Katy’s Blog

books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 35 & 36

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 35 & 36

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 35

Douglas looked down biting his lip. He’d tried so many ways to overcome this fear.  All failed so far.  He directed his gaze to jess. ‘I’ve had behaviour therapy, medication, hypnosis, but it hasn’t taken away the fear. It just helps me so that I can go near a lake.’ 

‘So, it may not be just that particular incident. If it was, it would be an exogenous fear, one brought about by outside influences. But, if as you say nothing has helped so it’s something within you. The accident only helped to bring it to the fore.  A phobia really means there is something in your unconscious, buried, deep, too intolerable for you to bear.  So, the mind is very clever. It has covered it with a phobia, that way you can cope with life.  Whilst you’re worrying about the phobia, your mind is occupied, so the real terror cannot rise to the surface of your mind. ’

 ‘But you’re supposed to be on vacation.’

 ‘My work is my life Douglas– without it I’d just dry up and wither away as they say.’    

 ‘So what about you and me?’

 Jess lowered her eyes, ’Can we leave it for a while.  I can’t go back – I need space now.  It seems every man I pick rejects me, one way or another.  Sometimes I think I do it deliberately, knowing they’ll leave me. ‘

‘Like your Dad?’

She nodded. ‘I know he died, but a child doesn’t know that, doesn’t accept it.   I used to sit on the windowsill when was I about three years old and pretend I had a Dad that he was walking down the street, walking home to me. I thought if I pretended hard enough it would come true.  I’d wave, and people would think I was waving at them and wave back.   Children do have deep feelings at that age you know.  They’re anxious if their parents leave them to go to work, or go out for an evening.  So, I should have got over it. But…’

Douglas took her hand, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you Jessie, when you showed me the locket,  first I thought it was another fraudster, then I thought there was a chance you were the heir, and Marnie’s face swam before my eyes – I’m sorry.’

‘We seem to be saying sorry a lot today. ‘

Douglas stroked the pale delicate hand, so small in his. He longed to hold her in his arms, feel her heart beating next to his.  He knew then he would never leave her, never leave the child in this woman’s body, the child waiting on that windowsill.  If only she would have him back. He knew in that instant that he loved her, a love that came from the depths of his being, an exquisite pain slicing through flesh and mind. They had only just met, been together only a short while but already she was in him, part of him.  His love would take them through life into death and beyond.  Lovers’ thoughts, lovers’ sorrows.  If only – if only he could take it all back.  But, ‘if only’ were the two saddest words in the English language.

***

With the blinds and curtains drawn, the room looked suitably dark and sombre.  The only relief came from candlelight flickering over the walls, picking up the golden fleur de Lys in the wallpaper.  A faint aroma of lavender and sage wafted from pot pouris scattered on small occasional tables.  Jessie was glad the two animals were safely ensconced in the kennels for the night.  Any psychic gathering would really upset them; animals were so sensitive to the presence of spirit.

 Noticing Lucy’s questioning gaze as Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata flooded the room,  Dinah said,  ‘The music draws spirit. Mediums encourage sitters to sing nursery songs, or whatever makes sound.  Then there’re the scents as well, they cleanse, drawing in spirits from the higher spheres’

Twining her fingers in a lock of pale blond hair Lucy said, ‘I thought we were here to exorcise the woman in the painting – Murial?’

 ‘Oh no, we’re just going to sit in a circle, and hope Murial comes through.  I think she needs help.  There’s something terribly sad about her. ‘ 

 Dinah said, ’Jess’s dreamt about her and the dreams don’t bode well.’

Douglas shifted in his seat.  He didn’t want to be here, but if it meant being with her, so be it.  It wasn’t as if she was asking him to believe.  He looked at the Ouija on the table, with scraps of paper with the  words of the alphabet placed in a circle around it, and the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ positioned  at each end of the table.

George said, ‘I thought we were just going to sit and hold hands.  This is a Ouija board isn’t it? I’ve heard it can attract evil – well it does in films.’   

Dinah laughed.  ‘No that’s just fantasy.  Anyway, this Manor doesn’t have any dark history does it?’  

Nat frowned.  ‘Well yeah, it does really; Maximillian, Lord Duncan’s younger brother was killed in a duel. Around the same time, Lord Duncan supposedly drowned himself and Father O’Reilly swears blind there’s a darker spirit here.’

Lucy said, ‘It’s been a place of horror. George and I had a day out.  We drove over fifty miles to the  Clearances Museum.  They give lectures and slide shows on the Clearances of 1810 onwards. Thousands of people starved to death here.’

 Dinah groaned.  ‘Aw Lucy, don’t – can’t bear to hear of it.’

 ‘They had to bear it, families evicted from their cottages, living in holes in the road, children crying, dying on their feet.’   

 Jess said. ‘You’re right Lucy, there have been some terrible, heartbreaking things happening here. Maybe we shouldn’t go on with this.  It’s too powerful – too dark.’

The Ouija board  moved as she spoke.  Jess clenched her teeth.  ‘No we can’t go on.  It’s too dark?’

 ‘Shut up.’  A deep voice sliced the air and their hearts with terror. ‘Ye cannot leave now. It’s started.’ 

Douglas tried to stand, but George pushed him back down.  ‘Look at Lucy.’

Unconscious, Lucy lay slumped in her seat, her mouth partly open. In shocked silence, they saw a thin wisp of smoke escape through her mouth, thickening, building into a balloon shape drifting over the table.  Dinah cried out as a skeletal head emerged from the smoke, the teeth clacking together.

Jess’s heart jumped as a male voice boomed out,   ‘Can ye bear the suffering?  Can ye bear to see our people dying, crying for food, bones sticky with fever, sucking them dry?’ 

 Dinah tried not to run, as the skull zoomed in front of her, her heart pounding as it snapped its teeth the air in front of her, drawing nearer.

More smoke exuded from Lucy’s mouth.  Jess whispered, ‘It’s ectoplasm.’


Chapter 36

Douglas felt his heart drumming in his ears. Christ it was true, bloody true, life after death. God, but not this – not this.  He crouched as the ectoplasm swirled above them, spiralling into the form of a young woman, her hair, scarlet trails of blood, socketless eyes turning to them. She uncovered a tiny skeleton, long vaporous fingers stroking the yellow baby skull, small toothless jaws clicking as it suckled at her breast. Hovering over them, she disappeared only to appear behind them gliding towards the writing desk.  They watched in shocked silence as she began to croon ‘Bye Baby Bunting, Daddy’s gone a huntin….’    

No one dared to speak as the room became ice cold, their breath tendrils of smoke. Lucy groaned ejecting a dense cloud of smoke. Another voice, deep, husky sneered, ‘Death comes.  She shall be mine. Ye shall never have her.’

Despite his horror Douglas cried out, ‘Whose death, who?’ 

‘The bitch is dead.’ The dense cloud drifted over to Jess, the livid face of a man stretching forth, the eyes weeping pus, the teeth, yellow dripping slime, a face from the grave. ‘She has always been mine.’  

Douglas gave a startled cry as Jess almost disappeared in a cloak of black smoke. He lunged forward, deaf to Dinah’s warning, clutching at Jess trying to pull her to him. ‘Get back to hell you evil bastard.’  As he held her, he felt a viscous slime dripping over both of them, into his eyes, his nostrils, mouth.  Choking, fighting to wipe away the mess, he heard Jess coughing, gasping for breath, the slime spilling from her lips, he dug his fingers into her mouth trying to clear it, yet Douglas could not stop the putrid gel from filling her mouth.

To his terror, Murial’s wraith floated before him, the skeletal hands reaching out to Jess, the tiny jaws of the shrunken baby gnashing. His hands shook, as he tried to brush the wasted appendages away from Jess’s face, but in vain.  In horror, he watched the bony fingers wriggle inside Jess’s mouth, pulling out streams of slime.  He wanted to get up and run, but was rooted to the spot.  To his terror and relief, he saw the flow of gel become small globules as Jess vomited out a mass of slime onto the table.  Her eyes fluttered open, chest heaving as she began to breathe.  Slowly Murial removed the emaciated fingers from Jess’s mouth and turned her head towards Dinah, drifting towards her singing ‘Bye baby Bunting, Daddy’s gone a huntin ….’

Dinah backed away, shouting, ‘Our Father who art in Heaven–’

A dark voice bellowed over Murial’s lullaby, ‘Time to fly … time to die … the piglet is screaming, Prissy is fucking a demon and I am dreaming of drinking your fucking  BLOOD.’

A gale shrieked through the room, curtains billowing, ornaments smashing to the floor.  The chandelier swung dangerously above them, a teardrop crystal falling as if in slow motion cutting Lucy on the forehead. 

Nat ran to her, trying to lift her as the blood streamed over her face into her mouth, He cried, ‘She’s choking – choking on her own blood.’  

Dinah shouted at him. ‘Paint the cross on her skin Nat. Do it – do it now.’

 Nat trembled as he dipped in his fingers in Lucy’s bright blood spewing from the mouth, spraying his face and clothes.  Grimly, he plastered a ragged cross on her forehead. Lifting her, he pleaded,’ Breathe Lucy – breathe.’   She jolted in his arms, the blood now just a dribble.

George ran to the windows, pulling open the curtains, tearing at the blinds, whilst Dinah switched on the lights.  The dark mist cleared as George fell to his knees shocked.  ‘Christ all Bloody Mighty, what was that?’  Tears streamed from Jess’s eyes as she panted, ‘Hell – George – Hell.’

 Nat whipped his cell phone from his pocket.  Tapping in the numbers, he said, ‘Father O’Reilly – Father  its Nat here.  Can you come quickly?  Things are bad – bad here … Yeah.   I’ll tell you when you get here….  We are in the Mermaid Suite … Yeah Mermaid Suite ….  I’ll meet you outside.’

He put down the phone.  ‘He’s none too pleased. But, he’s coming.’ 

Douglas scowled ‘You didn’t need to do that, Christ; we’ve had enough already.’ He stroked Jess’s hair, his fingers brushing away the last spots of gel from her lips.  ‘Darling – you okay?’

Jess raised her eyes to his, and nodded her arm curling around his neck.

Dinah almost whispered, ‘Murial – she saved your life Jess.  Did you see the baby?’

Jess spoke, her voice low in wonder, ‘Yes – it was awful, but she saved us Di.  I felt her bones, her fingers down my throat – can’t believe it Di. My throat is so sore.’’

Nat held Lucy in his arms, tenderly brushing away the matted hair from her bloodied forehead. As he felt her shudder,  he gently kissed her murmuring, ‘It’s okay sweetheart – it’s okay – I’ve got you now.’

Douglas looked over to Nat, ‘Thank God – it’s cleared.  We don’t need the priest to whip it all up again.’

 Holding Lucy tight, Nat said, ‘This place is dammed Doug. We opened the door to Hell, and O’Reilly’s the only one who can close it.’

 ‘But it’s all quiet – gone.’

‘So you think.  But, evil like that just doesn’t go away.  It’s bloody playing with us.’

 Dinah rose to go to George, shuddering on the settee, when the lullaby floated softly through the room.  ‘Bye Baby Bunting Daddy’s gone hunting….’

 ‘Did you hear that?’  Dinah crouched closer to George. ‘Oh God don’t say it’s happening again. We’ve got to get out of here.’

***

Hunched over, lighting his pipe, Father O’Reilly clicked off his lighter.  Squinting through the smoke he coughed, his voice rasping. ‘Stupid, that’s what ye be, stupid, playing with the Devil.’

Nat said, ‘Father, it was just a small circle−’

Douglas felt needles of anger nicking his spine; he was talking to them as if they were bloody kids.  ‘We certainly didn’t invite it; it was only a séance just a Ouija board and bits of paper for Christ’s sake.’

‘Don’t be taking the Lord’s name in vain boy. Sure, ye conjured up demons that’s what ye did. Did ye have no sense?’  He thrust the tobacco bag pouch back into the pocket of his shabby coat.

Jessie stiffened. Boy? Douglas thirty-four. He really was an offensive old man – rude – bad mannered.  ‘I just thought−’

 ‘So it was you was it young lady?’  Taking his pipe from his mouth, he snarled showing stubs of brown stained teeth.  ‘So tell me now. What pushed you to peer into Hell?’

Douglas put an arm around her.  ‘That’s a bit much.  She was only-‘

‘Bit much?  Bit much did ye say? Better that, than she loses her soul, than be dragged down into the pit.’  He pushed his pipe squarely into his mouth, puffing.

Dinah tried to quell the rising tension. ‘Murial saved Jess’s life tonight. We think she’s haunting Jess.  She’s having dreams – Murial appeared on a canvas Jess is painting.’

‘And would you be telling me who you are?’

‘Dinah – Dinah Shibley, a cousin of Jess.’

The priest’s eyes gleamed.  ‘Beautiful enough for the Fey. Ye’ll have to watch they don’t fetch you away.’

Dinah blushed, catching hold of a lock of hair.    

He shuffled over to the armchair, lowering his body into the comfort of the cushions.   ‘Murial, is a sweet soul, an angel, tis not her that is haunting ye, as ye say she’ll be after protecting ye.’

Douglas sprang to his feet.  ‘Protecting?  She’s frightening the life out of Jessie.’

‘So tell me now, what is our angel doing?’

‘She’s possessing Jessie in dreams; now she’s appearing on a canvas holding a baby, a skeleton. It makes you shudder to look at it. Jess was painting a scene of the lake and the mausoleum.  She left it for a few minutes, covering it up with a cloth.  When she came back, Murial was painted standing inside the mausoleum’

‘Ah, poor wee soul, she is searching for something, waiting.’

’That’s why we wanted to help her.’ Dinah said, looking over to Jessie.

Turning to Jess, the priest asked, ‘And why d’you think she would be after helping you?’

Douglas spoke up.  ‘I think there’s a connection Father. Jess showed me two scraps of paper the other day, and a locket?’

‘Hah, the locket again.  Do ye not get tired of looking at bloody lockets?’

‘No Father, this time I think there is something.  Jess could you get the papers and the locket please?’

As Jessie walked over to the desk, the priest’s eyes widened. ‘Is that not the desk from the attic?’

‘Yes Father, we-‘

 ‘I told ye to burn it.  It’s possessed – a devil’s gateway.’

 ‘But Father I didn’t know it was in here. I specifically told Tom to put it in the barn. But, somehow it appeared here.’

 Jessie said, ‘He was going to remove it, but I asked him, to leave it. ‘

The priest sucked on his pipe, ‘Hmm, devil’s work.’  Sitting down he took out a pair of spectacles from his top pocket and examined the scraps of paper. ‘There’s not much to go on here, two birth certificates. Hmm. The initials Mur and Mor?   It could be anything.  To be sure there’re many names beginning with M.’

Opening the locket, he peered at the painting, ‘Tis like his Lordship and this hair – tis so like−’

Lucy interrupted, ‘Maybe you could get a DNA reading?’

Douglas said, ‘Not if the strands were cut. It has to have a follicle on the end. And even then it may be too old.’

Lucy looked over to Douglas, ‘Might be an idea.’

 Dinah jumped up. ‘I have some strands from the painting. I’m sure they’re an apport from Murial.’

The room darkened as a male voice cut the air. ‘Ye shall not have her, the bitch is mine.’ 

Father O’Reilly plunged his hand into his breast pocket bringing out a phial of liquid. Grunting his way up from the chair, he immediately began sprinkling the room

The voice cackled ‘Get ye hence ye canting priest. Your brain is pickled in drink. Your tongue vomiting flies-’

His face blotched purple with anger, the priest raised his arms as he shouted, ‘Begone all foul things from this-’

‘Maggots squirm in your stomach you piss pot of a priest.’  

Taking hold of Lucy, Nat drew her closer to George and the others, whilst the priest rose to his feet.

His quavering voice now strong he roared, ‘Time to send this demon back to Hell.’


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!

books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 33 & 34

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 33 & 34

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 33

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.


Chapter 34

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?’

 ‘About what?’

‘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.’


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!

meditation, poetry, reading, spiritual, Writing

My Study: A Poem

My lounge is a place of the heart. I think of carpets, sofas, the comfort of elderly visits. the surprise and birth of children. I remember family birthday parties with cake, blowing out candles and wishing. Spring with French doors open to roses, and horsechesnut trees. In whispers, I recall funereal buffets with soft weeping.

My study, however, is the silent home of my soul; of thoughts unspoken, turning into novels and poetry tapped out onto a plastic keyboard.


My Study

A sunlit room of oaken beams where dreams
Stream flowing through fresh windows,
Searching scarred shadows, papers shown, reams,
Of prose, doomed epitaphs, mellow.
Pastel portraits of animals long dead,
Haunting, dog running, flowers, fields,
The spring of adolescence, blossoms fed
On a winter of shattered innocence, concealed.
 
Figurines from ancient dynasties,
Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, and Abrahamic,
hover in the mist of lost loyalties,
Whilst the Virgin steps on the serpent's hiss,
Outside the dark Cathedral of Trees,
Inspires, bringing sorrow to its knees.

Copyright: Katy Walters


books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 31 & 32

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 31 & 32

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 31

Wearily, Jess returned to her room to see the answer phone flashing.  Pressing the button, she listened to his voice, ’Jess – you have to stop this.  We have to meet up.  Nat has just told me about the attack. For goodness sake – don’t you think you have punished me enough?  Please answer this message; I’m worried sick about you. I love you. Just answer – please.’ 

Tears sprung to her eyes, stupid – stupid pride.  She should answer it – wanted to answer it; the bitterness replaced with yearning. Her hand hesitated over the phone.  She realized how awkward it was for all concerned. The friends would feel obliged to invite him to the séance. It was after all his hotel. They couldn’t spurn him because of the quarrel. Maybe he wouldn’t turn up.  Part of her felt relieved at the thought, but another part longed for him to be there. Taking a deep breath, she knew she had to get this together – meet it with dignity. Even if her heart did threaten to leap through her chest.

Dropping her hand to her side, she turned to the window, looking over the lake, the water dark and still, the mausoleum barely visible. Walking out to the balcony she clutched the wrought-iron railing as she whispered, ‘Murial – who are you?  What do you want?

Re-entering the room, Jess shut and locked the large windows. She looked again at the phone; it was late; the wine had gone to her head; her speech might be fuzzy; she might babble, or not make sense – best to leave it until she was quite sober. But then, without the wine maybe she wouldn’t find the courage to phone him.

After undressing and donning an oversized tee shirt, she brushed her hair, plating it into two long braids and pinning them on top of her head. That familiar heaviness tugged at her eyes, as she climbed into the bed pulling the duvet up around her.

Murial struggled awake to Becky pounding on the door. ‘Milady, wake up, wake up.

 Unlocking the door, she met the frightened eyes of the maid, ‘Oh milady tis terrible news – you must come quickly.  Tis the village of Tanmore, the soldiers are tumbling the cottages.’ 

 Splashing her face with water Murial flung on a fine lawn shirt hanging ready for her along with men’s underdrawers and her leather knee breeches. Oh God, this would happen with Duncan on his way to Jamaica.

Pulling on thigh-high boots, she snatched up her riding crop and belt with her short sword.  Whilst buckling it on, she dashed after the maid, shouting out to her to run to the stables and see her horse was saddled.  Meanwhile, she ran to Guy’s room.  ‘Guy, wake up, wake up Guy,’ When he didn’t answer, she pushed the door open, only to find the cluttered room empty.  Running down the broad oak staircase, she made her way to the dining room but again, the room was empty.  Seeing a servant scurrying by she shouted, ‘Where’s Sir Guy?’  

 ‘He’s saddling his horse in the stables milady, tis such a terrible thing – a terrible thing.’

Hearing the clatter of horses’ hooves outside, she ran to find Guy waiting for her, his delicate face paler than ever. ‘Come on Sis, seems the devils couldn’t wait.’

 She saw John the footman already saddled up along with the kennel man and head groom.  A couple of other male servants made up the group.  At least if there was a skirmish, they had enough manpower and weapons. She just wished Duncan was with them. He would certainly have rounded up more men, and he was a formidable adversary.

 As they rode to the village, Murial said, ‘So the estate owner is evicting them?’

Guy’s face was grim. ‘Aye – he wants the land for grazing.’

 ‘But surely he can’t do this – how can he turn a whole village out of their homes?  There must be ninety families living there.  They can’t possibly turn starving families out of their very homes?’

 ‘Tis within the estate owners’ rights.  They can do anything they like with the land; you know the tenants have no rights at all.’

 ‘But we know these tenants.  They are quite prosperous, built the cottages themselves. Do you remember? They saved the land, over four hundred acres, from the bog, split the stones up themselves and built the cottages with their own hands.  Now that fiend is destroying their homes.  I know the tenants have the rent ready.  They are renowned for paying their rent upfront.   Oh God – how is this allowed to happen?’  

 ‘Tis avarice – selfishness.  Many of the estate owners just treat their tenants like animals.  Look at Father, he has them use tunnels.  He has forbidden any of them to show themselves when he is in residence. He even has the tunnels running under the front lawns, so they cannot be seen. Only the house servants are allowed above ground and that is through sheer necessity.’

 Before reaching the village, they could hear the screams, smell the air acrid with smoke, hear the roar of soldiers’ voices.  The scene that met them tore at Murial’s heart.  It was a picture from Dante’s Inferno no less.  Thatch, slates and stones flew through the air as the infantry tore off the roofs of the cottages.  A small canon boomed creating jagged holes in the stone walls, tumbling them to the ground.

 Murial could see the villagers had been abed when the soldiers attacked the village. Some were half dressed, others still in their nightclothes. Men fought with spades and bits of wood only to be felled by armed militia.  Women screamed holding onto doorposts, desperate to stay in a home now just a pile of rubble and burning wood.  Their children sobbed clinging to their skirts. 

Guy with Murial following, led the group into the melee of muskets, swords and blood, screaming for the soldiers to desist.  Riding up to the Captain she shouted, ‘I order you to stop now, I am from Rhonan Manor and I order you by the name of the Earl to desist.’

The man trying to keep his horse quiet shouted back, ‘I take orders from the General – forgive me but this work must be done.’    Turning her horse away from him, she cursed, ‘Damn you; these are decent law-abiding people.  You are doing the devils work this day Sir, the devil’s work.’

Guy rode to her side. ‘Tis no use Murial – there is nothing we can do.  There are too many. Come let us go now.  ‘

 ‘Never.’  She screamed, ‘I’ll fight them with every bone in my body. Come Guy raise your sword and fight.  Charging into the crowd, she swiped at the soldiers working on the cannons, trying to pull others from their horses. They dare not touch her for she was one of the Quality, yet neither did the soldiers fall back.  Guy, John and the other men bravely took on the attackers, swords in hand to be met with broadswords or knocked to the ground fighting to keep out of the way of the horses, rearing terrified, their eyes wide, hooves chopping air.

 Leaping off her horse, Murial went to the aid of one young woman holding a baby whilst fighting to snatch some belongings from the smoking ruins, her child crying, clutching a rag doll.  Using the flat of her sword, she struck a soldier on the back, whereupon, she rallied the horse around to hit another across the side of his head.  Dazed, he looked at her with shocked eyes, before falling to the ground.  She turned to help the woman, snatching up a frying pan, bed linen and some clothes before escaping from the flames. 

Short of killing the soldiers, Guy and Murial were almost helpless. They could not turn them away.  Horrified at the screams of the children, she looked to see older ones bravely trying to fight the soldiers with their bare fists only to be flung aside. As she raced towards them, to her horror, she saw a young man barley sixteen years old, try to defend his mother.   Everything turned to slow motion as she ran to help him only to see the soldier lift his gun and shoot the lad in the head, hearing the mother’s anguished wail as he fell dying at her feet.  

 Holding the weeping woman struggling in her arms Murial screamed at him, ‘You bastard – I’ll kill you – kill you.’   Baring her teeth she let go of the mother lunging at him with her sword tip now pointed towards him.   The force of her thrust knocked him down. Together they rolled in the dirt and ashes of the ruin, the man narrowly escaping a fatal blow as her sword bounced off his chest armour.  The mother now screaming like a banshee leapt on him, fists flailing giving Murial the advantage.  Snarling, clenching her teeth she yelled as she leapt to run him through only to feel herself lifted away. Guy’s voice rang out, ‘Don’t Murial – don’t hang for him.’

 Still kicking, trying to escape his arms she cried, ‘He killed a child Guy – an innocent lad – I’ll murder him, run him through.’

 Wresting the sword from her, he helped her back on her horse. ‘Murial – my braw brave girl – save yourself to help others. Tis all we can do now.’

 Murial put her head in her hands and wept. As she wiped away the hot tears, she saw another child lying on the ground, her tiny body battered by horses’ hooves.  Kicking her horse into a gallop she rode over to the Captain, who was still on his horse watching the heart-wrenching turmoil, she said.  ‘You will rue this day Captain – don’t talk to me of duty – this is evil – the slaying of innocents.’  

 He turned a weary head to her, his eyes glittering, ‘He will pay for that act madam.  Tis not our choice; this day will burn in our hearts.  The order was not to shoot death into the crowd.  That blackguard will not live to see the night – that I promise you.’  

 Murial turned her head to see the man now manacled, led out of the fighting.    


Chapter 32

Jessie moaned, as if in pain, her body writhing between the sheets. Rivulets of sweat rippled down her face, running in beads onto her chest. She was living a nightmare – Murial had reached out once more and drawn her into the shocking reality of the Clearances. Part of her wanted to stay in the dream to see if Murial and Guy could help the victims, the other part of her struggled to escape experiencing the sheer cruelty meted out to the helpless tenants. Thrashing her arms, she fought to escape, to gain consciousness.  Forcing her eyes open, she blinked away the sweat, feeling her clothes wet to her skin.

 Swinging her legs off the side of the bed Jessie rose to walk to the bathroom.  Switching on the cold-water tap, scooping up handfuls of cold water, and bathing her face, she looked into the mirror, seeing the violet shadows beneath the eyes, the horror in her gaze.  Had that really happened?  Had a landlord or estate owner been so callously cruel as to rip people from their own homes, burning them to the ground? Did he ever feel remorse for those wretched people, innocent law-abiding citizens and defenseless children?

 They’d paid the rent, goddamn.  Where were the laws to protect them?  Jessie remembered the grim faces of the soldiers and something else in their eyes, a dreadful flatness, as if they were trying to blank out the devil himself.  How did they feel as their horses stamped on the fragile bodies of the children, on the mothers trying to save them?

Why was Murial showing her these gut-wrenching scenes?  Did she want retribution?  But, how could Jessie help two centuries later? It had all happened – there was nothing she could do. It was like watching the appeals on television for Somalia, sending money only to know that thousands of pounds would be swallowed down the ever hungry throats of corrupt governments.   It was too late for many of the helpless starving children.  Even now in a century where technological advances challenged mortality itself, famines broke out.  Even now, there were worlds of extremes, of celebrities earning millions, of children in the ghettos starving – dying. 

Was Murial showing her because she wanted her descendents to know what she suffered? What Scotland suffered?  Pouring herself a glass of water, she began to drink, only to find herself slipping back into the dream.  No, this couldn’t be happening.  Powerless to resist, she felt the trance, numbing her body, her mind, as she slumped in the chair.

Within hours not one cottage stood.  After the departure of the soldiers, the former tenants picked among the smoking ruins.  Murial worked alongside the evicted tenants.  Nearby Guy and the men, hurled debris aside helping those half buried under fallen doors and rubble.  Added to their despair, on the estate owner’s orders, no help was to be given them from neighbours in the adjacent village. They were to leave the estate for the coast before night. 

Not even the children or babies were to be offered shelter.  The stricken villagers now faced a night without food on the roads. 

Murial, her face and clothes grimy with dirt and ashes saw a small cavalcade arrive. She managed to smile as Meg along with some servants arrived with a cart laden with food and clothes and bedding.  It was mutually decided to ignore the estate owner’s orders and to build a habitable space in the ruins with doorposts serving to hold a roof of branches and turf. At least, that way they would have a couple of days to plan what they might do to survive the roads.

 As night fell, so tenants from a neighbouring village crept in unseen to help.  The stricken victims sat with hearts broken in the ruins of what was once a beloved family home. The remains of cherished kitchen dressers served as benches on which to sleep. These people through the toil of their own hands had enjoyed a certain prosperity, but even that did not save them when the estate owner claimed the very land on which the cottages stood.

 Murial watched Meg handing out food, whilst she provided the half-naked villagers with warm clothes but sadly, there were not enough to go around, the villagers’ own clothes and bedding having been destroyed in the tumbling. Murial waved a weary hand to Guy, and others helping the men to try to build makeshift dwellings, chopping up branches, heaving loads of rescued turf.  At least that would give them some shelter against the cold and rain of the night hours.  

Dawn ushered in Hell.  The soldiers were back to drive them from the very ruins. Again, with no warning, the broken people awoke to the thrum of horses’ hooves and the clash of metal swords.  Murial opened her eyes to see the soldiers surrounding the ruins; weapons raised.  Desperate cries wrought the air, ‘Ye canna do this?  Oh dear God in heaven save us – save us oh Lord.’   The people scattered pausing to scoop up their sobbing children as they climbed from the mud and ashes of the blackened holes, their only shelter.

One woman fell to her knees followed by others who held up their hands in prayer. ‘Please Mary Mother of God, save us, save the wee bairns. Do not desert us Mother Mary – save our bairns.’

 But, the only replies were the coarse curses of the solders as they dragged them praying from the ruins. 

 Murial knew it was useless to fight, but she could at least see they were not roughly handled, ‘Get your bloody hands off her.’ she cried as one soldier dragged a woman half dressed along the ground.  Seeing her raised sword, he dropped the pitiful form.

Clutching a handful of clothes with the odd cauldron, the people were forced off the estate and onto the open road now, only the ditches could offer any respite.

Streams ran through some of the ditches, others were almost a bog.  Wearily, Murial rode alongside the evicted tenants, a child on her lap, another clinging on behind her.

 Riding alongside her with more children on his horse, Guy said, ‘Murial you’ve had no rest. You must go back to the Manor, rest, eat and then return in warm clothing. 

 Her eyes felt full of grit as she looked at him. ‘No, we have to see these people settled.  We must do what we can now.  Besides I would not rest. You know that.  I am strong I can carry on.’

‘But Murial−‘

 ‘No Guy – please, there are over four hundred people here, let’s find somewhere for them at least for tonight.    Thank God, some people from the other estates have ignored the threats of the estate owners; they have come en masse to help us.  Even if it means they too could lose their homes. They’ve brought clothes, blankets, food, cooking pots, dry wood.  They can help build the shelters in some of the dryer ditches. But, Guy it’s shocking, only yesterday these people were abed in their own homes, a fire in their grates, warm kitchens, pretty parlours and now this.  They built those cottages Guy, saved the land from the bog.  Not much is getting into the newspapers.  These innocent hardworking people have done nothing to deserve such treachery. The world does not know yet. And when it does, it will be too late for many of them here.’  With a sob, she clutched the child to her breast.

Even in a state of shock, the courage of the Scottish people shone through, some singing, others talking quietly and yet others softly bewailing their fate.  Yet, their spirit was not yet broken, neither did they blame their God, as they set to building the shelters in the ditches.  Some men dug as others stamped down the ground.  The women gathered branches and turf in readiness for the makeshift roofs. By nightfall, the fires were lit on the roadside and the food cooking, but it was not enough. Many tonight would go hungry for yet another night. Murial wondered how long the food would last.  The neighbours could only share so much as they themselves were near starving.

 Mud seeped into the bottom of the ditch as Murial awoke to light filtering through the branches overhead.  The earthen walls of their tomb seeming to shake as the occupants awoke to a dull thudding.  Pushing aside a couple of the branches overhead, she heard men shouting. ‘They’re here again – tis the soldiers.’   Murial tried not to disturb the sleeping child as she climbed to her feet. Her whole body ached from half sitting half lying huddled among the evicted tenants.  Wearily, she wiped streaks of mud from for her eyes as she peered into the distance.  Yes, they were coming; she could see the flash of sunlight on steel.  Dear God – what now?

Groups of people were already about, as dawn peeled back the night. Joining Guy, who stood quietly talking to a group of men, she heard him say, ‘They will not attack us surely, these are ditches, the people must rest somewhere. They must be on their way to yet another estate.’  His words were cut short as the soldiers neared their weapons raised menacingly.  A woman screamed; others began to shout as Murial watched some soldiers alight from their horses and begin tearing off the roofs of the shelters, dragging out the screaming people.  

 Her heart pounding Murial ran forward, what was happening now?  Surely, they couldn’t be evicting them from the ditches, from mud-filled holes in the ground?  Running to her horse, she untethered him and leapt on his back.  She looked a mess; a beggar with a filthy mud streaked face, and dirt caked clothes, as she joined Guy, who was now speaking angrily to the Captain.  She caught his words, ‘This is beyond belief Captain – how in hell’s name can you evict these people from the ditches?  They are past the boundaries of the estate surely?

The Captain shook his head bringing out a map, ‘Sir; they may be beyond Lord Tanmore’s estate, but they are now on Lord Gallagher’s estate.  They must keep to the roads until they reach the forests and the coast.’ 

 Guy’s face whitened. ‘You can’t do this – in God’s name man they will perish for sure, tis only the bogs and the forests left to them.’  Shaking his head, Guy turned to see Murial approach.  It’s no use Murial– there is nothing we can do.’  

Murial bit her lip.  For once, she was lost for words. Neither Guy nor she could start fighting; people would be hurt more than they were now.  Looking at the Captain she said, ‘How can you live with yourself.  Could you not have turned a blind eye to this? Could you not let these poor people rest? At least let the children eat?’

The Captain looked at her with dreadful eyes, his speech almost a whisper. ‘I am sworn to serve my General – t’would be treason to disobey. I and my men would be hung or shot madam.  May God forgive me for this day’s work.’

 Guy spoke softly, ‘Come sister, you are needed at the Manor – there are others there who are near starving – dying.  Let us go.’

 Murial bit her lip, her eyes brimming with tears, as she whispered, ‘Captain let them eat first – please.’

The Captain bowed his head, ’Of course madam – then we must escort these people from the estates.  Be assured no one will be hurt.  Death will go hungry today.’


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!

books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 29 & 30

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 29 & 30

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 29

Jessie jumped on, hearing the deep tones of a male voice. ‘That is miraculous – dramatic.’

Her heart beating a tattoo, she swept round to see an incredibly handsome man in his early twenties. His skin had a golden sheen, hazel eyes sparkling, hair glittering blonde streaks in chestnut waves falling to his shoulders. The clothes were immaculate if a little odd, pantaloons and a white frilled shirt with silk cravat, from which sparkled a diamond stickpin the size of a hazelnut. Astonished, she felt a rush of heat through her body, a yearning to peel off her clothes and appear naked before him.  Her thoughts reeled as she fought for control. She knew some women couldn’t resist good-looking men, but this was ridiculous. 

His eyes shone knowingly.   ‘Tis beautiful, you are Jessie.’  Without the slightest hesitation, he strode towards her, opening his arms. She tried to tell herself this was a dream, a nightmare but felt his lips close on hers.  Frightened, she found herself responding while trying to fight her desire.  Their mouths touched, tongues tasted. Fevered hands stroked. Massaging her back, he pulled at her jeans, nudging her to the floor. Groaning – lost, she felt him pull away, as Dinah shouted in the distance.   Astonished Jessie watched, as he vanished in a column of rippling air, gasped as a rush of wind swirled around her. Tears streaming, she pulled the tank top down, struggling to zip up her jeans.  

Stumbling to the door, she looked down the path to see Dinah walking briskly towards her with George in tow.  Strolling arm in arm behind them were Lucy and Nat.  She tried to compose herself, giving a rictus smile.

 As Di walked through the door, she glimpsed Jessie’s face.  Turning quickly, she shouted out to the others, ‘Hey, give us a few minutes. Jessie’s caught up here.’ Putting her hands on Jess’s shoulders, she said, ‘Hey – you look like hell.’ 

 ‘I feel I’ve just been there. You won’t believe this, but a ghost tried to seduce me. That’s not the worst, I wanted it.’  Tears tumbled down her cheeks, ‘I lost control, this guy just stood there, and I was ready to … I didn’t even know his name, and I wanted him to ….’

‘God.  Oh my God, Jess.’

‘You stopped it by shouting out to me.’

‘What – how?’

‘He heard your voice and then vanished. The air rippled; I heard it whoosh around me. Di it was a ghost – couldn’t have been human.’

‘Incubus.  Oh God, it was an incubus. Did it…?’ 

‘No –’

 Look, d’you want me to get rid of the others?’

‘No – no, I think they should know Di.  It might be you or Lucy next time.’

Going to the door, Dinah talked in hushed tones. Silently, their faces tense, the friends trouped in. Lucy came straight over, holding her gently.  ‘I’m sorry, Jess – this is horrific.’

George gave a troubled glance. ‘What the hell happened, Jess?’

Di opened a bottle of wine, pouring a generous measure into a glass for Jess. Handing it to her, she said, ‘Wish we had some brandy. This can’t be happening – it’s too much.’

George came over hesitantly and knelt before Jess, taking her hand. ‘Can you talk about it?’

Jess nodded and taking a gulp of wine, ‘It’s a living nightmare. First, Murial just appeared in my room. And now this, I’m surrounded by ghosts – it’s terrifying. – unreal. Murial was actually sitting at the desk.  Flesh and blood.  I just ran – that’s why I’m here.’ 

Di looked at them ‘This is far worse. They’re not going to let Jessie alone. But I don’t think the incubus is anything to do with Murial – it‘s too evil.’

Nathan cleared his throat.  ‘The priest warned us about this. He said there was a darker force at work – that Murial was shielding us from it.’

Jess looked up. ‘Darker force?’

Nat shook his head, sighing.  ‘We should have told you Jess, but we didn’t want to start a panic – we thought Father O’Reilly had cleared everything.  But, he did warn that maybe he wasn’t strong enough – maybe we needed a Jesuit.’

Dinah scowled, ‘We should have known.  Jess could have been seduced or murdered here tonight by a bloody demon.’

George muttered, ‘We’ve got to do something about this and quickly.’

‘What?’  Dinah got up and put her arms around Jessie. ‘What the hell can we do?’

Nat said hesitantly. ‘We’ve gotta tell Douglas.’

Jess lifted her head sharply. ‘No – no way. He’s a Neanderthal when it comes to anything psychic.  I just couldn’t cope with that.”  

‘Look, I know about the row. He’s hurt you.’

‘Bloody right, he has.’

‘Jess, he’s got a short fuse.’

‘That’s no excuse.’

 ‘He’s got a lot of things on his mind – a lot to lose. When he’s crossed, he’s got a tongue like a rusted razor.  Look, did you know about the inheritance?’

 Jessie’s eyebrows knitted together. “What? He did say something about an inheritance – but it was all so sudden – I just couldn’t take it in.’

Nat lowered his head as he said, ‘You all might as well know. We could be in deep shit soon.’

Turning to the friends, he said, ‘I know it’s no excuse for Doug’ acting like he did, but he’s pushed to the wall at the moment. Seeing as you all seem to be involved, I’d better explain.’

Taking a gulp of his wine, Nat leaned against the table. ‘Two years ago, my brother inherited this place.  We thought it was great; we were bloody millionaires, a Manor, a ruined castle, and seven million pounds.  Then the Solicitor told us Douglas wasn’t a direct descendent. He’s descended from Duncan’s younger brother Guy.  There’s a codicil to the will, it’s due to run out at the end of this month believe it or not.  Anyway, the Codicil says that if a direct descendent is found, then the whole estate reverts to them.  Doesn’t matter what we’ve done to improve it. They take the whole lot and money.’

Jess tapped her foot, her mind seething. ‘So he thinks I want the estate?’

‘Yeah.  Look, there’ve been so many fraudsters creeping out the woodwork, claiming this and that.  We’ve been presented with wills on parchment made to look antique, or portraits they’ve sworn they’ve found in the attic when the truth is, they were painted the week before.  Then there’re claims of old love letters, lockets.’

Dinah said sharply, ‘Lockets?’ 

‘Yeah, stuff people have bought from antique shops or found in a car boot sales, and then putting in a sketch or claiming it to be that of Duncan or Murial. Easily done, the two portraits are there on show in the gallery, and there’re copies of them dotted around. People even come with scraps of paper in old dolls.’

‘But surely the lawyers can trace the family back?’

‘Yeah, but these claim they were the love child of this or that person, so there’s no physical trace. Others know Duncan either drowned or disappeared, so they make up stories about the suicide. Slimy bastards. He’ll agree to an exorcism now, so far, he’s refused the Jesuit priest coming here, but he doesn’t have a choice. One thing I do know Jess – Doug’s crazy about you.’

‘I wouldn’t have thought so after the way he talked to me.’   He’s breaking apart Jess. The guy’s in love with you.’


Chapter 30

Jess felt hope like iced water freezing the pain.  He was in love with her?  Then why be so bloody ferocious, but she could see the reasoning behind his flare-up.  Did he honestly think she wanted the hotel that she would resort to fraud?  But then, he hardly knew her. Even so, she’d felt that he really cared for her that it wasn’t just lust.  After all, they’d talked long into the night. Did he really love her, or had he listened to his glands? ‘So what am I supposed to do, forgive him, kiss him for putting my heart through a meat mincer?’

Nat went to her, putting his hand on her shoulder.  ’Just give him a chance. He’s got to deal with this now.’

‘How can I? I feel like a piece of shit that he’s just stepped in. But, thanks for telling me; it makes it a bit clearer.  Not that I−’

Nat could sense she was hesitating. Douglas was in with a chance.  Better to cut it short before she changed her mind. ‘Okay, leave it at that – just think about it.’

Jess resigned herself to the moment.  ‘I could do with another drink. D’you want one?’  She wanted oblivion, to exorcise both the horror of the demon and the heartbreak of Douglas from her mind.

As she went towards the drinks, Dinah called out, ‘I’ll do that Jess, you just sit and relax.

Nat said, ‘I think I ought to go tell Douglas about this.’

Seeing his lips set in a grim line, Dinah said, ‘I don’t know that Jess will take him back.  I’m sorry I know he’s under pressure, but he was a bastard.’  

Nat grimaced.  ‘There’s more to it than you know Di. It’s not just the hotel there are other things involved, I just can’t tell you what they are.  It’s personal.’

George sensing the strain Jess was under, tried to divert her attention. Walking over to the piles of mixed oils on the palette board said, ‘Never thought you’d mix so many colors, I mean for the green you’ve mixed yellow, blue, purple, brown.  Hmm.  Intricate.’    

Realizing that George was trying to help, Jess answered, ‘For green, you get a multitude of shades from mixing the blue and the yellow. Grass or trees have so many facets of color, especially if it’s been raining; the sheen of water on leaves, for instance, picks up miniature rainbows.’

Dinah was happy to lighten the situation. Sipping her drink, she said, ‘Is the painting psychic art or normal?’

‘Normal.  It’s a landscape of the lake and the island with the mausoleum.’

‘Come on, let’s have a look.’

Jess shook her head. ‘It’s only in the first stages. You won’t see much honestly.’

Seeing Jess’s face lift a little, George said, ‘Come on, then we’ll christen it with a toast.’    

Raising her shoulders in resignation, Jess turned the canvas towards them, only to feel horror like liquid lava plow through her body… ‘Oh my God – What’s?  What’s happened? I didn’t paint that – I didn’t paint her.’

The others surged forward.  Dinah put her hand on Jess’s shoulder.  ‘Christ – it’s Murial.’

Jess took a tight breath as she looked at the canvas; Murial faced them standing in the interior of the mausoleum. The painted moon cast deep blue and purple shadows through the leaded light windows.  Jessie’s heart beat rapidly as she peered at another figure half-submerged in darkness by the corner of the open tomb.  Jessie murmured, ‘It’s inside the Mausoleum. The island, the lake has gone.  I didn’t paint this – I really didn’t paint it.’

 Gazing at the figure, Lucy whispered, ‘Whoever is doing the haunting is not letting up.’

Dinah shivered, looking around her.  ‘It must be Murial.  She really means to get through to you, Jess. Is she here d’you think?’

Jess felt the goosebumps rise on her arms. ‘I can deal with Murial, as long as I don’t see her that is – it’s just the other – the demon.’ Having said the word, splinters of fear stabbed her spine.’ 

Nat muttered, ‘We’ll get the exorcist in for that.’

Going nearer, Jessie examined the shadowy figure in the shadow of the tomb. ‘I can hardly see it; it’s too deep in the shadows.  It could be a man, I think.’  Stepping nearer, her heart almost leaped out of her chest as she made out the golden streaked hair, the cravat, and knee-high boots.  ‘It’s him – it’s him. The thing that attacked me. How could this happen?’ 

Lucy shivered, rubbing her arms. ‘This is spooky.’

 Dinah rushed forward, ‘Christ.  You sure?’

‘Yes, it’s the same hair, clothes.  I did not paint this, I really didn’t.’

 Nat growled.  “God – this is weird stuff.’   

Dinah went nearer the painting.  ‘Jessie, there’s some red hairs stuck on the canvas. I can see them glinting.’  

Jess frowned.  ‘The paint’s wet.’

Biting the tip of her tongue, Dinah carefully lifted a few long red hairs from the canvas.  ‘See?’

Nat’s eyes glinted. ‘You sure you’re not mucking around with us, Jess.  That’s your hair.’ 

Jess whirled around on him. ‘Now you sound like your brother. Why would I do that?’  

Dinah said, ‘It’s an apport – that’s what it is.’

George echoed her, ‘An apport? Never heard of it.’

‘Sometimes a spirit will leave something, often as a gift or a thank you or as a reminder.  It just manifests out of the air.’

Lucy said, ‘I’ve heard of that, but I thought it only happened in a séance.’

Dinah replied, ‘Oh no, there’s been thousands of apports over the centuries, in all sorts of situations. Anything from jewels to stones, to clothes – books.’ She held the strands up to the light. ‘It’s definitely hair.’

Nat said, ‘Do they have any roots?’

Lucy croaked. ‘Don’t – that’s awful.’

‘Well, we could maybe get some DNA.’

Jess said, ‘That’s a thought.’

Dinah examined the strands. ‘Yeah, they’re some roots – Christ – a living ghost?”

Lucy murmured, ‘I don’t know how you can handle that, Dinah, I just couldn’t.’    

Jess peered at the painting. ‘There’s an inscription on the bottom of the tomb. I can’t quite read it.  See?’  She pointed to the bottom right-hand corner of the empty tomb.

Dinah knelt to get a better look.  ‘I can see it, Jess, but I can’t make it out.’

Jess bit her lip. ‘I shall have to get a magnifying glass – there’s not one here.’ Turning to Nat, she said abruptly, ‘You say the priest did the exorcism? Did any of you see anything?’

Nat shook his head, ‘I wasn’t there; it was Douglas and the priest.’

‘So, did they see anything?’

‘No, not really, but they did find an old writing desk up in the attic. It was covered in maggots. They were alive squirming; the stench was awful.’ 

Jess shivered, thinking of the writing desk in her room. Surely, it couldn’t be the same one?  Douglas had been uncomfortable with it when she first saw it.   So, he knew the place was haunted. Why hadn’t he warned her?

‘Is it a malign spirit?’

Nat shook his head, ruffling the brown lock on his forehead. ‘Well, as I said, O’Reilly was adamant Murial  was haunting the Manor, but she was protecting us from a dark spirit infesting the place, a demon.”

‘Some ghosts can be murderous.’ Dinah said, ‘They can physically hurt someone, then there’s the mystery of Duncan.’ 

Lucy murmured, ‘Maybe he didn‘t drown.’ 

Nat shook his head. ‘No-one’s sure if it was suicide or something else. Our solicitor says he might have gone after Murial  – who knows?’    

Raking fingers slightly trembling through his hair, George muttered, ‘Welcome to the house of death.’

Dinah gave a short sharp laugh. ‘Come on, let’s be practical about this?’

Hunching up slim shoulders, Lucy interjected, ‘Practical? What’s practical about a bloody ghost?’  

George raised bushy eyebrows. It wasn’t like Lucy to swear. She was obviously frightened out of her wits.

Dinah tried to smile reassuringly, rubbing Lucy’s arm.  ‘Nat we need that Jesuit exorcist quickly – like tomorrow. How soon can you get hold of him?

‘It’ll take time, you know. The church officials will have to arrange meetings about it. The Archbishop will have to agree it. Then they’ve got to get the right priest.’

‘We haven’t got time.  I think while we’re waiting, we should hold a séance.  After all, we have the apport.  That may attract Murial  – maybe she’ll give us a message or tell us what she wants’.

Lucy walked over to George to clutch at his arm. “Now you really are frightening me.  No way – there’s no way I’m going to any séance.  I’d die – die of fright.”

Nat, ignoring Lucy, said, ‘If we did a séance, we’d need a medium.”

Dinah said, ‘Jess is a medium.’

Jess retorted swiftly, ‘I’m not – for want of repetition. I just draw them – a psychic artist is quite different from a medium.  I don’t go into a trance, or have spirits manifesting through me. Neither do they talk through my mouth. ‘

‘You do go into trance Jess or at least a different state of consciousness to draw or paint them.  What about the hypnotic trance, meditation?’

Jessie spluttered her face whitening. ‘Yes, but like Lucy, I’m petrified of them. I’d pass out if I saw a ghost.’

‘Come on, Jess, you know your guide will protect you. Red Cloud isn’t going to let one manifest unless you give permission.’

‘Guide?’  Idly patting Lucy’s arm, George said, ’So what’s that?’

Pouring another glass of wine and handing it to Jess, Dinah said, ‘Spirit guides choose their mediums or channels. They also guard the portal to the spirit world so that no malign spirits can slip through.’’

Jess nodded, ‘Although, sometimes an evil spirit does enter the earth plane.’

‘Yes, but it’s very rare, Jess.’ said Dinah. ‘Red Cloud is a high-level guide.’

‘Red Cloud?’ George raised his eyebrows.

‘Red Cloud was the guide of the Welsh medium Estelle Roberts. It was through her that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his first contact with his son.  He’s also Jess’s guide.

Jess said softly, ‘Maybe we could just sit as a circle?  I mean no deep trances or that sort of thing.’

George beamed, ‘Great idea – great.  What about now?’

Shaking her head, Jess said, ‘No. I’ve had enough to contend with tonight. Anyway, I’d need to get the room ready, and besides, it’s late.’

Looking over to Nat, she said, ’I‘ve only got a small table in the suite. Is it possible for you to get us a bigger one for five?’  

George looked at Lucy. ‘You in?’

Lucy shook her head. ’I couldn’t really.’   

‘Aw, come on, Sis. We’re just gonna sit in a circle, no trances, okay?’   

 George beamed when Lucy nodded.  ‘So that‘s set then?’ 

Looking at the portrait, at Murial’s soulful face, the shimmering strands of hair, Lucy shivered.

Jess bowed her head, ‘Look – I need time.  It’s all been too much. Can we just leave it for the time being.’

Nat frowned. ‘It’s not going away Jess – sooner we get this sorted the better.’

Dinah putting her arm around Jess said, ‘I think Jess needs some space, how about a week from now?


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!

books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 27 & 28

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 27 & 28

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 27

Looking at her hated persecutor, Murial hissed, ‘What the hell do you think you are doing?  Get out now.’

Maximillian’s rejoinder was a fierce grin as he held her down in the chair. ‘I think we have some serious talking to—‘

‘I think not – either you leave now or I shall—‘

‘Shall what – tell your precious Duncan?  Forget not that your father died in a duel – it can be so arranged for your lover. So hear me out.’

Murial’s hand slid to the small drawer in the escritoire.  ‘I have nothing to say to you – you swine.  If uncle even thought you—‘

‘So how would you explain my presence, my sweet?  How would you explain your secret trysts with my brother?  One word from me, and you would be banished to stay with a distant Aunt.  But in return for your favors, I am willing to remain silent.’

‘My favors? Begone.  Begone before I —’ She whipped around the dagger now in her hand.

Startled, he stepped back.  ‘Now, what a pretty sight.  Put it down Murial – let us discuss this amicably – I do not wish to use force.’

‘Just try it.’ She now rose to her feet facing him, the dagger before her, her body tensed to spring.

Putting his hands up, he said, ‘Then I shall repair to the Earl and to my mother.  You leave me no choice. I will —‘

A voice said from the shadows, ‘You will what?’

Max whipped round to see Duncan emerge from a door beside the bed. ‘If you so much as say a word to the Earl or our mother, I will tear your head off..’

Max paled, seeing his brother draw his saber from its scabbard, the steel glittering in the candlelight.  As he backed away, Duncan said, ‘You do realize that I manage the affairs of the estate.  I decide what is paid. Any funding is under my jurisdiction.  Father is frail – in his dotage. Besides that, he is failing fast.  So think carefully now, last week alone I met your billets for over four thousand pounds.  On that note, I should warn you that I shall not meet such exorbitant amounts in future.  So be very wary of what you threaten brother. ‘

Max sneered. ‘So you think father will allow this chit to become your mistress – that he will allow you to ravage her under his roof?’

‘Be careful of your words, for you speak of my future wife.’

‘Wife?  How ton is that? You will be ostracized, marrying  a penniless bastard?’

Duncan flew at Max, his saber tip now prodding his chest. ‘Take care I do not run you through.’

Murial whispered, ‘Take care – he is a viper – God knows he could arrange with his fellow rakes to waylay you.’

‘Then, I shall kill him now. Come, brother, what shall it be sword or pistol?’

Max, now pale, almost shivered, the sneer replaced with a quiver of fear.  ‘You wouldn’t dare.’

‘You are unworthy of a duel. It would be against my honor to call you out—you miserable piece of chicken shit. I have a better idea.   As the second son, you should by now be thinking of a commission –  although Wellington has no use for a coward, tis time you took up your sword against the little Corporal.’

 Murial’s eyes widened; the fight against France invading Portugal was on the turn. The Anglo Spanish, Portuguese front was slowly pushing France back.  The Peninsular Wars were in favor of Wellington.

Retreating, almost bowing, Maximillian stuttered. ‘I concede defeat brother.  My lips are sealed.’

Duncan gave a merciless smile. ‘I hear your words but cannot rely on them; for that, I shall immediately purchase a commission for you – the Infantry– junior class. Cornet or Ensign, I think.’

 Max slumped on the chair, his hands trembling.  ‘You wouldn’t do that – surely – that is a junior position. 

‘To carry the flag is an honor brother – imagine a reformed rakehell carrying the colors.’

‘Surely you would not do this.  I am too old for an ensign.  ‘

‘Maybe so, but it is what our funds can afford.’

‘Such a lowly rank would be a slur on the family – surely the rank of lieutenant—‘

‘You do not deserve such consideration. But, as the status of cornet would demean our family, I am willing to strike a deal. Lieutenant, it is, but I will make immediate arrangements for your departure.’

Cowed, Maximillian rose stiffly from the chair, walking with bowed shoulders to the door. 

Once the door closed, Duncan walked over to Murial, taking her in his arms. ‘My darling – I hope he did not hurt you.’

Murial stroked his face, ‘I had my dagger ready, but I must admit to feeling relieved when you appeared.  How did you know?’

‘I have him under watch since the incident at the lake.  I have also taken John into my confidence. He is a loyal and courageous servant and one on whom I can depend. He too has been watching your door in the night hours.’

‘Why did you tell him we were to marry?  Surely it is much too early to think of such things, and besides, you have not formally asked me.’

Towering above her, he cupped her face in his hands.  His heart glowed as he gazed into those glittering green eyes, at the small smattering of freckles across the bridge of her delicate nose.  ‘I have said we shall marry – but if you want me to go on bended knee, I will.’

She frowned, ‘But what will the Earl say and aunt Flavia?’

  We shall keep it from them until I feel it is right to make it public.  Meanwhile, we have our secret passages, tunnels, and the shack on the island.  See it as a romantic interlude before we lead our lives proper.’

Murial giggled, ‘Then yes, I would like you to go on bended knee. ‘

Smiling, Duncan sheathed his sword and laying it on the bed, walked over to her.  Kneeling on one knee, he took her delicate hand, seeming so small in his.  ‘Murial, will you consent to be my wife. Please say yes and make my world complete.’

Laughing, she bent to him, kissing him on the lips, her passion smoldering. 

Taking her in his arms, he said, ‘We shall marry and then leave for Jamaica.’

‘No darling I cannot – I cannot bear to leave the tenants now. More and more landlords are evicting the farmers and the laborers.  Without help, so many more families will starve – so many more will suffer death. I could not live with  myself to leave the children.’ Bowing her head, she sobbed.

Clutching her to him, Duncan held her to his chest, stroking the wild curls. ‘Hush sweetheart – hush.  We shall marry, and as soon as we can, we will make our home in Jamaica.  But for now, if needs must, I will go alone. Both our general manager and overseer on the main plantation have been killed, others on the neighboring plantations are sore beset. Our slaves must be emancipated, There is a group of us owners who now strive for that. Many of the younger slaves flee for safety to the hills. The maroons are better to live with than those scoundrels that have seized power.’

‘Then we must wait to marry.’

‘No, my darling. I shall arrange for Father MacDonald to marry us this very week. I will make it more than worth his while to keep our secret.  Besides, he has cared for us both since childhood. We could not have a better protector.’ 


Chapter 28

Although her stomach begged for food, Jess didn’t really want to eat; nothing appealed to her. It had been over a week since they last met. Douglas had called, left messages, but she refused to have any contact with him. But for Dinah, she saw no-one, using room service for meals, spending most of her days out touring the area by cab. If it wasn’t for Daisy, she would have left the hotel already. The Merton Hotel would not accept any dogs, and there was no way she would put Daisy in strange kennels. She’d heard from Dinah that Douglas was distraught.  Even though her cousin urged her to at least contact him and talk it out, she was adamant. Besides, it was so embarrassing. How could she possibly face him?

Her stomach rumbled. Biting her lip, anger rose up through the anguish. Was she going to suffer for him? Although the thought seemed rather belated after all the tears shed during nights of tossing and turning. She’d phone for room service, but tomorrow she would brave the dining room with Dinah. Wandering into her lounge, she wondered if she was losing her sanity. Had all that happened? Were the dreams, psychic trances, or nightmares?  Lifting her head, she became aware of an odor of sea-weed. It was familiar.  The sea was a couple of miles away, but there was a strong breeze today.

As she turned to her laptop, she stood transfixed, her heart leaping, blood rushing to her head.  A young woman sat writing at the desk, rust-red curls cascading down a slender back, the skirt of water silk brocade sparkling in the late afternoon sun.  God – was it, Murial – would she turn around – would she try to … whimpering, paralyzed with terror, thoughts scattered through her mind. This was a ghost – a nemesis – a ghost.  Trembling, she felt adrenaline coursing through her veins, unlocking the paralysis. Almost screaming, she ran to the door.  Dammit – dammit she’d locked the bloody thing.  Her fingers shook as she fumbled with the lock, half-screams mounting in her throat. Hearing the key turning, she tugged the open and flew into the passageway, her legs now pumping towards the lift.  But, she couldn’t wait; besides Murial might follow her to the elevator, she might be stuck in the lift with her.  She ran to the fire exit door and pulling it open, clattered down the stone stairs.  Swearing under her breath, God, God, don’t let her follow me – please.  No way was she ever, ever going back into that room.

A startled Aileen watched her rushing through reception.  Turning to Margaret, she said, ‘The ween’s terrified, looks like she’s seen a ghost. I’d better go after her.’ As she moved her wide girth from the chair, she walked surprisingly swiftly to the main doors looking down the balustrade and then the paths. A few people were out walking, but Jessie was not in sight.  She turned back, panting slightly as she reached the desk. ‘No sign of her.  Maybe we should call his Lordship?’

Margaret shook her head, ‘He might be a wee bit miffed at that Aileen, after all, it could be just a wee quarrel, and maybe with himself. They did go off for a picnic together last week. No Hen, best we stay out of it.’

Shaking her head, Aileen sank into the chair, reaching for her Kindle. ‘Aye, best we dinna interfere, I suppose.’

Rushing past the Orangery to the studios, Jess was relieved to see small electric light bulbs sprouting from the grass verges lighting the darkening paths. Each pine logged cabin came complete with daylight lamps, a selection of easels, shelves for paints, and a table for sketching,  an artist’s delight.   There was even a projector for digital graphic artists along with a computer with the latest software.  Security cameras discreetly placed amongst trees and flowering shrubs ensured the safety of the hotel guests.

Feeling more secure now, Jessie found her studio. Unlocking the door, she peeped in.  She sighed with relief; it was empty. Thank God – no terrifying figure in any of the corners. Picking up her mobile, she clicked on Dinah’s number only to receive her answering message. 

‘Hi there, glad you contacted – obviously I am not here at present. Please leave a message – I love them.  I will get back to you as soon as I can. Have a good day – evening – night.’

Damn, she was most probably with George, wrapped in his arms, while here she was shivering and petrified.  Taking a deep breath, she put the mobile on the table and began exploring the room. Already deposited in the corner of the room, was her chest of paints, oil pastels, soft pastels brushes, palette knives, mahls, oil thinners, and textures.    A cardboard container holding her boxed canvasses lay just inside the door.  Yet, even this painter’s paradise did not relieve her fear.  Dinah and Lucy warned Murial might appear, but Jessie was not ready for it. Perhaps she should give up psychic art altogether.  But, the thought niggled that she should see a professional medium. Maybe he or she could cast light on what was happening to her; hopefully, show her how to avoid manifestations.

Right now, she needed to lose herself in the paints, feel the tubes as she squeezed the soft oils onto the palette board, spread her fingers through the mess.  Besides using brushes to paint, Jessie used her own fingers, knuckles, and heel of her hand to spread the oils on the canvas. She needed the smell of oil and turps, the touch and color of the paint on the canvas,

 She was impressed with discovering the disc player with a selection of classic and pop.  Maybe some R & B or Tchaikovsky would alleviate the terror simmering through her muscles.  Hours passed, as she concentrated on the canvas, the juddering in her heart now stilled.  Already, the first stage of the painting was finished; the lake with the island shrouded in trees, quartz stone glittering in a splash of moonlight. Stained-glass windows cast a rainbow of shifting patterns on the water.   As she drifted deeper into the creative zone, she did not see the face at the window peering in, or seconds later, hear the footfall behind her.


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!

books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 25 & 26

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 25 & 26

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 25

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.’

‘What?’

‘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.


Chapter 26

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…’

 ‘What?’

 ‘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.


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!

history, mysticism, poetry

Touching the Stones

Touching the Stones at Stonehenge

These black Leviathans, the Stones,
Point to constellations beyond mortal sight,
Point to the land beyond death,
Silent Sentinels, surround the vulva,
Of the Great Mother Goddess
Brooding looming into Palaeolithic night,
 
Was there chanting, writhing in light?
Faces painted, lips spewing rhythmic groans,
Pagan souls yearning the Goddess?
Sacrificing the innocent to dark sight,
Screaming, in drunken stupor,
To the Immortal, earth's eternal breath.
 
The feathered shaman, blowing fetid breath,
Of herb, wine, straining with glazed sight,
Summoning the strangeness, the nectar.
Of sacrificial blood, and over the stones,
The shrieks, the groans, the innocents' plight,
Presides the Great Bird Snake Goddess.
 
Yet this primordial circle of the Goddess,
Vibrates to the Universal rhythm, the breath
Of celestial scars, their shooting flight,
Pulsating through pagan bodies to ignite,
The tame, nurturing visions buried in bones,
Revealing mysteries of the Great Mother.
 
With flowers, ivy, blood and wine they beseech her,
The dancer, the chanter, the shaman, the godless,
Entreat her; beguile her, to appear in the stones,
To come from the dream soul, from the land beyond death,
To tear through the blanket of night, to come into sight,
To take their mortal souls into the eternal light.
 
To feel the Beloved and Terrible Goddess's might,
The bite of the snake the flight of their Snakebird Mother,
Taking their souls to the celestial abode, the light,
Fearless, ageless, seated with her on her totemic dais.
Far above the carvers of fear, of blackness and death,
And it is this for which they chant amongst the groans, the stones.
 
To touch the stones is to yearn for sight of pagan night.
For light upon the blood rites of rebirth and death,
Within the stone vulva of the Snake-bird Goddess of the night
Stonehenge at Sunset

For more content, please browse my site and read through my many blog posts.

Katy Walters

books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

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!

books, fiction, historical romance, supernatural;

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 21 & 22

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 21 & 22

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 21

Jess spoke hesitantly, ‘It’s good of you to check the room, but honestly, I feel a bit stupid now.   It was, after all, only a dream.  I panicked at the thought of an exorcism being carried out – shades of the Exorcist. I’m scared stiff of seeing any ghosts.’  The room looked innocent, the lights enhancing the blue silk-covered walls, the gilt on the chairs glinting. 

Douglas smiled. ‘You had every right to be frightened – especially with Lucy talking about the exorcism, it would scare anyone.’

‘Come in – sorry I haven’t unpacked properly yet.’

She gasped as Douglas caught hold of her arm, swinging her round to him.  He bent, brushing her lips, his hands stroking her back, pulling her closer.  Her mouth opened to the soft tip of his tongue, her body quivering as she felt the hardness of him, the thigh muscles tensing against her.

Hearing her soft groan, his arms tightened around her, his tongue tasting the sweetness of her mouth, as he swiftly unzipped the back of her dress.  She pulled back, lightly slapping his shoulder. ‘Hey, this is a bit fast.’

He loosed her immediately unrepentant and stood back, running his fingers through her tangled curls. ‘I’ve wanted to do that since I first saw you. God, you’re beautiful.’ 

Jess grinned, ‘I thought you’d come to search the room. So, if you’d zip me up, I’ll get you a drink, what would you like?’   

Before doing so, Douglas could not resist stroking the curve of her spine, only to feel her shudder in response. ‘Oh, God, don’t do that. I’m trying to resist you.’

 Douglas laughed, ‘So I’ve found your weak spot.  I’ll know what to do next time.’ 

Going to the drinks’ cabinet, she said, ‘Brandy?’

‘Yeah, thank you, just a snifter.’ He walked through to the sitting room, his eyes glancing over to the escritoire. She’d obviously been working on it, as the lid was down with her laptop resting on top.  Beside it were some papers and a jeweled Parker pen.  Although the priest had been quite insistent that it was haunted, it looked innocent enough, especially with the addition of a computer.  How could an inanimate object have any powers or influence?  He didn’t believe in that nonsense anyway.  Jess interrupted his thoughts as she handed him the brandy.    To his disappointment, she sat in one of the chairs to the side of him.

‘It’s good of you to be so concerned, Douglas.  It’s just I’ve always had this horror of physically seeing a ghost.  The dream I could cope with, but not the idea of an exorcism.’

 ‘So tell me more about the dream.’

‘I don’t know about that, you seem so touchy on the subject of Murial and Duncan.’ 

‘I promise I won’t be.  It’s just there are a few things I haven’t explained – personal things. But go on, tell me.’

She sipped at the brandy.  ‘Do you really want to know?’

‘Of course. I’ve got all night.’

Jess grinned, ‘You wish.’

Douglas sipped the brandy and raised his eyebrows.  ‘Well, you get what you wish for.’

‘Ouch, what a cliché.’ She decided to recount the route to the small lake that she often took in her dreams.  ‘The dreams always start in fragments, then it becomes clearer.  I‘m walking through trees, there’s a ditch and some kind of open ground. I pass some long-haired and very shaggy cows with huge horns, which terrify me, and then I’m struggling through muddy hassocks….’

Douglas felt the skin on his arms crawl. She hadn’t been at the Manor long enough to scout the grounds.  She’d described the way to the lake, the trees by the Orangery, the ditch in the Ha-Ha, the field, and the boggy ground. 

His heart quickened, as she said, ‘The bank rises some distance from the lake, there are stones and a circle of small rocks nearby.  Sometimes they would shelter in the hut.  Duncan built it with stones and mud from the bog – you could say the hut was their love nest.’  She stopped a flush rising up her throat. ‘Err … it’s sexy.’

 Douglas grinned, ‘Now I am interested.’  Even as he joked, his throat felt dry.  She was describing his hideaway precisely.

‘The lake is surrounded by bulrushes and then clumps of reeds, so it’s quite difficult to wade or swim there I should think, although the couple in my dream loved it.  They always raced to the Willow tree on the other side, but first, they had to wade through the bulrushes.  It’s always so vivid. I can see it in my mind now, as I talk.  The willow tree is huge, hundreds of years old, well, at least in my dream.  It’s surrounded with silver birch with clumps of rhododendrons, the ancient copper beech trees leading into the forest.’ 

He said quickly, ‘You know, not only have you described somewhere where I go for a bit of privacy and time out, it’s a place that’s difficult to reach, so it’s quite deserted. Now with you dreaming about the names and that particular spot, it could have been the perfect place for Murial and Duncan – seeing as they were lovers.’

‘Not lovers exactly,  although very near it. But, you did tell me about Duncan before I had the nap,  so I could have just included it.’

‘Hmm – one thing that puzzles me. If you’re a psychic artist, why the fear of ghosts?’

Jessie bit her lip.  ‘It’s alright thinking about it or drawing it, just so long as I don’t see it in the flesh.’

‘Yeah, I guess that goes for a lot of people. So the psychic art?  Have you always had visions of ghosts?’

‘Yes, from a child. I also have premonitions of the future.  I used to frighten the family quite a lot as I would draw someone – always with a small angel floating beside them. I would tell my aunt or uncle that the angel was taking this person to heaven.  Trouble was, they would find out that person had really died and recently.’

‘So, it’s like a gift or something.  I don’t want to be rude, Jess, but I’m a skeptic – yet,  open-minded about it all.  Have you ever seen anything physically?’

 ‘No – thank God, and neither do I want to.’

‘But why do the art if you have this fear surely it would be better not to have anything to do with it?

‘It’s not that easy. The visions will come wherever I am or whatever I am doing. They are spontaneous.   Generally, it’s through dreams, or inner visions, which I draw or paint. One day I remember clearly, I was on the beach and drew some gravestones in the sand.  My aunt asked who they were for, and I said for they were for her and my uncle. As I was often right, they asked how long in the future. They told me I said, “Oh, years yet –when I’m ten.”  I was about six or seven at the time.’ She laughed lightly. ‘Much to  their relief that did not come true.’

Douglas laughed with her.  ‘Scary.  Your aunt and uncle seem nice people.’  Really he was wondering why she never mentioned her parents.

‘Ah yes, well, my step-mother was my aunt, my mother’s sister. Her name was Prissy; she brought me up along with my uncle, who was my aunt’s brother, Uncle Tim.  Err ….’  She paused, taking a tight breath. ‘My mother died when I was two months old.  My father died in a hunting accident when I was three. My aunt moved around.  She had homes in Canada and America. After she died, I moved back to America. I was born there, went to Harvard, made lots of friends, so it seemed the right thing to do. I set up a practice with Dinah in Bedford-Stuyvesant.’

‘You’ve had it tough.’

 Looking at the sudden pallor in her cheeks, the stillness of her body, Douglas went across to her.  Kneeling by her side, he took her small hands in his as he said, ‘How about you and I go exploring tomorrow. I’ll show you the lake and bring your bikini and towel; they say it’s going to be a scorcher.’

‘That would be wonderful. Thank you. But look, I’m beat; I really do have to go to bed.’

‘Sure, I don’t have any pajamas, but I’m wearing boxer shorts.”

 She giggled. ‘I need to sleep. Time you left.’

He grinned. ‘That’s the furthest thing from my mind. But, look just one thing.”   He rose to his feet, lifting her with him.  Clasping her in his arms, he felt the soft roundness of her breasts, the curved angle of her hip against him.  He warily held her buttocks, pulling her in closer as he nuzzled her neck.  ‘Just an appetizer.’  Finding her lips, he pushed his tongue through, flicking the inside of her cheek. God she tasted so sweet.  He felt her shudder, her body tense. Maybe, there was just the chance that he would be carrying her to the bed. However, her hands gently pushed him away.

‘No – let’s take this slowly, okay?’

He growled sexily as he smiled, ‘No, it’s not okay, but I can wait.’ He left reluctantly.  She was enchanting, intriguing.  He tried to lay his suspicions to rest.  She was a millionaire, no way did she show any hint of wanting to take over Rhonan. She was an idealist committed to her vocation and also deeply passionate about her art. 

Locking the door behind him, Jess wandered over to the dressing table, taking out a small silk bundle. Carefully peeling away the silk, she looked at the blue velvet box aged with yellow and brown spots. Lifting the lid, she gazed down at the locket, old gold embellished with the same intricate design as the one Murial wore in the portrait.  Could it be the one? Was this a key to that lost ancestor? 

Opening the locket, she looked at the miniature painting of a young aristocrat, his face fit for any Grecian sculpture, the full lower lip, that faintly menacing look.  It could be mistaken for Douglas in Regency dress. From another purse, she took out two fragments of paper tattered and flocked with age, some of the writing was obliterated.   The first a narrow strip held the letters Mur…. born October 1792… R – The second, female … Mor … at sea 1811… definitely part of a birth certificate, of course, her ancestor Morag. That much she did know. It was carefully treasured, handed down from generation to generation. 

Nothing was known of Morag’s history before the shack in America. But, she had to find out, after all, that was really the purpose of her visit to Scotland to find her ancestors. She wanted to feel whole, to be part of something.  With the death of both her parents, she could never rid herself of feeling so isolated, leading a liminal existence on the edge of society.

 Awful tiredness crept into in her eyes, spreading to the muscles of her body. What was it? She’d slept heavily in the afternoon. Maybe she was going down with summer flu or something.  Leaning forward, she examined her eyes in the mirror, unaware of a still figure on the balcony watching her through the window.  Silently, the wraith pressed her face to the glass as she clutched the small bundle to her breast.

Fighting almost overwhelming tiredness, Jessie tried to undress. Stepping out of her dress, she collapsed across the duvet, slipping into kaleidoscopic pieces of dreams, images rising, flying across the screen of her mind.   She did not see the figure pass through the window into the room and stop for a few seconds watching her.  Silently, the woman floated onto the bed, settling down by Jessie, stretching out a skeletal hand to stroke her bright hair.


Chapter 22

The Countess Flavia languidly pushed a stray ringlet from her cheek as she lay on the chaise longue of embroidered blue silk. A King Charles Spaniel snuggling among the muslin folds of her dress. Yawning, she said, ‘Murial, you look a wreck as usual, and you smell like a rank reed. Why oh why do you insist on bathing in that filthy lake of yours.’

Murial stiffened. That was the first time she’d complained about the lake. Was she suspicious? Had someone spied on them?  But how could they? Duncan had a special shortcut through the bog.  Her aunt could not possibly follow; neither would she instruct a servant to spy on them. The news would spread like wildfire.  ‘Aunt Flavia, it’s healthy – I love it.’

‘The stuff of childhood.  Hmm, well go bathe and dress becomingly; the Earl of Whitney will soon be here with his Mama to pay you his attentions. I am sure he is going to offer for you. ’

 ‘Oh, Aunt, he’s as limp as a lettuce leaf and equally as boring.’ 

 ‘His fortune is not boring, and it is high time you were wed. What is wrong with you? He is heir to vast estates.’

‘He is ugly – shorter than me with tiny eyes and no chin.’

 ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake girl, good looks won’t bring you a mansion, maids, dresses, and a fine carriage in your drive. You can have your lovers after you marry – just be very discreet. That is the way of it.  Now bring the face screen over here. That fire is too fierce today, my makeup is dripping.’

Murial looked at the thick paste of lead and beeswax masking the lovely face of the Countess. Most women in the district used it, as they suffered from bad skin due to the pox, measles, or just too rich a diet. It looked quite horrific when the paste started to melt.

‘Really, Aunt, I have other aspirations than marriage. I am caught up in helping the tenants.’

‘Tis not our affair.’

‘Aunt, I cannot possibly think of marriage with all the suffering going on.  I need time to help – and besides, I would choose my own husband. I want to marry for love – not wealth. And, I certainly do not wish for lovers after I marry. What a shallow life. No love, only lust.’

 ‘Don’t be such a romantic you have been reading those silly romance novels again. Murial, your marriage will ensure your future – look, you are a penniless girl. But, because of your beauty, you have some serious suitors vying to offer for you. Their offers would include a sizeable sum settled on this estate. It would help your uncle and me enormously. Now enough.  Pray, bring me the face screen.’      

‘For your information, Aunt, I am reading some political essays by the admirable Edward Ellice.’

‘Oh, for goodness sake, girl – stop arguing and fetch me the screen.’

Tutting, Murial carried the small oval screen on a carved mahogany stand to the Countess, who yawned again, delicately stretching out her hands in front of her?  “We have those ghastly ladies coming tomorrow to do some stitching.”

‘Aunt, it is good of you to arrange it. It will help the tenants so much. We must try to ease their suffering.’

 ‘I know you have great regard for them Murial, but I don’t want you going near the cottars. God knows what diseases you could pick up. Besides, you could bring it back to the Manor, and then where would we be?’

Murial rejoined with some asperity. ‘Some of those peasants, as you call them, are descendants of the Scottish Chieftains. Look at poor Robbie McGregor; he can trace his ancestry back to Domnall Breac, King of Dairaida.

‘Oh,, really Murial, not another tirade.  That is history; you cannot dwell on the past.’

The Countess’s eyes held a faint menace as she said, ‘Have you heard the news?  Duncan met a ravishing girl the other evening, at the drum.  I hear he is quite besotted. Stood up for every dance with her, even fetched her some ratife and sweetmeats.’

Murial felt her heart leap. ‘Really, I have not heard of it.  Who is she?’

‘The daughter of Lord and Lady De Beauville.  They are renting a Mansion near the sea renovated in the Palladian style, no less.’ 

 ‘Honestly, all this money flowing like water and our tenants starve. Aunt, can’t you persuade Papa to waive the rents?  He’s now talking of evicting them. How can he? Please speak to him.’

 ‘Oh la, you and your good works.  The situation will right itself, you see. Now, as I was saying, Duncan paid such attention to this vision – nearly came to blows with another young blood who sought her attentions. I fear he is smitten.  She is of good family, so there could be a match.’

 ‘What does she look like?’   

 The Countess narrowed her eyes.  ‘La, she has the largest cornflower blue eyes and golden hair.  She is an Aphrodite, they say – a vision.  Tis high time Duncan married.  She will visit with her Grandmamma in London, who quite dotes on her. I am of a mind to send Duncan to oversee our house in Grosvenor Square at the same time. It would be an ideal way for them to meet.  You shall see her soon enough. I have invited her here for the stitching with her Mama.’

Murial sat down quite abruptly, her stomach quite tense.  Surely, he would not betray her?  Hot tears threatened to fall as the Countess said silkily, ‘Why Murial, what is the matter?  You look quite affrighted.  Pray, what irks you?’

Pulling out her kerchief, she held it to her cheek, ‘Just dizzy, that’s all. I’ll have to  go and lie down.’

‘I will ring for Bicks to bring the brandy.’ As the Countess rang for the abigail, the door slammed open, and Duncan strode in, his frockcoat unbuttoned and riding crop at his waist. 

Instantly aware of Murial’s pallor, he almost ran to her. ‘Murial darling, what is it?’

The Countess noting his anxiety, the way his arms crept around the girl, said quietly, ‘Tis the vapors – I have rung for brandy. Here give her some vinaigrette.’

Taking the sponge from the maid, Duncan held it under Murial’s nose.  Squeezing her eyes at the strong smell of hart’s horn, Murial glared at him. ‘I need to go to my room. I would be grateful for your assistance.’

Duncan swept her off her feet, hefting her up on his chest he strode from the room calling to the abigail, ‘Becky come with me, attend your Mistress.’


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!