Home > Of Visions & Secrets (Darkness #1)

Of Visions & Secrets (Darkness #1)
Author: Kathryn Ann Kingsley

 


CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Emma would like to have told anyone who had stopped her, as she dangled from the bottom of the rusty iron fire escape, that this was the first time she’d ever broken into someone’s home.

She’d like to have said that.

It’d have been a lie.

To be fair, this was all the doorman’s fault. If he had just believed her and let her into the building, she wouldn’t be stuck outside in the back alley in a cold April drizzle. She kicked her foot, trying to get it up over her head.

It was harder than she thought it’d be.

She kicked again, trying to hook her toe on the bar over her. Swing and a miss. She sighed through the strap of her bag that she held clenched between her teeth. Swing and a miss. She hung there limply for a moment, shutting her eyes.

Emma was having a night. The ride on the streetcar to the hotel had been crowded as everyone was eager to either go home or to one of the jazz clubs in the city, or to crawl into whatever local speakeasy they preferred. She had talked to the doorman hours ago, and when he had turned her down, she knew she had to wait a while until she could try to sneak in.

And so she waited. For hours. Outside. In the rain. Watching the streetcars go by.

This was entirely the doorman’s fault. If he hadn’t argued with her, everything would be fine! But no. Of course not. Blah-blah-blah, “you don’t look like a twin,” and here she was. The metal dug into her hand, and she shifted her grip only to find the rusty bits were pointy just about everywhere.

She could have pulled down the fire escape ladder and gone up that way, but she was trying to be as quiet as possible. And the sound of that whole thing coming down would be certain to wake up everyone in all the surrounding buildings.

So, here she was.

Dangling.

From a fire escape.

Like a total moron.

This time, she decided to swing, hoping the momentum would help her kick up and over the rung she was hanging from, and allow her to squeeze between the gap in the bars of the railing. That was her hope, anyway. If she failed, she’d probably fall and smash her head on the cobblestones some ten feet beneath her.

No, I’ll hit the garbage can I used to jump up here, first. Then I’ll smash my head on the cobblestones.

What a way to die.

Anyway.

Back, forth, back, forth, back—she kicked as hard as she could. This time, she managed to get her feet onto the bars. It took a lot of wriggling, a lot of squirming, and a lot of muffled swears into the strap in her mouth, but she finally, finally got there!

Pulling the bag from her mouth, she let out a puff of air and looked down at her poor, red palms. They were going to hurt later. But hey, she was lying on her back on the fire escape, and not splattered all over the cobblestones or nursing a broken ankle, so she’d take it.

She was one step closer to finding Elliot. “If you aren’t dead, I’m going to murder you,” she murmured as she wiped her palms off on her riding pants. She had changed from her far-less-taboo skirt into her trousers in the alley, having absolutely zero desire to deal with the extra fabric wrapping around her face as she tried to flip upside down. The last thing she needed at two in the morning was to get arrested for cross-dressing. Not that she didn’t understand the appeal. Truth be told, she much preferred pants to skirts and dresses, but society dictated she wore otherwise. Stupid men, always getting the rational options.

It was much easier to get away with wearing pants while she was overseas. Everybody cared less as to whether or not she was adhering to social norms when she was riding a camel through the desert or a horse through the jungle.

Stupid men, getting to wear pants.

Oh, well.

Hefting herself up to her feet, she let out a sigh and slung her bag over her shoulder. She only felt a little proud of herself for making it up onto the fire escape. Step one had been to get into the building, so she hadn’t even completed that much yet.

Step One—get into the building.

Step Two—break into Elliot’s apartment.

Step Three—beat his drugged-up ass halfway to Kingdom Come for disappearing and scaring the shit out of her and the rest of their family.

Step One had proven to be a bit more difficult than anticipated, which gave her little hope for the next phase of the operation. Looking up at the iron fire escape stairs, she pondered her next step. Find someone who had an open window who either wasn’t home or was asleep. Hopefully. Maybe. It was a drizzly April night, and although the air was warm-ish, it still had a chill to it that probably meant nobody was sleeping with their window open.

Then she’d have to go to the roof and hope the roof stairs were unlocked.

But she was getting ahead of herself.

She started up the winding scaffolding of the stairs, walking as quietly as possible. It was easy to make noise on the metal structure, and the last thing she wanted was the police to show up and question her.

The first few floors had proven useless. No open windows. She had zero interest in trying to jimmy any of them open or shattering any glass. That was a step too far. Entering was one thing, breaking was another. It was on the sixth floor—of course it had to be the sixth—when she finally saw it.

An open window.

Ten feet away from the fire escape.

Shit.

She went all the way up to the last floor, the tenth, to see if she had any other options. No. And no, the roof stairs weren’t unlocked.

Double shit.

With a heavy sigh, she shut her eyes and braced herself for what she had to do. She put her hand over her face. “I’m going to murder you, Elliot.”

Heading back to the sixth floor, she eyed the open window with wary distrust. No, it wasn’t an illusion. It was, in fact, open. The lights were all off inside, hopefully meaning the renters were asleep or not home. The decorative pattern of the brick wall would give her some handholds along the way. There was a ledge that ran to the window from the fire escape. It was deep—probably a foot or more—but it was still a fucking ledge.

Looking down the six stories, she let out a small whine. She really, really didn’t want to have to do this. But she didn’t know as she had a choice.

Taking off her shoes and stockings, she tucked them into her bag and slung it over her shoulder so that it was behind her. She wanted as much grip on the stone as she possibly could. The air was moist, and it left a thin sheen of water on everything. And water meant slippery. Cautiously, she slung a leg over the railing, then the other. She was on the ledge. Next came the harder part—letting go of the railing.

Pressing herself to the wall, she grabbed one of the protruding decorative bricks that was just slightly over her head. Letting out a breath, she used it to swear at her brother, and she began to shuffle along the ledge.

One foot at a time.

Don’t look down.

One foot at a time.

Don’t look down.

One foot at a—

Her foot slipped on the damp ledge, and she gripped the brick surface as hard as she could. It had only slid an inch, nowhere near the edge of the building, but it still sent her heart racing, pounding in her ears and drowning out the sound of the wind rushing through the alley.

She swore at her brother some more.

Once she could breathe again, she opened her eyes and resumed her sad, slow, pathetic shuffle along the ledge.

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