Today's Reading

How long would she be safe here? How long until the press found her—or worse yet—he found her?

She glanced around the conservatory. Although sunshine warmed the room, Olivia Smith shivered as a chill chased down her spine. For once, she was the only one using the room, but she didn't feel alone. She felt creeped out, as if someone was watching her. Anyone could have been standing on the other side of the glass walls, hiding among the snow-enshrouded pine trees. Shadows darkened the snow around all those trees. Maybe one of the shadows was of a person instead of a pine. As Olivia peered outside, she caught a reflection in the glass—of herself, with her clothes hanging on her petite frame, of her dark blond hair tangled around her thin face, of her wide eyes staring back at her.

She wasn't dressing to impress anyone. Because of the winter weather and the holiday season, there were few other guests. That was part of why Olivia had chosen now to attend the exclusive spa. Despite the horrifying history of Bainesworth Manor, she had felt safe here at Halcyon Hall. Until the body had been found...

It wasn't even so much the body that had scared her but the arrival of the reporter. Edie Stone was legendary for uncovering scandals and secrets. Olivia had both, and she intended to keep them.

That was another reason why, three months ago, she'd checked herself into the exclusive spa. Halcyon Hall promised their guests absolute privacy. The director, Dr. Elijah Cooke, insisted that would not change despite the discovery of a body on the property. Dr. Cooke swore that a reporter would never be allowed access to the hall and especially not to the spa guests. Olivia was still safe.

Wasn't she?

As she stared out the window, she spied another reflection, of a shadow that moved behind her. She jumped and whirled toward the intruder. "What the hell—"

"I'm sorry," the dark-haired teenager said. "I didn't mean to scare you."

Olivia ducked her head down, so her hair slid over to hide her face, and started toward the French doors that stood open to the hallway.

"I won't bother you," the girl said, her voice cracking with emotion. "Just pretend I'm not here."

That was what Olivia had been hoping the teenager would do—ignore her. But every weekend the girl worked, she found some excuse to seek her out, to stare at her. To stalk her...

Olivia had enough damn stalkers. She didn't need one here. Not that she was afraid of the girl...

In fact, something pulled at her heart as she looked at the kid. Tears streaked down the teenager's full face, and her body shook with the sobs cracking her voice.

"What's wrong?" Olivia asked even though she really didn't want to get involved...with anyone...with anything. She just wanted to be left alone, but something tugged at her heart when she looked at the teenager.

The girl raised her hand to her face and wiped at her tears. "Do...do you really care?" she asked, her deep-set, dark eyes widening with shock.

Olivia had done her best to avoid the girl whenever she worked at the spa. That tug on her heart turned into a twinge of regret that she'd been so obvious about her avoidance. She'd been so intent on protecting herself that she hadn't realized she might have been hurting somebody else. "You're upset," Olivia said. "I want to know why."

The girl sniffled. "For the same reason I'm always upset," she said. "Because of him..."

Olivia sighed. "Because of a boy?" She shouldn't have been surprised. Teenage angst was usually about hormones unless that teenager had grown up like she had. Then hormones had been the least of her problems.

The girl laughed, but the sound was sharp with bitterness. "Like I could ever have a boyfriend with him as my dad. I'm probably going to lose this job because of him—because he's out there fighting with Dr. Cooke right now, like he's always fighting with someone."

"Fighting?" Olivia asked, and her body tensed with dread. "Is your dad violent?"

The teenager nodded.

And Olivia gasped. She reached out now for the girl, closing her hands over the teenager's shoulders. "Does he get violent with you?" She studied the girl's face, looking for bruises. But she knew, from her own experience, that a smart abuser made sure there was no easily visible evidence.

The girl shook her head, sending her long dark hair across her face. Olivia reached up and pushed it back, and the girl flinched as if anticipating a blow. "I'm sorry," Olivia said as she pulled her hand back. She hated people touching her—for the very same reason the girl had flinched. She shouldn't have reached out like she had.

The girl shook her head again. "It's okay."
...

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