The Rousing: A Celtic in the Blood Novella (7 page)

BOOK: The Rousing: A Celtic in the Blood Novella
9.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



At first, I thought the knocking was just the wind rattling the window panes, or maybe a tree-branch tapping rhythmically against the glass. But the closer I got to its source, the more urgent the rapping grew. Candle in hand, I diverted from my path back to where Jack was sleeping, and instead approached the glass-paned doors that led out onto the veranda.

Outside, a shadowy figure moved against the glass, and I could just make out the knuckles of the hand responsible for the incessant rapping. The door han
dle rattled, testing the lock.

We were no longer alone.

Perhaps Liam had come looking for me after all. Maybe it was the police, out searching for John-Joe when he never returned home. Either way, I looked down at myself, dishevelled, and naked but for Jack Pembroke’s suit shirt, and I cursed. This was going to look just peachy. I contemplated walking away from the caller. I could run and get dressed quickly, make myself look even half-respectable before opening that door, but something made me brazen - probably the fact I was still riding the high of a night of powerfully disinhibited sex with a drop-dead gorgeous stranger. Screw whoever it was, I’d done nothing wrong. I’d open the door with my chin high and Crooke’s gossip-mongers could choke on their juicy titbit for all I cared. Besides, whoever was out there was freezing their ass off in the storm. I doubted my bed-headed state of undress was their first priority.

“Okay, I’m coming,” I said.

I padded over to the veranda doors and slid the upper bolts across. As I bent to open the lower ones, the door pushed violently in on me, sending me tumbling backwards in a graceless sprawl.

Standing over me was last person in the world I’d expected to see: the blonde vamp from the pub the night before. Shades pushed up into her hairline, I could see now her eyes were in fact a normal shade of chocolate brown. What I thought I’d seen had been just a trick of the light, after all.

She stared at me a moment, brows knitted, like I wasn’t who she’d been expecting at all. Then, as her eyes scrolled down my scantily-clad body, her expression morphed into a glower to rival the storm that was raging outside and banging the veranda door on its hinges.

“You little slut,” she hissed. Catching me off guard, she snatched a fistful of my hair and yanked hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. “Where is he?” she demanded.

“Where’s who?” I asked, voice strained by the rip of pain dragging at my scalp. I struggled in spite of it.

She rewarded me with a stinging backhand across my cheek that freed me from her grip even as it dashed more pain across my senses. “Don’t play the dumb whore with me,” she snarled, “you know who I mean. Jack Pembroke is mine.”

“Yours?” I squeaked, scrambling backwards. This crazy bitch had me at a total disadvantage on the floor. All I knew was that I had to get back on my feet.

“Mine,” she sneered, “he’s always been mine, and he always will be. He needs me. I’m so much more than just his PA. Just because you let him deep-throat you and fuck you in the ass doesn’t make you special. You’re just like all the others. He’ll use you like toilet paper, then flush you away and forget all about the dirty little stain you made on his life. Trust me.”

Staggering on my feet, my back hit the wall. I felt as though I’d been kicked in the gut, and the fermenting flotsam of mussels and red wine in my stomach threatened to eject themselves onto the floor.

“You’re married?” I asked tightly.

“He’s wearing the ring, isn’t he? Or did he take it off beforehand? Such a gentleman is my Jack.”

Oh God. When was I ever going to fucking learn when it came to men?
Married to the job
, he’d said. Right, meaning married to his PA. I was such a bloody fool. My skin crawled with disgust. I hadn’t felt this contaminated since that god-awful day I’d walked in on Alec and Sally doing the nasty on our bed sheets.

“I didn’t know,” I said, defeated.

“No, you wouldn’t know, would you? That’s what happens when you let any old random stranger fuck you,” she sneered. “Just get out of here, you ugly little skank, before I fucking kill you.” She grabbed me by my upper arm and I shoved her away roughly. “Go crawl back to the other fat, stupid wallflowers, where you belong,” she said, clearly seething, even as she primly smoothed the clinging black fabric of her dress down over her hips. “He was seriously dredging the swamp with you, honey. Be thankful he couldn’t see your cellulite in the dark.”

“Adriana,” I heard Jack’s voice as he approached down the corridor. He was bare-chested and zipping up his pants as he walked. “Jesus, Adriana. What the hell are you doing here?”

I couldn’t bear to even look at him.

“I followed you from New York, obviously.” She planted her hands on her tiny hips and pouted at him. “Figured I couldn’t trust you to take care of yourself, and clearly I was right. I found that beautiful car I arranged for you, destroyed. I thought you were hurt, Jack. I was so worried, I trudged through all that mud, all the way up to this awful wreck of a house. My Blahnik’s are ruined, and my hair. Christ, I hate this fucking country. Does the weather never stop?”

Ignoring her pathetic pity-party, I pushed my way past him.

“Darcy,” I heard him say, but I couldn’t listen. I didn’t even want to hear his voice.

“Don’t bother,” I replied. I held up one hand as I turned away, fighting back tears. “Just don’t, okay, please.”

I power-walked back down the corridor to retrieve my clothes in a truly perverse version of the walk of shame.

“Darcy, let me explain,” he said, jogging up behind me.

“There’s no need,” I said tightly, snatching up the strewn pieces of my clothing from where they’d fallen in the heat of passion. “Adriana already explained everything.”

“Adriana is my PA,” he said stonily.

“Yeah, I know what she is, and I know what this was, between us,” I said. “One night of conscience-free fantasy
fulfilment. That’s fine, that’s what we agreed. I’m a big girl, Jack. I’ll be just fine. Besides, you weren’t that great a lay,” I lied, snatching at the tattered shreds of my pride along with my still-damp underwear. “I’ll have Bronach on the market just as soon as the police are done collecting their evidence on John-Joe’s death, and you and Adriana can go back to your happy little fucked-up New York lives.”

“Last night meant nothing to you?” he asked, and I thought I heard the smallest crack in his voice. Wishful thinking that would get me nowhere.

“Not a thing. Call it scratching an itch. Urgh, on second thoughts, no, forget that metaphor. You better not have given me some horrible sexually transmitted disease.” I crawled under the table to grab my skirt, probably flashing him my bare ass in the process. “What the hell was I thinking, letting you get me so drunk? Here, you might need this,” I said, brazenly peeling his shirt off my naked body and throwing it at his chest.

He caught it and clutched it, and for a moment, the bastard actually had the nerve to look hurt. I guess the bad-lay jibe had been a real punch to his raging man-ego. Un-fucking-believable.

“Very well,” he said, “if that’s how you want to play this. But it’s still the middle of the night. Surely we can all be adults about this and wait ‘til morning. I’ll make sure you get home safe, at least.”

“You are some piece of work, you know that?” I laughed sarcastically.

“I don’t understand,” he pleaded. “What happened?”

“What happened? I woke up to the truth, Jack.” I dragged the skirt up my thighs and buttoned my blouse, hastily shoving my bare feet into my shoes. I snatched up my coat and bag and started walking. “I left your arms and the fantasy evaporated, and if you think I’m spending one more minute in this place with you and your fucking psycho wife, you’ve got another thing coming, asshole. I’d walk five hundred miles just to get the hell away from you right now.” I snapped open the hall door and marched out into the storm.

You idiot, Darcy. Shoulda listened to your gut when it told you this prick was gonna take you for a ride.
I pictured myself at that mirror, all sex-blissed and squishy, feeling the love connection, and I wanted to puke.

“Did you say my wife?” I heard him shout. “You said my wife.”






“Darcy,” he called. “Hear me out.”

No. I was out that door before he could pawn me off with his lame-arse excuses, my sole objective to get myself back home. Then I could shut myself away from the world. Then I could let the tears come, and wallow in my own bloody stupidity.

“Yes, go, you fat, ugly slut!” I heard Adriana’s shout and straightened my spine. Sticks and stones, right?

“Adriana,” Jack growled a warning, but it was too late.

She was on me like a woman possessed, tackling me down into the muddy grass, ripping at my hair and clawing at my face with her fake nails.

I cried out, winded, and stunned. Jack was leant over us, trying to drag her off me, but her clutches were so tight in my hair that he only succeeded in lending her traction, and I felt the sickening pain as a chunk of roots tore from my scalp. She snarled in my face and glared at me with eyes that struck icy terror into the marrow of my bones. Just as I thought I’d glimpsed them at the pub, those eyes had no irises, just a starburst of black veins across solid white.

Jesus Christ, she was some kind of demon.

Panic flooded my veins, and the rush of pain and adrenaline kicked my survival instincts into high-gear. Directing my knee hard up into her stomach, I delved a hand into the bag hanging from my shoulder and found what I needed. I shoved the little can of pepper spray in Adriana’s face and depressed the nozzle with everything I had.

Such a pathetic hissing sound it made, but boy was it effective.

For a split second she was stunned, enough that she released her grip on my hair, and I witnessed her eyes bleed back to that normal, human, chocolate brown they’d been earlier. As I rolled away, the screaming started, then the choking noises and the hacking cough. Adriana curled up on herself and shielding her face with her hands, she wailed like a banshee. Jack looked ashen. He had one hand on her shoulder, the other prising at her fingers, trying to get her to show him her face.

I staggered to my feet and tripped into a dead run across the lawn, my mind racing like a rabbit on speed, frantic for an escape.

Taking my car was out of the question. I’d only get as far as the fallen tree. Adriana’s car would be on the other side, but unless she’d left a key in the ignition, I hadn’t the first clue about hotwiring the damn thing.

I could keep running, but what if they came after me? In these dainty shoes, I hadn’t a hope in hell of out-running an athletic man like Jack. I’d experienced his stamina, up close and personal. As for his demonic wife? My mind refused to even process what I’d seen back there. I just knew that having that thing chase me across the countryside in the pitch dark was a definite no-go. Knowing my luck, I’d fall in a ditch and break my neck.

The wind had died down some, though, and that opened up another possibility: the row-boat. I was a strong swimmer, competent enough with a pair of oars, and the village was just a short stretch across the relatively sheltered bay. Liam and I had crossed it many times as children. I could do this. Thighs burning, I sprinted up the hill to the cliff top.

The wailing and panicked choking grew more distant the farther I ran, reassuring me Adriana was still incapacitated at the front of the house. I thought I made out her voice once or twice, shouting, “I can’t see,” and “what happened?” I stole a glance over my shoulder and confirmed that, as yet, no one had followed me. With any luck, Jack would be distracted taking care of Adriana long enough for me to get away. I had no idea how he’d react to me pepper-spraying his psycho-bitch wife, but experience said that if you messed with family, they’d turn on you quicker than piranhas on a drowning cat.

For all I knew they’d murdered John-Joe. Adriana had mentioned him to me in the toilets at the bar. Poor John-Joe. I peered over the cliff to where we’d seen him earlier, broken on the rocks, but there was nothing there, just the crashing waves on the jagged black stone far below.

His body was gone.

Maybe, in my panic, I’d misidentified the spot, but no, it had been right where I was standing, a stone’s throw from the defiled cairn. Was the body washed out to sea in the storm? Whatever the reason, I couldn’t delay. If they had murdered John-Joe, then for all I knew, I was next. God knew I’d provoked Adriana to violence, and those eyes, they were unnatural.

BOOK: The Rousing: A Celtic in the Blood Novella
9.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Night's Captive by Cheyenne McCray
Stray by Craw, Rachael
The Delusionist by Grant Buday
Loving Mondays by K.R. Wilburn
Never Swim in Applesauce by Katherine Applegate
The Healer by Daniel P. Mannix
Attila the Hun by John Man