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Authors: Elizabeth Marshall

Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #Time Travel

Entwined

BOOK: Entwined
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Entwined

Book 3 of the Highland Secret Series

 

 

by

Elizabeth Marshall

In the writing of this book the author seeks to tell a story of fantasy, mystery and intrigue. To tell the story, it has been necessary to include some real places, historical facts and political bias. However, this book is written for entertainment only and the use of real places, historical facts and political bias does not reflect reality, the author’s personal or political opinion, nor is it written to influence the reader in any way.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, either living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2012 Deborah-Ann Brown

All rights reserved.

 

The right of Deborah-Ann Brown to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

ISBN-10:  1479214736

ISBN-13:  978-1479214730

******

 

DEDICATION

 

With all my love always, I dedicate this book to my family; Andy, Sean, Kelly, Steve, Dave, George, Emma, Rose, Gerard, Lucy and Joyce. ‘We’ve come this far, survived the unimaginable and we’ll thrive through the impossible.’

******

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

The single biggest thing I have come to realize during the writing of this book is how absolutely wonderful people are. The kindness and support that so many folk have shown me over the past few months has been totally unexpected, and incredibly humbling. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has given so kindly of their time, talent, skill, knowledge and experience to help me. To my family and friends - this book belongs to us all.
Thank you, most sincerely for being the wonderful people you are.

 

To the man who has stood by me for 22 years, the man I love more than anything in the world, my friend and husband, Andy. For your absolute trust and belief in me and this project, for the tireless effort you have put into these books, for the adventures we have had in the creation of these stories and for always being there for me and our children.

 

Simon Barnes, your advice and kind help in editing this book has been invaluable. You have been a friend, teacher and absolutely brilliant editor. I will never be able to find the words to sufficiently thank you for coming to my rescue. You are an incredibly skilled and very talented editor and I am honored to have worked with you. A sincere and humble thank you, for everything you have done.

 

Peff Soulsby, I am so grateful to you for all your advice, support and friendship. You are a very talented linguist with a particular talent for historical accuracy. Your input has made an invaluable difference to this book and I really can’t thank you enough for all the help you have given me.

 

Nana Pat, you are an angel. Thank you so very much for everything you have done to help me with this book.

What would I have done if your Steve hadn’t married our Kel?

 

Grace Elliot, author of the sizzling Regency Romance, ‘Hope’s Betrayal’ and other titles. Your kindness, friendship and advice are appreciated more than you can ever know. Thank you my friend for everything.

 

Stacey Bobby Jenkins, making new friends like you is the best part of being an author.

Big hugs and lots of love from across the big puddle.

 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again -

To the best public house in York, ‘Ye Olde Starre Inne’, you are absolutely, one hundred percent, responsible for my passion for ancient pubs, which is of course why I have chosen to use ‘Ye Olde Starre Inne’ as a key location in the ‘Highland Secret Series’. Thank you for putting up with my endless questions and for providing the perfect retreat from a hard day’s writing.

Here’s to Friday nights and your wonderful pub.

 

Newcastle Student Radio, with a special mention for Sean Brown, who has worked tirelessly these past months to promote both Newcastle Student Radio and the launch of this book. A little known fact about Sean is his incredible ability to plan and invent story plots. Sean, you have made this story into a whirlwind of action, adventure and surprise. Without you I could not have done it.

 

Gerard and Lucy Sutton, for the pictures of your dogs and invaluable, friendship, support, advice and kindness. Amber is definitely one of my favorite characters and I have loved every moment of writing her into my story.

 

Amber, for agreeing to act as a doggy model character for this book. The pigs’ ears and a chewable copy of the book are on their way to you. Don’t forget to share with Honey.

 

Rose Unwin, Phoebe Grant-Smith, Sarah May Ambler, Laura Dunham, Oliver Dunham, Matt Dunham, Margaret Dunham, Andrew Dunham, Chris Mather, Sean Brown, George Brown, Andrew Brown, Emma Brown, David Brown and Joyce Brown. Although none of you were aware of it, our trip into the city together after Kelly and Steve’s wedding created two of this book’s main characters and a large proportion of their dialogue.

Come back soon please, I have another book to write.

 

Rachel and Chris Heeks, and Caroline and John Atterton for coming to my rescue with some desperately needed advice. I should have stuck to horses (you will know what I mean). Thank you for being there when I was drowning in my own ignorance.

 

To Andy, Sean, Kel, Ste, Dave, George, Emma and Rose.

Without you this book would not exist.

******

Part One

 

Damage Control

 

It never mattered what I did. The events were played out exactly as they should have been. I couldn’t recover from my own mistakes. All I could focus on was… damage control.

Many people survive in darkness. Their eyes adjust and they begin to see. The darkness becomes their world and there is no escape.

For Corran, I have nurtured her, watched her grow to be the woman, the mother, the wife she has become. She has experienced so much darkness in her life, and each time I bring her back in the name of damage control. Would real damage control be sought in granting her mortality, thus naturally ending the chaos that is her life?

Alas, whilst for her fate, death may be simple; it is not so simple for those souls who are left to grieve.

The bodies around those souls cease to have souls at all.

Death is simple. Life is the puzzle.

******

CHAPTER 1

 

Angus’ Antique Shop, the Storeroom, York - Modern Day

“Hello my dearest Corran. It’s been such a long time.”

I scanned the room, confused and disorientated, trying to locate the source of the voice. I was still in the storeroom, at the back of the shop, the same place I had been moments before. Everything was as it had been, only somehow different. Lacking definition; blurred, as if I were seeing a memory. Colors were now tainted, foggy and gray; I rubbed my eyes to clear the clouded view, but nothing changed. All sound had been drained from the room to produce a suffocating, silent atmosphere. As I fought the soul-destroying air of doom that engulfed me, my eyes flickered frantically from one corner of the dingy space to another - searching for my husband, Simon, and son, Duncan.

“Where is my family?” I shouted to the empty space.

“Calm down, Corran,” the loud yet reassuring voice replied. “They are all safe, as are you.”

“What are you talking about? Where are they? Where am I?” I screamed in panic.

“You haven’t moved, my dear.”

I reached out and steadied myself against a stack of cardboard boxes.

“In fact, everyone else is still right where you saw them last.”

“But if I haven’t moved, then why can’t I see them?”

“Because what you see with your mind is different to what you see with your eyes,” the voice replied.

“What are you talking about?”

“This is all happening in your head, don’t worry, no time is passing outside of this place.”

“Who are you?” I demanded.

“I am the one you have come to know as the Stag.”

“Then where are you? Why can’t I see you?”

“I am injured, which is making it difficult for me to take a form you will recognize. I have had to rely on your memories to construct this room.”

I gasped in shock.

“Don’t worry, my dear. I am fine. I will heal - this time,” the Stag’s warm voice said reassuringly. “Your memories are so tainted, Corran. You are haunted by the fact that Duncan is not your flesh and blood, aren’t you?”

“Don’t you dare start. I’ve loved him since the moment we found him on the banks of the River Ouse.”

“I never said you didn’t love him. It’s this love which haunts you so.”

“Why did you bring me here?”

“To warn you.”

“Warn me of what?”

“That killing Angus is not the end,” the Stag replied, seriously.

“What do you mean?”

“There is something coming, Corran. A darkness is rising out of the depths of reality itself.”

“What should I do?” I asked, frightened.

“Break the circle of darkness that has plagued time for an eternity. You must follow your heart and have faith in those around you; your husband, your son, your friends. It is these people who will support you through this.” The Stag paused and in doing so left me alone with the overpowering silence that had threatened to smother my mind and soul. I gasped for breath but the air was thick and heavy. Desperately I willed my lungs to inflate but a burning pain compressed my chest, and just as I believed I would drown, the Stag spoke and I drew a breath.

“You’re going to have to explain to Rose that you can time travel and that a talking Stag made you immortal.”

“Aye, I know…” I said awkwardly.

“She’ll understand.”

“I think she’s dealt with enough. She was engaged to a murderer. She will think it is us who destroyed her life.”

“Trust me, Corran, she’ll understand,” the Stag repeated, “Besides, she has just met her great- grandmother. Not many people can claim that.”

“What do you mean? Who is her great-grandmother?”

“You’ll see,” the Stag replied with a chuckle. “Just be ready for the things to come, my dear.”

I blinked, a natural process that one does without even thinking but this blink suddenly had huge importance. My eyes opened clear and focused, color had returned and the haze had left my mind. My ears were filled instantly with the ambience and atmosphere of the room and the noise of a busy city. In that blink, that heartbeat, I was back with my husband, son and Rose.

 

His body lay slumped and lifeless, the dagger protruding grotesquely from between his shoulder blades but it wasn’t my bloody deed that drew my husband’s startled look.

“Corran, did you just say you are with child?” Simon asked, raising an eyebrow in a gesture which resembled something between a question and disbelief.

“That is what I said,” I replied, trying to shake the disturbing experience and return my mind to the moment.

“I hate to interrupt,” whispered a frightened voice, “but could we leave the domestics for another time.”

Rose, who had been crouched in a corner, staggered cautiously from the shadows and took a few tentative steps into the storeroom. Her look steadied for a moment on her fiancé’s body. There was good reason for the terror that flickered in her eyes as she cast a frightened look from my bloody hands to Angus’ corpse. Angus had been no ordinary foe. Simon’s brother and Duncan’s biological father, he had relentlessly pursued Simon to claim unchallenged immortality. But Angus had discovered our secret. Duncan, the boy we had raised as our own, the son Angus had unknowingly sired, had long since claimed Angus’ immortality. Gifted by the Stag to only one generation of a family, immortality remained the curse that Simon’s mother had predicted. Two brothers, one son, one gift! Angus’ twisted greed had determined the inescapable fact that one of the three must die. With one deadly plunge I had saved my husband and son, and destroyed a young girl’s future. Rose stood shaken and lost before us, her eyes darting frantically between Simon, Duncan and me.

“Where’s that woman gone?” she asked.

I had quite forgotten Nansaidh, my oldest and dearest friend, drawn into Angus’ bitter quest as a pawn in his sick game. Marta had been right; the heather had protected her and the crystal had taken her home to her daughter. Now all that remained was to explain the mysteries of Highland magic to the girl whose life it had destroyed. I feared answering, for although I hadn’t known her long, I understood that Rose was no fool. The Stag’s words played in my mind. ‘Trust me, Corran, she’ll understand.’ His voice rang clear in my memory. Had it been a daydream, or had the Stag really spoken to me? In the end it would matter little whether the Stag had appeared to me or not. Rose deserved the truth and I intended to provide her with it.

“The errm… crystal took her home.” I breathed deeply. The stale dusty air of the storeroom hit the back of my throat and I stifled a cough. Rose stiffened and the tight outline of her lips etched a harsh line of bitterness across her face.

“And… him?” she stuttered, nodding at the body of her fiancé.

“Angus is dead,” Simon replied simply, his dark eyes narrowing below the mop of black curls on his forehead. Rose sucked in a deep breath and her knuckles whitened as she clenched her fists.

“I can see that,” she snapped.

“Then what is it you want to know?”

“What was he trying to do?” she said, momentarily closing her eyes against the image before her.

“Angus didn’t intend to hurt you. He used you and Nansaidh to get to us.” Simon inched closer to the girl as he spoke. “It’s over now,” he said softly.

“He used a candle and a crystal and took me, you know, like Corran just did with that woman,” Rose said, nodding her head in my direction.

I caught a flicker of surprise in Simon’s eyes.

“I don’t understand how he… I mean… the crystal… Who the hell are you people?”

“Are you asking how we travel in time?” Simon asked gently.

“Yeah, I am, and I’d also like to know what happened to that kid.”

“What do you mean, Rose?”

“I mean Angus’ son. What happened to him?”


I’m
Angus’ son,” came Duncan’s low throaty growl from behind me.

“You’ve gotta be kidding. As long as I knew the man, I thought he had no family. Now there are kids everywhere.”

“We weren’t aware that Angus had any other children,” Simon said puzzled.

“Really?” she replied sardonically.

“Aye lass. To the best of our knowledge, Duncan is Angus’ only child. Where did you hear about this other son?” Simon asked.

“When he used that crystal.”

“Where did he take you, Rose?” Simon asked.

“I don’t know, we could have been anywhere.”

“Did he take you forward or backwards in time?” Simon persisted.

Rose fidgeted nervously with her hands, keeping her eyes focused firmly away from the body of her fiancé.

“I think we went back in time, but I can’t be sure. He took us to a woman’s bedside,” she paused, meeting my stare and holding it, “I thought I recognized her but now… I’m not sure.”

“Take your time, Rose. Just tell us what you can remember,” Simon coaxed.

“It was dark,” she said, looking up to the ceiling as if to recall an image. “The woman was asleep and beside her was a woven basket. I think… ” she said slowly, “that Angus took us there to grab the kid.”

“Grab the child?”

“He grabbed it. You know? Snatched it away from its mother.”

“I understand. Is there anything else you can recall?”

She nodded and her mouth twisted in a frightened grimace.

“Yeah. The woman woke up and screamed. She called out a name – Jack - but Angus was screaming at her too, so it was impossible to make out everything.”

“Aside from the name was there anything else you can recall them saying?” Simon asked.

“Yeah,” she replied solemnly, “that the kid was Angus’,” she finished, drew a deep breath and then exhaled it slowly. Her brow furrowed in a frown and her face darkened as if she were living a nightmare. “He spat at the floor and called her a stupid bitch before accusing her of stealing his crystal.”

Simon’s face hardened and a wave of confusion briefly clouded his eyes.

“What made him think she had stolen his crystal?”

“She had a chain around her neck. I guess he must have thought the pendant on it was one of his crystals.”

“Did she give it to him?” Duncan asked.

Rose shook her head. “Nah, he dropped the basket and lunged at her.”

“So he took the pendant?” Simon questioned.

“More like ripped it from her neck, but yeah, he took it,” Rose replied with a shudder.

“And the baby? What did Angus do with it?” I asked.

“Well, actually Angus didn’t do anything with it. Another guy appeared, he pushed a knife up against Angus’ throat and held it there… He… he wanted Angus to sort something, but I couldn’t follow what he was saying.”

I could see her eyes filling with tears as she took two short, stuttering breaths.

“It’s over, Rose. You don’t have to tell us any more,” I whispered gently.

“I have to, that’s not all,” she said. “This other guy asked about the kid.”

“And what did Angus tell him?” Simon asked, his eyes as sharp as a blade of steel.

“He said that it was as good as dead.”

“Rose, you can tell us this another time.”

“No,” she said, her voice stronger and steadier. “At first I thought this guy was going to help the woman. He pushed the knife against Angus’ throat.”

“What happened to the baby?” Simon interrupted.

“The guy lit a candle and disappeared with the kid.”

BOOK: Entwined
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