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Will (If It Feels Good 3)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2023 Alice Gaines
The dust in the old attic made Sarah Meadows sneeze, but she wouldn’t have been happier anywhere else in the world.
“You sure you want to look through this ancient stuff?” Mr. Gamble, the owner of the house, asked from where he stood on a ladder behind her, his head poking out of the entrance to the attic.
“You said your wife saved everything,” Sarah answered as she scanned an assortment of old trunks, boxes, and antique furniture someone had found the strength to haul up the ladder.
“Never could get her to throw away anything,” he answered. “As soon as you’ve found everything you can use, I’m going to clean it all out.”
“I’m very grateful to be the first dealer you’ve had up here,” she said. “I’ll pay you a fair price for anything I find.”
“Guess that’s all it amounts to… a little bit of money.” He sighed. “Anything’s helpful these days. I’ll leave you to it.”
Which he did. Left her all alone in the relics of his wife’s life. Poor man. She’d probably find something she could sell in her shop. Then, she’d refer Mr. Gamble to a few businesses that could help him empty his attic in preparation for selling the house. This couldn’t be a joyful enterprise for him. It might be for her.
Dressed in grungy clothing for a dirty job, she got to work. The first box held a bunch of record albums. Vinyl was making a comeback these days. She pulled one of the discs out of its protective sleeve and did her best to scan it for defects in the dim light. Looked pretty good.
The next box had pots and pans. Nothing much there. She hauled herself to her feet and approached what looked like a lady’s dressing table. The wood was dinged, but it could be restored. Polished, it could make a lovely piece for a period boudoir.
One drawer held a hand mirror. Again, wood. Potentially salable. She glanced into it and almost dropped it. It wasn’t a mirror, after all, but the framed picture of a man’s face.
Okay, that shouldn’t have startled her. Maybe the lady who’d owned the piece kept her lover’s face framed in her dressing table. It sure didn’t look like Mr. Gamble, though. In fact, his wicked smile and scandalously long-ish hair fit more with a wealthy rake of another century. Maybe the piece was older than she’d thought.
“Don’t be frightened,” a man’s voice said from somewhere in the attic. A voice with a very distinct English accent.
Her heart started beating like crazy. “Who’s there? Mr. Gamble?”
That sure hadn’t sounded like Mr. Gamble. Neither did the laughter that followed her question. Even without having heard the actual voice of a wealthy rake, she recognized it as such.
She’d read about such voices in her favorite novels. She’d never expected to hear one. She put her hand over her heart and did her best to keep breathing.
“That wasn’t a picture,” the voice said. “It was my reflection.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” she said with as much authority as she could muster. “Who are you, and where are you?”
“Over here,” came the answer. But there was still no indication of the direction it came from. Rather, it seemed to be everywhere.
Crap. She wasn’t staying up here with some stranger who could be deranged for all she knew. Who hid out in attics? Instead, she got up and walked slowly toward the ladder. She’d tell Mr. Gamble he had a prowler, and once the police had evicted said prowler, she’d return.
“Don’t go, Sarah.”
He knew her name. How? She stopped in her tracks but didn’t turn around.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” the voice said. “I’m here to fulfill your dreams.”
What did a formless voice know about her dreams? She hadn’t shared them with anyone because they sounded ridiculous, even to her own ears. To live in a former time that seemed to glitter so much on the pages of novels and in the movies. Back then, most common folk, like her, had led difficult lives with no real education and folk remedies their only health care. But the gowns and the balls. The architecture and art. The manners. Today seemed so coarse compared to that.
“Come find me, Sarah.”
Oh, that accent, like butter on a scone to be covered with jam and clotted cream. Wise or not, she was going to find him, so she might as well set about it. But where?