Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at www.carolinelinden.com.
A tapping beside her broke into her thoughts. She glanced out the window and saw the boy who had lured her into trouble, grinning as he crouched out of sight next to the carriage. “Do you walk in the woods?” he whispered.
Alarmed, she shook her head, even though she did walk in the woods every chance she got. Telling him that would only cause her more trouble.
Disappointment flickered over his face. “Oh well.” He stepped back. “Good-bye, then.” He walked back to his family. Olivia eyed them curiously. The father was tall and lean, and his wife was very pretty, with a gloriously beautiful gown. Two girls about Daphne’s age stood beside her, although the blond girl was fidgeting in boredom and ran up to her brother as he approached them. He laughed at whatever she said, the carefree sound floating back to Olivia’s ears. Neither of his parents reproved him for laughing on Sunday.
The Herbert coachman finally snapped his whip and set the horses in motion. Olivia watched the Westons as the coach drove away. Upstarts they might be, but they looked like happy ones.
She had almost forgotten the impudent boy several days later, when she finished her lessons and was able to slip out of the house. Mother wouldn’t approve, but Mother had gone into town to the dressmaker, and Miss Willets, the governess, was fond of sneaking a glass of sherry and having an afternoon nap when Mother was away. This suited the girls quite well. Daphne retreated to the nursery with her dolls, where she fashioned new dresses for them out of scraps of Mother’s discarded gowns, and Olivia stole a book from the library and headed for the woods. Mother said Shakespeare was vulgar and too exciting for ladies, which made Olivia eager to read his plays, even though she was forced to hide away to do so.
There was a quiet little glen not too far from Kellan Hall, the Herbert home, with a fallen tree and enough sun to be pleasant without being hot. Settled on the tree, with her feet propped on a nearby stone, Olivia had just reached the magnificent scene where Romeo revealed himself to Juliet and professed his love in words that would rend the heart of any sentient being . . . when someone spoke behind her.
“I thought you didn’t walk in the woods.”
She gave a little scream and dropped her book. “You—you,” she spluttered. “I am not walking!” It was a stupid thing to say, but he had interrupted at a very inopportune moment. Would Juliet return Romeo’s love?
“Oh, did you come into the woods by carriage?” He jumped over the tree trunk and scooped up the book. “Romeo, eh? Do you like it?”
She glared at him and reached for the book. “Yes.”
He handed it back. “It wasn’t one of my favorites. My sisters wanted to act it out, but Penelope kept giggling when she was supposed to be dying.”
Olivia’s eyes widened. Dying? Which character died? She hoped it wasn’t Juliet. “Don’t tell me any more!”
“I liked that Henry V, though,” he went on. “Smashing good battle. I’m James, by the way. James Weston.”
She gave him a reproachful look. It wasn’t proper for a gentleman to introduce himself to a lady, and he ought to know that, even if he wasn’t a gentleman. “I know.”
He grinned. In the sunlight his brown hair had an auburn hue, and his eyes were sharp and lively. He couldn’t be much more than thirteen or fourteen, but he was already tall in Olivia’s view. “And you’re Miss Olivia Herbert of Kellan Hall.”
“Yes.” She lowered her gaze to her book, hoping he would go away.
“So,” he said after a moment, “if you only walk in the woods to find a place to read, you must know about the waterfall.”
Her eyes stopped taking in the words on the page. “Waterfall?” she asked, intrigued in spite of herself.
He tilted his head and gave her a sly smile. “I can show you.”
Slowly she closed the book. “Is it far?”
And before she knew it, she was following him along a winding track through the trees, to where a small stream splashed over a fall of rocks. It was no taller than Olivia herself, but it brought a smile to her face. She’d lived at Kellan Hall all her life and never discovered it.