• Wicked Kiss (Nightwatchers #2) The Guard (The Selection #2.5)

    There’s no reason to get hysterical about this, Lizzie muttered as she headed outside.

    Usually, this processional was the beginning of her relaxation, the quarter of a mile to her farmhouse a decompression chamber that she’d often thought was the only reason she was able to sleep after a day of Easterly’s issues.In fact, she wanted to look over her shoulder to make sure there was no one behind her in the rear seat of the car. Not that you could fit somebody larger than a twelve-year-old back there—but still. She felt pursued. Chased. Mugged … even though her wallet remained in her purse and she was, in fact, alone in her POS.

    Dead of Night (Dead of Night #1)

    Her farmhouse was classic Americana, exactly what you’d see on a poster for a Lifetime movie that took place over the Fourth of July weekend: white with a wraparound porch that had on it pots of pansies, rocking chairs, and a bench swing off to one side. Both the requisite red brick chimney, and the gray slate, peaked roof were originals that dated back to its construction in 1833. And the coup de grâce? A huge maple tree that provided shelter from the summer heat and a buffer to the cold wind in the winter.She parked underneath the tree, which was the closest thing she had to a garage, and got out. Even though Charlemont was hardly Manhattan, the difference in ambient noise was stark. Out here, there were tree frogs, fireflies that had nothing to say, and a great horned owl that had started guarding the old barn out back about two years ago. No highway murmuring. No ambulance sirens. No drifting strains of Bluegrass music from the park down by the river.Shutting her door, the sound was magnified by the darkness, and she was relieved when she walked forward and triggered motion-activated lights that were mounted on either side of the glossy red front door. Her boots scuffed the way up the five creaky steps, and the screen door welcomed her with a spring of its hinges. The dead bolt lock was brass, and relatively new—it had been installed in 1942.

    The Mysterious Madam Morpho (Blud #1)

    Inside, everything was pitch-black, and as she confronted the emptiness, she wished she had a dog. A cat. A goldfish.Hitting the light switch, she blinked as her comfy/cozy was illuminated by soft yellow light. The furnishings were nothing like the Bradfords’. In her house, if something was antique, it was because it was useful and had been made by a Kentucky craftsman: an old wicker basket, a pair of faded, tissue-soft quilts that she’d mounted on the walls, a rocking chair, a pine bench under the windows, the heads of old hoes and spades that she’d found in her planting fields, framed herself, and hung up. She also had a collection of musical instruments, including several fiddles, many jugs, some washboards, and her treasure of treasures, her Price & Teeple upright piano from 1907. Made of quarter-sawn oakwood, and with incredible copper hinges, pedals, and hardware, she’d found the old girl in a barn rotting in the western part of the state and had her lovingly restored.

    Her mother called the house a museum to folklore, and Lizzie supposed that was true. To her, there was great comfort in connecting with the generations of men and women who had worked the soil, carved out lives, and passed their survival knowledge on to next generations.

    Now? Everything was about 3G, 4G, LTE, and smaller, faster computers, and smarter smartphones.But more crucial thoughts ran through my head: What would these strange killers do? Hold me to ransom? ‘Silence’ me? It didn’t even bear thinking about.

    Looking back at my watch I realized it was half-past four in the morning and approaching sunrise, the first glimmers of light appearing. The fields were falling away, giving way to thick, dense forest. The road was becoming more winding, and fewer and fewer cars were passing by, as all the time we climbed up and up.The road swept sharply around to the left as we passed through a large gatehouse. Huge, intricate iron-wrought gates were swung open, the Gothic arched windows guarded by gargoyles.

    Hard to Fight (Alpha's Heart #1)

    As we passed, I could have sworn I saw several faces peering from the windows, but before I could take a second glance we were again enclosed by the forest. The road continued to weave as the trees began thinning out, sunshine sporadically breaking through the needles of the many pines. A little further on, they gave way to leafy blooms and as the trees fell away, I gasped, hardly able to hold in my astonishment.Before us, surrounded by a vast expanse of lawn, was a magnificent mansion, so large the forest seemed to quail at its presence. It was a strange mix of architecture: tall Gothic spires jutted up from the pale stone, hundreds upon hundreds of arched windows lining the three floors, whilst an elegant balcony protruded from the centre, resting on four pillars above the entrance. In the distance I could see rows of garages and stables; early morning light danced off lily pads floating on a lake at the foot of the grounds. The whole area was enclosed by trees of every shape and size before they gave way to the pines that made up the forest. Sheltering the mansion behind was a steep hill, also coated in forest.

    We swept around the sandy drive, rounding a fountain and stopping outside the impressive entrance.‘So where’s the drawbridge?’ I breathed to myself. But instead of a drawbridge, wide steps led up to a set of marble double doors, which in turn were covered by the stone balcony.

    My door was flung open and somebody grabbed me by the shoulders, yanking me off the seat.‘Get off me!’ I snapped. He kept pulling, but I wriggled free and got out myself, despite the gravel that made my toes curl as I crossed it. He shrugged, walking off. Kaspar flicked the car keys at a boy, about my age. My eyes followed him, dressed in a black suit lined with emerald, as he jumped into one of the cars and started it, heading towards the garages.

    I tore my eyes away as Kaspar grabbed my wrist and darted up the steps, the other five following behind. The double doors swung inward and my jaw dropped as we entered. A grand staircase circled the wall, made entirely of white marble. It led up to a large balcony and a passage, lit up by torch-like lamps fixed high up on the wall. Directly in front of me were a set of double doors, identical to the ones we had just passed through, but we were headed for a smaller door to my left. We passed a butler, who bowed.‘Your Highnesses. Lords. Sir … and Madam,’ he added, clearly surprised at my appearance. I eyed him, unsure if what I had heard him just say was correct. He composed himself. ‘A guest, Your Highness?’

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