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Authors: C. J. Archer

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical

Possession

BOOK: Possession
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Possession

(Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Novel #2)

By
C.J. Archer

Copyright
2012 C.J. Archer

Visit
C.J. at
http://cjarcher.com

 

CHAPTER 1

London, Spring 1880

Someone watched us.
I don't know how I knew. I just did. It wasn't a ghost because I couldn't
sense
spirits, only see them. No, someone real and very much alive was following us
home.

It wasn't the
first time.

"Do you
feel that?" I asked my sister, Celia, as I glanced over my shoulder. An
elderly couple strolled arm in arm on the other side of the road, a middle-aged
woman struggled with a heavy basket up to the front door of a house, and a man
crouched at the feet of a girl to tie up her boot lace, their heads bent against
the breeze. A black hansom rattled past and the horse lifted its tail and
deposited its business on the street, adding to the smells of soot and dung
already clogging the air. All seemed quiet. Nothing was out of place for a
spring afternoon in residential Chelsea.

"Feel
what?" Celia asked, her gaze set firmly on the way ahead.

"Like we're
being spied upon."

She laughed. "Who
would spy on us?" But her laughter died as soon as the words were out. She
stopped and looked at me. "He's not back is he?"

There was no
need to ask who "he" was. She was referring to Jacob Beaufort, eldest
son of Lord and Lady Preston, a ghost, and the man I couldn't stop thinking
about. I'd not seen him since we'd returned a shape-shifting demon to the
Otherworld a week before. The Administrators in the Waiting Area—the place where
spirits reside for as long as they need to before crossing over to the
Otherworld—had assigned him to me when Celia accidentally released the demon
during one of our séances. After the demon's return, Jacob had simply vanished.
No matter how many times I tried to summon him, he did not reappear.

Perhaps he'd
crossed over, but I doubted it. He was a rare ghost. Unlike others, he didn't
know why he couldn't cross. Something was keeping him in the Waiting Area,
something more personal than the temporary demon hunting assignment. It was likely
related to his mysterious murder.

"No, it's
not Jacob." My voice cracked despite my effort to control it.

Her gaze
narrowed. She sighed then circled her arm around my shoulders, squeezing
gently. "It gets easier in time."

How would you
know?
Celia was thirty-three and unwed. She'd had
admirers but never accepted their offers of marriage, despite our mother's encouragements
when she was alive. Celia claimed she didn't love any of those men enough to
marry one. It was a decision that resulted in her now being firmly on the
shelf. I used to think she was foolish risking spinsterhood by waiting for
love. To me, falling in love was like being struck by lightning. You knew it
happened to some people, just nobody you'd met.

Or that's how I
used to think before I met Jacob. Almost from the moment I saw him, I knew I
loved him. What we shared had been magical, wonderful. All the clichés from every
poem I'd ever read didn't come close to describing the feeling I had when near him.
He set my nerves on fire, made my body ache and filled my heart with so many
emotions I thought I'd burst.

When he was
gone, it was like someone had thrust their fist into my chest and wrenched out
my heart. I couldn't imagine the ache ever lessening, let alone disappearing
completely.

As we turned onto
Druids Way, the feeling of being watched vanished. Nevertheless, I remained alert
the rest of the walk home.

Our house was
nestled between identical terrace houses lining the street. Most were in need of
painting or fixing here and there to tidy them up. For some reason, Druids Way
was the forgotten child of Chelsea. The fashionable no longer lived there and
our neighbors were elderly, having moved in before Queen Victoria came to the
throne. The wind tugged at our skirts and ribbons and Celia let go of me to
hold onto her bonnet. Her other hand clutched the carpet bag that carried our
props for the séance we'd just conducted.

We reached our
front door without hats or ribbons blowing away and were met by Lucy. The
maid's eyes danced with excitement and her milky complexion flushed a rosy pink.

"Miss
Chambers, you've got visitors!" she said, taking our bonnets. "Very
fine they are too. Her ladyship's dress is—"

"Her
ladyship!" Celia and I said together.

Lucy nodded and
hung our bonnets on the hallstand. "I put them in the drawing room and
offered them tea. They insisted on waiting, see, and I couldn't very well say
no since she's a lady and all."

"Who?"
I asked.

"Didn't I
say? Lady Preston and Miss Beaufort, her daughter."

Celia's gasp was
barely audible over the loud thud of my heart. I pressed a hand to my chest and
tried to breathe normally but failed miserably. Lady Preston was Jacob's
mother. Last time I'd seen her she'd hit an assailant over the head with a
candelabra, saving my life and—unbeknown to her—the soul of her son who was
doing battle with the demon. Prior to that she'd not believed me when I said I
could speak to Jacob's ghost. She'd refused to accept his death, and her
husband had put down the events of that evening to trickery and good acting on
my part.

So what was she
doing in our house?

"She's so
fair and pretty," Lucy gushed, clutching our coats to her bosom. "The
daughter I mean, but her ladyship's still pretty for her age too, and
so
elegant."

"Never mind
that," Celia said with a wave of her hand. "Tell me you used the Wedgewood
tea service."

"I did,
Miss Chambers."

"Good
girl." Lucy beamed. "Come, Emily," Celia said to me. "Let's
see what Lady Preston wants." As we started to leave, she caught my arm
and held me back. "Do not, under any circumstances, mention that Jacob
boy. Mothers don't like to hear about the...friendships their sons have with
girls."

I nodded and
refrained from telling her mothers probably didn't like hearing about their
dead sons at all, particularly Lady Preston. Last time Jacob's name came up, I
thought she'd scratch my eyes out for suggesting he wanted her to move on with
her life.

We entered the
drawing room and I knew immediately Lady Preston was perhaps, just perhaps,
coming to terms with Jacob's death. She gave me a tentative smile without an
ounce of hostility in it. Beside her on the sofa, Adelaide Beaufort grinned and
I couldn't help returning it. It was so nice to see Jacob's sister again. She
was a sweet girl of about my own age and had believed me when I said I spoke to
Jacob's ghost. It would seem she'd talked her mother into believing it too.

I introduced
them to Celia then sat on one of the chairs bracketing the hearth. Celia sat on
the other. Lucy must have lit a fire in the grate when our guests arrived as
there hadn't been one when we left. Our séance business was not yet successful
enough for us to end our economizing and keep a fire burning while we were out
in the springtime. Nor had we been able to afford new furniture, much to
Celia's disappointment. I admit it was a little embarrassing having illustrious
guests sitting on our faded sofa, the threadbare carpet at their feet. Thankfully
we'd both worn our better day dresses to the séance.

"It's so
lovely to see you again," Adelaide said. Her bright blue eyes, so like her
brother's, danced merrily, making her look even prettier. She was fairer than
Jacob with honey-colored hair that curled delicately at her temples and ears. Not
at all like my black springy mane that never stayed in place and skin that
never paled no matter how much lemon juice I applied. "I do hope you've
been well."

We exchanged
pleasantries and drank our tea, but it wasn't long before the conversation
turned to their reason for visiting. It was exactly what I thought it would be.

"Miss
Chambers," Lady Preston said, her voice so soft I had to strain to hear
her, "I hoped...that is, I wondered...if..." Her voice faded and tears
sprang to her eyes.

Adelaide took
her mother's hands in her own. "We wondered if you could...summon Jacob's
ghost for us," she finished.

I couldn't
actually hear Celia groan, but I could sense it. It's not that she didn't like Jacob.
It's just that I couldn't wed a dead man, and according to her, it was time I
began to think about my future.

"Emily?"
Adelaide peered at me through those wide eyes. "Is everything all right? He
hasn't...what do you call it when a ghost moves on?"

"Crossed to
the Otherworld," I said. "No, I don't think so. It's just that I'm
not sure if he'll come when I summon him. I've tried, you see, and
he...hasn't." I picked up the teapot and refilled my cup, but my hand
shook and tea sloshed over the sides.

"Are you
sure you want to speak to him, Lady Preston?" Celia asked, all sweetness
and understanding. She was as good at the sympathy part as she was at the
exuberant theatrics of the séance. Distressed family members often found
comfort in her kind words and gentle voice. Lady Preston was no exception. She
gave Celia a watery smile. "It won't be easy for you both," my sister
went on. "Indeed, it might be quite traumatic even though you can't see
him or speak to him."

"We'll be
all right," Lady Preston said. "We
need
to speak to him. You
do understand don't you, Miss Chambers?"

I understood
that need very, very well.

"We'll pay
you of course," Adelaide added.

"No,
please, I don't want payment," I said. Celia gave a small, exasperated
sigh, but I ignored her. "Jacob is a friend and I want to see him
too." He might not want to see me, but hopefully he'd make an exception for
his mother and sister. I cleared my throat and drew a deep breath. "Jacob
Beaufort, come to us. I summon Jacob Beaufort to appear in this realm."

A moment passed.
Two, three. Lady Preston lowered her head and pressed a dainty gloved hand to
her nose. Adelaide nodded, wordlessly imploring me to try again.

I opened my
mouth but didn't get a chance to speak. Jacob appeared near the door, his arms
crossed over his chest. My breath hitched at the sight of him, so handsome with
his dark hair, strong jaw, and lips I wanted to touch with my own. He wore black
trousers and a shirt unbuttoned to his chest, revealing a patch of skin as
smooth as polished oak. Like all ghosts, he wore the clothes he'd died in, and
his knuckles bore the cuts and bruises incurred during his last violent moments
alive.

I gripped the
arms of my chair to stop myself from running to him and throwing myself into
his arms. From the coolly bland expression on his face as he regarded me, I
didn't think my exuberance would be welcome. We'd not parted on the happiest of
terms.

"Emily?"
Celia prompted. "Is he here?"

I nodded.

Lady Preston
gave a wet gasp. "Jacob?" She glanced around the room, her damp eyes
searching the afternoon shadows.

Adelaide shifted
forward on the sofa. "Where?" she whispered.

I indicated the
doorway, but Jacob had already moved, making his way slowly to his mother and
sister. Where before his features were carefully schooled, they were now stripped
of the mask. Sadness tugged at his mouth and clouded his eyes as he knelt by
his mother. His hand hovered over hers, clasped in her lap, and I was surprised
to see her gaze lower to look directly at him as if she could see him there. She
couldn't possibly see him or feel his hand on hers, but somehow she just knew.

"Jacob?"
She reached out and her fingers went straight through his cheek. "You're
here." She spoke with quiet wonder, her eyes wide and unblinking.

Jacob tilted his
head slightly as if leaning into her hand, but of course it only sank further
into him. Aside from me, he'd not touched another living soul since his death
nine months ago. He must have ached for it.

"Perhaps
you should hold something," Celia said in the general direction of Jacob's
ghost. "So we know where you are."

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