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Writing Wednesday: Between the Spaces

It’s been one of those weeks where I’m glad I can be flexible with my schedule. Monday morning after the kids were on the bus and my husband got home from a night of plowing we went out to get groceries. And I got a new computer mouse since mine just suddenly quit working a few days earlier. It would still scroll, but the cursor would barely move when I slid the mouse around. After getting groceries, we were going to stop at a diner here in town and get some breakfast. Turns out they’re closed on Mondays. So, we ended up stopping at McDonald’s instead. Not nearly as good as the diner’s French toast and home fries I was looking forward to.

Yesterday we decided to finally move our old bed into the girl’s room. We had to tear her old bed apart and bring it out first. Still need to move some stuff around in there, but her bed is all made up. That took a couple hours, and I ended up doing my editing and plotting after lunch instead of before. But I’m still making progress.

Not exactly one-liner Wednesday, but this works for Just Jot It Day 11. And now on to the rest of the post:

Today is Wednesday, which means it’s WiPPet time. Woohoo!! I’m getting to this early in the day, even though I should be focusing on writing. But, haha, I’m not so good with the focusing thing. And despite bouncing between my words and reading blog posts/starting this one, I’ve written 1200 words on In the Moonlight so far. I should be able to get a little more before I take the kids down to the bus then start on Defending the Heart’s words. So, for today you get a snippet from In the Moonlight. I’m finally nearing the end of this. It’s gone so far off the outline, I might as well have pantsed the whole thing. But, it’s finally coming together. For now, I have 11 paragraphs(simple math today, just today’s date) from chapter 28(I’m currently writing 29). Nola and Yasmin are reading Nola’s ancestor’s journal trying to solve the mystery of the house’s ghost. Nola’s mother just recently told her their two families have been twisted together for generations, and they’re seeing how similar these two were to them.

“I wonder if they communicated that way. Left each other secret notes, that kind of thing.”

Yasmin turned her head and smiled at me. “You are a romantic. I should have known.”

I felt heat flush through my skin and ducked my head. I hated the way blushing made me look, but it wasn’t really something I could control. I think I hated that even more.

She just laughed and kissed my cheek before returning to the journal. “Now this is interesting,” she said after a couple minutes. I hadn’t been paying attention to the words on the pages, watching her instead. I loved the way her eyes glinted as she read. This really interested her, and I thought it would even if not for the ghost.

“What?” I asked.

“They met at night. A lot of nights. Damn, I might be in love,” she said, her own face turning a little darker. “She might not have had a good grasp on spelling and grammar, but that girl was imaginative. And detailed.”

I barely held back a laugh and forced my lower lip out. “Does this mean I have to compete against a dead girl.”

She turned to look at me then laughed and nipped at my lower lip. “No pouting, Nola. I only said I might be in love. And is it any wonder, she is your ancestor.”

I couldn’t hold back the laugh at that. I’d never known anyone who could make me laugh so easily. Especially when I should be too sad to laugh. Mom wouldn’t have wanted that, though. Yasmin’s arm squeezed around me, as if she understood my thoughts.

“Let’s see what else she has to say.”

Yasmin started flipping through the diary, scanning through the pages. She’d read a few lines that caught her attention, even read out loud about one of her encounters with Josephine. And she was right. My ancestor did have a hand with detail.

I was hoping to have the first draft done by the end of this week. That might not happen, but it should be close.

And as for my progress so far this week:

  • Write: Shooting for a target of 10000 words this week – 3721 words so far this week. May not quite reach the target. We’ll see. I didn’t work on any of the secondary projects on Monday but managed just over 1000 on Crash and Burn yesterday.
  • Edit: Stained Blood – work through Story Toolkit & outline new scenes – slow progress on this so far this week.
  • Plot: Loving the Devil – work through Story Toolkit – again, slow progress. I might set this one aside for now. It just doesn’t seem to be coming together. May switch to a different standalone project or just keep slowly picking away at this one. Not sure yet.
  • Plot: Playing with Fire – work through Story Toolkit & continue exploring characters with Just Jot It prompts – slow progress on the Toolkit, but it’s going better than the others. And I have 2 more shorts with these characters
  • Side Projects – add 1500 words – 845/1500 words. Finished this week’s goal on Midas’ Daughter and more than halfway there on Dance with the Devil
  • Listen: Midnight Sacrifice(Melinda Leigh) & Lady Midnight(Cassandra Clare) – I finished Midnight Sacrifice(enjoyed) and started Lady Midnight yesterday.
  • Read: Finish Island of Glass(Nora Roberts), Harbor Lights(Sherryl Woods), Wild Irish Box set:books 2-4[I’ve already read book 1](Mari Carr), Of Fire and Stars(Audrey Coulthurst), Need Me(Tessa Bailey), Nothing Like Paris(Amy Jo Cousins), All Summer Long(Susan Mallery), & Love, Exes, and Ohs(Violet Duke) – I finished Island of Glass on Sunday(loved it) and Harbor Lights last night(liked), and started book 2 in the Wild Irish set. I’m going to finish that one then read Of Fire and Stars then go back to the box set and so on.
  • Knitting: Finish Craigiecatt Hat – still making progress on this.
  • Crochet: Giraffe Hat – not until I finish the other project
  • A to Z challenge: Plots posts L-Z – nothing on this yet

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “Novel”

This week’s Stream of Consciousness prompt from the wonderful Linda G Hill is “novel”. This shouldn’t be too hard for a writer to talk about, right? I thought about working it into some fiction, but maybe I’ll do something different. It is National Novel Writing Month, after all. And, yes, I’m participating. I always have since I started back in 2010. I had a 3 year old and 2 month old at the time, didn’t even hear about it until a few days into the month. And I’d hardly been writing anything at that time. I think I felt I couldn’t be a Mom and a writer at the same time. Which, looking back, is a little ridiculous. I actually think I’m a better mom now that I’ve taken writing back(seriously, it’s not pretty when I don’t write for a while). Anyway, that first year I totally failed. I just jumped on a vague idea I had. Since then I’ve always plotted out my ideas.

This year I’m actually working on 5 different projects. Yeah, it’s cheating I suppose, but this seems to be how I work best. When I try to focus on only one at a time, all the other ideas suddenly think its their turn. So instead I’m writing 500 words a day on each. By the end of the month, this should get me at least 55,000 words, since I don’t work on the weekends unless I have to do some catching up. Anyway, this year’s projects are:

Defending the Heart

This is book 3 in my BC Security series. I actually first wrote book 1 for NaNo ’11. Then, I re-plotted and completely rewrote it. I always knew book 3 would be Piers’ story. Then, in book 1 Xavier popped up. I hadn’t been expecting him, or the fact that he and Piers had history and very possibly a future.

Crash and Burn

This is a novella in my Flames series. That series revolves around a fire department. The female main character is a paramedic who works with the department, and the male main character is a previous character’s older brother. This takes place at the same time as Closing Time(which I recently finished), and I wonder if it will ignore my decree of it being a novella as much as that one did.

Not Meant to Be

This is a series I actually started about probably 14 years ago now. The first book was written then at least. I completely rewrote it in 2012 and published it in 2014. I’m getting ready to release book 2 next month. This is book 6, but Toby has popped up in almost every single novel so far(except book 2 I think). It’s about time he got his happy ending 🙂

Stay a Little Longer

This is book 5 in my Kurztown series. I started this as a standalone set in a small town. It was just going to be a simple contemporary romance. A challenge for me because those tend to turn more into romantic suspense for me. I never thought it would be a series. And then Brian says he wants to tell the story of how he and Ashley got together(book 1 was told in 2 timelines, and they got together between those times), then sweet, soft-spoken, scarred Doren said he had a story to tell too, and look at that, now I have a series. Terrall was actually the antagonist in that one(there is bad history between him and Doren). I didn’t think he’d ever get a story, that I wouldn’t want to try to redeem someone who had taken a life by driving drunk. But…Redeem may not even be the right word for what will happen, but he is trying to makes amends. And something he said in Doren’s story will come back to bite him 😉

In the Moonlight

I feel like I’ve been working on this one forever(according to my spreadsheet, I started it at the beginning of May). It’s the only one of these that isn’t part of a series. This actually started as a flash fiction piece several years ago. It’s not even close to what that was, except there’s still a ghost involved. I’m really loving these girls, though.

So, that’s what I’m working on right now.

Story a Day: Day 30 – Three

Today’s Story a Day prompt was to somehow incorporate the rule of three into the story. I was just going to go with Yasmin looking at the three different books. Then, I saw a three sentence paragraph pattern forming. So, I decided to see if I could continue that through the rest of the story. And I did. This should be able to fit into the In the Moonlight WiP after the current scene I’m working on.

I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eye, Nola was right there. Leading me through the house, showing me the little oasis Aunt Adriane had made, watching me.

I wasn’t sure she believed how casually I appeared to take that. If only she’d known what was really going through my head and how hard it was to keep up that appearance. If only she’d joined me in the bed.

Not likely. I snorted a little at myself as I threw off the sheets and swung my legs out of the bed. By all appearances, she was a good girl; something I’d never succeeded at being.

I tugged on a robe over my thin tank and shorts before leaving the room. I headed down the hallway to the stairs, running my hand down the railing as I went down. A shiver passed over me, but I told myself it was only from the memory of the ghost story Nola had told me.

Had a woman really died on these steps? I planned to find out. As long as I could find the right books in Aunt Adriane’s library.

My library now. I had to keep reminding myself of that. She’s left the house and everything in it to me.

I’d still rather have her here. Maybe I could have gotten her to tell me the real story, as long as she knew it. And really, I just missed her.

I closed the door to the library before switching on the light and drawing in a deep breath. I’d spent one summer helping Aunt Adriane catalogue all the books here. It had been one of the best summers of my life.

It didn’t take me long to find the section I wanted. One book on the history of the house, another on our family’s history, and a third on local ghost stories. I carried them all over to the couch I’d helped Aunt Adriane pick out my last full summer here when I’d just graduated from high school.

I stretched out on the couch and opened the book on our family history. We’d lived in this house as long as it had been standing here; more than two hundred years. If the ghost had at one time been the daughter of an owner, she should be in here.

I started with the generation before Aunt Adriane and my grandpa. It had to have been before her time for there to be so many different versions of the story. Probably quite a ways back even from there, but I needed a place to start.

Nola said the only common thread was that it was a young woman, so I ignored all the entries about the men in the family. And the women who had lived past the age of thirty. I kept flipping through the pages until one finally caught my attention.

She’d been born about a hundred years before Aunt Adriane and had died just short of her twentieth birthday. There wasn’t much more information beside that in this book, it gave birth, death, and the location of both. But, it gave me the jumping off point I needed.

I opened the book on the history of the house and found the corresponding time period. There was a photo of the family who had lived here during that time, but very little was said about the daughter. Only the sons and their service in the Union Army during the Civil War was recorded.

Not even one word about her death. I found that a little odd. She’d been young to die, even for the times.

I reached for the third book, maybe there were other stories of hauntings that would coincide with what Nola had told me. But, stopped at the creaking of the door and held my breath. Did the ghost haunt the library?

I shook my head and set the book aside. I probably hadn’t latched the door, that was all. I was letting my imagination get away from me, like Dad was always accusing me of.

I’d check it then go back and see what I could find in that final book. But, when I turned the corner of the shelves, I saw the door was still closed. Now, that didn’t make sense; I knew I heard it open.

I shook my head and started back toward the couch. Maybe I was tired enough to sleep now if I was imagining stuff like that. I’d just have to set the books aside for now.

But, when I reached the couch again, I almost screamed. A figure stood right next to it, looking down at what I’d been reading. It wasn’t until she turned to me, I realized just how far my imagination had run.

“Nola,” I said on an expelled breath. “You scared me, I thought I was the only one still awake. What are you doing in here?”

“Couldn’t sleep and saw the light on in here. I thought maybe Bailey had forgotten to turn it off. He reads in here before bed usually.”

“No, it was just me.” I looked away and picked up the books, not even able to look her in the eyes. “I think I’ll be able to sleep now, though.”

“What were you reading?” She followed me back to the shelves. I put the genealogy and history books back then headed back for  the couch.

“Trying to find the identity of our ghost. You put the idea in my head, and I couldn’t get it out. Found a possibility, but there’s not much information on her.”

Nola laughed, and I loved the sound of it, even if I shouldn’t. “Do you actually believe the house is haunted? It’s just an old story.”

“That could have some basis in fact. Doesn’t mean she’s haunting the place. I just want the truth behind it.”

We walked toward the door, and I shut the light off before stepping out into the hallway. “What about you? Why couldn’t you sleep?”

She hesitated, but for a moment, I thought she’d actually tell me. Then, she shook her head. “It’s nothing.”

I didn’t really think that was true, but it’s not like I could force her to tell me. We weren’t even friends. She’d worked for my great-aunt and now, I guess, she did for me.

I wanted it to be more than that, but I rarely seemed to get what I really wanted. I doubted this would be any different. I thought she’d made that pretty clear.

But, I paused at the bottom of the stairs, not wanting to leave her yet. “Can I do anything else for you?” Her hand was awfully close to mine as she asked the question.

There was a lot she could do for me, but nothing I would ask from her. “No,” I told her. “I’m just going to go up to bed.”

“I’ll see you in the morning then, Ms. Reisner.” She turned away,  but I reached out and put a hand on her arm. She stopped and waited for me to say something.

“It’s Yasmin,” I reminded her. “I told you to just call me Yasmin.” I didn’t need the formality.

“Yasmin then,” she said, and her smile nearly knocked my legs out from under me. “I’ll see you in the morning. I hope you have a more restful night.”

I watched her walk away and highly doubted that would happen. But, I might get some good dreams out of it. And I’d still call that a win.

Story a Day: Day 27 – Immensity of It

Today’s prompt was to write to our natural length. Even to work on an up-coming scene in a work in progress if we already have a novel going. Well, I have 6 going. And, to be honest, this is pretty much what I’ve doing most of the month. A lot of my stories I’ve been able to fit into those WiPs. I actually wrote the first paragraph of this last week, but that was all I’d written of this scene, so I decided to include it. I’m really enjoying writing these girls.

I followed Nola through the yard. Nothing I’d seen in the house had really changed. Granted, she hadn’t taken me on much of a tour. Either time she’d started to. The first time she’d been pissy with me, and I still didn’t know why. The second time she’d started telling me that story that wasn’t really a story. There was no beginning, middle, or end. No plot. And only one character that no one even seemed to be sure about. But, she’d made me want to know more. I’d just have to figure out where to look first.

The grounds were different, though. Of course, I hadn’t spent as much time out here during the summer months I spent at this house. Most of my time had been split between the library and the pool. I hoped Aunt Adriane hadn’t gotten rid of that when I stopped spending so much time here. I turned to Nola to ask her the question. But, maybe she’d seen the look in my eyes, because she grinned at me.

“Don’t worry. Ms. Adriane would never do away with the pool.” The grin dimmed slightly. “She wouldn’t do away with anything she knew you loved. I don’t think you realize how much she loved you.

I did. Though sometimes the immensity  of it was more than I could grasp. But, all I said was, “I’ll have to check it out later.”

She said something low, but she was already turning and heading away, so I couldn’t catch what it was. Instead, I hurried to catch up to her. The ground weren’t too expansive. It wasn’t a tiny yard by any means, but we could easily walk it without growing tired. Most of it was open, and I wondered for a moment how long it took to keep up with yard. Then, she was leading me to what appeared to be a small pond, surrounded by flowers of all kinds and with a wooden swing on one side of it.

It had to be manmade because it hadn’t been there the last time I’d explored the years. Which, granted, had been a few years. I’d kept busy with taking summer courses and working a part time job so I didn’t have to take as much money from Dad for school. Plus, it really pissed him off that I’d work such a menial job instead of taking a position with his company. That made it worth it.

And none of those flowers grew here naturally. “What is this place?”

“Ms. Adriane had it put in almost two years ago. When she first started to get sick, but before we knew just what it was.”

Guilt sliced through me at that. Aunt Adriane had told me she wasn’t feeling well two summers ago, but she assured me she was fine. And I believed her. Even this past summer, she brushed off how bad it was getting. If I would have listened better, maybe I would have seen through that. But, I’d been too wrapped up in my own life.

Maybe I wasn’t any better than my parents. That was a discomforting thought.

“Who takes care of all this? Bailey can’t do it himself. The yard itself has to take hours every week. And these plants would need special care.”

Her teeth came out to scrape over her bottom lip, and just that one action had my pulse pounding a little harder. I wanted to step up to her and soothe that abused tissue. With my own tongue and lips. Heat coursed through me at the image that flickered through my head. Damn it. I needed to stop thinking like that. She’d made it pretty obvious that she didn’t feel much more than disdain for me.

She finally released her lip, but her hand came up to rest at her throat. What? Was it her love, and he’d left? That thought discomforted me, too, but for very different reasons. I didn’t crush on straight girls. That would be kind of silly and pointless. But, I knew, maybe better than most, that just because she’d been with a guy didn’t mean she was straight.

“My little brother helped Bailey with a lot of the stuff,” she said. Okay, so, I’d been way off track with my thoughts. “He left with the rest of them, though.” Something else flickered through her eyes, then. Something that looked painful. I decided not to press.

“Did Aunt Adriane come out here a lot?”

Nola nodded and led me closer to the pond. “She found it peaceful out here and said it helped restore her strength. Then, she got too weak over the winter, and even when the weather cleared, she couldn’t make it out here.”

My throat burned at the thought of Aunt Adriane being so weak. I’d always thought she was the strongest woman I knew. She’d always been there when I needed her. But, when she’d needed me, I wasn’t anywhere around. “I’m going back inside,” I said, turning sharply away from the pond and Nola. “I’m more tired from my trip than I initially thought.”

“Do you need anything brought to your room?”

I shook my head as I hurried away. “No, nothing. Just some rest.” And some privacy to mourn everything I’d lost.

Story a Day: Day 19 – Resident Ghost

So, I kind of cheated on today’s prompt. It was to retell a fairy or folk tale. But, I’m working on my NA ghost story today, so I decided to actually tell the story of the ghost. But, it kind of changed as I wrote. I’m really liking these two and can’t wait to see where the rest of their story takes me.

I followed Nola down the hallway of the old house. I shouldn’t have turned her away earlier. She was doing her job, and I’d acted like a cold bitch. It was this house. Everything about it was throwing me off. Aunt Adriane not being here most of all. Usually she would have herded me right into the library and started telling me another story she’d uncovered about the house. She wouldn’t do that anymore, though. Not ever again.

I wiped a tear from my cheek and hoped my guide didn’t notice. I didn’t want to answer any questions about why I was still crying over my dead great aunt. My parents had seemed to think I should have been over it before I’d really even had a chance to grieve.

“Did Ms. Adriane ever tell you about our resident ghost?” Nola asked.

I was surprised by her sudden question and nearly tripped over my own feet. Okay, it didn’t really take too much for that. But, still. “Ghost? Really?”

Nola threw a glance over her shoulder at me, and I swore I could see a smile ghosting around her lips. Yeah, maybe that wasn’t the right word, given her question.

“You don’t sound scared or disdainful, as most do when they hear about it.”

No, neither of those described what I was feeling right now. “I’ve spent every summer for the last like seventeen years here. How could I have never heard of this before? Aunt Adriane told me all the stories about this place. We picked them apart. Every summer. She wouldn’t have left one out.”

“She did this one. She didn’t like to talk about the ghost. Said it would give its existence more credence. She didn’t want her home to be a haunted house.”

She sent me another look, this one with more meaning behind it. I was pretty sure I knew what it meant. She wouldn’t want me to turn this place into that, either. Well, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with the house. So, she didn’t need to worry about that yet. “Why don’t you tell me?” I suggested. Maybe I just wanted to keep hearing her voice when she didn’t seem…I don’t know, so cold and distant. Like she’d been earlier, so I’d retaliated by doing the same.

I moved up closer to her so she didn’t have to keep looking back at me as she talked. And, okay, I just liked being closer to her. It was an exercise in frustration, but I couldn’t help it.

“There are different accounts of her. But, it is almost always a her,” Nola said. “Some claim she was a servant here, others that she was the daughter of an owner.” She looked over at me again, those beautiful lips twitching. “Some say she was both.”

It only took me a moment to process her meaning, barely even that long. I’d studied history pretty much my whole life, even before I majored in it. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a lot of the kids who had walked these halls had been the unrecognized sons and daughters of the owners. “How do they say she died?”

“Every way,” she said. “She was murdered, she killed herself, it was an accident. It was her boss, her father, her lover. She was stabbed, shot, fell down the stairs. I’ve heard any number of those combinations.”

“Which one do you believe?”

She looked over at me again, the corners of her lips pulling up. I wanted to kiss her. Damn. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. I was here to figure out what to do with the house my aunt had left me, not fall for one of the few employees who had stuck around.

“Who said I believe any of them? I’m just telling you what everyone else says.”

“Right.” But, I saw the way her gaze flicked to the staircase. Like she wondered if the ghost would start floating down this way, as if to disprove her statement. But, there was nothing there.

“Come on,” Nola said. “You know this house well enough. Like you said, you’ve spent nearly every summer here since you were five. You should see what Bailey’s done with the grounds, though.”

She seemed almost too eager to get out of the house. Maybe she really did believe, even if she didn’t want to admit it. I wondered if I should, too.

 

Story a Day: Day 11 – Welcome Home

Today’s prompt for Story a Day is setting. And I’m using one of my new WiPs, In the Moonlight, for this one. And the house is based on the one I grew up in until I was about seven, with some changes.

I pulled up to the house and just sat in the car for a moment, taking all of it in. I’d spent just about every summer. I should know every crook and canny it without a problem. But, I hadn’t been here much the last few years. I’d been too focused finishing college as soon as I could. I was planning to visit Aunt Adriane after graduation, spending a few weeks with her. But, now she was gone.

And the house was mine.

I shook my head at that and stepped out of the car. It had been a week since I’d found out she’d left the house to me, but I still couldn’t of it like that. This would always be Aunt Adriane’s house. I ran my hand over the rounded top of one of the posts of the gate letting me in from the sidewalk to the yard. I could have driven around the back and parked on the grounds. Aunt Adriane had the old barn on the edge of the property turned into a garage several years ago.

And I would pull my car around eventually. But, for now, it was fine just where it was. As I moved through the gate, everything felt like it had gone silent. That wasn’t completely true, though, I guess. Plenty of birds were singing, and I saw a couple flying between trees along the fence. But, Aunt Adriane had employed more than a dozen people right up until her death. But, she’d released them all from their contracts to her in her will, even paying them what they would have earned through the end of the year, unless they chose to stay.

That one had really pissed Dad off. Especially since she hadn’t left him a penny.

Now, I only saw two people waiting on the front porch. I wondered if there were more inside. Or was this it? I thought about what Dad had said when I was packing my things. That this house couldn’t be run without all the employees. A maid and the old groundskeeper. Were they really all who had stayed? I really didn’t want Dad to be right.

I’d hoped to walk around the grounds before I headed into the house. But, with them waiting for me, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I headed for the stairs, running my hand over the lion’s head carved into the post next to the stairs. I’d always loved these decorations, the attention to detail. Aunt Adriane had never found when they’d been added to the house. Maybe I’d be able to do that this summer before I decided what I was going to do.

I glanced up as I approached the porch. The roof came to a peak there and again even higher. The second floor had what I’d always thought of as turrets. One on each side of the house. And a widow’s walk on top of the third floor. I’d never been allowed all the way up there. The door to the third floor had always been locked.

The old man smiled at me. “Welcome home, Ms. Reisner.”

The words had warmth spreading through my chest. Every year when I’d stepped out of the car my parents sent me in, he’d been there to greet me with those same words. And that’s just what it had always felt like; home. Certainly more like home than my parents’ house ever had.

“It’s good to be back here, Mr. Bailey,” I told him.

I thought I heard a soft snort at that and turned to look at the girl–no, woman now- standing beside him. But, there was no sign of the derision I’d thought I heard in the sound. She was still as cute as she’d been every summer I’d been here, though there was no smile on her face today. I was pretty sure she didn’t want me to be here.

“I’ll go get your things out of your car and have it brought around,” Bailey said. “Ms. McCarthy can show you around the house.”

Nola. I remembered her name was Nola. She turned from me then and went to the front door, pulling it open. The hinges creaked and sent a little shiver down my spine. It had always been like that when first walking into the house. But, once inside, it always felt more welcoming. The scent of something sweet met me as we started through the foyer.

“Did Ms. Thomas stay as well?”

That brought Nola to a halt in front of me, and I nearly fell into her. I caught myself, but it was close. I was almost close enough to make out the subtle scent she wore. Then, she was walking again, and it was gone. “Yes, she stayed,” Nola finally said as she led me past the stairs. “She figured you’d need someone to cook for you.”

There was that derision again. So, she really didn’t like me. I didn’t know why. I didn’t think I’d ever treated her badly. Unlike my dad, Aunt Adriane had always insisted her employees deserved respect, whereas Dad didn’t seem to think much about them at all. But, I definitely sided with Aunt Adriane’s view.

“You don’t have to show me around,” I told her. “I remember my way around this place and how to get to my room. If you have better things to do, I can get there myself.”

Color flushed up the back of her neck, and I nearly cursed at myself. I hadn’t meant to embarrass her. I just thought I could avoid any more torture for both of us.

“I don’t,” she said softly. “If you’re tired from your drive, I can take you up there.”

I’d like her to…No, I really shouldn’t be thinking like that. “You’re just acting like you want to be as far from me as possible. I’m giving you that option. I’ll see myself up to my room.”

She looked like she might say something, but I turned and started back for the stairwell. It would be better this way. She was technically my employee. And I didn’t even know if I’d be keeping the house at the end of the summer.

There was no point in getting attached.

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