Carolyn entered the drawing room the next morning with
a bright smile. "Good morning, Mother."
Elizabeth looked over her coffee cup, surprised. "I thought you would have left for the shop by now."
"I decided to let Lisa run the place one morning a week," she said. Lisa was a young woman who had grown up in Collinsport, whose mother was ill and needed her daughter's income for support. "I'll go in after lunch." She poured herself a cup of coffee, than sat down across from her mother. "Would you be willing to lease the House by the Sea to Nicholas again, Mother?"
Her mother frowned. "Rent- I don't know, Carolyn -Why has he decided to move from Collinwood?"
"He can- sense that he's not really wanted here, Mother. He says that he's uncomfortable living here, knowing that you disapprove of him-"
"It's not that I disapprove, exactly-"
"Well you certainly don't approve of him. He's willing to pay whatever you want in rent -"
"I'm not even certain that the house is in any condition to be rented out so soon, Carolyn-" Elizabeth said, stalling for time.
"It is. Nicholas said he stopped in there yesterday morning. May I tell him that you've agreed to let him rent it again?"
Elizabeth considered her daughter's anxious expression. It would certainly be easier to pull off Barnabas' plan if Nicholas weren't constantly underfoot at Collinwood. But it troubled her that Carolyn would no doubt spend a great deal more time in his company without anyone around if he were to move. "Carolyn, about Nicholas-"
Carolyn shook her head. "Here we go. What's so terrible about Nicholas, Mother? Aren't you the one who's been insisting that I needed to start living again? To put the past behind me and find someone else?"
"Yes, dear, but-"
"Well, I've found someone who makes me feel like I'm alive, Mother. Someone who doesn't treat me as if I'm made of glass and will break if I'm touched. I LIKE being with Nicholas, mother, and if that bothers you -"
"I can't help but worry, Carolyn. After everything that Cassandra did- and she was Nicholas' sister."
"And so is Angelique. Yet she's good enough to marry Barnabas. Can't you give Nicholas a chance, Mother?"
"Very well, Carolyn. Nicholas can rent the House by the Sea - if you'll do something for me."
Carolyn's greatful smile froze. "Such as?"
"Angelique wants you to have lunch with her at the Old House today."
"Angelique? Why? To try and convince me that her brother's not the man for me?"
"I'm simply delivering the invitation, Carolyn." She sipped her coffee. "There's someone else over there that you might want to see as well."
Carolyn's eyes widened. "Maggie's in California with Sebastian Shaw," she insisted.
"She returned yesterday, and I suggested to Barnabas that he hire her as Sarah's governess." Elizabeth's face shadowed. "I hope he didn't make a mistake doing it."
"Why would you say that? Maggie's a good teacher. David certainly liked her."
"So did Barnabas," Elizabeth pointed out. "I think you should call Angelique and tell her that you'll be over to lunch."
"Oh, I will, Mother," Carolyn said. "I most certainly will." As her mother left the room, Carolyn's expression became thoughtful. So Maggie was back, and living at the Old House as Sarah's governess. What had Vicki once told her about Maggie and Nicholas? That he had asked her to marry him, and had almost killed her? She wanted to see Maggie before telling Nicholas that she was back- She picked up the telephone and dialed the number for the Old House.
The door to the Old House opened as Carolyn approached,
and Sarah came outside, smiling. "Let's go, Maggie,"
she said. "Oh, hello, Carolyn."
"Hello to you, Sarah," she said, looking up to see her old friend in the doorway. "Maggie. You really ARE here."
"Carolyn," Maggie said, returning Carolyn's hug. "It's good to see you."
"I was surprised when Mother told me you were here. When did you decide to come back?"
"It was sudden," Maggie said. "I was homesick- and Sebastian found someone he liked better-, so-"
They were interrupted by the appearance of Angelique in the foyer. "Carolyn. I didn't know you had arrived."
"Only just. I was talking to Maggie," Carolyn began, only to stop when Angelique turned an icy blue gaze toward the governess.
"Miss Evans," Angelique said, her tone cooler that Carolyn had heard it until now. "I thought you told me that you were going to start Sarah's lessons this morning."
"I am, Mrs. Collins. It's such a nice day that I thought we would have our lessons outside."
"Sarah's far too ill-"
"I spoke to Barnabas about it, Mrs. Collins," Maggie said, and Carolyn noticed that Angelique's features tightened upon Maggie's use of Barnabas' name. "He said it would be all right, as long as I made certain Sarah didn't become overtired." She took Sarah's hand. "Let's go, Sarah. I'll see you later, Carolyn."
"Of course. Welcome home."
Maggie glanced at Angelique, then smiled tightly. "Thank you."
Carolyn watched Maggie and Sarah move down the path. "Sarah seems to like her," was her comment.
"Of course. EVERYone likes Miss Evans," Angelique said, her tone filled with anger. "Please come in, Carolyn."
She followed Angelique into the parlour of the Old House. "You sound as though you would have preferred Barnabas hire someone else as Sarah's governess."
"I wanted him to hire the young lady that came down from Ellsworth," Angelique admitted. "She was quite suited. But when Barnabas discovered that Maggie Evans was returning, nothing would do but that he hire her to take care of Sarah's lessons."
"I'm sure Barnabas felt that he preferred someone he already knows, someone he trusts," Carolyn pointed out.
"Oh, of course," Angelique said. The telephone rang, and Angelique picked it up. "Hello?" She glanced toward Carolyn. "Quentin," she said softly, just loud enough that Carolyn could hear the name, before turning away. "I thought I told you - What is it?" She laughed softly. "I have company - Carolyn. No, I don't think you should- Quentin, behave yourself. Very well, I'll be there. Yes. Good bye." She hung up, turning back to face her guest. "I'm sorry for the interruption. Willie should have lunch ready soon."
"I really need to be out of here by one, Angelique. I'm meeting- someone. He's renting a house from Mother, and I promised to give him the keys-"
"What house is Elizabeth renting?"
"The House by the Sea. Nicholas has decided he prefers more- private quarters. Since everyone at Collinwood is so uncomfortable with his being there-"
"With reason," Angelique pointed out. "Carolyn, I know I haven't the right to question you about your friends, but- Nicholas IS my brother, and I'm concerned about your becoming so involved with him."
"You're right, Angelique. You DON'T have the right to question me about such things. But let me tell you that I know what I'm doing, and there's no reason for you or anyone else to worry about me."
"It might not matter anyway, once Nicholas discovers that Maggie Evans is back. I remember that Barnabas once told me that Nicholas was -quite fond of her during his first visit to Collinsport. That he even asked her to marry him, and then left town when she changed her mind at the last minute."
"But he didn't see her at all when he was here the last time," Carolyn pointed out. "We'll see, won't we? I'll tell him about her return when I see him later."
Angelique smiled. "You do that. Let me go and see if Willie has everything ready."
"Won't Maggie and Sarah be joining us?"
"They'll eat later," Angelique said with a sigh. "Miss Evans insisted that they had to do a certain amount of work before they had lunch. Sarah's not used to such a regimented day any longer. She's been eating when she decided it was time. I hope she can adjust."
"I'm sure she will," Carolyn said.
"I'll be right back," Angelique told her, turning toward the dining room.
Carolyn entered the House by the Sea, surprised to find
the door unlocked. Nicholas was in the drawing room, standing
before the fire. She held up the keys. "I guess there was
no real need for me to bring these, was there?"
He smiled. "Locks can't keep me out, Carolyn. I thought you would know that by now." He held out his hand for her to join him. "I should thank you for convincing your mother to rent this house to me."
"You don't have to," she said.
"Oh, but I want to." He touched her face. "Look into the fire," he told her. Carolyn turned her head, seeing the flames leaping, the colours he had taught her to see. "Look deeply, and tell me what you see."
"Look, Carolyn," he said again, 'Deeply, though the flames, into the darkness beyond."
She gazed into the white hot center of the fire, relaxing as she saw the darkness he spoke of. She saw a bed, and two figures entwined. Blonde hair was spread across a broad chest covered with dark hair - "I see- us. You and I, Nicholas," she told him, turning to look up into his face. "Together."
"And the flames, my dear Carolyn," he said with a smile as he brought his lips to hers, "never lie."
Carolyn considered fighting, knowing that she needed to tell him about Maggie. But she couldn't. Not now. His lips met hers, and she felt as if she were being consumed by the very flames into which she had just been looking. "Nicholas," she whispered, only to have his lips find hers again, felt his arms lift her and carry her toward the stairway.
She rested her head on his shoulder, her lips moving over his throat. Later, she decided. She would tell him later.