- Part Twenty-three
- Julia was just coming from the lab
after having done another battery of tests on Sarah's illness
when she found herself face to face with her fiance. "Roger,"
she said with a smile. "This is a surprise."
"I thought we might have dinner at the inn before going
home," he suggested, pulling her arm through his to guide
her back to her office. "If you can get away, that is."
She opened the door and entered the office, turning as she heard
him lock it behind them. "Roger-" She couldn't say
more, since he pulled her into his arms for a long kiss.
"I missed you today."
"Apparently," Julia teased. "But you really should
unlock the door. What if I'm needed? I *am* a doctor, after all."
"How about dinner?" he asked again, not releasing her.
"Sounds wonderful." She looked pointedly at the door
once again, and Roger moved to unlock it before going to the
window. Julia sat down at her desk to write up the notes on her
test results while they were still fresh in her mind. She glanced
up to see him frowning. "What's wrong?"
"Nicholas just went into the Antique Shoppe," he explained.
"I do wish Carolyn would reconsider seeing the man - I mean,
I don't understand why she's willing to stay in the same room
with him. All this time, she's insisted that he was somehow responsible
for Sky Rumsen's murder of Jeb Hawkes, and now she seems to be
treating him like a long lost friend."
"She's confused, and very vulnerable at the moment, Roger,"
Julia explained. "No doubt Nicholas knows that and used
it to his advantage."
"She convinced Liz to rent the House By The Sea to him again,
did you know that?"
"No. No, I didn't. When?"
"This morning." Julia looked at him. "I admit
that I'm a bit confused myself, Roger. I thought you liked Nicholas
"I did- until that dream I had last night -" He shivered
at the memory.
"What dream?" Julia asked.
"I was in the drawing room at Collinwood and there seemed
to be some kind of ceremony going on - I couldn't hear words,
just faint mutterings. Just the sound of it frightened me. I
followed the sound through the secret tunnel down to the cellar.
There was a light in the main room, and when I entered, I saw-"
Julia touched his arm. "What did you see, Roger?"
"It seemed to be some kind of black mass - the robed figures
were chanting, following of the lead of the man behind the altar
- I was about to step forward, to ask what was going on, when
the leader pointed at me,and two of the robed figures grabbed
me, dragging me to the altar. In the struggle their hoods fell
"Who were they?" Julia asked.
"Quentin and Barnabas. And the leader was Nicholas Blair.
The other robed figures revealed their faces as well, as Nicholas
offered me a choice: either join them or die. Liz, David, Mrs.
Johnson, Carolyn, Angelique, Maggie - even you. All of you stood
there, waiting for my answer."
"And what was your answer?" Julia wanted to know.
"No, of course. I refused his offer, and they tied to me
to the altar, forced me to watch as the most - horrible scenes
were played out - " he averted his eyes, not wanting to
speak further of what he'd seen. "Then Nicholas held out
a jeweled dagger, and you came forward, taking it in your hands
and lifted it high. I woke when the knife began to fall -"
Julia pulled him into her arms. "Oh, Roger. Why didn't you
come to me? It was only a dream-"
"Perhaps. But it made me realize that you've been right
all along about Nicholas. He's evil- and he wants Collinwood.
And I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure he doesn't
"I was thinking, Nicholas," Carolyn said later at the
House By The Sea, "You asked if Angelique were upset about
Maggie Evans being at the Old House-"
Nicholas focused his attention on the fire. "Yes?"
"Maggie had stopped seeing Barnabas for several months before
she left with Sebastian Shaw."
"Indeed? And who was she seeing?"
He frowned. "Quentin Collins?"
"Yes. Mother was quite pleased by the idea. She thought
that if Quentin married Maggie, he might decide to stay at Collinwood
"I doubt that, my dear. Your cousin Quentin has a very good
reason for not staying in any one place for very long."
Nicholas smiled. "All in good time, my dear. All in good
After dinner during which an apparently oblivious Sarah rattled
on about her lessons and how glad she was that Maggie had come
to be her governess, Angelique made a hasty retreat back upstairs,
and Maggie took Sarah up to get ready for bed.
"Maggie," Sarah said at last as Maggie brushed the
long brown hair, "Mother's not happy, is she?"
"I'm afraid not, Sarah," Maggie answered truthfully.
"She's afraid that I don't need her anymore," Sarah
said. "She told me she was afraid it would happen when Father
hired a governess." She looked up at Maggie. "May I
go and see her for awhile before I go to bed?"
Maggie considered the request, then nodded. "That's a very
good idea, Sarah. I think your mother misses spending time with
you. I mean, it wasn't very long ago that she was all you had
- and it's very hard for her now that you've got your father
and everyone else."
Sarah stood up and gave Maggie a hug. "I'll ask her to tuck
me in, if you don't mind."
"Not at all. In fact, I think I'll go for a walk before
planning tomorrow's lessons." She gave the child a kiss,
then walked to the door of the master bedroom with her, moving
toward her own room to get her coat as Sarah knocked softly.
"Mother?" she called. "May I come in?"
The door opened, and Angelique smiled at her daughter. "Of
course you can, darling. Is something wrong?"
"No. I just wanted to spend some time with you - if you
want to, that is."
Angelique pulled the child to her. "Of course I do, Sarah."
Maggie found Barnabas in the study, where he had gone to do some
work that he had brought home, but he wasn't at the desk. He
was standing by the fireplace, one hand on the mantle, head bent,
apparently deep in thought. "Barnabas?" she said softly.
He straightened, turning to face her. "Yes, Maggie?"
"I left Sarah with her mother- she's going to ask Angelique
to tuck her in - "
"Your idea?" he asked.
Maggie laughed softly. "Actually, it was Sarah's. She noticed
how unhappy Angelique was at dinner and wanted to try to cheer
"I see." He had hoped that Sarah wouldn't pick up on
Angelique's unhappiness, but he should have known better. His
gaze moved back to the fire.
"What's going on, Barnabas? I thought this was only a plan
to fool Nicholas. Now, Angelique is upset, and Quentin-"
He looked at her again. "You're very fond of my cousin,
"I could be - but he's so - difficult to understand sometimes
"A Collins family failing, I fear. Angelique is still uncertain
about - things, Maggie. She wants to believe that things will
work out between she and I, but our past history keeps returning
to trouble her."
"Go talk to her, Barnabas," Maggie suggested.
He noticed her coat. "And where are you going?"
"Out for a walk - to think."
"Don't go far. I don't like the idea of your being out there
alone with Nicholas in the area -"
"I might go to Collinwood and see if Quentin's in -"
As he would have spoken, she smiled. "Don't worry. If I
*do* see Nicholas, I'll tell him that I'm there to visit Mrs.
Stoddard." Seeing he was still uncertain, Maggie buttoned
her coat. "Don't worry, Barnabas. I'll be fine."
"Don't be too late."
"I won't be. I just have a need to talk to Quentin for a
Barnabas walked to the door with her, then stood at the bottom
of the stairs before climbing them. Maggie was right. Leaving
this between them was the last thing he and Angelique needed.
Too many times they had each let pride stand in the way of clearing
up misunderstandings and it had always resulted in more misunderstandings
and pain. And the last thing either of them needed was to cause
each other more pain.
She was just leaving her room with Sarah on the way to tuck the
child into her own bed. "Well. What have we here?"
he asked, smoothing Sarah's dark hair.
"Mother was just going to tuck me in. Would you come too,
Father?" she asked, slipping her hand into his.
Barnabas met Angelique's eyes. "If your mother doesn't mind,"
"No. No, of course I don't," Angelique said, watching
as Barnabas lifted Sarah into his arms, then nodded for her to
lead the way.
He placed Sarah on her bed, then stepped back for Angelique to
draw the bedclothes around her. "Good night, Mother,"
Sarah said, kissing her. "I love you. Don't ever forget
that again, okay?"
"I won't," Angelique promised, not looking at Barnabas
as he sat on the other side of their daughter. "Good night,
"Goodnight, Father," Sarah told Barnabas, giving him
a hug and kiss as well. "I love you, too. And I'm very glad
that we found you again."
"Not half as glad as I am to have both of you with me,"
Barnabas declared softly, lifting Angelique's hand from the quilt
to his lips. He heard her quiet gasp. "Now go to sleep."
He blew lamp out, then, retaining Angelique's hand, led her from
the room and back to their room.
"I know you have work to do-" Angelique said, stopping
as she heard the key turn in the lock.
"Nothing that's as important as apologizing to you for upsetting
you earlier. All I was trying to do was protect Maggie, Angelique.
I would have done as much for anyone. Elizabeth, Carolyn, Julia
"But it wasn't one of them. It was Maggie." She moved
away to sit before the fire. "I know it doesn't make sense,
Barnabas, and I try not to be jealous, but -"
"You didn't see Maggie. You saw Josette," he guessed.
Blue eyes widened as they lifted to him. "How did you know?"
"Because, my love, I know you. I hoped that all of the hurts
were behind us, but I was wrong, wasn't I?"
"It wasn't just that. I had just spent most of the afternoon
listening to Quentin sing Maggie's praises and then to walk in
here and find her in your arms-"
"Oh, yes. I don't think he even realized how many times
he mentioned her name. I think your cousin has finally fallen
"He can't stay at Collinwood. The portrait -"
"He knows that. It's the reason he let Maggie leave with
Barnabas sat beside her, lifting her face to his. "I love
She fell into his arms. "Can you forgive my jealousy, my
darling? I try to control it, I really do -"
"I know. And yes, I can forgive you," he said, as his
lips found hers. "Do you know how lucky we are to have found
each other again, Angelique? I don't want to lose you again -
Maggie didn't bother using the main entrance to Collinwood. She
moved around the building to the door that would take her directly
to Quentin's West Wing rooms. She heard the grammaphone playing
two corridors away. That usually meant he'd been drinking. The
thought made her hesitat before knocking on the wooden door.
"Go away," Quentin's voice called out, the tone moody
and dark. She knocked again, more insistantly this time, and
a second later, the door was pulled open. "Look, I said-"
He stopped. "Maggie." He stood there, one hand on the
doorknob, swaying slightly, his blue eyes still filled with pain
and anger. "What are you doing here?" he asked, turning
back to the chair beside the old wind up grammaphone, picking
up a bottle of brandy as he passed the bar.
Maggie entered the room, closing the door behind her. "I
thought we needed to talk."
"About what? About how you wound up in Cousin Barnabas'
arms this afternoon?" he asked, trying to pour the liquor
into a snifter. When it refused to hit the mark, and ran onto
the rug, he tilted the bottle to his lips and drank deeply. "Don't
bother," he finished, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.
"I just never thought you were the type to go after a married
"I'm *not* going after Barnabas, Quentin," she said.
"I told you what happened. I was upset about seeing Nicholas
again and Barnabas was simply being a friend. Nothing happened,
nothing was going to happen -" She sighed as he took another
drink. "Quentin, would you *please* listen to me?"
When he sat there, blue eyes on some point across the room, she
shook her head and rose from the chair she was sitting in. "I
don't know why I bothered to come here. You said that you wanted
to be my friend, Quentin - " She jumped as the empty brandy
snifter shattered against the fireplace.
Quentin came out of his chair, moving quickly for a man who had
been drinking for hours. He grabbed her arm. "I can't be
your friend, Maggie. Not when all I think about is how much I
want us to be more than that." He pulled her against him.
"I must have bored Angelique senseless this afternoon, talking
"About me?" she asked. "What about- me?"
"About how much I wish to God I had something more to offer
you than a few years - how I wish that I could stay here with
you, grow old with you -" He placed kisses along her brow.
"How much I want to hold you and kiss you, to carry you
into that other room and never let you out of my sight."
Long fingers buried in her auburn hair, dislodging the tortoise
shell combs that held it back from her face. "I don't have
the right to tell you how much I love you, Maggie Evans, but
heaven help me, I do." His lips finally closed over hers,
hard at first, meaning to break down any defenses she might try
to erect against his onslaught. It was a full minute before he
realized that she was responding to his caresses, opening herself
to him like a flower to sunlight. He lifted his head, his blue
eyes clouded now with passion instead of alcohol. "Maggie,"
he sighed, before Maggie's fingers pulled him back down to her
lips. "I want you, Maggie. Now. Don't leave me."
"I'm not going anywhere, Quentin," she whispered as
he lifted her into his arms and turned toward the bedroom.
To Be Continued----
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