Welcome to the Cozy Corner Reading Room!
For more great books, visit The Book Shelf tab above^^^
This week's Featured Author:
Read an interview with Tessa on the Chair to Chair Page >>>>>
Read an interview with Tessa on the Chair to Chair Page >>>>>
The Seven Spell
Spellbinding Book one of
The Seven Spell Saga
The next morning I woke to dull grey skies and a mist of fine rain, it was coming onto the window ledge where I had left the window open the night before and I closed it up. Pulling on a sweater and jeans I padded downstairs in my felt slipper boots. Mom was down there and Steven, who was on his mobile talking about music, he went to the fridge and got orange juice out completing his call with see you there then. Mom was sipping her coffee and looked at me over her cup,
“I’ve started a new project” she said “so I expect to be really busy for the next few weeks, what are your plans, will you look into going to college when they start their academic year here?”
I know I looked dismayed, “Mom can I just get settled here before I have to think about college, because you know I’ve applied to UCLA and yet I want to stay here now, I need time to check all the courses out.”
She seemed happy enough with my answer and off she went to her huge study. Steven told me he was being picked up by John and his brother they were going to hang out at the rehearsal place John’s brother and his band had rented. So cool he had said and also left the kitchen. I made myself tea, this was good, I could get on with my snooping about; I more than likely would hardly see mom for days, if not weeks I grinned to myself.
I put one of the postcards of the waterfall with Tristan in the stained glass window scenes in my back pocket, turned my phone to silent mode and grabbing a jacket against the now steady drizzle of rain I went off to the greenhouses in the hope of seeing Tristan. I would show him the postcard.
As I walked by the drenched garden I smelt the grass and earth. That special wet smell rain gives to the ground sometimes as summer approaches. It was early spring and it had been warm off and on. The last spurt of real warmth coupled with occasional night rain had meant the flowers and tree blossoms were already lush. I knew that there would be more, the leaves would coat the trees, and branches would meet across the narrower country roads to form leafy arches. There were parts of the States that had this kind of vegetation and I had holidayed there as a child. I looked forward to the lighter nights, mom had told me that it stays light in summer sometimes as late as ten o’clock at night, how cool is that?
I reached the greenhouses, the path was full of puddles, the drizzle was stopping, and I took my hood down and approached the door to the largest greenhouse. I didn’t knock or hesitate I just went straight on in; if I hadn’t then I would have lost my courage. The place was big but I knew it was empty, of people anyway, there were many plants, lovely coloured flowers, all kinds of deep pinks and purples, some white, I thought some of these must be the orchids. There were different sizes of flower heads, some of the flowers I just didn’t like, but others were such lovely colours I liked them for that. I walked the length of the greenhouse then turned and walked back the way I had come and out the same door, there was a door at the other end but I really wanted to keep my bearings.
The next greenhouse was a few meters away, I stepped across a big puddle and still got water in my shoes, but it had totally stopped raining now and the air felt warmer. The other greenhouse door was ajar; opening it further, I went in to find the place was heavy with the scent of roses, although many were just buds as far as I could see. I walked along intrigued, now these flowers were lovely and such a range of exquisite colours, some were pale green with antique rose coloured or deep rose coloured bands at the very top of their petals it was as if they were about to open their buds. They were so beautiful, but I was stopped from looking at them when a familiar voice asked,
“What are you doing here now?” it was Tristan.
I turned around he was virtually behind me, and I hadn’t heard him approach at all, spooky, I thought. Then answering as honestly as I could I said, “I came to look for you”.
This clearly surprised him on some level because a few expressions passed over his face before he settled into his usual impassive mode. He had looked happy, sad, slightly surprised. Now he had that look of tolerance on his face, but he said “Really and why’s that? Do you need a better photograph?” his sarcasm was surprising, he even seemed bitter. I wanted desperately to either please him or at least befriend him somehow, this was the first time I had seen him in real light, he looked younger than I had first thought now, and he looked almost vulnerable here with the roses as background. His denim shirt was open over a dark blue T-shirt and the usual jeans he wore.
“I came to find you to ask you about the waterfall, I thought you would be the best person to ask, what with being in the garden staff and looking after the grounds and so on”, I was almost babbling.
He looked at me with what was intense disquiet “What about the waterfall?” his voice was almost a whisper.
“Well I found a postcard in the museum shop that has a picture of what I am sure is the waterfall”. I began, I wanted to put him at ease, was he scared?
“I was thinking I would do some design work around the theme of waterfalls, rivers maybe I don’t know, but if I want to get into a college here I need to put together a portfolio I think…..” I tailed off. Was this as transparent to him as it sounded to my ears? He looked relieved; I thought he must believe me. I went on, “ I read in the museum booklet that there was a legend surrounding the waterfall and I thought you might know it and that it would be great to weave the story through my designs, you know background and so on. Plus I really need photographs of the waterfall and I hoped you would take me there, just so that you don’t find me there almost a trespasser again”. I managed to smile at him, though my heart was beating very fast as I looked at his lovely face and realized I cared very much that I was telling him a lie again. I really did want to just get to the truth with him and be there for him, well if he wanted any one to be there that is.
“I don’t know if I can help you with the legend”, his voice faltered, and then he sighed. “I will take you to do the photography”. He had put his hands in his jeans pockets, now he took one out and ran it through his hair.
This time I really smiled at him and when I thanked him and asked if it could be tomorrow, I decided I really was going to do it, the design I mean. I would make that not a lie, his relief at my ordinary excitement was tangible, and he almost smiled.
“I would like to photograph some of these roses too” I added, “Because they are incredibly lovely”.
He did smile at that and it made me so happy to see him smile. I turned to the white, green, and deep pink roses, “These are just the best roses I have ever seen; did you grow them?”
The look of pleasure on his face and the broad smile he had for this comment was like sunshine on me.
“I did but I didn’t breed this rose or many of them in here, they are special hybrid roses. I get them delivered dormant and grow them from what look like sticks”. He walked a few steps down the greenhouse.
“I really like this one at the moment, I kind of have a favourite for a while then another will start to bud and I will fall in love with that one”. He picked up a pot with a rose that had several closed buds a few half open and one virtually open, they were the most delicate shade of lemon and cream and off white. I went to him and looked at the rose more closely; our heads were close as we both looked at this lovely thing. I moved my head slightly and could feel his closeness; we both knew that if we turned slightly we would be face to face. I had never felt anything so intense; I supposed that this must be what love songs and poetry was about, it was like a spell; just the way they sing about it. Our closeness was spellbinding for a few seconds.
He broke the spell; putting down the rose he turned away, and said in a soft voice, “It’s very calming in here.”
Looking at me again he said more normally, “Tomorrow around ten I can drop by the restaurant, if you can be there, then we can go to the waterfall”.
It was good to see him without that impassive face, good to be near him and good to hear the warmth in his voice as he said this. I told him that was great I would look forward to it. I meant this sincerely and I know I looked at him longingly; it seemed this look was enough to have him walk towards the door saying he had work to do and would see me tomorrow.
He sort of showed me out the door and I walked into the day as if I had woken from a dream. You might know what I mean, it was like when you go to see a really engaging movie, at the end when you walk out into the real world it’s just as if you have left another world behind.
The rain was completely gone and there was a patch of blue sky up there where the sun was about to peek out from surrounding clouds. I decided to go straight to my desk and do some work, make what I had said to Tristan less of a lie as soon as possible. As I walked along suddenly the sun came out and the whole countryside lit up, all the puddles, the rain on the leaves, the wet tree trunks, and every droplet on blossom shone in the sunlight, it was magical. Just like Tristan.
Back in my room, I got down to drawing. Using the photographs, I drew the waterfall without Tristan in the frame, naturally. I began to abstract the waterfall and at the end of three hours which flew by I had a series of designs that were not half bad, I almost felt pleased with them, the only thing stopping that, was knowing I had been motivated by guilt.
I decided a walk would be good for me, picked up my sunglasses as well as a jacket because who knew if it would rain again and went downstairs, I detoured into mom’s study and even though I don’t think she heard me I told her I was going for a walk.
Outside the air was sultry, I found myself wandering down the path to the edge of the woods where I thought I had seen someone a couple of times and where the fox had run into. Closer to the wood the path petered out, and became just a trodden but muddy track. I stopped because I didn’t want to get too muddy since I didn’t have waterproof shoes and had already gotten my shoes wet that day, they hadn’t yet dried properly and my feet felt a bit squelchy. I was peering down through the trees, I don’t know what I hoped to see but I did see a small group of deer, which surprised me and them too apparently because they looked up from their grazing flicking their ears and taking off together further into the woods. By the largest tree at the beginning of the path was a small clump of beautiful flowers, blue and bell shaped, I realized they were bluebells and then I noticed larger groups all scattered through the wood as far as I could see. Knowing I could go no further, since I didn’t know where I would end up, I turned around and went back the way I had come to where the path forked and one led off to the restaurant as it passed where I lived. Taking this path, I went to the front of the restaurant and sat down at one of the outside tables.
A small group of people were at one of the tables, this area served as a refreshment area for tourists for a certain period each afternoon, and I looked at the menu which was printed on a peacock shaped card, and slipped slightly under a glass bowl of pansies. I wondered who might come out to take my order, in seconds it was Jen, and I asked for a cup of tea, and asked who was working that day. She told me Oliver and Patricia and went off to get the tea I had asked for.
It was Oliver who brought it out, grinning, he put the small pot and jug of hot water down on the table then the cup and saucer, he had a tiny sugar pot and milk jug to put down and I said “Don’t worry about them I don’t use either”. He asked me what I was up to today and I told him that I had been drawing for most of the day, which was true. “I get off at six” he informed me, “ do you want to go for a walk through the ruins or grounds and catch up, it looks like it will still be a fine evening?” I told him that would be great and he went back inside. He was out again quickly with a tray of food for the table nearby; he looked at me and smiled a heart-melting smile across at me over their heads. The sun had come out and was hot on my head as I sat there drinking my tea and thinking firstly about Tristan and then about Oliver, how can it be possible to be so attracted to two guys at the same time, it was simply awful, right?
It would be an hour before I met with Oliver, Patricia had come out to serve a new group of people, they were talking in French and laughing at each other, before she went back in; I caught her attention and asked to pay. You see you can’t go guzzling the profits just because you are the owner’s daughter.
Walking down to the lake where the swan boats had been I noticed a lantern had fallen into the edge of the water and bent to retrieve it, I thought the crew must have missed it when they cleared up on Sunday morning. The water droplets dripping and sparkling in the sunlight reminded me of Tristan and the way he changed when he was touched by the waterfall and pool. Did it happen with any water I wondered, what about rain? Then I realized I was being ridiculous and put the soggy lantern in the next available litter bin, cleverly disguised as tree trunks without being tacky. This estate was a good compromise of authentic and new decoration of necessary tourist items like litter bins. In my experience this could be tacky and sometimes deliberately over the top, such as the big theme parks I had been to in the States. There was no tackiness here.
I was tired of my squelchy shoes and decided I had time to go home and change them.
At home I found a car I had not seen outside on the big drive as well as mom’s Cherokee and the hire car, walking in through the front door I could hear music. In the middle dining room were Steven, the boy he knew from school, John, and two older boys, one of them Will. They were playing guitars. I stayed there watching and listening to them, it was really good music, suddenly they stopped and fell about laughing. “What’s the joke Steven?” I asked.
“Nothing, no, it’s just that we started playing just messing around, and then we had a tune which we just put together, with no thought at all right guys?” Steven explained, “it just ended because I suppose collectively we had no where to go next” he laughed again.
“But write it down” I said, “It was good”.
I had noticed Will, “Hello Will are you part of the band here too?”
It turned out that Will was a friend of John’s brother, the other older boy, Will had joined them in the band, but also he and John’s brother David were a duo and would play at local events and so on. They were in the last year at school and only had a couple of months to go. I had realized Will was about the youngest recruit at the restaurant.
I said I was just home to change my shoes and went off upstairs. I put my wet clogs on the windowsill in the full sun, hoping they would start to dry a little more. I only had my sneakers now besides the flat shoes I had bought and worn to the garden party, I need to make myself buy shoes I said aloud as I went back downstairs and out into the late afternoon sun.
I walked quickly to the restaurant as it was nearly six. Oliver came out barely a minute after six; he walked straight up to me as I got up from the low wall I had been sitting on. In my sneakers I came up to his shoulder,
“Are you working tomorrow too?” I asked him.
I know you think it’s because Tristan was meeting me at the restaurant tomorrow morning that I asked and you’re right again, but I was also asking because I was actually going to tell Oliver about the meeting.
“No not during the day,” he said with a smile, “I have the evening shift tomorrow. I am meeting with a potential client, they want a web site built and I need to run over my design thoughts with them, it’s great really”, he smiled again his eyes on mine. “I am so glad you came over here today” he continued, “It’s great to see you, and you realize we haven’t exchanged mobile numbers yet?”
“That’s true, because we have just been running into each other all the time since you work here, I live here ….” I stopped, taking my phone from my pocket and flipping it open, “let’s do it”.
He told me his number and I texted mine to it, the little ding dong of the message into his phone assured us of the communication.
We were walking along the edge of the lake and talking about cars. His was out of the garage and I still missed my Wrangler, when with no warning at all it started to pour with rain, just straight down, really heavy these massive raindrops. Oliver took my hand and we ran to the side where a small marquee was erected with stacks of chairs and tables inside, all white and with metal lace-work backs. We were laughing as we got inside and both turned to look at the absolute downpour, the raindrops so big and so heavy they bounced back up from the path and onto the nearest stacks of chairs.
We had gotten a little wet, Oliver put his arm around my shoulders, I moved closer to him and said “Lucky they left this up on Sunday” holding a side of the roll up door to the marquee.
It was still sunny and the puddles at out feet were shimmering.
“No the crew didn’t leave them by mistake, its part of the wedding stuff that has started being delivered for Saturday”, he replied.
I looked up at him and straight into his brown eyes, suddenly serious we closed the gap between our heads; he putting his forehead down to mine nose to nose, then he kissed me, it was not for long, just enough to make us both shiver.
Pretending I was cold I moved slightly to zip my jacket, Oliver helped with the last few inches of the zipping, his hand was over mine and all the time he was looking into my eyes. Then he smiled, the rain had stopped as suddenly as it had started and he took my hand in his, we walked back out onto the glistening path.
“I hope it doesn’t rain for those people’s wedding on Saturday” he said, “It’s actually a cousin of Liz that’s getting married” he added. I went cold, “Not Tristan” I asked in a rush.
“No, another cousin there are heaps of them, but would it have mattered if it was?” he queried standing still and looking at me as if he knew the thought had been heart stopping.
“No, no”, I was way too rattled even to my own ears, “it’s just that, well he’s the only cousin I knew about, I just assumed”. Oliver started walking again, he put his hands in his chino pockets, the tail of his chambray shirt had come out from the back top of his pants that sat low on his slim hips, he seemed thoughtful, then suddenly decided to cheer up. He turned to me put his arm across my shoulders and as we walked along the rest of the lake-side he was telling me about how his parents were such darlings and had converted one of the stable rows for him to have as both a private apartment and an office. As he talked, I realized that his background was very similar to mine; his dad was a lawyer, his mom an editor with a publishing house. He had a sister, Amy, two years older than him who was in South America on a gap year which had become two gap years, as she had begun working with an environment group out there. It was ok with his parents because she was actually living with his dad’s sister who had married another journalist (she was one too) and they had been correspondents out there for a while.
I told him I had come across Will, John, and David all jamming in the middle dining room with my brother. I kept wondering how I could work in that I was meeting Tristan tomorrow but I felt I couldn’t, not now I had seemed alarmed it might have been him who was getting married.
“Ah, Will”, Oliver said, “He was a year behind me in school, he is headed no doubt for an illustrious musical career” and then he smiled.
“Will is seriously talented, and it sounds like your brother Steven is too”, he continued.
Agreeing with him I said, “Steven loves music and I think does have real talent too, it’s not just about practice with him it’s almost second nature, he can pick up a tune from just a couple of hearings and play it on his guitar or piano”.
Completing the path around the lake, we were on the edge of the restaurant garden again and the sun had started to go down,
“I know it’s no distance but let me drop you home”, he said and we turned up the gravel area to go around the back and into the large car park area which was surrounded by clipped hedge.
Oliver opened the door of his Landrover for me and I climbed in. Once outside my front door, he leaned across to me, kissed the tip of my nose, then my lips. “ Tomorrow is a really mad day for me “ he said , “but I have Thursday morning and I really want to see you again soon , so could I pick you up and we could drive over to Princess Copse village there is an art exhibition there that I am sure you would love, it’s part of the district visual art festival”.
I was touched by this thoughtfulness and accepted. I nudged his nose with mine as our faces were still close and kissed him lightly, sadly aware my intentions of telling him I was meeting with Tristan tomorrow had gone unfulfilled.
Inside there was laughter from the kitchen and I went in to find Steven, Will, David and John were all still there, they had made an evening meal from rolls and salads and the cooked chicken that had been in the fridge.
The huge jar of mayonnaise still out, David scooped an extra spoon onto the end of his roll.
“Hello again” I said, taking a roll from the big packet on the work surface and splitting it to pile some of the sliced chicken and lettuce into it.
“Hi, Chloe, guess what, we are all playing at the wedding up at the restaurant for the reception” Steven said excitedly.
“Wow how has that happened?” I asked.
“Will and David had already been asked but then their pianist has been double booked by the agency, so after hearing me play, Will has asked me to join them. John is going to be there too as bass so that we can have a wider repertoire, so we will be practicing like mad over the next two days”, he took a breath.
“That’s exciting Steven, what will you do about the last two days of school for this week?” I ventured not wanting to put a dampener on them but just thinking about logistics.
“Just by chance and so lucky, it’s teacher conference days, the whole school is closed to day students and the boarders have sports and an excursion with just two of the staff and some local parent helpers, isn’t that cool?” he whooped, “Yayha”.
I laughed, it was cool, it was a dream start for Steven to his new life here, but then hadn’t mine also been charmed so far I thought. I finished my roll and made some tea asking Steven if he had seen mom and did he know what she was up to, apparently he had seen her once today, and she was engrossed in her work of course.
I asked the boys if they wanted any tea not expecting them to, but Will had some and I made some for mom so that on my way to my room I could drop it off and say hi to her. This is what I did. Knowing I was meeting Tristan tomorrow morning, I considered I might dash out to the retail park in the afternoon and get some shoes.
“Mom I will take the rental car tomorrow afternoon to do some shopping, is that ok?” I asked as I set the cup of tea down on her desk at arms length. She looked at me from her computer and said it was fine, be careful of the road sides. I smiled at this but knew what she meant.
In my room I looked at my drawings that I had left on my desk side by side, from representational to abstracted, I looked at the posters from the museum shop again and my own photographs which I had printed out. They were a selection of the ones I took of Tristan at the waterfall; my heart sort of bumped a bit as I studied him.
Turning away I checked my email and found some from my Californian friends accusing me of forgetting them already. I replied light heartedly and mentioned Oliver and how I was drawing and hoping to get into an art college here, but had not even looked any up to apply to as the move was still so hectic.
I didn’t mention Tristan and in fact I felt protective of him, and his secret whatever it was.
I Googled the abbey by name but apart from copious hits regarding the ruins, this included what the museum now housed, sites which pointed to the corporate affairs there, sites which dealt with the dissolution, history of stained glass and so on there was really no mention of a legend, nor waterfall. I decided that I needed to put in a more esoteric search string and typed legends surrounding waterfalls united kingdom, the screen filled naturally what else did I expect, this place is so full of history. I put the string in again with the abbey name attached. Much less was returned and only a page really fit the bill and dealt only superficially with the fact that there was a legend but that it had been distorted so much with the passage of time that no one really knew what it was any more. The site also stated that it was worth visiting the ruins of the castle any way on a fine day the grounds of which contained the waterfall and the small river, which fed it.
What castle I thought checking that I had the right place; sure enough it was this abbey name and named the nearby large river too as well. This was puzzling where was this castle. I was so curious I went downstairs to check if Will was still around and ask if he or the other boys knew about a castle nearby, surely locals would be able to tell me. I was disappointed to find the kitchen empty; their car had gone as I looked out onto the drive.
I went back to my room deciding not to disturb Steven, he would not know.
I had no name for the castle and was frankly tired now, so I left the search thinking I would ask Tristan all the questions I had tomorrow. I shut down my computer. There were lots of little bugs flying around in my room attracted by the light which had come in from outside through my open window. They were funny pink bodied little light-weight things I had never seen before, deciding that there were enough in the room I went to the window to close it, the light from a downstairs room pooled directly under my window and my light also helped light the immediate garden, but the rest was pitch black.
I looked up, there was no moon it had become really overcast and I thought we were probably in for more rain. It still smelled of rain on the night air from the rain we had received already.
I had not watched any TV since I came to England, which was an oddity for me, as I love TV really. I thought I would go downstairs to the small middle drawing room where we had our only TV and just watch something for an hour despite it was quite late and I was tired, for some reason I felt too edgy to sleep. The small drawing room has French windows that open onto the same patio as the kitchen ones do but further along it, it was still sultry and I opened one side of this door, a waft of jasmine came in. I turned on the TV and flipped through the channels until I found a program that seemed to be about making over girls who wore too much makeup. It sufficed to relax me enough for me to get a bottle of Evian from the fridge and go up to bed.
Just before I got into bed knowing I would be unable to sleep without a little fresh air I turned off my light and went to open my window again. Taking my shoes from the windowsill where I had still left them, and putting them on the floor, I stood up to look out for a moment, with no moon I could see nothing really but I sensed there was someone out there. I had a torch by my bed, a habit from when some of the tremors we get back home had knocked out the power supply very occasionally, thank fully not often and went to get it. Since it was very powerful and could switch to a higher beam sort of like the ones you see in movies where FBI agents produce their torches from nowhere to enter forbidding buildings.
At the window I aimed the powerful beam around, it was surprisingly revealing like a searchlight, when I aimed at the edge of the wood where I felt I would see someone or thing I got the tiniest glimpse of movement because as good as my torch was its’ light failed by then and there was really only gloom.
What was out there would have gone now anyway with me aiming light around like some idiot, I sighed. I must be losing my grip I thought.
Spellbinding Book one of The Seven Spell Saga copyright 2010 Tessa Stokes
The Spell Breaker book two of The Seven Spell Saga
The next morning I was at the greenhouses ten minutes early, so was Tristan. I laughed at him as I said, he was early and he said so was I.
He kissed me and hugged me,
“I hope that this is not really horrible Chloe”, he said as he took my hand and we went into the big Dearing house and up to his room.
We looked out of the huge window to the right and down onto the car parking area. I was standing there thinking what will happen, Tristan went to his desk area and brought a paper with him, he gave it to me and put his arm around my shoulder. I leaned in to him as I read the paper; it was information about the marketing of the craft experience that Jack wanted to get going. The company Tarrant, Tarrant and Travis were engaged and the team assigned was headed by husband and wife team, Thomas Travis and Annabelle Tarrant. I looked at the words, husband, and wife a few times, maybe this was Oliver. I read a short description of their talents and what they could offer the Dearings as clients. The schedule of meetings and then deadlines was printed at the bottom.
Tristan said that the notes about the first meeting were with Liz, and this was a copy of information he thought might be of use to us.
Tristan suddenly called out they are here and I looked up from reading to see a silver four wheel drive pull up in the car park.
We stared down, I didn’t think they would see us, we were quite high up and unless they stood staring up around themselves we were probably safe.
A man maybe in his late forties got out of the drivers side, he was wearing a business suit, a woman got out of the passenger seat, she had blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail and a cream skirt suit on, and she too was in her forties. They looked like a professional couple on business, which they were. The man had a briefcase and was saying something to the woman when the back door of the car opened and out of it climbed a young man. Tall as he stood up, slim, blonde spiky hair, black business suit and a lap top. It looked as if we had found Oliver.
I gasped and Tristan said, “Mmmmm, I think that’s him. Yes I’m sure of it.”
I was watching Oliver walk behind the other two people towards the big main door of the house; it was like a dream. I wanted to run down and hug him and say Oliver remember me. I turned instead to Tristan as they had disappeared from view and put my head on his chest. He held me close for a moment and then he asked if I was ok.
We sat on Tristan’s bed and planned what to do next.
“Do you think Liz will show some surprise or try to get him to know her? In this meeting I mean?” I asked Tristan
“No, we talked about that and agreed she should simply act as if she has never met him, which she hasn’t because he’s not Oliver remember. She is going to get as much information as possible without looking suspicious. We thought when we talked about it, that he was going to be Thomas Travis, not front up exactly like Oliver, so I hope she can do that”.
I felt a bit sad and told Tristan that I could hardly wait to find out what Liz knew from this meeting. He got up and after pacing up and down for a minute he went to the door at the end of his room and made coffee. I wandered down there to look what it was; it was a sort of tiny kitchen in a cupboard. I looked around thinking his bathroom must be through the other door. His room had books and music very neatly arranged on two shelves, his desk was set up to catch the light from the big windows. I wandered back to the windows and Tristan came to stand next to me drinking coffee. I don’t know if it reminded him of being there with Oliver but it reminded me and when Tristan’s cell phone rang, it was almost a replay of the scene but without Oliver.
Tristan looked at me with a sort of kind questioning look as he walked to the desk and picked up his phone. It was business and he finished the call quickly.
“That was the florist for tomorrow’s wedding they need more white flowers, I have Baby’s breath in the garden next to the greenhouses. Seems like a field of them so I will go and cut it and get that to the florist. Come with me Chloe, this meeting may go on for hours; there was some talk of a break for morning tea. Let’s not just wait here counting the minutes”. He had put down his coffee cup on his desk and held out his hand to me, I took it.
“You are right Tristan it’s a bit agonizing especially when the guy looks like Oliver but we don’t know what his name is or anything. It will be better to go and do something”.
We went off to the greenhouses, once there Tristan got some kind of pruning shears and we walked around to the bed of white flowers he had talked of. The flowers were tiny and white but there were masses of them on the stalk and the effect was really pretty. He cut what seemed to me like a huge amount and put them in one of the long boxes I had seen him use before. He did this twice and then we walked down to his truck and he put them on the back seat. Did everything have to remind me of Oliver, the springs and the torn seat material of the back seat set off the memory of taking him out of that building where Max had him tied and drugged.
I needed to start calling Max, Rene, I thought as Tristan opened the door for me and held my hand as I got in the truck. He went around to the driver’s side and we were soon on our way to the florist. This turned out to be in the next village but one, and right next door to a bridal shop which I thought was genius logistics.
When Tristan had delivered the flowers he swung the truck out into the flow of traffic and circled the village via another parallel road. We had turned around to go back the way we had come via this maneuver.
On the way back Tristan asked me how it had felt to see Oliver and I said it was weird, which it was, but it was also heart stopping and I didn’t say that.
We reached the Dearing house really quickly and I thought we would have a heap of time to wait to find out anything from Liz, but no sooner were we up in Tristan’s room than she was knocking on the door.
Tristan opened the door at the same time as saying come in, and she came in and saw me standing by the window.
“Hello Chloe, I didn’t realize you were here”, she looked sympathetically at me, and my heart lurched because I thought she is going to say something terrible about Oliver.
“Hello Liz, how are you doing did you come to tell us about the meeting?” I just went straight to the point.
Tristan was looking at her and lifted his hands in a well tell us gesture.
I smiled at this and Liz said,
“He had no idea who I was, he is still called Oliver, Annabelle, and Thomas are his parents. They introduced him as ‘our son, Oliver Tarrant', and he will be doing some of the marketing campaign as well as designing the web pages for the new venture ready for our technology people to add to the existing one. When we had coffee he said his mum uses her maiden name as she and her sister Amanda founded the marketing consultancy years ago.
They moved up from
Dorset to this area before he was born, and get this, his grandfather is called Richard. That’s Tarrant, Annabelle and Amanda’s father”.
“You found out all this at the coffee break?” Tristan asked with raised eyebrows.
“Look I just wanted to establish a connection. I thought you’d be pleased. Oh and they just moved to their new offices in Haddeningham plus the reason you couldn’t find a business in Oxfordshire for them is, that’s the next county”.
I cursed inwardly because I would normally have widened my search, but at that time, the grief over Oliver had just shut me down.
Tristan came to me and put his arm around my shoulders, turning to Liz he asked,
“What’s the story on the next meeting it looked like next Friday on the schedule from out of that folder Liz?”
“Well yes, sorry, I mean what can we do, the guy has a totally different life, he looks like our Oliver, and I think he would be the same age. I don’t know what you plan to do but you can’t just be going up to him and saying hey Oliver we went back in time and changed your life but you used to live nearby and had your own IT business and a stable conversion”.
Liz went and sat on the desk chair and Tristan sighed.
“I know it, we know that, I don’t know what the plan is, or if there is even one”. And he tightened his arm around my shoulders, like a half hug.
“Sorry Liz, I know it’s hard, I just think it will be the spookiest thing if any of the others run into him. I don’t know if we have a plan, not now I have seen him. Maybe we just have to let him go.” I said this but the pain I felt at this prospect was just devastating.
An idea came to me, maybe I could just secretly watch him, from a distance, which sounds suspiciously like stalking but that’s not what I meant. Naturally, I did not voice this idea.
Liz said she had to be going but that any information she gathered she would pass on to us, and by the way the clothes and stuff I had left after my trip into the past had been disposed of, she hoped I did not mind.
I assured her I didn’t and she smiled a little at me, then she came over and actually hugged both Tristan and I together so that we were in a little circle.
When she had gone Tristan was really quiet, he had let go of me and walked over to his desk. He just leaned against it for a few moments. I stood watching him, I had no idea what to say or do now.
His lovely dark hair fell over into his eyes and he looked like a beautiful work of art leaning there.
He looked up,
“You still love Oliver don’t you?” he asked me.
“I loved the Oliver we had before, I don’t know this Oliver, and more to the point he does not know me. The sight of him is painful yes but he’s lost to us as a friend or anything else, well that’s how it seems”. My voice wavered a little then and Tristan stood up and came to me.
“I think in retrospect it was Oliver that you loved most of all, I can see the pain in your eyes when you talk about him; I know when you are thinking about him because the same pain is there then.
I am thinking of going to Aristide and asking him if there is anything that can be done about the situation”.
I stopped him from saying any more, clutching his hand,
“No please Tristan it might draw attention to you, and I doubt anything can be done. Don’t get involved with them again; you just do not know what might happen. I love you, and I don’t want anything to happen to you”.
He sort of smiled, as if he wanted to but couldn’t let himself and then he nodded.
“Let’s go and get lunch Chloe, it’s quite late, let’s go into the village and sit in the sunshine”.
I could tell Tristan wanted to cheer me up. I agreed and we started down the stairs to the truck.
On the drive into the village Tristan was too quiet, it felt as if there was something between us unsaid, something had broken. I wanted to fix it,
“Tristan you know I desperately do not want anything to happen to you for your own sake if not mine, don’t go to the Magus, promise me”.
Tristan glanced at me and shook his head, this time really smiling,
“I will not go to the Magus, I promise”, he said and as we parked in the library car park and he came around to my side of the truck to get me out I put my arms around him kissing him. I kissed him a lot; he kissed me back and we stayed hugging each other for what seemed like a long time.
We finally closed the truck up and walked around the corner and down the street to the café where the ghost of Oliver would always be sitting at a table waiting for me.
It took me a couple of minutes to realize this was not in my imagination, Oliver was at one of the tables, he and his parents were sitting there with coffee cups in front of them and the laptop was open on the middle of the table.
At the same time both Tristan and I stopped walking. We looked at each other and then we went to a table close to the actual café entrance, at a distance from the table where Oliver was sitting. We were sitting opposite each other; I was facing outwards so that I could see Oliver. Tristan was watching me, I kept my eyes on his face, his gorgeous navy blue eyes and I leaned forward and put my hands across the table to have him hold them. He leaned over and took my hands. I wanted to keep him safe, to make sure he knew I did love him.
“This has to be some kind of bizarre twist that we find Oliver here”, he said just as someone came to take our order.
When we were alone again I answered that it was extraordinary but at the same time it was lovely weather and this village was on the route to their office maybe they just stopped for coffee in the sun.
Tristan had a sad look in his eyes and I looked down at my hands and then back up at him. What I really saw was Oliver over his shoulder and this Oliver was closing the lid of the laptop and at the same time staring straight at me.
We held each other’s eyes until he stood up, and picked up the laptop from the table. He only stopped looking at me when he put the machine in the sleeve he was holding and zipped it up.
I flicked my eyes to Tristan’s face, he was looking down at the table, when he looked up I smiled at him.
He smiled back a little sadly. The order came and I found I had to push my food around the plate, as I couldn’t eat. When we left the café, I noticed that was exactly what Tristan had done too.
At the truck I hugged Tristan again, but something had happened to him, he was wary and it almost felt as if he was distancing himself from me.
The drive back home was short and mercifully so, as Tristan had fallen silent. In my driveway he kissed my cheek even though I tried to get closer to him he leaned away and said he did still have some work to do and would call.
In my room I looked at the photographs of Oliver I had printed out and I took them down and placed them with my drawings and other print outs. I went to lay on my bed because I hadn’t had any proper sleep for days.
I sighed as I suddenly realized how bad my own behaviour could be seen; being in love with both Oliver and Tristan and then continuing on that path even when one of them was living a different life and the other loved me. I was not a nice person; it was horrible of me and weird really in a way not clear to me. I had chosen neither Oliver nor Tristan before this miserable spell stuff had happened, and now there was no choice. The whole thing had been sorted out by life for me; I would have to accept that. I closed my eyes and I could see the new Oliver as he stared at me this afternoon at the café.
Mom insisted that Steven and I have dinner with her around the big table in the kitchen that evening; she said we hardly ever saw each other let alone ate together. That was true and we had a good time really catching up with where she was with her work and what Steven was doing with his music and the band. It was only when she asked me where that lovely Oliver was, the one I was friends with before I went to
, that I stopped enjoying the time we were having together. I said he seemed to have got work somewhere and that he even had moved, the whole family have, I added for effect. Cornwall
We had lemon meringue for pudding which I had the tiniest piece of so mom would not fuss but I finished up quickly and said I would load the dish washer. Steven wanted to practice a little in the library that he had commandeered as a rehearsal place and went off. Mom waited until he had gone and then asked if I was upset about Oliver as we had seemed very close. I told her I was a little upset but really what was I thinking of when I had Tristan who was lovely and really cared for me. Mom said there’s no law against liking two boys, it’s only if you married the two of them and we laughed a little together.
I finished loading the dishwasher, and I helped mom take the laundry out of the washing machine and we put it in the drier. She told me that the dig under the house was finished, Jack had said don’t bother going on to find the exit to the tunnel that it might compromise the buildings foundations. The team was packing up tomorrow and the fireplace would have a glass back. It could never be used as a fireplace and the wall painting would be accessed at any time with the glass door. The junction of the lawn and the building had a special channel now to run the rain that would have poured in down to the flower beds.
I was surprised that all this had happened and yet it seemed like years since Oliver and I had found the rain leaking in.
That memory was like broken glass in my heart, there were tears forming in my eyes, and I went away to the kitchen where mom could not see my face. I started to boil the kettle and asked mom if she would like coffee or some tea maybe; anything to stop the tears from falling. I made us both tea and she kissed my cheek saying off to the office for a spot of work.
She didn’t know enough about the situation to know how serious it all was, and that was ok she couldn’t be allowed to know.
I took my cup up to my room and found myself staring out at the night from my window again. It was remarkably warm, humid even, I hoped it would not rain the next day because I wanted to go some where, just go off, and maybe wander around the shops or something uncomplicated, on my own. I stood there for a long time as the moon went behind the clouds and it became even darker. The pools of yellow and white light from the garden lights could not compete with the darkness cast by the cloudy moonless sky.
When I went to bed I could not sleep again, and it was dawn before I fell into an uneasy sleep, which only lasted a couple of hours.
So it was early when I woke up.
After showering, I took my old phone which I had charged, knowing I preferred it over the new one, gathered up my keys and cards and went downstairs intending to go out.
The team was packing up the technical gear from the big drawing room and I held the door for one of them who was carrying a big spotlight on a stand.
Driving along I passed the three closest villages and went on into the town where some of the nicer shops were to browse in. There was a big shopping mall in another town in the opposite direction but I just wanted to walk down the same streets Oliver and had walked down; I wanted to try to let go of him. It was madness to search for something that no longer existed and in doing so, drive away Tristan who loved me.
There was a food festival on and lots of stalls, food and other items plus musicians all over the market square.
It was good to be amongst this, lots of people and noise.
I turned down the high street after a while.
I had been wandering around the shops for about an hour and went into the shop where I had found such nice t-shirts before. I looked along the racks of dresses and saw one that I really liked. Maybe I could try it on; I picked it up and went to the fitting room. The dress looked good, I had grown for sure just a bit but it was a help, maybe I was really just destined not to be very tall. The colour was a purple violet and not something I wore much of and I was surprised how much it suited me. Deciding to buy it I joined the line up to pay. I took out my phone and checked for messages, nothing. I had the phone in one hand and the dress in the other, a familiar voice from behind me said,
“The girl from the café, I recognize that phone, I feel sure I just posted that or one very like it back to it’s rightful owner”.
I was almost overwhelmed by this; I turned around. Oliver was standing there; he was holding a pair of jeans. This was not even déjà vu this was unbelievable and spooky in the extreme. He must have thought I disliked his approach because he continued,
“Sorry, really it’s not a line; I did post a phone just like yours to someone only a few days ago. I did see you in a café only yesterday didn’t I?”
Incredibly, he was looking at me in just the same way Oliver had looked at me when we first met, back there in my dad’s restaurant during the new wait staff break. He wanted to continue to talk to me. Except that I had said nothing. Finally I found I could speak.
“Hello, yes, I did see you yesterday at the café and this is the phone you posted back”.
His smile was just as heart melting as ever and he introduced himself,
“Oliver Tarrant”, he said, “you must be a Dearing since you got the phone and since that’s where I must have got it from in the first place”.
We moved up two places in the queue to pay and I answered him,
“No, I do know the Dearings but I am not one of them, my name is Chloe, Chloe McGarry. Where did you find my phone?”
It was our turn to pay and we did this then Oliver said,
“Let me tell you about the phone, will you come and have coffee with me?”
I said yes. The coffee shop was not far away and we went into it, as I was standing next to Oliver he turned to me and asked, “Was it tea you preferred?” I nodded because really how much more weird was this going to get, how did he know this?
We went to sit at a table out on the pavement under the awning and I put the bag with the dress in it down by the side of the tea I had. Oliver sitting opposite me was smiling in the same old lovely way,
“The phone just turned up in my jacket pocket, the one I had worn to the first meeting with Jack Dearing, and I thought somehow I had picked his up from the table we had been sitting at. So if you are not a Dearing how come your phone was in Jack’s office?”
I was watching him as he spoke; his tiny scar was back under his left eye high on his cheek bone. His slightly tanned skin and blonde hair were exactly the same; his lovely kind brown eyes sparkled at me. He was flirting with me I realized and I answered him with the only thing I could think of.
“I had visited Liz and left it there by accident I guess just the same way you picked it up”, I smiled at him, I couldn’t help it.
“Well sorry to have deprived you of your phone for a few days Chloe”.
“No that’s ok it was an accident”, I said not really knowing how to continue the conversation.
“A happy accident since it gave me a good excuse to talk to you back there in the shop”, he smiled again and then drank some of his coffee.
“It was interesting how you knew I drank tea Oliver”, I said to him. Something was odd about that and I needed to know how he knew.
“I just felt that, yeah that just came to me, good guess huh?” and he was smiling again.
I wanted to tread carefully and at the same time I felt like hugging him and telling him how much I had missed him.
He was watching me too and he suddenly said,
“We haven’t met anywhere before have we?”
At first I thought if I answered that it would have to be with a lie and then I realized that was not really so, this was a different Oliver I could say no and so I did.
He started to tell me he was doing a little freelance work outside of his work in his parents business, that he was really interested in starting an offshoot business in the IT field. He was still studying marketing part time and he was doing this for his parents but it wasn’t his first love, and really he didn’t like it all that much.
I was like a rabbit in the headlights, just glued to his voice and his gorgeous familiar face.
I sat there and drank it in, here was Oliver talking to me and telling me about himself. He was attracted to me just like before, it’s meant to be I told myself as I watched him. I had forgotten the idea of letting him go.
He asked me what I did with my time and I found that incredibly funny, the word time especially. I told him about my designs and he said he would look at the website.
We had long since finished our drinks and he took out his mobile and looked at the time.
“I don’t really want to go but I have to, do you think you could meet me tomorrow. I will be here seeing a client and we could have lunch or just coffee, if you’d like”.
I certainly would like I thought and I said that would be really cool. We arranged to meet here at this coffee shop around one thirty. As I picked up the shopping bag and put my phone in the back pocket of my jeans he said no wait lets exchange numbers just in case. So we did that and then he leaned forward and giving me a look which was like a kiss he picked up his own shopping, turned to me again and this time brushed a kiss across my cheek like an old friend does. It was both ordinary as if from an old friend and moving at the same time. Our eyes met afterwards and I saw the kiss had affected him too.
We went in opposite directions. The shoe shop was close by and I went in there to buy some shoes that had a bit more of a heel on them than the shoes I had at home. I had grown but not enough I thought. I found some blue shoes that were perfect which was a first for me because as you know I can never find shoes usually.
When I got home music was coming from the library, Steven and John and David were in there. I looked in on them and then took my shopping up to my room.
It was hard to think straight and I felt so incredibly happy I was surprised by it. I knew it was because I had met Oliver again.
I was so happy I put together another design for stained glass and emailed it to Joshua Glazer. It was late when I had finished and I decided to get to bed in the hope that I would sleep that night.
As I opened my window a little wider to let more of the warm night air in I thought there was an extra shadow at the edge of the garden, not even as far away as the beginning of the wood, though I could see that far now with not much light at all. If it was Tristan he must be back to his night wandering. He had not contacted me at all today and although I wanted to at least send him a goodnight message, I still had that sense of distancing he had given me the day before. It was strange to say the least considering all we had been through together. I wondered as I fell asleep what was really going on. The last thought I had was of Oliver and his enchanting smile.
From The Spell Breaker, book two in The Seven Spell Saga copyright Tessa Stokes 2010 http://www.tessastokes.info
The Seven Spell book three of The Seven Spell Saga
I was late getting to bed because I was absorbed in my work for Joshua Glazer and probably had only been asleep for a couple of hours when I heard a horse whinny and there was a bit of racket under my window. The day had been lovely, sunny, and still warm; I had my window open for some cooler night air. Surfacing from a dream I didn’t remember, I went to the window. Tristan was making a lot more noise than usual with Cedric.
I hung out of my window ready to say shush, and on the lawn, now grazing quietly, a black horse, you know which horse, I don’t have to tell you, but I will, Matin. He still had reins hanging from his neck; they seemed to simply dangle from a v-shaped strapping so he had no bit in his mouth. The v-shaped strapping went around his neck and the top of his front legs and met in a diamond shape on his chest, it looked more like decoration than reins. Maybe that’s how Gui led the horses on one of these strapping things whilst he rode a different horse. I thought this as I got my jeans and a shirt, taking my cell phone I went down to Matin.
As I went through the middle drawing room to the French doors there, I checked the time on my cell, , so much for the time travel passage only being open at , that theory was dead in the water.
I approached Matin, talking to him as I had done back in time near that Smithy when Tristan had been gone sword fighting for money. I think he recognized me, he looked up and at me sideways, I turned away from him to show him I meant no harm then I went towards him again, he took a couple of steps towards me and snorted. I turned away again, if he reared up that was it I was going indoors. When I looked around again and went to him, he followed me, sort of turned to meet me, and walked at my shoulder. I was really impressed by this and took hold of the strapping, which turned out not to be leather but some kind of woven cloth; it had patterns on it like a guitar strap. I said him, Matin you are such a lovely horse I bet you would like a bit more than grass to eat tonight, and I called Tristan; after all I had no stable at the back of the house not in this time.
Tristan answered his phone after only about three rings, did he ever sleep, but I still apologized for the hour of my call and told him Matin was on the lawn.
“No”, he said and then, “we were wrong about the thing then, can you manage him, I will be over as soon as I can. Sorry Chloe”. He sounded a little down.
“Don’t be sorry Tristan it’s not something you have done, its ok; he’s happy eating grass at the moment”. I rang off and as I put my phone in my pocket dad appeared at the French doors.
“Chloe what’s going on, is that a horse?” dad was a bit sleepy.
“Dad, hi, yes its Matin he’s got out of the Dearing stables somehow, I know him; I just rang Tristan”.
“Oh, so are you ok, can I help, how long will Tristan be?” dad yawned, he looked tired.
“Dad its ok really, Tristan will be here soon, he will come through the wood possibly on another horse, seriously you can go back to bed; everything is fine. Matin fortunately woke me up playing on the lawn, he’s a valuable horse”.
“I will go back to bed if you are sure everything is ok, I have to be up again in about three hours; we have a lot of work on in the next few days over and above opening for usual service, plus Steven and Will’s birthday party soon. Sure you are ok?” dad was rubbing his eyes and had stepped back into the house, his feet were bare; I smiled at him.
“Dad, go back to bed everything is really ok and under control, see how Matin is just standing here with me, he’s a good horse”.
Dad went off to bed and I decided to start walking to the edge of the wood with Matin, he followed peacefully, giving the occasional funny soft grunt type noise.
As I had thought, Tristan came out of the woods but not on Cedric, just striding along, in his jeans and riding boots and a tartan shirt I had not seen before.
I stopped and waited for him to get to me and the horse, I didn’t want Matin bolting. Instead, the horse whinnied and walked towards Tristan sort of nudging me along with his shoulder. I laughed at this, and Tristan got hold of the strapping, patting the horse and saying things to him in his Norman French.
“So what about this then Tristan, he’s a smart cookie to get here from the pool, maybe he expected to find the hunting lodge, he must have scrambled up the bank”.
Tristan had been checking the horse out,
“Yes, he has a few but really minor scratches; he could have got them anywhere, the holly tree maybe. A horse would have no trouble getting here from the waterfall, I’m just surprised he knew the way, but then maybe he fluked it”.
“I wonder what time he came through, I found him at , so there’s another opening we didn’t factor in, or”. I was calculating how many hours between seven and , “if he wandered about for a half hour before I found him which is feasible it could be there was an opening at two, which is seven hours after the slot”.
“Damn it, I so hoped we only had to deal with seven o’clock at night, perhaps that means there is an opening every seven hours”. Tristan was visibly disappointed. I went to him and put my arm around his waist as he stood by Matin, “Tristan if it’s every seven hours that’s at least better than being some random permutation we can’t even guess at”.
He was looking at Matin, and then turned to me and put his free arm around me, “You are right about that, if it is every seven hours, I hope it is, I don’t feel I can cope with some random occurring thing”.
I hugged him a little, “Tristan whatever there is to cope with you have Oliver and I to help, you do know that”.
He nodded but I could tell he was tired and dispirited.
“Tristan would you like me to walk back with you and Matin, to the stables?” I asked him; I felt he needed company.
“It’s so late Chloe, I feel bad about it”.
“I will, I would like to, come on”, I said, and since I had my arm around him my setting off walking got him walking too.
We reached the edge of the woods and Tristan changed his mind,
“Chloe its dark in here, Cedric knows his way but maybe Matin doesn’t. I think you need to go home. I will ring you tomorrow, ok?”
It wasn’t ok, I wanted to help, but telling him if that was what he wanted, ok then, I turned to go, I reached up and kissed his cheek and he moved his face to kiss me back.
I walked back to the house, I had opened the French windows, and stepped inside, I turned to lock them, and I saw Tristan was still there, at the edge of the wood watching me.
I went up to my room, and looked out of my window; he and Matin had gone.
The whole episode had unsettled me, I went into my bathroom and washed my hands, my feet were cold, and I put them one at a time under my shower to warm up.
It was nearly light when I fell asleep.
The Seven Spell book three of The Seven Spell Saga copyright Tessa Stokes 2011
The Sealed Door book four of The Seven Spell Saga
“Mr Dearing how very opportune you are here, we have drilled a camera hole in the sealed door area, and I have to say what we can see from just this first glimpse is totally fascinating”.
Don was smiling and leaning forward to shake Tristan’s hand and at the same time, you could tell he wanted Tristan to follow him to the tunnel. He angled his body towards the kitchen door saying, “If you have the time I can show you the view we have with the camera, there appears to be another sealed door at the end of a chamber, tunnel like chamber” he amended, continuing. “There is a water feature of some kind; well a small pool and a place that looks like it could be a drinking fountain, in modern terms”. He was jubilant and I smiled at his enthusiasm watching him almost bouncing on the spot, with each piece of information he gave Tristan.
“That sounds intriguing” Tristan replied and indicated his intention to follow Don by stepping towards the kitchen door.
“I do have time and would love to look” he and Don were already through the kitchen door and striding down the corridor. I followed to the edge of the big drawing room and then waited to be invited further.
Tristan and Don were bent over the screen of a laptop computer, Lily was at the keyboard of another laptop and she turned to me saying I could look too, “Chloe is interested too Don, that’s ok she looks, come over Chloe”.
I went over to Lily and looked at the screen; it was a dimly lit picture of the interior of the chamber, as Don had called it. I thought more like a tunnel and I could see the water feature he had mentioned only as a pool of some kind to the left of the screen. At the end of this tunnel was another closed up door, it seemed like it was made of soil or was stone columns covered in soil; it was hard to see for me anyway.
Right then more light came from somewhere and the picture on the screen was much more distinct. I could see the tunnel or chamber whichever they decided to call it, had another opening leading off it to the right; it was just the entrance that was visible. The drinking fountain feature that Don had talked about was more visible now on the left, but only because water seemed to be trickling like a slow mini waterfall over the side of a carved stone area, into the small pool below.
It was all, as Don had put it, totally fascinating; what had me in awe was that it was below where I lived, well I think it was, what room would be over it, I wondered.
“What do you think of it Mr Dearing, worth taking a few stones out of the tunnel wall and going into this chamber or tunnel?” Don addressed Tristan who was still glued to the picture on the laptop.
It had been Stefan who had lit up the chamber a little more, as he now came from the fireplace saying, “Hello, how do you like that?” he was beaming his excitement too.
He was carrying a computer, about half the size of my netbook in his hand, and clearly had been able to see what we could, as he raised it slightly and turned the screen at us.
I smiled at him, “It’s amazing” I said; even if he had not been speaking to me, I couldn’t help but voice this.
“Isn’t it?” Lily added nodding and smiling at everyone.
I stood back from her as Tristan said, “Go right ahead and make room to get through the sealed door to the chamber, I can hardly wait to walk in there myself, I can’t believe I didn’t know about it in all these”. Tristan sort of cleared his throat and then continued, “Where do you suppose it is, under the kitchen or what? Well it must be under the garden don’t you think?” and he turned to Don who was so excited he couldn’t stop smiling.
“We’ll get ‘geo phys’ in the garden because it looks like it may go that way, although you could be right, it may be under the kitchen, it’s hard to orientate right now”.
Tristan was smiling too, “Please call me Tristan; sorry I don’t know anyone’s first name”.
Don supplied his own name and then introduced Lily and Stefan, Tristan nodded at each of them and they smiled back. He added that James Parker would be with them tomorrow and Leslie from the last dig. Tristan was smiling as he told Don he knew James and Leslie of course. Then he looked from one to the other of them, “I must apologise and leave you to it now, I have to get back to work, but as soon as you have breached the sealed door and can walk in the chamber let me know I would love to go in”.
Don was nodding “Naturally we will keep you totally up to date, Tristan”.
Tristan looked my way and I gave them a little wave and went ahead of him up the long hallway to the kitchen.
Once there Tristan put his arms around my waist holding me close, he kissed me on the side of my neck and then the side of my mouth, I was smiling and moved to kiss him too. He kissed my lips gently and then leaned a little away from me to look into my eyes.
“I can’t believe what they found, I very nearly gave my age away in there and said I had no idea it was there, for the last eight hundred years”. He was smiling and his eyes were very blue, the kiss we had exchanged just before Don’s arrival in the kitchen had been melting, and I was feeling very in love with Tristan. I didn’t reply straight away, but kissed him again and then said almost against his lips, “I noticed that; I think this is an amazing find, where do you suppose the water comes from?”
He hugged me and then we drew apart, “Well it must just be some spring that comes out of the rock down there, there’s no sign of damp in the house is there? I know it’s very well heated, you know I made sure the central heating was a really good installation, with plenty of radiators.”
I laughed at his seriousness, “It’s great Tristan, not that we are using it yet but I guess in a few weeks time. Oh no wait a minute, mom did have it on for two days that really rainy week after the big drawing room had flooded, it’s excellent. I nearly boiled before I discovered I could turn down my radiators, with that silver dial thing”.
He had walked to the French door and was now standing looking out at the garden with his hands in his pockets he looked thoughtful.
“Why don’t I know about that tunnel, I must have passed the sealed door behind one of the tapestries back in the eleven hundreds, just as I did the secret box in the tunnel? Weird stuff, don’t you think?” he had turned to me as I reached him.
“I seem to have been going around with my eyes closed back then, and er, I think I’ve said that before” he laughed. I looked at him and smiled a little, “You weren’t looking for secrets then; you know just living your life as a young person, unaware of the intrigue that was going on or whatever”.
He took my hands and put them against his chest “Chloe, you always comfort me, you never see any fault in me, but I was spoilt back then, maybe arrogant too, that’s why I crossed the river where I did. I just assumed I would be safe, that the ice would be just the way it always was; I was untouchable.”
He started to laugh again, “The good freezing I got cured me of that notion”. I put my hands up around his face and kissed him quickly, “Do you have to go back to work like you told Don?”
He smiled, “I do in fact, but I can be convinced to have coffee and cuddle up to you for a while longer”.
“Maybe I could just come up to the greenhouses with you; it would be nice to watch you work for a while”.
“Would it?” he looked surprised.
“Oh yes” I replied, I just didn’t want to be apart from him right then.
“What about Don and company?” he wanted me with him, I could tell from his expression.
“I’ll just go and tell them I have to go out for while and ask when they plan to leave, if they are anything like last time, it will be about seven tonight”.
I left him in the kitchen and scooted down to see Don, or Lily, whoever was available. Lily was alone in the drawing room; the men must be down in the tunnel. As I got close, I could see them on her computer screen, they were working on the sealed door in the tunnel. Already having made a column shaped opening and a carefully placed stack of stones was evident on the floor of the tunnel.
“Lily, I need to go out for a while, when are you planning on leaving?”
She turned to me, “About six I think, is that ok?”
I was nodding, “Sure, I will only be a couple of hours at the most and my brother Steven may come home soon, please help yourselves to tea, coffee, and there are cakes, biscuits and stuff in the fridge if you want anything”.
I smiled and left her going quickly back to Tristan, I took his hand, and we went out to the old truck he was using that day.
It was easy to kiss his cheek through the open window, as he was about to close the truck door, when I had gotten into the passenger side. He sighed and smiled as he closed the door. When he was in the driver side, he leaned over and kissed me “I seem to be unable to stop kissing you today, but then you are kissing me back,” he said smiling again as he let go of me and started the engine. I just grinned and looked out of the window.
Tristan parked in the end of the Dearing house car park telling me,
“The tiny parking space by the greenhouse is already full, and Jo has the trailer in there today in order to load the conifer order. So we will walk from here”. He was still smiling.
I got out of the truck, but Tristan came around to me and put his arm around my shoulders as we walked over to the greenhouses. It was just far enough for us to discuss the new tunnel-chamber some more
“Tristan I can’t help feeling that tunnel-chamber will hold some mystery since you know nothing of it”. I said, and he inclined his head to me, and slowing down hugged me a little closer, “Maybe it will, but at least on first glance there is no giant portrait of my father’s secret love interest”. He kissed my temple and I smiled, “That’s true”.
When we reached the greenhouses, I could see two people in the first one, they had the side sliding doors open and were loading what looked like tiny empty pots arranged in rows in large flat boxes. They brought these into the greenhouse and placed them along the workbenches in there. Tristan called out to them, “Jo, Andy how’s it going, did you get all the conifers loaded?”
A tall red headed girl, her long ponytail swinging as she turned sharply to answer Tristan called back, “We did, since you seemed to have gone for the afternoon. Andy thought we would do you the favour of bringing over the seedlings as well”.
Tristan laughed, “Thank you both, I really appreciate the help, I have to go out to the White Wood greenhouses later, and cut some flowers for the weekend wedding order”.
The man with the girl, who I assumed was Andy, waited for Tristan and I to get closer then said, “Pleasure Tristan, we’ll finish this, there are quite a few more trays, and then we will get off home if that’s ok?” He was smiling and had dimples in each cheek, one of which made a crease right down the cheek. He smiled at me too and nodded, Tristan told them who I was, and Jo called hello from outside the greenhouse. Andy smiled more as Tristan answered his original question, “Thanks for this; it will be fine for you to get going I will be here until late now, see you tomorrow”.
We left that greenhouse and went into the second one, this was much longer, and Tristan stopped here and there to pinch out a leaf or turn a pot around. He was talking about the flowers for the wedding saying he couldn’t get the exact shade of pink that the florist wanted, in the rose they requested, but had been over there yesterday to show him a different breed, that was actually more vibrant. When he stopped for breath, I asked him about the White Wood greenhouses.
“Tristan, I didn’t realize you had more greenhouses, I thought the White Wood area had been made into the car park for the arts holiday accommodation”.
He turned around gracefully to face me and opened his arms to hold me. “Yes the space there by the house side of the woods is the car park, but through the woods are four more greenhouses. We used to own a house and the land it was on as well and the greenhouses were fenced off for us to keep as they are part of the whole business, but the house and the land beyond that was sold”.
“Oh, what about the woods are they still part of the Dearing estate?” I remembered him saying something had been sold that he had not wanted to lose and I wondered if this was it.
“They are, because it’s part of a reforestation agreement we have with the county forestry commission, that what we use we have to replace, which is cool, I think”. He smiled at me as I watched him talk; I wanted to kiss him.
“It is cool Tristan, and could I just ask is that house and the land the place you once referred to as having been sold by Jack. Don’t answer if you don’t want to”. I added this as an emotion went across his face that was hard to interpret.
“Yes it was Chloe, it was where I was living, and it was supposed to be agreed that I could live there, since I run the horticultural part of the business, but it got sold and I’m over it. I kind of like my room in the big house now but anyway since I have actually bought the stables, I can live there if needs be. I wasn’t impressed at the time, I had a sneaking suspicion Jack had done it not just for the money, but also to have me less independent. I was probably wrong; in retrospect, it more than likely was just the money”.
I didn’t answer, but I was thinking Jack has had a lot of different motives for things, and maybe all of them factored in what he did. I just looked into Tristan’s eyes and his expression softened, he put his forehead against mine,
“I need to get working, the pink roses are in the White Wood greenhouses, are you coming over there with me?” he kissed me softly at the end of his question.
As if I wasn’t, I was interested to see the place and also I wanted to be with Tristan.
I kissed him back, it gave me an intense feeling; it was like dissolving, and drifting into the atmosphere, whatever was going on with us, it was addictive.
“I am certainly” I managed to say.
He let me go, “Chloe I’m just about to die from”.
I finished the sentence “Wanting to kiss you all the time”.
“What?” he put me at arm’s length “is that how you feel? I was about to say from thirst, so let’s have coffee or tea or something before we go”. He was smiling but maybe it was true. I felt really silly about what I had said, and was about to try and dig myself out of the hole I thought I had put myself in, when he smiled shaking his head.
He held my face, “I’m joking, it’s what you said, I just about can’t think of anything but you. I love you so much and the last couple of months when you seemed more distant, plus there was Emma, Gui, and Corbett to deal with, I was so very sad. Last week I actually felt you love me more again, and I don’t care what else happens, nor if you love Oliver as well, I just want you. Want you to love me too”. He had taken a breath mid sentence and it had added to the sadness of what he was saying. I just nodded before he kissed me again; I put my arms around him as he hugged me to him. “Tristan I love you, I do”. I told him.
He took my hand and we went out of the greenhouse and down to the truck, he drove us around to the other greenhouses. It was a short drive, but it was along a dirt single-track road that skirted the woods, and passed a fenced-in house on the right side, before diverting once more through the trees, and into a clearing where four greenhouses stood almost side-by-side. There was a big gravel parking space in the front of them and another truck stood there. It was white, single cab with a tray top, and a little newer than this red one we were using.
“Is someone here already?” I asked Tristan as he parked next to the truck.
“Possibly not, it’s sometimes just parked here as someone will come along in their own car, and then they use the truck for the day, and after it gets left here. No problems it’s safe enough. We all just drive anything that’s available; we have multiple keys”, he laughed as if he had suddenly found that concept funny, and I smiled at him.
There was no one around and Tristan took unmade-up boxes and made them into the long flat ones I had seen him use, I watched him do a couple and then asked if I could help. I found it harder than I expected at first, but soon got the knack, and made the boxes whilst Tristan cut flowers and then put them in the boxes. We soon had twenty boxes of various roses and greenery.
Tristan laughed, “That’s it, and I want to get these to the florist right away, let’s go”. He loaded them into the truck and we left. I noticed nothing had been locked up, I supposed it was the same as with the other greenhouses, but the plants must be valuable.
“Tristan how come you never lock any of the greenhouses”? I asked
“Well you know since they are all glass, if anyone wanted to get in they could, and no-one comes out here anyway”, he shrugged, it didn’t seem to matter.
I looked at the house that used to belong to the Dearings as we passed, it was a big house, really big, and had a formal garden laid out in the front of it, as well as a wide drive up the side. That was all I could take in as we passed.
Tristan was delivering to the florist by the bridal shop, and he double-parked outside it, he glanced at me, “I don’t care if I am double-parked, I just have to deliver these flowers, it will take hardly any time”.
I asked if I could help, but he said no if you would just stay in the truck, and then if anyone asks questions, you can say we are delivering here for two minutes tops.
It was only two minutes as another guy came out to help with the boxes, and we were on our way again, this time back to my place.
The archaeology team were still there, the four-wheel drive and little truck still on the driveway. Steven’s little red car was in the drive next to mom’s Cherokee; she always used a taxi to Heathrow when she went to the States.
Tristan parked on the lane, he stopped the truck and turned to me, “Chloe, I have a staff meeting at the stables at five, we have one once a month, and so I will leave you now, but could I see you later, is anything happening?”
I wanted to see him, “Tristan that will be really good, I would like that”. I smiled at him, as he looked so happy, and he leaned over to me, I reached up to hold his face and kiss him.
I got out of the truck to go into the house, but Tristan met me as I walked around the front and hugged me tight. I was laughing and so was he.
He walked down the drive with me, holding my hand and at the door hugged me again.
“I’ll see you later”, I told him and he nodded.
Inside the house I went down to the big drawing room,
“Hello Lily”, I greeted her as she turned to check who was coming into the room.
“Oh hello Chloe, come and look at the opening we have in the door, tomorrow we are going into the chamber. There have to be a couple of safety checks first, but we have established that the chamber is under the garden path”.
I was looking at the computer screen, “Wow, you have different views now, more cameras I guess, oh is that under croft, that must hold up the roof then under the garden. Wow, is that the water feature it’s bigger than I thought. How do you have the cameras so close if you have not been in the chamber yet?”
I was fascinated; this was going to be great fun actually going in there.
“Well they are all on flexible cables, like the head of a snake, we have fed them in, and turned them to the places we want to see along with rope lighting; but I have to admit, Stefan has actually been just inside the chamber to make sure of a couple of things”.
“This is so exciting, I can’t wait to see what else you find”, I told her and she laughed.
“I know, it’s great work, I’m so lucky to do work I love”.
I nodded at her, “I agree, I’m really happy with what I do at the moment, but I came down here to check if you would like coffee or some tea, I’m going to make some and go back to my college assignment”.
I made them all tea and took my own cup up to my room, to start work again on the assignment I had left hours ago. As I passed the library, I heard soft music, I put my head around the door; it was Steven and John playing acoustic guitars. I said hi as they looked up, and asked Steven if he was having dinner at home. He told me he and John were meeting the other band members at Will’s place and getting burgers on the way so no.
I grinned at this and left them to it.
It was maybe only half an hour later when Steven came to my door, and said the archaeologists were leaving and so were he and John. So I went down and saw them all off; I would see them tomorrow before I went to work at the art and craft holiday project. The archaeology team had left things set up and said that James and Leslie may be here in the morning quite early. I just smiled and nodded, but I hoped that didn’t mean or something.
I had finished my assignment, finally, and went down to the kitchen for a drink of water; on the way down the stairs my cell rang and I took it from my pocket noticing it was Oliver calling as I answered.
He had been working all day and was working this evening too, so we were meeting Thursday night at the Kool Kafé where Will’s band was playing the Thursday, and Friday night gigs.
“Hello Chloe, what’s happening, are you having a good day, I miss you”; it was nice to hear his voice and I could picture his face.
“Oliver, how lovely to hear from you, it’s been quite a day, the archaeology team found there is a chamber under the house; I spent some time with Tristan and did a college assignment. How did your work go today?”
Oliver had been doing computer work, re-networking a small business in town and setting up their intranet. I could hear he was smiling as he told me everything had gone really well, and he was working at the restaurant from seven until .
He said he was interested to see the new archaeology findings and asked laughingly if there were any wall paintings in the chamber. We talked for a couple of minutes and then rang off, as he needed to get ready for work.
I was thinking of him as I went back upstairs, even after being so close to Tristan for most of the day, I missed Oliver and would be very happy to see him Thursday night. I was back to my old ways of really loving both he and Tristan, it was not something I was proud of, I felt worse about it now than I had ever felt. I went and looked out of my window, it was growing dark, and there was a chill in the air. I stared out, not seeing the view, I just felt so wretched about having such intense feelings for both Oliver and Tristan again. How was this going to work out? I had practically told Oliver only a couple of weeks ago, that I loved him more than Tristan, but it wasn’t true, if it had ever been. I felt bad for them both, what was the matter with me, how can someone be deep in love two guys.
I called Clare, she answered straight away, and I launched into my request. “Clare I was thinking maybe we could meet for lunch, maybe Friday, I haven’t seen much of you for a couple of weeks”.
Clare greeted me, “Hello Chloe, I’d love to meet you Friday, only I am expected at a theatre meeting, will you be at the Kool Kafé tomorrow. I thought everyone was coming out to see Will’s band, maybe we could meet a little early then and catch up. James will not be coming down until about nine, so what if we met for supper about six there?”
I told her that would be great and asked how her work with the theatre was going. We talked for a couple more minutes.
I was thinking of finding something to eat for dinner and had wandered down to the fridge, when my cell rang again, “Chloe, hello” it was Tristan, “I was thinking maybe we could go up to the restaurant to eat, would that be ok?” I smiled as I answered him, “Tristan that’s a lovely thought what time were you thinking of?”
He nominated and I told him that was good; I wouldn’t mind cleaning myself up a bit.
I quickly went in the shower and as I dried my hair, I was thinking it seemed to be getting longer, maybe I could get mom to trim the ends when she got home from the States, they looked a bit dry. I put on my new sweater and jeans; I put the new blue belt on and then took it back off. I decided to leave my hair down for a change, and thought about wearing shoes with a bit of a heel but then decided against it and put my boots on. I took my iPad downstairs and set some music going as I made a cup of tea.
Staring out at the garden, lit up as usual in white and yellow lights I could not stop thinking about the situation I was in, I needed to talk to someone and it was going to have to be Clare, but at least I would only have to wait until the next day. I heard Tristan pull onto the gravel driveway in a vehicle and went to let him in the front door; he looked lovely. He had cut his hair, it was much shorter than he usually had it, spiked and very slightly longer at the front, it really suited him, and he looked great. His dark blue shirt bringing out the colour of his eyes and making his hair look darker, he stopped in the doorway, “Chloe you look lovely”.
I took his hand, “I was just thinking the same thing about you, you changed your hair, it’s gorgeous,” I told him as we went into the kitchen.
He turned me around and kissed me; I put my arms up around his neck and kissed him back. It didn’t matter right then about all the things I had been thinking, before he arrived, it didn’t matter that I loved both he and Oliver; I couldn’t help but kiss and hug him close.
Tristan smiled as he moved back from me, “Oliver is working at the restaurant tonight isn’t he?” I nodded in answer and he continued, “Well if I am not as affectionate as I have been today, that will be the reason why, which you would probably have guessed, but I thought I would make it clear”.
I smiled at him, “I would have guessed”.
It was a little cold; autumn was already well established, it had developed faster, and become colder than expected after our lovely summer, we decided I would drive us up to 'Peacocks’ in my Wrangler.
Even so when we went into the restaurant, we naturally went out to the terrace tables; I knew dad was thinking of putting some form of heating out there on the terrace, because everyone loved sitting at those tables, with the view of the lake close by.
“Do you really want to be out here Chloe, it’s a bit cool?” Tristan asked and we moved to just inside the restaurant, at the end tables, as Oliver came along to see us. He looked great and was grinning at us, “Hello, this is nice to see you; I hope you both came to see me, more than for dinner. Excellent haircut Tristan,” he observed.
Tristan laughed, “Sorry Oliver it’s probably about half and half, half to see you, and half for dinner, and yes I thought it was time I changed my appearance, a little at least. You know put people off the notion I don’t age”.
Oliver turned to me, looking lovingly at me, “Did you finish the assignment you had? Hey how about that new find under the house?” he included Tristan then, looking from one to the other of us.
“I know, it’s incredible, I can’t wait to see it properly, I never asked Chloe; did Don or anyone say anything else when they left tonight?” Tristan was talking happily.
I watched Tristan, and Oliver standing near our table, there was no sign of anything other than friendship; I felt that I had better preserve that by being very careful how I treated them both.
I smiled at them,
“Lily, the lovely girl archaeologist, told me they have established the chamber is under the garden path, and there are safety checks tomorrow, before they go in it. I saw vaulted ceilings on the computer this evening, before they packed up; it’s all well made down there by the looks of it. The water feature seemed bigger to me too, I think it could be a total blast going in there”.
“Wow it sounds excellent fun, I’d love to see it all, maybe I could drop by and see it soon,” Oliver said and Tristan added, “Me too, what are we doing Friday?”
I grinned and shook my head, “Me, nothing important so far, Oliver?” I asked.
He smiled, “Well not free until afternoon”.
Tristan sighed, “Not free until about six”.
I smiled, “We could meet at the house around six, how about that, Don and team will be gone and we can snoop big time”.
Both Oliver and Tristan smiled and nodded, “Ok let’s do that” Tristan said.
“Are you ordering now, because I may have to go to another table if not?” Oliver asked.
We did order and Oliver went off to pass it in.
I smiled at Tristan; he was sitting opposite me and out of reach, which was a good thing. He smiled back, “You will be at the Kool Kafé tomorrow night Chloe; I guess so will Oliver”. It was as if he was making sure of it.
I nodded at him, “Yes, we are meeting down there; I thought you were coming too, I will be down there with Clare early, we are meeting to catch up”.
“I will come down, because about the last time I was there, something spoilt the night for me”, he smiled but then became serious, and put his hand across the table, which was an invitation to me to hold it.
I did hold his hand for just a few seconds, he was referring to Emma stabbing me, and I smiled at him a little. He sat back in his chair and sighed, giving me a look that made me feel like risking kissing him, but I didn’t.
Oliver brought our order and grinned as he put it down, “Your dad said I could take my break with you in half an hour, will it be an intrusion?”
Tristan spoke first, “Certainly not, it’ll be good don’t you agree Chloe?”
I grinned at his friendliness and courtesy, “That will be nice Oliver”.
When Oliver had gone I looked questioningly at Tristan, I didn’t need to voice anything,
“Seriously Chloe, its ok with me that Oliver join us, we are all friends besides everything else, let’s not forget that” Tristan said.
I nodded, “Yes I know, I agree, and I can’t tell you how wretched I sometimes feel about my behaviour, I mean caring for both of you” I tailed off.
Tristan just gave me a caring look; I didn’t say more, what was there to say.
When Oliver came over for his break, he surprised us by telling us that he was thinking of having a party for his birthday.
“Oliver when is your birthday?” I asked him smiling; I was delighted to hear this.
“Yes Oliver when is it, and how old should you be”? Tristan grinned at us both, as Oliver had pulled a chair a bit closer to me than Tristan.
Oliver laughed, “It’s in about three week’s time, well nearly four, twenty fifth of next month, and I should be twenty”.
I sighed, “Really Oliver, that soon, I suppose the years still add up we just will not show them huh?” I looked at Tristan as I said this and he nodded.
“That’s about it Chloe; when is your birthday?”
Oliver looked at me with his eyebrows raised a little in question too, and Tristan smiled again at us both.
“December fifth, and you know what Tristan, I have been meaning to ask when your birthday is for months now, ever since Will and Steven’s party in fact but somehow didn’t get around to it”.
Oliver looked questioningly at Tristan he was interested too.
“Funnily enough, it’s fifteenth of December, if I remember rightly, though I can’t say I have celebrated it for well, a few hundred years actually”. He didn’t seem worried by this, but Oliver looked at me, and I thought I saw a look of sympathy go across his face.
I’m not really into star-sign stuff, but I had a friend in California who was, and almost planned her day around horoscopes she looked up on the internet each night, so I knew my star sign, and I knew we were all the same one.
“Guys, we are all Sagittarians, do you realize, how weird is that?” I informed them.
“Well it is I suppose” Oliver shrugged his shoulders.
Tristan just shrugged too, “I know nothing about it”.
I smiled, “Where will you have your party Oliver?”
“I don’t know, not a big huge thing but a get together you know”.
“Perhaps we should all three have a huge joint party on the lawns on your birthday Oliver,” I suggested.
“We could, if it was not likely to be cold or throwing with rain” Oliver grinned.
“Also it doesn’t seem fair to crash Oliver’s day really”, Tristan said, and added, “Plus I’d prefer not to draw attention to myself, I mean really people may ask how old I am, and it could get awkward”.
I hadn’t thought of this and it appeared that neither had Oliver, as he looked thoughtful.
“Maybe we could just have a get together in the Kool Kafé, I’d be pleased to do a joint celebration with you Chloe, since your birthday is only eleven days later. Maybe it will be the last time we broadcast our ages, since we are never going to look any older than we do now”.
Tristan sighed, “Sorry, I feel somehow as if I have put a dampener on your plans Oliver”.
Oliver shook his head, “No, not so, don’t think like that, we will secretly celebrate your birthday this year too, so don’t think you are getting away with it”.
Oliver was so nice. I looked at them both for a moment, both so attractive, such lovely guys; if anyone said to me Chloe, you have to choose between them now, or disappear in a puff of smoke and that’s that, I couldn’t choose, I would have no ability to do it and so would go up in a puff of smoke. It almost made me smile thinking this, but the fundamental seriousness of loving them both stopped the smile from reaching my lips.
“My break is up really”, Oliver was saying as I tuned back in.
“Oliver we can all talk about your party on Friday evening”, I suggested as he stood up.
“Ok, good idea”, he replied and for a few seconds it looked as if he was going to bend and kiss me, but then he caught himself and smiling at both Tristan and I, went back to work.
Tristan had a slightly sad expression on his face, “He nearly kissed you goodbye then, you realize”, he commented and took a drink of his coffee.
I took a deep breath and nodded slightly.
“You know once in the last couple of months, when we were a little surprised by events, and you and Oliver were leaving in the Landrover, I think; you both kissed me. Oliver on my cheek on the left as he got into the driver’s side and when I went around to the passenger side with you, then you on my right cheek. I don’t think either of you noticed, and I didn’t even think about it until a while later, but it was there”.
Tristan laughed out loud, “Really”.
I was surprised at his reaction and sat there silently for a moment gathering my thoughts.
“You really are not jealous of Oliver at all are you Tristan?” I finally asked.
“No, you don’t want me to be, do you, that was a strange tone you used there?”
“What no, never” I answered.
“I start being sad, not jealous, but only when you seem to stop caring for me”, Tristan elaborated and he looked intently at me.
I answered him, “I lost sight of how much you meant to me for the barest time, and a little bit of that was thinking you might want to be with Emma, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking of”. It was true, I don’t know.
He smiled and reached across the table for my hand, he didn’t even look around to check who saw. He held my hand for a minute, and looked straight into my eyes, something that totally unnerved me, and I closed my eyes to break the spell between us.
“Maybe we should go Chloe, what do you think?”
Tristan waited until we had gone half way across the car park before he put his arm around my shoulders. He kissed my cheek as I got into my Wrangler and laughed a little at the gesture, no doubt remembering what I had just told him.
When we got home Tristan hesitated for a moment, “Chloe I was thinking, it’s not that late, you don’t work until the afternoon tomorrow, maybe we could spend a little more time together before I leave”.
I turned to him across the transmission, “I’d like that Tristan”.
Inside we naturally went into the big kitchen, I checked the dishwasher, as I had put the dishes from the day in there before I left earlier. Tristan surprisingly didn’t make coffee, but looked out at the garden lights and the darkness that was the woods.
“I can’t imagine life before you came to live here, I don’t know what I used to do with myself”, he said as I went to stand near him.
I took his hand, “I love you too Tristan”, I told him softly.
From the new release,
The Sealed Door book four of The Seven Spell Saga copyright June 2011 Tessa Stokes