Read The Haunting at Hawke's Moor Online

Authors: Camille Oster

Tags: #victorian, #ghost, #haunted, #moors, #gothic and romance

The Haunting at Hawke's Moor (23 page)

BOOK: The Haunting at Hawke's Moor
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Broad shoulders covered with black
leather leaned against the backrest, and linen-covered arms lay
along the armrests. His hands were impassive, resting at the edge
of the armrests. They were large, with long, straight fingers. A
scar ran across his knuckles. He appeared a bit different sitting;
still just as imposing. In his thirties, he was much more an
intimidating man than he'd been in his youth. War and strife had
changed him. "You stay in this house, you bear the consequences,"
he said.

"He is abusing her."

"Then she should leave."

"How many spirits do you seek to gather in
this house?"

He shifted his head back slightly and looked
over at her. "Are you disturbing me over something utterly
inconsequential?"

"A life being taken is hardly
inconsequential."

"It is to me."

"So you are unwilling to do anything?"

"I would have thought my regard for
intruders into my house was clear by now."

Frustration clawed at her throat. He did not
care. Why had she assumed he would? It was a stupid belief now that
she looked back on it.

"You are keeping them here. Release
them."

"What concern is it to you, Anne Sands of
London?"

At least, he now had realized she
wasn't his wife. It did show there was more to him than just an
echo of pure hatred, indicating there were thought and
consideration.

She looked around the room. It did
look quite different. There were curtains on the bed as had been
the fashion during the time he had lived. There were weapons on the
desk, a flintlock and a sword, strewn letters and the strongbox.
The broken lock lay on the floor.

"You broke my lock," he said, obviously
seeing where her attention was.

"I didn't realize it was something you
used."

"Why did you break into my box?"

Anne shifted on her feet. "To discover who
you were."

"And why do you wish to know who I was?"

"You were attacking me. I needed to know who
and why."

"Pragmatic, then." Desperate might be
more accurate a term. "I am your enemy. And have you discovered a
way to defeat me?"

"Being non-corporeal, you have me at a
distinct disadvantage."

"I am corporeal now, but unfortunately
for you, stabbing me has no permanent effect. You cannot injure me.
Besides, I have your dagger."

Her eyes traveled to the table, where she
saw it lying on top of a book.

"You should treat your weapons better."

"I found it in one of the
outbuildings. I am not normally one to carry weapons. It was not
how I was raised."

"Yet you did."

"While being ripped out of bed by a strange
man, a lady must, out of necessity, take steps to defend
herself."

He pursed his lips and considered her in
silence. His eyes traveled down her body. "You are in mourning. Who
is it you mourn?"

"My aunt." She looked away. His
questions were direct, too direct for propriety, but then perhaps
things were different in his time. She was not an expert at bygone
etiquette, or maybe he just lacked manners. By his actions, it
didn't seem something he was overly concerned about.

A noise made her snap her eyes back, but he
had not moved. "It harms me to be here, doesn't it?"

"I couldn't say," he said uncaringly.

"I thought only touch drew me here, and
released me."

He didn't answer. The fact that he had not
touched her showed it wasn't true.

"How do I get back?"

"I have to release you."

"And if you keep me here, I will die."

"Yes."

"If you will not help me, then release
me."

"Why should I if you have put yourself in my
power? You did request to come here."

"Because I was beseeching your help."

He raised his eyebrow. "You are a strange
woman, Anne Sands of London."

"Well, I am Anne Sands of Hawke's Moor
now."

A smile spread across his lips. "And how
long do you wish to stay so?"

"It is not a matter of wish, more of
must."

The leather of the chair groaned as he
rose and Anne had to stop herself from stepping back, from running
for the door. She had no idea what he would do now. But his
attention wasn't on her. Instead, he walked to the desk and picked
up the rusty dagger. As he moved toward her, she had to force her
knees not to buckle with fear.

He was so much taller than her, and broad,
so fit for fighting. He was Goliath to her David.

"You cannot hurt me," he said, holding the
dagger out to her. Carefully, she took it from him. It was cold to
the touch.

"I made you release me."

"Mere surprise. I can hurt you, however. I
think you've understood that."

"Except as a gentleman, you have no cause
to."

"There is nothing gentle about me, Miss
Sands." Even without murderous intent, he was intimidating. "Remove
your maid from this house if you do not wish to see her
harmed."

"She will not go."

"Then she will forfeit her life if someone
in this house seeks to take it."

"Have you no control over the spirits
here?"

"It is no concern of mine. If she refuses to
go, she chooses the consequences."

"He is seducing her."

"And if she wants to be seduced, who are you
to stand in the way?"

"Because anyone who seeks to rob you of your
life does not love you."

"Tell that to Romeo and Juliet," he
said.

Before Anne could react, he reached
his hand up to her breastbone and forcefully pushed her backward.
Having not expected it, she lost her footing and fell into
darkness. The chamber was back to her time, dark and quiet. There
was no sight of him. She landed heavily on her backside,
ungracefully sprawled on the floor. Dealing with him certainly
ended up bruising her. "Romeo didn't intend to kill Juliet, or vice
versa, whichever it was."

If he heard her, he made
no indication. There was no movement or sound, and no indication he
was there. He
was
there; this was where he dwelled, but he gave her no sign of
him.

Her body ached dully as she stood up.
It was strange to think he was in this very room, but the curtain
of death was now so thick, she had no sign of him. It was even
stranger to think she had been on the other side of that curtain.
Would even Mr. Harleston believe her if she told him?

Grabbing her candle with her free hand, she
left the room and closed the door behind her, retreating to the
guest room that was now hers. It was warm, the coals on the fire
heating the room.

She put the rusty dagger down,
considering it as she slowly undressed and hung her gown up on the
wardrobe, her mind turning over the things she'd just learned about
her ghost. Had he been truthful when he'd said there was no way to
harm him? Did she wish to if they had a truce?

He did not care about preserving life.
As he had embraced death, that was perhaps not surprising. Why
would a ghost care about the lives of the living when death was so
inevitable? And he had more or less accused her of trying to keep
lovers apart. The notion of Alfie pursuing Lisle still sat so very
badly. Life was precious. Lisle's life was precious. But was love?
She refused to believe Alfie would treat Lisle's life so carelessly
if he loved her.

Chapter 27:

 

The cow’s trudging steps carefully
navigated the uneven landscape on the way back from the Turner's
land. The frost had lifted, but the moors still held a multitude of
perils. Anne sighed as she walked. It took longer walking back with
the cow than it did walking there, but the cow seemed happy enough
to leave its beau behind.

It would be lovely to have a little calf
running around. She wasn't entirely sure how long a calf would
gestate, but she could probably find out in the library. The
portrait and the man returned to her.

They had spoken. Her expectation was that
she would have no more trouble. He seemed content with their truce,
but he offered no protection to Lisle. Thinking back, she wasn't
entirely sure why she expected he would. They place little value on
life. Death was just a transition.

The yard was quiet when they finally arrived
home. Anne spread some hay for the cow to eat and left it in its
stable. It seemed happy to be inside for a while and Anne returned
to the kitchen. Hunger tightened her insides and the smell of stew
was heavenly.

Lisle scooped her a portion and she
sat, undoing the shawl around her shoulders as the heat of the
kitchen made it too heavy. Anne broke a piece of bread and let it
soak in the stew.

"Lisle you must be careful of Alfie."

"I don't know what you're talking about."
Lisle refused to look at her.

"I know you visit their realm. I've seen you
do it. Denying it will not change that. Alfie wants to take your
life so you will join him there. He told me so in no uncertain
terms."

Finally, Lisle looked up, a
contemptuous look on her face.

"It harms you each moment you spend it their
realm," Anne continued. "It was what made Alfie grow weak and
sickly. And I can tell by the look of you, you are weakening as
well."

Lisle looked down at her soup again.

"This man wants to harm you. You
should leave," Anne continued.

"And where should I go?"

"Take a position elsewhere."

"I love him."

"He is dead."

"And he is still here; still with me.
He is never going to leave me."

"Lisle," Anne warned. "He is trapped in this
house, likely for an eternity. Is that what you want?" Lisle rose
and marched out of the kitchen, leaving Anne to stare after her.
Anne didn't know what to do. Short of arresting her for
trespassing, there was little she could do.

From Richard Hawke's perspective, she
was keeping two lovers apart. She was the ogre in the fairytale,
locking the maiden away to a life of loneliness and solitude. The
assumption she lived by, was that love does not harm—if Alfie loved
Lisle, he would not want her life ended. Instead, he should want
her sent away to serve people she didn't know until she aged and
died of natural causes. Or she could marry and have children. Alfie
wasn't the only man in the world. If released, she could have a
proper life. Not that Anne's faith in men was entirely intact. She
wasn't sure there were good men in the world. Maybe just good
liars.

For a moment, she considered how bitter
she'd grown and she hated it, but she just didn't have that faith
in people she'd used to. Perhaps she had been hurt too deeply.

Dying for a man was such an enormous step,
such a sacrifice. What if he then wasn't true? Would Alfie then
turn around and decide he'd had enough, like Anne's husband had?
But did she want to be the kind of person who would never put faith
in another? Obviously, it wasn't Alfie she would place faith
in.

Arresting Lisle would ruin her life more
assuredly than anything else. She would never achieve decent
employment again and would end up destitute. Death was often
kinder. But there had to be some way to entice her to leave. Anne
just couldn't think of one. Lisle didn't seem to have any
particular ambitions that would tempt her away.

Finishing her stew, Anne sent to the
parlor and had a small glass of sherry. The emptiness of the room
seemed amplified that evening and a morose feeling overcame her.
Now that her truce was established, she could see beyond her
immediate survival, and she saw endless lonely evenings sitting in
her parlor with a glass of sherry. It was too difficult to think
about, so she turned her mind to the cow and hoped their endeavors
would bear fruit by the summer.

BOOK: The Haunting at Hawke's Moor
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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