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 47 & 48
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
The letters and newspaper articles lay in a neat pile by Dinah’s side. Yet her attention was focused on Daisy’s wound. ‘It’s only been ten days or so Jess, and she’s healing well.’ Lapping up the attention Daisy rolled into her favourite position on her back, her four feet in the air, the pink tongue lolling from the black lipped smile. In that position, she looked more wolf than the benign golden retriever. A wicked gleam in her eye warned Dinah that if she stopped stroking the pink belly, Daisy would lift a huge paw and proceed to punch her. Retrievers were well-known for boxing in either play or anger.
Smiling she continued to rub the pink belly as she said, ‘The letters are incredible Jess, but there’s not much pointing to Murial’s disappearance.’
‘I know it’s so disappointing. But since reading the letters I’ve read a lot about the Clearances – had me in tears. People suffered so much, many starving – dying.’
Raising her head, Dinah said, ‘How’s Phantom? Scratched anyone lately?’ Like Jessie, she was an animal lover but was now wary of the black cat. It appeared from nowhere and clawed her leg drawing blood on the first meeting. Jessie picked the cat up hissing and struggling putting it in the bedroom and closing the door. As it howled and scratched, Jess said, ‘I still can’t get him to trust anyone. Looks like he’s been badly treated Di, but I could find him another home if you like.’
Di quickly raised her hand, ‘No – no it is okay he’s been badly treated – he needs time and lot of love. That’s if you can love a cat that mean.’
Jess smiled, ‘Well, he’s a little bugger, but we can try.’
Today, Phantom sniffed around Di’ warily, then to their surprise rubbed his head against the calf of her leg, mewing.
Jess grinned, ‘He’s still mean, but he’s coming around. Daisy loves him. She was so brave that night at the lake, you know. I just can’t imagine her biting at that monster as she did.’
‘That was peculiar Jess. We all thought Max was a ghost or incubus but he changed into a demon, powerful enough to overturn the boat almost and drag you down to the bottom of the lake.’
‘I have heard that ghosts or demons can take on human form, demons especially. They’re supposed to be shape shifters as well.’
Giving a slight shudder Dinah said, ‘Let’s hope, he doesn’t shape shift into Douglas or one of the others. They found no sign of him. Let’s hope he’s back in hell. Father O’Reilly was none too happy about it. He still insists it’s because we used the Ouija board, that we’ve released some powerful evil. But then, he did say it was not one of the major demons or devils. Bad enough though.’
‘I wonder if he’ll come back?’
‘God I hope not – even Douglas is convinced it’s Max, the younger brother. I mean if he was in the Hell Fire Club, then he carried out depraved practices, must have prayed to the Devil. You never know do you?’ Crossing to the laptop Dinah said, “Why don’t we search deeper?”
Booting up the computer, she saw Jess try to rise from the settee. ‘No don’t move, give those ribs time. Hah, here we are, there’s a load of information on Wikipedia. It says the Hell Fire Club was active in the years 1735 to 1741, but many say it continued in secret right up until the early twentieth century. It’s built on Montpelier Hill known as the Hell Fire Club. Now on the slopes of Montpelier is a forest named Hell Fire Wood. There was a cairn, a passage grave on the summit. It seems there were satanic rites carried out – debauchery and so on. They procured local prostitutes, even abducted innocent girls too terrified to report their abductors. It was known as the Haunted House, The Kennel, as well as the Hell Fire Club. It says that the lodge was built from the stones of the prehistoric grave, that the lintel from the grave was used over the fireplace.”
Jess shivered, ‘Sounds eerie.’
Dinah put her finger near the screen. ‘Here’s some more information, a violent storm blew the roof off the lodge. Local rumours held that it was the work of the Devil in revenge for debasing the roof of a pagan queen. They always had an empty chair or throne ready for the Devil to preside over the meetings. Good God, it appears priests visited as well. Look what it says there – they sacrificed a black cat. The priest grabbed the cat and exorcised it only to see a demon released from the cat’s corpse.’ Dinah looked around the room, but the black cat was no longer seated at the window gazing over the lake. ‘Where’s Phantom gone?’
Jessie said, ‘Aw come on now, he’s no demon.’
Going back to the screen, Dinah said, ‘Well you never know – you must admit he is strange.’
‘All cats are strange – they have this aloofness, and they can be moody.’
Leaving the desk, Dinah sat back in a chair, ‘I suppose so, black cats are always associated with magic anyway, either the witches’ familiar or the Devil’s earthly form. But, changing the subject Jessie, how’s it going with Douglas?’
‘He’s okay. He’s very attentive – caring. I don’t know Di….’
‘You don’t sound like you’re all that enamoured of him Jess.’
‘Well I am. I just can’t believe that he risked his life for me, taking on a demon in the lake. But, we’re just so different Di. – personalities – beliefs. But, at the same time, he’s always in my thoughts. I dream about him, think of him when I wake up, and he’s the last thing I think about before sleeping.’
‘Huh Huh, you’re in love.’
‘Maybe you’re right. But, how can we ever get on when I believe in spiritual and psychic matters, and he’s an agnostic? Well, was, I must say he is now admitting that he does believe but just then in the next breath he’s saying he doesn’t want to dabble in it. The thing is, I’m not dabbling Di. It’s my life, as you know – it’s yours too.’
‘I know Jess; it’s so difficult loving a guy and yet not gelling on the important things. But you know they do say, you can’t choose who you fall in love with, neither can you mould them to what you want.’ Dinah pursed her lips. ‘He’s a good guy Jess. I know I told you he was so upset when he thought you’d – you know – drowned. We’ve never really talked about what really happened – but it was bad Jess. We thought we’d lost you but Douglas just wouldn’t give up. That’s why you ended up with cracked ribs—’
‘And my life.’
‘Yes – thank God. I’ve never seen grief like that. When he thought he couldn’t revive you, he just picked you up in his arms and sobbed. I can see him now, catching you up to his chest, holding you tightly, kissing – shouting at you to come back – that he loved you, and then rocking to and fro weeping. I couldn’t console him I was crying too much myself.
Biting her lip, Jessie said, ‘I don’t remember any of it, but from what you say – I just feel so confused. However, coming back to the spiritual side of it. Now he says he believes, but he’s still not willing to go any further.’
‘He’s told you Jess – he’s afraid. Give him time. Thing is, you’ve got to make up your mind. Do you love him – I mean really love him?’
Lowering her eyes, Jessie went quiet before saying, ‘I don’t just love him Di, I worship him. I think that’s why I want everything to be perfect. I had enough of Prissy arguing with me all the time and I just don’t want it happening with him. I couldn’t bear it.’
‘You can’t expect him to go headlong into the things you believe in. He may never. But, there’s plenty going on beside spirituality and psychic beliefs.’
‘Maybe that’s too big a compromise. But you’re right. I love him desperately. He is so passionate—’
Hearing a knock on the door, they both jumped startled. George’s cheery voice rang out. ‘Hello ladies – door’s open can we come in?’
Dinah flushed a bright red and looked at Jessie, who bit her lips together trying not to laugh. Yet, it seemed George had not overhead their conversation as he walked in followed by Lucy and Nat. Douglas was not with them.
Nat seeing the question in Jessie’s eyes, said, ’Doug’ will be here in a minute. He took Victor out for a walk.’
Lucy and Nathan took the settee whilst George plumped himself in an armchair pulling a blustering Dinah onto his lap. ‘How’s my girl today?’ He smiled foolishly, patting her knee.
‘For God’s sake George, d’you mind?’ She pulled at her skirt that had ridden up near to her groin.’
‘Nope, don’t mind at all.’
As Dinah struggled to get up, Douglas walked into the room. His eyes lighted upon Jess. ‘Hi sweetheart, how are you feeling?’ Stooping, he kissed her full on the lips.
Surprised she laughed, ‘I’m fine thanks. There’s a spare chair over there.’
Douglas grinned, ‘I shall sit at your feet madam.’
Jess felt the blush heat her face and chest. ‘Now to business – let’s discuss the letters. Who’s read all of theirs?’
Raising her hand, Lucy said, ‘There’s very little of Murial in my lot – more newspaper articles. However, I must say they were awful times. She worked so hard to help, but there was little she could do really.’
George interjected, ‘The newspaper article on the evictions from the village was horrific. How on earth could someone have that kind of power? I mean evicting all those families. Then having the Military drive them from the holes in the ground. That landlord literally sentenced them to death.
Lucy nodded, ‘George showed me that. No-one interfered – they just went along with it.’
‘Forced more like.’ said Dinah. “I read it too. He wouldn’t allow the neighbours to help those people – the swine. I mean four hundred people.
Jessie nodded her face muscles tensing. ‘It was horrific. Murial was so fierce – so brave. Even though her heart was breaking she did not weaken but fought on trying to protect the women and children.’
Douglas’s face tensed, as he said, ‘One thing I do know Jessie, is your dreams and visions tally with these letters. There’s something we must do straightaway and that’s send off all we have for DNA analysis.’
She drank in the moment, an idyllic scene with a gorgeous man. It had taken over six weeks for her ribs to heal. Though even now, they were still sore. Jessie gazed at the sun-dappled leaves of the weeping willow trailing slender branches into the waters. Overhead, a kingfisher‘s wings shone iridescent blues and greens. Jessie lounged on the blanket, stroking the black curls from Douglas’s brow. It was idyllic, the sun, lake, trees and him; a private spot hidden far enough away from the Manor. She bent to kiss the full lips her fingers now rubbing against the bristle of his unshaven cheek. He smiled languorously, and with a soft grunt rose to take her into his arms. ‘So little lady what is next, food or a swim?’
Jessie laughed, ‘My stomach is pleading with me, so I guess we should….’
Tickling her under her chin, he stretched over to the picnic basket. ‘Now let’s see what chef has arranged. He said to leave it to him; he knew exactly what we liked.’ Pulling out a linen tablecloth he began unpacking the food, passing it to Jess, barbecued chicken thighs with Piri seasoning along with King Prawns in a light Marie Rose sauce, followed by Panini’s of ham, salami, chorizo and salad. She smelt the freshly baked bread rolls, as she took out the churned butter swirls in an iced dish. Her mouth watered at the avocado pears laden with more prawns in a tart lime and coriander sauce. ‘Gosh Douglas, this is great. I could eat it all. He certainly knows what we like. What about you?’
‘Couldn’t have chosen better. And he’s got some pork and apple sausage, and for dessert Strawberry Pavlova with fresh cream.’ Douglas brought out two crystal flute glasses. ‘Champagne on ice no less.’ Clinking glasses he said, ‘Here’s to the woman I love.’
As they ate, they listened to the soft tones of a local radio station playing Gaelic songs. A female voice sang of love and roses, of yearning and return to the beloved land. Jessie was glad she’d made the decision. It had taken time for her to trust him again, but she did realize she had heaped her own assumptions and beliefs on him. Maybe that was a bit of Prissy’s character coming out in her. Over the last weeks, she came to realize that beliefs or not, she loved him and wanted to be with him. Nothing else mattered. As she wiped some cream from his mouth, she grinned and standing up, said, ‘Now I’m going for a swim.’ Laughing she ran into the shallows wading through the bull rushes loving the reeds wrapping around her legs. God it was beautiful here, the water just warm, the sun sparkling like diamonds on the still water. She had thought that maybe the terror of the attack would rise up to haunt her as she entered the water, but to her surprise, she felt completely at ease. Taking a deep breath, she plunged beneath the surface, her feet paddling her further into the lake. Rising to the surface, she stretched out on her back, floating. Her thoughts turned to the first time she’d been here, wondering why he wouldn’t come into the water. Now it didn’t matter.
Jess rolled onto her the stomach and stroked lazily to the willow tree. Did Murial and Duncan make love beneath this tree? She wondered if she could persuade him to have treatment for the phobia, a phobia that kept him from having fun right now. He’d broken through the phobia, through his terror to save her life, but she knew it was still with him, still had that fearful hold. However, he was still raw from rescuing her from the demon monster; he needed time.
He still insisted on sharing the suite with her, the memory of the demonic attack not far from their minds. They all agreed with Father O’Reilly that the Jesuit priest should perform an exorcism to be sure that Maximillian was dispatched permanently. However, it took weeks to arrange. They all submitted to psychiatric analysis, which was one of the first steps in arranging an exorcism. The tests would reveal whether the haunting and attacks were due to hallucinations or underlying schizophrenia. It was highly unlikely that all six of them and the priest also could be suffering from any mental illness, but it was one of the stipulations of the Catholic Church that they were primarily examined first by a psychiatrist.
She had decisions to make, should she push Douglas to remove to his own quarters or should she entice him to stay. Rolling over she began using strong over arm strokes to the shore. At least here in this idyll, the lake was screened by the bull rushes abating his fear of the water. Thank God for that.
Slipping a towel over her shoulders, Douglas gently rubbed her back. ‘God you’re beautiful.’
His hands slid softly around her pulling her towards him. She felt the iron muscles of his arms, heard the thud of his heart, felt his abs harden with desire. She shuddered closing her eyes as the tingling swept through her stomach. His fingers swept over skin, like a pianist creating music. Trancelike she floated into the notes that rose like scintillating colours cascading through sunset.
She moaned softly, as he leant forward, his tongue trailing his fingers, his hands moulding her muscles into sensuous desire.
She pulled away. ‘Not yet Douglas, my ribs are not healed yet. But soon – soon.’
Groaning he pulled her into his arms, stroking back the wet bright hair. ‘It seems my siren has turned into a vestal virgin.’
Smiling, Jessie laid her head on his chest, trying to control her feelings for him, longing to stroke his magnificent torso. Instead, she lay listening to the beat of his heart as it returned to a normal rhythm.
Nuzzling her ear he whispered, ‘Love you Jess, stay with me. Tomorrow we should get the results of the DNA and then we’ll know where we’re going with all this.”
Her body stiffened slightly, when it came to it, how would he feel, if she was indeed the heir to Rhonan. For all his assurances that he would be happy with any result, for all his protestations of love for her, how would he really feel and more importantly, how would he react?
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: