Time marched by, and the fascination of the locals with their mysterious guest morphed into unease. More often than not when the library closed at five-o-clock, Miss Genevieve could be seen making her way down the long dirt road into the woods, but what went on behind the foreboding wooden doors remained an enigma. Despite frequent attempts by the locals to engage their librarian in conversation, she maintained Stephen's confidence. He was a private man, and over days and weeks spent in each other's presence she had earned his trust, something she did not take lightly. However, as she got to know her new friend, the eccentricities remained. While they strolled from time to time in the woods surrounding the house, never had Stephen ventured into town. The mirrors and glass in the home remained covered, his answer regarding the odd practice vague and unsatisfactory. And while in the home, she was always in Stephen's company, never allowed to be on her own for more than mere moments. The house filled her with immense dread and if it wasn't for Stephen's charming presence, she would never step foot in the horrid structure. It was why she was hoping he'd hurry back as she stood in the formal parlor waiting for him to fetch a book. The glimmer of gold caught her eye as the edge of a painting on the wall winked in the low lighting. She drew closer, pulling aside the cloth to see what was hidden. The hem of a woman's satin dress and a treasure chest of gems so real she would swear they were more tangible than paint and canvas popped into view. A strange force urged her on. After all, the painting was within reach. She could examine the portrait and replace the drape before Stephen returned. If she was careful, he'd never know it had been disturbed. A flurry of dust billowed into the stagnant atmosphere as she tore down the cloth and gaped at the painting. A stern woman sat in a high backed throne, dressed in the finest satins and jewels. Piercing emerald eyes stared down with disdain, her regal presence so consuming, Miss Genevieve nearly missed the mirror on the wall behind the woman. Small, discrete, but clear as day there was a feminine figure in a dark dress, her face obscured by shadow. The sound of a book thumping against the floorboards made the librarian's heart skip a beat. Stephen stared wide eyed at the painting, bizarrely enthralled just as Genevieve had been. He suddenly raced past his guest, snatching the cloth and covering the portrait, hands shaking from fury or fear she could not tell. Miss Genevieve was bewildered as to why her host reacted so violently to the painting, but whatever the reason, she felt the consuming urge to apologize for prying.
"I am sorry, Stephen. I should never have taken the covering off."
"No, you shouldn't have," he snapped back.
"Who is she?"
"The long dead Lady Beatrice."
Miss Genevieve had the distinct impression she should let the matter rest, but her nagging inquisitiveness won the day.
"And what of the other woman, the one who's reflection's in the mirror?"
Stephen blanched in terror, pupils dilating widely. He firmly grasped her wrist, pulling her closer, his harsh whisper ringing in her ears."If you value your life and mine, never ask me again. There can be no discussion of the shadow princess."