Accursed by Amber Benson

Book: Accursed by Amber Benson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amber Benson
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy
had loved the structure to the whole proceeding, the very orderliness of it all, the way all of the dishes had been arranged with such precision. And the food itself, of course . . . the multitude of textures and flavors. What he had loved best, however, had been the way that this breakfast tradition had brought the family together around the table. Young William had listened to the adults talking, and merely the sound of their voices in conversation had given him a sense of safety and security; the confidence his grandfather had always exuded had planted a seed of confidence within William himself.
    Ah, how times had changed.
    Mother had been gone so long that she was little more than bittersweet echo in William’s heart, but in her memory the traditions of the house had continued. Until the previous year, of course. Until Ludlow had been murdered in his own bed by hideous beasts of unnatural origin, and Henry Swift had been taken by the evil that presently occupied his flesh. William did his best to continue tradition within the household, for Tamara’s sake and for his own.
    His efforts were undermined by the presence of the demon upstairs.
    William didn’t like to discuss his suspicions with Tamara. Not because she was of the fairer sex—he had never confused fairer with weaker, at least not where Tamara was involved—but because he was frightened that she might concur.
    William thought his father was gone. He believed that the Vapor, the cruel demonic presence that lived within his father’s flesh, had cored the man in order to take up residence. He feared that if they ever found a way to exorcise the demon, Oblis, all that would remain would be the brittle shell of a man who had once loved them.
    But as long as he did not raise such fears with Tamara, she could not confirm them.
    And so, as he did each morning before setting off to Threadneedle Street, William finished his own breakfast, then took a clean plate from the buffet. It was damnably hard to keep servants in his employ of late. The ghosts frightened them. Their current staff consisted of Farris, the butler and head of household, and Martha, who was Tamara’s lady’s maid. Martha oversaw three other maids, none of whose names William could remember. They rarely stayed long enough for him to bother.
    There were a groundskeeper, two cooks, and a new stable boy. But there were no more servants attending to breakfast at Ludlow House. He and Tamara had decided it. Perhaps part of their decision was a reluctance to pretend to the happiness of a bygone era, though William preferred to attribute it to simple practicality.
    He considered himself quite the pragmatist.
    These days William rose much earlier than Tamara, and was generally out of the house before she deigned to descend for her own breakfast. This morning the breakfast buffet consisted of oatmeal, kippers, bacon, and bread. William did still enjoy his cherry jam, and there was always orange marmalade for his sister.
    Upon the fresh plate, William placed a small portion of each item. He poured a small glass of cider, unwilling to bring a hot beverage upstairs, given what had happened the last time he had done so. The coffee stains still lingered in his gray twill trousers.
    Rather than walk past the parlor out to the front entrance, so that he might use the grand staircase, William went through the kitchen and up the narrow servants’ steps. The house was very quiet this morning, mercifully devoid even of the usual ravings of the demon. It ought to have been peaceful for him, but there were times that the quiet haunted William.
    It should not have turned out this way. Even in the wake of their grandfather’s death, even without Father being in control of his senses, there ought to have been more life here.
    A spark of something. Of family.
    William hoped that one day soon he, himself, might alter the state of things, with a wedding to Sophia Winchell. That there would be children, and that

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