The evening reception was being held in Brierthorne’s main dining hall, though the tables had mostly been cleared to one side. It made sense: the dining hall was the only room other than the gym big enough to contain everyone who had come and was closer to the kitchens.
Karen negotiated the crowd carefully, trying to avoid anyone who might snark at her for having pretended to be a wild or gush at how wonderful it was that she and her siblings were alive while singling out astrals from other families who would be uncertain about how to respond to the current crisis but amenable to persuasion about not panicking. It wasn’t proving easy as no one wanted to discuss what was happening outside the walls of the school at the moment. There was a definite air of people desperately pretending their world wasn’t ending and that things would soon be back to normal.
“Like rabbits in the headlights, aren’t they. Kaz?”
Karen turned and saw Robert Cantrell had come up behind her. He looked uncomfortable in the smart suit his uncle must have forced him into. His usually unruly blonde hair had been trimmed and combed as well. He was holding two glasses of Chardonney that they were both too young to drink legally. He offered one to her.
Karen ground her teeth silently as she took it but managed to keep her face and surface mind composed and thank him without biting off the words. How had he managed to sneak up on her like that? The Cantrells were not exactly enemies of the Morgans but they were definitely rivals. It was likely Robert’s uncle Garrett would object to everything her father suggested just to annoy him.
Robert tilted his head at her, obviously waiting for her to respond to what he’d said. When she didn’t, his smile actually widened .
“They’re terrified because they know our days of hiding are numbered,” he said. “And that with all that’s happening, they know we won’t be well received.” He tilted his head again and waited.
Karen managed to keep her expression neutral as she tried to work out what he after. Her response obviously – presumably as a way of gauging what her father might suggest tomorrow – but why? Still, she had to say something.
“I suppose that’s it,” she said neutrally. “It’s understandable.”
His eyes narrowed sharply at her obvious non-response and he gave a hiss. â€œYou really are a Morgan, aren’t you?â€
Karen nearly laughed in his face but resisted the urge. He probably thought that was a terrible insult. â€œOf course I am,â€ she said coolly. â€œDid you expect otherwise? Thank you for bringing me the wine.â€ She stepped past him and headed towards where she could see Kyle and Lyrrekka talking to his grandparents. She rolled her eyes as she realised Robert was following her and pouring off dark vibes.
Cantrell giving you problems, Kaz? Kyle asked telepathically as she nodded to the older Brightwells.
Well, he’s trying to but he’s about as intimidating as a wet dishrag, she said. I think Garrett’s sent him to try and find out what Dad might be planning.
Probably, he said. You should warn your siblings; they might not be ready for him or the other Cantrells, even if they are painfully transparent. But more interestingly, have you noticed who isn’t here?
Hmm? Karen looked around thoughtfully. Well, not the Merryweathers but we didn’t invite them–
Good riddance, Kyle said.
Karen grinned and nodded. Couldn’t agree more. She looked around some more. Oh! The Aylmers aren’t here. She frowned to herself. I would have expected them to come and I know Aunt Sarah invited them.
I know, he said. I don’t like it. I think we should mention it to Matthias even though I’m sure he’s noticed.
You’re right. She looked over to where her father was sitting with Sonia and a couple of the Morgan cousins. Come on, let’s go and talk to him.