Recap: Corey’s parents had an argument about her and were found dead the next morning. Corey then meets Detective Skylar Adams. She is later adopted by Helen and Andy. Two years later, Corey is in school and meets a friend, Terese, and the class bully, Sandra. One day, two students are found dead and Corey meets Detective Adams again. Corey starts 2nd grade, which brings her face to face with a terrifying new teacher. As you can expect, her teacher does not last long. And then neither do her adopted parents, but things look up as Corey may have found a forever family. Corey moves in with Detective Adams and his wife and learns Terese lives across the street. One Friday night, Corey has a typical, happy evening with her mom, but seems out of sorts when Skyler comes home looking haggard. One night, Terese is sleeping over, but it doesn’t stop Skyler from working on the strange murder case. Corey and Terese get an interesting ski lesson and Corey provides some important information regarding the murders. Skyler and Dimitra go on an overnight trip, leaving Corey with a babysitter who does not meet with a happy end. School is back in session after winter break and the class gains two new students, twins Aiden and Cate. During recess, Corey is drawn to the twins and starts to get to know them.
The snow was falling hard, like a white blanket falling, falling, falling…. It never seemed to stop. Trees, cars, houses were obscured. It was starting to get dark and street lamps twinkled as snow cascaded down before them. It was quiet out; all the kids were inside, wondering why the snow hadn’t started until after school had let out. Granted it was Friday, but they wouldn’t have minded a three day weekend.
Corey, for one, was glad to have gone to school. In the past two weeks Aiden and Cate had become members of her group of friends. They were sometimes overwhelmed by Terese, but Corey’s quietness and Stacy’s rationalizations helped to balance the effusive girl. Corey smiled to herself as she sat on her window seat, legs curled under her and her chin resting in one palm. She really did love her friends and was glad three of them were close by. Aiden was brilliant in math while she and Terese struggled, so they usually did their homework together while their parents got to know each other. Corey was certain her father liked Cyril and Rhiannon Asphodel, but her mother seemed a little more cautious. But, then, that was Dimitra. She was always cautious when it came to her daughter. She had even run a background check on Terese’s family before Corey had arrived. Corey was tickled by it now, but she was a little confused when Skyler had first told her about a month after she had started living with them.
“Corey!” Dimitra called out, her voice echoing down the hall.
The girl sighed and pulled herself away from the window. She left her bedroom and almost ran into her mother. Corey smiled up at her and folded her hands behind her back.
“Yeah?” Corey asked.
“Do you want to call Terese and see if she and her family would like to join us for dinner? The Asphodels will be over in about a half hour.”
Corey shook her head. “Remember? Terese’s grandmother is dying, so they left for the hospital right after school.”
Dimitra cocked her head to the side. “Oh, that’s right.” She frowned. “What a horrible experience for a nine-year-old child.” Dimitra shook her head sadly. “What about Stacy?”
Corey shrugged. “I don’t know. I can call.”
Her mother nodded. Corey skipped past her mother and down the hall to the living area. She headed straight for the living room where the phone sat. She quickly dialed Stacy’s number, but only got a funny beeping noise. Skyler was sitting in the armchair, reading over the newspaper. He glanced up and gave her a questioning look.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Skyler asked.
Corey slowly put the phone down. “There’s a funny beeping noise. What does that mean?”
“The phone is probably out of order or is busy. There are also power outages all across the area. She could have lost power. Do you want to go drive by and see?”
“You are not going out driving in this weather,” Dimitra announced as she emerged from the hallway, a red and white checkered blanket bundled in her arms. “I’m sure Stacy and her family are fine.”
“Are you sure?” Corey asked nervously.
“Absolutely. Her parents know they can always come over here if they’re in trouble. If you want, you can call again later, but her parents probably won’t want to drive in this weather, either. Corey, why don’t you help me set out dinner? The Asphodels should be here soon.”
Corey nodded and followed her mother into the kitchen, her father smiling after them before he returned to his paper. Dimitra piled the blanket on the counter near the stools before helping Corey drag over a chair to the other counter.
Mother and daughter put the finishing touches on pan-fried chicken with lemon and rosemary, a mound of creamy mashed potatoes, and a large container brimming with deep green leaves and a confetti of shredded carrots. Corey gazed longingly at the chocolate iced cake sitting in the refrigerator. Her mother had made it the night before especially for tonight, but she hadn’t finished it until after Corey had gone to bed. She was dying to know what kind of cake Dimitra had made.
Dimitra chuckled as she caught Corey looking at the cake again. “Just another couple of hours.”
Corey jumped and quickly slammed the refrigerator door. She gave her mother a guilty look. “It looks so good. Can’t I just have a little bit of the chocolate?”
Dimitra laughed and went over to pick up the picnic blanket. “After dinner. Not before then, I’m afraid. Come help me spread the blanket.”
Corey sighed and went over to join her mother in the living room. Skyler had finished pushing the furniture out of the way to make a large open oval on the carpet. It made for an interesting seating arrangement, but, then, they would be sitting on the floor, not on the furniture. The three of them laid out the blanket before Corey helped Dimitra move the food, sans cake, to the dining table along with some dinner plates, napkins, and silverware. The napkins were a sunny yellow with strawberries printed on them. Corey thought they went perfectly with the picnic them as she fanned them out.
A knock came at the door.
“I’ll get it!” Corey yelled as she streaked for the door.
“Inside voice, Corey,” her mother called out.
Corey rolled her eyes, but she had already reached the door by then. She unlocked it as Skyler came up behind her and opened up the door.
The Asphodels, all of them tall, dark, and slender, stood on the doorstep. All of them were bundled up with puffy coats and thick scarves. Cate, dressed in a dark blue skirt and knee-high boots, had bright purple ear muffs. The other three had scarves wrapped about their heads. Corey just stared at them for a second before her father invited them in. She didn’t think it was that cold, and she was sensitive to the cold. Then again, the Asphodels came from a warmer climate. Corey shrugged to herself and closed the door behind the family.
The family peeled off their layers and Skyler helped them hang up their coats and scarves and put their boots away in the coat closet. Rhiannon was a lovely woman, though a little pale. Her dark eyes were kind and there were gentle wrinkles around her eyes. She wore black pants and a burgundy blouse with ruffles running down the front. She kept a matching silk scarf around her neck. Corey liked her; she always looked beautiful and classy. Cyril reminded Corey of a hawk with a sharp nose and piercing dark eyes. His fingers were long, but moved with an elegance Corey always thought only women had. Like his wife, he had on black pants, but had a gray and black plaid sweater over a white shirt. He made Corey think of a professor, except he was a banker. Cate looked much more normal without her bright purple ear muffs. Her blue skirt turned out to be a dress with tiny flowers embroidered at the neckline. Aiden was a little more reserved like his father, in dark gray pants, a starched white shirt, and a dark gray vest.
Aiden caught Corey staring at him and lingered with her near the door while the rest of his family followed Skyler into the house. He gave his friend a small smile.
“You’re looking at me a little funny,” Aiden said.
“You don’t usually dress that way at school,” Corey explained. “You kind of look like your dad.”
He gave her a sardonic look. “He thought it would be neat if we dressed the same. My mom said no, but Dad still got his way, kind of.”
Corey smiled and Aiden took the opportunity to look her up and down. She didn’t think she looked out of the ordinary with a dove gray shirt featuring a stretching cat across the front and a long pale green skirt. Aiden reached out and touched the top of her head. Corey’s eyes went skyward. He had found her plaid headband.
“This doesn’t match the rest of your outfit,” he remarked.
“I like it,” Corey said defensively.
“Are you two going to gab by the door all night, or are you going to come eat?” Cate called out.
Corey giggled and rushed past her friend. She joined everyone else as they gathered their food. Aiden followed and accepted a plate from Dimitra. They gathered their food and the spread out over the blanket. The three kids clustered together, leaving their parents to talk about their work and the dreadful weather.
“How are you enjoying the snow?” Corey asked curiously as she cut into her chicken.
The twins exchanged a look before Cate answered. “It’s cold.” She shivered at the mere thought of it. “It’s way too cold for us.”
Corey smiled. “I know. I don’t like the cold, either. I’ve lived here all my life, but I still don’t like it.”
“Maybe you’d like somewhere warmer,” Aiden said pensively. “Maybe somewhere tropical. You know, like the Caribbean islands Mrs. James has been teaching us about.”
Corey and Cate nodded as one.
“That would be nice,” Corey said dreamily. “I wouldn’t mind going somewhere warm for a vacation.”
“Where have you vacationed before?” Aiden asked.
“Nowhere. My biological parents never took me anywhere. My mother didn’t even like to take me out of the house. My adopted parents, Helen and Andy, were always too busy and the police insisted I stay close just in case something about my biological parents turned up and to better protect me in case whoever killed them came after me, too. I’ve been here since late summer, so there really hasn’t been time for me to go anywhere on a vacation because of school and my parents are really busy. What about you?”
“Oh, we’ve been all over the place,” Aiden said vaguely, waving his fork around. “We’ve been all over the world since we were home schooled. Our parents thought that since they were teaching us, we should see the world. I think the coldest was Russia, but the nicest was definitely Hawaii. That’s where we moved from. It rains there a lot, but it’s beautiful.”
Cate nodded. “I do miss Hawaii sometimes. But I think Thailand was fascinating.”
Corey stared at them with wide eyes. “That’s so cool you’ve been there. You should have said something class when Mrs. James was talking about those places.”
Cate shrugged and picked at her mashed potatoes. “We don’t really like speaking up in class. We feel like the class hasn’t quite warmed up to us yet. Other than you, Terese, and Stacy.”
“They have be like that, I guess,” Corey said with a shrug. “We haven’t had a new student since I was the new student.”
Cate leaned in close. “Do you have any tips for us?”
Corey gave her a small, slightly twisted smile. “Be friends with Terese and,” she paused to look around and then leaned in close to finish in a whisper, “hope the people who were mean to you die.”
Aiden and Corey stared at her. Corey made a nervous giggle.
“Come on,” Corey said, her smile as nervous as her giggle. “It was a joke.”
Aiden and Cate only shared a look. Then they nodded to each other before giving equally brilliant smiles at Corey. Corey only stared back at them, confused as to what the twins were up to.
“Cake time,” Dimitra announced.
Corey’s head swung around. Her mother was looking straight at her with a smile. Corey returned the smile, though she felt her expression was a little wild. Dimitra didn’t seem to notice and only motioned for her daughter to help her. Corey scrambled to her feet, flashing a smile at her friends, and then hurried off to the kitchen.
“A white cake with sprinkles inside and chocolate frosting,” Dimitra whispered as she handed Corey a small pile of dessert plates.
Corey grinned and headed back to the picnic blanket. Her eyes fell on the twins. They were still smiling at her, having tracked her with their eyes. Corey shifted her gaze to Cyril and Rhiannon. The twins’ parents were likewise watching Corey, though they were still talking with Skyler and they were really only glancing at her from the corner of their eyes.
Corey wasn’t quite sure of what to make of the Asphodel family anymore. They were acting a little weird, but at least Aiden and Cate were turning out to be good friends.