Holding Court

Holding Court

by K. C. Held

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Overview

Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity knows exactly what's in store at her new job at castle-turned-dinner-theater Tudor Times. Some extra cash, wearing a fancy-pants dress, and plenty of time to secretly drool over the ever-so-tasty-and completely unavailable-Grayson Chandler. Except that it's not quite what she imagined.

For one, the costume Jules has to wear is awful. Then there's the dead body she finds that just kind of...well, disappears. Oh, and there's the small issue of Jules and her episodes of what her best friend calls "Psychic Tourette's Syndrome"-spontaneous and uncontrollable outbursts of seemingly absurd prophecies.

The only bright side? This whole dead body thing seems to have gotten Grayson's attention. Except that the more Jules investigates, the more she discovers that Grayson's interest might not be as courtly as she thought. In fact, it's starting to look suspicious...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633752283
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 03/01/2016
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 696,009
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

K.C. HELD was born and raised in California with stopovers in Honduras, Mexico, and France. Married to her high school sweetheart, and mom to two wee bookworms, she holds an MFA in costume design and has worked as a freelance costumer in opera, theatre, film, and television. Although she once spent a summer working in a castle, there were no dead bodies involved.

Read an Excerpt

Holding Court


By K.C. Held, Alycia Tornetta

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2016 K.C. Held
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-228-3



CHAPTER 1

Psychic Tourette's Syndrome


I'm standing behind the counter of my mom's antique shop, thinking about Grayson Chandler's abs, when the bell over the door jingles and in walks Henry VIII.

"Uh, welcome to Love at Second Sight antiques. Can I help you?" I say.

"Greetings, fair maiden!" King Henry gives me a gallant bow. He looks like he stepped out of a painting. Or a psych ward. "I seek the proprietor of this fine establishment," he says, looking around at the various vignettes of period furniture, vintage clothing, and ephemera as he strides toward me. He spies the display case of antique weapons next to the front counter. "Ah, I see I have come to the proper place," he says, then reaches for the scabbard at his waist and unsheathes an enormous sword.

"Whoa," I say, taking a step back.

"'Tis a wondrous sight, is it not?" He laughs like he's auditioning to play Santa Claus at the county mall. He's still ho-ho-hoing when the bell jingles again and Mom comes in carrying a bag from the deli across the street.

Gran pokes her head in from the back of the shop. She has packing peanuts stuck in her hair, which is currently dyed pastel pink, inspired by an episode of America's Next Top Model. "Is that lunch I hear? What took you so ..." She trails off when she catches sight of King Henry. "Oh my," she says.

"I know, right?" I say.

"Can we help you?" Mom asks. She walks behind the counter, eyeing the sword King Henry is still holding aloft.

King Henry eyes my mom. She looks like a real-life version of Angelina Jolie (i.e. thirty pounds heavier and with discernible flaws), so she's used to being eyeballed.

"How interesting." Gran looks from King Henry to my mom and back again.

"Don't even," I say, knowing she's not referring to the fact that there's a guy dressed up like the former king of England brandishing a sword in the middle of our antique shop. I can tell by the way she's squinting at him that she's looking at his aura. And if she's comparing it to my mom's with that excited look on her face it can only mean one thing.

"Stop that," Mom hisses under her breath, making shooing motions behind her back. She knows what Gran is doing, too, and it's making her blush.

King Henry is still smiling, although he's begun to look a bit confused. The women in my family tend to have that effect on people. The only thing that could possibly make the situation more awkward would be for me to have one of my uncontrollable psychic fits.

So, of course, I do.

"The keeper of secrets keeps too much!" I blurt, then clap a hand over my mouth.

King Henry looks like he's waiting for the punch line.

"Indeed," he finally says.

"Is there something we can help you with?" Mom asks. She shoves the bag of sandwiches at Gran. "Why don't you take your lunch break? Now."

Gran nods, still squinting at King Henry. "Fascinating. An almost perfect match," she says as she backs through the velvet curtain behind the front counter.

"Milady," King Henry says to Mom, and lays the sword on the counter, "I seek your expertise in the matter of my sword."

"How so?" Mom asks. She picks up the weapon, balancing its weight in both hands.

"I am told it is a sixteenth-century German sword, and I wish to verify its authenticity, for I do not trust the blaggard who sold it to me."

"Well, I would say the blade is certainly mid-sixteenth century."

I know Mom knows exactly how old it is but she probably can't be too precise without making King Henry suspicious.

"But the hilt is a later addition. Probably a Victorian reproduction," she says.

"Bloody hell!" King Henry roars and pounds a giant fist on the counter.

Mom gives him "the look."

"Pray pardon me, your ladyship." I swear King Henry actually blushes. "Are you certain?" he asks.

"I'm certain," Mom says as she tilts the sword back and forth under the lights. "If it makes you feel any better, it's a beautiful reproduction. It might even be one of Ernst Schmidt's, but you'll have to take it to someone who specializes in his work to know for sure."

King Henry nods and takes the sword from her, replacing it in his scabbard. "Alack, I feared it might be so," he says. "Thank you, milady. Next time I shall seek your counsel before I am foolish enough to exchange coin for counterfeit."

"May I?" Mom reaches toward the thick gold necklace he wears over his elaborate costume.

"'Tis the only surviving chain of office from the time of His Majesty, Henry VIII," King Henry says as he leans forward. At least he knows he's not Henry VIII.

Mom wraps her fingers around the necklace and closes her eyes. "Mmm," she says, "how lovely." When she opens her eyes, their faces are inches apart and I'm about to barf.

"Just in time!" I blurt and they both stare at me. "Uh, Cami's here," I explain, except she isn't. "I mean, she will be. You know, any second now." I'm saved from further explanation by the jingling bell.

"Hey, Jules," Cami says when she sees me, and then she takes in King Henry. Without missing a beat she drops into a curtsy, setting her corkscrew curls bouncing. "Your Highness."

King Henry gives her his gallant bow and says, "Please, rise, fair maiden."

"You must be the Tudor Times dude," she says. "Nice duds."

"Many thanks," King Henry says, then turns back to Mom.

"Is there anything else I can help you with?" she asks.

"No, milady. I thank you for confirming my suspicions. Prithee forgive me for my outburst. In faith, I should not have been surprised."

Mom reaches for his other necklace and I'm about to tell them to get a room when she says, "You do know this is a reproduction, I hope?"

King Henry nods. "Verily, I commissioned it myself."

"It's a pity they didn't use genuine stones, it's such a beautiful piece."

"Pardon?" King Henry looks down at the pendant, his face starting to turn purple.

"Oh, dear." Mom lets go of the pendant and takes a step back. "You didn't know?"

"I most certainly did not," King Henry says. "By my troth, I fear I am an even bigger fool than I thought. Tell me, milady, might I compel you to come to Lunewood Castle to look upon the rest of my collection? It seems I could use someone with your practiced eye."

"I'd love to," Mom says, looking all excited, and then she sighs like a punctured blow-up doll. "Unfortunately I'm leaving tomorrow to do some appraisal work in Europe. I won't be back for several weeks."

"I am unsurprised that a lady of your talents is in high demand," King Henry says and reaches for her hand. He brushes his lips across her knuckles and says, "Perhaps another time?"

"Your nun is pregnant!" I blurt.

Everyone stares at me, and I decide my best option is to make a dash for the back curtain.

Gran looks up and sees my wide eyes and my hand over my mouth. "What'd you say this time? A real doozy, huh?"

"I can't ... I don't even ... Gran, I think it's getting worse."

"You probably just have more to say," Gran says. She's annoyingly prosaic about my bizarre outbursts.

Cami comes through the curtain behind me and lets out a snort of laughter. "Way to ruin the moment, Jules." She grabs the bag of sandwiches and holds it up to her forehead. "Let me guess, smoked turkey on sliced sourdough?" She peeks in the bag. "Yes! I'm totally psychic, too!"

"Shut up," I say and grab the bag from her. "I hate you."

"Do not."

"Do, too. Oh, crap."

"What?"

"Nothing."

"Tell me!"

I hold my breath and clamp my lips together.

"Out with it, Blurt."

I shake my head furiously.

"You can't possibly hold it in, so you might as well tell me before you burst a blood vessel."

I blow it out in one big breath. "You're going to get the lead in My Fair Lady and Sidney Barlow is going to tell everyone you cheated."

"Dude," she says. "Seriously?"

"Yes. And stop calling me Blurt."

"I'm going to get the lead? That's awesome! And Sidney Barlow can suck my Chucks." She gives me a quick hug. "I'm going to go work on my monologue. Call me when you get off work!"


Since Mom had decided to accept the appraisal gig in Europe, and refused to take me with her, and my dad was off on another one of his archaeological digs, and refused to take me with him, I was doomed to spend another boring summer in Lunevale helping Gran plant begonias. And since Mom couldn't trust either of us in the antique shop in her absence, I was also officially out of a job for the summer. Again. Not that Mom gives me very many hours to begin with.

I'm only allowed to work when her assistant, Dee, isn't working. Dee is high-fructose-corn-syrup sweet and has the IQ of a dust bunny, but the customers love her and she always knows exactly what to say to get someone to buy a $10,000 Fabergé ashtray. A talent I do not possess. Mostly I help unload stuff and attach price tags. Occasionally I get to do something really challenging like dusting bric-a-brac.

Mom tries to use me at the front counter as little as possible on account of my tendency to yell out things like, "Your maple has tar spot!" and scare away the customers. But she's my mom so she's never actually fired me. Not even after the time I told Dee her underwear was on fire. Even though it was (dryer malfunction).

Despite being founded by Lucius Lune, who definitely outranked me and everyone else in town on the Freak Scale, the rest of Lunevale is not so forgiving. In its present-day state the inhabitants of my hometown fall into three basic categories: the inveterate townies whose families have been here forever; the hipster refugees from the San Francisco Bay Area in search of better schools, a lower cost of living, and their own version of quirky small-town America; and the visiting tourists who provide most of Lunevale's livelihood.

The townies are used to eccentrics like Gran and the Lunes and old Mr. Farley (otherwise known as the Corpse). It's mostly because of hypocritically intolerant hipsters and skittish tourists that I've been fired from every job I've ever managed to land. Which isn't very many, since interviews are stressful and stressful situations tend to set off what Cami calls my "Psychic Tourette's Syndrome." Which means I rarely make it through an interview without blurting out something bizarre or alarming. But since my PTS has yet to help me predict the winning lotto numbers — because that would actually be useful — I desperately need a new job. Like, yesterday.

CHAPTER 2

Tudor Times


One of the reasons I so desperately need a job is so I can buy a car, but since I don't have a car there are only so many jobs I can get to. It's a tragic paradox that could seriously scar my entire high school career.

"It has to be something in Lunevale," I tell Cami the next morning when she barges into our kitchen and finds me looking through the help wanted ads in the local paper. Cami lives next door and spends as much time as possible at our house in order to avoid her own family, which is inordinately loud and exuberant. Much like Cami herself, who, according to Gran, has more dazzle than a disco ball. Mom and I moved into Gran's huge, old, Pepto-Bismol-pink Victorian after my parents' divorce and have been here ever since. My dad stayed in San Francisco and is usually too busy digging up mummies to be a decent dad. He's way more interested in dead people than he is in the living. Which is probably why my mom left him, despite the fact that he has this whole Indiana Jones thing going on.

"I have to be able to get there on my bike or the bus," I say. "Since having your driver's license obviously means nothing around this place." I give Mom a pointed look. She actually laughed when I asked if I was getting a car for my sixteenth birthday.

Mom puts down her coffee and looks at her watch. "I'd better go finish packing. I'll be at the shop most of the day. I need to go over a few things with Dee before I leave tonight." She kisses me on the head and goes upstairs.

Gran lowers her People magazine. "You're welcome to use Rosie," she offers.

Cami and I look at each other, and I roll my eyes. Rosie is a major part of the reason I need a job in the first place. I refuse to drive my grandmother's hot-pink golf cart to school next year.

"Uh, thanks, Gran, but I think I'll pass on the golf cart."

Gran huffs and looks offended. "Rosie is not a golf cart, she's a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle."

"What's the difference? She still can't go on the highway."

"Suit yourself. You can take the back roads, you know."

"I'd have to take the back roads, Gran. Rosie only goes twenty-five miles per hour."

"Well, what do you need to go faster for? No one can read my signs if you go too fast."

Did I mention that Rosie, the hot-pink golf cart, is plastered with ads for Gran's matchmaking business, An Aura of Romance?

"And you can park right up front in those special electric vehicle spaces like they have at the Target."

"Tempting, but I'd rather risk the sweaty helmet hair and ride my bike." Helmet hair or hot-pink golf cart. I seriously need a car, ASAP.

"No way!" Cami grabs my highlighter and circles an ad. "Check it out, there's a listing for Tudor Times. And it couldn't be more perfect." She holds up the newspaper.

HELP WANTED: Do you have the gift of visions? Tudor Times, Candor County's newest must-see destination, is looking for a dynamic, outgoing individual to add to our Castle Team. We're currently seeking a female performer to portray the character of the Maid of Kent. Duties include wearing an appropriate period costume and performing psychic readings for Castle Guests. No experience necessary.

I look at Cami. "You're kidding, right?"

"Come on, it's like it was written for you! You can do your Psychic Tourette's thing without having to worry about getting fired. Plus that King Henry guy is the owner and he obviously has the hots for your mom, so you know he's going to hire you."

"He's not going to hire me, because there's no way I'm applying for it."

Instead of arguing with me, Cami whips out her phone and punches in a number. "Hello, I'm calling about your ad in the Lunevale Gazette?"

I make a grab for the phone, but she jumps off her chair and backs away, wiggling her fingers at me. "Yes, I'm very interested in the psychic job. One thirty? That would be perfect. My name's Juliet Verity. I'll be there at one thirty. Thank you so much."

"What the hell?" I say to Cami after she hangs up.

"You'll thank me for this, trust me." Cami gives me a smug grin and sits back down. "A bunch of kids from Lunevale High are working there this summer."

"So?"

"So, one of them happens to be Grayson Chandler."

"And?" I feign total indifference, but the truth is the mere mention of his name gives me palpitations.

Cami closes the newspaper and starts counting on her fingers. "Number one, you need a job. Number two, Grayson Chandler. Number three, you finally get to see the inside of Lunewood Castle, and number four, you get to dress up in a fancy Tudor gown that is bound to give you fabulous cleavage. Ergo, you're an idiot if you don't take the job."

"Number one" — I hold up a finger, too, the middle one — "I do not have the 'gift of visions,' I have an involuntary blurting disorder, which, in case you've forgotten, is something I've been trying to suppress for years. Number two, Grayson Chandler has a girlfriend, and do I really need to remind you of my history with Grayson and castles? Number three, if I want to see the inside of Lunewood Castle all I have to do is buy a ticket to Tudor Times. And number four, I don't think it's possible for me to have cleavage regardless of what I'm wearing."

"Whatever. You know you want to see Grayson dressed up like a knight, looking all Prince Charming." She gives me a wicked grin. "I bet he has a really big sword."

"Oh, shut up. I hate you."

"I believe my work here is done. I'm out. Don't forget, one thirty. Say hello to Prince Charming for me!"

"Well, that sounds promising, dear," Gran says, looking up from her perusal of the red carpet trend report. "It's about time you put your talents to good use. And I'm not talking about the cleavage." She waggles her eyebrows at me.

"Seriously? You think I should take a job giving fake fortunes to a bunch of tourists at a cheesy castle?"

"Who says they have to be fake?"

"In case you haven't noticed, I don't exactly have control over my 'gift,' Gran."

"No, you don't have the ability to shut it off. You might be able to learn some control if you embraced your gift instead of trying so hard to tamp it down."

"Embrace what? All I ever do is blurt out ridiculous, meaningless, or crucially embarrassing stuff. Why would I want to do that more often? I get into enough trouble as it is. I've been fired from every job I've ever had, including my volunteer job at the library — which is beyond pathetic — been suspended from school for my outbursts in class, and, depending on how you feel about circus sideshows, am considered either a freak or a hilarious spectacle by the population at large. It's not a gift. It's a curse. Why can't I do something that's actually useful like you and mom?"

"I suppose that depends on how you define 'useful.'"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Holding Court by K.C. Held, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2016 K.C. Held. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Dedication,
1 - Psychic Tourette's Syndrome,
2 - Tudor Times,
3 - The Maid of Kent,
4 - Your Nun Is Pregnant,
5 - There's Our Victim,
6 - Oh, Jeez. She's Dead,
7 - Well, This Is Awkward,
8 - Should Have Seen That Coming,
9 - Thanks for Throwing Me Under the Bus,
10 - The Butterfly Effect,
11 - You Really Are Psychic!,
12 - We Found a Clue!,
13 - Keep Rocking That Fanny Pack,
14 - Don't Play Coy,
15 - You Are so Dead,
16 - Tit for Tat,
17 - Dying to Tell,
18 - Someone's Got to Keep the New Nun Safe,
19 - You Can See That in Someone's Aura?,
20 - The Police Are Summoned,
21 - Am I in Trouble?,
22 - I'm the Crazy One,
23 - Away Inctersphay Ayssay Atwhay?,
24 - A Little Dungeon Recon,
25 - The Priest Hole,
26 - Everything Is Going to Be Peachy Keen,
27 - He's My Buddy,
28 - I Know Where the Body Is,
29 - Your Secret's Safe with Me,
30 - Mystery Solved,
31 - Just to be Clear,
Acknowledgments,
About the Author,
Entangled Teen!,

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