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Return to Rhonan: Chapters 15 & 16

Mark your diary, because every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Return to Rhonan: Chapters 15 & 16

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 15

PRESENT DAY
RHONAN MANOR HOTEL

The hotel brochure did not give credence to the vast expanse of the Manor, or the beauty of the classical architecture of the Palladio.  Jessie gazed with delight at the soaring colonnades, the semi-circular arches overhanging large Venetian style windows.  The building would be more in keeping with the palazzos of Venice than the wild highland landscape.

‘God, Dinah, it’s beautiful.  Glad we made a choice.’

Dinah’s heart leaped a little as she grinned. ‘It’ll be good to see George again.’

‘Look, that must be the lake George was talking about and the island. Plenty of people out boating.’

‘Yeah, the boats seem pretty easy to handle. We’ll have to take one out. Look, there’s the Mausoleum. I can just see it through the silver birch trees – creepy.’

 Jessie’s eyes widened as she looked at the gothic tomb. The small arched windows with darkened leaded lights typified the funereal look.  She glimpsed the bushes, moving to reveal the slender figure of a woman in a scarlet skirt hugging a tightly wrapped bundle to her breast. As the girl turned to her, Jess gave a startled gasp.  She might as well have been looking at a mirror image of herself. However, there would be many women with the same bone structure and red hair in Scotland.   

As the cab arrived at the white marble steps of the Manor, two bellhops dressed in green liveried uniforms rushed to take their cases.  The hotel gardens were certainly popular with couples strolling arm in arm, mothers rushing after toddlers, fathers playing cricket with miniature bats and wickets.  An elderly woman greeted them as she sat on a wrought-iron bench, enjoying the sun. The air was heavy with the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine as Jessie and Dinah followed the bellhops. Jessie was fascinated with the colonnade of Grecian Statues that led to a huge stone portico. Entering a vast hall quiet except for a few quests exiting the lifts or crossing to the entrance doors, Jess and Dinah stared at exquisite marble statues reminiscent of the Roman age, at marble columns supporting the vaulted ceiling. The cupola of leaded light glass shimmered in a rainbow of colors reflected on the white marble interior. The walls decorated with trompe l’oeil gave the illusion of niches replete with sculpted busts of long-dead ancestors and a sweeping panorama of Elysian Fields.  Suits of armor stood in alcoves, while stag and lion heads gazed through sightless brown orbs.

Behind a large mahogany reception desk, Aileen Byrne, in a sea-green uniform, sat flicking through papers, her generous figure overflowing the regency tapestry chair.   She looked up at her fellow receptionist, a slim girl with ash blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. ‘So, Margaret, the Americans are here.  One of them will be having the Mermaid Suite and a studio.  Seems she’s a keen painter.’

‘A month – quite a lengthy stay.’

 ‘Maybe she’s been ill or perhaps needs time to do the painting.’

‘Hmm … they’re coming through the door now.’

‘Then I’ll be ringing for his Lordship.  He wanted to know the second Dr. Jessica Marshall, and her friend arrived. Special greeting for long-stay guests.’ Pushing the bell button on the desk, Aileen jumped up lightly to her feet, her red-lipped mouth opening in shock. ‘Look at the one with red hair now? Tis, the woman in the portrait.  Could be herself coming in now.’

‘ She’s a ghost – to be sure she’s─’

‘Och now, hush, she’ll be hearing ye.’

Jessie and Dinah followed the bellhops to the desk. After tipping them, they watched them scatter away, laughing as they pocketed the generous tips.

Turning to the desk, Jessie met the crystal blue eyes of the black-haired Aileen.

‘We have bookings, Dr. Jessica McGregor and Dr. Dinah Shibley.’

 The older woman leaned forward, twisting her mouth into a smile  ‘Ah Doctor McGregor, tis a braw Scottish name ye have there. ‘She took a deep breath into the ample bosom and said, ‘Ye must be tired after your flight, all the way from America.’

Jessie laughed, ‘Ah no, we’ve just come from London.  We met some friends while we were there.  They recommended this hotel.’

‘Ah, I see, now who would that be?’

Jessie smiled inwardly, realizing she had the same curiosity as her Scottish relations in America.’. 

‘Err … Lucy and George Ames.’

‘Really?  The teachers?’

Dinah nudged Jessie. ‘So he’s here.  Great.’

Margaret looked over to Dinah, ‘If you’d like to come over here, I can help ye.’

Maeve continued talking to Jess. ‘Well, they’ll be teaching this afternoon, and they take evening courses too. Tis braw friends you have, and teaching fine hobbies. I love to read, as well.  Nothing like a good book to curl up with.  But then, it’s a Kindle I’ll be using now.  So much better than a paperback, easier to handle. And, they’re much cheaper than paperbacks.’ Jessie nodded as she tweaked an eyebrow at Dinah.  It seemed Aileen and Margaret were settling down for a long chat.  

Jess brought out her passport. ‘Umm … would you like this?’

‘Ah, yes, we’ll look after this for you.  Now we have the Mermaid Suite and the Fairy Dale for ye both.   The Master himself wanted you to have them.  They’re the most luxurious and comfortable seeing as you’ll be staying with us for so long.’

‘Now, Margaret and I will be looking after both of you during your stay.’

 As she spoke, she took the red leather-bound Register from the blond-haired girl, and placing it before Jessie, offered her a gilt ballpoint pen.

Douglas entered the reception area as Jessie bent to sign the register.  His stomach tightened when he caught sight of long copper hair, a sunburst of color in the light, the image of the portrait in the gallery.  So, this was the woman who’d inherited an empire.  Why should she choose this backwater?  It wasn’t as if it was a five-star hotel. He’d managed four stars without the Michelin Star Chef.  As Jessie bent to write her name and address, she felt a light touch on her shoulder. She found herself looking up at a man with the face of a Da Vinci angel, a masterpiece of high cheekbones, and angled jaw complimenting a full bottom lip.  But, it was his eyes that held her eyes, the color of a summer sea.   He smiled, sweeping back a stray lock from a mane of black hair reaching to his shoulders, reminding her of a Regency rake. She was not sure of the cool, calculating gleam in his eyes, as they rested on her cleavage.  Her eyes narrowed, he reminded her of someone, but whom?


Chapter 16

His heart leapt, as he looked down into eyes the color of emeralds in sunlight. After two years in Scotland, his voice now held the whisper of a Scottish burr, rising and falling over his English accent.  His eyes turned to Dinah, ‘Ladies, welcome. I trust you had a pleasant journey. Let me introduce myself – Douglas Mavebury.  He clicked his fingers at another two bellhops bidding them take the cases up to the rooms.  ‘And now, let me escort you to your suites.’

As he left to usher Jess and Dinah into the lift, Aileen turned to Margaret. ‘Did ye see his face when he saw the one with the red hair?  White it was … white.’

‘Hmm … tis the portrait.’

***

Using diplomatic guile, Douglas made sure he deposited Dinah to her suite before escorting Jess to hers. Upon entering the room, she felt a sense of déjà vu, followed by a wave of unnatural tiredness washing through her. The four-poster bed looked inviting with the heavy brocade drapes of blue silk.  The room was certainly elegant, boasting a Georgian mahogany dressing table complete with swing mirror and the blue and white striped satin dressing chair.  Catching sight of an antique escritoire and chair, she said, ‘My aunt used to have a writing desk just like this.  I can use it for my laptop.’ 

Yet, as Jessie stroked the smooth mahogany top, an image flashed through her mind of another century. An image arose in her mind of a young woman dipping a quill pen into a crystal inkwell, her face contorted with grief. 

The vision fragmented as Douglas said, ‘That’s strange, I told the workmen to put that escritoire into storage in the barn.’ He lifted the lid staring at a leatherette writing pad now free of maggots and slime. This was a mystery as only half an hour ago, he’d checked the room over to make sure everything was in order. The writing desk certainly wasn’t there then.

Shaking off that feeling of dread, Jessie peered across the bedroom to the archway leading to a small sitting room furnished with the same Regency furniture in blue and white satin. The grey marble coffee table held a 32-inch wall television above a low-lying marble table.  ‘I’m impressed – love it.’ Smiling at Douglas, she opened the balcony windows stepping onto the gilt wrought-iron balcony overlooking the lake.  ‘It’s so beautiful here. I’ll just have to take a boat over to the island.  The mausoleum is quite gothic. I’d love to explore it.’ She noticed the red-haired woman, and babe had disappeared.

Douglas cleared his throat, ‘I’m sorry, but for safety reasons, one of the staff will row you over.  The mausoleum is my ancestor’s, Lord Duncan – story is he drowned himself in the lake.’

Jessie’s heart leaped, ‘Oh my God, did you say Duncan? Lord Duncan?’

 His eyes narrowed as he said, ‘Yes. You’ve heard of him?’

Jess saw his jaw tighten; the full lips pull back. Trained to read body language, she realized this was a touchy subject. Just saying the name caused him to tense up.  Puzzled, she decided not to pursue the matter; there was plenty of time for her to start asking questions. She felt the excitement tighten her chest.  Was there a chance it was the same, Duncan?

Quickly she said, ‘Drowned himself in the lake?’ That’s awful.  You know, I saw a young woman over there when I was in the cab coming here – long red hair like mine going into the copse … maybe it’s my eyes playing tricks. She could have been my double. But then there are lots of red-haired women in Scotland.’

Douglas realized he’d over-reacted to her question.  There were only six weeks now for the codicil to run. Both he and Nat were on full alert as fraudsters frantically contacted the solicitor’s office with false claims. Thank God, Pevensey was on the ball.  He saved them a lot of time and heartache.  Douglas fought to compose himself. He was becoming paranoiac. After all, she was an American and a multi-millionaire; there was little chance she was at all interested. Added to that, she was gorgeous, her green eyes wide and innocent.  He smiled as he said, ‘People are warned to stay away from the island.  I’ll have to warn the staff to keep a look out – it’s quite dangerous –tidal water –fed by Loch Achray nearby.  But if you really want to have a look at the Mausoleum, I’ll certainly get one of the staff to row you over, maybe this afternoon?’

An icy breeze almost stabbed her skin, followed by a peculiar pull on her body.  Her muscles grew heavy with fatigue, her legs leaden. ‘I guess I’ll have to take a rain check –I’m just so tired. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s the plane flight.’

‘Would you like me to send you up some lunch?’

‘Err … no thanks.  I ate on the plane.  I guess I’m too exhausted to do anything but sleep right now.’

‘Then I’ll let you rest …  how about a drink in the bar this evening? Say at nine o’clock?’ Glancing over to the bed and then at the luscious curves and languorous eyes, Douglas felt the urge to join her. His fear now forgotten, he shook his head bemused, this woman bewitched him.

‘Great … by the way, my dog Daisy should be arriving in a few days. We had trouble with her vaccination, she was quite unwell after it.’

‘Oh, I hope she’s okay now.’

‘Yes, thank goodness. Anyway, I was told she could stay in my suite.’

‘Of course.  I‘ll have a basket brought up for her. You said she was a golden retriever, so I’ll make sure she has a larger basket and feeding bowls.’  

‘That’s good of you. She’s a hundred and two pounds, but not fat.  Loves her food, though. I’ve really missed her. But I just couldn’t bring her over while we were traveling so much.’ 

‘I know what you mean, I have a hound – Victor, we’re like Siamese twins as, wherever I go, he’s there.’

Jess laughed.  ‘I know Daisy is the same.  What breed is he?’

‘A Hungarian Viszla; they’re very much like the Weimaraners, but all the Vizslas are ginger.  The breeders use the name ‘sedge’ – sounds better.’

‘Hah … beautiful dogs.’

 Seeing the wilt of her shoulders, he said, ‘Look, I’ll let you get some sleep … later then.’  As he closed the door, he shook his head, still feeling that slight shock of recognition. She really was the double of Murial, the woman in the portrait gallery.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters

All rights reserved


Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

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