Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 95)
She made a face. “Archie has his own special perspective on life.”
I looked at her for a moment, weighing her expression.
“What?” she asked.
“You’re not going to explain what you mean by that, are you?”
Her eyes narrowed as she stared back at me, and a moment of wordless communication passed between us—almost like what I’d seen between her and Carine before, except without the benefit of mind reading. I knew she wasn’t telling me something about Archie, something her attitude toward him had been hinting at for a long time. And she knew that I knew, but she wasn’t going to give anything away. Not now.
“Okay,” I said, like we’d spoken all that out loud.
“Hmm,” she said.
And because I’d just thought of it… “So what was Carine telling you before?”
She was looking at the keys now. “You noticed that, did you?”
I shrugged. “Of course.”
She stared at me thoughtfully for a moment before she answered. “She wanted to tell me some news. She didn’t know if it was something I would share with you.”
“It’s probably a good idea. My behavior might be a little… odd for the next few days—or weeks. A little maniacal. So it’s best if I explain myself beforehand.”
“Nothing’s wrong, exactly. Archie just sees some visitors coming soon. They know we’re here, and they’re curious.”
“Yes… like us, but not. Their hunting habits are not like ours, I mean. They probably won’t come into town at all, but I won’t be letting you out of my sight till they’re gone.”
“Wow. Shouldn’t we… I mean, is there a way to warn people?”
Her face was serious and sad. “Carine will ask them not to hunt nearby, as a courtesy, and most likely they won’t have a problem with that. But we can’t do more, for a variety of reasons.” She sighed. “They won’t be hunting here, but they’ll be hunting somewhere. That’s just how things are when you live in a world with monsters.”
“Finally, a rational response,” she murmured. “I was beginning to think you had no sense of self-preservation at all.”
I let that one pass, looking away, my eyes wandering again around the big white room.
“It’s not what you expected, is it?” she asked, and her voice was amused again.
“No,” I admitted.
“No coffins, no piled skulls in the corners; I don’t even think we have cobwebs… what a disappointment this must be for you.”
I ignored her teasing. “I didn’t expect it to be so light and so… open.”
She was more serious when she answered. “It’s the one place we never have to hide.”
My song drifted to an end, the final chords shifting to a more melancholy key. The last note lingered for a long moment, and something about the sound of that single note was so sad that a lump formed in my throat.
I cleared it out, then said, “Thank you.”
It seemed like the music had affected her, too. She stared searchingly at me for a long moment, and then she shook her head and sighed.
“Would you like to see the rest of the house?” she asked.
“Will there be piled skulls in any corners?”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
“Well, okay, but my expectations are pretty low now.”
We walked up the wide staircase hand in hand. My free hand trailed along the satin-smooth rail. The hall at the top of the stairs was paneled in wood the same pale color as the floorboards.
She gestured as we passed the doors. “Royal and Eleanor’s room… Carine’s office… Archie’s room…”
She would have continued, but I stopped dead at the end of the hall, staring with raised eyebrows at the ornament hanging on the wall above my head. Edythe laughed at my expression.
“Ironic, I know,” she said.
“It must be very old,” I guessed. I kind of wanted to touch it, to see if the dark patina was as silky as it looked, but I could tell it was pretty valuable.
She shrugged. “Early sixteen-thirties, more or less.”
I looked away from the cross to stare at her.
“Why do you have this here?”
“Nostalgia. It belonged to Carine’s father.”
“He collected antiques?”
“No. He carved this himself. It hung on the wall above the pulpit in the vicarage where he preached.”
I turned back to stare at the cross while I did the mental math. The cross was over three hundred and seventy years old. The silence stretched on as I struggled to wrap my mind around the concept of so many years.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“How old is Carine?” I asked quietly, still staring up.
“She just celebrated her three hundred and sixty-second birthday,” Edythe said. She watched my expression carefully as she continued, and I tried to pull it together. “Carine was born in London in the sixteen-forties, she believes. Time wasn’t marked as accurately then, for the common people anyway. It was just before Cromwell’s rule, though.”
The name pulled up a few disjointed facts in my head, from a World History class I’d had last year. I should have paid more attention.
“She was the only daughter of an Anglican pastor. Her mother died in childbirth. Her father was… a hard man. Driven. He believed very strongly in the reality of evil. He led hunts for witches, werewolves… and vampires.”