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 33 & 34
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Power jets washed away foaming shampoo, yet they could not clear the tortured thoughts. She still hadn’t returned any of his calls or text messages. Wounds ran deep, the pain rising when Douglas thought of Cilla and Marnie. He vowed he’d never let a woman have that kind of power again. Of course, he’d enjoy a woman, sex, fun, but not closeness, nothing that involved the heart. The sight of Jess excited him, that beautiful body, the full curve of her breast; the rounded buttock set the nerves of his skin on edge.
When she told him of her early life, he’d found himself drawn to her, wanting to protect her, he knew what being a father was all about, the love for a daughter who could fill the heart with ecstasy or maul it to strips of bleeding flesh. Yet, Jess never knew that love, never felt a father’s arms holding her, lifting her up in the air playing. He could not forget the look in her eyes when she talked of her father. Just, six words. “He died in a hunting accident.”
When he walked away from the bench, he was shocked with his depth of feeling for her. But, he was fighting for his daughter. He could see Marnie slipping away again if Jess took the estate.
Dressing in a clean tee-shirt and denims, he resolved she was going to face him. They had to talk it out. Minutes later, he took the lift to the first floor bolstering his courage to face Jessie. Confusion raged; he didn’t want to lose her, yet he didn’t want to be committed. He decided to go with the moment. As he approached the door, he stopped wondering what on earth he was going to say. His hand poised to knock, he heard voices; a man’s raised in anger, Jess sobbing. What the hell was going on? He went to turn away but then heard Jess cry out in pain as the man shouted, ‘By God d’you think you could keep this a secret? He shan’t have you – I’ll kill you before…”
She was in danger, his heart thudding; Douglas shoved at the door, but it was locked. Now he heard movement, a low groan, scrabbling in his pocket; he found the master key, frantically turning it in the lock. He pushed the door open. The room was empty. Confused, he walked into the sitting room– nothing. Checking the en suite, he felt almost a waiting silence as he checked the shower empty, except for a soft towelling robe with an embroidered pink collar, he glanced over the marble sink and shelves noting the bottles of perfume, smelling jasmine with underlying tones of musk. Flashes of their tryst by the lake rose in his mind, the sweetness of her, and the slender curves, the passion. He shut out the thoughts, as he again checked the sitting room and bedroom.
Going over to the window, he flicked aside the voile curtain, feeling a slight pang as he searched the people boating on the lake whilst others strolled by admiring the abundance of flowers in the herbaceous borders. He saw a man standing still looking up at him or the window. He was in his early twenties, light brown hair, glinting gold, look directly at him, his white frilled shirt and tight pantaloons, quite at odds with the usual summer wear of tee shirts, jeans or shorts – must be going to a fancy dress party or something. He frowned as the guy crossing his arms, gave a slight smirk. Who the hell was he?
Letting the curtain fall he frowned, he’d felt sure people were in this room, he couldn’t have imagined the voices, anger, cries. Maybe it was in the next suite? Locking the door behind him, he went down the corridor to the room knocking lightly on the door but there was no reply. Walking towards the lift, he felt his flesh creep. Was the room haunted? Was Jess being haunted? Possessed? No … impossible. It was all this talk of ghosts that was playing on his mind.
After checking into airport, Jessie made her way to the private planes. To her delight, Daisy stood tail wagging on the top of the flight of steps with James the dog handler. His face wreathed in a smile, his white hair and equally white beard shimmering in the sun. Holding her arms wide she watched Daisy weave her chunky body down the steps. With a huge smile on the black lips, she jumped almost knocking Jessie over. ‘Daisy, Daisy, dear little girl.’ James laughed delightedly, ‘Little girl Miss. Jessie? Why she’s a rhino.’
Jess hugged the strong neck covered in masses of white curls, the plumed tail with fur over a foot long fanning the air. For those short moments, Jess felt at peace. There was nothing could hurt or frighten her, not when she had this wonderful dog, this friend in her arms. Taking the leash from James, she hugged him as he walked with her to her car. ‘Now she had a good trip Miss Jessie. Why she’s had four meals, drank a gallon of water and asked for her treats.’
Jessie laughed out loud, ‘That sounds about right. Oh James, I can’t thank you enough for looking after her.’ She choked remembering the awful row last week with Douglas. James looked down at her seeing distress in her eyes, thinking maybe she’d missed Daisy. ‘Why we missed you. You come straight back with her when you’re ready now.’
Jessie nodded her arms full of Daisy, with James’s arm around her shoulders. This is where her heart lay with her dog and the people, she knew and loved. As she got Daisy safely into the car, with the dog guard up, Daisy immediately started barking at every person and car that came near. She was already guarding the situation. Jess laughed at the familiar game. It was the only time Daisy did bark. She was the world’s best friend and the world’s worst guard dog. She would welcome a burglar with a smile of pure joy, leaping and rolling around ready to play. As far as she was concerned, another friend had come to visit her. But she was a deterrent, huge with almost inch long fangs albeit continually showing through her wonderful black lipped smile. To hug her, feel the chunky body wriggling with joy, was worth the micro-chipping, vaccination.
Jess put down the windows as they drove. The waves on the lochs danced with light contrasting with the dark majesty of towering mountains. As Jessie drove through the Gothic gates to the estate, the gargoyles seemed to leer, ‘Beware, all ye who enter here.’
She wished to God, she was back in New York. Rhonan Manor gave her nothing but grief, pain that she never thought possible to endure. Passing the purple glory of the copper beeches, the darkness of the rhododendrons interspersed with the silvery bark of the birches, she looked out for the deer that would wander through to the luscious meadows now filled with the scents and colours of wild flowers, the pinks, purples, reds and white inviting one to roam, touch and smell.
She heard Daisy’s whimper, pressing her nose to the window, and as she espied a lone buck, the antlers proud. The dog, fairly leapt with joy as the does followed with fawns prancing. Jess grinned knowing Daisy would love to run with them. Being such a gentle nature, she would not harm them, to her, they were yet more friends.
Arriving at the sweeping lawns and the lake, Daisy yelped as a heron gracefully lifted a long leg picking its way through lily pads. Jess’s heart leapt to her throat as she saw Douglas actually standing by the lake watching her, the muscles in his face tightening. It seemed he’d been waiting. As he raised his hand signalling for her to stop, her teeth clenched, yet her stomach rippled with hope. Part of her wanted to drive on, ignore him, after all what did they have to say to each other now, whilst the other part wanted to stop the car, leap out of the door and hug him. Letting out an exasperated breath, she did stop the car, staring stonily at him through the open window, waiting for him to speak.
‘Jess, I need to speak to you – please.’
‘I don’t think there’s anything to talk about do you?’
‘Please Jess, I was out of order.’
‘Out of order? Bastard. Now if you don’t mind?’
‘Jess it’s important. This isn’t just about us.’
Jess glared at him before winding up the window, and driving on.
Jessie opened the door sensing it was Douglas. Eyes smouldering she stepped aside. ‘You’d better come in but keep it short.’
As he stepped through the door, inside, Daisy hit him full force in the chest, her tongue lolling out of smiling black lips, eyes laughing. Jess ground her teeth. Daisy took away all dignity, for her everything was geared to the game. Catching hold of the leather studded collar, she tried to drag the dog across the floor into the sitting room, ‘Just follow us, she’ll calm down in a minute. She’s so friendly.’
More than you are, Douglas thought. He covered a laugh as he watched Jessie slither to her knees trying to drag the huge dog away. He could see the bond between them as she scolded whilst Daisy plonked huge front paws on the floor refusing to move. Then the dog promptly lay down on the floor and rolled onto her back, paws up in the air, pink belly on show. Jessie stuttered. ‘She knows I can’t move her, little bugger.’
Putting her arms around Daisy’s chest under her front legs, she tried to drag her, but the dog didn’t move an inch. Douglas tried not to grin. ‘Maybe if I went first, she’d follow?’
Struggling, Jessie gasped, ‘God she’s worse than ever, yes, go – go first.’
Stepping over the prostrate dog and Jess, Douglas noticed a black cat sitting on the windowsill, gazing out at the lake. It turned a serene head to flash green eyes at him. He felt a momentary shiver that was a mean look. He loved cats but there was something about this one that made him take a step back.
‘Didn’t know you had a cat?’
‘No I haven’t but this one seems to have taken up residence with us. Strange thing is, Daisy hasn’t tried to kill it. The two things she races after, teeth gnashing are birds or cats. I mean I can’t hold her on a lead if she sees either.’
Knowing that he still had to try and make amends with Jessie, he said, ‘Do you want me to take it away?’
‘No – no, I love cats and this one is really friendly and is so good with Daisy. No – let it stay.’
Knowing her love of animals Douglas said, “All you need now then is a cockatoo or something.”
Jessie managed a smile. “No I’ll draw the line there. I mean I would love to have a Mina bird they have such strong voices and sound so human when they speak, but I would have to have it in a cage. I‘m actually terrified of them; I can’t stand them flying around me. I’ve even crawled under the table to get away from a budgie.”
Seeing the opportunity to engage her in conversation, he said, ‘We’re thinking of having a menagerie of exotic birds. We could get a Mina. It should draw in the crowd. Good idea.’
Animals seemed a safe subject, although he did wonder why on earth, she’d paid all that money to bring Daisy over. One private jet, just for a dog, but then in a way, he was grateful. The dog certainly broke the ice today and the cat, although mean except to Jessie and Daisy, was a godsend. As he sat down on the settee, Daisy leapt on the seat beside him, panting happily in his face. She smelt of baby shampoo and Chappie.
Biting back a smile, Jessie knew it was useless trying to look aloof, instead she said, ‘Got expelled from two puppy training schools. Thinks she’s the alpha female. I’m second in the pack’
Douglas laughed, and then caught sight of the cat who hissed, showing sharp fangs. Jessie saw the show of anger. ‘Phantom that’s enough now.’ The black cat blinked then gazed at her with widened eyes, innocence itself. ‘Ah, he’s just jealous. He feels threatened by another male – he’s guarding his territory.’
As she turned to look at him, Douglas held her eyes, as he said, ‘Can’t we start again? Look I’ve been an absolute fool. If you’d just listen, maybe you could forgive me.’
Seeing anguish in his face, knuckles white, she said, ‘Okay, I’m listening.’
Daisy lay collapsed beside him, her head on his lap. Stroking the soft white ear, he said, ‘I’m divorced. I didn’t tell you because it’s not the sort of thing you talk about on a first date. I’ve also got a small daughter. My wife Cilla left me for another man and took my baby daughter, Marnie with her.’
Jess rose from her seat as she saw his face blanch. ‘Look can I get you a drink? Tea – coffee – brandy?’
‘A soft drink would be fine. Thanks.’ He paused, watching her move to the fridge. ‘What am I saying? You don’t want to hear about this.’
Handing him the glass of orange juice, Jess said, ‘I do, I’m just so sorry that−‘
‘I needed to explain, I’ve been a bastard.’
‘Yes you have.’
‘I wanted half custody, but Cilla made it so difficult, so I ended up with visiting rights, but they didn’t pan out. She made it so difficult for Marnie and me to meet. When I inherited this place, it was a big decision. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see much of Marnie. I felt I was deserting her. I thought maybe if I made a go of the place I’d have the money to fight my wife in the courts.’ He stopped, finding his chest tightening, his breath coming in gasps.
‘Try and breathe from the diaphragm, take it slowly.’ Jessie could see the tell-tale signs of the panic attack coming on. ‘Let me help you.’ Going over to him, Jessie said, ‘I’m just going to put my hands on your diaphragm and rib cage, and get you breathing properly. Now when you breathe in, feel your stomach expanding against my hand.’
Douglas closed his eyes trying to concentrate. He pushed against the gentle pressure of her hand, felt her guiding the breath. Slowly, his chest softened, his ribs expanding. ‘Thanks.’
‘Do you suffer from panic attacks a lot?’
‘Yes, it’s a long story.’
‘I’m not going anywhere.’ Even though she still hurt from his rejection last week, the therapist in her over-rode everything else. ‘Just start where you like. It will help you to talk about it. I’ll get you out of the panic attack in a minute if necessary.’ She went back to her seat, watching Daisy lick his hand, laying her head back on his lap gazing mournfully up at him. She didn’t try to move the dog as she knew stroking her would help Douglas.
‘She was still sleeping with me when she went off with him. I didn’t have any warning. Marnie was only eighteen months old. I came home from school one day and found them gone. I searched everywhere for them, panicked, but in my heart, I knew they’d gone. I found out where they were living and started following them; I could hardly control the rage. Anyway, one day I followed them to a picnic resort. It was a quarry really; the local council developed the site turning it into a boating lake. I kept my distance and watched the slimy bastard sitting there with them. Then I watched as he took Marnie to a boat. I wanted to run over and stop him. It was just a father’s protective instinct I guess.’
Jessie bit her lip, this was so painful for him, and she could see his eyes looking inward as if he was re-living the scene.
‘He started rowing – didn’t put a life jacket on her – stupid bugger. I went to the water’s edge, saw Marnie wave at her Mum and then the bastard stood up waving his arms as if it was some big joke. It all went into slow motion, the boat turning over; Marnie’s small arms reaching towards the water, people shouting. I threw off my shoes and leapt in. The water was so damn deep, and dark. I swam out to the spot and dived, but I couldn’t see her. I didn’t have goggles and I just couldn’t do anything. Oh God….’ the tears bubbled in his eyes.
Jess went over to him and sat on the side of the settee holding his shoulder. ‘I’m so sorry.’
‘I knew it was hopeless. The mud was thick on the bottom. I had to get air. My lungs were bursting. I knew if didn’t get air I couldn’t save her, so I shot to the top to get another lung full. Then someone grabbed my shoulder shouting, ‘We’ve got her mate – got her.’ I thought he was saying, ‘We’ve lost her.’ Thought he was trying to save me. I struggled; started punching him but another guy swam up and screamed at me.’
He paused taking a sip of his drink, a muscle working in his jaw as he continued, ‘He shouted, “She’s okay, okay.” I passed out – been down too long. They dragged me out and I just lay there. As I came too on the bank, the paramedics worked on her, but she wasn’t breathing. I got up and started yelling, looking for the bastard. He was standing there watching them with Cilla holding his arm crying. I slugged him hard. Cilla was screaming. God I just lost it. You know? Lost it.’
He rubbed the sides of the glass, his hands steadying; ‘She was in a coma for three days. They said because the water was so cold at that depth, it saved her. After that I went to court again, but they ruled it was an accident, a stupid one on his part, but they still got custody. Can you believe it?’
Jessie rose and got him some more water. ‘So that’s where the phobia started – of lakes?’
‘Yeah, I didn’t know I had it until I went back to the lake again. As I stood looking out over the water to the spot where it happened, I felt this horror, a kind of paralysis, my heart was thundering, eyes fixed, staring, I couldn’t move, If anyone saw me, they would have thought I was mad. The shaking started, then the need to vomit. I know now that I can’t even talk when I’m in that state. I feel so lost, alone; who the hell can understand that, I’m not mad, it’s just this terrible fear.’
‘You’re not alone – I can help you.
Douglas realized that they had reached another level in this traumatic relationship. He felt a hard body bump into his leg. He gazed down into the narrowed eyes of the cat that arched its back hissing. Phantom, the name suited. He took hold of Jessie’s hand. ‘Are you going to tell me about it?’
‘The attack – last night. Nat said you were petrified.’
Jessie took her hand away, ‘Oh – err … I’d rather not.’
‘Nat tells me some demon hurt you?’
‘What’s the use of talking about it, you don’t believe in these things.’
‘I believe you were hurt – that you suffered. Have you thought of seeing a doctor?’
Jessie stiffened her face tensing as she bit her lip. ‘You’re really saying I hallucinated aren’t you?’
Douglas looked down unable to face the hurt in her eyes. ’Something like that.’ ‘Well let me assure you I don’t need a psychiatrist. I am a psychologist. I know the signs. Let’s just say we beg to differ. At the moment, I am more concerned about you. You need to get that phobia sorted otherwise it could generalise until anything to do with water could send you into a panic. So let me help you.’
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: