Authors: Kristen Ashley
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that Sommersgate House was built for love.
Lord Archibald Ashton, Baron Blackbourne, spared no expense. Every
piece of stone, every stick of timber, every pane of glass (and so
on) were the best of the very best. He located the finest carpets;
commissioned the most extraordinary fireplaces; purchased the most
exceptional pieces of furniture; demanded the most magnificent
Every inch had
to be resplendent. It was to be a testimony to devotion.
House was built for his wife, the love of his life, the beautiful
It was tragic,
then, that they both died within months of its completion.
thought that was enough reason for the curse to settle on the
house. After all that trouble, all that expense, all that
dedication to an act of love, to have it all, so quickly, turn
catastrophic in only a few months time was enough for any house to
And cursed it
was, Sommersgate, once beautiful (if a bit ostentatiously so),
during one dark day and one frantic, devastating evening, turned
wicked, frightful and monstrous.
decades went by, the curse became local lore. People could feel it,
just walking, riding or eventually driving by the Gate House of the
great property. Its malevolence permeated the very air. For those
who went to the house, they
it, even though they didn’t see it.
House was a most unhappy place indeed.
didn’t even take into account the hauntings.
Mrs. Kilpatrick had a case of nerves. Mrs. K knew that there was
still the possibility that this morning’s imminent arrival would
get cold feet. That Julia Fairfax would decide, at the last minute,
not to leave her family, her friends, her home, everything she
knew, to spend the next thirteen years of her life at Sommersgate
morning Mrs. Kilpatrick was tense. Her daily girl Veronika was
tense. And before he left, Carter, the chauffer, was tense.
all, the house was tense and make no mistake about it, even though
it was simply mortar and stone (albeit grand mortar and stone),
Sommersgate could most definitely be
Kilpatrick had been working at Sommersgate for the last
thirty-seven years, since she was seventeen years old, and she was
proud of it. She’d worked her way up from a daily girl to the lofty
position of Housekeeper. She knew every nook and cranny of the
house, every noise, every creaky floorboard. She knew that house
like she knew her own husband, through and through.
She turned and
watched as Ruby sat at the massive kitchen table, her blonde curls
bobbing while she coloured in her book. Per usual, the child made
no attempt to colour in the lines or utilise a flesh-like tone for
skin (in this instance, Mrs. Kilpatrick saw, skin was kelly green)
or any other colour that would be appropriate (the sky was silver
and the grass was purple).
moment four years ago when Ruby was placed in Mrs. Kilpatrick’s
arms as a babe of no more than a few days, Mrs. Kilpatrick knew
there was something unusual about the child. Ruby had spent the
next four years proving her right.
As she watched
Ruby, Mrs. K heard a car on the drive.
hesitate in colouring because she hadn’t lived in Sommersgate long
enough to know how to distinguish the various sounds but Mrs.
Kilpatrick knew that Carter was home.
She took a
deep breath and sighed in relief. If something had gone wrong
during the journey from Heathrow, Carter would have called. They
were now home and Mrs. K hoped that, with the treasured cargo
Carter was delivering today, months of sadness and despair would
Maybe even a
century of it.
She put a hand
to her hair, testing the bounce of her fashionable bob, the old
blonde now having streaks of white. She smoothed the front of her
skirt down, trying, as ever, to ignore her somewhat protruding
belly, flipped on the electric kettle and shot a prayer to heaven
that Ms. Julia Fairfax was indeed the answer to all Mrs.
Kilpatrick’s prayers. Or, more to the point, Mrs. Kilpatrick’s
prayers for little Ruby, Ruby’s older brother William and sister
Elizabeth and perhaps, just perhaps, their Uncle Douglas but most
especially, Sommersgate House.
luv, your Aunt Julia is here.”
announcement, Ruby’s head shot up and she ceased colouring
immediately. Squealing with delight (a sound so foreign in
Sommersgate that it startled Mrs. K), she jumped off the bench and
ran out of the kitchen at top speed. She was at the front door,
struggling to shift its massive weight when Mrs. Kilpatrick
child. She’s right outside the door. You’ll see her soon
I’m in here!” Ruby shouted through the door unnecessarily but Mrs.
Kilpatrick doubted the ancient, studded wood with its heavy,
black-scrolled, iron hinges would do anything but mute the child’s
the door and using all her might, pulled it open. Ruby shot out
like lightning, ran across the distance and threw herself at the
tall woman standing on the gravel drive next to a shining burgundy
baby!” Julia Fairfax cried. Wrapping her arms around the child, she
lifted her up and swung her around in a full circle.
Kilpatrick took in the scene. Carter had moved to the boot of the
Bentley and was watching it too. It was hard not to smile with
relief and Mrs. K felt the easing sigh tremble through the very air
* * * * *
Kilpatrick had known Julia Elizabeth Fairfax for fifteen years.
She’d watched her grow from a young, naive, headstrong girl of
twenty-one to a beautiful, sophisticated, even more headstrong
woman (so headstrong as to be described as stubborn).
Julia stood in
the drive by the gleaming Bentley, which sat next to a glamorous
circular fountain. She was swinging her niece, smiling and
laughing, looking like she’d been born to stand in the drive of a
palatial estate, even though she most definitely had not.
She was very
tall, slim but rounded in all the right places. Julia wore an
elegant suit of chocolate brown with a fitted pencil skirt and a
feminine jacket nipped in at the waist. Her blonde hair was swept
up in a chic twist. She was wearing a pair of leopard print, spike
heeled pumps and a tawny pashmina dripped casually from her elbows.
She didn’t look like she’d spent the last fourteen hours travelling
through crowded airports, stuffy airplanes and close cars. She
looked fresh and rested, as if she was just headed out to
“I’m not a
baby,” Ruby exclaimed through her giggling struggles.
were, always will be,” Julia stated and kissed the child loudly on
Julia bent to
let Ruby down and noticed Mrs. Kilpatrick.
forward hand extended, she murmured, “Mrs. K.”
muscles worked in Mrs. Kilpatrick’s throat as she tried not to cry
and she steeled herself for what was to come. Julia Fairfax, and
her mother Patricia, were American and didn’t stand on ceremony and
had no sense of, or more likely didn’t care much for, the firmly
hierarchical way things were at Sommersgate. The lady of the house,
Baroness Monique Ashton, hated it when her daughter’s American
in-laws would come to visit. They were far too familiar with the
servants, amongst other things,
Julia put her
hand on Mrs. Kilpatrick’s arm, squeezed gently and kissed the older
woman’s cheek with familiarity and kindness.
going, Mrs. K?” she asked, trying to read Mrs. Kilpatrick’s face.
At that distance, Mrs. Kilpatrick saw that Julia was not nearly as
fresh and relaxed as she’d looked from afar. Her skin was pale and
drawn and her green eyes, normally alight with mischief, good
humour, or stubborn resolve, looked immensely tired, as if she’d
not only been travelling for fourteen hours but as if she hadn’t
slept in weeks.
Miss Julia, how was your flight?”
referred to both Julia and Patricia in a less formal way at each
woman’s demand. Lady Ashton would never allow Mrs. K any kind of
familiarity which would include using their Christian name. Mrs. K
firmly refused to call them Jewel and Patty, as she’d been asked to
do many a time. In return, Julia and Patricia had firmly refused to
answer to Miss Fairfax or Mrs. Fairfax. In the end, they had an
unspoken compromise and “Miss Julia” and “Miss Patricia” were
disengaged her arm with her own friendly but fleeting squeeze of
Julia’s hand and walked the woman into the house as Ruby danced
ahead of them. Julia hesitated and looked back at the Bentley.
Neither Julia nor Patricia had ever been comfortable with being
waited upon, having their bags carried for them, unpacked for them,
their laundry done or doors opened for them.
Carter will see to your bags,” Mrs. K assured her. “Your
wearily, giving in gracefully to the gentle reminder of how things
were at Sommersgate.
Mrs. Kilpatrick had pulled away from Julia’s grasp, the younger
woman linked her arm through Mrs. K’s elbow and walked forward.
“I’m glad it’s over, I hate flying.” She looked around her and
trembled dramatically. “How’s this dusty old pile of rocks keeping?
I see it hasn’t fallen down around your heads… unfortunately.”
Kilpatrick shuddered a bit at Sommersgate being talked of like
that. On a day as tense as today, a body needed to be careful.
had been a guest on dozens of occasions, dating from before Julia’s
brother Gavin had married young Lady Tamsin Ashton and through to
last Christmas. Julia had brought her (rather despicable, Mrs. K
always thought) husband there before they were married and came
back after they were divorced. Mrs. K believed fully in the
sanctity of marriage but she’d said a little prayer on the day she
found out Julia had become legally
tied to that horrible man.
many, both loved and hated Sommersgate, but, like few, didn’t have
any problem sharing how she felt.
good care of those children,” Mrs. K responded, nodding her head
toward Ruby as they exited the long hallway and entered the
enormous stairwell with its cavernous gallery, curving staircase
ornately carved from granite that four people standing abreast
could ascend and its enormous ceiling made entirely of domed glass
and embellished wrought iron. Its walls were decorated with dozens
of portraits of serious faced ancestors wearing the fashions of the
day replete with dripping medals or jewels, depending on the
and looked around, staring at the huge marble fireplace that once
heated this space.
“I expect it’s
you who have taken good care of those children,” Julia remarked and
Mrs. K knew this had more than one meaning. “I just can’t imagine
what was in Tammy and Gav’s heads when they demanded the children
be brought up here.”