AJ dripped candle wax on the wooden box she’d slid aside, then pushed the candle into the melted wax, waiting a few seconds for it to harden, holding the candle in place. She pulled out the smaller tin box, then had to step on tiptoes to get a firm grip on the wrapped package underneath. Her heart swelled. She didn’t want to be overly optimistic, but she knew the feel of a book.
She carefully opened the oilcloth wrap and almost wept when she stared down at the makeshift book cover. When Sebastian sent the book sections away, he’d taken the time to make temporary covers. It gave the appearance that the pages made a complete book. When she opened the cover, she grinned at the false title page he’d created. She turned the pages barely legible in the soft light, but she immediately recognized the writing and the foreign Celtic script.
She quickly wrapped it up and set it aside while she restored everything back to order. The book was heavier than she’d planned on. She reached into the extra pocket she’d sewn into her servant’s dress and pulled out a burlap bag. Once the book was in the burlap, she blew out the candle. She dripped the remaining wax onto the previously dried wax then shuffled from one foot to another as she waited for it to cool enough to scrape it up. It was still warm when she stuck in her pocket, but she didn’t want to leave any signs she’d been there.
Before leaving, she stared at the wood pile. No. Don’t improvise. Stick with the original plan. She pressed her ear to the door, listening for sounds. Light voices floated from down the hall. She cracked open the door, and not seeing anyone to her right, she slowly peered around the doorjamb to the left. Three house maids and the new housekeeper appeared to be moving room by room. One of the maids and the housekeeper disappeared into a room four doors down, but the other two maids remained in the hall.
She closed the door and spun around, trying to slow her breathing and not panic. She ran to the windows that fortunately opened to a small balcony. With her fist tight around the burlap bag, she stepped out to the balcony and breathed a sigh of relief that it faced the back of the house with a view of the gardens and not the front of the manor. The flowers were pretty, but the yard didn’t have the complexity of Beckworth’s landscaping, and the thought made her smile. It was a shame Stella didn’t get a chance to view his gardens. She would have killed for a garden that big to work her magic.
A drop from a two-story balcony wasn’t a bright move, especially when the landing would be on stone. She could stay on the balcony and hope the housekeeper didn’t have a reason to step outside, but she couldn’t wait for them to complete their inspection of the second floor. By then, the count could be back, and Finn would freak out.
She leaned over to see if the building was climbable. There wasn’t a sole around. Everyone was busy in the house. The only thing she’d have to worry about would be the windows on the first floor. She closed her eyes and recalled Finn’s rough sketch of the inner house. If she was on the far-left corner of the manor, then the room below this one was the recital room which was across the room from the solarium. When the door to the count’s room opened, all other thoughts vanished as she went into full escape mode.
She climbed over the railing and found decent footholds leading off the balcony. She had just climbed beneath the balcony, where the footholds were farther apart, when someone opened the balcony doors.