Chapter Eight

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"Why is Father's study locked?" Rosalind said as she strode into the kitchen.

"The study is locked?" Fran asked with a frown, turning around from the sink.

She nodded, looking at Portia, who hadn't even glanced up from the magazine she was perusing. Shaking her head, Rosalind returned her attention to Fran. "Do you have a spare key?"

"Of course, I do, lamb. Right here." She opened a drawer and pulled out a humongous ring with dozens of keys attached. She flipped through them, one by one. Her mouth puckered, and then she started back at the beginning and went through them again. "It's not here. Where could it have gone?"

Hands on her hips, Rosalind faced her sister. "Portia, do you have any guesses where the key to Father's office went?"

"I took it," she replied, flipping a page.

"Why?"

"So you can't go through Father's things without me. I don't want you to throw away anything without my approval." She closed the magazine and stood, taking her teacup to the sink. "I'm ready to go now."

Rosalind sighed.

Fran gave her a look that said play nicely. Before turning around to finish the dishes.

"Well, Rosalind?" Her sister propped her hands on her hips. "I don't have all day."

She wanted to point out that, yes, Portia did have all day. As far as Rosalind knew, Portia didn't do anything but work with some of the charities the Summerhills had been associated with forever. But in the interest of their temporary détente, she kept her thoughts to herself and followed Portia to the study.

Her sister unlocked the door. A few rays of light peeked through the heavy drapes, illuminating the particles of dust floating in the air.

Rosalind strode to the windows. "Do you mind if I open the curtains?"

"I-"

She yanked them open, one by one, until the room was bathed in weak December sun.

"Go ahead," Portia said sarcastically. Shaking her head, she sat at their father's desk, almost tentatively. She ran her hands along the top. "John Summerhill, the fourth Earl of Amberlin, brought this desk back from Paris, after his time in the Sixth Coalition. Supposedly, he pillaged it from Napoléon's home."

"How do you remember all this?" she asked as she surveyed the wall of books her father probably never touched.

"Father used to tell me the stories. He said I was the only one who understood the value of the Summerhill name, even if I was a female."

Trust their father to make a compliment also a criticism. Rosalind took the first book off the shelf, flipped the pages to look for any random pieces of paper, and then set it aside.

"When do you think the American is going to come claim his title?" Portia asked, lifting a pen from the desk and inspecting it. "I'm glad that he's not getting anything more from the estate, especially Suncrest Park. Do you think anyone would mind if I went to live there?"

"Why would you want to live in there?" she asked as she went through another book. "It's drafty, rundown, and in the middle of nowhere."

"I love Suncrest Park. I wonder if Mother would let me take the gallery with me."

"I don't see why not." It was full of ancestral portraits, dating back to the first Earl of Amberlin in the 1700s. Rosalind had always hated the gallery. Some people went to great lengths to discover their ancestry and the stories behind their forefathers. Rosalind had always felt eclipsed by hers. Looking at the paintings of generations of Summerhills, she'd always felt their weighty disapproval.

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