Teapots & Treachery

By: Donna K. Weaver


“Oh, you’ll see why once we’re inside.” His voice grew louder with excitement. “The main floor’s where the public rooms are, like the great hall. Miles, uh, Mr. Savage”—his eyes darted to me and back to the castle—“your cousin used the east tower’s main floor as a formal dining room. Above that is—”

“Let’s get going, everyone!” Dad shouted from behind us by the gatehouse. I glanced over my shoulder. He was hopping back into the truck, Ezra and Mellie piling in the other side. Eli and Joel let out whoops as they dashed back to the car.

“I guess I’ll tell you later.” Coop stepped back. “If you’re interested, that is.”

“I’m interested.” Oh, yeah, I was interested. Taylor would die when I told her. She’d teased me about Coop all last summer, encouraged me to let him know I liked him. Said it was her job as my best friend.

“Great.” He broke out in a huge grin. “I’m really glad you’re here. Mum and I will follow everyone up.” He turned and jogged toward where his mother stood waiting. Only then did I realize she was staring at us. Well, me. Since she’d seen me notice her, I smiled. She raised a hand and turned away.

Coop lived here—and he’d sought me out. Humming, I took in the wide, almost-circle that made up the valley. My summer options exploded with possibilities.

Mom called and gestured for me to come. I hurried over to the car.

“What do you think?” My mother stared at the castle, her lips pinched. She reminded me of when she’d prepare herself to do battle with one of Dad’s subcontractors. What had upset her?

“You okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine.” She got in the car and started the engine. I took shotgun. “This is going to be great, don’t you think?” she asked. “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a huge, public barbeque on the grounds, maybe with fireworks?” Normal words but a tight tone. Mom tapped her fingers on the steering wheel as she drove. By the time she parked in front of the castle, her hands shook a little. The boys opened the door and jumped out, but I stayed with her.

“Mom?” I reached over and stilled her agitated hand.

“There’s no such thing as ghosts.” She hissed the words at me and got out of the car.

“Of course there’s no such thing as ghosts,” I said to no one. Like they hadn’t stressed that enough when I was little. Something feathery light ran across the back of my neck.

Spider? With a squeal, I beat at my collar with one hand and ripped open the door with the other. Staggering out, I shook my shirt. No sign of a bug. An involuntary shudder shook my entire body.

I hurried to catch up with my mom. As I came abreast of her, I froze at the frenzied activity going on. My dad shouted orders to my brothers. The boys scattered in opposite directions while Ezra ran to the large wooden front door and tugged at it. It wouldn’t open.

“What’s hap—” My words broke off at the site of an older man toward the top of the tower. He clung precariously to the tilting base of what looked like a homemade window-washing platform.

Over the top of the crenellated tower peeked my little sister. Mom let out a cry, and I gasped.





Chapter 2

From the tower, Hugh watched in satisfaction as the people scurried around below. If he had patience, they would soon scurry away. And leave him to find it. He chuckled at the thought.

The child glanced back at him, her pouty mouth accusatory. With her honey-brown curls and hazel eyes, this Mellie could have been Maire’s sister. How often had his own daughter reproached him in just such a manner?

“Do not look at me that way.” Hugh rubbed the sudden ache in his chest.

“Help him,” she demanded.

“That I will not.” He crossed his arms and put on his most imperious stare, the one he had spent most of his life mastering. Servants had cowered before him when he had used it while alive, and run screaming when he had used it as a haunt.

“Then I will.” The child turned back to the rope hanging over the tower and clasped it with her small, thin hands.

“No!” Hugh cried, lunging for her.


Lia

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