Beauty In Her Madness (Winterland Tale #3) - Stacey Marie Brown

Chapter 1

The midafternoon light dimmed through the glass, running for the horizon. The thick clouds concealed the sun’s retreat as if it couldn’t wait to get away from this part of the world. The room resisted the early nights with its false glow, outshining nature.

I felt mesmerized by the swaying tree outside the window. Settling in for a cold, long winter, the last leaf was plucked from its branches by the gusts, twisting and turning in its final throes of death before hitting the frozen ground. It hadn’t snowed yet, but winter sniffed at the edges only one day after Thanksgiving, ready to fully consume autumn. Change was coming, colors switching from oranges and browns to the festive lights and decorations of red and green.

Normally I loved this time of year.


“Dinah?” A woman’s voice spoke softly behind me, but it felt distant, as if she were calling me from another room. My head was lost in the flashes of dreams, voices, and moments that hadn’t happened but felt as genuine and vibrant as reality. Fear iced down my spine.

For two years, I’d felt more and more like an outsider—with my family, my boyfriend, and especially myself.

“Dinah, don’t you want to sit down?” The woman’s voice was smooth and calming, but it only brushed the wrong way up my neck. “Talk about why you are here?”

Why I was here? I snorted. Because I feel I’m going crazy? Something’s wrong with my brain, and I’m going to become like my sister?

Though she was well now, flourishing in New York with her business and boyfriend, our parents had to put Alice into a facility for her mental health two Christmases ago. The episode in my bedroom where she flipped out, thinking gremlins were attacking her, still haunted me.

“Please have a seat.” Dr. Bell motioned at the sofa across from her. She was probably in her early sixties, pretty, with short white hair, sharp blue eyes, and a pert nose. Her bright lipstick and thick-rimmed black glasses made her seem a little funky, while her ill-fitted beige suit and brown shoes contradicted it, blending into the same-colored furniture. “Don’t think of me as a therapist, but as a friend you can confide in.”

I took in the space, not moving. The room was simple, clean, and comfortable with lots of pillows on the sofa and books on the shelves. It was designed to make the patient feel at home. The office was outside downtown Hartford in a newly restored older building, half of it still empty, waiting for tenants.

I had found Dr. Bell from a flyer hung up at the university. It wasn’t the best way to find a therapist, but the offering of the first session free was too good to pass up on my budget. I had researched her, and she had all the credentials and high praise.

Dr. Bell sighed, opening up her folder. “It says your sister went into an institution two years ago.” She frowned, adjusting her glasses. “It doesn’t have the facility name. Do you know?” Her blue eyes lifted to mine in hopes I could tell her.

My brain searched for the name, but nothing came to me. “I-I don’t remember.” It was instant, the pounding in my head, the feeling of exhaustion, like I was trying to grab fog, push against an unseen force until I was limp and defeated. I rubbed my temple, running my hands through the silky brown locks I had let grow way past my shoulders.

In the last two years, lots of things had changed, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when or why. Ever since Alice returned from the ward, something had been off. As if I didn’t exactly fit into the picture anymore. With an analytical brain like mine, I could go mad just trying to find the piece that landed me in the office of a therapist here in Hartford.

All I understood was pre-Alice’s episode, as my mother liked to call it; everything had been perfect. My plan for my future set. Everything in line. My sister had always been impulsive, passionate, artsy, and flighty, but one day things abruptly shifted, and she was seeing make-believe monsters in the dark and hearing Christmas icons talking to her.

Full psychotic breakdown, they called it.

Like the ones you are hearing and seeing? A voice whispered in the back of my head, whipping me back around to the window, my throat bobbing as I stuffed it back. No, this wasn’t the same.

Alice was happy now—disgustingly happy—with hugely successful Copyright 2016 - 2024