Leonardo Di Grisogno’s old nectary in France, early autumn…
It’s under a drizzling rain that the newlyweds are returning to Champs-les-Sims from their short honeymoon on Bora Bora.
So this will be my home – at least when we’re in France… How I prefer Leonardo’s sunny mansion in Tuscany!
Leonardo puts down their luggage and scoops Shasta up in his arms.
‘Mustn’t bring misfortune over us by tripping on the threshold!’
He kisses her lightly and carries her over the threshold for good luck.
‘Welcome home, amore mio.’
The house is cold and damp and all the furniture is covered in white drapes. Leonardo gets a fire going, while Shasta puts away the drapes.
‘Where’s the staff?’
‘I gave them the weekend off, I thought we could play house for a couple of days.’
‘Play house? You mean I’ll have to clean and cook?’
‘Of course not. The kitchen should be stocked with food ready to microwave…’
He turns on the sophisticated sound system, hidden in the custom-made old gramophone cabinet.
‘May I have this dance?’
She steps into his arms to the rhythm of Barry Manilow…
After a light supper, Shasta retires to take a bath. A long, hot bath.
Luckily we’ve got warm water tonight… I hate the plumbing in these old mansions! Everything seems different compared to last summer… If I had known about the plumbing… Why can’t Leonardo just pay for it to be updated? He sure has enough money…
While Shasta is soaking in the tub, Leonardo appears out of a secret passage behind the fireplace. I wonder what he’s been up to while Shasta was lingering in the bath?
He lights a fire in the bedroom to chase the autumn cold, but also to hide the secret door.
Shasta takes her time getting ready for bed…
… studying her face, meticulously tracking lines and wrinkles. Finally, she can’t put it off any longer. She has to join her husband…
Hopefully he’s asleep.
Shasta has never really liked making love. Mostly using her good looks and sex to get what she wants, she usually rapidly loses interest. It might be that Taïga’s father set the stakes to high – she compares everyone to him.
‘Carina, mi amore. Come to bed!’
Well, unfortunately for Shasta, he’s not asleep.
‘What took you so long, cara? Was there no hot water?’
Shasta drags her feet, approaching the bed.
‘Leonardo, I’m so tired.’
‘No capisco, carina. I don’t understand. Sei sempre stanco… You’re always tired.’
‘The journey wore me out…’
‘You slept the whole way on the plane!’
‘I haven’t felt well for a couple of days…’ she tries but Leonardo doesn’t want to listen anymore. For a man his age, he’s certainly vigorous – she is his wife and he wants her.
‘It’s all right, mi amore… You’ll feel better dopo che avremo fatto l’amore (after we make love). Just lay down by my side… Brava ragazza…’ he murmurs, caressing her full breasts.
‘Ouch… Leonardo! You hurt me…’
At last her husband falls asleep. Shasta lies by his side listening to his light snoring. Slowly she counts to 1,000. When she is sure he is sleeping, she slips out of bed and puts on her robe.
She stops for a while on the landing to get her bearings, trying to remember the layout of the old mansion.
Their bedroom is on the first floor, in the right wing. But the part of the house that intrigues her is in the left wing… On the second floor, right over the dining room…
Finally she discovers a staircase that seems to lead in the right direction. But will she find what she’s looking for upstairs?
Shhh… The old floorboards creak under her naked feet. She holds her breath, listening… Nothing…
What is this? She pushes open the only door on top of the stairs. An enormous empty room with just a bookcase against the far wall…
Her intuition tells her she’s close…
She studies the bookcase.
Could it be a secret door?
If it is, there must be a lock mechanism somewhere…
A half hour later she still hasn’t found the opening mechanism!
And darn it! If I could just push this bloody bookcase through the wall!?! Maybe I’m wrong? Maybe it’s just an ordinary bookcase and nothing else?
But deep down she knows that it isn’t.
Wait a minute… What’s this?
Slowly the bookcase slides open with a raspy, hollow sound.
She puts one of the books on the floor so the bookcase can’t close behind her. Hesitantly she steps into the room. Moonlight filters through the high windows, lighting her step. Suddenly candles flicker to life and she draws her breath.
Lady Ravendancer’s and The White Witch’s spell book! ‘OMG! I found it… I finally found it!’ She laughs nervously, rushing over to the lectern.
When Shasta understood who was buried in the basement, she remembered her mother’s tales about the White Witch’s labyrinth and her spell book that couldn’t be removed from the site of her grave.
So I’m standing right over the gravestone, it was pointing towards her spell book all the time… All I had to do was getting married to access it…
Reverently she reaches out and touches the yellowing pages that instantly fills with blood red script.
What does it say? She frowns. She can’t read the old script. Now that doesn’t make sense. I found it! I’m the chosen one!
Oh, forget it. Let’s get down to business… Soon I’ll be the most powerful among them all… WHAT! It’s stuck? What good will it be if I can’t take it with me!?!
Carefully she lets the secret door slide shut behind her, and hurries downstairs.
There’s something I have to google… Hmmm. How can I get Missy’s address without contacting Mother?
But there’s no way to find Missy via the Internet. She will have to put off the retrieving of the spell book for a while, its location is safe. Knowing Leonardo, he hasn’t succeeded in retrieving it neither, or it wouldn’t still be there.
She finally falls asleep on the couch, her iPad falling to the floor.
The first light of dawn finds Shasta still peacefully sleeping in the living room.
While Shasta is still serenely sleeping on the couch, Leonardo consults the Moon phases, calculating…
Summer solstice was in June… Hmm… I’m sure it worked… But why hasn’t she said something?…
Part I – End of Chapter 13