The Secret of Stavewood (Stavewood Saga Book 4)

BOOK: The Secret of Stavewood (Stavewood Saga Book 4)
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Books by Nanette Kinslow

 

Stavewood

South of Stavewood

Home to Stavewood

The Secret of Stavewood

Sweet New England

Ill Repute

Pie Crust Promise

The Matter with Margaret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of

Stavewood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Lighthouse Publishing

Copyright © 2014 by Nanette Kinslow

ISBN-13: 978-1500447052

ISBN-10: 1500447056

The Secret of Stavewoo
d
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All Rights Reserved

Published in the United States by Lighthouse Group Publishing

Cover design by Pat Warn

 

The lyrics to the song
You Are the Ideal of my Dreams
are written by Herbert Ingraham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If, when you read the fairy tale you say that you don’t believe, then I ask you, if you do not believe in something, how can you expect to find it?

 

~ Nanette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To My Readers

 

      Stavewood was my first novel and my first experience breathing life into the wonderful Elgerson family. With you, my readers, beside me they will always live on in our hearts and imaginations. They are precious to me, as is every person who reads these words.

      Thank you for joining me on this journey. This final visit to Stavewood is dedicated to you.

 

                                                                    Nanette

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of

Stavewood

By

Nanette Kinslow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 1920

Dear Loo,

      It sure was great to get your letter and to hear that you are coming home. I just finished reading your last mystery. Where do you come up with those ideas? I really enjoyed it.

     It’s been a long time since we have seen you. I suppose that sometimes two years doesn’t seem to be very long, but when you miss somebody it feels like an eternity.

      Katie is going to have her baby soon and Colleen and I could not be more excited. I think I’d be less nervous delivering a new colt in the barn. Colleen can barely contain her excitement, as you can well imagine.

      Mom and Dad are doing really well. Pa has finally stopped working at the mills every day and he’s gotten two new horses. He and Mom get out riding every now and then. Everyone else is busy working as you might expect. There’s always plenty to do.

    
Like I said, I’m glad to hear you are coming home and that you’ll be working here. Do you think you might stay? We would all be so happy to have you back at Stavewood permanently.

      How are things with the new fellow you wrote about? I look forward to meeting him.

 

      Your loving brother,

                                                                                Mark

 

 

     

 

One

    
 
L
ouisa Elgerson stood alone in the tiny flat and surveyed her New York City apartment pensively. Her valise sat packed and open on the narrow bed. Her familiar Remington
typewriter was set into its wooden case. This was the room where she worked, where she organized her thoughts and breathed life into her imagination. Now the myriad of notes she kept pinned to a board over her desk was packed up in a box and the space looked forlorn and abandoned. Although she had lived here comfortably for over two years, she now saw it differently, as if through the eyes of a stranger. She believed it had become home but it did not seem like home to her at all. She shook off the emotion and snapped closed the black typewriter case. Louisa decided to focus on this new chapter in her life.

        The letter from her brother was written on crisp and light paper. She read it thoughtfully. It was brief, as letters from Mark always were, although he did write frequently. And, as always, he asked if she would be coming home to stay. She tried hard not to think about how much he missed her, admitting to herself that she missed him as well. He hated city life and would never understand her feelings about New York. He had asked about Talbot, her “fellow”, though Louisa had written little about him. Her brother knew her heart, and could always read between the lines. Had he sensed her feelings about Talbot? Louisa folded the letter, set it neatly onto the packed clothing in the suitcase and fastened the latch. Her bags were sharp and businesslike, much like the image of herself she strived to achieve.

      Louisa pictured Talbot’s startling blue eyes, flecked with black and navy, eyes he always kept on her. She’d looked into those amazing eyes many times since they had met, only weeks ago. He always looked back with enthusiastic interest. She smiled to herself. He was attentive, eager for her and very much a part of her life in New York. He fit into her definition of exactly the man she had always wanted. With his British accent and confident posture he was a perfect part of the bustling metropolis she adored. Louisa believed she had become a city girl now, until she thought of Stavewood.

      In her mind she could see the beautiful Victorian estate, the home of her childhood, nestled in the rugged hills of northern Minnesota. There, tucked away amid the oak and pine, the spire upon the turret of the stately home rose tall against a clear, deep blue sky. Leaded windows sparkled brilliantly in the sunlight. The scent of freshly milled lumber and sweet apple blossoms floated on the spring breeze. The placid landscape reflected in the smooth surface of Fawn Lake and the rippling waters of the streams and rivers. There were times that her memories of the majestic views of the mountainsides and soaring pines filled her with a deep longing to return and surrender to the breathtaking beauty that was once home to her. There she laughed with her family around the supper table and spent early mornings planning the new day in the big kitchen while the fire blazed and crackled in the open hearth.

     Louisa stepped to the window and looked down into the street. Cars and trolleys rolled by quickly and crowds hurried along the sidewalks. Motorcars, trolleys and conversations droned loudly. On the corner a young urchin in a tattered cap called out the day’s headlines hawking his newspapers in the morning rush. Men and women in business suits rushed from all directions below her, merging into a tide of bodies that flowed along the streets. This was New York City in the bustling, busy 1920’s and somehow she felt distant from it. She noticed, for the first time, that the window was streaked with a milky haze. Louisa turned away and tried to block out the soot and grime of the city.

      Louisa Elgerson was a success and New York City was where it had happened. She loved writing mysteries and she found a publishing company that specialized in crime novels. Her books sold well and the partnership was lucrative. But, at a young age she realized she wanted to be a writer and the story she really wanted to write was her mother’s love story. Her grandmother had told her, as a child, the story of how she had come into the world in a fairy cottage, born of the magical love between her parents. Louisa grew up feeling that her father and mother were the king and queen of Stavewood and she was the princess and one day the fairy tale would come true for her as well. But now she was not a child and she wanted to write something real, something serious, a novel that would touch a reader personally. She needed to go back to Stavewood to research the real story behind the fairy tale. Her publisher, usually very supportive, had balked, explaining that mysteries were what Louisa Elgerson did best and she should stick to what was successful.

 

      It was then that she’d met Talbot Sunderland, walking one evening in the park. He looked jaunty and confident in his tweed suit with its fitted vest and French cuffs as he strolled in the cool evening air. He crossed her path and tipped his round bowler and winked at her mischievously. To Louisa he looked like a film star, or New York City millionaire. When he said hello in his charming British accent she was certain he was exactly the right man for her.

      Louisa could hear Talbot’s voice even now. “I have the means to open my own publishing house. Go write your mother’s mail-order-bride tale. It will be the perfect thing to get our new publishing company off the ground. You’re an established author and with my organizational skills and backing, why, we’ll take the literary world by storm. We can publish here and in England as well! You must follow your dreams, Louisa. You must get back home to do your research. We can leave immediately!”

      Louisa smiled and touched her watch, an elegant and expensive gift from Talbot. Its round, pearled face was framed in a polished braid of gold and the band was a fashionable gathering of delicate, silver chains. It fit her wrist perfectly and she felt spoiled and appreciated. He’d told her that every time she looked at it she should think about him. That way he would never be far from her thoughts or her heart. Louisa had never met a man quite like him and she had searched a very long time.

      When she talked to him about her childhood, her mother, and Stavewood, he was always attentive and eager to hear what she had to say. With his financial support she was certain her book would be a success. She could write her mother’s story, as she had wanted to since she was a child. She’d tell of her adventures from England to Minnesota and how she had fallen in love with Louisa’s father, Timothy. It was a wonderful and rare love story.

      As she admired the watch, Louisa felt a pang of guilt. She had only met Talbot recently but she knew her family would see him as a potential husband and welcome him eagerly into the family. Louisa wasn’t ready for that. Besides, he needed to establish the publishing company and neither of them really knew how to go about it. Fortunately, they had been befriended by a Mr. William Widener who had many years of experience in the literary field and was willing to advise them. Unfortunately, he was only available to them the same morning that Louisa had her train ticket. And so, Talbot would be meeting with Mr. Widener and Louisa would be leaving for home alone. Louisa knew that Talbot was not happy to see her go but he gallantly agreed to stay behind.

 

      Louisa checked her reflection in the full-length mirror. Her day suit flattered her long-legged figure. The narrow pencil skirt was snug to below the knee and the jacket was fitted in an hourglass fashion at her waist. She wore soft garments that emphasized her boyish figure. Her shoes were a stylish pump, Italian leather, fastened with a single strap and hooked button. Her deep, sable brown hair was bobbed and permed in a stylish wave beneath a snug felt hat. Dressing smartly for the city was a part of the reason she loved New York, and she wanted to arrive home the picture of success.

      Louisa cleared her throat, squared her shoulders in determination and gathered her bags. New York was exciting and modern. She didn’t have to convince herself of that. And Talbot, he was wonderful as well. He was handsome and attentive and Louisa even suspected that she might be falling in love with him. What woman in her right mind would not, she thought.

      She checked the contents of her leather handbag, her cosmetics, her train ticket and her derringer, the
Old Maid,
as she called it. Louisa chuckled to herself at the memory of how, on her twenty-first birthday it had been a gift from her niece, Katie. It was filigreed, polished brass, double barreled and as deadly as any gun ever made. They had joked about how she would be forever single as long as she owned the gun, scaring off even the most inebriated of gentlemen. Talbot had seen it once, on her nightstand, but he had yet to leave.

 

      Amid the noisy crowds in Grand Central Station, she produced her ticket. Her mother would have passed through here, she thought, on her way from England to a new life in Minnesota. It would become the life into which Louisa was born, a life filled with love and beauty and rugged hardships. Louisa looked around the cavernous station, trying to imagine her delicate mother here, on this very same bench.

      Louisa’s mother, Rebecca, was tiny and as petite as a doll. Even now, in her forties, her complexion was like porcelain and her face was still fair. Louisa smiled at the picture of her mother in her mind. She was fragile and sensitive and still somehow stronger than any woman she had ever known. Strength is easy to wear on the outside but Rebecca Elgerson hid hers beneath a delicate visage. Louisa had not understood that for many years, but today, as she tried to walk in her shoes, she saw it differently. Once her novel was completed she would understand her mother better than she ever had.

      She imagined what her father must have looked like then, when they had first met. Perhaps not so different from today, she thought, with his great mane of hair and perpetually tanned face. Massively tall and as solid as an oak, he possessed a generous spirit and a heart as big as his barrel of a chest. He was the perfect man when he stood beside her mother. Louisa never knew a moment when her parents and the way they felt about one another did not fill her with love and pride.

      Yet, whenever she was at Stavewood, especially in recent years, she felt uncomfortable. She wasn’t a child anymore but she felt as if she was expected to believe the fairy tales she had believed as a little girl. Real love didn’t use magic. There were no fairy godmothers or handsome princes. But love was still out there to be found, somehow. Her mother had found it and she believed she could too. Louisa felt that the time had come for her to make her own way and she had left, left for a place that was as different as she could imagine from Stavewood.

      She’d made a few mistakes but at twenty-four she wondered if she hadn’t made the biggest mistake of all… never letting herself fall in love. Louisa ran her fingertip over the crystal on her watch and Talbot’s face loomed in her mind’s eye. 

      “When I get back,” she said under her breath as she boarded the train, “I’ll just let it happen. He’s wonderful and he
has
to be the one. He
is
the city, the exciting night life and heaven knows, the furthest thing from sawdust and barn floors. When I come back I will finish my novel and then I can think about a real relationship with him.” She knew that Talbot was impatient with her sometimes, always wanting to be closer. Once she had finished her book she would have more time for him and their lives together professionally and more.

      Louisa collected her bags as the announcement came over the station’s loudspeaker that her train was boarding. She descended the tiled stairway to the train platform, determined to return as quickly as possible.

      The porter’s voice echoed in the underground tunnel and Louisa felt the railroad car lurch as the train began to pull away from the city she had found so exciting. Away towards home.

BOOK: The Secret of Stavewood (Stavewood Saga Book 4)
4.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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