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Return to Rhonan: Chapters 23 & 24

Every Monday and Thursday brings two more free 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 23 & 24

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 23

Once beyond the withdrawing room Murial imperiously dismissed the maid. Watching the girl lift her skirts, bustling away, she whispered to Duncan, ‘You damn rakehell.’

 He gave her a puzzled look. ‘What on earth is the matter?’

‘You know. How dare you. You dog.’

 Frowning, he looked down at Murial, his black eyebrows knitting together.  ‘You are surely suffering from the vapours, my love.’

 ‘Bollocks, I am not your love. You are a bastard.  Treated me like a harlot, a trollop.’

 Duncan realized she was in earnest. Tightening his lips he said, ‘We will get to the bottom of this – what’s happened?’

Punching his chest, she said, ‘Aunt has told me everything.  You shit.’

He stiffened; Murial could out swear him when angry.

Pushing the door open , he kicked it closed. Dumping her on the bed, he stood over her, his arms crossed. ‘By God, this is not like you.  I can only think you’re out of your wits.’

 She struggled up, her bosom swelling with rage. ‘Out of my wits.  Who’s the buxom blonde?  I hear you are quite obsessed with her.’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’

‘The vision with big blue eyes at the drum. The one with whom you have a rendezvous in London.’

‘The vision? Hah – she was with Max. He asked me to stand guard whilst he relieved himself.  What was I supposed to do?  Refuse?  She said she was thirsty so I fetched her drink and sweetmeats.’

‘And the fight?’

‘Fight?’

‘You know what I am referring to my Lord – the fight over the – the vision.’ Growling she yanked his hair.

‘Ouch .’

‘Don’t try and pretend – you fought over her.’

 ‘Oh that? Nothing to do with the chit. A mere scuffle. A miscreant cheated, marked the cards.  He had the effrontery to deny it until I held up the evidence. He did not offer his apologies just up and left the room.  He was a waste of time, so I decided to let him go. He is lucky no-one else called him out.’

Realizing he was innocent of any flirtatious advances towards the buxom beauty, she frowned, ‘Oh God Duncan, I think Aunt Flavia knows about us.’

 ‘Mama has said nothing to me, not even a hint.’ Pulling her into his arms, he said huskily, ‘Now my little vixen, ‘I have something for you.’

 Murial’s eyes widened, as he handed her a small jewel box covered in eggshell blue velvet. Gasping with delight, she took out a solid gold locket on a chain. 

‘Open it, there’s a surprise….’

 Murial cried out in delight as she gazed at the miniature portrait of Duncan.

 Holding her tightly, he murmured, ‘Wear me close to your heart, my little mermaid – read what’s on the back.”

 Murial  turned it over “Forever United LDR to MM, 1810.” 

 Hugging her passionately, he said, ‘Now let’s add the braids for posterity. When we’re old and grey, we can look back on how we used to be.’

She shivered feeling a draught of cold air sweep over her.  The threat of the Clearances came to mind that feeling of foreboding. ‘God willing we live that long.’ Dismissing her foolish fears, she pulled at a ringlet handing him a few red-gold strands.    

 Taking them from her, he said, ‘You’ll never be old to me Murial.  Searching through his jacket, he pulled out a tiny pair of scissors decorated with mother of pearl, ‘We need a little more than a few strands.  Come cut a lock of mine, and I’ll cut yours.’ Grinning, Murial cut a lock of his just behind his ear and handed him the scissors. Gently he cut a sizeable curl from her hair.  Weaving the strands of hair together, she placed them under the delicate glass of the locket. ‘There now, Duncan, I will treasure it. It will never leave me. It will be a family heirloom – our family.’  Again, a rush of despair swept over her. ‘Duncan, if I should die, would you marry another – would you give this locket to her?’

 Duncan caught her feelings – dark – morbid.  ‘Darling I could not live if anything happened to you – I’d jump in the ruddy lake−.’

‘Don’t say that – don’t−’

‘Tis true –what is life without you? You are my life. Soon you will be my wife. ’ 

Again, the air seemed to close in on her, sucking away her breath as she held him close in her arms, stroking the black curls falling on his shoulder.

 He sat up. ‘Come, let me put it on.  I have already told Mama that it is for your birthday, so you can wear it freely.’

 The smile left Murial’s face, her eyes becoming a denser shade of green as she said, ‘We must be careful like I said, I think she knows.  I fear Uncle’s wrath.  If he should find out….’

Duncan stroked the back of her slender neck, “There is nothing father can do. He is too dependent upon me. As you know, when I took over the estates, he was deeply in debt. It will take me years to reach solvency.’    

‘I fear his anger. Sometimes I have this awful feeling – like some dark-winged presence hovers over us waiting to pounce.’ 

***

Downstairs, the Countess paced the room.  So, Tom, the groom, had not been lying.  Silly child.  Silly beautiful girl.  The Earl would never countenance this misalliance.  For sure, she was not of their blood, but society would not accept such a marriage. It was akin to incest.  The Quality demanded a flawless liaison untainted by the slightest suspicion of nefarious suggestions. As their ward, Murial was accepted in polite society, her past as the love child of the Earl’s sister-in-law obliterated. They made it known that she was a distant relation, the orphaned child of a Monsignor. He owned a chateau on a small estate whose dispute over cards, ended in a fatal duel.

 She sighed; she loved this headstrong girl, with all her heart, would do everything she could to ensure her happiness, but this was too much.  The good name of the Earl could not be besmirched, could not be the subject of gossip or suspicion in the gaming rooms.  Besides, it would also mar Meg’s chances of a suitable match.


Chapter 24

 Jess stood under a jet of tepid water, massaging shampoo through hair, hanging in scarlet tendrils to her waist.   She’d woken up half-dressed to the sun streaming on her face.  What in God’s name was happening?  Again, she’d experienced that lethal tiredness only to wake hours later from a dream that felt more like a trance state. It had to be; in the dream, she was fully lucid. Was it a haunting? Was Murial possessing her, or was it maybe a Past Life?  But why was she experiencing them?  What was the purpose?    Had he been flirting at the drum? The Countess was a right bitch. 

Toweling her hair in the bedroom, Jess made up her mind not to tell Douglas about this latest dream. After all, he didn’t really believe in it, so it wouldn’t be fair to push it. Wrapping herself up in a soft robe with a towel on her head, Jess went to the writing desk. The inner vision she had first had of the young woman writing at the desk was now clearer. After seeing the portrait, she could identify her. It was Murial. She shivered, her skin crawling. The room looked so innocent, so fresh, in the morning light, but was it haunted?  Would Murial manifest?  God, she would die of fear.   Maybe she should ask for another room? But she had only spent one night in it. He would think she was unbalanced and it would put him off. 

Her stomach clenched as she pictured the lean angles of his face, startling blue eyes framed in black lashes, those broad shoulders, and large soft hands.  She felt again those hands stroking her back, his tongue in her mouth.  God he was a fast mover.  Was she ready for that passion?  Alternatively, would he think her too easy?  All she knew was her body was on fire for him. It almost frightened her. Douglas could seduce with just one flash of those incredible eyes. 

***

Jessie was glad of the sloppy sun hat, the wide brim shading her face, the cool tank top, and mini denim shorts ideal for the weather. Underneath, she wore a scarlet bikini.  The emerald one was too sexy.  Douglas was raunchy enough without turning him on with a skimpy string top and thong.

He strode along by her side, dressed in an unbuttoned pale blue shirt and jeans with a slick leather belt.   She felt herself responding to the black bristles on his chest and toned torso.  He had automatically held her hand while carrying a picnic basket with towels slung around his neck. 

Passing the glass-framed building on their left, he said, ‘The Orangery was built in around eighteen hundred.  They were all the rage then. They actually grew pineapples and oranges there along with some exotic flowers.’

‘Hmm.  It’s huge.’

They had plenty of money, squandered it really.  Now watch your head, we’ll cut through these trees.  That’ll bring us out on the Ha-Ha.

‘The Ha-Ha? Never heard of that before.’

‘In the large estates, they kept sheep or cattle that fed on the grounds, so they put them in fields some distance from the Manor, the ditch was to keep them from wandering on to the lawns and gardens of the house.  Sometimes it was used as a deer leap as well.’

‘I shall have to remember that – makes for a great conversation piece.’

‘Uh uh, watch your step now.’

He helped her climb down into the ditch, catching her in strong arms, holding her close as he nuzzled her neck and nipped her ear.  Laughing, she struggled but gave into a deep kiss. She felt her stomach ripple in response, as his tongue met hers. Laughing, he almost carried her up the ditch.  She froze as she reached the top.  ‘They’re not cows. They’re bison.’

‘Yep. Don’t worry, we’ll skirt along here; it will bring us out onto the path.’

She clutched his hand out of fear.  Could one of those great beasts make a run at them, topple down the ditch after them?  ‘No, I can’t. I just can’t go near them.’

‘It’s okay; we’re going through this electrified gate; it will take us to the bog.’

So this was his idea of a romantic afternoon?

Seeing her startled look, he said, ‘Don’t worry, I know the path.’

She laughed, ‘In my dream, I was really getting sucked into the mud.’

‘Follow behind, it’s not very wide, but it’s dry.

 Walking behind him, she looked down to see her sneakers covered in mud.  So much for a dry path.  Douglas trudged on ahead, oblivious of her slipping and slithering behind him.

She frowned as she called out, ‘so you call this dry?’ 

He shouted back, ‘You’ll get used to Scotland. It’s wet land, but beautiful.  Ah, here we are – the lake.’

As Jess caught up with him, she felt reality slipping away.   ‘I’ve been here in my dreams for so many years.’ she said, ‘I can hardly believe it.  The grassy bank, the minute sandy beach, the bulrushes, reeds, everything is the same. All I need now is for Duncan and Murial to appear.’  As she gazed, reality merged with dream. She felt cold, lost.

Catching her mood, Douglas caught her to him, ‘It must be quite a shock to dream of something and then find it’s real.  Come on, have something to drink.’  Laying out the blanket on the bank, he opened the picnic box handing her a cold bottle.

Jess took it gratefully, holding the icy glass to her forehead. He seemed much more relaxed when talking about the two dream lovers.

‘Truth is Jess, I’ve got a thing about water – lakes. Okay, to look at, but not to go in.’

Realizing he felt awkward, that perhaps he had a phobia of water, she said nothing but began peeling off her top and pulling off the denim shorts.  Douglas whistled as he gazed at the slender figure with the full breasts held up by a band of scarlet silk, it was evident she’d had a bikini line strip.  God, he felt his arousal immediately, aware it would make its presence known in seconds.   He was thankful he had the towel in his lap. Christ, if he didn’t have the damn phobia, he‘d be running into the cold water right now.

Jess, aware of his reaction, smiled inwardly.  Turning sideways to him, she nonchalantly walked to the bulrushes. 

Douglas watched her pick her way through them, parting the tall reeds to dip her toe in the water.  He heard her shout, ‘God, it’s freezing.’

Jess waded further until the freezing water reached her thighs. Taking a deep breath, she plunged forward her arms stroking through the water. She felt the sun on her back warming her, the water feeling quite temperate.  It was glorious.  The only thing missing was him by her side. She’d even had the wicked idea they could have played out here, touching, grabbing, kissing. She wrapped her legs around his waist, her fingers playing with the dark hairs bristling on his chest.  What was wrong with him?  He definitely feared the water.  Was it a phobia? Had he nearly drowned before?  Had someone near to him drowned? Alternatively, was there a boating accident?  Swimming to the center of the lake, she floated on her back, watching a hummingbird fly overhead. Its green feathers sparkled, the long blue beak iridescent in the sun. 

Her thoughts returned to Douglas, it must be a phobia. But it couldn’t be. He said he loved coming to the lake, spent his time chilling out here. Anything to do with lakes should be an anathema to him; even a picture or talking about one would arouse symptoms of panic.  It was strange. If it was a phobia, then it was a nasty one, a primeval fear, a fear that could lead to psychotic states. Would he talk to her about it?


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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