“Flynn. Wake up.”

Flynn Dawson groaned in protest, rolling over to bury his face in his pillow and block out the voice that was trying to interrupt his sleep.


“Just five more hours,” Flynn mumbled into the pillow. “I just fell asleep ten minutes ago.”

“Flynn, you have a visitor. Get up.”

Flynn reluctantly raised his head and cracked his eyes open, getting a blurry view of his mother hovering over his bed.

“If it’s Grawlins tell him I already worked a triple shift and I’m not coming back till I’ve had some damn sleep.”

“It’s not Grawlins.”

Something in his mother’s tone told him that this was serious, so he finally sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. There was a slight frown on her face.

“It’s your brother,” she said. Flynn blinked. Then blinked again.


“No. The quiet one.”

“Sheldon? What the hell is Sheldon doing here?”

“Apparently your father...isn’t doing so well.”

“He’s dying,” said a voice from the doorway. Flynn glanced over to see Sheldon Radcliffe, one of his three half brothers. It was odd seeing him here; his fine suit looked so out of place in their little old cottage. It took him a moment to process what Sheldon had said. It was difficult to imagine the infamous Benedict Radcliffe on his deathbed. Flynn had always secretly thought his father must be immortal, with all his wealth and vitality.

“I’m...sorry to hear about Dad,” Flynn said slowly. “But why did you come all the way here to tell me. I figured Cordelia wouldn’t want me attending any memorials.”

“Mother has no say in this particular matter,” Sheldon replied. “Father has included you in his will, despite her protests. He wants it read before he passes. To make sure Mother and the others...”

“Actually adhere to what the will says?” Flynn guessed. Sheldon nodded, fiddling with his glasses.

“You need to come back to Tharoux with me,” he said. Flynn made a face.

“Oh come on Sheldon, please don’t make me go to Lomallard Hall.”

“I’m sorry Flynn. The doctor has instructed that Father not travel or be moved. You can stay somewhere in town but we have to go to Lomallard for the reading.”

Flynn was becoming steadily more resentful about being woken up. His father’s wife and other children hated him, and relished any opportunity to remind him that they had everything while he worked twelve hour days at the docks. He stood and made a half-hearted attempt to smooth down his unruly dark hair.

“What about my job?” he grumbled. “Grawlins will fire me if I miss time.”

“I’m sure whatever Father leaves you will make up for it.”

Flynn gave him a skeptical look, but the Radcliffe family was one of the oldest and richest in the region; even a tiny fragment of Benedict’s fortune or a handful of his assorted possessions would set him and his mother up nicely at least for a while.

“Fine,” he said. “Can you please get out so I can get dressed, then?”

Sheldon nodded and backed out of the room. His mother didn’t move at first, that frown still on her face.

“Be careful,” she said finally.

“If I don’t come back you can safely assume Cordelia had me chopped up and made into stew.”

His mother grimaced but laughed slightly. “I know you hate when I say so, but I understand why she hates me. But you’re the one who has to suffer for it.”

Flynn sighed. “I can handle Cordelia, Mom.”

Laura Dawson came from the humblest beginnings but was even now a striking woman with flame red curls and a bright smile. Flynn had inherited her dimples but also had the signature Radcliffe blue eyes and dark hair. Only his was in need of a trim while the Radcliffes were always polished, nothing out of place. Flynn always wondered if perhaps they sacrificed goats or drank blood to maintain their good looks. He was certain Cordelia had a strong enough stomach for it.

He splashed cold water on his face, dressed, and packed a meager bag to take with him on his journey from Seahollow to Tharoux. It wasn’t a long trip, though it was like stepping from one world into a another. Seahollow was just a small coastal village; most of the people here were fishermen and fishwives; many shops sailed through to pick up and drop off cargo too. Flynn’s days were spent loading and unloading fish, luggage, and wares from the boats.

“You’ll be all right while I’m gone?” he asked, shoving a piece of toast in his mouth. Laura smiled.

“It’s you I’m worried about,” she said. “Don’t let them push you around. And be on your guard, Flynn.”

“They don’t scare me,” Flynn said cheerfully. “Well. Except maybe for Claudia. That woman could scare the devil into dropping his pitchfork.”

Sheldon laughed and covered it with a cough before seeming to remember that he wasn’t at home and no one was going to chastise him for laughing. Of his five half siblings, Sheldon was the only one who’d ever shown Flynn anything resembling kindness. He was also the only one among them who was socially awkward. Flynn wondered if it was some kind of middle child complex.

Flynn huffed his mother goodbye, promised to be careful, and set off to the train station with Sheldon. He wouldn’t have minded walking to Tharoux but Sheldon wasn’t much of a hiker. At least they had a private compartment in the first class coach. Flynn stretches his legs out and watched the ocean flash by out the window, dozing off for a while before Sheldon shook him awake.

They stepped off the train into the bustle and glamour of Tharoux. It was a large city; the heart of fashion, culture, and wealth. Flynn already felt out of place; the only suit he owned looked like old wash rags compared to what people here were wearing. But he squared his shoulders and merely smiled at anyone who gave him a dirty look.

“And there it is,” Flynn said when they reached the gates of Lomallard Hall. Across the sprawling grounds sat the giant, imposing house. It looked like a place that must be haunted by snobby ghosts. Flynn reluctantly followed Sheldon as he made his way up the walk to the grand estate.

Inside they found Cordelia and all her other children congregated in the parlor. Claudia was the eldest; now Lady Claudia Bonavich since her marriage several years prior. She was the first to spot them come in and her ruby lip curled.

“Sheldon, you seem to have tracked something in on your shoe,” she drawled.

“Claudia, my precious and matronly sister, don’t you know bitchiness causes wrinkles?” Flynn asked jovially. Claudia gave him a look that could curdle milk and Crispin, the second oldest, chuckled from his place on the sofa. No matter where Crispin was he always seemed to be lounging like he had no cares in the world. Which he didn’t, really. He was rich, handsome, and unmarried with plans to remain a bachelor forever. And lastly, the twins and youngest of the Radcliffe spawn; Victor and Violetta gave Flynn identical looks of disdain.

“You look like a hobo,” Violetta sniffed.

“You look like you’re still not married,” Flynn retorted and she scowled. She managed to be pretty despite the sour expression. Even Cordelia, no longer in her youth and quick to bully people, still managed to turn heads wherever she went.

They definitely drink the blood of virgins, Flynn thought. It was hard to believe he shared lineage with any of them.

“Father is upstairs,” Crispin said, taking a sip from his wineglass. “As you’ve just arrived it seems it’s your turn to go see if he’s still alive.”

“I do so enjoy these delightful family reunions. Wonderful to see you all.” Flynn retreated from the parlor and went in search of his dying father.