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Authors: Jen Christie

House of Glass

BOOK: House of Glass
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Theirs will be a shattering affair.

The glass chalet has enchanted Reyna since childhood. Built upon the cliff face at Devlin Manor, the luminous curiosity dangles over the Caribbean like a diamond pendant. Wondrous to behold from the water, the house is even more astonishing up close, as Reyna quickly learns when she comes into service at the estate.

Left untouched as a shrine to the beautiful and tempestuous Celeste St. Claire, the glass house beckons to Reyna. It exerts the same sensual pull upon Lucas St. Claire, the mercurial master of the manor. Both are powerless to resist. When the two meet within, their need is as transparent as the walls surrounding them.

But that passion may be indulged at dear cost. Seduced by the shimmering cottage—and the tortured man who built it—Reyna risks joining its former mistress in oblivion.

House of Glass

Jen Christie

To John

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Epilogue

Prologue

St. Claire, August, 1932

A storm blew over the island last night.

We were safely tucked away behind the thick walls at Devlin Manor. Lucas entertained us all night, keeping the children distracted with tall tales and games. I knew that I was safe with my family, but I could not shake the strange apprehension that gnawed at me, and only increased as the night went on.

Each band of rain, each blast of wind that rattled the shutters pushed me further back in my memories, further back in time, to a night, more than twenty years ago, and a night that I thought was safely buried in the murky depths of history.

At the height of the storm, a gust of wind came that was so violent, so angry, that the howl of it carried through the house, echoing down the long halls and up to the tall ceilings. An image came to my mind, one that I had fought to keep away. It was of her.

Celeste.

When the dawn came, I threw open the shutters to see that the sky was once again a mollifying shade of blue and the wind was meek and apologetic. Palms rustled in the wind. Birds alighted from their dark, secret spaces. But the storm had shifted the coastline, exposing the marrow of the rocks. As I looked more closely from my perch, there, on the largest of them, I saw something…shiny. Shading my eyes from the dawn, I squinted and saw something that I had not seen in many, many years.

I didn’t need to walk down to the shoreline to know what it was. But I went, anyway. I had to see for myself if it was real.

It was. Celeste had returned. Her golden body still sharp with youth and beauty, while mine had begun to soften. The same after all these years and the beating tides.

Why now?

Did she think that I had forgotten?

Never. I went to the statuette and lifted it, wondering how something less than a foot high could do so much damage. I hoisted it into the air, that perfect golden miniature of her, and threw it back into the sea where it belonged.

Memories like jewels no matter how long or how deeply they are buried, always shine when exposed to the sun.

Chapter One

1902 – The Island of St. Claire

I will never forget the morning that my life changed forever. Dawn broke in a thick fog and I walked to the docks beneath a pinkish haze of sunlight to wait for my father’s return. Like ghosts from the mist the fishermen emerged on their boats, floating into the harbor. It all comes back to me so clearly that I can still smell the briny aromas of the pier, still hear the barks of the men as they called to each other. Finally, I recognized the familiar shape of my father’s small boat, and I gave a squeal of joy when I saw the bow riding heavy in the water. I may have been only ten years old, but I knew very well how important a good catch was.

My father always said that being born on St. Claire was a stroke of good fortune, that we didn’t need riches because life in the West Indies was treasure enough for any person. However, when the catches were meager and my belly hungry, I doubted his words. But on that morning, to see the sight of his boat with heaps of gleaming silver fish in the hazy light, I knew my father was right, and there was no better place on earth to call home.

I helped my father unload the boat, and sat beside him mending nets as he sold his catch. Once I was finished the day was my own, and I entertained myself by walking around and watching the other islanders as they worked. I passed baskets of starfish and octopus, and walked beneath small sharks that had been caught alongside the fish. The sharks dangled by their tails, upside down, their sharp teeth just over my head.

I settled, like I always did, on my favorite spot at the very edge of the pier, and dangled my legs over the side. Glancing into the water through my bare feet and tan legs I saw my likeness reflected back at me. Unkempt, wild dark hair framed my face. I never had a mother to chase me around and comb it. It blew in the breeze, a wind-knotted mess of long dark curls.

Cries of excitement surprised me, and I looked up to see not a fishing boat, but a pleasure vessel; a great sailboat had entered the harbor. The boat was almost as long as the pier I sat on, and the mast—two of them actually—had sails folded on themselves and cinched down. The flag of St. Claire waved proudly in the wind, the familiar reds and blues a welcome sight to my eyes.

It was then that I noticed a man at the helm. A wave of black hair, a rugged face, the man was clearly in charge, his hands gripping the steering wheel, guiding the sailboat to dock. That was how I first saw Lucas St. Claire, commanding and in charge. His voice called out in a baritone and the dockhands scrambled to secure the ropes. He landed the vessel perfectly, and it barely bumped against the dock, the bow not ten feet away from where I sat.

A pink hat bobbed up and down as I watched the man help a woman climb from the boat. Her pale pink dress rippled in the breeze. Funny that of all my memories to fade, it should be the memory of Celeste St. Claire that is hardest to remember. I do recall she was beautiful, that much I can recount easily, and that she had pale skin and golden hair.

I stole another glance into the water, comparing my likeness to hers. My skin would never be pale like hers. Like a true island child mine was bronze from the sun. My heart beat with the blood of Spaniards and Africans, the French and even the Danes. Looking back to my reflection and my red cotton romper, comparing myself to the lady and wondering how she could look so cool in the heat.

While I mused on the dock another reflection came into my view. A man’s. Ripples and waves obscured his face, but I could see his dark hair and tall frame and feel his shadow cooling my skin.

“Do you see your future in the water?” he asked me. I turned around, my hands gripping the rough boards for balance. It was the man from the boat, and he spoke to me in a far more gentle voice than he had barked orders to the dockhands. I must have looked shocked, because he laughed, and it was a rich, hearty sound.

Up close, he was taller than any man I had ever seen. He had to bend to reach my level, and when he did I could see that his jaw was as straight as the horizon. He was probably twenty-five years old, and very much a grown-up, especially to my immature eyes.

He held out his hand to lift me up from my perch the way a gentleman escorts a lady. I was befuddled and awestruck for a moment. But behind him she caught my eye. The woman in pink. She was walking toward us. She moved so quickly that she seemed a blur. I felt the shade of her wide brimmed hat darkening over me as she passed. She was so intent on something—I can’t say what—but she rushed toward it, and with a careless step she bumped against me.

I tottered for a moment. At first it seemed that I might be okay, and then with an ungainly wobble, I lost my balance and fell toward the water. The dark liquid that was spread out below me caused such fear in me that I screamed and waved my arms.

The man, though, reached out and righted me. In what to me seemed like an impossible feat, he leaned over the side of the dock and yanked me back from the water. I was aware of only his touch. Back on the dock my body slammed against his, and he was more mountain than man, and did not budge at all. Sounds came rushing back suddenly, and I was certain the whole dock could hear my heart beating.

“Are you all right?” he asked me.

Before I could answer, the woman in pink, whom I would come to know as Celeste St. Claire, pulled on his arm. “Come, Lucas. The heat is too strong for me,” she said. Her voice was light and firm.

He looked at me again, waiting for a response.

I gave a small nod, too nervous to speak.

“Come on,” the woman pleaded with him before shaking her head in exasperation. “Honestly, I don’t know why you bother.” She heaved on his arm, pulling him away, and the crowd on the dock widened, parting for the couple and then closing around them.

I caught a last glimpse of him as he walked away next to a bobbing pink hat. But, he turned around and looked at me. Then, he broke away from the woman and walked over to me again. He bent down, took my hand and pressed something into my palm. I looked up in time to see the crowd swirl around him again.

I stood there watching, people jostling into me, all the business of the docks carrying on about me. It was only when I was absolutely, completely certain that he wasn’t coming back again that I opened my hand and looked at what he had given me.

It was a shell. Small and shiny, sand pink on the outside iridescent on the inside. Simple. Perfect. His gift to me.

I was so excited that I went running to my father, bursting into the stall where I surprised him. “Papa!” I cried. He was resting on a stool, and at the excitement in my voice he shot up to standing, a panicked look on his face. I pointed into the crowd, at the man who had just given me the shell. He was speaking with the woman in the pink hat and he looked angry. “Look! Look at that man! That woman! Over there.”

“What about them?” asked my father.

“The man gave me a shell.” I whispered, my voice full of awe.

“A shell?” My father burst out laughing. “Did he? Lucky you then. Do you know who he is?”

“No.”

My father nodded. “He is Mr. St. Claire. A powerful man. He has many ships and sends things all over the world.”

“He named himself after the island?” I asked, incredulous.

My father laughed again, and tousled my hair. “No. It is the other way around. The island gets its name from him, from the family. He lives in an enormous house at the top of the island.

“Maybe I will marry him and live there one day.” I had a childish vision and hope.

“Ah, you break my heart. I thought I was your one and only.” He leaned down and scooped me up, giving me a hug. “Besides he is already married.”

“To that lady in the pink?”

“Yes. And they live in a manor on top of the mountain.”

A sensation, a tingling feeling of giddiness unfurled inside of me. “You mean a castle?”

“You should see it,” my father said excitedly. “It is almost impossible to believe.”

“Take me to see it,” I begged him. The intensity in my voice surprised me.

“It’s all the way on the other side of the island. I still have fish to sell.” He swept his hand over the containers, proving his point.

“Oh please, Papa,” I said. “There are only a few fish left, the stragglers, the ones that nobody will buy. Please?”

He sighed. “How can I say no to my little girl? Come and help me clean up and we’ll close the shop.”

I jumped up and kissed him.

A short time later our small boat slipped from the marina and out over the shallow waters that wrapped around the island. The sun was a few finger-widths above the horizon and its rays had softened. Small waves slapped against our boat as we glided along, giving off hollow echoes. The island was wild and mountainous, covered in a blanket of green trees. Tall spikes of rocks burst out of the cover of the island, a hint of St. Claire’s volcanic past.

We passed over the eastern tip, came around the cape, with its hidden dangers of rocks and coral that passed as dark shadows beneath the water. If our vessel were any larger, we would have to ride farther out, in deeper waters. A shipwreck, long abandoned and bleaching in the sun, lay half-submerged. Just beyond it there was a beach, with a fine ribbon of white sand and palms that beckoned in the wind, a lure to land-hungry seafarers.

We rowed on until we came to a place on the island that I didn’t remember seeing before. The cove formed a wide horseshoe, and there was only the smallest strip of sand. The rest of the shoreline was rocky and the water foamed as it rose and fell around the outcroppings. My eyes were pulled upward, up the steep cliff, which was crumbling in some places and in others seemed very solid, with natural shelves and caves. Only at the top, where the land evened out, could I see a flat expanse of green.

BOOK: House of Glass
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