Page 15


As Ellie and I step through the big double doors of the castle, I scoot closer to her and whisper, “So is there a reason you failed to mention that Alex’s brother and all his friends are basically human dumpster fires?”
“Shhhh!” Ellie hisses, looking around her, but Alex is talking to Miles, and the rest of the Royal Wreckers are heading back to the parlor, laughing, punching each other, basically a walking advertisement for bad decisions.
“I thought Flora was the only one who was a mess,” I add, still whispering. “Is she here?”
Turning back to me, she smooths her hair with her hands, probably drawing power from its mystical shininess. “We’ll see her once her school term is over,” Ellie says, “and as for Seb and his friends, I know they can get a little out of hand, but—”
“Out of hand?” I whisper back. “Ellie, that was full-scale insane. There was nearly a duel! Seb, like, tried to steal some dude’s house! And you’re worried about our family being embarrassing?”
“No one is worried our family will embarrass me, first of all,” she says, and I scoff.
“Okay, sure.”
Ignoring that, she goes on. “And those are Seb’s friends, not Alex’s.”
“Are you sure about that?” I ask.
I glance over to see Alex thumping Miles’s shoulder in that way boys do, and Miles shoots a quick look at me before heading off in the same direction as the other Wreckers. Only Ellie, Alex, Sherbet, and I are left in the main foyer, and while I want to ask Ellie more about Seb, Alex is already walking toward her, one hand out.
“Drink, darling?” he asks, like we’re in a Masterpiece Theatre show about murder in the 1930s or something.
Ellie sighs and places her hand in his. “Yes, please,” she says, and off they go, violins probably swelling on the soundtracks inside their heads.
As I watch them go, I wonder: Is this why Ellie kept things so separate? Was it less to keep us from embarrassing her new fancy-pants family and more to make sure we never knew how not perfect her new life was?
That’s . . . interesting to think about.
Sherbet moves closer to me, hands in his pockets. “Shall I show you up to your room?” he asks, and I nod. I wouldn’t mind holing up somewhere private for a little bit.
“Follow me,” Sherbet says, jerking his head toward the main staircase.
As we walk along, our footsteps muffled by the thick carpet on the steps, I glance around again at all the stuff. Paintings fill up all the wall space, and little tables covered in clocks and porcelain eggs and miniature portraits are scattered everywhere.
“How would you know if anything went missing?” I ask, and Sherbet turns, looking at me and then around again as though he’s just now noticing that his house is full of things.
“Huh,” he says, gripping the banister with a long-fingered hand. “I’m not sure we would know, really.” He laughs then, some of his dark hair flopping over his forehead. “Most houses like this are stuffed to the gills,” he says, continuing up the stairs.
“I guess owning a place for like a thousand years will do that,” I reply, and he laughs again, stepping onto the landing.
“Yes, that, but also, families like ours would always make sure to have extra trinkets lying about in case anything caught the monarch’s eye when they visited.”
I stop just behind him, looking at an end table littered with all sorts of bits and bobs: a magnifying glass with a jeweled handle, a thumb-sized naughty shepherdess figurine, a leather-bound journal so old the spine is flaking. “What do you mean?” I ask, and he looks back at me, eyebrows raised.
“Oh, just that if the king or queen were visiting your house, they might see something they wanted, and they’d take it. So it behooved hosts to fill their house with extra knickknacks or objets d’art, so they could give away something less valuable or sentimental.”
I try to imagine someone visiting my house and just . . . taking whatever they wanted.
“But what if you didn’t want them to have it? What if they didn’t fall for the extra junk and wanted, like, a book your dead grandmother gave you?”
Sherbet shrugs. “Then you gave it to them,” he says. “They’re royal.”
Like that explains everything. And heck, for these types of people, maybe it does. Seb did just try to commandeer someone’s farm, after all.
“I hope you enjoy your stay here, Daisy,” Sherbet goes on. “I know today was a bit mad, but tomorrow is the race, and that should be a good deal calmer.”
Oh, right. The race, aka An Reis, a fancy, Ascot-like thing we’ll be attending that’s probably in that folder Glynnis prepared for me. I know nothing about horses or races, but how hard can it be?
We make our way farther down the hall until Sherbet stops at a door and opens it with a flourish, giving a little bow. “If anything is not to your satisfaction, please let me know,” he says, and then he’s off down the hall, back toward the stairs and, I’m sure, more drinks.
The room is smaller than I’d expected, but maybe that’s just because the bed is so massive, it takes up most of the space. It’s covered in a floral bedspread, and there’s a tiny canopy that I like, but other than that, it mostly feels . . . weird. Other than my bag—resting on an ancient-looking luggage rack at the foot of the bed—it’s all deeply unfamiliar and even a little unwelcoming. The walls are stone, and while there are two windows looking out toward the stream that cuts across the property, the glass is so warped and distorted that it makes it seem like I’m looking outside through water.
It’s also cold in the room, and while there’s a radiator under the window, no matter how I twist and pull at the knobs, nothing seems to happen.
Defeated, I flop down on the bed, pull the musty-smelling bedspread up around me, and am asleep in minutes.
* * *
• • •
When I wake, it’s dark outside, which means it’s late. Really late. Past ten, at least, and I sit up, groggy. I’d fallen asleep in my dress and cardigan, both of which are now hopelessly wrinkled, and hopelessly ineffective against the chill in the room.
I’ve probably missed dinner, but even the rumbling in my stomach doesn’t make me want to face what’s downstairs, so instead, I open my bag and start pulling out clothes. I settle on a pair of pajama pants (plaid, very fitting), a tank top, an old long-sleeved T-shirt on top of that, a sweater, and, for extra measure, a scarf wrapped around my head. Even in all those layers, though, I’m still not warm.
Shivering, I rub my upper arms. How the heck is this place so cold in June? Back home, we were running the air conditioner nonstop by this point. It’s not like I’d expected Scotland to be balmy or anything, but when we’d been here before, it was in the fall and winter. I expected cold then, but this was ridiculous.
I go back to the radiator lurking under the nearest window, but twisting the knob on the bottom only results in a bunch of loud thumps and a rushing-water sound that is, to be honest, pretty freaking alarming.
I twist the knob again and the noises stop, but the room is still freezing, and with a sigh, I get back in the bed, being sure to pull out the folder Glynnis put together for me as I do.
Settling against the lumpy mattress, I decide that if I’m not going to go downstairs tonight, at least I can get prepared for tomorrow.