“Kedgetown has always prided itself on being welcoming.” Annalise interrupted as though Mason hadn’t spoken. “It’s part of its magic.”
Elijah choked on his mouthful of gravy. Mason was a stranger. They didn’t talk about the town or its history in front of anyone who hadn’t grown up here. Or make comments that might lead to awkward questions. If Mason decided to make his home here and settle in the old house, Elijah definitely would not stick around. He’d had enough of lying about who he was.
“Are you okay?” Mason put down his fork, concerned.
“Yeah.” Elijah shot his aunts a glare. What were they up to? He didn’t believe their innocent expressions for a moment. “Went down the wrong way.”
“What do you do for a living, Mason, dear?” Annalise moved the conversation along.
“I work in IT. Data entry mainly.” Mason shrugged. “It’s not very exciting, but it pays the bills, and I can do it from home.” He paused. “Which at the moment is Invercargill, but if the house pans out, it is something I could do from anywhere.”
“Mason likes the house so far, and I suspect it’s mutual. But, as I said, there’s a lot of work to do first.” Annalise got up from the table, retrieved the casserole dish, and placed it between Mason and Elijah. “You boys still look hungry. Help yourselves if you want more.”
“Thanks.” Elijah spooned more onto his plate. He’d forgotten what a good cook his aunt was. “Is your family in Invercargill?”
“My parents are, but the rest of my family live on the West Coast. My sister lives in Greytown, so she’s only an hour away, although she’s only visited Kedgetown once.”
Mason waited until Elijah had finished, then reached for the serving spoon at the same time Elijah handed it to him. Their fingers brushed. Mason went rigid. All colour drained from his face. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.
Elijah glanced at Rilla, who was behind Mason. She shrugged.
The serving spoon clattered to the table.
“Mason?” Elijah pushed back his chair to go to Mason.
Annalise laid a warning hand on Elijah’s arm. “Give him a moment to come back to us. Perhaps a cup of tea would be a good idea. For later.”
A moment later, Mason gasped for breath. “I saw… what….” He glanced around the table.
“It’s a very old serving spoon,” Annalise said. “With a lot of history. It was a wedding present from an old friend. I’m not exactly sure of its origins.”
Mason relaxed a little. “I’m sorry I don’t mean to be rude.” He massaged his temples. “I have a… headache. Thank you for the lovely meal. I’ll see you in the morning.”
He stood and bolted, footsteps loud against the wood of the stairs to his bedroom. He closed the door behind him.
Elijah stared after him. “What the hell?”
“Tea, I’m thinking.” Rilla sounded thoughtful and more than a little smug. “The special one you used to make for me.”
“Definitely.” Annalise’s eyes glowed gold, and she smiled. “I suspected as much after we met his sister last Christmas, but this is even better than we thought.”
“Huh?” Elijah glanced from one aunty to the other. “What are you up to?”
“Us? We’re looking after our visitors like any good host would.” Annalise walked over to the kitchen to put the kettle on. “Help me clean up, will you? And then you can take Mason a nice cup of tea.”