Fate, the elusive brother of Death, has taken up residence in a sumptuous estate near Thorn Grove…
A duke has been murdered. The lord of Thorn Grove has been framed. And Fate, the elusive brother of Death, has taken up residence in a sumptuous palace nearby. He’s hell-bent on revenge after Death took the life of the woman he loved many years ago… and now he’s determined to have Signa for himself, no matter the cost.
Signa and her cousin Blythe are certain that Fate can save Elijah Hawthorne from wrongful imprisonment if the girls will entertain Fate’s presence. But the more time they spend with him, the more frightening their reality becomes as Signa exhibits dramatic new powers that link her to Fate’s past. With mysteries and danger around every corner, the cousins must decide whom they can trust as they navigate their futures in high society, unravel the murders that haunt their family, and play Fate’s unexpected games—all with their destinies hanging in the balance.
Signa had little idea how many people were left at Thorn Grove these days. Elijah had culled the majority of the staff after Blythe’s illness, leaving only those he trusted most and those the girls vouched for personally, like Elaine. A few new staff had been hired, of course, as they still needed help to tend to the horses and to clean the sprawling manor. But as Signa walked the dreary halls in the still-gray hours of the morning, passing looming portraits of long-deceased Hawthornes, she couldn’t help but think that the manor felt eerily similar to a graveyard with so many memories of its past residents imbued into the walls and not a single living soul in sight. Signa wouldn’t have been surprised if, after Lord Wakefield’s death, the staff had packed their belongings and headed elsewhere to find new employment.
There was at least one silver lining—whatever illness Signa had succumbed to the night prior seemed to have passed quickly. She’d buried her bloodied gloves in the yard and cast them from her mind. She couldn’t die, after all, and had been under insurmountable stress lately. Perhaps it was a passing illness. Perhaps it was poison. Or perhaps it was something that would require more thought than she was ready to give it.
As Signa made her way down the stairs for breakfast, she was relieved to see that the table had been set for her, meaning that someone else was, in fact, still at the manor. Perhaps alerted by the noise of her chair sliding against the wood as she took her seat, Warwick emerged from the kitchen wearing spectacles low on the bridge of his nose. Behind them were haunted, bloodshot eyes. Signa was certain the only reason her own eyes did not mirror his heavily shadowed ones was because, for her, none of the recent events felt new or surprising. She might not have anticipated Fate’s arrival, but she should have known her life would never be easy. Perhaps she should change her way of thinking to instead always anticipate the worst, and to be pleasantly surprised if nothing horrible happened.
“Good morning, Miss Farrow.” When the words came out in a croak, Warwick cleared his throat and tried again. “Shall I fetch your breakfast?”
Signa glanced around at the empty chairs, unsettled by the unnerving quiet. “Why don’t you eat with me, Warwick?” she asked despite knowing there were probably more than a hundred silly societal rules about the inappropriateness of such a suggestion. “Has there been word of Byron or Elijah?”
The black, bushy mustache upon Warwick’s upper lip straightened over the top of what Signa could only assume was a frown. He gave no verbal answer to her request to dine with him but instead remained standing. “Not yet, I’m afraid.”
She steadied a hand on her nervous stomach. Nothing good could come from a visit with the constable taking so long. “What of Miss Hawthorne? How is she faring?”
He opened his mouth to speak when a feminine voice from behind swept in. “Obviously, she has seen better days.” Blythe all but dragged herself into the dining room, looking worse than either of them. Her icy-blond hair hadn’t been brushed and was still dented from where pins had fastened the waves. Fine hairs were strewn about her head, ratted tendrils falling over bony shoulders. The remnants of powder still clung to the creases of her face, rouge smeared across her lips. Like her father had done so many times before, Blythe wore only green velvet slippers and a robe over a loose ivory nightgown. Though Warwick startled at her appearance, Signa didn’t hesitate to embrace her cousin, having needed the reassurance of seeing Blythe unharmed more than she’d realized. Blythe squeezed her back once before she took her seat beside Signa and grabbed the newspaper across from them.
Flopping it open, she skimmed the pages quickly, until, with a relieved breath, she said, “There doesn’t appear to be any mention of Lord Wakefield’s death.”
“Perhaps Everett is paying them off,” Signa said, uncertain whether she should feel worry or relief. “I imagine such news would make headlines otherwise.”
Still reading, Blythe asked, “They’ll be announcing Everett as the duke now, won’t they?”
“I would expect so.”
Folding the paper shut and tossing it to the side, Blythe turned to Warwick. “Does the offer of breakfast extend to me, as well?”
He pushed up his spectacles, quick to rectify himself. Signa supposed he ought to have been familiar with such oddities, given that he worked directly with Elijah. Seeing Blythe mirror her father’s actions, however, appeared to be a first for him. Those actions were perhaps not the most reassuring sign of the young woman’s state of mind, but Signa still admired Blythe’s complete lack of regard for societal expectations—envied it, too, considering that she herself had risen early to get dressed for the day. Given all that had happened the night prior, such a thing felt ridiculous.
Warwick disappeared only to return minutes later to set out porridge, sliced ham, scones, kippers, eggs, and toast on platters before them. Elaine worked beside him, rosy cheeked and humming as she poured tea into their cups and set the pot on the table.
Blythe took hold of her unsweetened tea, her winter-sharp eyes fixed on the maid who fluttered out of the room with a small curtsy.
“Does Elaine seem ill to you?” Blythe asked, leaning in with a conspiring whisper. “Does she seem feverish? Phlegmy?”
Odd though the question was, Signa obliged with a simple reply. “I don’t believe so, though I don’t remember ever hearing her hum before.”
“That’s precisely what I mean!” Blythe drew her steaming cup to her lips. “Today of all days.”
Given her own relationship with the deceased, Signa couldn’t fault any person’s way of mourning or dealing with troubling times. Still, Elaine had always erred on the side of propriety, and such behavior was most certainly odd. “It’s all very strange. I don’t understand why the constable is taking so long.”
“I don’t understand any of it.” Blythe lifted her feet to sit crosslegged in her chair as she turned fully toward Signa. “What could make them believe that my father would want to kill the duke? He wanted out of Grey’s more than anything.”
That much was true, and though Signa felt no desire to be the one to break this news to her cousin, she felt it her obligation to say in an apologetic voice, “He was the one who offered Lord Wakefield a drink.” Then, before Blythe could tear her head from her neck, Signa grabbed her hand and hurried to add, “I know that doesn’t make him a killer, but it does give the constable reason for suspicion.”
“What about that man from last night?” Blythe ripped into her toast. “The one who made the accusation against my father. Have you ever seen him before?”
There was the question, again. The same one that Fate had asked her the night prior.
“I have not.” Signa slathered a mountain of butter onto her lemon scone and tried to ignore the bitterness festering within her. While the words were her truth, Signa couldn’t help but feel that she was lying. She’d come to view Blythe as a sister, and day by day the need to share what she was and everything she was capable of was becoming impossible to ignore. But how exactly did you tell someone who had no experience with the paranormal that not only was Death a sentient being who had helped Signa hunt down Blythe’s murderer—who just so happened to be the brother that Blythe still believed was alive—but also that the man responsible for accusing her father was Death’s brother, Fate?
If that wasn’t convoluted enough, there was also the fact that Signa and Death were intimate, and that she had the powers of a reaper. It would be a lot for anyone to take in, surely, and was a conversation Signa wasn’t convinced even could be broached.
And so, rather than say anything more, she filled her plate with ham and eggs and slathered more butter onto another lemon scone. When everything went to hell, at least she could always count on scones.
“Whoever he is, he certainly has some nerve,” Blythe pressed, sipping her tea with a ferocity Signa had not known possible. “Or perhaps an ulterior motive. I intend to find him and see which it is.”
The very thought had Signa so distracted that she burned her tongue on the tea, forgetting to blow on it. “Do not forget that you are a Hawthorne,” she said carefully, stirring in a third spoonful of sugar. “Your family is bound to have enemies, be it for reasons of jealousy or bitterness. Perhaps your father refused someone’s entry into the club. Perhaps it has nothing to do with Elijah at all, but with Lord Wakefield. If someone wants his title, Everett could be the next victim. We can’t dive into this situation without thinking it through.”
Blythe leaned back in her seat, stabbing her fork into a chunk of ham. “Then what do you propose we do? I cannot be expected to sit idly by.”
Signa hated that such a question made her skin buzz and some tiny part of her spark to life. Uncovering Blythe’s murderer was not something Signa wished to ever relive, but for the Hawthornes, she wouldn’t hesitate. Still, it was unnerving how quickly her mind latched on to the idea of a new puzzle dangling before her. Already she found herself trying to sort out the scattered pieces.
“I think that, for now, we wait and see what happens with Elijah.”
It was not an answer that Blythe appreciated, though some small part of her must have realized it was their best option.
“I must warn you that my patience is limited, cousin,” Blythe said.
“And I must warn you that, were you to venture out into the world right now, looking as you do and behaving as boorishly as you are, you would only further the belief that there’s something strange about the Hawthornes.” Signa smiled when Blythe cut her a look, though the jest was short-lived as a heavy clunk-clunk-clunking echoed outside the dining room doors. So familiar was the sound that Signa and Blythe shared a look before bolting to their feet as the double doors opened and Byron Hawthorne stepped inside.
His shoulders were bowed, and his gaunt cheeks and neck were shadowed with dark stubble. Signa looked behind him, to where Warwick stood alone, and clutched the back of her chair to support herself.
Blythe noticed Warwick at the same time, and the smile melted from her face. “Where is my father?”
“I did everything I could.” Byron fisted his cane tight and looked his niece in the eye. “I’m sorry, Blythe, but I’m afraid that Elijah is being detained for the murder of Lord Wakefield.”
Excerpted from Foxglove, copyright © 2023 by Adalyn Grace.