Primrose Garland liked books. All kinds of books, but especially books written many centuries ago, and most especially books that were the real thoughts of real people. Pliny’s letters, for example. Catullus’s love-sick poems. Marcus Aurelius’s philosophical musings.
That morning, she was reading Aurelius again, experiencing the same delight and wonder that she always felt. Aurelius had been an emperor in Rome, she was a spinster in London—and yet here she was, reading his private notes to himself, his musings on life. It was extremely intimate, this insight into a man’s thoughts. Sometimes it felt as if he were talking directly to her, that if she turned her head, there he would be: Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, seated at the writing table, and he’d look up from his notes and say to her, “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
That was one of her favorite quotes. It had made her cry the first time she’d read it. Two sentences that a stranger had written more than sixteen hundred years ago, and they’d made her cry.
Which was why she loved Aurelius so much.
So when she looked for the second volume of his Meditations and realized that she’d left it in Staffordshire, Primrose was a little annoyed. But only a little, because it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes to fetch it.
She went upstairs to her bedchamber and locked the door, so that no servant could walk in and discover the Garland family secret, then she clasped her hands together, took a deep breath, and pictured the library at Manifold Park, and in particular, the shadows behind the black-and-gold lacquered screen in the corner.
Primrose wished herself there.
In the next instant, she was.
There was a familiar moment of vertigo—the library seemed to spin around her—and then everything steadied into place.
Primrose held her breath and listened intently. The library sounded empty.
She peeked around the edge of the black-and-gold screen. The library was empty. As it should be when the Garland family was in London.
Primrose crossed quickly to where Aurelius was shelved, selected the volume she wanted, and wished herself back in her bedchamber in London.
In the blink of an eye, she was.
The vertigo hit again, as if she’d spun around a thousand times. Primrose waited until it passed, then glanced at herself in the mirror. She always expected her hair to be disheveled and her clothes to be a windswept tangle after translocating, but they never were. She looked as neat and well-groomed as one would expect of a duke’s daughter.
Primrose unlocked her bedroom door and went down to the morning room. A housemaid was clearing away the tea tray. “Would you like another pot of tea, Lady Primrose?”
“Yes, thank you, Elsie.”
Primrose crossed to the sofa, thinking how shocked the maid would be if she told her she’d just traveled to Staffordshire and back.
But of course she didn’t tell the housemaid. She couldn’t tell a soul. It was far too great a secret. And even if she did tell Elsie, the girl wouldn’t believe it.
No one would.
Primrose curled up on the sofa and returned to her reading.