Sanctuary Chapter 1

The ferry might as well have been a ghost ship. Ten o’clock in the morning and there were more workers than there were passengers. Three cars, including her own, and a handful of walk-ons. Mia wrapped her gloved hand around the paper cup then sipped. The food was expensive but at least edible. The coffee was surprisingly amazing. But that could have been because Mia was desperately thankful for something hot to drink.

The din of the gallery behind her echoed off the walls as she crossed through the rows of tables. Each one sat empty except for an older man occupying one of the booths near a window. The ribbon of steam from his cup of coffee danced to the left each time the old man turned to another section of the newspaper.

Mia sipped her coffee as she passed. The sound drew the attention of the old man. He glanced up at her with tired grey eyes and nodded. “Mornin’.”

“Good morning.” Her voice sounded like his. Tired. Not yet awake. Mia nodded to him in return then left him to his paper.

A cold wall of air met her outside on the deck. It found its way under her long wool coat. An immediate shiver coursed from her shoulders and down her arms. She braced her hip against the railing and reached up with one hand to tuck her scarf in closer.

She watched the lights from the small island come into view. The quiet isolation seemed like a perfect setting to her. Cold and grey skies were something she’d have to learn to deal with, though. As if on cue, light raindrops started to fall. A huge drop slid into the open on the plastic lid that covered her coffee. Mia sighed and wondered if it ever stopped raining in Washington.

Rising wind whistled in her ears and dislodged her scarf. The announcement over the p.a. system was barely audible but Mia made out enough to know the ferry was soon going to reach the dock.

She turned up the heat in her car then reached for her coffee again. Cold. So much for inner heat. Mia shivered again and remembered one of the scenes in “Misery”. She was going to end up constantly chilled to the bone while trying to write her next novel. At least it wasn’t snowing.

The ferry worker waved her forward. Mia drove off onto the dock and hoped her new employer was nothing like Annie Wilkes.

A man watched her coming in up the drive and stepped out of the door with an umbrella. He walked over to the car and sighed with relief to see his successor. “Hello, Mia Vincent?”

He waited for her to nod then led her into the foyer. “All of your things arrived yesterday and were put in your room.” Turning he picked up an envelope and ring of keys. “This is the main set of keys for you. The house, boat house, boat, garage. Your room key is in the envelope, along with a cell phone and some instructions.”

The former assistant glanced at his watch the ferry would be heading back soon. “The cook and groundskeeper won’t arrive until tomorrow but the kitchen is fully stocked so you should be fine. Mr. Osbourne will contact you by phone or email if he needs anything. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see him for a day or two, he keeps to himself.”

Pulling back on his coat he thinks to himself then nods and picks up his bag. “Now I will leave you to get settled in and make my way to the ferry before I’m stuck in this museum for another day. Have a good year Miss. Vincent.”

Unable to utter a word, Mia watched, dumbfounded, as the former assistant slung his bag over his shoulder and started out the door. From the window, she saw his call pull out quickly then disappear through the fog as he drove towards the dock.

She stepped away from the window and sighed. He’d left her with more questions than answers. Museum, she mused as she looked around, he got that part right.

The rest of her afternoon was spent unpacking, setting up her computer, and reading through the carefully typed out instructions. Apparently there was a short list of daily duties; nothing out of the ordinary. The rest of the time she would be called at Mr. Osbourne’s discretion to pick up or deliver packages.

Mia looked forward to whatever quiet time she would have to herself. There could be a lot of time to put into her novel as long as the boss wasn’t too demanding. If the former assistant was right, Mr. Osbourne kept to himself most of the time. Mia would probably have all the time to herself she needed.

Once settled, she showered and changed then wandered the house. It would have to be a self-guided tour. All the better to go at her own pace. She liked the quiet of the house. But there was a stillness that she wasn’t used to.

The walls were painted a deep red. The overhead lighting was warm and focused on several paintings and mounted artifacts. She had some knowledge of antiques. But it was limited to the research she’d once done for a novel. The only thing they all seemed to have in common was how old they appeared. Mia glanced at one painting not unlike the others except for being painted in sunshine. Not a grey sky or cloud in sight. Wishful thinking?

With a sandwich from the kitchen, Mia returned upstairs to her room. The satellite reception on the T.V. was lacking. She saw it as a sign that she needed to focus on writing. Mia was determined to have make some kind of progress before her agent called again with a reminder about the deadline.

Maybe her muse would be satisfied by the large castle-like house, the gloomy weather, the near deserted island. If not those, nearby Seattle had to hold some spark of inspiration. Had to.

Mia set her own laptop next to the other on the desk. One held an email and calendar that would undeniably be filled soon by Ethan’s requests. The other, a blinking cursor on a blank page. Prose. Where the hell was it?

She typed out the notes she’d been making during the long trip. Two hours later and the plot was no closer to revealing itself. She finished off a cup of tea while watching the news. Mostly cloudy with a fifty percent chance of rain. For the rest of the week.

Mia glanced over at the window. Clouds. Rain. No shit, she thought as she got up to draw the heavy drapes closed. Turning, she dropped across the bed and tucked a pillow close. The day had been an interesting one, to say the least. Maybe tomorrow she would get a chance to meet her elusive employer face-to-face.

Ethan watched his new assistant wander along the halls of his home. There was a curiosity about her that reminded him to be cautious. What new thing would this assistant bring to his life. They all left their mark in some way, fresh from their big world into his small one.

With a sigh he turned back to his journal.

Miss Vincent arrived, tonight. It has been a long while since a woman’s touch graced this old manor. She is lovely with crimson flowing locks. How many assistants have walked though the halls as she had tonight?

As he sat back he lifted the crystal glass to his lips. The sweet wine rolled over his tongue. A fat orange tabby jumped up on the edge of the desk. He stroked the cat. “You’ll be in good company, a fellow ginger. I wonder if she is as fiery as her hair.”

With a chuckle he finished his journal entry and went back to examining artifacts. He penned an email with packing instructions and a list of phone calls to make on his behalf. Ethan added a note of welcome.

By the time he finished the sky had changed from black to soft oranges and pinks. Ethan refilled his glass before sitting on the balcony. Another sunrise proof he would live yet another day. “What will this one hold?”




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