Ayden and Sydney have finally met.
Hurrah! Now the fun can start. Here's another brief excerpt from the Halcyon House detailing the infamous meeting.
* * *
It wasn’t until I actually found the kitchen when I realized something was off.
The kitchen wasn’t in the best condition it could be, but it was in significantly better shape than the rest of the house. I could hear the humming of the tiny refrigerator and the small, old-fashioned stove was clean. There was an enormous table in the middle of the room and it was clean, well-scrubbed, with a half-eaten blueberry muffin on a plate. A cup of coffee was sitting on the counter. I stopped dead in the doorway and looked around; the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
Someone else was in the house. Someone else was in the house, with me.
My only comfort was that I was pretty sure ghosts didn’t eat muffins or drink coffee. Or at least, I hoped they didn’t.
Then again, a serial killer might.
I tried very hard not to think about the fact that I was five miles away from the only close town and I didn’t have anything on me remotely resembling a weapon, other than the key, and I didn’t know how much damage that would do. “Calm down, Ayden Harper,” I muttered to myself. “It’s just a muffin and coffee, for Pete’s sake.”
But I couldn’t calm down. I could feel every instinct in my body roaring into overdrive, with the urge to flight or fight most predominant. I took a very deep breath and closed my eyes, forcing my body to keep still. I opened my eyes again and the sight of the half-eaten muffin calmed my nerves for some ridiculous reason. It was a blueberry muffin, for crying out loud. I liked blueberry muffins. Whoever could possibly be here couldn’t be that bad, if they liked blueberry muffins the same as I did.
This delightful line of reasoning lasted for about fifteen seconds. Because that’s when I heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps over my head. It was too much to hope for that they were, maybe by some lucky chance, venturesome raccoons or squirrels trying to find a place to live for the winter. But no. That would be too easy. These were heavy, loud, definite footsteps in the room above me. That’s also when the footsteps were heard trailing down the hall above me and then… coming down the stairs.
It can be safely admitted that I panicked.
I did the only thing I could think of. After looking around madly for something solid to hold on to, I grabbed a rolling pin, of all things, and hid behind the door like I was six years old. I heard the footsteps now coming down the hall, breathing that sounded to me like a dragon. I gripped my makeshift weapon tighter.
The door was pushed open and I could sense a large presence behind the wood. Breathing, steady and even, filled the sudden quiet of the room. My knuckles turned white around the rolling pin. I heard the someone standing in front of the door move around and then a low, pleasant tenor male voice said softly, “You might as well come out, whoever you are. Somehow I don’t think ghosts drive Grand Cherokees or leave the front doors open.”
Oh Lord, I thought. I’m gonna die.
Without warning, the door slammed shut and I found myself face to face with--
A young man who appeared to be my age, maybe a little older. He had long, unruly black hair framing his face, and his clothes were bedraggled as the rest of him, wrinkled and by the looks of them unwashed. I only had a short time to take all this in. We stood there for at least thirty seconds without words, staring at each other like statues. I opened my mouth and was no doubt about to say something reasonable, mature, and sane.
I screamed bloody murder.
Not my proudest moment, I admit it. But it had the desired effect. The young man scrambled backward to avoid the arc of the swinging rolling pin and retreated into the furthest corner of the room, trying to get away from the crazy woman. “By God, woman, put that bloody thing down! You’ll kill someone with that!”
“That would be the idea!” I yelled back, now speaking actual words. “You’re the one in my house!”
“Your house?” the young man echoed in a voice of outrage. “The hell it’s your house, you psycho! I was here first!”
“‘I was here first’? What are you, five?” I asked indignantly, now recovering my senses a little. “And for the record, I signed the deed just last week, so I can safely say that it is indeed my house!”
“You’re insane,” he said calmly, folding his arms across his chest, staring at me. He had icy grey-blue eyes, with strong, slanting eyebrows drawn across his forehead. “I’ve been living here for the past six months and I’ve heard nothing of it. Liam would’ve told me.”
I felt my knees almost give out from under me. “You knew Grandda?”
The words had barely left my mouth when he blurted out, “You’re Liam’s granddaughter?”
As suddenly as it had begun, the shouting between us stopped. We stared at each other again, and I took the opportunity to realize that this…person (for lack of a better term) was…well…very good-looking. Very, very good-looking. He had an intelligent, handsome face, with full, curved mouth and a straight, Grecian nose, the kind I had always secretly envied. His clothes, I noted again, could stand with a wash and iron, but they looked like nice, expensive clothes. The kind I had seen in the store windows of the boutiques downtown. His eyes were clear, focused and intent, so him being some kind of a drug addict or drunk was out of the question. He had long lashes that were absolutely wasted on a boy. He was at least five inches taller than me, with a long, lean body that looked…toned. You know, healthy. Not oversized or bulky, like someone who constantly pumped iron, unlike some people I could mention.
Izzy would have definitely, indubitably, within a fraction of a second identified him as, to put it in her terms, freaking hot.
I, personally, didn’t care. I wanted to know what in blue blazes he was doing in Grandda’s house. And how he had gotten to know Grandda at all. And why, if what he said was true, was Grandda letting him stay in the house, and why didn’t he tell me?
It should be stated, here and now, that Grandda was always a bit of a meddler and inveterate matchmaker. Da says he orchestrated Da’s first meeting with Ma by somehow willing his car to break down on the way to classes. Grandda never denied it.
I edged out of the corner I had put myself and very, very carefully, making no sudden movements, put the rolling pin on the table between us. “I’m sorry,” I said slowly. “Clearly, there’s been some kind of misunderstanding here.”
The young man snorted. “No, really, you think?”
I ignored his sarcasm and continued on, “Let’s start again, alright? I’m Ayden McKenna. You knew my Grandda?”
The young man eyed me warily, as if I might start swinging heavy objects at his head again, but his reply was straightforward enough: “I’m Sydney Jenkins. Liam’s an old friend of my family."
* * *
Hoo-hoo-hoo! Now we're cooking!
Over & Out,