Authors: Michelle Madow
The news of the incident resulted in my parents speaking with Catherine’s parents about how to go about fixing the coach and returning home, which allowed Drew, Chelsea, and me to speak privately in the library. We informed Chelsea about the recent discovery, and she looked just as shocked as we were.
“This means we won’t be going home tomorrow morning, doesn’t it?” she guessed once we finished telling the story.
“Of course that’s what it means.” Drew looked at her like she was an awful person for thinking anything else. “We can’t leave knowing that someone is trying to murder Lizzie.”
“We don’t know if Lizzie’s the one they were after,” Chelsea pointed out. “Her parents also rode with her in the carriage, as did the driver. Couldn’t it be one of them that this person wants to get rid of?”
I shivered at the way she said it—get rid of. As if a person was a piece of trash that could be discarded.
“I don’t mean to be insensitive.” Chelsea must have noticed how what she’d said had upset me. “I’m only trying to look at this from all possible angles.”
“It was me they were after.” I tried to sound as confident as I felt.
“How do you know?” Chelsea asked, her arms crossed.
“It’s just a feeling,” I said. “The darkness that I felt after you did your spell hasn’t gone away. Whoever tried to kill me tonight failed, and I would say it’s highly likely that they’re not going to give up easily.”
“But who would want to kill you?” Chelsea asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“I hate to ask this,” I said, “but you would know if it was Catherine, right? Obviously
wouldn’t want to kill me, but Catherine isn’t entirely the same as you, and she has reason to hate me. Especially after Drew broke the engagement with her earlier today, and with the pressure from her parents to marry him.”
Chelsea looked shocked that I could suggest such a thing. “Catherine’s angry at you because she suspects your relationship with Drew, but we were close friends in those lives, too. Even if she wished you didn’t exist because then you wouldn’t have messed things up with her and Drew, she would never take action on those thoughts.”
“That’s what I was hoping,” I said, relieved. “But I had to make sure.”
“So it wasn’t Catherine,” Drew said, pacing in the center of the library. “Who else could hate Lizzie so much that they would want her gone?” He stopped pacing, and looked dead on at Chelsea and me. “We’re going to get to the bottom of this. And then, we have to bring an end to it before we can go home.”
“Bring an end to it, how?” I didn’t like the sound of that.
“I don’t know,” Drew said. “We’ll worry about that once we figure out who’s behind this.”
I wished I’d read more mystery novels instead of the romances I enjoyed. Maybe then I would be better prepared for what we were about to face. As it was now, I had no idea where to start.
A knock on the door brought me out of my thoughts.
“Come in!” Chelsea chirped, as if we hadn’t just been discussing how someone wanted to murder me.
“Am I interrupting something?” Catherine’s mom, Lady Givens, asked. She swayed when she walked through the door, and the complicated up-do in her dark hair was missing some pins, leading me to believe that she’d had a lot to drink during the course of the evening.
“Miss Davenport was quite distressed after learning about what happened to her family’s coach, so the Lady Catherine and I thought it best for her to take a few minutes to collect herself away from prying eyes,” Drew said. “Your guests are having an excellent time tonight, and we didn’t think it wise to let them know there is something amiss.”
“How thoughtful of both of you.” Lady Givens gave Drew a grateful smile, and then turned to me. “Miss Davenport, I’m sorry you had to go through such a scare tonight. Lord Givens and I promise to do everything in our power to figure out who is responsible for this. But if you may, I hope that this inconvenience does not become a source of gossip. I wouldn’t want anyone to worry about their safe passage home at my future parties.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I told her, figuring my best move to avoid conflict was to go along with what she was saying. “The news shocked me is all, and I needed a few minutes away from the crowd to absorb what had happened.”
“Of course, dear,” she said with a warm smile. “If you don’t feel well enough to travel, you’re welcome to stay here for the night. As a close friend of my daughter’s, there is always a room open in our home for you.”
“Will my parents be staying here as well?” I asked.
“I offered, but they were also distressed over what transpired tonight, and said they would feel better once they returned safely home,” she said. “The repairs on your coach should take a few days, so Lord Givens offered to loan your parents our chaise until your coach is deemed fit to ride again.”
I plucked from my past self’s memory that a chaise had room for only two passengers. That meant Lady Givens was politely giving me no other option but to spend the night, unless I wanted to walk or ride horseback, which would be a death wish in the cold, rainy weather.
“Thank you, Lady Givens,” I said, trying to remain as calm as possible. People in this time period seemed to keep their emotions in check much more than people did in the twenty-first century. “That’s very kind of you, and you’re right that it’s best I don’t travel tonight. Hopefully the weather will be pleasant enough tomorrow that I can take one of the horses home.”
Lady Givens looked appalled at my suggestion of riding horseback. I loved traveling by horse—it was relaxing and freeing—but it was certainly something that her daughter, the Lady Catherine Givens, would never lower herself to do.
“Very well,” she said, although it didn’t sound like she meant it. “We’ll discuss it further in the morning. In the meantime, I’ll send a maid to prepare the guest room. And now, as eventful as this evening has been, I must bid goodnight to my guests. If you’ll excuse me.” She lifted her skirts, and turned to the door.
“Thank you again, Lady Givens,” I said as she hurried out of the room. She left the door open, and I could tell from the looks people were giving us as they walked by that we had secluded ourselves in the library for longer than was socially acceptable.
It hadn’t been a day since I’d arrived, and I was already becoming a source of gossip.
“She didn’t give you much of an option there, did she?” Drew said once Lady Givens was gone.
“No,” I said. “I suppose not. But as much as I would prefer to go home, it’s a good thing I’m staying here tonight.”
“Why is that?” Drew asked.
“Because once the guests leave, Chelsea and I can brainstorm a list of who we think tampered with the carriage, and why.”
“I’ll think about it tonight, too,” Drew said. “Tomorrow I’ll stop by during calling hours. Hopefully the three of us will be able to get time alone, without a chaperone who insists on watching our every move.”
“We’ll figure something out,” I said. “I just want to get answers so we can go home.”
Both Chelsea and Drew agreed.
Then Lord Givens’ personal valet, Mr. Brookes, knocked on the door to inform Drew that his family had their coach ready and was waiting for him to leave. We all said goodnight, and once the remainder of the guests departed, Chelsea and I headed to her room.
Despite my exhaustion from everything that had happened in the past day, we had important things to discuss, so I couldn’t go to bed yet. And I was so wound up from it all that I wasn’t sure I could if I tried.
After changing into my nightgown, I met Chelsea back in her room. Her room was much larger than the guest room in which I was staying. She had a four-poster bed, an entire area to get ready with a vanity and wardrobe, a carved marble fireplace, a sitting area, and beautiful red drapes adorning the windows. It was much more extravagant than the bedroom my past self had with her family in their modest home.
But I also knew that the Givens’ were in financial crisis, and if Chelsea—well, Catherine—didn’t find a wealthy husband, they wouldn’t be able to keep up their lavish lifestyle for much longer.
“Finally we can talk freely,” I said, hopping onto the bed. For a moment it felt like old times again, when Chelsea and I would hang out in her room and talk for hours.
It only took a look around the room—and at the long, white nightgown I would never wear at home—to remind myself that everything was different now. My life had gone from average to extraordinary in only a few months, and I still couldn’t believe that everything I’d experienced was real. Sometimes I thought that when I woke up in the morning, it would be the first day of junior year all over again, and I’d find out that everything I’d thought had happened since then had only been a dream.
“I was thinking about it when getting ready for bed, and the only people who could be responsible are Drew’s parents,” Chelsea said with absolute finality.
“And why’s that?” I asked, even though they were on my list of suspects, too.
“They know that Drew broke the engagement with Catherine, and I can only assume that they know the reason why is because he wants to marry you instead,” Chelsea said. “I overheard people gossiping tonight about how his parents want Drew to marry into nobility. I guess they figured that if they got you out of the picture, he would return to the original plan and follow through with marrying Catherine and thus, into a noble bloodline.”
Which was exactly what happened in the past, before we changed everything tonight
, I thought, although I wasn’t so unkind as to say it aloud. Chelsea was still hurting from Drew’s breaking up with her because he loved me, and I didn’t want to rub it in.
“That was one of my thoughts, too,” I said instead. “Also, and please don’t take offense to this, but it’s only fair that we add your—I mean Catherine’s—parents to the list of suspects.”
Chelsea leaned away from me. “I don’t think they would do something like that,” she said. “Besides, I’ve thought about it too, and to mess with the carriage they would have had to go out in the rain. Which means their clothes would have been wet, and they were dry all night. So it couldn’t be them.”
“We didn’t see Drew’s parents either, but I assume they weren’t hanging out at the ball with their clothing soaked,” I pointed out. “That certainly would have caused a scene. Also, if it were either your parents or Drew’s parents, they could have had a servant do the dirty work for them. I don’t think their being dry means anything.”
“Maybe.” Chelsea shrugged. “But I don’t think Catherine’s parents would do such a thing, especially since you’re one of her close friends. Look at how accommodating they were when they realized how distressed you were tonight!”
“I doubt it’s one of them,” I lied, and Chelsea visibly relaxed. “But we should consider it as an option until we can eliminate them. They know about the broken engagement, and we know the money is important to them. They have plenty of reasons to want me out of the picture.”
“I didn’t mention you when I told them about the broken engagement.” Chelsea was getting defensive. “I just said that Drew broke the engagement, and I didn’t know why.”
This admission surprised me. I’d assumed Catherine would gladly throw me under the bus if it meant taking less heat from her parents.
“Why didn’t you tell them about me and Drew?” I asked.
“Because being ditched for someone else is embarrassing!” she said. “I suppose they’ll eventually find out, but it’s not easy to admit.”
“I guess that makes sense,” I said, feeling guilty again for causing her such heartbreak. But at least Chelsea and I were on speaking terms now, which was better than where we were a few weeks ago. “Do you have any other ideas of who it could be?”
“Not that I could come up with,” Chelsea said. “Unless James went nuts and decided that if he couldn’t have you, then no one else could, either.”
I looked at her in shock, unsure if she was serious. “That’s gruesome!” I finally said. “He would have to be completely mental to do that.”
“I know.” Chelsea laughed. “I doubt he’s the type to think like that. I just wanted to see the expression on your face when I said it. And trust me, it was priceless.”
I tossed a pillow at her head, and she blocked it so it fell off the bed. At least despite everything we were going through, I could still joke around with my best friend.
“So that’s it, then,” I said. “Four main suspects.”
“Yep,” Chelsea said. “That’s all I could come up with.”
“Where do we go from here?” I asked. “We can’t file a police report and properly interrogate them. And what if whoever it is tries again?” I shivered at the possibility. The scary truth was that someone wanted me dead, and they had succeeded before the three of us came back to the past and changed how last night ended. Whoever it was had to be desperate to resort to murder, and I doubted they would give up easily.
“You’ll have to be on the lookout,” Chelsea said. “Be extra cautious before doing anything, and stay with either me or Drew at all times. You’re an easier target when you’re alone. I promise we’re going to figure out who’s responsible, and then we can go home.”
“That sounds nice,” I said, unable to stifle a yawn. This past day had been exhausting, and I had no idea how long it had been since I last slept. Plus, I was still jet lagged from the flight from America to England. “Do you mind if I stay in your room tonight?” I asked, since Catherine’s king-sized bed was big enough for both of us. She had also just said that I had to stay with her or Drew at all times, and walking through the halls by myself and sleeping in the guest room alone wasn’t the best way to protect myself from whoever wanted me dead.
I doubted anyone would kill me while I was sleeping, but I couldn’t be too careful.
“I was actually going to
that you stay in here tonight,” Chelsea said. In that moment everything felt like it did in the old days, when we had sleepovers all the time.
We might never be able to go back to that age, but I believed that with Chelsea and Drew’s help, we could make it so I would be able to live to see the new year, and many more to come.