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:
Return to Rhonan: Chapters 17 & 18
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Jess lifted the duvet and bottom sheet to examine the mattress, her hand sinking into the plump softness. Ah yes, deep memory foam, as were the pillows. She’d sleep okay here. Once undressed, she pulled on a robe. On a whim she went to the balcony to take another look at the lake. Stepping onto the balcony, she saw the woman was back, looking directly at her. Frowning, Jess took out a digital camera from her handbag and moving out of view, took a photo of her. She was intrigued; the woman could have been her twin.
She felt that familiar heaviness of her eyes pulling her into sleep, that tug of her body that forebodes of something more than a dream. Her mind went back to those two short weeks with Peter. They found Rhonan and a beautiful hotel. The countryside in Scotland held many ancient castles, the ruins crumbling into the rich green earth. But, there was no sign of anyone called Murial.
Earlier, she’d had that sense of déjà-vu when the cab drove up to the Manor, but it was fleeting. Rubbing her eyes, she felt she was entering Murial’s body again. As always, it was a strange sensation. She wondered if Murial had any idea what was happening. Did she, too, feel the same weird feelings as Jess’s spirit slipped into her body, her mind? Really, it was time she and Dinah investigated whether this was a Past Life experience. She still felt that guilt of being a voyeur, but she was helpless to stop the dream happening. She was also anxious about Murial. The woman ran such risks. She certainly had guts, having a love affair with a distant cousin-in-law.
It was a wonder the servants had no apprehension of Duncan slipping into Murial’s room at night. But, the Manor was a warren of secret passages, doors, and hideaways. So necessary also, as pillage and assassination were always a danger in those perilous times. Fighting to keep her eyes open, her body jerked as the phone rang. Picking it up, Jess stifled a yawn. ‘ Hello, Di … God, I’m so tired; it’s that dreadful feeling again. You know as if Murial’s taking over … No, I’ll be fine, I’m used to it now … just need to sleep for a while. See you later. Okay? Yes, the dining room … dinner? Wake me up if I’m late.’ Sighing, she dragged herself onto the bed. Within seconds of closing her eyes, a kaleidoscope of images flickered, pulling her into the dream.
Hidden by the bulrushes, the lovers lay entangled on a bank overlooking the lake, Murial played with a lock of Duncan’s hair.
Pulling her to him, he said, ‘When we are married—‘
‘Let’s not talk of that – it’s frightening. I just wish I was not illegitimate then I would have nothing to fear—‘
‘It is something we will face together. Your mother had a tragic life and I—’
‘Can you imagine dying alone from cholera?’ Tears threatened as her voice quivered. ‘Married at barely fifteen? She was so young. How could they force her to marry a man of over seventy? God knows what he did to her in bed.’
‘Aye, no wonder she took a lover.’
‘And they killed him. That duel was rigged, Duncan. How could a young man of two and twenty years be out fenced by a man who could barely walk? No, the duel was rigged; the bastards killed him, then locked her away, pregnant and alone. As for that lecherous old swine, I’m glad he’s dead. He took a child to his bed Duncan, a child. At least, she knew some love.’ Tears bubbled and dropped from her eyes as she buried her head in her hands and wept. “It was only a few years ago that women were slaves to the sexual desires of men, betrothed at birth, bedded at twelve.’
Duncan’s mind went back to that day he’d first seen Murial. He’d bounded down the main staircase, the dogs at his heels when old Patrick McGregor and his father arrived with a toddler. Her hair was a halo of fiery curls, emerald eyes framed with black lashes. The green chiffon dress and hairband gave her a look of a tiny mermaid almost too ethereal for this world. He remembered laughing as she held out plump little arms to the dogs standing nearly a head taller than her. His father called out ‘Duncan; this is Murial, she has come to live with us. Come greet your little cousin.’
Duncan rushed forward as she put a chubby finger in her mouth, staring up at him. He’d never wanted a sister, they were too prissy, always whining and playing with dolls. But, this little creature unafraid of the animals towering over her, just stared up at him, her arm reaching up to curl around the dog’s neck as it licked her cheek. He knew then that he would care for her with his life. She too bonded immediately. As the years passed, she emulated him in every way, insisting that the fairies change her into a boy. It was only later as she reached her sixteenth birthday Duncan was glad she hadn’t. For over a year, he fought his feelings, his longings. It seemed almost incestuous, but he could not fight his love. Murial was a part of him, part of his very soul.
‘It still hurts me Duncan and always will. You have always known the love of your family, your mother, father, brothers, and sister. I have no one. I often long to know my mother – to meet her if only for a few seconds – to hold her hand – to feel her hold me in her arms, feel her soft skin. I often imagine that her favorite scent was lavender like mine. Just think, I could pick a sprig of lavender and immediately be with her in my mind, in my senses. But that can never be. And then my father – killed in a duel. Often I dream of him, dream that we are walking together through a meadow of wildflowers. He is so tall and strong, and I come only to his waist. Then I dream he grabs me and tosses me in the air – so much love, so much laughter, and then I wake up. I am alone, Duncan. Sometimes I feel so isolated.’
Jessie groaned as she struggled to wake, rising on her elbows to watch a shaft of light spear shadows. The dreams left her feeling weaker. She forced herself to swing her legs over the bed. Struggling into a silk wrap, she trudged over to the shower. Unlike so many other people, Jessie loved the water at just medium warm, scalding hot water took away the silken joy of water on her skin. Reaching for the sponge and foaming gel, she fought to escape the nightmare of the Clearances. Murial was so brave, so feisty, but still, in those days, women were subjugated to men. The threat of being thrown out onto the streets was never far from their minds, a danger more lethal than iron shackles.
Yet Murial was right; she was not the type to sip morning coffee or chocolate and join in frivolous gossip. Through the dreams, she came through as a rebel, a signal of the suffragette movement to come.
Toweling her hair, Jessie wondered how the girl controlled her rage against a society that sequestered her in a soft prison of the home. She was fortunate she had Duncan and not some pompous ass talking through his balls. As the image of Duncan rose in her mind, Jess gasped, of course, that’s where he looked familiar, he was the image of Douglas. She realized then that there was some kind of synchronicity or divine order taking place. Before meeting Douglas, she had consistently dreamt of his ancestor. Was there such a thing as Fate – Destiny?
The dining room carried through the Regency decor with gleaming rosewood dining chairs on saber legs and complemented with maroon and gold striped upholstery. Exquisite linen tablecloths looked inviting with sparkling crystal glasses and heavy silver cutlery.
Dinah, already seated in a secluded corner table, waved. ‘Hey, you look washed out.’
Jess slumped into her chair. ‘I feel it. The nap has made me feel worse, not better.’
Dinah frowned. ‘I’ve got you some wine, while we’re waiting – Shiraz. That should buck you up. Hey, guess what? I met George and Lucy in the bar. They were so pleased to know we’ve arrived. I said we’d meet up later –if that’s alright with you.’
‘Yes, that’s fine, but I am meeting Douglas. He asked me to join him at the bar.’
‘He’s one gorgeous hunk.’
‘Yeah, well, let’s hope he doesn’t think so too.’
‘That’s the trouble with good-looking guys; they think you’ll rip off your thong if they just glance your way.’
‘Hmm, you can usually tell though in the first two sentences.’
Dinah grinned. ‘Well, I got it wrong once. There was this great looking guy. He seemed so pleasant – polite. All I did was go to the loo, and he was waiting outside. The next thing I know, he’s slamming me against the wall and tearing off my top with one hand, his fingers on my crotch with the other. He was crazy, he kept saying, ‘Baby, baby, I know you want this.’ She stopped. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Jess, didn’t think.’
Jessie sipped her wine, the image of that bastard Smethurst rising in her mind. ‘It’s okay, Dinah. I’m over it. So what did you do?’
‘Well, George seems okay. He behaved himself at the pub, and he didn’t follow me to the loo.’
‘He certainly couldn’t take his eyes off you. Changing the subject, though, I’ve had that dream again. You know the one about the lake. Only this time ─’ Jess stopped as the waiter, a slim young man looking more Italian than Scottish, approached with the menus. ‘I’ll tell you about it later.’ As she cast her eyes down the menu, she felt her appetite diminish. She still had that sense of heaviness. Maybe a good night’s sleep would shake it off.
After ordering, Dinah leaned forward, her voice low. ‘So go on, tell me about the dream.’ She was keen to hear it, as psychologists knew the importance of dreams, however surreal they may be.
‘It’s changed Di; it’s almost as if I am living Murial’s life now, more so than ever. I seem to merge with her; I can read her thoughts and Duncan’s.’
‘Shades of Past Lives? As you know, the person going back to a Past life can often be telepathic as well. So tell me what happened?’
Jess shaking out her napkin began recounting the dream, starting with the feeling of heaviness in her eyelids, the waves of exhaustion sweeping over her. Taking a bite from the duck in cherry and port sauce, she said, ‘they’re caught up in the Scottish Clearances. As I know their names, it might be easier to trace it all back. Then, of course, there were the love trysts as they called them, and this guy spying on them. Murial saw him and told Duncan, but she was so afraid they might duel, and Duncan could be lethally hurt.’
Dinah chewed on a delicious portion of Lobster Thermidor ‘Hmm – this really does sound like a Past Life. ‘We really should try taking you back. This time it could happen. The dreams certainly are as vivid as you say. Murial and Duncan’s are so strong, they might even manifest.’
Jessie shivered. ‘Oh, no. That’s the one thing I don’t want to happen. I don’t mind getting a message or even drawing them but nothing else. I’d die of fright.’
‘Perhaps we ought to have a séance. We could ask George and Lucy. I’m sure they’d be up for it.’
‘I’d like to, but I need to get organized first. Daisy’s coming in a few days, and I need to get the studio sorted out.’
‘Trouble is if you leave it, the power fades.’
‘I know it’s just that heaviness, the exhaustion. I can still feel it. It’s quite frightening actually.’
‘Maybe you were taken over. After all, you are a medium.’
‘Psychic artist Dinah. That’s a load of difference from a medium. I mean, I might go into a light trance but not anywhere as deep as a medium does.’
‘Maybe you did this time. Maybe that’s why you have this feeling of exhaustion. For all, you know your powers might be evolving. Have a think about it.’
‘Okay, but don’t say anything to George or Lucy. At the moment, I don’t want to be held to anything.’
Seeing Jessie finish her coffee, Dinah said, ‘Let’s go and find them shall we?’
On their way to the bar, they passed through one of the small lounges, decorated with gold silk walls. The center point was a carving of a pine tree soaring ceiling-high, encircled with an ottoman. The gilt painted leaves of the palm-tree complimented the six-foot-high sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha in a far corner, typical Regency period.
Jess turned to the sound of Douglas’s voice, ‘Jessie, hey, over here.’
The bar was in direct contrast to the Regency decor of the dining room and rest area. The low oak ceiling beams and tables with oak carved chairs and country rose chintz upholstery gave more of a Victorian feel to the room.
Douglas rose to greet her, his eyes taking in the slenderness of her body, the swell of her breasts in the low cut black dress that clung to sinuous curves. A three-stringed choker of pearls, with a central ruby, her only ornament, gave luster to the pale beauty of her skin.
George pulled out a chair calling to Dinah, ‘Hi precious girl.’ Dinah flushed, tweaking one of the dark ringlets, her body swaying seductively in a short skirt of blue chiffon with a cream silk bustier. Sitting down, he put a huge arm over the back of her chair and stroked her neck, whispering, ‘such a beautiful neck.’
Blushing, she moved a little closer to him.
Douglas smiled at the group. ’So what can I get you all.’
Jess asked for Shiraz, Dinah a Chardonnay, Lucy stayed with her soft orange while George settled for a pint of Guinness.
As Douglas went to the bar, Jessie saw a good looking guy with chestnut brown hair, dressed in country casuals, approach Lucy. As she smiled back, he pulled up a chair and sat down beside her. ‘Sorry I missed the class, but one of the Vietnamese pigs in the domestic farm decided to have colic.’
Jess laughed, ‘A Pot-bellied pig. They’re beautiful. I have a friend who sculpts them, has two of her own, one black and one spotted.’
Nat grinned, ‘They have such friendly natures, make excellent pets. I’ve been told they are more intelligent than dogs. By the way, I’m Nat, Douglas’s brother.’
Jess took his hand, feeling the calluses on his fingers. ‘Pleased to meet you – Jessie – Jessie McGregor. I’ve done some paintings of them. Potbellied pigs are ideal for pop-art with their floppy ears and rolls of fat. I love the way they sway when they walk.’
‘Yea, I have to watch they don’t get too fat though, they’re greedy little buggers.’
‘My Golden Retriever is one of the greediest dogs I know. She lives for the next bite.’
Douglas returned to the table, carrying a tray laden with drinks. ‘Ah Nat, got you a beer.’ Seeing Nat sitting on the other side of Jessie, he said, ‘I see you two have introduced yourselves?’ He frowned as Nat held Jessie’s hand to his lips before releasing it. What the hell was he playing at? He was already flirting with Lucy, so why this?
Taking his seat next to her, he put his arm lightly around her shoulders possessively. As the others talked, he murmured to Jessie. ‘You look beautiful. I hope you had a good nap.’
‘Not really, I had such vivid dreams.’
‘Yes, it’s always of this guy−. ‘
What? Missing your partner already?’
Realizing he was fishing to find out if she was single, Jessie decided to tease him. ‘Err – no, I don’t know him. Funny how you can dream of complete strangers.’
‘Really – tell me.’
Jessie grinned. ‘Oh no – it was much too intimate.’
Douglas watched as the tip of her very pink tongue flitted over her moist lip. He felt a tingle dance down to his groin. God she was sexy.
Catching the gleam in his eye, Jessie laughed. ‘If you want to know – I don’t have a partner.’
‘Err –Glad to hear it. Maybe I could show you around sometime. There are lots to see here.’
‘I’d like that.’ Her expression became serious as she said, ‘Actually we’ve only just split up. We’d been together for nearly four years, but things weren’t working out.’
‘Oh, I see – so you’re okay?’
‘Yes – it was just upsetting, you know. Peter’s a freelance journalist. He’s often called away to Europe, hot spots in Africa and the Middle East. We didn’t get to spend much time together.’
‘Dangerous places to be.’
‘Yes, I know. I never knew where he would be next. I spent most of our relationship worrying about him. Still do really. We’re good friends.’
‘That’s quite difficult to achieve – I mean to end something amicably.’
‘I’ve always remained friends with boyfriends or partners.’
He raised his eyebrows. How many relationships had she had?
She continued. ‘Saying that I’ve only had three boyfriends, and I’m now twenty-nine and single again.’
‘I must say I’m happy to hear that.’
His arm tightened around her shoulders.
Realizing the passion in that grip, she said hurriedly, ‘I just want to relax now – have fun – sort myself out. How about you?’
Douglas’s smile faded, ‘How could he tell her? It was too soon. Maybe she wouldn’t want to get involved when she knew.
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
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: