We have reached the final two Free chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan. Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.
On Thursday, we reveal the first two chapters of ‘Maid of the Forest’! Mark your diary for a thrilling journey!
Don’t worry if you have missed any chapters of ‘Return to Rhonan’, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Return to Rhonan: Chapters 49 & 50
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Pulling the sea green bathrobe around her, Jessie opened the door to the pink scrubbed face of the courier. Her hand trembled as she signed for the letter. Excusing herself, she crossed to the writing desk whereupon a delighted Daisy jumped up ready to play with this new friend. Jess returned pulling her off him, “Sorry about that she’s just−“
‘Gorgeous ma’am – got one of these at home. Beautiful natures.’
Jess smiled broadly. She was like a doting mother when it came to Daisy. Tipping him generously, she closed the door. Daisy busied around her legs as she stared at the envelope. Now was the time of reckoning. For all Douglas’s assurances, she still had that slight fear of his reactions. Calling for him, he appeared, toothbrush in hand, a towel slung over a bare shoulder, another wrapped around his waist.
‘DNA. Results are here. I thought I’d just wait for us to do this together.’ He grinned through the toothpaste. “Give me a second, I’ll throw on some clothes.’
Her heart thumped as she turned the letter over. What the hell did it say? Although it was addressed to both of them, she feared to open it alone. Better, he read it for himself. Sitting down in the chair, she called to Daisy, busy fussing around by the door sniffing all the lovely scents left by the courier. ‘Daisy come here – come on.’
Daisy ambled over, her tongue lolling from the black smile, the dark eyes questioning. She didn’t miss a trick where Jessie was concerned. She came over and licked her hand, finishing off on her knee. Jessie let her fingers run through the white silky fur gaining strength from the sheer calm of the dog. Looking up, she heard Douglas re-enter the room. Smiling still, he came and sat by her. ‘Hey come on. It’s not the end of the world. We’ll face this together. You know I’m always with you.’
Jess nodded handing him the letter. ‘Seeing as it’s your hotel and your ancestor, I guess you should open this?’
Taking the letter from her, he put it on the table. He took her hand, looking earnestly into her eyes, ‘Before we open any letters Jess. I just want to say this.’
He left the chair and knelt before her. Jess‘s heart almost stopped. What was he doing?
He brought out a small navy blue box and opened it for her to see a deep blue sapphire surrounded with diamonds nestled on a tiny navy velvet pad. She caught her breath, as he said, ‘Marry me Jess. Make me the happiest man on the planet.’ He took the ring from the box and held it up for her to see, ‘There’s an engraving on the inside and here’s a magnifying glass.
Her eyes now open in wonder, she said ‘Oh my God.’ Taking the ring and the magnifying glass she read, “From LDR to JM Forever United.’’
Hardly able to speak, Jessie put her hand on his shoulder drawing him up to sit beside her. ‘And I’m the happiest woman on this planet. Oh Douglas, I love you.’
He held her tightly for a few seconds, his hand stroking her bright thick hair. ‘Always babe, always.’ He drew back and grinned, ‘I wanted you to have this before – before we open the damned letter.’
He read the first page of the letter without a word, a slight frown creasing his forehead. ‘Damn, it’s complicated. Why can’t they just spell it out?’
She looked over, her heart racing, but said nothing except to bite her lip.
Douglas read the second page and then the third before going back again to the first page. Putting them in his lap, he laughed and took her in his arms. ‘Hey look at me –Jess – look at me … seems we’re related.’ With that, he laughed out loud and grabbed her. ‘Hello cousin – we could be had up for incest.’
Jess snatched up the papers her eyes racing down the pages. ‘Oh my God, my God – we are related. You really are my family.’ She bit her knuckles.
As he took back the papers, he said, ‘It reads here that the skeleton in the grave is not related … so Duncan did not drown himself in the lake then? They’ve got the connections of the hair from the canvas and us.’
Jess put her hand down only to bite the knuckle of her finger. ‘So where does that leave us?’
‘Exactly where we were minutes ago babe. I love you even though you’re the heir to this estate. Bugger, you just made it though, there’s only a couple of weeks to go before the whole bloody thing folded up anyway.’
‘It’s yours Douglas. I don’t need it. I really don’t—‘
‘Hey – we can work this out.’
‘Listen – I’ve thought a lot about it. I know that you will lose everything, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I can re-sell it to you for pence – really.’
He took her hands in his. ‘Okay – I’ve been thinking too. I knew from all that’s happened that it was on the cards. There were too many co-incidences for me to ignore, but, what about this? You become the major share-holder – I’ll just hang in there.’
‘No – I’m the major shareholder in the McGregor Empire. How about I’m on the board or whatever you want to do – just a minor shareholder? I really don’t want to be anything else. I have my practice, my psychology – research, besides my art.’
Douglas held her eyes. ‘Whatever happens babe, we’re together. He saw her glance down at her ring still in the box. Tugging at her hand he said, ‘I mean that in all ways. You’ve said you love me, but you have not answered my question yet Jess. Marry me – now – tomorrow.’
Jess felt her heart almost burst with love, relief and sheer joy. ‘Of course I’ll marry you – you’re my life Douglas –my life.’
He grinned ‘I know, I overheard you and Dinah that day.’
Jess drew a breath quickly and punched him lightly. ‘You devil. Did the others hear too?’
‘Of course they did. We could hardly stop grinning. That’s why George grabbed Dinah and I sat at your lovely feet.’
‘Now I’m embarrassed.’
‘Made my day – love you Jess.’ He grabbed her kissing her all over her face. He stopped for a moment to look at her, then grinned, ‘Cousin. However, we go back so many generations it doesn’t count does it. Not as long as we don’t get throwbacks, just think a little Duncan and a tiny Murial. See we’ve got the names already.’
Jess blushed. ‘Hey we’re not even married – time enough for all that.’
‘Not soon enough for me. But hey, we’re gonna have to let the gang know. I think Nat should be told before that. He’s my brother and partner after all.’
Jess straightened up. ‘Yes, of course. Have a chat with him – see if he’s happy with me being a minor shareholder. Think Douglas, I can put a lot of money into this – extensions, golf course – safari – anything you like. I’ve got an idea, why don’t we open a Complementary Healing Centre even a Psychic Centre. I’ve heard of one in England –can’t quite remember the name. People come from all over the worlds for week-long seminars and courses. What d’you think?’
‘Sounds good, but let’s take it slowly. You’ve got to think about this too and your board of directors. I’ll talk to Nat and then we’ll get the others together. Let’s surprise them. What about we have a sumptuous dinner served in here – champagne the lot. We’ll have the dinner first and then tell them about the DNA and our engagement.’
Pushing her hair back from her face Jess said, ‘I don’t know that I could go through all the courses and not let on – do you?’
‘We can try.
‘How about tonight? I don’t think I could go any longer without telling Di.”
George beamed, tucking into potato wedges covered in golden batter. ‘My favourite – but you knew that Jessie.’
‘Glad you like it George, Chef chose the menu for us tonight. Seems he’s well acquainted with all our tastes.’ Jessie grinned, her bright hair complimenting the deep blue of her dress.
Lucy dazzled in a shift of gold silk as she tucked into a melon salad, ‘Yep, he’s catered for us all; I see Nat has his garlic mushrooms and Dinah the lobster tails – great.’
‘Smashing idea having dinner and then a meeting. But, I warn you, I shall be too full to think properly.’ George patted his ample belly, and proceeded to take off his velvet cord jacket
Dinah laughed, ‘Time you went to the gym George. You’ve always got an excuse. Or, you could start taking Daisy and Victor out for some long walks. ‘
On hearing their names, both dogs raised their heads but seeing food was not on the horizon, sprawled back down across the bedroom door. They both had strict instructions to stay in the bedroom, but inevitably, they would work their way to being under the table nudging for titbits.
George sighed. ‘It’s the way I’m made babe. Look at Lucy – thin as a rake.’
‘Hey not so much of the “thin” thanks. I think slim is the word.’
Dinah beamed ‘Well, I love you just as you are huggy bear.” She bent to pinch one of his potato wedges, seeing the appreciative glances he shot at the low cleavage of her strapless bustier scattered with scarlet sequins. Silently, Dinah vowed she would take him in hand, diet, gym, long walks. He was a great guy, but loved his food and beer.
As the waiter cleared away the first course, Douglas looked over to Jess his eyebrows raised. Catching his message, she nodded. He rose to his feet, ‘Hey folks, we’ve got something to tell you.’ Four pairs of eyes widened with anticipation. ‘I – err – Jess and I got the news this morning… about the DNA. Seems we’re related—’
Lucy squealed with delight, as George exclaimed, ‘Good God – so you’re cousins.’
Dinah leapt to her feet. ‘Oh my God – my God.’
Nat already apprised of the situation, grinned, ‘Yeah seems I’ve gained beautiful American cousins.’
Lucy tapped him on the shoulder. ‘You didn’t say one word Nat and I’ve been with you all afternoon. How could you?’
He put a finger to his lips, and then grinned.
Dinah looked at Douglas. ‘How about the body in the tomb?’
Shaking his head, he said, ‘It’s not Duncan – seems his death is a mystery. He didn’t commit suicide by drowning after all. The rumours about him disappearing in search of Murial could be true.’
‘Hmm I wonder. Last we know from the letters, they were going to Jamaica whether or not their marriage was approved of by the Earl or the Ton,
Jessie interjected, ‘She was only in the early stages of pregnancy. But Duncan does write to say he is returning as speedily as possible.’
‘Enough of this maudlin stuff.’ Taking Lucy’s hand he added, ‘Looks like we get to visit our American family. Coming?’
The banter continued, as the wine flowed. Dinah looked at Jess speculatively, she seemed to be holding back, giving surreptitious glances over at Douglas. What was it?
As one waiter cleared the dessert, another entered with a champagne bucket whilst yet another carried in flute glasses. George laughed, ‘Way to go, way to go. This is a celebration alright.’
Lucy gave a little shriek as the champagne cork flew across the room whilst Dinah ducked. Once the waiter left, closing the door quietly behind him, Douglas once again rose to his feet. ‘Okay folks – Jess and I have something to tell you. We’re getting married.’
After a momentary silence, they leapt to their feet, lifting glasses. Raising his voice over the congratulations and laughter, George said, ‘So when’s the happy date?’
Jessie said, ‘Haven’t got one yet, but we’re working on it. Lot of things to get sorted with the hotel and everything.’
Bringing out the little jewel box, Douglas took out the ring placing it on the third finger of her left hand. ‘My bride to be.’
Dinah clapped her hands, ‘I knew I knew it. You’ve been giving each other secret glances all evening. Let me see?’ Jumping up she grabbed Jessie’s hand as Lucy followed. The men sat where they were grinning.
Dinah said, ‘Maybe now Murial’s spirit will be at rest. You’re the descendent of the baby she was searching for Jess.’
As Lucy made her way back to her seat, she said, ‘Murial does seem to be quiet. I haven’t experienced anything lately have you Jess?’
Jess looked over to Lucy, ‘No – no dreams or premonitions. I know I saw her just that once at the writing desk, but nothing since.’
Dinah nodded, ‘Yes but the letters and articles end so abruptly at the end of November. The Clearances go on for years. There must be more. So many questions left unanswered.’
Jess nodded, ‘You’re right. Father O’Reilly isn’t at all happy. He insists the haunting will continue until we have the exorcism. But then, he’s an old grouch, puffing on that smelly pipe of his, rasping on about demons and Jesuits. He swears blind, we need the exorcism not for Murial but for the demon, which could be Max – certainly looks like him from the portrait. I thought it was in my imagination because I’d seen the portrait. But, you fought with him Douglas.’
‘I fought a monster Jess, all scales and fangs. Just looking at the portrait, I’m not sure if it was Max, but it did remind me of him.’
Jess sighed, why did he have to go on fact alone? Couldn’t he use just a bit of imagination. She quelled the frustration. He wasn’t going to change. He was almost black and white, and she was all the shades in between.
As if reading her thoughts, he said, ‘You know, maybe you’re right, I remember now, I saw this guy by the lake – he was quite odd, I thought he was in fancy dress or something. It was the day I was searching for you…’ He hesitated looking at her, choosing his words carefully, ‘You know the day of our – talk. I heard voices in the suite, arguing, but when I opened the door, there was no-one there. I went over to the window, and that’s when I saw him by the lake, looking up at me and smirking. I thought he looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him, just thought he looked odd in fancy dress costume or something. But, come to think of it, yes, it could have been Max.’
Jess felt her whole body lighten. A smile twitched at her lips. ‘I could kiss you for that Douglas.’
He hugged her tightly to him. ‘Maybe Father O’Reilly’s right you know. But, the only thing is, an exorcism could stir things up.’
As he uttered those words, Phantom shot out from his favourite sleeping spot on the window sill, hissing at the writing desk.
Stunned to silence, they watched as he slunk across, his whiskers, fangs glistening. But then, he stopped and sunk to the carpet scratching his ear gracefully.
Jess laughed, ‘He’s moody. Maybe woke up from a bad dream of losing mice.’
Dinah grinned, ‘So much for black cats, witches, and the devil. Anyway, Murial has helped us to reveal her descendent. She must be at rest now.’
Jess nodded, ‘True. The only thing that is not clear, is why she carries the skeleton child – that is a mystery still. Anyway, now I know she is my grandmother a few greats removed. It’s a wonderful feeling you know, a family at last. Now I can visualize all those ancestors standing behind me. I feel … complete. She stroked Douglas’s hand, smiling into his eyes.
Douglas beamed. ‘Now for some more news, Jess and I have been discussing some new additions for the Hotel, like a Centre for Complimentary Healing, seminars and courses in the Paranormal.’ Something for you guys to mull over. But we can discuss that another time.’
Dinah frowned looking over to George, wondering if she could go back to work in New York. Their relationship looked to be going to another level. She was falling in love with the guy but what about her practice? Could she and Jess transfer to here in Scotland? With Douglas making arrangements to improve the Hotel, Jess would be making her home here.
As if reading her mind George murmured, ‘Hmm I have been thinking of taking out a tenure at the university here, it’s not too far to travel.’ He paused, looking meaningfully at Dinah who flushed.
Nat caught hold of Lucy’s hand, ‘So what about it? You can’t go back now. We need you.’
Lucy lowered her eyes, her heart beating a tattoo. It was too alluring to refuse. The idea of the Centre along with lecturing in the evenings at the Hotel was attractive. Besides she didn’t want to leave now. Nat was becoming important to her – too important for her to leave right now.
Jess smiled inwardly, it sounded as if there were some impending proposals floating around here.
Aware of the softness of Daisy’s head nudging her legs, Jessie looked at the faces around the table. She felt a rush of joy, of belonging. She had a family and loving friends, the vacuum was filled, her heart at peace.
A few doors down from the Mermaid Suite, a woman shivered as voile curtains billowed from a sudden breeze. Setting down her glass of wine, she leant towards her husband, “Someone’s singing their baby to sleep. Isn’t that sweet? Can you hear it?’
The man rustled his newspaper, ‘What?’
‘Someone’s singing, ‘Bye baby Bunting … Daddy’s gone a hunting…. Can you hear it?’
‘No.’ He turned a page.
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: