Home > Crying Wolfe (Goode Girls #5)

Crying Wolfe (Goode Girls #5)
Author: Kerrigan Byrne

 


CHAPTER 1

 

 

Rosaline Goode had always known that one day, this heinous proclivity would be the death of her.

She just hadn’t considered it might be so soon, or from so high up.

Though she was afraid of many things—so many things—heights had never been counted among them.

Until this very night.

On this very ledge.

A ledge that had just done its utmost to kill her.

A wild heartbeat kicked at her ribs as she clung to the limestone bricks behind her with frozen fingers, willing her unsteady legs to get moving again.

It wasn’t that she wanted to do this…she had to. No other choice existed in the matter. If she ever planned to sleep again, or breathe normally, or even be able to function in the manner of a half-coherent human being, then there was no turning back now.

Casting a longing look at her room, she calmed herself by counting the small treasures lined like regimental soldiers on the window seat. Rosaline had chosen this chamber on the fourth floor of Cresthaven Place in hopes of a better view of the night sky. London proved to be a smoggy, overcast city that never went truly dark, therefore her one pleasure, the stars, had been tragically obscured. She was afforded, however, an unfettered view of the house next door, belonging to one Lady Vera Clarkwell. Hespera House was one of the finest and, she gathered, most mysterious in the borough, but the only thing she cared about was the perfection of its observatory.

Like most grand residences in this part of London, Cresthaven Place and Hespera House were joined by a shared wall. Where Cresthaven’s roof was shingled in the usual slant, Hespera House boasted a grand dome of tempered glass from which the entire firmament could be seen. The seam between the houses was interrupted by a nook with mirroring windows on the first through fourth floors overlooking a little garden birdbath below. The one decorated with a startlingly detailed nude sculpture of Apollo.

It was along the fourth-floor window ledge that Rosaline found a path between the domiciles. And so, she’d made this clandestine nocturnal journey on three previous occasions with little difficulty.

The first, after moving from their country home of Fairhaven to the city.

Second, after her disastrous and humiliating presentation into London society.

And tertiary, after the Earl of Crosthwaite’s inaugural ball where a suitor had put his hand down her corset during a stolen kiss and pinched her nipple hard enough to bruise it.

Luckily, that hadn’t been the most scandalous thing to have happened at said event, and she’d been able to escape with her reputation unscathed…

If not her tender bits.

She sent a baleful glare to the slick of ice accumulated on the ledge from a leaking gutter. One she’d not noted until her slipper found it in the dark and she’d almost pitched off the side to skewer said tender bits on the wrought iron fence below. The night, of course, had been colder than most, but she’d not realized it’d dipped below freezing until almost losing her fight with a solid puddle.

Ye Gads, what if she’d been found, her broken body draped over that indecent statue in some humiliating fashion?

She’d rather be impaled on a gate.

A curious mew jolted her already frayed nerves, and she glanced down to see an adolescent black kitten padding across the icy patch as if it didn’t exist.

What she wouldn’t give to be a cat.

“Nova! You dreadful sneak, go on. Get back inside. Shoo!” She flapped an ineffectual hand at the beast, who’d found her ankles and wound in between them with a sure-footed confidence no creature should possess at this altitude. “Perhaps you are Orion?” she speculated, bending her trembling knees in an effort to retrieve the thing. “It doesn’t matter, I can’t check for your gender just now, but I’ll give you both an anchovy if you go home this instant. What do you say?”

With an imperious golden glare, the kitten dashed away from her clumsy attempt to pick it up and trotted toward Hespera House.

Drat. She’d have to retrieve the adorable cretin…or perhaps she could tempt it inside once she’d gained entry to the observatory and capture it there.

Spurred into action by the thought, she kept her back against the stone as she tested each step she took. By the time she’d skirted the entire nook, she looked across at her window to see that two more kittens had clawed their way onto the window seat and were batting at a few of the shiny little trinkets she’d so painstakingly arranged.

It didn’t matter if they shoved an item to the floor; few of her treasures were fragile and the ones that could break were worthless.

She always made certain of that.

Tonight, she’d lined them up and counted them fifteen times.

And might do fifteen more if she couldn’t find anything else to control this…this monstrous thing inside of her.

Reaching the observatory window, she slid a butter knife from the pocket of her wrapper and poked it through the casement to lift the latch from the inside. That done, she swung the glass pane open and peeked into the dimness below.

Empty, as always.

Lady Clarkwell was too old and rickety to climb the stairs to the fourth floor, and the staff never ventured here at night.

Rosaline had always thought the precious room seemed not only deserted, but dejected.

Lonely. Abandoned.

Her heart had ached at the vastness of treasure she’d spied within, all barely given a proper dusting, let alone appreciation.

Such a room was the manifestation of her most earnest fantasies. Had she owned a place so grand, she’d never leave it. She’d spend all day sleeping in a puddle of sunshine allowed in by the glittering skylights, and all night charting the stars.

Discovering the undiscoverable.

Leaping onto the windowsill over which Rosaline leaned, Nova—or Orion—rubbed a whiskered cheek against her shoulder. Deftly, the accursed animal danced out of range when she swiped for it and landed somewhere in the gloom below.

Wriggling in through the casement, Rosaline’s slippered toes found the top of the bookshelves lining the walls of the observatory. She made her way to the rolling ladder with featherlight steps, careful only to put her weight on the load-bearing seams of the shelves. Gathering the wisps of her nightshift and wrapper, she descended the ladder and found purchase on the plush, exotic rug beneath her.

Lord it was cold in this wing of the house. As chilly inside as it was out there… She should have brought something heavier than her wrapper, but had worried the weight would make her travel across the ledge more difficult.

After breathing on her hands to warm them, she extracted a taper candle from her wrapper pocket. She found the holder she used perched upon a decorative table and replaced its candle with her own before lighting it. When she left, she’d extinguish hers and take it back to Cresthaven, careful to leave no trace of herself behind.

A metallic glint caught her eye.

This was what she’d come to find…

Drawn as if by a night witch’s spell, she drifted forward, gaping at the reflections of gleaming candlelight off the magnificent marvel before her.

Telescope. What an utterly unromantic name for such a miracle of modern technology crafted from the visions of a millennia of astronomers.

Her fingers itched to tinker with it.

Tonight, however…they burned with a different need. One far more insidious and undeniable.

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