Rachel is a transplanted northerner who now makes Savannah, Georgia her home. But it hasn't taken her long to get caught up in the Southern lore of Savannah.Pretty soon, she'll lose her accent. If you like Rachel's post leave a comment when you finish reading for a chance to win a pdf copy of Ring of Lies.
|Hamilton Lilibridge House|
Paige Stewart sipped tea from a delicate china cup and wondered what sadistic demon had co-opted her body and brought her to what surely must be the eighth circle of hell. For the third time in under an hour, she glanced around the cheerful parlor and wondered how a room the color of lemon sorbet could feel so oppressive. She tugged at the collar of her blouse and let her gaze wander to the pinched lip smile of her grandmother holding court across the room. That explains it.
She shivered. The presence of her disapproving and domineering grandmother always made her feel like a schoolgirl caught with her hand in the cookie jar but this, this was something else entirely. Despite the sunny room and comfy furnishings, Paige continued to feel unsettled; depressed and anxious, like a shadow of doom had fallen across her soul. She was not happy to be attending the meeting but her mood didn’t extend to the dejection she seemed to be slipping into.
A twinge of uneasiness began to creep up her spine, and for a minute Paige had the strangest sensation that someone was hovering over her shoulder. She gulped and resisted the urge to look behind her. Get a grip, Paige!
She shook away the feeling and tried to feign interest in the animated discussion flowing around the room. The sight of their earnest faces made Paige grin; one would think they were facing an imminent invasion from Sherman himself rather than a simple upheaval in the Annual Tour of Homes.
A frown from her grandmother sent Paige hiding behind her tea cup. The assembly of Grande Dames of Savannah would fail to see the reason for levity and would be horrified that she was not giving her most solemn attention to the crisis. She screwed her face into a proper look of concern and waited for her grandmother to announce the solution to their dilemma.
All eyes turned toward Olivia Stewart. Paige smirked at the expectant hush that fell across the room; the Queen was about to speak.
The silver haired matriarch bestowed a regal smile. “Ladies, thank you for coming on such short notice.”
Paige cocked an eyebrow. Like they had any choice!
“Despite Millicent Arthur’s poor sense of timing, The Hampton Lilibridge House will remain on the tour schedule,”
Paige rolled her eyes. Only Olivia Stewart could describe a heart attack as bad timing.
Olivia’s dark eyed gaze swung toward Paige. “My granddaughter will be acting as docent.”
Paige gulped. No backing out now.
“But mother, I thought –that is, I told you this morning that I would take over Millie’s schedule and, well, Paige doesn’t know anything about this house, or any other for that matter.”
Olivia Stewart smiled at her daughter, though no warmth was detected in her eyes. “Thank you for sharing your opinion, Lavinia.”
Paige smirked. Her grandmother’s tone left no doubt as to her feelings concerning Aunt Lavinia’s sharing.
“However I have decided it won’t suit. You will continue your duties at the Stewart townhouse and as hostess of the afternoon tea. Paige is quite capable of presiding over this house.”
Paige squirmed as all heads turned in her direction. Despite the pronouncement from the Queen Bee, she saw doubt and skepticism on several faces. She couldn’t blame them. She had no business conducting tours of historic houses, famed last name of Stewart or not. Her Aunt Lavinia, God bless her for standing up to the old dragon, was absolutely correct. She knew nothing about the Hampton Lilibridge House; except that it gave her the creeps.
Lavinia’s token protest notwithstanding, there’d never been any doubt that the members of the Loyal Order of Colonial Dames would accede to their president’s wishes. Paige’s mind began to whirl as the ladies began to cluck over everything she’d need to know in order to do their organization proud.
She listened to enraptured descriptions of intricate moldings and the relative merits of Georgia Heart Pine but her ability to focus was becoming increasingly difficult. She squirmed and fidgeted with the buttons on her shirt. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary and none of the ladies showed any sign that they perceived something was wrong, and yet Paige felt … menaced. It seemed silly to even use the word but there it was. She sensed that someone in the room didn’t like her; that they didn’t even want her in the house! She stared at a tapestry hanging above the fireplace and fought back the irrational fear rising within her.
Paige’s attention was diverted by the movements of a frail looking woman in a shell pink suit hovering by the door. Thin, bony fingers absently twisted the perfectly matched strand of pearls at her neck, drawing the strand tight against the crepe like skin of her throat. Paige swallowed hard and ran a finger around her collar; that had to be uncomfortable …
The dainty hand released the pearls and directed a timid wave at Olivia Stewart. All conversation ceased as Her Royal Highness rose from her chair and inclined her head. “Ladies, luncheon is served. You may continue your discussion in the dining room.” Assuming her decree would be obeyed, the matriarch swept from the room without a backwards glance.
Paige shot from her chair and nearly ran from the room. Normally, she’d of taken her own sweet time but today her need to escape was stronger than her desire to thwart her imperialistic grandmother. She made her way through the throng of woman and began to fill her plate.
Loaded down with the ubiquitous Southern staple of chicken salad canapés, fruit, and cheese straws, Paige found a quiet corner and started to eat. The creamy salad with its hint of dill filled her empty stomach and the act of eating helped to settle her jangled nerves but after two bites an icy draft ruffled the hair at the base of her skull and made the salad taste like saw dust. She swallowed hard and ignored it. Logic said there was no one breathing on her neck, and she was making a conscious choice to stick with logic, though another blast made that harder to believe by the minute.
Paige set the plate on her lap and took several deep breaths, repeating a silent mantra of ‘there is nothing to fear’. Whether the chant worked or her common sense prevailed, Paige’s anxiety lessened and she resumed eating. She popped a ripe strawberry into her mouth, savoring the tart juice gliding over her tongue.
Her eyes went wide as she swallowed. Cold fingers closed around her neck. She clawed at her throat but found nothing but air. Her lungs burned and spots formed before her eyes. She sagged in her chair, staring at the backs of the ladies clustered around the table.
A sharp rap fell between her shoulder blades. The berry dislodged and shot across the table. Paige sputtered and gasped for breath as a gaggle of alarmed old ladies gathered around her. She ignored their anxious questions and turned to thank her rescuer.
Her eyes locked with the worried gaze of the old lady in the shell pink suit. Paige’s eyes fell to the old woman’s neck and the bony fingers that nervously twisted the strand of pearls. The gleaming balls pulled away from the crepe like skin, revealing the outline of ten fingertips encircling the woman’s throat.
Paige bolted from her chair and raced to a mirror; the same red welts marred her skin. Paige raised a trembling hand to her throat and met the old woman’s eyes in the mirror.
“I … did you …”
The old woman’s lips trembled. “In the kitchen, before lunch. I nearly faint—“
Paige rushed from the house without a backward glance.
You can find me, and my books, at my website http://www.rachellynneauthor.com./
If you missed Paige’s earlier adventures stop by my Blog; the links and dates of all adventures are posted in the News column. http://wwwrachellynneauthor.blogspot.com/
And, if you can’t wait for another suspenseful tale set amidst the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, may I suggest my romantic suspense novel Ring of Lies at The Wild Rose Press
Secrets, Lies, and Murder surround Ivy Michaels amidst the backdrop of Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities!
A café owner and an ex-cop must solve the mystery of a hot blue diamond to catch a stone cold killer!
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