So what’s kept me here? It’s a long story, and you probably wouldn’t believe it even if I told you—especially the part about the monkey butlers. How does an innocent young woman end up bound to a hospital bed in the bowels of a Victorian manor house? I’ll tell you if you really want to know… but I’m not sure you do.
This is a story about seven kisses: some forceful, some sweet, and every one impossible to forget. Seven kisses that started with my stay at Loindici Manor. Seven kisses that would change my life forever.
A novel from award-winning author Giselle Renarde.
When they arrived face-to-face with a panelled door, both men knocked simultaneously. Their solid raps echoed through the hallway, which was starting to feel smaller and darker than it had before, like some kind of creepy Alice in Wonderland tunnel.
“Madame,” one of the men in scrubs called through the door. “We have brought you your latest arrival.”
“Thank you,” a sultry voice called back. “You may show her in.”
The men opened the dark door and pushed Gabrielle beyond the threshold. She fell to her knees and skidded across the floor. By the time she’d turned to scowl at her captors, the woman they’d called “Madame” had already closed the door behind her.
“Hello, Suzanne.” The woman stood tall in a pinstriped skirt and ruffled blouse. Her clothes looked nearly as old as the house, and her office décor wasn’t much newer. There was even a Freud-style fainting couch along one panelled wall.
While Gabrielle was busy taking in the sights, the very proper woman repeated herself. “Did you hear me, my dear? I said hello, Suzanne.”
“Oh. Right. Sorry.” Gabrielle picked herself up off the floor with the help of an oxblood leather chair. A nameplate on the desk caught her eye: it read Mme de Villeneuve in gold lettering. “I tried to tell your guys, but they wouldn’t listen. See, I’m not supposed to be here.”
Pursing her pink lips, Mme de Villeneuve cocked her head and considered Gabrielle. “Many patients feel that way when they first arrive at Loindici Manor.”
“No, I mean I’m not Suzanne.”
The woman’s eyebrows rose with curiosity. “I see. Who are you, my dear?”
“Gabrielle. Suzanne ran away. She ran into the woods. I don’t know where she went.”
“I see.” Sitting swiftly at her desk, Madame de Villeneuve pulled a set of what could only be called spectacles (you wouldn’t call them glasses, that’s for sure) from a desk drawer. She uncapped a wooden pen with a fancy nib—a calligraphy pen, looked like—and dashed a few lines on a creamy piece of paper.
Gabrielle could see the thick black ink staining the paper, but she couldn’t read the words. “What language is that?”
Madame did not respond.
“What are you writing?”
She didn’t acknowledge Gabrielle’s question in any way.
“Is it about me? I’m not Suzanne, you know.”
Setting the calligraphy pen beside the paper, Madame removed a blotting sheet from her desk and set it over her writings. “Your parents are very concerned about your behaviour, as I’m sure you are aware. That is why they wish you committed to my care. Now that I have met you, young lady, I must say I am concerned as well.”
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