Home > Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(6)

Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(6)
Janet B. Taylor

Without bothering to turn, my grandmother made the announcement. “I’d like for these to be blood kin only,” she called. “Hope, you understand, don’t you, dear?”

Stung—stunned—it took me a second to get it. After I slunk away, my grandmother ordered the obviously disconcerted photographer to proceed. Several of my cousins snickered as waves of hot embarrassment baked my face. Of course it wasn’t a secret that no Walton blood flowed in my veins. But never before had I been singled out that way.

Left out that way.

In the tangerine glow of a perfect sunset, I’d watched the mob of tanned, golden-haired kids cluster around their matriarch. Uniformly big teeth gleamed as they grinned on cue. I stood alone, a pale, dark-haired stain against a gleaming white column.

My mother’s reaction was predictably fierce, and the next day, after my lesson in Empirical Russian, she’d informed my father that she and I would attend no more family functions.

My mom despised her mother-in-law and everything she stood for. She would never have wanted me to stay.

I sank down in the desk chair. Tears blurred the screen as, hands shaking, I typed in the two-word reply.

“I’ll come.”

Chapter 3

I WOKE JUST AS THE PLANE TAXIED INTO EDINBURGH AIRPORT. Dad had been right about the sedative, though I was fairly sure Dr. Miller, a kindly, old-school pediatrician who’d treated my myriad ailments since I was six, might’ve upped the recommended dosage just a smidge.

The first, lighter round of meds had kicked in just as I boarded and strapped in. Somehow, I had stumbled to the right gate in Atlanta. Then I’d spent the next ten hours passed out, drooling, and—based on the mutters of the disgruntled passengers around me—snoring like a bear with a sinus infection.

Before I left, I’d tried to research my aunt’s home, Christopher Manor. There was little to find. Only a few faraway photos posted by hikers traveling through the famous Scottish Highlands. And a stern warning that—unlike a lot of other grand Highland estates—it was not open to the public.

“Your aunt’s right sorry she couldn’t be here to welcome you herself, lass.” Mac, Lucinda’s lanky, balding caretaker, had explained when he met me at baggage claim with a little, handwritten sign. “Urgent business, you understand.”

All this way. And she wasn’t even here?

Still drowsy and more than a little grumpy, I hadn’t said much on the long, dark drive from Edinburgh. But when we pulled up the gravel drive and parked in front of the massive, imposing mansion, I couldn’t help but gape.

Floodlights illuminated five or six stories of golden stone that glowed against the night sky. Square Norman towers stood sentinel at each corner, giving the manor a boxy look. There were no storybook turrets that I could see, but the crenelated tops of the walls and towers made it easy to imagine long-ago kilted archers defending the house against rival clans.

“The house nestles right up against the mountain,” Mac said as he saw the direction of my gaze. “She’s a right good old girl.”

I nodded, still mute with awe. I couldn’t tell how far the mansion stretched out behind. But judging by the distance to the hump of the mountain in the near distance, it had to be enormous.

Inside, the house was dark and silent. Only the soft glow of wall sconces set between grim-faced ancestors lit our way as we trudged up two flights of wide, carpeted steps. The scents of stone, lemon polish, and musty drapes cascaded over us as I followed Mac’s knobby shoulders down a narrow hallway.

Only a small bedside lamp lit the room where Mac deposited me and my bags. With a groan, he laid my suitcase on a nearby table before pointing out a thermos and covered plate. “My Moira wanted to wait up for ye,” he said. “But I told her we’d be sore late getting in. Still I swear she’ll take a broom to these old bones if ye don’t eat at least two of her famous jam sandwiches.”

At my very-polite thanks, his grin widened, making his small blue eyes disappear into a fan of wrinkles. “Aw, Lass,” he said, “You’ve had a hard row to hoe. But it’s right pleased we are to have you here. Now, you get yourself some sleep. The others will be rarin’ to meet ye come the morn.”

Still druggy and exhausted, I climbed up the three wooden steps to the bed and, fully clothed, passed clean out.

The clack of footsteps woke me the next morning. I cracked one crusty eyelid to see that pearly dawn light now puddled on the floor of my new bedroom, brightening as I watched. Groaning, I glanced at the ornate bronze clock on my bedside table.

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