my throat as if I just missed a step going down a flight of stairs. A jolt of recognition moves through me, and I know at once that it was his stare I felt so strongly on the back of my neck a moment ago. I expect him to look away now that I’ve caught him staring, but he doesn’t. Instead, he raises his brows in what feels like a challenge. My body tenses with a strange urge to march right over to him and say . . . what, I have no idea. But the echo of Gran’s voice in my head stops me.

You need to be careful now, sweetheart.

A lot of national news sites picked up the quirky human-interest story about the teenager in a tiny Northern California town who’s taking over a haunted legacy from her dying grandmother. And most of the articles featured at least one photo of me. My lack of social media presence has shielded me a bit, but Gran has warned me repeatedly that the interest—in me, specifically—might get intense. Aggressive even, especially amongst the ghost-hunting set. And going off this guy’s black hoodie, black jeans, and general un-tourist-like demeanor, that’s likely what he is.

I turn away and balance the flowers on the roof of the car while I fish in my bag for the keys to the blue Volvo my mother had the unexpected decency to leave behind. But I know, without having to look, that his eyes stay on me as I settle the flowers in the trunk and slip into the driver’s seat. I pull away without looking back and press down hard on the gas, but even though I roll both front windows down and let the damp, salty wind freeze my cheeks and fingers, the unsettling heat of his gaze lingers on my skin all the way up the winding hill to Blackwell House.

The witch-capped Victorian mansion teetering on the edge of a sea cliff is still shrouded in a thick layer of marine fog as I pass through the wrought-iron gates, making it difficult to separate the gables, turrets, and columned porches from the towering coastal redwoods that surround it on three of its four sides. Just before the wooden sign welcoming visitors to the Blackwell House of Spirits, I veer right and take my usual back road past the old caretaker cottage so I can loop around and park in the former carriage house.

Thanks to the excitement surrounding my once-in-a-generation Vow ceremony, both our morning and afternoon tours are fully booked, and there are already a few early birds wandering the misty sculpture garden and gazing out at the white-capped sea beyond the bluffs as they wait for us to open. A few of them catch my eye as I rush by with the cardboard tray of flowers, and I recognize the wary, hesitant look in them. It’s always like this after a drowning when the simmering fury of the spirits is stronger and more perceptible. Tourists who would normally only feel the graze of their touch will shiver violently without cause as they tour our twisting hallways and snap at friends and family with an anger that isn’t their own.

I slip through the side door into the kitchen, and Tabitha greets me with the chirping meow she saves only for me. She’s a consistent favorite amongst the tour guests because she has one blue eye and one orange eye and is suspiciously good at striking ominous poses that make the house seem even more haunted than it already is. But Tab’s not-so-secret secret is that she hates every single person in the world except for me, and even though it’s selfish, I love her for it.

After setting down the flowers, I scratch her silky white head and open a can of her food. She mews her approval and digs in while I heat some soup and toast a few pieces bread I hope I can coax Gran into eating. I force down another half cup of coffee from the pot I made before heading out to check the Anchors this morning, but even though I know I should, my stomach is too knotted to eat anything.

Once Gran’s soup and toast is ready, I set it on a tray and start down the twisting hallways of the only wing in this house that wasn’t opened to the public as an economy-generating tourist attraction by my great-great-grandmother after World War I. Shafts of morning light slant across the

gloomy landscape paintings that line the walls, but the shadows in the corners are restless, and they slither out to meet me as I pass. Their unnatural chill surrounds me like a cloak, and I think about that fisherman I overheard at the harbor who said that every time he heads out to open sea, every time that first spray of salt water mists his face, it feels like coming home. But he also never forgets—even for an instant—that the moment he lets down his guard, those same dark waters will drag him to his grave with glee.

The spirits bound to Blackwell House are my sea. The icy touch of their dark fingers skating across my skin, pressing at the barriers of my mind, is as familiar to me as the steady rhythm of the waves crashing into the cliffs beneath my window. And on days like today, that touch is a vicious, angry squall. A reminder, like the red whistle floating next to Mr. Harrison’s body, that if they ever get the chance, they’ll kill us all.

I pause in the hallway outside Gran’s door and a voice—so much thinner than the melodious baritone I grew up with—calls out from within.

“Don’t hover, sweetheart. It’s not an attractive trait.”

I stifle a small smile and try to look appropriately chastened as I balance the tray of food against my hip and push open the door to Gran’s room. She’s sitting up in the middle of her old-fashioned canopy bed, the shadows cast by the hangings emphasizing the dark bruises underneath her eyes. Large chunks of her salt-and-pepper hair that were always so smooth and perfectly styled before have escaped their braid to hang limp and damp around her face. Her shoulders slump against the headboard, telling me this isn’t going to be one of her good days, not that she has many of those anymore.

“I didn’t want to wake you.” I keep my tone light as I walk inside. Gran abhors sympathy, but

more importantly, the only time she truly loses her composure is when she thinks I’m upset. “But I thought you might be hungry, so—”

“So you decided to bring me a tray of rations straight out of a Dickens novel?”

I set the tray over her lap without comment and rearrange the dark blue coverlet so it lies flat across her legs. Until a few months ago, Gran wouldn’t have even considered eating a meal that didn’t include a colorful array of in-season vegetables harvested directly from her garden. Apart from her passionate dedication to upholding our family’s legacy—and her sometimes overzealous protection of me—her vegetable garden is her one pride and joy. But it’s been a while since she’s been able to keep anything but bland foods down.

She snorts in protest when I tuck a cloth napkin into the collar of her nightdress, but I ignore her and take a seat in the antique armchair that now lives permanently at the side of her bed. “If you’re still hungry after the soup, I can bring you—”

“I’m not an invalid, darling girl. I can get my own food. You have more than enough on your plate as it is.”

I say nothing to that because it’s rare she has the energy to make it down the hallway, let alone to the kitchen. It might be different if she didn’t keep stubbornly pushing back her stay at the hospital for pain management, but I know better than to bring that up again.

Gran picks up the spoon, fills it with broth, and brings it to her lips. When she grimaces after the first swallow, we both pretend that it’s because of the bland taste and not because she’s finding it difficult to keep even that small amount of liquid down. Just like we pretend, when she returns the spoon to the tray, that in a few minutes, she’ll pick it up again.

“So?” Her amber eyes, still sharp even through the haze of pain, study mine with a mixture of

apprehension and concern. “The Anchors. Are they—”

A violent cough swallows up her words, racking her too-frail body, and I hastily sweep the tray off her lap. There’s a cup of water on the nightstand, and I hold it to her lips as she takes a small sip. Drops of liquid dribble down her chin and I use the corner of my sleeve to dab them away.

When her coughing fit subsides, I return the water to the nightstand and study her from under my lashes. She looks utterly exhausted. A thin sheen of sweat glistens on her brow, her shoulders tremble from the strain of sitting upright, and the alarmingly greyish tint to her skin makes me want to cry. I came up here to tell her what I found this morning at the Anchor sites because even though I’d love to spare her the knowledge, I can’t. Until the sun sets on the solstice, she alone holds the Vow. It’s because of the blood she added to the heart of Alma’s charm that the spirits remain leashed. If the Anchors that extend that spell’s protection are compromised, she needs to know.

But maybe the full details can wait a few hours more. Just until she’s had a bit more rest.

“You look a little tired,” I hedge. “Why don’t you take a nap and I’ll come—”


The upward tilt of her chin, the flash of steely determination in her eyes is so like the old Gran—so like the indomitable Marie Blackwell she shows to the rest of the world—that for one shining moment, I almost forget that she’s sick. I almost forget that the one constant I’ve always depended on—the one source of unconditional love that’s kept me from falling apart in a town riddled with death and grief and guilt—is leaving me. I almost forget how terrified I am that without her strong, sure arms around me, the seams that make me up will unravel.

Gran’s eyes soften, and her too-thin, skeletal hand reaches across the bed toward me. She’s

Anchors again. I can handle it.”

“Tell me what happened with the Anchors, sweetheart.”

She squeezes my hand, and I let out a breath. “Two pieces of the southern Anchor were drained.”

She watches me closely. “And were you able to replace them?”

I nod. “Yes. But . . .”

“But what, hon?”

“It wasn’t just the southern charm. Pieces in the east and west were drained as well.”

She blinks once. Twice. “I see.”

I watch for her reaction, but that carefully blank mask slips over her features. It’s the one she wears whenever we talk about things she can’t tell me until I take over the Vow. But I already know what will happen if all four Anchor charms fail, so it’s not hard to guess that three blinking out at once isn’t a good sign.

When the silence continues to stretch, I give up waiting. “Should I be worried? Have you sensed that they—”

“My strength is failing.”

I blink in surprise. Gran isn’t one to admit a weakness out loud, even to me.

“The Anchors will need to be reinforced again,” she continues, her words slurring slightly, exhaustion heavy on her tongue. “Soon. I’m not . . .”

She trails off, shakes her head, and then grimaces at the pain that small motion causes. I squeeze her hand because she doesn’t need to say the rest out loud. “It’s okay, Gran. I’ll check the Anchors again. I can handle it.”

The tired smile she gives me is so full of trust, so full of love, that it’s all I can do not to break down and sob right here in front of her.

“I know you can, sweetheart.” She slumps back against the pillows, her eyes drifting shut. “She never could . . . but you will.”

Her hand goes slack in mine and her breathing shallows, but for a long moment, I don’t move because I can count on one hand the number of times Gran and I have spoken about the woman who abandoned me—abandoned this town—without so much as a goodbye seven years ago.

From deep inside the house, the grandfather clock chimes the hour telling me it’s time to open the doors and let in the hordes. Without Gran’s help, I’m running the tours, gift shop, and front of house solo, and although I placed a help wanted ad a month ago—with Gran’s grudging approval since no one but family has ever worked here—there haven’t been any replies, and I doubt there will be. Most locals do their best to avoid crossing the threshold of Blackwell House. Our cleaning and grounds crews travel in from over an hour away every other week, and even Bea insists on picking me up at the top of the driveway. All of which means I’m in for another very long day, and, very likely, an even longer summer.

Carefully, I tuck Gran’s hand back under the covers, stand up, and stare down at the slight form of her figure in the giant bed that used to belong to Alma herself. The first time the spirits distorted my nightmares, gleefully digging up my deepest fears to parade before my unconscious mind, Gran made a pillow fort in this bed, promising me that within its walls, I would always be safe. She seemed so big to me then, this woman who had the power to solve all of my problems. Who everyone else was a little bit in awe of, but who could make me laugh so hard that milk squirted out my nose. This woman who’d always been there, watching over me. Who leapt into the role of full-time parent with unbridled enthusiasm. Who met the pain of my mother’s abandonment with a love so deep, so constant, not even my broken, betrayed heart could ever doubt it.

It’s why, in every drawing I have of her, she takes up the entirety of the page. I had to stop putting her in group portraits and landscapes years ago because she swallows everything up, even the sea. But it’s been months since I’ve been able to finish so much as a sketch of her. Maybe it’s because she seems so tiny to me now, so frail in the middle of this massive bed.

Maybe it’s because I can’t bear to make her small.

The Lies of Alma Blackwell by Amanda Glaze is set for release on August 27th, 2024.

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