Home > The Secret of White Stone Gate

The Secret of White Stone Gate
Author: Julia Nobel


Chapter 1


   The Animal Lover

   Lucy was late. Emmy didn’t know if that was normal or not, but every time something had gone wrong for Emmy lately, there had been a reason. A bad one. That’s why she kept nervously tucking strands of her red hair behind her ear.

   The car exhaust and cigarette smoke outside Heathrow Airport in London made her want to wrap her shirt around her nose, and the late-August heat wasn’t helping. She checked the time on her phone. Maybe her mom’s cousin wasn’t a punctual person. Or maybe…

   Emmy tried to shake some of the tension out of her shoulders. She was being ridiculous. The Order of Black Hollow Lane wasn’t after her anymore; she didn’t have what they wanted. At least, they didn’t think she had what they wanted.

   Maybe she should give Lucy a call. She was just about to pull up her contact info when the phone started to ring.

   “Hello?”

   “Darling!”

   Emmy smiled. “Hi, Mom.”

   “How was your flight, dear? Are you completely exhausted?”

   “Kinda.”

   “I bet,” her mom said. “Listen, I just got a text from Lucy. She’s running a few minutes behind, but she’ll be there soon.”

   Emmy let out a big breath. “Okay, thanks.”

   “You’re really going to love her, Em. She and I had so much fun when we lived together in London.”

   “Right.” Emmy cleared her throat. “I still don’t really get why I’m supposed to go to her house during school holidays this year. I mean, it’s not like I know her at all.”

   “She’s family, Emmy. You’ll get to know her. She and her husband are involved in all kinds of social clubs and charities, and now that you’re going to school in England long-term, I think it would be good for you to make some stronger connections with those types of people.”

   Those types of people. She meant people with money. And power. After what happened last year, Emmy wasn’t too interested in cozying up to powerful people.

   “Besides,” her mom went on, “I think it’ll be good to have family looking after you. It’ll be a real load off my mind if I know you’re taken care of.”

   “But I didn’t have anyone taking care of me last year, and I was totally fine.”

   “Really, Emmy?” Her mom’s voice was suddenly sharp. “It didn’t seem like you were totally fine when you accepted that dare and almost fell out of a bell tower.”

   “I didn’t fall out of a bell tower, Mom. I slipped while I was climbing a rope.”

   “Well, whatever happened in that tower, you definitely weren’t fine.”

   Emmy cringed. It was true that she hadn’t been fine then, but it wasn’t because of a dare. Her mom still didn’t know what really happened. If she did, she never would have let Emmy come back to Wellsworth.

   “Listen,” her mom said. “This is part of the deal. If you want to go back to that school, you’re going to have Lucy looking after you. Period.”

   Emmy sighed. “Okay.”

   “Listen, Em, I know you want to be independent, but you’re only twelve.”

   “Almost thirteen,” Emmy corrected her.

   “That’s still twelve, which is pretty young to be on your own.”

   Emmy pressed her lips together. Being eleven hadn’t stopped Mom from sending Emmy to Wellsworth when she wanted to film a TV show the year before.

   “I know you aren’t too keen on meeting new people, but Lucy’s different. She’s family. We used to be really close. She’s a great animal lover, did I tell you that? She does some kind of work with dogs.”

   “Yeah, you told me.”

   Her mom didn’t say anything for a moment. “Well, let me know how things go, okay? You can always come home.”

   “No!” Emmy said. “I definitely want to be at Wellsworth.” And if she had to deal with her mom’s cousin to make that happen, she’d just have to suck it up.

   “Okay. I love you, Emmy.”

   “I love you too, Mom.”

   A few minutes later, a lemon-yellow sports car careened into the parking lot and skidded to a stop. A blond woman got out, yanked off her expensive-looking sunglasses, and examined Emmy.

   “Do you belong to Pamela?”

   “Uh…I guess so.”

   “Well, get in, then.” Lucy popped the car’s trunk and sat back down in the driver’s seat without another word.

   Emmy tucked her hair behind her ear again. This was the woman her mom had so much fun with in London? She sure seemed different from how her mom had described her.

   Emmy heaved her suitcase onto the edge of the trunk and shoved it inside.

   “Don’t be a brute!” Lucy bellowed. “You’ll scratch the paint!”

   Emmy snapped the trunk shut. If Lucy was so worried about her car’s paint job, she could have helped.

   Lucy pulled the car into traffic, and by the time they’d reached the highway, Emmy was trying not to throw up. Lucy drove like a maniac. She flew from one lane to another, making rude hand gestures with perfectly sculpted fingernails and honking the horn like a wild goose. The only part of her face that moved was her bottom lip. Everything else seemed to have been pulled, tucked, and frozen into a permanent scowl.

   “So, do you actually talk or what?” Lucy said.

   “Oh, um, yeah.” Emmy rubbed her hands on her jeans. Talking to strangers wasn’t exactly her favorite thing. What kinds of things did adults usually say when they first met? “So, um, what do you do?”

   “I breed Chinese cresteds.”

   Emmy had no clue what that meant. “Chinese what?”

   Lucy rolled her eyes. “Dogs,” she said, like that was the most obvious thing in the world. “I hear you got into a spot of trouble at school last year.”

   Emmy’s cheeks got hot. “Um, yeah.” A spot of trouble. That would be an understatement. Even though she’d spent the last few months in Connecticut, Emmy still got an awful feeling in the pit of her stomach when she thought about what had happened. When she’d gotten to Wellsworth, she’d found out that her dad had gone there, too. A secret school society called the Order of Black Hollow Lane had been after him, which was why he had disappeared when she was three. Emmy and her two best friends had snuck into the Order’s secret tunnels to look for proof that the Order had tried to hurt him. Unfortunately, Emmy had gotten caught.

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