Part Twenty-Seven
"Maggie," Sarah's voice called. "Maggie, wake up."

Maggie's eyes opened suddenly and she found herself looking into the concerned brown eyes of her charge. Sarah," she said in a voice still made shaky by remembered fear. Glancing around, she was relieved to discover that she was in her room at the Old House."

"You were screaming, Maggie," Sarah told her.

"I was having a bad dream," Maggie explained. "I'm fine, now. It was just a dream."

"Whenever I have a bad dream, Mother says that it helps if I tell her about it-" the child said.

Maggie shook her head. "I'm fine, Sarah. But thank you for offering. Maybe later. Right now, we need to get your math lesson started."

Sarah's eyes lit with eager anticipation.


"You didn't go quite far enough, my dear," Nicholas scolded Carolyn gently as the image faded.

Carolyn lifted her eyes to him. "Any farther, and she would have known the truth. If that happens, what reason would Quentin have to accept your offer? Instead of agreeing to help you, he'd have to leave Collinsport." Her eyes glinted dangerously. "Is that what you were *really* trying to do, Nicholas? Get rid of Quentin so that Maggie would be alone again?"

Nicholas' dark eyes became even darker. "I've already told you, Carolyn, that I've no feeling for Maggie Evans beyond how she can be used to help my plans." He touched her cheek. "You *are* right, however. It's far better for Maggie not to know the truth- yet, at any rate. You did very well for your first time - "

"I have an excellent teacher," Carolyn pointed out. She picked up her coat. "I have to be going-"

Nicholas remained before her. "You're certain you can't stay?"

"I have to get to the shop, Nicholas. I'll see you this evening."

He didn't move, simply lowered his lips to hers, then drew back, smiling as he saw the bemused expression on her face. "You're certain I can't - tempt you, my dear?"

Carolyn struggled to control her breathing, to slow the rapid pulse in her body. "I suppose I could call and see if Lisa could stay for the afternoon," she told him. "Tell her something's come- up?"

Nicholas smiled, and stepped aside so that she could go to the telephone.


Angelique entered the study to find Sarah doing her math problems. "That's wonderful, darling. Where is Maggie?" she asked, after watching her daughter solve several problems.

"She said she had to go check on something," Sarah said. "She had a really bad dream, earlier, Mother. But she wouldn't tell me about it."

Angelique frowned. "A bad dream?"

"When I was taking a nap earlier. I woke up and heard her screaming. Like something was chasing her - "

"You finish your problems, darling. I'll go tell Maggie that you're almost done."


Angelique went to Maggie's room, then Sarah's, and found no sign of the governess. A creak in a floorboard over her head, drew her attention there. *The attic!* she thought, turning toward the stairs at the end of the corridor.


Maggie was certain that this was the room that she'd been outside of in her dream. The one that she'd heard "London Bridge" coming from. There was something in that room that someone wanted her to see. She reached out a hand toward the doorknob--

"Maggie?" Angelique called, entered the hallway. "What are you doing up here?"

"Do you know what's inside this room, Angelique?" Maggie asked, answering one question with another.

"No, not really. I should think furniture, clothing- why?"

"Because someone wants me to go in there," Maggie answered.

"Why on earth would you think that? Sarah mentioned something about a dream?"

Maggie quickly told her what she recalled from the nightmare, her attention focused the entire time on the door before her. "It started here," she said. "Almost as if the key to the entire thing was in this room." She placed her hand on the knob and turned, then shook the door. "It's locked."

"How strange," Angelique said, pretending as much confusion as Maggie.

"You don't have the key?"

"No. I don't. I'll ask Willie about it - he has most of the keys for the house, I believe."

"Yes, please. I *have* to get into that room, Angelique. I feel as if it's important that I know what's in there."

Angelique *knew* what was in that locked room: the portrait of Quentin Collins, painted by Charles Delaware Tate in 1897. She also knew that Maggie was in no way ready to see that monstrousity. "Why don't you go back to Sarah?" she suggested. "I'll speak to Willie and if doesn't have the key, I'll ask Barnabas about it tonight." A thought struck her. "But I'll have to wait to ask Willie. He had a date with that young lady who works for Carolyn this afternoon." If she could put Maggie off for just a few hours, Angelique thought, turning the other woman toward the stairs.

Maggie glanced back to that room again. "I know you probably think I'm being silly, Angelique, but-"

"Not at all, Maggie. But in the future, it might be a good idea to let someone know that you're coming up here. Willie hasn't done as much restoration in this part of the house, and he told me the other day that there are some floorboards that need replaced." It illustrate her point, Angelique deliberately stepped onto a board that had squeaked for years without incident.

Hearing the noise, Maggie nodded. "You're right. I guess I wasn't thinking. That dream - I wish I understood what it meant."

"Just give it time," Angelique suggested.


Willie smiled at Angelique as she entered the kitchen. "Need a cup of coffee?" he asked.

"No, thank you. I thought you were going into town this afternoon?"

"Lisa called, said that Carolyn had asked her to work this afternoon, so -"

"Since you're here, I suppose I should tell you that if Maggie asks about the locked attic room, you don't have the key, you don't know what's in there, and you don't know where the key is."

"The *attic* room?" Willie questioned. "The one where - Why would Maggie be askin' about that?" he wanted to know.

"She had a nightmare- A very vivid nightmare, apparently, and it started at that room. Now, she's convinced that there's something in there that she needs to see."

"She's right," Willie said solemnly. "Maybe she *should* see that *thing*. Maybe it'd bring her to her sense about Quentin Collins."

"You don't mean that, Willie," Angelique said. Willie's eyes fell. "Just remember what I told you, Willie. If Maggie asks, you don't know anything."

"That's an easy one, Angelique. Most of the time I don't know what's going on around here."


Maggie took Sarah out later to drill on their spelling words. As they walked through the woods, Maggie realized that she was near the spot where the animal had attacked her in the dream, and her pace increased. "Maggie," slow down," Sarah said, tugging on her hand. "What's wrong?"

Maggie looked behind them, certain she heard that low growl. "Nothing, Sarah. I just thought I heard something-" She turned back to continue, and screamed as Quentin's hands fell on her shoulders. Releasing Sarah's hand, Maggie brought her fists up to try and fight him off.

But Quentin easily captured her hands, frowning. "Hey. What's this all about?"

Maggie froze, realizing that it wasn't the creature from her nightmare, but Quentin, and she fell into his arms, sobbing. Concerned blue eyes met Sarah's brown ones. "She had a bad dream earlier this afternoon," arah explained.

The concern deepened. "A dream?" He looked down at Maggie, lifting her face so he could see her. "Is that why you were so frightened of me?"

"It wasn't you," she whispered. "It was-" she shook her head, not wanting to say more in front of Sarah.

"Sarah," Quentin began. "Do you think you could find your way back to the Old House while I talk to Maggie?"


"No!" Maggie inssited. "I don't want her out here alone."

Quentin put an arm around her shoulders. "Okay. We'll walk her back to the house, then." He held out his other hand for the child. "Come on, Sarah."


Angelique saw the three of them approaching the house, and went to the door. "Hello, Quentin."

"Thought I'd stop by to see Maggie for a few minutes," he said.

Maggie felt foolish for her reaction to Quentin, and turned to Sarah. "Why don't we go upstairs and pick out the dress you're going to wear this evening?" she suggested.

"Sarah and I can do that, Maggie," Angelique offered. "Why don't you stay down here with-"

"That's all right, Angelique," Maggie said, not looking at Quentin. "It's my job. I'll be back in a minute-"

Quentin took her hand. "Maggie-?"

"I'll be right back," she promised, then went upstairs with Sarah.

Quentin watched her go, then turned to Angelique. "Would you care to explain what's going on?"

"I think I'd better. Barnabas just called and told me that you'd stopped by to see him this morning -"

"Well, I thought he ought to know what happened. He mentioned something about your having a plan?"

"I think you'd better sit down, Quentin." She glanced toward the stairs. "I don't think I'll have much time to explain."

"Okay. I'm sitting."

"I've asked Julia to come over here late this evening - to hypnotize Maggie so that you can tell her the truth."

"*What*? Have you lost your mind, Angelique? I can't -"

"Quentin, it's either that, or Nicholas is going to reveal the truth to her in his own way. I think he's already begun."

"What do you mean?"

"Maggie had a nightmare earlier-"

"Sarah mentioned it." At Angelique's curious look, he explained, "When I came up on them in the woods, Maggie didn't see me until I grabbed her, and she screamed and tried to fight me off - What *exactly* was this dream about?" he asked.


"How about this one?" Sarah asked, holding up a blue dress with a darker blue sash and lots of lace.

"I like the pink one better," Maggie was saying as Angelique came in. "Has Quentin gone?"

"No. He's waiting for you downstairs. I came up here to see if I could help Sarah." When Maggie hesitated, she said, "I explained about the dream, Maggie. He understands what happened in the woods-" *better than you do*, Angelique thought. "Go talk to him."


He finished the glass of whiskey that he'd poured, and was about to refill the glass when he saw he come down the stairs. "I guess you think I'm silly," she began.

Quentin shook his head, and held out his arms. "Not at all," he assured her as she ran to him.

"Oh, Quentin. I was so frightened. The dream was so real- and yet it wasn't real. It was like- bits and pieces of things. Nothing connected, but I had the feeling that they *were* connected in some way, if I could just find the key -"

"And you think that key is upstairs in that locked room?" he asked.

"I'm sure of it." She looked at him. "Do *you* know what's in there?"

"As a matter of fact, yes, I do. But I can't let you in yet. I need you to do something for me first."

"You have a key? Quentin-"

"Will you do something for me?"

"What?" she asked.

"There are things about me- about my life, my past, that you need to be told."

"Then tell me," Maggie said.

"I wish it were that easy. I want you to agree to let Julia hypnotize you tongiht- she'll give you a suggestion that we can use to put you back to sleep in case you -"

She laughed nervously. "What on earth could be so horrible? You're not a murderer - or -"

"Will you agree, Maggie?"

"And after you tell me, you'll let me into that room?"

"If you still want to go, yes."

Maggie looked at him. "Then I'll do it. After all, it's not as if Julia's never hypnotized me before, is it? She used hypnosis as part of her therapy when I was at Wyndecliffe years ago."

"I love you, Maggie. I hope you never doubt that."

"Never," she promised, lifting her lips to his. The sound of a throat being cleared behind them brought Quentin's head up, and he found himself meeting Willie's disapproving stare.

"Yes, Willie?"

"Nothing." He moved to start putting out fresh candles in the room.

Maggie smiled at Quentin. "I'd better get upstairs and see if Sarah and Angelique have made a decision about a dress."

Quentin went to the bar and poured some more whiskey, turning to find Willie looking at him again. "Out with it, Willie."

"Don't know what you're talkin' about," Willie muttered, fixing his attention on the candles again.

"You're upset about my seeing Maggie, aren't you?"

Willie stopped what he was doing and turned. "Yeah. All you're gonna do is hurt her, Quentin. You can't can't stay at Collinwood. And leadin' her on the way you are is only gonna break her heart when you disappear one day."

"Willie, everything you've just said is true. But there's one other thing that outwieghs all that."

"What's that?"

"I happen to be in love with Maggie. And she's in love with me. I know you think a lot of her -"

"It's just that- she's been through alot. Bein' kidnapped, her father dyin' so suddenly, Nicholas Blair almost killin' her, and then Shaw - I don't want to see her hurt again. She's a friend."

"And I thought we were friends, Willie. Believe me, hurting Maggie is the *last* thing I want to do. Things will work out, Willie. They have to."


Nicholas watched as Carolyn picked up her scattered clothing. "Why do you have to go? It's not your wedding rehersal -"

"No, but it's Uncle Roger's and Julia's. You're sure you don't want to come with me?"

"It would prove- interesting," Nicholas admitted, "but I think I'll wait until tomorrow to put in an appearance." He watched her for a moment, then held out his hand toward her. "Come here."

Carolyn moved to take his hand and sat on the bed . "What?"

"Will you be back after dinner?" he wanted to know. "We have more work to do-"

"Which we should have been doing this afternoon instead of spending it in bed," she said playfully as his hand cupped the back of her head, drawing her closer and closer.

"I thought this was your idea," he returned.

"And I," Carolyn said, kissing him, "thought it was yours. You *were* the one who said he had something to show me up here, remember?"

"Hmm. So I did." He opened his hand which had been empty before to reveal a blood red ruby suspended on a fine gold chain.

"Oh, Nicholas. It's beautiful," Carolyn said, touching the stone.

"Not as beautiful as you are, my dear." He kissed her again, and this time Carolyn didn't pull away.


"Where is Carolyn?" Roger asked as Quentin brought in a bottle of champagne, followed by Maggie carrying a tray of glasses.

"She probably worked late," Elizabeth said, knowing that for the lie it was. She had called the Antique Shoppe earlier to remind Carolyn of the family dinner, only to have Lisa tell her that Carolyn hadn't come in at all.

The front door opened, and Carolyn entered the house, turning toward the stairs. "I'll be right back down," she told them, not stopping even when her mother called to her. When she returned a few minutes later, she was apologetic. "I'm sorry. There was a late customer at the shop, and I just couldn't get away."

As she turned toward Barnabas and Angelique, Barnabas heard his wife gasp in surprise. Her blue eyes were fastened on the ruby pendant that Carolyn was wearing. "Carolyn," Angelique asked, "Where did you get that?"

Carolyn smiled, fingering the jewel. "From a friend. He says it's very old- and very valuable."

"It is certainly old," Angelique confirmed. "Did he tell you the story behind it as well?" she asked.

"I didn't know there was a story," Carolyn said, clearly uncertain whether to believe her.

"You'll have to ask him to tell you where the ruby came from," Angelique said, then moved away, leaving Carolyn looking down at the ruby.

Barnabas caught up with her as soon as he could. "What was that all about?" he asked. "And why are you smiling like that?"

"Like what, Barnabas?"

"Like you know something that no one else knows."

"Because I do." She lifted that brilliant blue gaze to his face. "I think I've found the way to defeat Nicholas, Barnabas."

To Be Continued ---

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