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Authors: Anya Allyn

Tags: #ghost, #horror, #parallel worlds, #young adult horror, #ya horror

Music Box (The Dollhouse Books, #4)

BOOK: Music Box (The Dollhouse Books, #4)
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MUSIC BOX

~.~

ANYA ALLYN

––––––––

MUSIC BOX is Book 4 of 4 Dollhouse Books

––––––––

Book One:  Dollhouse

Book Two:  Paper Dolls

Book Three:  Marionette

Book Four:  Music Box

Music Box

Copyright 2014 Anya Allyn

All rights reserved

Cover design by Tim Carter

No part of this book may be used or reproduced without prior written permission, excepting quotes not greater than four paragraphs used for review purposes. This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents are fictitious and a product of the author's over-active imagination or else used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased or to locales or events is coincidental.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

PROLOGUE

1.  The Chapel

2. Balthazar

3. Seventeenth Summer

4. The Wardens

5. Camp Greenwillow

6. Skeleton Ship

7.   The Search

8. Rebels

9. The Amber Leaf

10. Crystal Eye

11. Consummation

12. Music Box

13. The Other Side

14. In the Half Light

15.  Daybreak

16. Doorways

17. Blood and Snow

18. The torment within

19. Return of the Dolls

20. And Mermaids Pray

21. The Order of Sister Celia

22. Grandfather

23. A Night of Ills

24. Black Curtain

25. Night of All Shadows

26.  A Puzzle for a Penny

27. The Iron Mirror

28.  Gathering Storm

29.  The Reckoning

30.  Center of Calm

31.  Sword of Darkness

32. Heartbeat

Epilogue

Afterword

Credits

Dedications

News

PROLOGUE

C
ASSIE

Everyone has left the chapel. I remain alone, in my stiff and yellowed wedding dress, listening to the mantra of the waves crashing far below the cliff.

My body crawls with revulsion at all that just happened, but my mind refuses to accept that it is real.

The horror of the fate of the fifth bride—Etiennette—lies deep within me. Brought here from another world—another century—her body became ash and decay. And in her place, I have become the bride of the monster—Monseigneur Balthazar Batiste.

Across from me stands the cracked stone saint Balthazar hurled Zach against when he tried to stop the wedding. I don’t know where Zach has gone, but I pray that he survives this night.

Tonight, Molly and Aisha begin their married lives with Parker and Emerson. Molly is now forced to be with someone she despises.

I see moonlight faintly etching out the stonework of the tower through the stained-glass panels of the window. The tower edges into my every nightmare. It haunts me.

Cold creeps in like a strangling vine of ice, despite the suffocating humidity of this night. Everything... everything has slipped from my grasp. From the time Molly and I were brought to the castle on this windswept cliffside in France, every hope has blown away. My parents are gone. Almost everyone from my world is gone. My grief is a glacier.

The entire earth is frozen solid. The serpent creatures rule the oceans, devouring humanity, sending out their shadows to destroy any who stand in their way. And Balthazar and the people of the castle control it all, waiting for the second book of the Mirrored Tree, when all the stars will be theirs.

Ethan can never know my heart lies forever in the music box he gave to me. To keep him and the people of the museum safe, I have to let him believe that I don’t want to be with him. My heart may be locked away, but I’ll never stop hearing the tune of the music box....

1.  The Chapel

E
THAN

The castle watches me with the dead, empty eyes of its hundred windows as I steal across the grounds. A spatter of rain flicks across my face. Ahead, the lamps of the chapel glow yellow as the day plunges into night. I haven’t seen the chapel in use before—but its pews are crammed with more people than I have ever seen here. Is Cassie alone, somewhere in the darkness of the castle, or is she in the chapel with everyone else? And if I find her, will she even want to see me?

I just need to see her, to know she’s okay. Despite everything.

Damp, salty air rises from the warm earth, like secrets of the night. Within seconds the downpour begins pummeling down in sheets—streaming in rivulets from the castle’s battlement high above. I’m too late to escape being drenched—and my wet steps will now be seen on any floor I tread. It’s safer to wait until the people inside the church have returned to the castle.

Edging behind a tree, I wait.

A set of brides and grooms emerge, looking like something from the Dark Ages. That woman—Audette—strides out first, bringing Henry with her. Henry’s brow is drawn down, his eyes distracted. Aisha clings to Emerson as she steps out in her pale gown. I remember the girl Aisha once was—but this Aisha is nothing like her. She always did go after what she wanted, but to marry Emerson is something else again. But her lip trembles, as though she didn’t get quite what she wanted. Emerson pulls his arm from her and goes running into the night, screaming out his brother’s name.

Something happened in the chapel—something unexpected.

My stomach knots at the sight of the next pair to leave the chapel—Molly and Parker. She lies in his arms, unconscious. I know she would not have married him unless she had no choice. Parker glances down at her with contempt as he carries her.

Panic surges through me. I’ve been gone too long. I haven’t kept watch. I doubted myself. Cursing under my breath, I move into a dark recess. The guests all file out. There is no Cassie. I turn my head to the castle, wondering if I should have checked there first.

High above the castle grounds, a figure moves inside the tower. Someone who must have seen me. I duck my head back. My first instinct is to find my way up to the tower and kill whoever is inside—kill them before they raise the alarm. Killing has become a way of life. But making my way up there will be difficult with all the people heading into the castle.

Keeping close to the perimeter of the chapel, I keep moving. Through a narrow stained-glass window, I see a girl who remains in the church. Blowing air from my cheeks, I run low to the ground, making my way to the main entrance of the chapel.

The girl sits on the front pew, her shoulders hunched and head bowed. A bride in a wedding dress, praying for her new life. I turn to leave. She turns her head slightly to stare out the window where I’ve just been— though there is nothing to see—it is pitch dark outside now. I see the curve of a high, delicate cheekbone, framed with dark curls of hair.

Cassie.

I run to her—blood roaring in my head.

She jumps, staring at me in wide-eyed terror. A huge, ugly ring adorns her small hand.

“Cassie... you were married tonight? Who? Who is he?”

She struggles to speak. “You have to go.”

“Was it Zach? It was, wasn’t it? You married Zach.” I want to kick down every pew in the church. She didn’t even hint that she was going to get married. A murderous rage fills every ounce of me. The only light of my life is extinguished. Inside, I am burnt black.

“Ethan... please, just go. You shouldn’t be here. You don’t belong here.”

“And you do? You belong to this damned castle and all its crazy people?” I grab her arm. “Why? I would have waited for you forever. You’re mine.”

I regret my words as soon as they spill from my mouth. She looks so fragile, like I could break her as easily as I could shatter glass.

She stands, her expression growing cold and hard. “I am not yours. I had some stupid fantasy once that you and I could be together. But it was just that. A fantasy.”

I take a step back, not trusting myself. “What happened to you? What the hell happened to make you change your mind about me, about everything?”

Her dark eyes see through me. “You have to stop thinking about me and you have to stop coming here.”

“Remember what you said to me? You said... I always had your heart.” My voice cracks. “You said that.”

“If you don’t go now, you’ll be killed. They’ll kill you.” Her eyelashes slowly settle downward. “I don’t want you to die for me.”

I close my hands around her trembling arms. “I would die a thousand times for you.”

She raises her eyes to me, her lashes wet. As I hold her, I can feel her essence moving away from me. She belongs to another man, another world—and she will never again be with me.

The silhouetted form of a man appears at the chapel’s entrance. He limps in, an overhead lamp casting light across his bloodied face.

Cassie cries at the sight of him. “Zach... my God....”

He steps unsteadily toward her. “I’d throw myself off the battlement right now if it would change anything.”

I storm up to him. “What’s going on?”

He stares at me. “I know who you are. You’re that guy who was in the underground with Cassie. How did you get here?”

“That’s none of your damned business,” I tell him.

He shakes his head. “If anyone sees you here, I don’t like your chances of surviving the night.”

“Let me worry about that. I am not afraid of any of you.”

A heavy sigh escapes his chest. “Look at me—I’m not the enemy.”

His face is bruised black on one side, a cut gaping on his forehead. His suit is torn along the shoulder and sleeve. Someone strong has thrown him around. I see all of this but ignore it. There’s but one thing on my mind. “You married Cassie. That makes you my enemy.”

He wipes trickling blood away from his eye. “I didn’t marry her.”

I stare back at Cassie. “Is that true?”

“Yes,” she answers in a voice so low I can barely hear her.

My fists clench. “If not him, then who?”

She refuses to look at me.

I have to know. A knife twists in my brain. “Tell me who it is, and then I’ll do as you want—I’ll leave. So tell me, whose wife
are
you?”

Her slim frame stiffens. She says a word, a name.

A moment of insanity tears through me. It is a name she cannot possibly have said.

Balthazar.

His dark evil stalked my nightmares, years before I ever heard his name. I have heard the desperate, reverent whisperings of the castle people about him, and I know all he intends to do.

My heart sinks through my stomach. I am here, in the place and time I always dreamed of. I remember the poem I gave Cassie on the dock of the Batiste’s mansion....

There are echoes in your voice, everything you said

Everything you'll ever say, written on the mirror

A thousand, thousand times I'll stake out your altar

When rain falls through the darkening light

I'll find you, find you on the other side.

That time was now. I should have been waiting, watching. But I’d let her slip away from me.

Her eyes grow huge as she stares behind me.

I spin around. A figure stands there, near the altar. A charred, bent-shouldered remnant of a man. No, not a man—for men do not just appear out of nowhere— but a ghost.

I hear Cassie’s voice screaming,
run
, but my mind is gone, blown away.

A smile stretches into his malformed face. “She art mine. Forever.”

He extends his hand and I am thrust upward. My body is flung like a runaway train, accelerating toward a stained-glass window. Pieces of colored glass shatter as my limbs break through. I fall roughly to the ground outside the chapel.

Emerson, Parker and their fathers and others come running, shouting to each other.

Balthazar strides slowly from the chapel.

Black shapes bound across the castle drawbridge. In the darkness, their eyes glow yellow. Balthazar forces me into the air again and sends me soaring over the castle wall. The gatehouse doors fling open. Three sets of yellow eyes follow me out onto the moors.

BOOK: Music Box (The Dollhouse Books, #4)
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