Read an Excerpt
Leinz Manor, Outside of Salzburg
Little more than an hour remained for Greta to dress for an opera premiere she did not want to attend.
She hastened down the long corridor that connected the east and west wings of Leinz Manor. Even without slowing she could pick out the flaws in the paintings that adorned the walls. A shade of violet containing too much blue. A brush stroke too thick with paint. A horizon line three inches too low. For Greta, it was a hall of near misses.
Had she been allowed to put the evening's remaining hours to their best use, she would be painting. The Leinz collection contained two more originals she had yet to copy, with orders waiting from three other noble families. Accompanying Uncle Thaddeus and her cousins to the opera did not play to her talents.
As always, however, her guardian got what he wanted.
He was intent on displaying his daughters, Theresa and Anna, with Greta as their chaperone. He believed a little time spent in good company would do wonders for his girlsespecially if that company meant Ferdinand, Grand Duke of Salzburg.
At the sound of hammering, where each staccato strike echoed down the corridor, Greta frowned. She turned a corner and found two workmen pounding nails into a slim crate designed for shipping works of art.
"Pardon me," she said. "What are you doing?"
The men paused in their duties and bowed. One removed a nail from between his teeth. "At His Lordship's command, we're boxing this painting."
The ivory-flocked wallpaper was brighter in the rectangle of space where her copy of Titian's Ars Moriendi once hung.
Greta had thought the copy suitably convincing, but perhaps not. No matter her long nights of frustrated work, she had never been able to match Titian's ethereal blues. In the end she had taken her uncle's advicegood enough will do. Had he changed his mind? Had he decided to return the original to its rightful spot? She had never known him to be so finicky.
But she stopped herself from asking. No one but her uncle's trusted attendant, Herschel, knew of the forgeries. The originals had all been padded and packed into a windowless room in the manor's east wing. Every other servant believed that Greta was merely cleaning the masterpieces, one by one.
"I don't understand," she said. "Why?"
"It's to be shipped to a buyer in Vienna."
"A buyer?" She quickly hid her frown. These men would not find such an arrangement amiss. "Would you open the crate for me?"
The men traded curdled expressions.
Her younger cousin Anna, barely fifteen, claimed that Greta could be charming and sweet if she tried. Finding the proper motivation to make the effort, however, often proved elusive. This was motivation enough. Just what was Uncle Thaddeus intending?
She found her prettiest, most convincing smile and dusted it off for the men. "I know my request makes more work for you, but I love this painting so dearly. I should like to see it one last time." She ducked her gaze, then brought it back to each worker individually. Her eyelashes might have fluttered but she would never admit it. "Bitte."