Shadow Days Page 6

I’m sure they’ll be disappointed that the premises are being returned to private occupancy only.”

“History, huh?” I said. “When was it built? I didn’t think they had places like this out west.”

“One of the reasons the tours were in demand,” Bosque said. “In terms of architecture it’s one of a kind. Built in the late nineteenth century by one of our ancestors who did quite well in the Colorado gold rush.”

“Pikes Peak or bust?” I ask. “That one?”

“Glad you to hear you’ve taken in some history at those schools I’ve sent you to,” he said, stepping toward the door. “I’ll leave you to get settled. Dinner is in a few hours.”

“Uncle Bosque?” My voice felt small, more childlike than I’d ever want it to be. “Are you going to live here too?”

He looked at me, squaring his shoulders. “You know the nature of my work.”

I clenched my teeth, wondering why I’d even care about sharing a house with an uncle I barely knew. Still, he was my only family.

“I’ll be here tonight,” he said. “But tomorrow I’ll be traveling again. I’ll return when the school’s admissions process is complete.

I want to be certain everything goes smoothly when you first matricu-late.”

“Right,” I said.

“I’ll be waiting for you in my study,” he said. “It’s at the far end of the west wing. When you’re ready, come find me and we’ll take a tour of the house before dinner.”

I nodded, suddenly exhausted.

Bosque left and I flopped onto my back. My head struck the package sitting on the bed. I’d forgotten it was there.

The mailing label showed it had shipped from Portland, mailed overnight to arrive today. I opened it up to find my hoodie folded neatly around a plastic bag full of chocolate chip cookies. Kate’s handwriting looped across a note card.

Don’t forget us. Xoxo

It wasn’t anything but thoughtful, and still I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Tomorrow I’d be alone. In a place where I had no friends. In a house big enough to shelter an army but that was home only to me.

If I was going to stay sane the next few weeks while I was waiting for the school to let me enroll, I was going to have to get creative.

Very creative.

I rolled onto my stomach and texted Kate. Don’t know how I’ll make it without you. Sure you won’t be cold without my hoodie?

My phone buzzed almost instantly. I wouldn’t say no if you sent it back. Miss seeing your face already.

I was about to text back when I realized I could do better.


I stAred At tHe sCreen, wondering where all these facebook people had come from. Either Ally had done some serious recruiting or people think making friends with strangers online is a good way to spend time. I was still in the middle of designing my blog when there was a knock at the door.

“I expected you’d want that tour by now,” Bosque said.

“Sorry.” I closed my laptop. “Got distracted.” The blog would have to wait.

I kept pace with my uncle’s long but casual strides through the arched halls.

“There is little within these walls that is without value,” he said.

“I trust you’ll take care to treat your home with care.”

“No problem,” I said, gawking at one of the sicko paintings and then at my uncle. He glanced at the painting, then back to me. I’d been waiting for him to say something about them. Silence.


Our walk through the estate took almost an hour, leaving me with not infrequent thoughts that I could easily get lost in the place.

The second and third floors were filled with bedrooms and quiet parlors, while the fourth floor had some more bedrooms and a lot of storage.

The larger gathering spaces of the mansion were clustered on the ground floor. The kitchen was enormous and reminded me of something out of Beowulf—built to feed a horde of ravenous thanes and not one solitary guy like me. The dining room featured a table that could seat two dozen guests. four places were already set with bone china plates, sparkling crystal goblets, and gleaming silver utensils. I was glad the place settings were clustered at one end of the table.

Otherwise dinner would have required us to shout our conversation along its length. A ballroom, its floor so polished that I could look down and see my own face, adjoined the dining room. The last room Bosque showed me was what he called a “gentlemen’s lounge” and to me looked like PETA’s worst nightmare. The walls were covered with taxidermied beasts ranging from familiar—wolves, foxes, deer heads, and mink pelts—to exotic—a huge lion rug, with head still attached, covered the floor next to the fireplace. Bosque helped himself to a cigar out of the tall humidor and I wondered why “gentlemen” liked to look at dead beasts while they had after-dinner drinks. I half expected to find neat stacks of my uncle’s “gentlemen’s literature” on the end tables—a thought that made me shudder.

When my uncle swept his hand around the room and said, “All of this is yours,” I managed to stop myself from cringing.

“This is your legacy, my dear nephew.” He smiled, gazing at me.

“I hope you will enjoy your days at Rowan Estate.”

“Thanks,” I said. “It’s really . . . impressive.”

“Isn’t it, though?” he said. “I’m delighted you’re here and can appreciate the fortune your ancestors worked so hard to provide for you.”

“Are there family records?” I asked. “Like in the library?”

His smile vanished. “I’ve told you that the library is off-limits.”

“I know, but—”

He cut me off. “All you need to know about the past is before you. This place. These creature comforts are the gifts your family left you. Names and dates on pages are but a shadow in comparison.

Don’t bother thinking about it.”

I opened my mouth and his eyes flashed. I had to look away. I’d never gotten used to the unsettling silver shade of my uncle’s eyes.

“The library must be left alone,” he said. “That is my only restric-tion on your residence here and I expect you to honor that rule.”

I nodded, keeping my eyes averted.

A polite cough sounded in the doorway. Thomas offered me a thin smile.

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