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And seriously, if he’s been Seb’s friend for so long, doesn’t he know his friend is a disaster of a human? Why not talk to him?
Unless that’s treason?
Maybe that’s treason.
My feet touch a stone floor, cold even through my socks, and I stop, suddenly looking around me. I’m in another hallway, this one lined with . . . I don’t remember seeing this part of the castle before.
I turn around, looking behind me, trying to remember if I’d made a turn anywhere while I’d been busy arguing with Miles Montgomery in my mind, but no, apparently I was too angry to notice my surroundings.
Aaaaand I’m lost.
Like. Really lost.
Which is stupid because this is a house, not the freaking Amazon rain forest, but it’s a really big house, and it’s filled with more hallways and rooms than I’d accounted for.
Okay. We didn’t take any stairs going from my room to Seb’s, so maybe I’m at least on the right floor? Unless the hallways slope and I didn’t notice.
I tuck the blanket a little more tightly around me and start heading back the way I came. I’m not someone who’s easily spooked, but this is all just a liiiiiitttttle too Gothic for me, swanning around the dark halls of a castle at night. Plus, I’d also dealt with having a charming scoundrel in my room, and a fight with a stuck-up snob.
Not even a full two days into my trip, and I was already going full Jane Austen.
There’s a lamp on one of the nearby hall tables, and I walk over to it, deciding that some light might help me get my bearings. As I flip it on, something behind the painting hanging above the lamp catches my eye.
It’s . . . the hilt of a knife?
Maybe you can resist pulling out what appears to be a dagger from a little leather holster hidden behind a painting, but I’m not that strong.
The metal is cold when I draw out the knife, and sure enough, it’s a short, sharp dagger, just . . . strapped to the wall. Are castles more dangerous than I thought? Gotta arm yourself just to walk down a corridor?
“It’s for the painting.”
I whirl around, the little knife still in my hand. It’s Miles, of course, standing in the doorway with his hands clasped behind his back.
I look back at the blade. “The painting needs a dagger?” I ask. “Why? In case it gets in street fights with the other art?”
To my surprise, Miles actually cracks a smile. Okay, it’s not so much a smile as a tiny lifting of one corner of his mouth, but given that I’ve barely seen anything from him other than contempt and disdain, it’s close enough.
“In case there’s a fire,” he says, walking a little farther into the room, “someone can slash the painting out of the frame quickly and carry it to safety.”
I get that, but it also strikes me as really stupid. If there’s a fire, who cares about art? Even really fancy art.
“Rich people are weird,” I say, and that little baby smile Miles was working on dies immediately.
“It’s priceless art,” he tells me, and I put the knife back into its holster. It makes a little schick noise in the quiet corridor.
“I happen to think my life is kind of priceless, but whatever.”
We face each other, and after a moment, Miles takes a deep breath.
“I’m sorry,” he says, even though the words come out like someone is holding a gun—or a tiny dagger—to his head. “I shouldn’t have implied anything about you and Seb. He’s . . . it’s just been a long night.”
I notice he doesn’t apologize for his general jerkitude before that, but then he tilts his head to the left and says, “I’ll show you back to your room.”
I don’t want to spend any more time with him, but I’m glad he doesn’t bother to mention how obviously lost I got in the five minutes I was away from him, so I just nod and follow him.
It doesn’t take nearly as long to get back as I’d thought it would, which means I definitely took a wrong turn or twelve, and as we walk down my hallway, I say, “Okay, seriously, how does anyone find their way around this place?”
Miles shrugs. “A lot of people don’t. Sherbet says that in the thirties, his great-grandparents used to give every guest a silver bowl full of a different color of confetti. That way, you could leave a trail back to your room.”
I stop in the hallway, scuffing my foot over the carpet. “You’re making that up.”
But Miles shakes his head. “God’s truth,” he swears. “’Course Sherbet says it was more so that people could find their way to each other’s rooms.”
“Aren’t you afraid you’re just giving me hints?” I ask him, then wiggle my fingers. “Might spend all night cutting special confetti to lure Seb into my womanly clutches.”
His lips thin, a thing I’ve already seen him do a couple of times when he’s annoyed. Maybe if I annoy him enough, he’ll do it so much that he won’t even have a mouth. That would probably improve his general personality.
I go to open the door, and as I do, Miles leans in a little. “I really am sorry for thinking the worst earlier, but . . . it occurs to me that you might need a guide,” he says. “Someone to show you the ropes. Make sure you don’t get in over your head.”
Staring at him, I tilt my head to one side, pretending to think it over. “Hmmmm,” I hum. “Hard pass.”
And when he glowers at me, I take great pleasure in shutting the door in his face.
The official start of the Scottish season, An Reis is the annual horse race held along the southern border. The words mean simply “the Race,” and it’s said the tradition began during the “rough wooing,” when Henry VIII harried the lowland Scots in the hopes of taking young Mary, Queen of Scots, for his son’s bride. What was once a test of horsemanship is now, like Ascot farther south, more a social event these days, and attendants of An Reis are just as serious about their headgear as their southern neighbors. A favorite of the younger set of Stuarts, this year’s An Reis should also prove an excellent opportunity for Royal Watchers to observe Prince Alexander with his new fiancée, the American Eleanor Winters. Rumour also has it that Eleanor’s younger sister, Daisy, will be accompanying them this year, providing the Florida high schooler with her first taste of the life her sister is stepping into this winter.
(Prattle, “Och Aye, We’ve Got the Scoop on the Best Events of the Scottish Social Season!” April Issue)
Chapter 13
“I am not wearing that.”
I’m in Ellie’s room at Sherbourne Castle, the early morning sunlight spilling in through lace curtains. It had surprised me that Ellie and Alex weren’t sharing a room, but I didn’t like to think about that part of their relationship, so I hadn’t said anything. There are certain things about her sister a girl should maybe not know.
Ellie looks like summer come to life, standing in a pale pink dress and cream-and-rose heels, her blond hair shiny and smooth underneath a hat that matches her shoes, a little pink netting covering her eyes, a riot of flowers at the crown. It’s a silly hat, don’t get me wrong, but it looks right on her. She’s doing that Ellie Thing where everything that touches her manages to get an extra sheen of class.
I don’t possess that particular talent, which is why the green monstrosity currently spreading its tentacles on the bed is not going to look nearly as fetching on my head.