“I know that you’re being facetious, but I was.” He paused. “I still am.”
“Well, you’re very good at it.” I crossed my arms and continued to stare out the window.
I didn’t feel much like talking anymore. There were still a million questions I had about everything, but I’d rather wait and talk to somebody else, anybody else. I thought I would be too anxious and excited to sleep, but after about an hour into the drive, I started nodding off. I fought to stay awake until I realized the ride would go quicker if I just slept.
When I opened my eyes, the sun was shining brightly above us. I had curled up on the seat with my knees pressed against my chest, so my whole body felt sore and achy. I looked around, then I sat up and stretched, trying to work the kinks out of my neck.
“I thought you were going to sleep the whole ride,” Finn said.
“How far away are we?” I yawned and slouched low in the seat, resting my knees against the dashboard.
The scenery had started giving way to tall tree-lined bluffs. The car rolled up and down through the hills and valleys, and it really was stunningly beautiful. Eventually Finn slowed and we turned, driving to the top of a bluff. Soon the road curved down again, winding among the trees. Through them I could see the Mississippi River cutting through the bluffs.
A large metal gate blocked our path, but when we reached it, a guard nodded at Finn and waved us on. Once we were through, I saw beautiful houses dotting the bluffs.
They were all heavily obscured by trees, which gave me an odd sensation that there were more homes than I could actually see. But every one of them appeared luxurious and perfectly positioned to make the best of the view.
We pulled up in front of an opulent mansion perched precariously on the edge of a bluff. It was pure white, with long vines growing up over it beautifully. The back, which faced the river, was made entirely of windows, but it seemed to be held up by weak supports. While stunningly gorgeous, the house looked as if it could fall off the edge at any moment.
“What’s this?” I took a break from gaping at the house to look back at Finn.
He smiled in the way that sent shivers through me. “This is it. Welcome home, Wendy.”
I had come from money, but it had never been anything like this. This was aristocratic. Finn walked me to the house, and I couldn’t believe that I’d truly come from this. I had never felt so small or ordinary in my entire life.
With a house like this, I had expected a butler to answer the door. Instead, it was just a kid. He looked about my age, with sandy hair cascading across his forehead. He was very attractive, but that made sense, because I couldn’t believe that anything ugly ever came from a house like this. It was too perfect.
He seemed confused and surprised at first, but when he saw Finn, an understanding came to him and he smiled broadly.
“Oh, my God. You must be Wendy.” He opened the massive front door so we could come in.
Finn let me go in first, which made me nervous, and I felt embarrassed with the way this kid smiled at me, especially considering my pajamas and bruised cheek. He was dressed like any other normal kid I had gone to school with, at least in the private schools, and I found that weird. As if it would be more natural for him to run around in a tuxedo first thing in the morning.
“Um, yeah,” I mumbled awkwardly.
“Oh, sorry, I’m Rhys.” He touched his chest, gesturing to himself, and turned back to Finn. “We weren’t expecting you this soon.”
“Things happen,” Finn explained noncommittally.
“I’d really love to stay and talk, but I just came home for lunch, and I’m already running late on getting back to school.” Rhys glanced around and looked at us apologetically. “Elora is down in the drawing room. You can get yourself there, right?”
Finn nodded. “I can.”
“All right. Sorry to rush out like this.” Rhys smiled sheepishly and picked up the messenger bag lying by the front door. “It was really nice meeting you, Wendy. I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot more of you.”
Once he hurried out the door, I took a moment to take in my surroundings. The floors were marble, and a giant crystal chandelier hung above us. From where I stood, I could see the breathtaking view through the windowed back wall of the house. It was floor-to-ceiling glass, and all I could see were the tops of trees and the river plummeting below us. It was enough to give me vertigo, and I was on the other side of the house.
“Come on.” Finn walked ahead of me, turning down a decadently furnished hall, and I scampered after him.
“Who was that?” I whispered, as if the walls could hear me. They were lined with pictures, a few of which I recognized as being painted by master painters.
“Yeah, I know, but . . . is he my brother?” I asked.
“No,” Finn replied. I waited for more, but apparently that was all he would say on the subjet.
Abruptly he turned and entered a room. It was the corner of the house, so two of the walls were entirely glass. One interior wall had a fireplace, and hanging above it was the portrait of an attractive older gentleman. Books lined the other interior wall. Elegant antique furniture filled the room, and a velvet chaise lounge sat poised in front of the fireplace.
A woman sat on a stool in the corner, her back to us. Her dress was dark and flowing, just like the hair that hung down her back. A large canvas was set on the easel before her. The painting was only partially finished, but it appeared to be some kind of fire, with dark smoke filtering over broken chandeliers.