My plans—if you could call them that—were interrupted by the sound of the bar sliding up. Seconds later, Lachlan stepped into the room. In one massive hand, he held a tray on which sat a teapot and cups. When he pushed the door closed and lowered his hand, I saw a plate adorned with a selection of scones. My stomach made an embarrassing rumble, which Lachlan was good enough to ignore.
He set the tray down on a small table with two chairs. Lachlan pulled one of the chairs out for me like a gentleman. I was too hungry to pass up the opportunity, so I scarfed down two of the warm, delicious scones in record time. Lachlan hovered while I ate, and every time I sneaked a glance at him, he was smiling with what looked like pride.
“Did you make these?” I asked.
He nodded and jerked his thumb toward the ceiling. “That’s my bakery upstairs.”
“They’re delicious,” I told him, though I’m sure he’d gotten that message already.
The food temporarily made me feel better, but my mood sank again when Lachlan picked up the tray to leave. Soon, I would be alone in my cell again.
Lachlan gave me a sympathetic smile. “Your aunt Grace means well,” he told me. “I know she’s been less than diplomatic’”
I couldn’t help my snort of laughter. Yeah, that was one way to describe it. Lachlan looked hurt by my laughter. I guess he really liked Aunt Grace, since he did his best to defend her.
“She has been under a great deal of stress lately,” he explained, “and your arrival has’” He frowned and didn’t finish his sentence.
“My arrival has what?”
“Let’s just say you’re one more complication in an already complicated life.”
“Why?” I asked, throwing up my hands in frustration. “I was just coming here for a visit to meet my father! Why is everyone making such a big deal out of it?” Okay, I’d had the illusion that I was actually coming to live with my father, but after less than a day here, I’d pretty much given up on that idea.
Lachlan stared at his feet, the corners of his mouth tight with displeasure. “It’s not my place to explain it to you.”
But I got the feeling he really wanted to. “Please, Lachlan,” I said, trying to sound desperate and pathetic. Okay, not that that was hard to pull off, but I wasn’t trying to hide it. “Please tell me what’s going on.”
For half a second, I thought he was going to cave. But then the line of his mouth firmed up and he shook his head. “I’m sorry. It’s not my place.”
Please let my father come for me tomorrow, I prayed.
“You should get some sleep,” Lachlan said, rising and picking up the tray.
On cue, a massive yawn welled up from my chest. He smiled at me. “I’ll be right on the other side of the door,” he told me. “If you need anything, just holler.”
I swallowed my next yawn as Lachlan left and barred the door behind him.
Maybe I was just being contrary, but the fact that Lachlan had suggested I go to sleep made me want to stay awake. Not the easiest thing to do when battling jet lag, a full stomach, and a cheery fire. If I didn’t keep myself busy, I was going to lose my battle against sleep, so I dug my laptop out of my backpack. I thought maybe I could shoot a quick e-mail out to Mom, letting her know what a mess I was in. Maybe she’d sober up enough to come riding to my rescue. But—surprise, surprise—my prison cell didn’t come equipped with Wi-Fi. I had a couple of dirty books I’d downloaded from the Internet—since I pay the bills in the family, my mom never notices the charges—but reading dirty books while locked in a cell just seemed … wrong.
For the first time since I’d snuck out of the house to catch my flight, I felt a twinge of guilt. Could Mom hold herself together enough to pay her own bills without me there? I imagined her sitting, alone and sloshed, in our house with no water or electricity. Then I shook my head at myself. She’d been leaning on me more and more as the years went by, but whether she acted like it or not, she was an adult, and she could take care of her own damn self!
At around seven, Lachlan brought in another tray. My stomach rumbled. Those scones had worn off at least an hour ago. This time, the tray held an enormous panini sandwich, dripping with melted cheese and mayo, along with a small garden salad. I guessed this came from his bakery as well.
When he took the tray away, he once again suggested I should get some sleep. At that point, I was practically asleep on my feet, but I was still too stubborn to do as I was told. Just to prove that I wasn’t taking his advice, I started warming up my voice with a series of vocalises. Then I practiced the songs I’d been working on with my voice teacher before I’d run for what I thought was greener grass. I suspected Lachlan was listening, even through the six-inch-thick door, so I mentally urged myself to perform for him. Maybe his heart would melt at the beauty of my voice and he’d set me free.
Yeah, and I thought I saw a pig flying just last week.
I lost myself in the music for a while, the songs flowing out of me one after the other. While I sang, I almost forgot that my father was in jail and my aunt Grace was keeping me locked up “for my own good.” I closed my eyes and allowed the music to transport me to another world.
Eventually, I noticed a burning sensation on my chest. For reasons I couldn’t explain, the cameo had grown very warm, almost like I’d been holding it near the fire. I took it off and examined it, trying to figure out why it was hot, but it cooled off so fast I wondered if I’d been imagining things.