It had been a long time since they’d allowed someone other than family in the house. Usually by the time prospective guests got to the top of the stairs, they were visibly shaken.
Not Emma, though.
Josie was more than pleased with Emma’s reaction to the house and its contents. There appeared a deep appreciation for the Kinsman homestead in her eyes and touch. Josie wanted to see how Emma would act in the next room, their bedroom. Emma’s actions would determine whether she and Samuel had made a mistake about Samanda’s journal.
“Samuel Royal Kinsman,” Kate told Emma with a touch of pride. “He’s Royal’s great-great-grandfather and namesake.”
Emma looked into the handsome face and blue-gray eyes. Her face became flushed before she shyly looked away for a moment, only to return her gaze upon his face. She became overwhelmed with the warmth the painting had captured. She tilted her head slightly to the side then pulled shoulder-length hair across the back of her neck. Emma’s hand gathered the hair and gently brought it straight down to the side, her gaze never leaving those in the painting.
“Hello! Kate, are you here?” The voice bellowed through the house.
“Up here, in the master,” Kate called.
Royal’s here, Josie, Samuel whispered excitedly. He stopped to allow Royal Kinsman to pass through them in a flurry after having taken the steps two at a time.
“The door was opened, and I wasn’t sure―” Royal looked questionably at Emma, who was still enthralled by Samuel’s portrait. “Kate, is everything okay?”
“Yes, yes, of course, Royal. This is Emma Sorenson. She’s here about the house,” Kate answered. “I was just showing her―”
Emma gazed past his shoulder until her eyes focused on the oil likeness of Samuel Kinsman. She looked back at the man who comforted her like a loved one and it seemed as if the painting had come to life and moved on its own off the canvas and onto the bed. The only differences she saw between the two men were the clothing they wore, and that one lived and breathed next to her.
Then there was the detailed description of Henry Kinsman in her aunt’s journal. They all looked like the same man.
“Allow me to introduce myself. Royal Kinsman at your service.” Royal nodded. “The man in the painting is my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Kinsman.
“My apologies. It seems Grandfather Samuel and I sent you into a tailspin, unintentional of course. Believe me, you’re not the first through the years, and won’t be the last to react as you did.”
A flash of sadness replaced the understanding and hint of flames once present in his eyes moments ago. Her heart flipped and leaped out to Royal in a flutter. She hadn’t become aware of it leaving until it returned, warmed by the touch of his soul.
Unable to hold his gaze a moment longer, Emma lowered her lashes to shadow the heat she could feel coming from them. Reflections of Royal and his great-great-grandfather passed through her mind. It was like looking at an exact likeness; both were very handsome, in a dangerous way.
If she were to convince him to rent her the house, she’d have to keep her composure in order to find out what had happened to her Aunt Manda. Her heart would have to be a prisoner who dealt with a life sentence of confinement. No chance for parole or visitation rights because of good behavior.
“I’d like to finish looking at the house, and at the same time get to know you and Mr. Kinsman better.” The look on Emma’s face would make even the most pig-headed man give in.
Royal fell into a cold sweat. “People call me Royal. Kate, you’ll continue, won’t you?”
He flashed her a smile, then took both Emma and Kate by the arms. He wanted to escape the bedroom, to be away from the eyes of his great-great-grandfather. To be on the move to help ease the unwanted desire that continued to build in his loins.
“What room is this?” Emma stopped in front of a small landing and door that Royal and Kate passed by all too quickly. The two exchanged quick looks before Kate took Emma by the arm to lead her away.
She looked from Kate to Royal, then pulled out of Kate’s hold. Why had they walked right past the door when they had both been so eager to show her the other rooms? They had acted like they could not move fast enough toward the balcony and staircase.
Emma stood her ground and did not―rather, could not―move on. Her feet were planted to the spot. There was a force which pulled her toward the landing. Fear did not run through her. Warmth and serenity were the feelings that flowed from her head through her body to slowly come to rest in her toes.
She was powerless as if her will to resist had never existed; she gave in to the feeling. Something behind the door called out to her, beckoned her to come inside. A sound so sweet and gentle, it warmed her entire being and gave her a peaceful feeling.
“I’d like to see this room,” she whispered, her eyes never leaving the closed-off room and the door that led inside.
“Emma.” Royal’s voice trembled. The touch of his hand on her shoulder brought a smile to her face. “It’s only the attic. Nothing but old furniture and family heirlooms are in there,” he answered in a whisper. His hand remained on her shoulder as if the touch alone would convince her to walk away.
The attic! Aunt Manda had written about the attic and how no family member was allowed in there, ever. Her aunt had hinted to mysterious happenings within the room. He had mentioned furniture. Maybe she could get in there by wanting to look at it.
“First, once you move in, you’re not to go into the attic under any circumstances. If I somehow find out that you have, you’ll be evicted immediately with no room for compromise.”