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:
Return to Rhonan: Chapters 25 & 26
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Douglas wanted to join her, but the damn phobia stopped him. He knew the panic would hit like a cannonball exploding on site. First paralysis, then fixed eyes, the fight for breath, knees buckling. Oh yes, with more to come, sweat pouring from his forehead, stuttering when he tried to speak. He felt and looked like an idiot. She was a psychologist okay, but would she want an affair with a candidate for a locked ward?
Anyone who’s suffered a panic attack will remember that first time it happened. It hits without warning, no prior twinges, fears. The victim could be in a restaurant just about to pick up their knife and fork, or at the checkout, starting up the car, anywhere. Then the game begins, hiding it, avoiding places or things where it might erupt like Vesuvius vomiting lava on unsuspecting villages. Trouble is with this game, there are only two players, the panic attack and the victim. People even think of their panic as a living entity that attacks with claws and teeth, without mercy.
Only Nat understood the depths of his panic, his terror of putting his foot into a lake. It was like asking someone with a fear of heights to walk near the edge of a cliff, or someone with claustrophobia to crawl through collapsing caves. This was the only lake where he felt safe. Nat said it could be because the bulrushes hid the water. Whatever it was, he had this sense of belonging, security, even peace. Nowadays, the thought of walking into a lake could bring on the first stirrings of the panic attack; that’s when he had to move quickly. He couldn’t let her know. He wanted to be in her bed, not on her therapy couch.
Douglas caught his breath as she walked through the bulrushes, looking like a pre-Raphaelite water sprite, the strands of scarlet hair glistening on wet skin. Picking up a towel, he waited for her, draping the towel around her shoulders, rubbing her back and arms. Twisting her round to face him, his fingers swiftly untied the thin strip of silk covering the rounded curves. As Jess gasped, he picked her up and took her to the bank and the blanket.
As Douglas laid her down he said, ‘I wish this was a bed of silk and satins, for that is what you deserve.’
‘You sound like a poet.’
‘At times like this, I wish I was. I struggle for words to describe you, your skin as soft as a rose petal, your hair like liquid rubies, your figure a Grecian Aphrodite. That’s just about as much as I can manage.’
She looked at him, his naked upper body, like a painting of an Italian God; the chiseled features lightly beaded with perspiration, his hair blue-black in the sun. How could she resist him? She quivered as his hands stroked and massaged, her breath quickening as she saw the craving in those electric blue eyes. Responding, she pushed into his body, curves flowing into angles as he stroked her back, his hand sliding down to her buttocks, pulling her towards him. She wriggled nearer, playing with the wet locks of ebony hair curling on his shoulders. Her hands followed the bulge of his arm muscles; iron-hard, while her fingers pulled lightly on the black curls, the broad chest with the light black curls, his nipples hard to her touch. He brushed aside the trailing red locks, to kiss her slender neck, nipping at her ears until she squealed. Finding her mouth, he tasted the honey sweetness, smelling the lavender, her favorite flower.
Her blood thudded in her head, she wanted this, but it was too soon, she’d never had sex with anyone on the first date, he’d think she was fast and loose. Drawing away from him, she whispered, ‘Too soon – let’s take this—‘
His lips covered her protests, his strong hands drawing her into him, she felt the hardness of his pecs against her breasts, the soft brush of his hair. She shuddered as his lips now found her nipple hardening to his touch. Groaning, she gave in, what the hell, he was gorgeous, it was hot, and she wanted him. Her hands went to his back, her nails slightly raking the hard flesh. She heard his gasp, ‘Darling – I want you – so bad.’ She responded arching towards him, She felt his knee between her legs widening them as he lowered himself on her. Lifting himself on his hands, his tongue licked and flicked down from breasts to the navel tickling and teasing, before going lower.
Douglas gazed down at her quivering body, at the moist lips, the hardened nipples. His fingers moved to soft the triangle of curls slipping inside velvet folds, taking her to ecstasy.
She awakened to something tickling the sole of her foot, opening her eyes, she saw him kneeling on the blanket beside a picnic basket.
‘Okay, my little mermaid – food. Let’s eat.’
Sitting up, she smiled, watching him setting out chicken infused with thyme and sage. Her mouth watered at king prawns in a light Marie Rose sauce, fresh lettuce with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and the scent of coriander. Bring out a small bottle of champagne from the icebox he said, ‘Let’s celebrate.’
‘Us – now I know I’ve captured a siren, a mermaid.’ Grinning, he winked mischievously.
For a moment, Jess caught her breath – mermaid? Wasn’t that what Duncan called Murial? Shrugging, she let it go. She couldn’t keep dwelling on it.
As Jessie bit down on a slice of chicken, she said, ‘Don’t you swim at all?’
‘No, I have a thing about water, I’m okay swimming in the sea, but for some reason, I can’t stand lakes.’
‘Have you ever tried?’
‘Nope, anyway, forget it. Let’s enjoy the meal.’
Jess remained silent. He obviously was not happy talking about it.
Treading back through the bog, her body tingling from his attentions, Jessie didn’t mind the mud-spattered sneakers. His whispers flooded her mind, especially as he murmured they should do it again soon. As she clutched her bag, she remembered the locket. Would it be a good time to tell him? Why not? After all, one of the reasons she was here was to find her ancestors, her origins – one of Prissy’s ambitions, before death took her so cruelly.
She’d often talked about coming to Scotland to search for the ancestors, but they’d never known where to start. All Prissy had were the two scraps of paper, both water stained with most of the writing obliterated. As they passed the Orangery, Jess saw a wooden seat nestling between Syringa bushes still sweet-scented although no longer in bloom. ‘Douglas, d’you mind if we sit for a moment? I have something to show you.’
For some reason, she felt nervous even as he hugged her close when they sat. Taking the fragments of paper from her purse, she said, ‘One of the reasons I came over here was because I wanted to search for my ancestors. We know that my ancestor lived in a shack in America, actually built a lodging house for the lumberjacks. Her name was Morag, but that’s as far back as we can trace. Sadly, all she had were these two scraps of papers. One story is that they were given to her by the ship’s doctor. But, there’s no way we can trace that. There were so many ships, so many lost at sea. It’s a shame really as it was Prissy’s dream. And then there’s this. She handed him the velvet bundle containing the locket. It’s only small, no value, but to us, it’s a family heirloom.’
Douglas examined the two scraps of paper ‘What a shame, the water’s almost dissolved the ink. I can see Mur … could be Murial and yes the ‘R’ could stand for Rhonan. I haven’t heard many names starting with Mur … might be able to track it down.’
Lifting the locket from the velvet pad, he said, ‘This is quite beautiful. Turning it over, he read out the inscription on the back ‘Forever United LDR to MM 1810.’
Jess said, ‘Open it.’ She held her breath. Surely he would recognize himself?’
Douglas felt his body tighten a slow buzz in his head; the portrait was him, and dammit, there was no mistaking the looks. ‘Good God, so these are over two hundred years old.’ He examined the gold, then looked down at the inscription once more. ‘The letters could stand for Lord Duncan to Murial something or other.’
Jess pursed her lips, smiling impishly. She was so excited. ‘Exactly. Look at the two braids of hair, one black the other red. I know they’re dusty and faded, but it does point to—’
‘Is this a trick?’ Douglas’s tones razed her ears like sharpened steel. ‘When did you paint this portrait? Last week? How many of these do you think I’ve been presented with – too many. Ever since I inherited the Manor, I’ve had these bloody people claiming to be the true heir of Rhonan. Every damn fraudster produces one. As for the locket, it’s hardly tarnished to be such an age. Jess, why have you done this? You’re breaking my heart. Don’t tell me this is a fraud? Really what do you take me for?’
Jess felt her heart pumping in her head. ‘Douglas, what are you saying?’
‘You know … why do you need Rhonan? You have an empire, hotels strung across the world. Why Rhonan? You are making out you’re the lost heir, aren’t you? I’ve seen so many of these bloody portraits all claiming to be of Duncan. It makes me sick?’
‘Douglas, what’s wrong – why are you so angry?’
‘Angry? Too right, I’m bloody angry. So many fraudsters creep along with bits of birth certificates, bits of marriage certificates, bits of hair, even old dolls with messages sewn in them. Every trick in the trade – dresses – shoes. Lying through their bloody teeth. How could you do this? I’ve fallen in love with you for Christ’s sake. How could you?’
He stopped, his jaw bunching into a white knot as he gazed at her beautiful face, the skin blanching, her mouth open. Pushing the papers and locket into her hands, he said, ‘Tell me it’s not true. Jess – tell me you’re joking – I can’t take this. I stand to lose everything Jess, the hotel, but most of all, my daughter.’ He punched the wooden seat with his fist making her jump, winced as he hit it again, drawing blood. Jess watched as he jumped up, the blood seeping from his knuckles, watched him walk away, her heart juddering, breaking. Leaping up, she threw the papers and locket in her bag, the tears stinging her eyes, spilling, burning her cheeks. He’d ripped her heart out – the bastard.
Scrabbling in her bag for her sunglasses, Jess slipped them on. She kept her head down, hoping she wouldn’t meet anyone. She needed to get to her room fast, to shut the door on everything and everyone.
She felt someone grab her arm. She stiffened; surely, he hadn’t come back? She felt a rush of rage and then a surge of disappointment as she heard Dinah’s voice. ‘For God’s sake Jess what’s up?’
As her cousin hugged her, Jess said, ‘I can’t talk. I just can’t….’
‘Come on, let’s get you upstairs.’
She didn’t want Dinah with her, couldn’t face anyone seeing her like this. ‘I’m okay; I just need to be alone right now.’
‘Do you think I’d leave you like this? Come on.’
Once inside the Mermaid Suite, Dinah went to the drinks’ cabinet. Pouring a good measure of brandy, she handed it, Jess. ‘Come on, get that down you. What on earth has happened?’
Sipping the brandy, Jess felt it sting her throat, warm her stomach.
‘Come on, Jess, what’s happened?’
‘It’s a mess, Dinah, a mess.’
There were no secrets between them, Jess let out the events of the afternoon, the laughter, kisses, the swim, the love that ended in horror.
Dinah crossed her arms, angrily, ‘How the hell could he do that. As if you’re bloody well interested in his hotel, God you could buy this place with the petty cash.’
‘It was the way he said it. So cold, accusing me of being a fraud, telling me he loved me and then walking away.’
‘Some love that is – kicking you in the teeth.’
‘It’s over before it’s even begun. I just feel rotten. I’ve never done that before Di’, met a guy and then slept with him on the first date. Now I feel awful.’
‘Maybe he’s got a hang-up about this hotel. Maybe he’s in debt or something.’
‘He’s got hang-ups, alright. I knew something was wrong when we first got there. Some phobia about water, I think.’ Jess bit her lip, putting the brandy glass back down on the table. ‘Di we had a great time. We were so close, so soon, and then he went and tore me to shreds’.
‘Sadist – can’t trust some of these guys. Maybe when you’ve both cooled down, you could talk?’
‘No. I’m not a bloody masochist. I never want to see that bastard again. If I did, I’d hit him.’
Dinah raised her eyebrows; when Jess got mad, she got physical. She remembered when Jess slapped a guy in public. But then Nigel was such a bastard. Not only did he have affairs with Jess’s so-called friends, but he’d also taken her money. Pete was the only one who wanted her for herself. Shame, they split up.
‘I just want to leave Dinah. I can’t stay here, not after this.’
Dinah felt pebbles slither in her stomach. ‘Leave? ‘Visions of George surfaced his body hard against her, his tongue in her mouth. ‘Are you sure?’
Jess caught the quiver in Dinah’s voice. Immediately she realized – George. It would be hard on Dinah if they left. She seemed to be getting close to the guy.
‘It’s George, isn’t it?’
Dinah bit her lip.
Jess said quickly, ‘I can’t stay here, Di. You can, if you like, I’ll just move to somewhere close. ‘
‘I really like him Jess, well more than like. But I’ll come with you. George and I can still get together.”
‘Look, you stay here, really. I’ll book a suite at the Merton Hotel. But then…’
‘I’ve just remembered Daisy’s coming in a few days. I don’t know if the Merton accepts dogs. Oh, God, what a mess.’
‘You don’t have to see the guy Jess. I mean, he’s caught up most of the time. Look, why don’t you have a nap, freshen up, and come with me to George’s class this evening? It will brighten you up.’ She frowned, George was waiting for her to go boating on the lake. But she couldn’t leave Jess like this. He would just have to wait. But, he was an easy-going guy, he’d understand.
‘No, thanks, Di, I couldn’t face it. I’ll just hang around here for a while – get some rest. ‘
‘Honey, are you sure?’
‘Yeah, I’m just going to shower and then lie on the bed for a while.’
As Dinah left, she said, ‘I just hope I don’t meet the guy – I’ll have a few choice words to say to him.’
The shower blended with her tears as powerful jets expunged the fetid aromas of the lake. It promised to be the perfect love affair, but now it gurgled away at her feet. Putting on the toweling robe, the softness comforted as she walked to the windows, pulling the curtains together to block out the late afternoon sun. As she walked to the bed, Jess did not see the ghostly figure walk behind her.
Jess felt her chest heave as Douglas’s face captured her mind, the gleam in his eyes, the soft laugh as he pulled her to him. Weeping, she buried her head in the pillow, unaware of the figure standing at the foot of her bed, unaware of crying herself to sleep.
Donning a silken robe from a warm linen nightrail, Murial went to the escritoire. Just time to write a few notes to Brianna before retiring. Although she did not have good news to impart, at least she could share her misgivings with her sister. Although not related, they were closer in spirit than blood sisters. Growing up together, they shared many a childhood secret, many a girlish dream. The quill raced across the page, she loved the smell of fresh parchment, the slight acidic odor of the ink. Musing, she wrote of Duncan’s plans to attend a meeting of the Lords to plan a defence of the tenant farmers. As her quill sped across the page, she did not hear the door opening or soft feet padding across the deep pile of the carpet until hands grasped her from behind. Gasping Murial turned her head to see the gloating features of Max.
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: