The Enemy's Daughter(6)By: Anne Marie Winston
She hesitated and he realized she must be more tuned in to him than he expected when she said, "But you know someone who has?"
"My family's home is haunted," he said baldly. She might as well hear it all.
"By whom?" To his surprise, she didn't sound skeptical, but was very matter-of-fact.
"We don't know," he said. "Let me amend that. We think it's the spirit of a governess named Miss Carlisle. She was hired by one of my ancestors in the early 1890s but on the night of her arrival, her carriage overturned on the road up to the house and she was killed. She was buried on the estate beneath a young oak tree."
"Poor girl." Selene sounded upset, as if they were speaking of someone they'd known. "Where was she from? Did her family ever learn her fate?"
"I don't know," he said. "I'm not sure anyone knew very much about her."
There was a short silence while they contemplated the fate of a young girl from an earlier age.
Finally, Selene said, "Who has seen her? And why do you believe it's her? This Miss Carlisle?"
"There were no sightings, no minors of ghostly goings-on at Crofthaven until after her death. She was seen quite a few times during the twentieth century," he told her. "Every sighting was near the tree where she's buried. It's still there," he added belatedly. "One of my ancestor's guests described her dress in great detail and a historian confirmed that her apparel reflects turn-of-the-century clothing."
"How long has it been since anyone's seen her?" They had stopped walking altogether and she turned to face him, the smooth oval of her face tilted up attentively.
"That's the strange part," he said. "In the past nine months, she's been seen three times."
"Oh!" Selene rubbed her hands up and down her arms. "I've got goose bumps. Tell me all about them."
"Okay." He led her to a stone bench along the edge of a square they were passing and indicated that she should take a seat. As she did, he sank down beside her. "In February, Kimberly's fiancé saw her along the road. She tried to speak to him, but Zack couldn't figure out what she was saying. The way he tells it, she got ticked off just like any woman with a guy who doesn't get it, and left."
Selene smiled, and he could see the flash of her teeth in the dark that had fallen over the city. "I wonder what she was trying to tell him?"
"We don't know. She was seen again in May. This time, it was a houseguest—my sister-in-law's brother—and Dennis actually thought she was another guest who walked into the wrong bedroom. He didn't even realize who he'd seen until the next day."
"Goodness! Had she been seen in the house before?"
"No," he said. "That one was a shock to all of us. She came around again in July, and Lea's fiancé saw her this time. He swears she kept saying something that sounded like 'farther' or 'father.'"
Selene was shaking her head. "Poor thing. I hope someone can help her find whatever it is she's looking for one of these days."
"So do I," he said. "She does no harm wandering around, except for startling a few people. But I think there must be something specific she wants, or wants to communicate or find."
"I wonder if there's any significance to the fact that recently she's been seen only by houseguests or people who aren't related by blood to the Danforths," she said.
Adam stared at her. "I missed that completely," he said slowly. "You're right. I may have to go back through some of the older accounts to see if the folks who had a sighting were family."
"Blood relatives," she clarified. "Not people who married into the family."
"Blood relatives," he echoed. He took her hand. "Thank you. I guess it seems silly but it's been bugging me, the thought that she's so unhappy."
"It doesn't seem silly at all," Selene said gently. "It seems thoughtful. And caring."
Was that what she really thought? Warmth spread through his chest and he leaned forward, taking both her hands in his. "I'm so glad you agreed to see me again."
Her eyelids lowered. "I shouldn't have, I know. If my father finds out…"
"Why don't you take me to meet him?" Adam said. "Then we won't have to sneak around and you won't have to worry. The election is only two months away. As long as we keep it low-key until then, surely he won't mind."
"Adam, you don't understand." Her fingers had tensed in his. "My father doesn't—he wouldn't understand. If he finds out I'm seeing you, he'll forbid it."
He tried to smile, although the certainty in her tone had his stomach curling into a knot. "Surely it isn't that bad. I could—"
"No!" she said. "You can't do anything. Or I won't see you again." She tugged her hands from his and rose, clearly agitated.
Adam sat very still, looking at her rigid spine. He didn't know what to say. He hated feeling as if they had to watch over their shoulders every moment.
Then she turned, and he could see the track of a single tear shining in the moonlight as it streaked down her cheek. "I don't want you to be unhappy with me," she whispered. "I just know that until this election ends and Daddy settles down, he's not going to be able to deal with me dating a Danforth."
"All right." He rose and went to her, taking her into his arms. She felt small and soft against him, and when she wrapped her arms around his neck and let her body rest trustingly along his, he thought his heart might just burst right out of his chest. "We'll do it your way. Just promise me you won't let your father stop you from seeing me."
"Of course not." She drew back and looked up at him. "You're the best thing that's ever happened in my life, Adam."
He drank in her stunning features, the appeal in her wide eyes, and he was lost. "As you are in mine." And then he bent his head and found her mouth with his.
« ^ »
She was lost the moment his lips touched hers. Adam's mouth was warm and gentle as he kissed her, cajoling her to return the kiss. His arms were hard and muscular and yet he held her as though she were made of crystal.
With a murmured sound of pleasure, she ran her palms up his arms to his shoulders and gave herself to the sweetness of the moment.
After a moment, he drew away. "When can I see you again?"
"Soon," she said dreamily, feathering her fingers through the soft hair at the back of his head.
He kissed her again. "Tomorrow."
Immediately, she felt a return of the dread that hovered in the back of her mind, the fear that her father might find out. She was usually home much of the time. He might get suspicious if she suddenly was busy every moment.
"The day after tomorrow," she said. "Tomorrow's a little crowded." It was a lie, but she wasn't going to take any chances.
"All right," he agreed. "Lunch? Meet me in Oglethorpe Square
where we met the other day."
She smiled, relieved at his easy acceptance. "All right. Could we go somewhere outside the city to eat, though? I'd like a change of scenery." And then there would be no chance of running into anyone either of them knew.
* * *
She didn't get home until nearly eleven, and she let herself in quietly, hoping her father was asleep already. But as she tiptoed toward the grand staircase that led to her suite of rooms on the second floor, he appeared in the doorway of his study.
"Selene! I was beginning to wonder where you'd gotten to." He switched on the large chandelier that hung in the entrance and she blinked in the sudden bright light.
John Van Gelder looked tired. And … old, she thought. Older than a man of sixty-three should look. Even the silver that had replaced his blond hair in places seemed tarnished and dull. His dress shirt ballooned over the waistband of his creased linen slacks, poorly concealing his girth. She'd been a little shocked to see how much weight her father had put on compared to her memory of him.
"Out on the town, I suppose? You do realize that your actions will attract the attention of every reporter, don't you?" His pale gray eyes were as sharp as his tone.
"Yes, Father. I took a tour of the historical district." That wasn't a lie. Exactly. Not like what she'd said to Adam about being busy tomorrow.
"It focused on ghosts and legends. Did you know that there really was a girl who stood where the statue of the Waving Girl is? She waved a cloth over her head just like the statue is depicted to signal boats on the river, and some people swear they've seen the stone cloth of that statue ripple as well."
John snorted. "There's a ghost associated with practically every old building in Savannah. You're nobody if your home isn't haunted in this city." He chuckled at his own wit. Then he sobered abruptly. "Did you catch the interview with Abe Danforth tonight?"
Silently, she shook her head. Danforth. She felt as if the name were written in black marker on her forehead.
He smiled grimly. "Cable news. They had him scrambling to explain why his kids spend more time with their aunt and uncle than they do with him. Rumor has it his own kids can't even stand him. And I wonder how they feel about a bastard half sister?"
Appalled at her father's coarseness and lack of empathy, Selene shook her head. "I imagine it's a difficult time for them."