This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Hugh Montgomery pursed his lips as he concentrated on his work. His hand shook ever so slightly as he used the paintbrush to decorate the canvas before him. Hugh’s shoulder twitched when he made a mistake and he rushed to wipe it off before it could stain the canvas.
“Are you done yet?”
Hugh broke from his concentration to peek over the canvas. Emma Darlington stood in front of the rose bushes, wearing a deep violet gown and expansive jewels that complimented her fancy attire. Her right hand crossed her left, and a silver hairpin was tucked into her auburn hair. Emma’s blue eyes sparkled by the afternoon sun’s light and caused the young man to blush and quickly turn away.
“N—not yet,” Hugh stammered.
“I’ve been standing here for nearly an hour,” Emma huffed.
“It has not been an hour.”
“Are you certain?”
Hugh took out his pocket watch to check, and his face paled. He awkwardly cleared his throat. “It has been an hour.”
“May I see your progress?” Emma asked, impatience evident in her voice.
“I’m not done yet.”
“You must have something done.”
Emma strolled over to Hugh, her heels clicked across the patio. Hugh tried to shield his work, but his effort was futile as Emma managed to steal a peek.
“It’s lovely, Hugh, but…”
“There isn’t enough lighting so the portrait looks flat. Here.” Emma picked out a paintbrush and began painting with delicacy while Hugh watched with a small frown.
“This was why I didn’t want you to see the painting yet, you were going to criticize it before it was done.” Hugh pointed out, though he tried not to sound annoyed.
“I am simply fixing your mistakes, that’s all. You’re doing wonderfully, Hugh. I love what you did with my eyes. The blue you used really stands out.”
Hugh’s cheeks flushed and he scratched the back of his head. “Ah, yes, I—I suppose I spent too much time on your face. I wasn’t focusing as much attention to the background as I should.”
“Oh, Hugh, you’re so sweet. Am I really that beautiful?” Emma asked, her long lashes fluttered as she blinked.
“Certainly, why else would I want to paint you?”
“I assumed you were jealous of my painting skills and wanted to compete.”
Hugh’s jaw fell as a gasp escaped him. “Nonsense! I was never jealous. You’re a brilliant painter and I’m simply an amateur wanting to paint as a hobby--and for you. You haven’t been well lately, have you not?”
Emma's hand froze and she nearly lost grip of the paintbrush. She slowly turned to Hugh and her eyes nearly lost their sparkle. “I needed time away from home. I really appreciate you allowing me to stay here for a while.”
“You’re certainly welcome. You can stay here longer if you want.”
“I wish I could, but…” Emma trailed off and put down the paintbrush. She covered her left hand before squeezing it. “It’s difficult right now.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn't have said anything,” Hugh dismissed.
Emma shook her head, her long auburn hair swept across her face with the help of the wind. She pushed away the strands and smiled softly. “No, no, I really enjoy your company, Hugh, very much so.” Emma became quiet for a moment and her attention went up to the sky. A couple of birds flew by and disappeared into the drifting clouds. “Can I…tell you a secret?”
“Of course, what is it?” Hugh asked curiously.
Emma paused again and released the tension from her hand. “There’s something I’ve been hiding from everyone I’ve ever known, it’s something that…keeps me happy, keeps me sane. However, if my family ever finds out about it…I’m afraid I’ll be put into an asylum.”
Hugh’s eyes widened and he instinctively took Emma’s shoulder. “Why would you ever think that?”
“My family is notorious for being unreasonable. If anything is out of the ordinary for them, they would go frantic. I’m…afraid of them knowing…so very afraid.” Emma’s voice choked at the end and this time her eyes sparkled with tears.
“Don’t be afraid, I’m here for you and you can trust me. I will keep your secret safe,” Hugh assured, his voice soft and gentle like the breeze drifting by.
“Do you promise?”
“Yes, I promise.” Hugh nodded, a small smile graced his lips and Emma exchanged a similar one.
“Thank you,” Emma sighed with relief, placing her right hand over her chest. She turned back to the painting. “Why don’t you finish that up first, and then I can tell you everything?”
Hugh released a nervous chuckle. “I’m afraid it will be sometime until it’s done, but you make it sound like your secret is something that’ll take a while to explain.”
Emma smiled again and pressed a finger to her lips. “The best secrets are the complicated ones.”
Bri Hoffer: I couldn't put it down!! The characters are all incredibly likable, and it's so descriptive you can see, smell, and feel thier surroundings. Great story, and very well written. I cannot wait for follow up stories. there were a few grammatical errors, but nothing that I could move right over.
re8622: The Last Exodus quickly grabbed my attention. Almost as soon as I started reading the story, I couldn't put it down. I found that the ideas the author put forth were very thought provoking given the turmoil we have seen gradually rise over the last several years. I felt that I could understand th...
Alex Rushmer: This was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it a lot Malfoy was always one of the characters that I liked a lot, so I like that a lot of this happens between him and Colette. I read the first couple chapters, and I enjoyed your writing style and am excited to see where you take this story. My com...
Marijana1: The melancholy present throughout this story has the power to influence and etch into the minds of the readers, to stay there and refuse to leave even after they have finished reading the story. This is a deep, powerful story, making the readers wonder about everything – about love, about their e...
Shweta Somwanshi: I just chose to read this out of nowhere and now I can't stop. Hats off to the author who made the reader swoon away with words so beautifully! I loved how I was able to imagine everything so explicitly because the writing was simple and easily comprehensive with a touch of complexity somewhere b...
Alani Foreigner: I absolutely loved how you created this story. It isn't like the other cliché stories I've ever read. I had just started reading it yesterday and just had to finish it. The main characters are grotesquely awesome and I fell in love with them. If you're into fantasy and stuff I can guarantee that ...
Erin Crowley: The concept here is really strong, but the execution is definitely lacking. Tenses, grammar, etc are all off, with at least one or more errors per 'Page' on my phone. The writing style is almost broken- sentences move into each other awkwardly, and are filled with an excess of "filler words", lik...
Giuliana Cassetta: My face is full of tears, I never cried like now with a book or even a movie. I loved every single chapter. I truly don't know what to say, I'm out of words and my eyes hurt from crying. Such an bittersweet story, it's so wonderful. One of my favorites for sure. Keep it up!
nirrmitshah: A truely touching story where you'd be at the edge of your seat for the most time. even though the starting might seem rushed, the story was extremely interesting and entertaining. I think certain parts could be added detailing the Mynds's culture. As well as more details on the Jhanthru history....
ArgyrisMetaxas: Thrilling story which builds layer ontop of layer. A few mis spellings every few chapters.What I found special was that it took a modern day problem and took it to its logical conclusion and plays this realism with gritting precision. I'm always on edge ready to shout from adrenaline. This is gre...
genlynne2379: I read the other review of this book and I must say that I disagree with it wholeheartedly. I do not believe the author put the apostrophes in the names just to be unique, but because the characters are supposedly of a different race than humans. They are Anmah. They should have different names a...