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 19 & 20
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Nat watched Douglas talking with Jessie, saw the interest in his eyes, the way he lightly gripped her shoulder. Maybe his brother was ready to get involved. It was about time. He had been too long on his own, too long yearning and fighting for little Marnie. The court battle for half-custody of the child was still raging. As he suspected, his ex-wife, now aware of his inheritance, was fighting for half share of the money and estate. It looked like she could possibly win. It just didn’t seem possible. After all, she was the one that left Douglas for another man, tore his heart and life apart, taking his little daughter as well.
Seeing his brother’s interest in Jessie, Nat thought it was time to get to know this beauty, time to nurture a budding relationship. ‘Ah, so you’re the artist who’s renting a studio with us?’
‘Psychologist really and I try at art – psychic art that is.’
Dinah interrupted, ‘Come on, Jessie. You’re well known – sold many paintings in America and Europe.’
Jess grimaced. ‘I think they sold mainly because they were portraits of dead relatives. I just hope I get it right.’
Nat raised his eyebrows. ‘My brother’s an artist – you two should have a lot in common.’
Douglas smiled, ‘A thwarted artist. That’s why I taught it; oh and history, mainly fifteenth to the twenty-first century.’
Changing the subject, Jessie said, ‘I must say this place is beautiful. I was so amazed when I first saw it. I mean, I know it’s in the brochure, but in real life, it is incredible. I’ve shared it on Facebook and tweeted it already.’
Dinah now resting back on George’s shoulder, said, ‘So have I.’
Looking at Nathan, Lucy said, ‘I’m sure I can get my group to tweet it as well. The lake is particularly gorgeous with the lily pads, reeds, and bulrushes, and then there’re the moorhens, swans; the ducks are cute. I’ve even seen a hummingbird – absolutely beautiful.’
Jess turned to Douglas. ‘Talking of the lake that reminds me, I saw the girl again. You know the one I told you about earlier? Well, she was standing right by the Mausoleum. I could just see her through the trees. It was a beautiful shot with the sun streaming through the stained-glass windows onto her hair. Here, I’ll get it for you.’
Reaching into her bag, she took out the small digital camera and switching it on gave it to Douglas. ‘There are two, so just stroke across.’
Studying the shot, he scrolled across to see the other, his eyes narrowing. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t see anything. It’s a great picture of the lake and the mausoleum, but there’s – no girl.’
Jessie frowned. ‘That’s peculiar. I’m sure I saw – absolutely sure. I even dreamt of her today. She is so like the woman in my dreams. In fact, I’ve been dreaming of this couple for years. They’re lovers actually, in the nineteenth century. The girl always looks like me and now come to think of it, the guy has your coloring and looks.’
Dinah laughed, ‘So Murial and Duncan could be you and Douglas in a Past Life.’ Then he’s handsome, this dream lover.’
‘He’s not my lover. Wish he was.’ The words slipped out before she had time to retract them.
‘Murial? Duncan? You know their names?’
Remembering his tense reaction earlier to the name of Duncan, Jessie decided to play it down. Her therapist’s intuition told her it was taboo territory, and she would not be pulled in. ‘I didn’t think it was important – it’s trivial really, just a dream.’
Unaware of Jessie’s deliberate evasion of the subject, Dinah interrupted, ‘Yes, but one that’s been haunting you for years.’ Looking at Douglas, she said, ‘That’s one of the reasons we’re here to find these lovers.’
Nathan sensing the rising tension, said, ‘yeah well, it’s a well-known rumor, even a legend about them, Duncan drowning himself in the lake and Murial disappearing.’
Dinah squeaked, ‘Murial – why that’s−‘
Nudging Dinah with her foot, Jessie said, ‘I don’t really know too much about the names or places.’
Douglas tensed, looking at Jessie, ‘So, you’ve dreamt of Murial?’
‘It’s all a bit vague really – I can scarcely visualize Murial now.’
Sensing Jessie was hedging, Dinah kept quiet. Something was going on here, an undercurrent.
Trying to smile, Douglas said, ‘funny you should know the names though.’
Jess gave a short laugh. ‘I really don’t remember too much about it. You know what dreams are – I usually only recall fragments.’
Douglas felt his heart slump. Jessie was referring to actual names, dreams. What else was to come? Would she claim some entitlement to the estate? He needed to find out more. ‘So what were the fragments?’
Dinah frowned. He seemed a really nice guy, so friendly but something was wrong, his voice was lower, tighter. Of course, Jess remembered the dream; she’d told her everything over dinner in explicit detail. She was obviously trying to tone down the importance of the lovers of Murial, especially. She was trying to hide something. Why? Jess nudged her under the table, stopped her saying anything further. Why hadn’t she said anything? She decided to change the subject of the lovers. ‘You know Murial is quite a common name in New York. So many of the Scots moved there in the early eighteen hundreds. The Landlords forced thousands of them to emigrate.’
Nat just prayed these two gorgeous girls were not frauds leading up to a claim on the estate. It was too much of a coincidence that they knew both names. But to be polite, he said, ‘We know about that. There’s a museum about an hour’s ride from here. It gives the history in detail along with early lithographs, videos, newspaper articles, and letters. It’s harrowing, something you never forget. The landlords were vicious, so I understand – forced the tenants to the Coast, in the early years many were forced to emigrate
To her surprise, she heard Douglas speak quietly to Jessie, ‘Have you been to the portrait gallery?’
Jessie shook her head, puzzled. ‘No, haven’t had time, really.’
‘Oh, it’s just that there are portraits of Murial and Duncan in there.’
Jess felt her stomach sizzle. Douglas really had a thing about these two long-dead people. Was there some ghastly secret he was trying to hide?
Hurriedly, feeling awkwardness, Dinah said, ‘Jessie is a medium you know. She could have picked up their spirits. Maybe they’ll make an appearance.’ She laughed awkwardly.
‘No I’m not Dinah, I’m a psychic artist. I only draw the spirits. They can’t come through me.’
Hearing the irritation in Jessie’s voice, Douglas breathed deeply from the diaphragm. He had to get a hold of himself. He really was getting paranoid about people claiming to be the long lost heir of Duncan and Murial. He had so much to lose, not only the estate and the hotel but Marnie, his baby. Her little face loomed before his eyes, those plump rosy cheeks, large dark eyes, and hair curling to her shoulders.
He became aware of the bewilderment in Jessie’s eyes. What was wrong with him? Here was a lovely young woman, breathing innocence, absolutely gorgeous, and he was going on about Murial and Duncan. He had to stop it, stop the obsessive thoughts. She had no need of money, was a multi-millionaire for God’s sake. Besides, he was deeply attracted to her, wanted to get to know her, wanted his hands on her. Yet, he couldn’t help himself. ‘So you’ve never read of them then?’
Jessie felt a ripple of irritation, in clipped tones she said, ‘I’ve told you about Duncan, and as Dinah said, Murial is a familiar name in America among the Scots. It’s only a dream, though.’
He saw the green eyes flash, a fiery female – went with the hair. So, she wasn’t the vulnerable woman he’d thought. He could sense she was annoyed, and he didn’t blame her. But, he couldn’t explain his irrational behavior; go into the will and the fraudulent claims – not here, not yet. It would look as if he suspected them. He would surely lose her before they’d even started. ‘I’m sorry it’s just that what you’ve said has shaken me. We were not sure that Murial and Duncan were even lovers.’
Nat murmured, ‘Yeah, me too. You see Jess, Murial was purported to be Duncan’s mistress or wife – but no-one really knows. Then you come all the way from America and confirm they were in love if not lovers sexually. Well, at least you’ve dreamt about it. It’s uncanny. Her suite is still here with the original name – the one you are staying in. Well, we presume it to be hers.’
Feeling somewhat mollified with their explanation, she still felt her body shiver. In the dream, he called Murial, his little mermaid. ‘You mean I’m staying in the same rooms?’
‘Yeah. As I said, it had that name painted on it when we moved in, so we kept it. Father O’Reilly swears blind they are Murial’s old rooms.’
Lucy interrupted, ‘I’ve heard she’s supposed to haunt the Manor. Father O’Reilly carried out the exorcism to try and banish her, didn’t he?’
Nat felt his body grow cold, ‘Oh God, he’d told Lucy about the haunting mainly because they’d arrived a couple of days before the exorcism. He saw Douglas’s lips tighten. Jessie was terrified of ghosts; what the hell would happen now? Jess frowned, her hand going to her neck. ‘Haunted? You mean she actually haunts the Manor, and I’m staying in her suite? Not bloody likely.’ She glared at Douglas.
Douglas felt sand churn in his stomach. She looked ready to walk out. Why the hell couldn’t he keep his suspicions under wraps, and why the hell couldn’t Nat keep his bloody mouth shut? He had to think fast, his most valuable guest could be checking out on her first night. ‘According to Father O’Reilly, it’s all clear.’ He knew he was lying through his teeth, knew that the priest warned of a darker power than Murial. To the priest, she was a sweet young woman, who protected people from the darker power. He felt his jaw bunch into a knot as he waited for Jessie’s response.
‘You mean to say you carried out an exorcism, and you didn’t even warn me? Who do you think you are?’
Nat bit his lip, she was a force to contend with when roused, the pale skin of her cheeks now aflame, her eyes like emeralds glittering.
Douglas interrupted, ‘Look, we can move you. Move you right now. We have another suite. It does not have all the amenities, but we can move you.’
Dinah cut in. ‘Those are gorgeous rooms, Jess.’
Nat interrupted ‘The best we have−’
Dinah shot him a glance as if to say ‘shut up’ and continued speaking. ‘It’s all set up for you and Daisy. If the place has been exorcised, then it should be fine. Look, I’ll stay with you tonight. Just let’s try it out. You’ll soon know. You’ll sense it anyway.’
Douglas’s hope of bedding Jessie slipped away. Gritting his teeth, he waited for her reply.
Jessie took a deep breath, holding him mesmerized as he watched the swell of her full breasts. ‘Oh, alright – just for tonight.’
Douglas cut in. ‘Look, I’ll come back with you, I can scour every corner.’
Nat intrigued with the situation still sought answers. Had Jess maybe dreamt of their Murial? Lightening his voice, he said half laughingly, ‘Hey, why don’t we all go and see this famous portrait of Murial? See if it’s like the woman you photographed today.’
Douglas caught his breath, why did Nat have to drag that up again. What was up with the guy? Yet, he referred to the woman by the lake and not Murial. Looking at Jess, he could see she did not resent the underlying allusion to Murial; in fact, her eyes brightened. ‘Now that would be interesting.’
Dinah laughed in assent, ‘Yes, that would confirm there is some kind of spirit life. We spiritualists are always looking for proof. ’
Nat rose to his feet, ‘Come on, bring your drinks with you. There’s a ‘snug’ as they call it on the same floor. It was the name given to a women’s bar, as they were not allowed in a pub. We’ve turned it into a nice little bar, quite cosy.’
The oblong gallery was tastefully decorated with deep burgundy offsetting the gilt-framed canvasses. Lightly holding Jess’s elbow, Douglas led her to a large rectangular painting in a gilt frame. Mounted on the wall beneath it, was a brass plaque with the words, The Right Honourable Earl of Rhonan. ‘Duncan, our erstwhile ancestor. As you know, already it’s rumored he killed himself when Murial disappeared.’
Jessie looked up at the image, her heart beating a tattoo. ‘It was the same portrait as the miniature in the locket, obviously painted by the same artist. The dark locks tousled on the forehead, the eyes that pierced the full bottom lip. God, he was handsome, as handsome as the guy standing beside her right now. Douglas and Duncan could be one and the same person.
Dinah interrupted her thoughts, ‘Now that’s uncanny, you can see the genes running through the generations, you’re his spitting image, Douglas.’
Jessie caught Dinah’s slight nod, the silent message in her eyes. She, too, realized the close resemblance to the portrait in the locket. Later they would have a lot to talk about.
Nat laughed, ‘Nothing like me, I inherited my mother’s genes.’
Lucy smiled, thinking he was quite a dish, also a looker but in a different way to Douglas, his face more rugged, the hair a rich chestnut brown and hazel eyes to die for.
Douglas moved towards an oval-shaped canvas on the far wall, his grip tightening on Jessie’s shoulder. He felt her slight tremble as she looked up at the portrait, ‘Oh my God.’
Dinah whispered, ‘Jessie, it might as well be you. Spooky,’
Lucy murmured, ‘Same green eyes, red hair.’
Silently Jessie moved forward, her eyes fixed on the gold locket. It had the intertwining spiral of the ancient Celts the same pattern as the one as she had in the dresser drawer upstairs.
Dinah seeing her look at the locket, kept quiet. Jessie obviously wanted to keep it a secret.
Douglas asked, ‘So is she anything like your mysterious lady of the lake?’
Jessie bit her lip, ‘Yes – exact. She’s also the exact image of the woman in my dream. So, it seems I’ve inherited the Scottish looks’. She was glad Dinah had taken her lead and not mentioned the locket. Something was wrong. Douglas seemed to be in some kind of conflict over Murial – but why?
She felt his fingers stroke the back of her neck, felt her immediate responses as ripples of desire streaked through her body. God, what a dilemma. He angered her, yet she’d wanted him from the moment they’d met in the foyer, wanted his hands on her, her skin flushing hotly at the mere thought of those lips on hers.
Douglas took Jess’s hand, ’Let me show you the younger son Maximilian, next in line to the earldom – he was a rake – member of the Hell Fire Club.’ He stopped before the portrait of a young man with a somewhat cynical expression in the blue eyes. In contrast to Duncan’s dark locks and full bottom lip, his hair was a light brown with blond streaks, the lips whiplash thin. Jess’s heart quickened. He was the man in the dream hiding behind the trees watching the lovers. But, after the peculiar conversation in the bar, she was not going to mention it. Studying the fashionable frockcoat, the striped vest, and pantaloons, Jess said, ‘He looks like he’s got a mean streak. There’s no softness about him is there?’
Douglas shook his head, ‘Quite a nasty specimen, gambling, dueling. According to my solicitor, he was a member of the Hell Fire Club – Satanism. But come and see the sister, Margaret.’
Jess looked up into the soft blue eyes of a young woman with blonde ringlets, posing in a low cut dress of blue satin with lace trims. ‘’She’s lovely – so different from Murial. She looks gentle, whereas Murial has a kind of wild energy about her.’
He then showed her the rather imposing portrait of Duncan’s father, the former Earl in full regimental dress and the Countess, with beautiful milk-white skin and dark ringlets, a dainty King Charles spaniel nestling in the dark satins of her skirt.
Scowling at the Earl, Douglas said, ‘He was a bastard – showed no mercy to his tenants, so I hear.’ He decided to withhold the rest of the Earl’s history; it was too morbid and would spoil the lightness of the mood. Taking her hand in his, he said, ‘Anyway, changing the subject, let me search your room for you. It will set my mind at rest as well as yours. I promise I won’t make a move on you.’
Jess dimpled and laughed, half wishing he would.
Dinah put her arm around Jess’s shoulders. ‘I’ll stay with you tonight. ‘
Feeling Douglas’s hand squeeze hers, Jess dimpled. ‘I think I’ll be okay now, Di.’ You get a good night’s sleep.’
‘Are you sure, honey? I really don’t mind.’
She felt his eyes on her. ‘Quite sure.’
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: