Read Murder at the Brightwell: A Mystery Online

Authors: Ashley Weaver

Tags: #Detective and Mystery Fiction, #Historical, #Adult

Murder at the Brightwell: A Mystery

BOOK: Murder at the Brightwell: A Mystery
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The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at:

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.

 

To my parents, Dan and DeAnn Weaver,
for their unfailing love and support

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

THERE ARE SO
many people without whom this book would not have been possible. I would like to thank my fabulous agent, Ann Collette, for her belief in my manuscript and her tireless efforts on my behalf. I am grateful to my excellent editor, Toni Kirkpatrick, for her support and guidance in making this book the best that it could be. I would also like to thank Jennifer Letwack and the wonderful teams at Thomas Dunne and Minotaur Books for all their hard work and their patience with my endless questions.

I am blessed to have a host of friends who have encouraged me and offered feedback on various drafts of this manuscript. Thanks to my cousin, Allison Dodson, who has read my stories for as long as I’ve written them; my friend and fellow writer Sabrina Street, who pushed me to take the first steps toward trying to get published; my writing buddies Rebecca Farmer, Stephanie Shultz, and Angela Larson; as well as Caleb Lea, Haley Guillory, Amanda Phillips, Denise Marquiss, Victoria Cienfuegos, Candace Hamilton, Faith Johnson, Amanda Hussong, and all the others who have cheered me on along the way.

Many thanks to the staff of the Allen Parish Libraries for their support and enthusiasm throughout this process.

And last but certainly not least, I am forever grateful to my amazing family. Mom, Dad, Amelia, and Danny, your love, encouragement, and faith mean the world to me. I couldn’t have done it without you!

 

CONTENTS

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

About the Author

Copyright

 

1

KENT, ENGLAND 1932

IT IS AN
impossibly great trial to be married to a man one loves and hates in equal proportions.

It was late June, and I was dining alone in the breakfast room when Milo blew in from the south.

“Hello, darling,” he said, brushing a light kiss across my cheek. He dropped into the seat beside me and began buttering a piece of toast, as though it had been two hours since I had seen him last, rather than two months.

I took a sip of coffee. “Hello, Milo. How good of you to drop in.”

“You’re looking well, Amory.”

I had thought the same of him. His time on the Riviera had obviously served him well. His skin was smooth and golden, setting off the bright blue of his eyes. He was wearing a dark gray suit, lounging in that casual way he had of looking relaxed and at home in expensive and impeccably tailored clothes.

“I hadn’t expected to see you back so soon,” I said. His last letter, an offhanded attempt at keeping me informed of his whereabouts, had arrived three weeks before and hinted that he would probably not return home until late July.

“Monte Carlo grew so tedious; I simply had to get away.”

“Yes,” I replied. “Nothing to replace the dull routine of roulette, champagne, and beautiful women like a rousing jaunt to your country house for toast and coffee with your wife.”

Without really meaning to do so, I had poured a cup of coffee, two sugars, no milk, and handed it to him.

“You know, I believe I’ve missed you, Amory.”

He looked me in the eyes then and smiled. Despite myself, I nearly caught my breath. He had that habit of startling, dazzling one with his sudden and complete attention.

Grimes, our butler, appeared at the door just then. “Someone to see you in the morning room, madam.” He did not acknowledge Milo. Grimes, it had long been apparent, was no great admirer of my husband. He treated him with just enough respect that his obvious distaste should not cross the boundary into impropriety.

“Thank you, Grimes. I will go to the morning room directly.”

“Very good, madam.” He disappeared as noiselessly as he had come.

The fact that Grimes’s announcement had been so vague as to keep Milo in the dark about the identity of my visitor was not lost on my husband. He turned to me and smiled as he buttered a second piece of toast. “Have I interrupted a tryst with your secret lover by my unexpected arrival?”

I set my napkin down and rose. “I have no secrets from you, Milo.” I turned as I reached the door and flashed his smile back at him. “If I had a lover, I would certainly inform you of it.”

*   *   *

ON MY WAY
to the morning room, I stopped at the large gilt mirror in the hallway to be sure the encounter with my wayward husband had not left me looking as askew as I felt. My reflection looked placidly back at me, gray eyes calm, waved dark hair in place, and I was reassured.

It took time, I had learned, to prepare myself for Milo. Unfortunately, he did not often oblige me by giving notice of his arrival.

I reached the door to the morning room, wondering who my visitor might be. Grimes’s mysterious announcement was a reflection of my husband’s presence, not the presence of my visitor, so I would have been unsurprised to find as commonplace a guest as my cousin Laurel behind the solid oak door. I entered the room and found myself surprised for the second time that morning.

The man seated on the white Louis XVI sofa was not my cousin Laurel. He was, in fact, my former fiancé.

“Gil.”

“Hello, Amory.” He had risen from his seat as I entered, and we stared at one another.

Gilmore Trent and I had known each other for years and had been engaged for all of a month when I had met Milo. The two men could not have been more different. Gil was fair; Milo was dark. Gil was calm and reassuring; Milo was reckless and exciting. Compared with Milo’s charming unpredictability, Gil’s steadiness had seemed dull. Young fool that I had been, I had chosen illusion over substance. Gil had taken it well and wished me happiness in that sincere way of his, and that was the last that I had seen of him. Until now.

“How have you been?” I asked, moving forward to take his hand. His grip was warm and firm, familiar.

“Quite well. And you? You look wonderful. Haven’t changed a bit.” He smiled, eyes crinkling at the corners, and I felt instantly at ease. He was still the same old Gil.

I motioned to the sofa. “Sit down. Would you care for some tea? Or perhaps breakfast?”

“No, no. Thank you. I realize I have already imposed upon you, dropping in unannounced as I have.”

A pair of blue silk-upholstered chairs sat across from him, and I sank into one, somehow glad Grimes had chosen the intimate morning room over one of the more ostentatious sitting rooms. “Nonsense. I’m delighted to see you.” I realized that I meant it. It was awfully good to see him. Gil had kept out of society and I had wondered, more than once in the five years since my marriage, what had become of him.

“It’s good to see you too, Amory.” He was looking at me attentively, trying to determine, I supposed, how the years had changed me. Despite his claim that I was still the same, I knew the woman before him was quite different from the girl he had once known.

Almost without realizing it, I had been appraising him as well. Five years seemed to have altered him very little. Gil was very good-looking in a solid and conventional sort of way, not stunning like Milo but very handsome. He had dark blond hair and well-formed, pleasant features. His eyes were a light, warm brown, with chocolaty flecks drawn out today by his brown tweed suit.

“I should have written to you before my visit,” he went on, “but, to tell the truth … I wasn’t sure you would see me.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” I smiled, suddenly happy to be sitting here with an old friend, despite what had passed between us. “After all, the bad behavior was entirely on my part. I am surprised that you would care to see me.”

“All water under the bridge.” He leaned forward slightly, lending sincerity to his words. “I told you at the time, there was no one to blame.”

“That is kind of you, Gil.”

He spoke lightly, but his lips twitched up at the corners as though his mouth could not quite decide if he was serious, could not quite support a smile. “Yes. Well, one can’t stop love, can one?”

“No.” My smile faded. “One can’t.”

He leaned back in his seat then, dismissing the intimacy of the moment. “How is Milo?”

“He’s very well. He returned only this morning from the Riviera.”

“Yes, I had read something about his being in Monte Carlo in the society columns.” I could only imagine what it might have been. Within six months of my marriage, I had learned it was better not to know what the society columns said about Milo.

For just a moment, the specter of my husband hung between us in the air.

I picked up the box of cigarettes on the table and offered one to him, knowing he didn’t smoke. To my surprise, he accepted, pulling a lighter from his pocket. He touched the flame to the tip of his cigarette and inhaled deeply.

“What have you been doing these past few years?” I asked, immediately wondering if the question was appropriate. It seemed that some shadow of the past tainted nearly every topic. I knew that he had left England for a time after we had parted ways. Perhaps his travel since our parting was not something he wished to discuss. After all, there had been a time when we had traveled together. In the old days, before either of us had ever thought of marriage, our families had often been thrown together on various holidays abroad, and Gil and I had become fast friends and confidants. He had good-naturedly accompanied me in searching out scenic spots or exploring ancient ruins, and our evenings had been occupied by keeping one another company in hotel sitting rooms as our parents frequented foreign nightspots until dawn. Sometimes I still thought fondly of our adventures together and of those long, comfortable conversations before the fire.

He blew out a puff of smoke. “I’ve traveled some. Kept busy.”

“I expect you enjoyed seeing more of the world. Do you remember the time we were in Egypt…”

He sat forward suddenly, grounding out his cigarette in the crystal ashtray on the table. “Look here, Amory. I might as well tell you why I’ve come.”

Years of practice in hiding my thoughts allowed me to keep my features from registering surprise at his sudden change of manner. “Certainly.”

He looked me in the eyes. “I’ve come to ask a favor.”

“Of course, Gil. I’d be happy to do anything…”

He held up a hand. “Hear me out before you say yes.” He was agitated about something, uneasy, so unlike his normally contained self.

He stood and walked to the window, gazing out at the green lawn that went on and on before it ended abruptly at the lake that marked the eastern boundary of the property.

I waited, knowing it would do little good to press him. Gil wouldn’t speak until he was ready. I wondered if perhaps he had come to ask me for money. The Trents were well-off, but the recent economic difficulties had been far-reaching, and more than a few of my friends had found themselves in very reduced circumstances. If that was the case, I would be only too happy to help.

BOOK: Murder at the Brightwell: A Mystery
11.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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