Studies In Mischief

The Belle Âme Chronicles | Book #5

Coming soon!

SYNOPSIS

While they may have physically survived Georgia’s Red Room two years prior, a permanent rift has been driven through the Washington family. Sevii defects from Belle Âme to live with Edwin, Moira, and their children, while Blythe struggles to make ends meet for the remaining Belle Âme residents.

Jaxyn takes her sleuthing to a new level, working beside Reaper Blackthorn to track down the mysterious Gwendolin Washington on behalf of her father. Reaper grows concerned with Jaxyn’s escalating power-hunger and aggression, but Nathalian encourages Jaxyn to do whatever it takes to finally put the Gwen/Georgia/Sienna saga to rest.

Edwin remains bitter over the entire situation, rarely speaking to Nathalian and refusing to see him in person. When Reaper informs Edwin of a risky procedure that would restore his mobility…for a cost, Moira is adamant that he turn down the offer. With Reaper encouraging him to accept and reminding him of all that he has lost, Edwin is forced to make a decision that will impact his life forever.

EXCERPT

“No, no, no! Get that out of your mouth!”

Audrina Washington giggled happily as she smiled at her mother, the corner of a Ninja Turtles table coaster stuffed into her mouth as she slurped on the sweet remains of whatever had dribbled onto it. She cried out happily and toddled away down the hall.

Moira Lamoureux gave false chase to Audrina. “No, get back here!” she cried, chasing along behind her daughter while taking tiny steps. After a bit, she took one big step and swooped Audrina off the ground. She lifted the toddler high into the air, and Audrina laughed with glee.

The coaster clattered noisily to the ground.

As Audrina had grown over the years, she’d started to favour Edwin over Reaper. She’d developed his strong chin and his wild hair, although a mockery of Reaper’s freckles still coated the little girl’s face. Yet her personality seemed to derive more from Moira’s own daily routine than the inherent moodiness of either biological parent.

Moira liked that.

A little piece of herself had made it into Audrina after all.

A flower-shaped baby playpen sat near the corner of the kitchen, and a string of baby babble continuously flowed from it along with the intermittent sounds of banging. Little Verse Washington sat inside, swinging a toy mallet into his toy xylophone to create his own version of a brilliant melody.

The wall calendar in the kitchen stared hauntingly at Moira as she flew Audrina through the air. Moira knew very well what day it was, and she hated it. Primarily because it left so much uncertainty in her schedule.

“Toe…toeeeee…” Audrina cried out, waving her stubby fingers toward the toaster oven as it entered the vision of her hazel eyes.

Moira booped Audrina on the nose. “Ahhh, someone’s hungry!” she sang out. She shifted the little girl onto her hip and headed over to the countertop to grab a day-old baguette from the bag. “Audrina, do you want any eggs?”

“No!”

“Jam?”

“No!”

“Milk?”

“Mem-ems.”

M&M’s. Audrina’s worst love. “We can’t have candy for breakfast!” Moira objected as she fiddled with the bread bag.

“Yes!”

A thud rumbled softly from the room down the hall. Moira sighed and left the baguette alone on the counter. Audrina reached out behind Moira as her mother began to walk away from the bread, whimpering slightly as she determined that it was out of her grasp.

“Just a minute, honey!” Moira promised the little girl. “You’ll get your toast in a minute!”

“Mem-ems, I want mem-ems” Audrina added with a huff.

“We’ll see.”

Moira knocked on the closed door at the end of the hallway. “You okay?” she asked through the door.

“No. This fucking website is going to be the death of me.”

Moira opened the door just enough for her to poke her head inside. “Please don’t joke about that.”

Edwin failed to look up from his laptop. He sat stiffly against the high-backed gaming chair as his eyes glared down at the screen from behind his eyeglasses. His elbows were perched atop his desk with his fingers interlaced with one another in frustration. “If you only knew the hoops I’m having to jump through to make this stupid thing…”

“Tell the client that what they want isn’t possible?”

“We need the money.”

Moira studied Edwin for a moment. His desk was just out of reach of the beam of light shimmering in from the hallway. His office had been outfitted with the finest of black-out curtains, leaving him shrouded in near-darkness other than the blue light glaring back at him from his laptop’s screen. “Are we meeting up with anyone today?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you want to meet up with anyone today?”

“I don’t know.”

“Edwin—“

“Do you want to meet up with anyone today?” he repeated, flipping the question back onto his fiancée.

A small pit formed in Moira’s stomach. “It’s your brother’s birthday,” she said instead. “And your nieces’.”

“That didn’t answer my question.”

Moira groaned. “Edwin, you know how I feel about this entire situation—“

“So, it’s settled then.” He shifted his gaze just enough to focus on Moira and Audrina, unmoving in the rest of his posture. “We’ll stay here.”

“I guess we can just drop off some cards…”

“Or I could send e-cards.”

Moira twisted her lips while Audrina fussed to get down. “Edwin, when’s the last time you saw your brother?” she asked finally.

“When he stopped by here for my birthday,” Edwin replied, his eyes tracing Moira’s movements as she bent to set Audrina down into the office. “It’s not like I drive myself around much these days.”

“I just wanted us to move away from Belle Âme and let things calm down, Edwin!” Moira insisted. “I didn’t want you to stop talking to Nate altogether! I don’t care to spend time with him, but you should at least see him sometimes.”

“We’ve seen each other,” Edwin said matter-of-factly. “We just did a Zoom chat the other night.”

“Oh my God…”

Edwin shrugged as Audrina made a beeline for him. “It is what it is.” He reached out to grab Audrina as she started to climb onto his lap and grimaced. “Shit…” he muttered under his breath.

“Pain level?” Moira asked.

“Uhm?” Edwin did his best to keep Audrina still for a moment while he took a deep breath. “You know. I’m just more hungry than anything. Isn’t it time for dinner?”

“You mean breakfast?”

“Yeah. Whatever.”

Moira continued to study Edwin with a scowl on her face. “So, we’re not going to see Nate or the twins today?”

“I guess not.”

“Well, Blythe wanted to know.”

“Blythe should know,” Edwin replied, a chill in his voice as Audrina snatched the glasses from his face and slid off his lap with them. “As should Nate.”

Moira sighed. “I’ll let her know we won’t be making an appearance…”

“Audrinaaaa…” Edwin sang out, cringing slightly as he noticed his daughter clamping her sharp little teeth on his frames. “Daddy needs those so he can see!”

“Mine!” Audrina exclaimed with a small jump. She brushed past Moira and took off down the hallway.

“Audrina!” Moira scolded. She looked back over at Edwin. “I’ll be right back.”

“Please don’t let her break them again,” Edwin moaned. “I keep telling you; we just need to buy her a pair of faux lenses for her to play with because she’s got this unnatural obsession with mine! It’s like she…”

Moira could hear Edwin’s rambles less as less as she chased Audrina further away through the house. “Audrina, get back here!” she scolded. “You’re in trouble! No M&M’s!”

Audrina stopped dead in her tracks and pouted. “No!” she insisted.

Moira managed to quickly kneel down and extract the glasses from Audrina’s little hands. Thankfully, their only level of damage equated to grubby smudge marks on the lenses. “You wanted toast,” Moira said.

“And Mem-ems!” Audrina began to jump up and down, flailing her arms as she wailed.

The pounding on the front door startled Moira, causing a million terrible memories to flash through her mind. Her heart rate accelerated as she slowly came to sit on the floor. Her skin grew clammy. “No…” she muttered to herself. “No…”

Audrina’s tantrum began to dull in her mind, as if she were hearing the girl scream from a different room. She backed herself up on her butt until her back pushed against the back of the cupboards.

Edwin appeared in the hallway, outfitted in a soft robe and pajama trousers. “I swear to God, if that’s Nate,” he muttered. He placed his hands against the walls and used them to help him steady his gait down the hall. He grunted slightly with every other step, occasionally stumbling and having to rest for a moment before beginning again.

“Edwin, who is it?” Moira whimpered from on the kitchen floor. “Who’s here?”

“A deadman,” Edwin assured her. “That’s who.”

Leaving the hallway proved to be a whole other challenge. Edwin straightened his posture as much as he could and stiffly shuffled his way to the door. His eyes were locked with tunnel-vision. As he passed the counter nearest the door, he snatched a steak knife from the block and gripped it in his hand.

Moira grabbed Audrina by the hand, scooting both of them over to Verse’s playpen. She gulped and whipped Verse out of the playpen. “Be careful,” she hissed at Edwin.

Without a second thought, Edwin whipped open the door. His expression softened, and his mouth dropped open in surprise. “Wh…what in the…”

A freshly-turned seventeen-year-old Sevreanna Washington smiled excitedly back at him. A large backpack rested on her back, and a duffle bag swung from her hands. “Hey, Edwin,” she said, smirking back at him. “I live here now.”