Twelve years ago Kate's family left the Westbrook estate on a stormy night, just after young Ashley Westbrook drowned in an icy pond. Now kate, alone in the world, has returned to the estate to tutor another spoiled Westbrook child, Patrick. The seven-year-old says he talks to Ashley by the pond. He does dangerous, deadly things because, he says, "Ashley dared me to." Just as Ashley once dared a shy, little Kate twelve years ago.
But at seventeen Kate is not so easily intimidated by "Ashley" or hostile members of her family or the forbidding housekeeper. Then Sam, the handsome stranger to whom kate is irresistibly drawn, reveals a tragic piece of the puzzle that connects him to Kate. Sam tells Kate to leave -- either out of concern for her or due to a festering anger, she's not sure. But kate will not abandon Patrick to the evil that is haunting him and threatens to destroy them all.