forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet.
A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world – especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion. Then there’s the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help – no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong – starting with the death of their youngest brother – the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose.
Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?
Serpents in the Garden is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.
“A word, Brother Matthew?”
Matthew sighed when he recognised the voice, but stopped all the same, sending an admonishing look at his wife.
“Mr Farrell,” he said, inclining his head in a polite greeting. Beside him, Alex curtsied.
Mr Farrell nodded curtly. “And how is your wife today?”
“As you can see, she is well.”
“Hmm.” Mr Farrell twirled his cane, his normally rather fleshy mouth set into a displeased gash. “I find it too coincidental,” he blurted.
“Don’t give me that, Brother Matthew. You know full well what I’m referring to. First, your wife is found talking to my slave. Come night, said slave escapes. Mighty strange that: a man chained to a pole contrives not only to strike the chains off, but also succeeds in creating a hole through a stout plank wall – with no tools but his hands.”
“Aye.” Matthew nodded. “That is right strange, that is.”
“He had an accomplice,” Mr Farrell said. “How else explain it.”
“An accomplice? Another slave, you think?”
“No, Brother Matthew, I think not. I think your wife.”
“My wife?” Matthew pulled his brows together into a ferocious scowl. “What makes you say such?”
Mr Farrell took a step or two back. “I hold you in the highest regard, Brother Matthew, and never would I utter such an accusation lightly. But, as I said, I don’t believe in coincidences. On the same night my rebellious slave escapes, your wife is apparently sleepwalking through our settlement, and in the process she not only tore her clothes, but somehow mangled her hands.”
“I do that a lot when I sleepwalk,” Alex put in, “tear my clothes, I mean. I fall over.”
Matthew glared her silent. “I can assure you, my wife it was not, and I’d gladly take on anyone who says differently.”
“We’ll see.” Mr Farrell adjusted his hat. “I dare say he’ll tell us the truth – ultimately. There is only so much pain a man can bear.”
“The word of a slave counts for nothing,” Matthew said, but his heart was thronging his throat, and out of the corner of his eye, he could see Alex had gone very still.
“Interesting all the same.” Mr Farrell looked Matthew straight in the eye. “I expect you to be present at his punishment so you can hear first-hand what he has to say.”
“His punishment?” Alex said. “How can you even think of punishing him? He looked close to death this morning!”
“That slave has to be taught a lesson,” Mr Farrell said, “and, once I’m done with him, he’ll be as docile as a lapdog.”
“He’s not a dog, he’s a man,” Alex flared.
“He’s a slave, Mrs Graham, a disobedient, difficult slave.” Mr Farrell gave her a crooked little smile. “And why should you care? Unless, of course, it was you that helped him.”
Alex went a bright pink. “I most certainly didn’t!” She sounded insulted rather than guilty. “That doesn’t mean I can’t feel sorry for him.”
“Most inappropriate,” Mr Farrell said severely before turning away.
“Shit,” Alex muttered to his retreating back. She cleared her throat. “Maybe we should leave, now.”
“How would that help?” Matthew said. “No, we have to brazen it out, no matter what yon poor bastard says.”