Kat settled down immediately, taking her place on a weary sofa. The living room they had been led into mimicked the external tatter in that it had been unattended to for a while, cobwebs alighting on the corners of the ornate mantelpiece, once white, perhaps. The windows were smeared brown, as if no one had cared to give them a proper clean. It was surprising that the house was in residency still, in spite of its age and appearance.
Aching, Kat managed to kick off her boots. They were heavier than they looked. Andrew quickly reprimanded her, but Kat shrugged his uneasy manner away. The carpet was clean enough, wasn’t it? She was going to de-shoe, no matter what anyone else thought. Besides, Kat wasn’t used to constantly wearing heels, and her toes were already going through the motions of cramp.
Ryder sauntered past, in and out of Kat’s vision in an instant. Luckily, as Kat slyly tilted her head in the direction Ryder had vanished, she saw the woman had not walked far, and Kat seized the opportunity to strike a conversation with her.
She turned to Ryder and jolted her head back at Audry and Andrew, who had now settled into a silent argument, remarking in a low voice:
“You arrived before me. Do you know what’s going on with those two?”
“Hell knows. Some sort of past love thing?”
The word ‘love’ struck a one-second chord inside Kat’s chest. She knew all too well of that pain, even if a childish preconception of romance had been the only idea to lead her astray. Kat looked at her hands as she thought shyly back to her broken, angry youth. The thoughts would have destroyed her excitement of the present challenge, had the bursting open of the front door not done so to the reverie.
The newcomer was a sodden man. He introduced himself as ‘Tom Worthing’.
Now Kat looked at Tom with distaste. Not at the accent or the clothes, but at the tainted expression on his lips, evil if one glanced twice. Nevertheless, Tom settled down with them, too, and slid himself, with more of that slyness, into one of the waiting-chairs. Maybe Kat was just overreacting from her bad memories. She shook her head, trying to flick away the terrible thoughts, and turned her attention onto Ryder, who had not sat, but settled into the wall behind Kat’s own sofa, emitting warmth. Ryder didn’t seem very eager to place herself in any of the chairs present.
If Kat had been about to strike up another half-conversation, her attempt withered once Ryder herself spoke up, but to the group:
“What are we actually doing here? Waiting?”
“It looks like it,” grumbled Audry. She was still standing, too, body turned towards the butler, and hands crossed tightly. She seemed content to stare him down, but the servant didn’t seem to notice- or was happy to leave her in the dark.
Kat beckoned to the butler, despite how eerie he looked, as if the cobwebs might be hanging off him, too.
“May I help you?” he asked, once he was standing by Kat’s right hand.
“What’s you name?”
“Okay, Desmond. Where’s our host?”
“Good question,” Tom added.
“Ah. You shall meet Mr. Bane in a short while, at dinner.”
“What do we do until then?” Andrew called across the room.
“I’d like to see my room, please,” Audry repeated.
“I vote for room-viewing, too,” Kat said.
“Yeah, I agree,” said Ryder loudly.
Other affirmatives split through the room and Desmond bowed his head.
“Very well. If you might come this way. All rooms are situated on the second floor, but not all are situated in the same quarter. I will guide each guest to their turning, which will lead straight to the named rooms. However, I’ll remind you now that the master of the house expects you all for dinner in the main dining room in an hour.”
“Thank you,” Audry and Andrew replied at the same time, before shooting each other the same glare. Kat almost laughed out loud.
Instead, she pushed herself up from the dreary sofa and started off in the direction of the main staircase, even if that meant that she was in the lead again. Someone had to begin the exodus.
“Miss.Your shoes,” Desmond called from behind Kat. She lifted her shoulders once more.
“I won’t need them.”
After all, the best advantage of being shown a room at night was that it often came with sleep- and if not that, exploration.