1) First, tell us about yourself – where you live, your family, and those sorts of details.
Would love to! I am the proud mother of two adorable young children, wife to the handiest husband ever, and a writer of Fantasy/Mystery. I often work at the local library because my beautiful office is overrun with kids and pets. My passion lies split evenly between fitness, reading, and writing. What else… we have a dog and a cat. Our family used to include two cats but we recently lost our snuggly black feline Daphne who happens to have been featured in The Temple of Indra’s Jewel. I love photography and have dubbed myself the paparazzi. I think laughter is the best medicine and there really is no brighter spot to my day then hearing my kids giggle.
For as long as I could hold a pencil or so they say. I still remember the moment I decided creative writing was my favourite class –Grade three. Making up stories and writing them down just seemed like a very natural thing to do. We often visited my Grandfather who we lovingly coined Grump, at his beautiful old home in Cordova Mines. His wife, Ruth always had books in the house. I read everything that I could get my hands on, much of it probably wasn’t age appropriate. Other kids were slipping into Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, and I was curled up reading V.C Andrews.
I would love-love-love to say my office -- it’s beautiful but truthfully my house is usually filled with noise and since my office is quite accessible, I’m forced to lock myself in my bedroom to get anything done. I wind up awkwardly laying on my bed or sitting on my chaise with a cat climbing all over me, twice a week I run to the local library to get some writing done. If I had to choose the most peaceful place I’ve ever written, I’d say it was at a cottage in Bobcaygeon on a writing retreat with my writers circle. That was definitely my all-time favorite place to create. Come to think of it, the scene with Sophia where she’s admiring the stars dazzling off the lake before going to bed at Gigi’s Lakehouse --that was born from that moment.
I guess it was a combination of circumstances. I was twenty-six, pregnant with my first child, taking a night course on history and I found myself with a severance package and a lot of free time. I’d read and loved the Outlander series and I was having trouble finding more time travel books so I decided to write something I would read.
That’s tough. I love all my characters. It’s like asking someone to choose their favourite family member. You know. I love my mom for being mom and dad for being dad. Why don’t I tell you instead why I love the chosen few. I’ll start with the obvious. Sophia -- she’s adventurous, playful and probably the most relatable for me. A lot of her decisions are based on a ‘what would I do’ scenario. Cullen – the loveable redheaded Irishman is based on all the positive traits of my hubby with of course none of the bad. Gigi -- Sophia’s great grandmother is a mixture of people I know. Some of her relationship with Sophia is based on my mother and my Great-Grandma Trimble and a few of her personality quirks or sayings are thanks to my aunts and/or family in general. Then there’s Leslie and Greta – oh how I love these characters. They are the comic relief and Leslie really is loosely based on a quirky friend of mine.
6) How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Nick is probably my least favourite character. He’s needy, self-serving and explosive and he just really grates on my nerves. Needless to say, I based him on someone as well. :P
7) Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
It’s definitely a process. I write my story. I edit a chapter then I take it to my writers circle and they review it and I edit it based on their feedback. Then I read it again a year later once we’ve gone through the whole story. Same process. This may happen one more time. Then I give it to beta readers and edit based on their feedback. Then my girlfriend Sue will sometimes take a run at it and finally it moves to the Publisher for a professional edit and proof. Yawn! I’m tired just thinking about all of this.
Well, of course I really enjoy reading. I’m also training for a fitness competition so in addition to working, writing and taking care of my husband and two kids, I train six times a week and fit in posing class with Steve Oldenfield and his team from Pure Spa & Fitness.
I definitely have a few. Heather Graham, Cassandra Clare, Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins, V.C Andrews, Deborah Harkness, Kristen Cashore and of course Diana Gabaldon. She just has a way of stringing together a sentence that places you right there in the story. Not to mention her characters are fabulous -- I could read the most boring mundane details and yet I'm fascinated and want more.
Gigi’s death by far was the most emotional scene I’ve ever written. We lost my aunt to cancer the year or two before I wrote this and so a lot of the journey and pain was still fresh. The ambulance, the hospital and the morphine -- I still cry when I read it.
The sound of heavy footsteps and a feeling of dread overtook me as I woke. A deep humming nagged at my ears and I burrowed deeper into my cocoon of quilts. The door opened and a strong musk stung my nostrils. Go away! I thought shaking my head to clear it as the bed sunk under the strain of company. All the movement was too much and a wave of nausea that could knock over a sailor rolled in.
I swallowed it back down. “Nick,” I whispered attempting to grasp my bearings. What happened?”
His hand stroked my hair before trailing slowly to my ribs, making me very aware of the thin fabric tangled at my waist. As I peeked one eye open, my vision blurred and my eyes stung as if filled with salt."
“Nick,” I repeated. What happened?”
His hand caressed my nipples, first one and then the other, which responded against my better judgment. This wasn’t the time for foreplay, I thought. My head throbbed and the room spun as I attempted to sit up.
“The cavern,” I started to say.
“Shhh,” he soothed laying me back down. I was so damn weak.
“Tell me!” I said pushing back at him.
I’d been the first to jump off the boat and head for the reef. Was that only this morning? It felt like a lifetime ago when I’d noticed the deep dark shadows of an abyss off in the distance. I remembered suddenly finding myself over top of it and thinking how’d I get over here so fast? There’d no longer been any fish around me, and I had marveled at how surreal it was to swim over a cliff. That’s when I had seen the metallic light radiating from below. I tried to recall what happened next and pushed my memory to the brink. I remembered sunshine, finding my breath… popping up…
My sinus’s burned and my eyeballs felt like they’d burst out of my head bringing me back to reality and the fact that Nick was still touching me. I ignored him and opened my eyes again, forcing them to focus. There were delicate diamond panes of glass in the windows, floral patterns on the walls and dolls on a shelf.
“Sapphira ma fleur, réveillez-vous.” Nick’s voice surprised me, pulling me out of my reverie as he slipped the blanket down to expose my thighs.
I grabbed for it and pulled it back up to my waist shivering. “Nick, where are we?”
“Nous avons inachevé!” He continued cooing in my ear. I closed my weary eyes, my mind searching, trying to make sense of his voice and touch. He usually didn’t speak French unless we were with his dad’s friends.
His voice grew deep and menacing as he switched to English and stood up.
“Sapphira! You try my patience. Stop playing.”
I looked up but I could only make out a dark figure looming over me, pacing back and fourth. “I can’t see you. There’s something wrong with my sight.”
When I didn’t respond further he tweaked my nipple hard.
“Owww!” I howled, opening my eyes just in time to watch his blurry shadowed form disappear from the room.
Where’s he going? What’s gotten into him today?
I swung my legs over the side of the bed to chase after him but nothing seemed familiar or right. This was not our Villa. Where was I? How did I get here? I remembered wandering up the hill. Oh my god! He’d proposed!
Wrapping a blanket tight to my chest to ward off the chill, I staggered out of bed and across the room. The nausea was overwhelming and I leaned my forehead against the cold marble of an oversized fireplace, trying to dredge up what had happened. We’d found ourselves on the backside of the island gazing out over the cliff. That must be his problem. His dad wanted us to join the family business in Europe. But I’d said no. And he lost it!
I gripped the mantle tighter. What had happened next?
I remembered walking away from him to catch my breath, that’s when I noticed that same metallic spinning in the water below.
Suddenly I was hurdling towards it.
Dizziness overtook me.
I opened my eyes to get away from the memory, bracing myself and stared down into the face of an ugly Marie-Antoinette-looking doll lying in a basket. The eyes bulged.
Had I fallen?
If so, this was a pretty strange hospital. I ran my hands over my face and head. No cuts, although I did feel bruised, nauseous and dizzy.
As I contemplated that, a crescendo of tiny knocks rapped at the door. I quickly returned to the bedside just in time to see a petite dark haired girl poke her head in.
“Oh good, mademoiselle, you’re up. Are you feeling any better?” She signaled behind her and two additional women marched in, opening the drapes, unfolding a food tray and handing me a cup of hot broth.
“Please, tell us what ‘appened?” her tiny french voice cracked with excitement.
I moved to the window sipping my broth, feeling extremely alien as they began to make the bed and assemble garments.
“Who are you?”
“Chloe.” She said looking affronted.
I ignored her and gazed out the French doors at the expanse of blue water. The Villa must be built on a cliff. Then it came to me.
Nick had grabbed me by the neck and leaned me back over the Island’s edge on Sainte Marguerite. I tried to reach for his chest, to pull myself in, then I clawed at his hands to loosen his grip so I could breathe, but as I squirmed I forgot the edge. Loose rocks gave way beneath me. My balance wavered and Nick let go. It was like a bad dream, falling in slow motion. I hit the water with a thud and it drove a terrible stinging up my nose. I struggled to swim. My lungs wanted to explode with panic. I drifted deeper. And then suddenly, I just relaxed as the strange magnetic lights encompassed me.
“The water, I was d-r-r-owning. Did I wash up here?” I sputtered, confused, almost like an amnesia patient.
Chloe paused slightly giving the other lady a strange look. “You were found floating in the sea.”
How could Nick have done that? He must have at least dived in and saved me ‘cause here I was alive, or at least partially alive. I felt like death. I remembered it all so clearly now. We’d gone snorkeling at the Lérins islands just off the coast near Cannes.
Had I washed up on shore somewhere along the French Riviera? Or were there other islands, perhaps a private island.
Yes that was it! This was some eccentric’s mansion and that explained the room.
“What were you doing at the rivage de la mer?” Chloe asked, interrupting my reverie.
“Give her a moment to collect herself,” scolded the tall thin maid with the pinched face. “She has just awakened and she probably desires to catch her breath, no?”
“Lisabetta, come look at the nasty bruise on her head.” Anais motioned rapidly for the older lady to come over.
They all stepped closer, examining my head.
“It’s nothing. Retour au travail.” Lisabetta said in a mixture of French and Italian. Isn’t that right, mia cara?”
“But, mademoiselle, how?” Chloe questioned, before seeing the old woman’s face.
“Taisez-vous!” Lisabetta shouted.
Chloe quickly clapped a hand over her mouth as Lisabetta grabbed her wrist and ushered her out into the hall.
They returned a moment later all smiles.
“Well now, Signorina, you are safe, thanks to that handsome Graf of Württemberg. Let’s take care to get you dressed so the house can move on.”
She reminded me of someone else, someone else feisty I should have remembered, but my mind was a jumbled mass of confusion. I walked through the fog remembering odd things and yet having no context for them and blanking on other things right in front of me.
It took me a little by surprise when Lisabetta threw my arms up and Anais yanked the nightie over my head.
“What the hell are you doing?” I said quickly throwing my hands over my breasts or at least the nipples. My hands weren’t quite big enough to cover everything.
“Mademoiselle?” Anais questioned.
“Give me that!” I screeched yanking for the nightgown as Anais stepped back out of my reach.
“Who are you and where the hell is Nick?”
I was not a shy person, but I was not used to being stripped by strangers.
Anais looked panicked, glancing from Lisabetta to me.
“Leave her,” Lisabetta said calmly.
I wrapped the nightgown around me like a towel and marched over to the door that I had seen Nick exit through. Where had he gone?
Then it occurred to me to be afraid. What if Nick hadn’t jumped in after me? What if I washed up somewhere alone?
My hands were cold but sweaty as I clutched the knob. For a moment, I forgot the chill running down my spine, and regarded my hand as though it belonged to someone else: blue veins were visible through delicate flesh. My hands, yet much paler.
A small measure of comfort tugged at my heart as I noticed Gigi’s ring. The panther sparkled, covered in purple jewels with startling emerald eyes.
“Should I call for the doctor?” Anais asked.
“No.” Lisabetta clucked disapprovingly. “He’ll put her out again.”
“Put me out?”
Lisabetta nodded, reaching a hand towards the nightgown I clutched around my body.
“Why are you dressing me?”
“Dinner,” Lisabetta said, motioning to Chloe. “The dress from the back of the door and bring the brooch.”
“Dinner? Don’t you people have a cocktail dress?” I said eyeing the three quarter length sleeves and scoop neckline. “I’m not going to dinner.” My stomach took this inopportune moment to lurch. “Where’s Nick?”
Lisabetta raised her eyebrow. “Waiting downstairs at dinner.”
“Oh, thank god.” I said, grabbing the dress from her hands. “Why do I have to wear such a fancy dress? Is it some sort of costume party?”
“Party. Yes.” Anais smiled.
I eyed her suspiciously.
“Fine. I’ll wear it,” I said, motioning for them to turn around before bending to step into it. “I guess I can’t wear my bikini.”
I stood up straight surrounded by a sea of bronzed gold. The material may have been made of soft silk but the crinoline underneath felt itchy. The girls instantly went to my back tugging and squeezing until my boobs bulged out the top.
“Oh god, ouch, what is that sticking into me?”
“A corset, the usual.”
The usual for who, I thought to myself, masochists?
She continued on, nipping and tucking me in as she yanked the laces tighter. I let out an exasperated moan and Anais smiled up at me.
“Euhhhh, have no fear Mademoiselle, we will get you into it, no?” She was soon squeezing me so tight I thought I might pass out. Never mind the near drowning, this would be death by corset. They stood back, surveying their handiwork with satisfaction.
“One last thing.” Anais said pushing a powder puff into my face.
“Sei bellissima!” Lisabette smiled and pinched my cheek.
“Oui, très belle!” Agreed Anais.
I huffed, allowing Lisabetta to pinch me one last time. “Can we please go to Nick now?”
“Of course,” Anais said, opening the door in a motion for me go.
They both just stood there.
“Could one of you lead the way?” My patience was wearing thin.
Lisabetta looked from Anais to me and then waved her hand.
“Of course.” Lisabetta said, before leading me through a dozen multi-coloured chambers. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Ornamental pillars, tapestries, vaulted ceilings and sparkly chandeliers. This place was really something. Eventually the space opened up into an enormous hall with elaborate cross ribs arching high above in an elegant spider’s web shape. As she led me toward the front of the room I was welcomed by a man and a woman similarly dressed in costumes befitting a ball.
“There you are!” The older woman said. Her face held a faint pomegranate tone, perhaps reflected off the red of her gown, which set off her dark hair. I could feel curious glances boring into my back. I assumed from the shifty eyes and snippets of whispers that they were garrulous and gossipy.
“Princess Maria.” A woman in green flew up to her interrupting us, curtsying before her. “And Comte de Chalais,” she said before kissing the man on both cheeks in an overdramatized fashion.
I gaped openly at the trio.
“Thank you so much for inviting us.” She chirped turning back to the woman.
“Don’t thank me. It was Henri’s suggestion.”
I turned away, flushed, and glanced around the room. Three long tables were arranged to make three sides of a square. There were some twenty people set to eat, and perhaps another seven to serve. Panic shot through me like a bolt of lightning. I didn’t see Nick anywhere but I did notice a devastatingly tall, handsome man staring at me. His skin was olive and he had the most amazing, serious, greenish-brown eyes. Our gaze locked as we took stock of one another. He was not entirely clean shaven and although his hair was trimmed, it curled in shining blue-black ringlets.
“And look at this lovely, exotic creature. Is this your daughter?” The woman in green asked, pulling me back to the conversation at hand.
I waited for the woman in red, Princess Maria, to correct her and usher me to Nick, but instead she nodded and put her hand on my shoulder. “Yes, this is the fair Princess.”
My heart began to pound. I pulled away and turned on her. “Don’t touch me. Where is Nick?”
I heard whispers and gasps ripple through the crowd.
“Sapphira,” she whispered.
I took a step back, realizing all eyes were looking our way.
“Why are you saying my name like that? It’s Sophia.”
“It’s alright.” She smiled and turned towards a tall, plain, skinny woman with black hair and cold blue eyes that froze me to my bones. “Gabrielle, call for the doctor. She’s had a bump on the head.”
“What? Give me the phone. I need to call my hotel.”
The woman scurried through the crowd, returning with a silver haired gentleman.
“Please forgive her,” Maria expressed to the room. “Perhaps we allowed her out of bed too soon.”
No one moved.
I caught my reflection in a gilded floor length mirror. It was me and yet it wasn’t. Pale, with rosy red, plump lips and something else wasn’t right. I marched closer, realizing my hair was the colour of toast—a mane full of curly blonde ringlets that shone in a rippling sheet of gold almost to my waist. I studied the reflection. The sun couldn’t have lightened it that much. They dyed my hair and possibly permed it! What the hell was going on here?
“What are you people playing at?” I turned back to the mirror, my pale creamy complexion mocking me. “This had better wash out,” I said holding up a lock.
"Why is she being so silly?" Maria whined loud enough for me to overhear. "I don't like this."
"I don’t either, your highness," Gabrielle said, eyeing me from across the room.
"When will Charles be back?” Maria said and frowned.
“We haven’t heard yet.”
"Have you heard any further news from Menton?”
Gabrielle shook her head. “No, only that Roquebrune has joined them in their revolt and will soon declare themselves independent."
“I handed the power over to Charles too late and now his efforts are doomed. If only Florestan had been more of a leader. I’m feeling melancholy. Where’s Nico?”
My ears perked up at the sound of the name. It wasn’t Nick but perhaps that was his stage name during this little game.
“He should deal with- ” She paused waving her limp wrist at me as if I were a mess to be swept from the floor. “this.”
“He’s not here. He’s handling the Roquebrune situation, your highness. Give me permission to deal with your daughter.”
Gabriella turned to me, a look of satisfaction brimming over. I tilted my head defiantly.
“What Roquebrune situation? Get me to Nick now!” I demanded.
“Get hold of yourself.” She said, disdain pulling at the corners of her mouth.
“I will not! Get me Nick.”
“Perhaps you need another shot.”
“No, I don’t need anything except for Nick.”
“Would you like me to give her something to sleep?” The silver haired man rifled through his black bag.
“No. I’m fine. I’ll co-operate. Please. Please don’t drug me.” I begged.
The silver haired man looked to Gabrielle and then to Maria who nodded and turned to whisper to me in hushed tones. “I know you’ve sustained quite the bump, but no more outbursts, Sapphira, or you’ll be put to bed.”
I glanced around the room. All eyes continued to stare at me. Perhaps I’d better play along for the moment.
The eyes began to turn away and the chatter rose once again as Maria took my arm introducing me to several people as if nothing happened. As the introductions went on, I realized everyone believed I was this other woman, this Princess Maria’s daughter. I couldn’t help but wonder where this Princess Sapphira really was and why everyone was content to believe this little charade. But then again, everyone had a title or so it seemed and I concluded that this was some sort of murder mystery game or costume theatre and they had somehow decided I should play a role. Why they thought this would be fun was unbeknownst to me, but the only introduction I cared about was Graf Viktor Wilhelm Alexander Ferdinand of Württemberg who stood about six foot two and had apparently rescued me from drowning the night before. This was the tall, dark and handsome stranger who stared at me earlier.
He was very attractive although in a rugged sort of way, not the type you'd like to meet alone, unless of course you were drowning. His green eyes shone, sweeping the room with a noble expression before settling back on me.
“Prinzessin, it is an honor to be in your company tonight.” He raised my hand to his lips, but his eyes did not linger long with mine under the scrutiny of Gabrielle. My hand dropped, burning, to my side, and my cheeks flamed to match. I longed to get him into a corner alone so we could drop the act, and I could find out what the hell really happened, but Gabrielle remained glued to my side. I discovered that Viktor was visiting a neighbouring cousin when I turned up face down on the shore. The topic, much to my dismay, was changed almost instantly, and I was itching to know why he had deposited me here with these crazy people. The humming in my ears had finally stopped and I could hear clearly although at times I wished I couldn’t. They all spoke so formally and many seemed to be visiting from different countries. It seemed odd that so many would travel for a dinner theatre but the rich could be eccentric.
“How charming you look tonight, Sapphira,” interrupted the Comte de Chalais steering me away, “You will have some wine, won't you?"
It was a redundant question as the wine was already poured in a crystal goblet that stood on the table. It glowed like a bauble in the candlelight. I flashed on a hazy memory of a large shiny gem but the image escaped me as quickly as it had come. He handed the glass to me, following my gaze back to the Graf.
“You are quite taken with him?”
I snorted unattractively, “Where’s Nick?”
“Nico? Why would you ask after him?”
“I’m sorry. I realize you’re playing some sort of costume theatre here, which apparently you all take super seriously, but I don’t appreciate being pulled into this. Please have someone take me back to that room and send Nick in while you play your game!” As an afterthought I added “And perhaps afterwards if you would be so gracious as to explain how the hell we’re getting back to our resort.”
Gabrielle signaled one of the armed guards and I was then escorted back to the room I’d awoken in.
Thank goodness, they’d finally listened.
The ladies quickly appeared and helped me strip the heavy costume and left again, promising to return and settle me into a bath. I stood staring at the familiar stranger in the mirror, and my eyes settled on the curve of my breasts. The chill in the air had forced my nipples to stand at attention and gooseflesh now covered my arms.
A knock sounded at the door.
Nick, I thought. "Come in," I said, turning towards the door as it opened and Henri, the Comte de Chalais sauntered in stiffly holding a china cup.
"I'm sorry to interrupt ma chère. I just came to bring you a tea and make sure you were alright.” I looked at the cup in his hand feeling awkward at my nakedness.
I quickly pulled the shear robe over my shoulders. It wouldn’t do much but it was close and handy.
“You seem to be having a difficult time recovering from the bump on the head.”
I was speechless that these people were so wrapped up in this delusion.
Setting the cup down, he turned and patted my hand. “Are you feeling any better?"
"No. I’m sorry. I don’t understand, why the charade? I realize I bumped my head when I fell at Marguerite Island and I must have washed up on your shore. But I don’t get why you people refuse to call me by the correct name or let me see Nick. Have you even contacted the police?”
Henri placed his hand on my forehead.
“Maybe I should get Gabrielle or call the doctor back in.”
“I’m serious. I don’t know if this Sapphira is a character in your play or a real person and I don’t know what happened to her for that matter, but I’m not her.”
“You’re probably just still a little woozy from all the wine."
“Why don’t you believe me?” It was little more than a whisper as I pulled my robe tighter around me.
"Sapphira, Please stop with this charade,” he said looking into my eyes, tilting my chin up. It won’t bring your brother home any sooner and it only makes you look spoiled."
The frustration boiled within me and I didn’t know whether to scream or cry. Tears involuntarily flooded my eyes.
"And of course a good night's sleep will help.”
As he drew me in for a hug, I thought of kicking him and running for the door, but I had seen guards earlier and this Palace was filled with halls. Before I knew it, the moment was lost as he squeezed me tight and let me go.
I stood stock-still, feeling the hair prickle on the back of my neck. So many things weren’t making sense. Why were they keeping Nick from me?
I cursed myself for screaming earlier. Had Nick taken off? I returned to the door I’d hastily seen him exit through. What if it hadn’t been Nick this morning? Pressing my lips together, I forced myself to breathe through my nose so my raspy breaths couldn’t be heard. My heart hammered as I flung the door wide open, preparing for a shock. Much to my surprise, it was actually a sitting room or dressing room. I felt for the light switch but had no luck.
The only other door led to a bathroom where candles flickered on a marble washbasin casting shadows across the salmon wallpaper.
The tub was filled with water. I stuck my hand in, hot. This must be the bath they promised to return and settle me into. I waited a few minutes to make sure there would be no other surprise visitors and then disrobed once again climbing into the claw-foot tub. While soaking my aching limbs I found myself thinking about the Graf. I couldn’t help but imagine him rescuing me. I mentally smacked myself. I needed to focus on getting the hell out of here and back to Antibes. Nick must have called the police by now; they would be looking for me, wouldn’t they? And yet I couldn’t help but let my mind once again drift to the Graf. Had he seen what happened? Did he watch me fall? Perhaps I could convince him of my identity after all. He was my best shot. A visitor to this odd little island, probably only here for that dinner theatre.
Heading back through the dressing room, an extravagant armoire caught my eye. It was a long shot but maybe there were some normal pajamas stored in there. I saw a row of ball gowns fit to grace the courts of Versailles. Where were the jeans, t- shirts and sundresses?
As I fingered the richly embroidered gown, I shivered at the draft blowing in, and noted there was no zipper. Quickly checking three of them, I realized none of them had zippers. Fondling the material between my thumb and forefinger, it occurred to me that these dresses were authentic. Why would someone need authentic 19th-century dresses like these and why so many unless their whole life was a costume party? Where the hell was I?
I walked to the antique desk by the fireplace, pulling the first drawer open hard and fast, surprising myself as it hit the floor with a thud. A piece of wood went flying, and I realized I knocked out a small compartment. Rubbing my fingers along the back I discovered a panel that could be removed, a small, leather bound book was hidden inside. The pages were dense with large, scripted writing. I flipped inquisitively; it appeared to be some sort of diary. I turned back to the first page and noted the initials, S.M in the upper right hand corner. My initials, but clearly not my book. I flipped to the middle and glanced at a passage dated 1857.
Panic flutters in my chest now day and night. Charles is still absent and Mother threatens to join him on his travels to quell the political upheaval we are faced with. I pray desperately to join. I do not wish to be left behind with the snake lurking.
I placed the book back in the desk and left the room, rounding the corner at the end of the hall, running into the Graf just as he was about to enter another doorway.
“Viktor, I’m so glad to see you again.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I thought you’d retired for the night.”
“No. Are you staying?”
“Your mother suggested I spend the night. I’m going hunting in the morning with your Uncle Nico and the Comte, and I look forward to seeing you at dinner again.”
“Uncle Nico. Who is this man?”
"Pardon?” Viktor said.
“Nevermind. Why did you bring me here when you found me?”
“What do you mean? Why did I return you to the Palace? You’re displeased?”
I frowned, shaking my head, unsure how to explain.
“No. Yes. It’s complicated. I found this cavern in the sea-”
I tried to think. “Today or yesterday”. I paused. “I don’t even know what day it is.”
“You’re being serious?”
“Yes, if you’ll just let me finish. In the sea there is this-”
“Do you think me a fool, Princessin?” Viktor interrupted.
“No, of course not.”
“Then you’re telling me you swim alone in the sea and that’s permissible?"
I forced my chin up. “This isn’t coming out right. I’m not from here. Why do you think I belong in this Palace?”
“I apologize, Princessin. I think I am not understanding your English as well as I thought I did.”
“No. You’re doing fine. You understand just fine. They’re lying. They think I’m this Princess but I’m not. I think they’ve done something to her and now they’re trying to replace her with me.”
“Are you feeling alright? You’re still confused?”
“Oh nevermind.” I said pushing past him.
“Wait!” I heard him call after me.
Running now, I came to the end of another hall with a staircase leading up. Noises came from behind me. I hurried up the stairs, and as I approached the landing, I saw a door at the top. Good, somewhere to hide. Then I heard the rumble of two male voices from behind it.
Damn it! I was trapped. Excitement bubbled in my chest as the women’s voices grew closer. It sounded like Viktor had alerted someone to my hasty departure.
I hurried all the way to the top, pausing outside the door, removing myself from sight as they passed by. I was so worried about the ladies catching me that I almost missed the conversation...
"Does she remember anything?”
“She doesn’t appear to. What did you do to her?”
My pulse quickened at the words.
“Nothing, I swear. I was only trying to catch her as you ordered, my lord.”
“Either you’re lying or she’s playing one of her games. Why does she have to be so disagreeable, Enzo? Just like her father. That chamber exists somewhere in this godforsaken fortress and, by God, I will find it."
"You will find it.”
“I just said that!” he snapped. “That treasure hunting bastard, Ferris. He gave that stone to the old fool to protect. If only I could find them; imagine what I could do? I’ve tracked them too long to give up now.”
I stepped softly back from the door, turning to go, but the next few words grabbed my attention.
“Sapphira knows where it is. I’ve caught her disappearing into rooms and surfacing in others since she was small. Both her father and brother took her into their confidence. If only I could force her to trust me.”
“It’s past time she had a husband, my lord,” said Enzo. “Demand her hand then she’ll be forced to tell you.”
"Her brother is the problem. I’ll have to deal with him as I dealt with the old man."
A lump formed in my throat. Someone was now pacing and I realized they might soon exit and catch me.
I turned and rushed down the corridor fighting hysteria the entire time. What was going on around here?
Anais came out of a room just as I approached.
“There you are.” She smiled.
“Anais,” I said, panting. “What is the name of this island?”
“Island? Princess, I fear you’re not getting any better. I’m going to call Monsieur.”
“No, and why are you still calling me that? Please Anais, I fell into the sea at Marguerite Island and I know I’ve washed up somewhere else. I realize you could get in trouble for breaking character in this crazy play but please tell me where I am?”
“Well that makes sense.” Thank God! Monaco’s not far from the island. I just need to find a phone. I began to ponder the costumes just as Anais clarified.
“I call you that because you are the Princess of Monaco.”
I stared at her, dumbfounded.
“See for yourself,” she said leading me down the hall.
Curious, I followed her into a room which appeared to be a library or study of some sort. Another lantern sat on yet another fireplace. Where was the electricity? My eyes darted upwards above where she now stood in front of a large gilt-framed portrait.
She came to my side, and my jaw dropped.
At first glance it was as though I stood in front of that mirror again at the party. The woman in the painting could have been me—well, me as I looked right now.
“Do you remember now, Madamoiselle? This was just done at the first of the year.”
“And what year would that be, Anais?”
“Why, 1857 of course, your highness.”