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“Yes,” I manage to respond. “I mean, I think so. I’m here for an interview.”

She laughs. “You’re the only one. He’ll take you on, if you think you can handle it.”

I bite my lip. “It’s just cleaning, right? I mean, how big is this house?”

“Oh, it’s not the house,” she says lightly. “Don’t you know?” She steps toward me, a little grin on her lips. “The Hammetts are killers.”

I stare at her for a second as the door behind me opens. Fox steps out and glares at the woman.

“Mistress Jessamine,” Fox says. “Are you being kind to our new guest?”

“Always am, Foxy boy,” Jessamine replies.

The name clicks in my head. Jessamine Hammett, younger sister of Case Hammett.

“Nice to meet you,” she says cheerily and walks away with a wave.

“Nice to meet you too,” I mumble after her.

“Come in,” Fox says, holding the door open for me. “He’s waiting.”

I step into the study. Fox closes the door behind me.

I’m greeted by the most beautiful man I’ve ever see in my life.

I’ve heard a lot about Case Hammett. He’s the third reason the Hammett family is so famous. He’s handsome, more handsome than any man has a right to be, and apparently, he’s brilliant. He was top of his class in high school and went to college at Harvard.

There are rumors that he came home early in disgrace, but I don’t know why.

Case smiles at me. He’s a notorious player and the only member of the Hammett family that still ventures out into town. Well, that isn’t fair, exactly.

The only two Hammetts left are Jessamine and Case. The others are all dead.

“Eden Ricks?” he asks me. “Take a seat.”

I hesitate but hurry over to one of the velvet-covered chairs. I sit down slowly, almost like I’m afraid I’ll stain the chair just from touching it.

He smiles at me again. His eyes are hazel, nearly green. His hair is a dirty blond, darker than his sister’s, long on top and pushed back. He’s dressed in a button-down and slacks, almost like he’s business casual, although he’s alone in here.

I suddenly feel myself flush staring at him. I can’t tell if it’s because his eyes are piercing into mine or because the fireplace is roaring a few feet away.

“Sorry about my sister,” he says. “She can be a little tough at first, but she’ll grow on you.”

“She seems nice,” I answer vaguely.

He laughs. “Right. Well, Eden, I’m Case. I’ll be your employer, I guess.” He grins a little, rubs the back of his head in this really endearing gesture. “Do you have any experience cleaning houses?”

“No,” I admit. “But I can work hard. I have other references, and a resume, if you want—” I reach into my bag, but he stops me.

“It’s okay, don’t worry. If I can be totally honest, what my sister said is right. We don’t have any other applicants.”

Relief and terror flood through me. “Really?”

“Sure,” he says. “Honestly, I’m surprised you answered. I mean, why would anyone want to work at Hammett’s End? Everyone that comes here ends up dead.”

I stare at him, eyes wide, and he bursts into laughter.

“Holy shit, your face right now,” he says, cracking up. “It’s pretty amazing.”

“Uh, er, sorry. I mean, what?”

He shakes his head, still chuckling. “Look, I know the reputation we have, okay? Truth is, there’s nothing weird about this place. It’s an old-ass house, and it’s a little creepy, but most old houses are. The rumors are just stupid rumors.”

“Of course,” I say quickly. “I mean, you know how Pine Grove is.”

“People love to talk,” he says, grinning.

“Exactly.”

Pine Grove is a small town. Rumors here spread like wildfire. Someone is always in your business, no matter what, and nothing stays hidden for long.

It’s also a great place to live. I missed it while I was away at college. Part of me never wanted to come back though, mostly because I’m afraid of being trapped here forever.

But I had to come back, at least for a while.

“Look, this isn’t shady or weird,” he says, smiling again. “You’ll work five days a week, five hours a day. I’ll pay you $50,000 a year, which is a stupidly absurd amount of money, but to be totally honest, we have to pay that much just to get anyone to answer the ad. So, if you’re interested, you’re hired. What do you think?”

I blink and frown. “I get weekends off?”

“Most weekends,” he corrects. “We’ll need you sometimes, but rarely.”

“Okay then,” I say. “I mean, it sounds like a great job.”

“Awesome,” he says, looking visibly relieved. “I’ve been doing most of the cleaning myself, on top of all the other crap I have to deal with.”

“Jessamine doesn’t pitch in?” I ask him.

He laughs at that. “You don’t know her yet, but you will.”

I smile at him and suddenly, all my hesitance, all my worry, slowly drifts away. I can see something in his gaze, something kind, something gentle.


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