Home > The Will (Magdalene #1)

The Will (Magdalene #1)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Chapter One

The Safest Place I Could Be

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

My mouth filled with saliva when I heard these words, my eyes—shaded by both sunglasses and a big black hat—moving from the shining casket covered in a massive spray of deep red roses to the preacher standing at its side.

I wanted to rise up from my chair, snatch the words from the air and shove them down his throat.

This was an unusual reaction for me. I wasn’t like that.

But he was talking about Gran.

Gran, my Gran, the Gran whose body was in that casket.

She wasn’t exactly young, this was true. I knew it was coming, seeing as she was ninety-three.

That didn’t mean I wanted her to be gone. I never wanted her to be gone.

Outside of Henry, she was the only person I had. The only person in this whole world.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Gran wasn’t dust.

My Gran was everything.

On this thought, I felt them coming and I couldn’t stop them. Fortunately, when they spilled over, they were silent. Then again, they always were. The last time I let loose that kind of emotion was decades ago.

I never let it happen again.

I felt the wet crawling down my cheeks from under my sunglasses as I moved my eyes back to the casket. I felt them drip off my jaw but I didn’t lift a hand. I wanted no one to notice the tears so I wouldn’t give them any reason to do so, not even movement.

On that thought, I felt something else—a strange prickling sensation of awareness gliding over my skin. My eyes behind my sunglasses lifted and slid through the crowd standing around the casket.

They stopped when my sunglasses hit his.

And when they did, my breath also stopped.

This was because in all my life, and I’d had a long one, and in all my wandering, and I’d wandered far, I’d never seen a man like him.

Not once.

He was wearing a dark blue suit, monochromatic shirt and monochromatic tie. His clothes fit him well and suited him even better. I knew this from experience not just liking clothes but also being on the fringe of the fashion world for the last twenty-two years.

With a practiced eye, I saw his suit was Hugo Boss, which was a little surprising. The small town where Gran lived had some money in it and apparently that man was one of the people who had it.

The surprising part was the rest of him didn’t look Hugo Boss. It definitely didn’t look moneyed.

His black hair had a hint of silvery-gray in it. It was thick and clipped well but in a way that was not a nod to style, instead it was apparent he didn’t want to spend time on it so his style was wash and go.

Even so, it looked good on him.

He also had lines on his forehead and around his hard mouth, that even hard still had lips that were so full, they were almost puffy, especially the lower one. His sunglasses, I was certain, hid lines around his eyes.

These told me he was not a stranger to sun.

They also told me he wasn’t a stranger to emotion.

He was tall, broad and very big. I’d been around a variety of men and women who had commanding presences, Henry being one of them, but this man’s wasn’t that. It wasn’t commanding.

It was demanding.

Strange, but true and also somewhat startling.

This was because, not only was his frame big but his features on the whole were aggressive. I’d never seen the like. His brow broad and strong. His jaw hard and sculpted. His neck and throat muscled and corded. His cheekbones cut a line from his square chin to his dark sideburn. His nose had clearly once been straight but it had been broken and not set well, he’d gone with that and it was not a bad choice by any stretch of the imagination. And he had a scar across his left cheekbone that stood stark against his formidable features, taking rugged to extremes.

He was not close to me, he was also not far, the day was sunny but from his distance with his sunglasses on, I couldn’t imagine he could see my tears.

Yet I knew without doubt the way his shades were locked to me, he was watching me cry, his face impassive, his gaze unwavering.

I found this strange, his attention and the fact that even if he couldn’t miss I was looking at him, he didn’t look away.

Strange and again somewhat startling.

In order to breathe, with some effort, I tore my eyes from him and saw at his side a young man, perhaps twenty years old, wearing a dark gray suit, a light blue shirt and a rather attractive tie. Although not the spitting image of the man next to him, with his thick black hair, his height, his frame and his features, he could not be anything but the man’s son.

I pulled my eyes from the young man and looked the other direction only to see a young woman, maybe fifteen, sixteen, long red hair and delicate features set firmly at bored. She was standing slightly away from the man, arms crossed. I didn’t know why I knew, she looked not a thing like him, but I still knew she was also his.

Down my gaze went and I saw standing in front of the man was a boy, maybe eight, nine years old. Again, the dark hair, the frame that would grow to be tall and strong, it was impossible not to see he was another offspring of that man. It helped that he was leaning against the man’s legs and the man had his fingers curled around the boy’s shoulder.

The boy seemed uncomfortable and—I peered closer without giving away I was doing it—his face was red. Either he was crying or he had been.

He knew Gran.

Obviously, they all did, being at Gran’s funeral, but that boy, at least, knew her well.

Gran and I talked regularly, several times a week, and she’d told me (in some detail) about a variety of people in her town. I’d also lived there for a time when I was young and visited her frequently over the years, so I knew many of them personally.

She’d never told me about that family.

I would remember that family.

I looked no further, turning my eyes back to the casket. I didn’t want to see the woman that was undoubtedly somewhere at that family’s side.

I didn’t need to see her to know her.

I knew she’d likely be a redhead. That was the only “likely” thing I knew. The rest of what she would be was certain.

She’d be unnaturally slim or attractively curvy, depending on what that man’s preferences were. What she would not be was a woman who looked like she’d borne him three children over twenty years and had let her body or herself go in any way. Not that, never that. If she did, she’d lose him. For certain. His eye would wander and she’d be replaced. Therefore, she’d do all she could do to make certain that didn’t happen.

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