Excerpt for Ravenhurst, Volume I (Enhanced Readers Choice Edition) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.








RAVENHURST

READERS CHOICE EDITION


VOL. I

LORRAINE BEAUMONT



This is a work of fiction.

Ravenhurst Vol. I © 2018 Lorraine Beaumont

Ravenhurst Series © 2012 Lorraine Beaumont


Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are figments of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.


Text Copyright © 2017 Lorraine Beaumont



All Rights Reserved

Smashwords Edition

No part of this book may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the express written per-mission of the author.



PRAISE FOR THE RAVENHURST SERIES


“It has been a few years since I was able to stay interested in a book. The Ravenhurst series has given me the pleasure of feeling like I can't live without knowing - again!!!!” R Groen


“Ms. Beaumont's story kept me captivated from the get go and made me blush in quite a few spots. Great books!” Book Gorilla reader, Judy


“Fans of Outlander will fall in love with this series filled with swoon worthy knights and unexpected twists and turns!Romancing the Reader


"I love to read time travel stories but have never read one as good as Diana Gabaldon Outlander series until now! Like Diana, Lorraine puts you right into the story and you don't want it to end! Thank you for a very memorable and enjoyable vacation read. And I will be looking forward to the next book in the series. I hope it's about Lucian. Fingers Crossed." J. Wagner



“Hoping this series makes it to Hollywood!” Christina


“LOVED this book. I search out time travel books and have now found my favorite writer! This isn't just a mindless read. There are twists and turns and things I didn't predict. Perfect. Can't wait to read the rest of the series!” Just me


“There's everything you want in a book , romance , a bit of mystery & danger !” Anita Foster


“Time Travel in an adult format. Well written and draws you in the very first sentence. I highly recommend this book. Ms. Beaumont is a true storyteller from the beginning to the end.” Crystal Miles Gauthier


“Loved this book! I have enjoyed the entire series. I liked how the characters in the series had a cross over or were mentioned in the book.” CAT


“Loved this book and bought the series.. Loved it! Loved it! Loved it...” Bella Perez


“Awesome Books” Amanda Smith


“Totally love the storyline - and can't wait to read the next books on Ravenhurst!!!” Kathy


“Amazing time travel stories! I could not read them fast enough! Waiting on next book to get done. I love the way it all blends together” Dawn Sorrell


“This series was great. It was romance with time travel. The stories all linked together and were well written. Love the characters.” Cheryl Helberg


“I really enjoyed reading these books, they are very well written and the story line keeps you wanting to continue reading. I did not want to put the book down. I am waiting very patiently for the next one to come out.” Eric Niver


“Hard to put down... so many stories under one cover a real page turner! Have to read the next book.”

La Verne G Menear


“Great mystery with a side of beef!” Lorie Van Gorp


“I'm hooked!” B Pellegrin


“Loved this series. Hope it keeps on going. The characters are so real and the story lines are fantastic. Once you start reading you can't stop.” L. Breed


“This reminds me of Outlander. A great story from beginning to end!” True Romance


“Fantastic! another time travel sequence. I do not want it to stop. Cannot get enough of Lorraine Beaumont novels. Keep them coming and I will keep reading. Thanks!” Piper/Holly


“This series is amazing!” Jessiejo


“Thank you Ms. Lorraine for the most wonderful time travel series ever! Keep them coming” Sandy


“Very edgy and intriguing!” Dedeia


“I like this author very much. She is different than your ordinary time travel romance author. In a good way!!!!” Jill Cogburn


“Brilliant! This is a great story. I am now up to the fourth book in the series and wish there were many more. So hard to put down. Well done Lorraine ... keep writing!!” Robyn Roberts


“Nicely done! I liked the way the author handled intrapersonal remarks, putting them in italics. That was very effective and at times extremely humorous. ” Niren


“Charming!” Ms. Picc


“It is a fantastic story line. Thanks Lorraine, you have been a blessing for me, especially since I had two operations last year, and I am still recuperating this year. God Bless you, keep writing, please.” C. Bridgeford


“Intriguing!” Denise


“Love this Series!” Thalia in Kansas


“Excellent! Makes you forget the real world for a while.” ykminers


“The Ravenhurst Series is fantastic. Lorraine is a fantastic writer. Look forward to new books to each series of books that she has written already.” Charlotte


“Amazing time travel stories! I could not read them fast enough! Waiting on next book to get done. I love the way it all blends together!” Dawn Sorrell


“I loved this book as well as all the books in this series. The story line is well developed and easy to follow even when it is switching between the past and the present. All the characters are well developed and believable. They are complex and flawed, but all we can identify with. I truly loved the ending of this story, it was a surprise ending for me. I would truly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys time travel stories.” Brenda Langham


“I love the way Lorraine Beaumont continues the wonderful mixture of suspense, romance, action and mystery. Even though it appears the end is here and all has fallen into place, she leaves the door open for more at the end!” Cat Figaro


Other titles by Lorraine Beaumont

Ravenhurst Series

#1 Bestselling Time Travel Romance

Forgotten Time

Shadows of Yesterday

Time to Remember

Dreams of Tomorrow

Now and Forever

A Victorian Christmas

Lucian

A Modern-Day Christmas

Ravenhurst Special Edition Trilogy

Ravenhurst Vol I

Ravenhurst Vol II

Ravenhurst Vol III

Lost in the Highland Series

#1 Bestselling Scottish Time Travel Romance

Lost in the Highlands, Book I

Lost in the Highlands, Book II

Lost in the Highlands, Book III


Briarcliff Series

Young Adult Paranormal Dark Urban

Fantasy Written for Adults

Briarcliff - Elyograg

Briarcliff - Gargoyle

Briarcliff - Degare’

Edenbrooke Hollow Series

Paranormal Time Travel Romance

We Three Witches: a Good Spell Gone Wrong

We Three Witches: Something Wicked

We Three Witches: Toil and Trouble

New Series in the Works




TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEAR READER…

FIRST PERSON EDITION -KATHERINE

THIRD PERSON EDITION

IDLE MINDS

WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

REFLECTIONS

WHEN IN ROME

IT’S COMPLICATED

OVERSTAYING A WELCOME

WHAT WAS LOST CAN BE FOUND

WHAT WAS LOST CAN BE FOUND

LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING

NOT ALONE

DENIAL

DESPERATION

CONSEQUENCE

MEMORIES DO NOT ALWAYS FADE

THIS TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE

THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM

GOOD MORNING

NO ONE LIKES TO SHARE

RECOMPENSE

THE GAMES THAT WE PLAY

TIME DOES NOT HEAL ALL WOUNDS

A MOMENT’S PLEASURE CAN FADE

PAYBACKS ARE A BITCH

INDECISION

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

FINDERS KEEPERS

THE CRAZY THINGS THAT YOU DO

ONCE A THIEF ALWAYS A THIEF

REGRET LEAVES A BITTER TASTE

JUSTICE MAKES A CRUEL BEDFELLOW

IF WALLS COULD TALK

CURIOUSITY KILLED THE CAT

OUT OF SIGHT DOES NOT = OUT OF MIND

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES

SECOND THOUGHTS

CAPTIVITY BE DAMNED

PLANS GONE AWRY

TIME LAPSE

TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS

EVEN THE GOOD MUST COME TO AN END

SECOND CHANCE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EXTRAS






WHAT’S INSIDE



READERS CHOICE

FIRST PERSON ENHANCED EDITON

THIRD PERSON ENHANCED EDITION


BONUS CONTENT

INVITATION

INTERACTIVE GAME

WHAT MYSTERY WILL YOU UNLOCK?



DEAR READER…


You are cordially invited to join me on an adventure through the pages of my Ravenhurst books.


cLICK OR TAP

THE INVITATION TO READ THE RULES!


Dark and foreboding the gates loom above

Someone whispers my name…

could it be my true love

Courage and strength to push through the gloom

Is this my happy ending or am I forever doomed”


~ Windy Blye



IDLE MINDS

Present Day


THE stately grandfather clock groaned out its sixth chime to mark the hour. Standing, I smoothed the wrinkles from my pencil skirt, then shoved my feet back into my Betsey Johnson peep-toe pumps and started counting backwards. Ten… nine… eight… seven… The floor began to vibrate. Six… five… four… three… two … The glass doors flew open and gusts of cool air hit me in the face.

“Have a good weekend!” I called after them…“The Evening Stampede.”

A few blurred airwaves were tossed back in my general direction as my co-workers flew past.

Wow. They’re moving fast today.” I sat back down. It never ceased to amaze me how fast my co-workers could move when it was closing time. One day I really needed to get a stopwatch and time them. I bet they broke a few records. Now they were all huddled in a group waiting for the elevators to come up to the twelfth floor.

Biddle & Bailey, the high-end auction house I worked for, owned the building. The reception area was in the center of the twelfth floor. Bronze statuary and Chinese ceramics were some of the items showcased in lit alcoves throughout the room. A large still-life painting hung on the cream-colored textured walls above an Eames-era sofa. Two separate sets of glass doors flanked either side of my desk and led to different departments. A lone glass door, near the elevators, was completely off limits. It led to a set of private offices for the owners.

The elevators dinged. Everyone squeezed on except Dane and Candy—they were too busy flirting. They were both married, but not to each other.

I couldn’t leave until everyone else left, so I busied myself with inane tasks attempting to look occupied. Of course, it was a lie. I was really spying on Dane and Candy. I wanted to know if they were hooking up tonight. My best guess was yes.

The elevator swished loudly as it moved up the shaft. I angled my head so I could look…without looking. They were both in my sights…Dane slid over to the side, getting closer. Candy angled her body towards Dane. They were toe-to-toe… Dane lifted his hand… Oooh this was getting good and then nothing. A blob of black blocked my view completely.

Dangit! I knew who it was, and what he ate for lunch today…sushi. The wheels squealed on my chair as I shoved away from the desk to avoid the gust of fish breath that was about to come my way.

“Hey Ned, what’s up?” I stood quickly and grabbed hold of the back of my chair. Ned was one of the top appraisers at Biddle & Bailey, aka “the infamous blob” who was now chewing on something—I hoped it was a mint.

Ned lifted his finger in the air.

Apparently, he needed a moment. Casually I leaned to the left to see what Dane and Candy were doing. Just as I made my move, the elevator doors dinged shut.

Well that stinks.

Now I would have to wait and try to pry the gossip out of Janice on Monday. Janice was one of my coworkers and knew the dirt on everyone. Bending over, I picked up my Warhol Marilyn tote off the floor and placed it on the desk. Ned shook his head and mumbled some kind of gibberish under his breath as he patted his pockets. What was he doing?

“Ned, do you need some help?” I slipped my latest issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine into my bag.

“No.” He shook his head back and forth. “I am merely looking for something.”

Great. It was already six twenty and traffic was going to be terrible. This was obviously going to take a while. Pulling back out my chair, I sat down. Lifting, my W magazine off the desk, I flipped through the large pages. I made it all the way to the arty fashion feature that consisted of fifteen or so full-page photos that told a story. This one had a white-haired Mermaid with a pearl nose ring, entitled, “Far Far from Land.”

“Aha!” Ned said exuberantly. “Here we are.” He held a white envelope in his left hand and leaned forward. “It’s Friday…” he sang the word and lifted his brows up and down.

“Yep, it’s Friday. Woo!” I cheered. I wasn’t real sure what all the brow lifting was about though.

Ned leaned forward, which was kind-of hard since there was a substantial desk between us and he still managed to do it. Amazing. “So…” He traced the marble design on top of the desk. “What fun things do you have planned for this weekend?”

“Not much.” I made a face and tossed the magazine back on the desk. “I guess I’ll see what’s going to be On Demand.” I hoped something good was on. If not, I was going to re-watch Twilight, for the umpteenth time. Yes, guilty as charged, I’m a Twihardaholic. I secretly adored all things Twilight.

Fine that was a lie. It was really about the eye candy and eternal life with said eye candy that didn’t sound like such a bad thing. At least not to me…well except food. I’d miss food. This reminded me—I needed to pick up something for dinner…some tasty take-out maybe and something yummy for dessert. OH, and maybe some chips to counter the sweets. Damn, were my sweats clean?

Ned gurgled across the desk.

My mind screeched to a halt. Shit, was he choking? “Ned you okay?” He had better be okay or I would have to do my version of the Heimlich maneuver, which would consist of my hand smacking the crap out of his back because I had no idea how to do the real one.

“I’m good.” He held up his hand and smiled widely.

The smile reminded me of a beatific “I’m a cat that just inhaled the canary type of smile” which made me wonder if he did that choking crap on purpose just to get my attention.

“The reason for my question…well…I was wondering if you were free this evening?” He had a hopeful look on his face.

Oh, crap…was he asking me on a date. No. No. No. Think excuse. I needed an excuse. Ned was nice but I didn’t like him in that way. Now I was going to end up hurting poor Ned’s feelings, but I didn’t want to go out with him on a date either. Words eluded me. I shook my head back and forth, trying to say no.

Ned didn’t seem to notice. “It seems I have been fortunate enough to procure tickets to Biddle & Bailey’s Historic Society’s Preservation Ball.” He waited a beat. “It’s to be held at Ravenhurst estate.” He flapped the coveted invitation in the air.

Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. In an instant, I changed my head motion from side-to-side to up-and-down. Yes,…yes…yes. This put a completely different spin on the question. “Ravenhurst?” I repeated, just to be sure.

Ned nodded his head for clarification.

It was my turn to lean forward. My fingers itched for the invitation. I had half a mind to jump over the desk and wrestle Ned for it. But I didn’t. I held myself in check. It was hard though…so very hard.

Ravenhurst was one of those places everyone talked about, especially in the appraisal business. It was a magnificent creation erected as far back as King Arthur’s realm, and steeped in as many legends.

“As I was saying,” Ned continued, sounding impatient. “I do realize this is extremely short notice but you did make a point of saying that you have no pressing engagements for this evening.” His light blue eyes zeroed in on me.

I crossed my arms, and tapped my chin like I was really giving it a lot of thought. Hmm…either I could stay at home lusting after some fictional characters from a movie and stuff my face or I could go to a ball? No-brainer.

But what of Ned? Did he think this was a “friendies” type of date or a real one?

Ned’s hands fluttered in the air and reminded me of little butterflies. “I was appointed a driver, and the evening is to be a costumed affair. Everyone must dress in a particular era. I thought the Victorian era would be perfect. I do so love all things Victorian you know, and it really does promise to be jolly good time.” He rubbed his hands together in excitement.

His enthusiasm was catching. Tingles of excitement shot through me at the prospect. It was two for two. Invited to a freaking castle and now I would get to dress up too. How awesome is that! My mind sped off to another time and place. What had it been like to live in a place like Ravenhurst? What of the balls, and hunts, that must have taken place on long weekend parties? Oh, and the gallant men, how they must have courted their ladies. Were they dashing, debonair, and rich? Or more reserved, brooding, and wealthy, like John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility?

Katherine…Katherine?” Ned snapped his fingers.

“Huh?” I refocused my eyes.

“Will you accompany me?” His expression reminded me of a little puppy. He looked so darn cute.

“Of course I will.” I ran around the desk and gave him a big exuberant hug. It only lasted a moment but he was really giving me a good squeeze. When I pulled away, I noticed his expression had changed completely. Puppy was gone and Piggy was in his place. Oh Great! Too thick. I had poured it on too thick and now he probably thought I wanted more than a simple, “I’m using you to go to a castle kind of date.”

“Wonderful!” Ned exclaimed, his elation clearly showing.

Heck, I was elated too. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be?

Then reality crashed in on me and ended my short-lived fantasy. I had nothing to wear and my fatty-pants weren’t going to cut it…not there. “Oh Ned,” I whined. “I can’t go.” I poked my lip out and made a sad face.

“What?” He blanched. “Why ever not?”

“I don’t have anything to wear.” I leaned forward and bumped my forehead on the top of the desk in theatrical defeat.

Ned laughed brightly. “Oh, no worries, my sweet. Have you forgotten that I am Biddle & Bailey’s sole appraiser of antique textiles? My job has some pretty nice perks,” he boasted. “I have just the thing for you to wear down in storage. Give me but a moment and I will retrieve it for you.” He reached out and gave my arm a reassuring squeeze.

“Seriously?” I asked just to be sure I heard him right.

“Yes, yes, I am serious.” He petted my arm. “Now, chin up. No worries, I’ll be back in a jiffy.” With one final squeeze on my arm, he turned on his heel and made a dash for the elevator that was opening, which he somehow managed to slip inside just in time. The doors slid shut.

Once the coast was clear, I broke into an ‘I’m going to a castle’ happy-dance. One foot lifted in the air… I shook my head to the unheard beat…

The elevator dinged.

Shit.” I dropped my foot back down and quickly scurried back behind the desk. I half expected to see Ned burst from the elevator doors doing the “Speedy Gonzales” (my name for his fast-paced walk) across the reception area floor. However, it was not Ned coming across the room at all.

No, instead, it was an attractive older man. He took his time and had a casual elegance. There was an umbrella tucked under his arm and a small box in his other hand. His suit, which was dark gray and exceptionally tailored, contrasted with his thick white hair, even though you could see glimpses of the dark, almost black color it had once been.

“Good evening. May I help you?” I plastered on my most flattering: I am a professional, smile.

His eyes twinkled. “As a matter of fact, my fine lady, you may,” he said with a crisp English accent and gingerly set the box on the desk. “I would like you to look at an item I have.” He tapped his fingers on the velvet lid.

“Ah…” I forced my gaze up from the box. “I’m sorry.” Nervously, I twisted my fingers together. “All the appraisers are gone for the evening.”

“Is that so?” He quirked a brow. “Perhaps you could help me?”

“Of course.” I slid my sweaty palms over the sides of my skirt. “Certainly, I can try but I will warn you, I may not be of much assistance.” I smiled playfully at him.

He frowned.

Oh my GOD! What am I doing? Flirting with him? He’s old. “I mean…ah…what I meant to say was, I will…I mean, I can try to um…erhm, help you.”

His frown faded. “Oh Katherine, my sweet dear. I feel quite certain that you of all people are the only one who can help me.”

The fine hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I was getting a strange feeling about him. And it wasn’t an “I’m getting hit on feeling either.” My mind raced as I tried to recall if I had somehow met him before but came up empty. He lifted his hand and moved my nameplate to the side. The uneasy feeling receded a bit, but not entirely.

The lights above glinted off his ring as he unhooked the latch on the box. I leaned forward to get a closer look and got a big whiff of his cologne. It smelled expensive, and screamed: I’m a refined English gentleman type of cologne. At least that is what I thought a refined English gentleman should smell like. He had such an old world charm about him too. Actually, he looked like he was from another century altogether.

The box creaked as he opened the lid. All thought fled my mind as he pulled a substantial blood-red stone encased in gold, from the box. The stone swung haphazardly and glimmered beautifully under the lights.

Instantly, I had an overwhelming urge to try it on.

Actually, I really wanted to take it from him and had to force myself to stay put. What in the hell is wrong with me? Of course, I knew better. You never, ever, ogle consigners’ items, end of story and yet, I couldn’t stop my hand from lifting out to touch it.

The gentleman chuckled and pulled the necklace just from my reach.

He may be old, but he sure was fast.

I narrowed my eyes, never taking them off the prize. I could tell he was watching me, but I didn’t care.

Not one bit.

All that mattered was that necklace and my desire to wear it. He covered the stone with his hand. I blinked and pulled my gaze back to his. He gave me a weird look and my face heated.

He cleared his throat and his eloquent voice echoed out through the room. “Do not let the beauty of this necklace fool you,” he warned, and uncovered the stone once again. “Legend has it that every one of the previous wearers mysteriously disappeared.”

Hmmm?” Distracted, my eyes followed the stone back and forth… back and forth…

He covered the stone with his hand.

“Wait…what?” I shook my head. “How can the wearer disappear and you have the necklace? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“My goodness Katherine, you are quick as ever, I see.”

Huh? My mouth popped open.

“The necklace does tend to show back up through time,” he said. “Who knows?” He shrugged. “Perhaps there is more than one of these floating about.” He waved his hand dismissively and then set the necklace down on the desk.

More than one necklace? A giddy rush of excitement shot through me. I wondered where I might find one for myself but why should I? One was right here, within my grasp… I walked my fingers towards the necklace. I felt him watching me but I didn’t care. “Strange,” I said more to myself than to him.

“Yes, well, the story is that this necklace was made by a gentleman from Arthurian times.”

“You mean like King Arthur’s time with Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table?” My mind began to envision it all.

He chuckled. The sound reminded me of a Christmas cookie, warm and sugary. “I have only met a few of the Knights. Most are good lads. As for Merlin, he keeps to himself mostly.” He leaned in and lifted his hand to the side of his mouth, whispering, “He likes to keep himself closeted away so he can spy on Morrigan.”

I wasn’t sure why he was whispering …we were alone. Wait a minute…was he serious? Oh no, was he some crazy eccentric? Of course he was…he had to be. I never met anyone normal. And I was all alone too. Wait…no I wasn’t. Ned said he would be back in a jiffy. Granted I wasn’t too sure how long a jiffy was, but I was sure he would be back at any moment. That made me feel much better but just in case I took a step back anyway. Not that it mattered. He had a really faraway look on his face and I doubted he even knew I was here anymore.

“This particular necklace was created to bring a knight back his lost love.”

“Bring her back from where?” My eyes widened.

He didn’t answer.

“Hello Sir…sir…”

He shook his head and his eyes refocused. “I cannot say,” he practically whispered.

“Why can’t you say?” I whispered too.

“Unfortunately,” he said and shook his head. “We will never know."

“Why won’t we know?” I asked, getting peeved. That was it. Seriously?

“I apologize dear…” He gave me a sympathetic look. The tale has been lost through time. Who knows? Mayhap there was another reason altogether for the making of the necklace or necklaces.” He chuckled lightly.

I noticed his laugh sounded strained, not sugary and warm this time. What was he up to? I stared at him to see if his countenance would falter. His expression didn’t change.

He set the necklace back down on the desk and ran his fingers down the length of the chain. “This necklace is supposed to have power within,” he commented distantly.

“What kind of power?”

“Apparently, if this necklace is worn when the moon is full, and the stars align just right, otherworldly things will happen.”

I opened my mouth and shut it again. That’s it. What the hell? “Right, sure…if you say so.” I tried not to roll my eyes but couldn’t stop my disbelief from showing.

“I am completely serious Katherine.” He widened his eyes and leaned in. “Take heed to what I say! This is no mere necklace. The wearer will become captive to the whims of another.”

Well, okay then. That did it. Poor man. He obviously had some issues with delusion. The necklace was a beauty though, that was for sure. I’d never seen anything remotely like it, ever. Except for the Hope Diamond, which was pretty in a different way. It always amazed me how the owners sent the Diamond to the museum. I read they shipped it in a plain brown wrapper with no insurance…nothing. What would have happened if it got lost? Rich people do crazy shit and this guy looked like he was well on his way to being crazy too. I turned around to get a contract for him to look over. It was getting late and it was better to get this business finished as soon as possible.

Of course, Biddle & Bailey’s stout rules bobbed through my mind, once more. Rule number one: Never ogle the consigners’ belongings. Just broke it.

Rule number two: never touch, try on, or lust after consigners’ valuables. We at Biddle & Bailey are better than that.

Unfortunately, I found myself contemplating breaking that one as well. Dang it! I took a breath and plastered on my best: “I am a professional” smile again, and turned around.

The contract slipped from my fingers and floated to the floor. A chill swept through my body. He was gone—gone! Where did he go? An uneasy feeling gathered in the pit of my stomach. I tried to come up with a simple explanation for his sudden disappearance. Maybe he was related to Ned: Speedy Gonzales II—right, I didn’t believe that.

My eyes zeroed in on the necklace that was still on the top of the desk. The cold dark marble, the perfect backdrop for the fiery stone. It sparkled like liquid fire.

I stole glances at it like I did with Dane and Candy, always pretending not to look, but keeping it within sight. Surely, he would be back in just a moment, especially if it held all that mystical mumbo jumbo he claimed it held.

A sneaky little voice inside of my head whispered, it would only take a moment to try it on.

I looked at the necklace with longing as my little voice dared me to touch it. I knew it was against policy but what could it hurt, really? My hand inched forward, shaking.

It was just a necklace for goodness sake. Maybe it was the story the man told me… but more than likely, I went over my limit of caffeine for the day. Maybe the cup I dumped on my blouse earlier had seeped into my body through my pores, which was more believable than the necklace being the cause.

I looked around. The coast was clear. My little sneaky voice whispered again… Do it. Do it. The words stuck in my mind like a bad record caught on some sticky substance from a long forgotten party.

Giving into my little sneaky voice, I snatched the necklace off the desk and in one fluid motion, I fastened it around my neck. I did not think about the consequences of my actions or that I knew I was breaking another one of Biddle & Bailey’s stout rules. Or, if I was caught, I would surely lose my job. None of it seemed to matter right now. The moment it hit my skin, I felt a jolt. Like I’d been scuffing my feet across the rug and had built up a huge amount of static electricity.

Grasping the necklace, I held it against my chest. Why did the Knight go to such lengths to bring the girl back and where did she go?

The stone grew warmer in my hand. My mind flashed to a time that was not my own, to a place I’d never seen before…


FLASH ♦ KING ARTHUR’S REALM

The Age of Chivalry


Purplish hues ran through the trees, falling across the carpeted floor of a forest. The smell of pine and earth hung heavily in the air, as if it had just rained.

Two riders appeared. The man in the lead was formidable, a force to be reckoned with, a knight. His long cloak billowed out past the flanks of his massive horse. A battle scar marred the otherwise perfect coat.

A young man followed stealthily behind, his squire. The horse’s hooves made a soft clomping noise on the needles of pine. White steam swirled in the air, rent from the flaring nostrils of the massive beast’.

A high-pitched ringing filled my ears. It was terrible. I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed my fingers to my temples. The sound ebbed away, taking the pain with it. I reopened my eyes. A cloaked figure now stood in front of the Knight.

Dark clouds hovered above, roiling. The wind gained momentum, howling through the trees. The squire’s horse reared in the air, dancing backward.

The person in the cloak removed their hood. Hair, dark as night tumbled in waves down her back.

All color drained from the handsome Knight’s face. He looked like he had just seen a ghost.

The forest went completely still. Seconds turned to minutes as they stared at one another.

Recognition finally flitted across the Knight’s face. Stepping forward, he grabbed the girl into his embrace and threw his head back, laughing. It was a deep, resonating sound. It was heartfelt…full of promises kept…dreams realized.

He pulled away for a moment, staring at her.

I could see what he let the girl see, he let her see to his very soul.

Taking the girl’s face in his hands, he leaned forward and lowered his mouth to hers. He kissed her in such a way it made my own heart ache watching them.

This love they shared with one another was the one that everyone dreams of...the one that fills you so completely nothing else matters.

I felt like an interloper. I clutched the amulet tighter… thinking if the love they shared was ever lost… their world would never be the same.

As if in response to my morose imaginings, the winds blew harder, the trees swayed, and the girl began to fade away.

The Knight was yelling to whoever was causing this great pain to rip him in two. His anguished cries filled the air as the girl slipped completely from his grasp.

I watched…helplessly spellbound… shivering to my soul.




WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING

Ravenhurst- Present Day


RAVENHURST, the ancient edifice cast an eerie silhouette in the full moon’s light as a line of expensive cars wound their way down the curved drive. Red glowing taillights blazed in the darkness as each car stopped in front of the massive columned stairs, depositing guests bedecked in all their evening finery.

I held tightly to the “I swear I did not steal, only borrowed,” antique amulet as the car crept around the corner and revealed the enormity of Ravenhurst in the full moon’s light.

“Ravenhurst is bloody daunting in the moonlight, is it not?” Ned asked in a crisp English accent as he adjusted his perfectly tied cravat.

“Yeah, it’s bloody daunting.” I nodded in agreement. Ned looked as dapper as any Victorian gentleman. The suit he wore accentuated his thin frame and he had combed his light brown hair away from his face.

I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but unfortunately, Ned was no Richard Gere. It didn’t matter though. I was going to a ball in a castle thanks to Ned. And what Ned lacked in striking good looks he more than made up for in expertise, since he was by far the best in his field. I looked past Ned through the window of the car. Twinkling lights flickered from branches of trees clustered around the edges of the circular drive as the car moved forward a little more.

“So Katherine, how does it feel to wear an authentic Victorian gown?” Ned smiled.

“I daresay it is positively brilliant!” I exclaimed in my best feigned-English accent as I adjusted one of the hand-sewn poppies attached to the black-full-tiered- skirt. “I have to say, my good man, putting it on was a bloody chore,” I said, trying to sound English.

Ned chuckled. “Well, I have to say you do it justice. It looks as though it was made specifically for you. The fit is just brilliant.”

“Thanks, Ned.”

He shook his head. “I feel bloody terrible you had such a time putting the dress on. Had I known, I would have retrieved you much earlier. Then perhaps I could have assisted you?” He raised his brow slyly.

Oh, perfect. Piggy’s back. Ignoring his comment, I adjusted the bodice. My gloved fingers slid over the sleek fabric. I had to admit he was right about the fit of the gown. The polonaise-style Victorian ball gown was a piece of art and gave me better posture than a runway model. It pushed my boobs up and squeezed my waist dramatically. My body never looked better. It was kind-of funny though… I had always thought this style of dress would be preferable to my skinny jeans, but not so much.

The shoes were a different story altogether. Ned assured me they were called slippers. However, I dubbed them toe-terrors that crushed each and every one of my toes with each step I took. They were worse than my new super tight pair of Betsey Johnson peep-toe pumps—Slippers my ass!

Ned’s eyes boldly found their way back to my cleavage. I wanted to say, Gee, Ned, could you be more obvious? Then I remembered my “borrowed” necklace. Did he know I was lying about it? No, he never saw the gentleman who brought it in. Still, I didn’t want to chance it so I quickly brought up another subject. “So Ned, what is this I hear about some legend, the one with the Knight?”

“Ah, yes, the legend,” he said brightly, warming to his subject. “Well, if I understand correctly, the original part of the home was built in Arthurian times. In the daylight, you can see the tower room and of course, the battlements. However, as time passed, each owner added something to it. As you will soon see, there is a great deal of Gothic influence in the architecture, very dark and foreboding.”

“This place really is old as dirt.”

Ned laughed. “Your word choices always give me a good chuckle Katherine.”

I smiled. I couldn’t help it, his puppy face was back. “I have to say Ned, it certainly looks creepy.”

“Well, if you think it is creepy now, just you wait until you see the inside,” he warned. “And as far as the infamous legend is concerned, there are so many variations, no one truly knows what to believe.” He moved a bit closer and lowered his voice as if he were about to divulge a great secret. “The one most often repeated is about the first knight, the Raven Knight. Ravenhurst is…was his home. He had fought in many battles and won favor with the King. He was both feared and revered. No opposition could rival the Raven Knight and his men in battle. The very skies would turn black as he and his men would swoop in and waylay their opponents every time.” He waved his hand. “And then, just as suddenly they disappeared and the darkness receded,” he said ominously. “Throughout time, many speculated that he had a necromancer helping him with the outcome of the battle. He never lost you see.”

“What is a necromancer?” I shivered and rubbed my arms.

“A necromancer is simply another word for witch, conjuror, or partaker of the dark arts,” Ned said dismissively.

“What?” I gaped at him. “That’s the legend? The Knight never lost a battle and he may or may not have had help from darker influences?” Shaking my head, I was not quite able to figure out what the big deal was. The story was interesting, but seriously, that was a lot of hoopla for a lot of nothing.

Ned leaned forward, and glanced at his reflection in the window. He dug something out of his front tooth and then turned back around. “Sorry about that.” He wrinkled his face. “I love sushi but the seaweed seems to linger.” He chuckled again and shrugged his shoulders. “What did you ask?” He lifted his finger. “Oh yes, I remember…” he lowered his voice, “it’s the treasure.”

“What treasure?” I leaned in.

“Shush Katherine…”

Ned pressed his fingers to my mouth.

“Someone may hear you,” he rushed out in a frantic whisper. “The one everyone has been looking for. It is hidden somewhere within the walls of Ravenhurst. If found, it could enable the possessor to have unimaginable power.” He lifted his fingers and stared at them for a moment. Then he rubbed them back and forth.

It was my turn to freak… or I would have if I wasn’t in repulsed shock. What in the hell was he doing? Gross.

The car stopped abruptly and I pitched forward.

“This is us,” Ned said excitedly and turned to exit the car.

I glared at his back as he climbed out. Ned better hope I didn’t find the treasure of Ravenhurst because if I did, I was going to turn his ass into a toad for touching my mouth with his smelly, tooth-dirt fingers. He was lucky the car stopped.


There was a slight pile up on the stairs of Ravenhurst. I held tightly to my ‘borrowed’ amulet, waiting in line. Gargoyles loomed above the massive entryway. I felt as though they were watching my every move. I shivered in spite of the heat coming off the other guests.

Finally, the line began to move and we were both ushered through the open doorway of Ravenhurst. I gave one of the gargoyles a sidelong glance as I passed it and made my way into the foyer.

The floor was gorgeous. Black and white checkered marble tiles covered the expanse, polished so brightly the lights above reflected and sparkled across the surface. I leaned back and looked up at the spectacular wrought iron and crystal, Gothic-style chandelier. To my right, there was a huge winding staircase that led up to a second level landing. It continued further back, but I couldn’t see beyond.

“Did you know white was not even considered a fashionable color for a wedding gown until Queen Victoria wore it at her wedding?” Ned grabbed my elbow and steered me around a group of people who stopped to admire one of the statues.

“Is that true?” I sidestepped a potted plant.

“Yes. It is true.” Ned pulled me towards a passing waiter. “The color meant the bride was coming to the marriage penniless.”

“Seriously?” We came to an abrupt halt in front of a group of people hovering around a uniformed waiter. Even from the back of the crowd, I could see his tray was piled high with delicious looking pastries.

“Yes, I am serious. Even the gown I lent you was meant to be a wedding gown.”

“Why would you say that?” I rubbed the crick in my neck from staring at the chandelier too long.

“The craftsmanship gave it away. That dress took a very long time to make. I do find the color of the gown an interesting choice for the bride though. Red signified she wished herself dead, so unfortunately, I don’t think it was a love match.” He shook his head sadly. “Poor dear.”

A chill slithered up my spine and my mouth popped open. Oh, just perfect. I’m wearing a gown from a girl that wanted herself dead and I had to borrow a necklace made for a knight by who knows what, to bring his lost love back. A wave of dread washed over me. I was getting a bad feeling about this.

“Now the black overlay and hand-sewn floral accents were also an interesting choice for the bride, since it meant she wished herself back. Now this is a bit confusing for me. I am not sure how she can wish to be dead, and then wish herself back.” He shrugged indifferently.

“Well, at least it sounds like she changed her mind. Maybe she was like Juliet, trying to be with her true love but she couldn’t, so she pretended to kick it so the other guy would leave her alone,” I said hopefully, trying to make the tightness in my chest subside.

“Perhaps,” Ned replied absently. We finally made it to the front of the line. He inspected the tray for a moment and then grabbed one of the puff pastries off the tray and popped it into his mouth.

“Still, it is kind of sad and disturbing at the same time, don’t you think?” I peered over his shoulder to see what else was on the tray.

“Oh, Katherine, that is not even the half of it. The Victorians were an especially superstitious lot and even made poems up about certain aspects of the wedding. Take the days of the week, for instance: Marry on Monday for money, Tuesday for wealth, Wednesday the best day of all, Thursday for crosses, Friday for losses, and Saturday for no luck at all.”

“Seriously, you get no luck at all for a Saturday? Everyone gets married on Saturday in America. Well, that is just great. I guess we’re all screwed.”

Ned chuckled. “You are quite a crack-up aren’t you?”

“Yeah, a real crack-up,” I said despondently and grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter’s tray. “So, Ned, where did the dress come from anyway?” I took a sip of champagne.

“Oh, it came from Ravenhurst.”

I coughed so hard, the sip of champagne flew out of my mouth as my eyes teared up. “What did you say?”

“The gown is from Ravenhurst.”

“Wh—why am I wearing it then? Isn’t that against the rules?”

“Oh, no worries.” He chuckled and petted my arm reassuringly. “It isn’t like the girl who wore it is going to miss it,” he said laughingly.

I drained my drink in record time. I needed to take the edge off. I was trying to forget all about the origins of the necklace, as well as the girl who wore the dress.

All I really wanted to do was explore the castle without Ned telling me another dreadful story. He was putting a serious damper on my good mood. And those stinking gargoyles’… their little beady eyes seemed to keep following me everywhere I went. It was probably guilt making me feel this way. I should have taken the necklace off. Truthfully, I should have never worn it in the first place, but somehow, I couldn’t help myself.

The necklace was awesome. Besides, it wasn’t my fault Ned lent me the gown and insisted I keep the necklace on. Except he didn’t know I was lying about how I got it in the first place.

Apples-oranges, did it really make a difference? I didn’t think so. Ned was the culprit in all this. Not me… at least that’s what I told myself to lessen the feeling of guilt.



Two hours later and yet another terrible story relayed by Ned in gory detail, I was getting pretty depressed. Didn’t Ned have any good stories to tell? I finished off my third glass of champagne, which did a fine job of dulling the pain in my toes, but unfortunately, not my head. Ned had been talking non-stop. My eyes followed Ned’s hand as he reached out and snagged another pastry off the passing waiter’s tray and popped it into his mouth. Cream slipped out of the side of his mouth as he chewed and tried to speak at the same time, warming to his subject again.

“The Victorians would attach strings to the deceased bodies in various places, such as the hands, head, and feet before they were buried.” Ned paused for a moment, and plucked yet another pastry off the retreating tray of crab puffs and popped it into his mouth.

“And to think DR. TABERGER designed the system above ground, just in case the person they buried was not really dead at all. It was bloody brilliant. The bell would alert the cemetery night watchman to dig up the body. Of course, I am not quite sure if they managed to do this in enough time…” He shrugged and licked the cream off his fingers.

As I watched him run the tip of his tongue over each one of his fingers, I was frankly surprised my mouth began to water instead of my gag reflex kicking in. I knew why, too. I was so hungry it just didn’t matter. The dress had me trussed up so tightly, it was hard to take a breath. I knew if I tried to eat anything, the damn thing would asphyxiate me and render me unconscious for the rest of the night.

“Now where was I?” Ned tapped his chin.

Please stop…please stop! I can’t take it! Not another word about corpses or I am going to be sick. I searched the crowd frantically for someone to unload him on. Amelia, was standing in the corner, gawking at Ned. Perfect.

Amelia was another appraiser but she dealt mainly in antique jewelry. At least that was her specialty. She actually dabbled in a bit of everything, especially from the Victorian era. She was a petite little thing, with a short boyish hairstyle that looked perfect on her small frame. Amelia dressed nice but her clothing tended to be very conservative, with one exception. She liked to accessorize with brightly colored, vintage-enameled flower pins. I guessed she was a likeable enough person, a bit bookish at times but really, in this business who wasn’t? Spotting my chance for escape, I pulled Ned towards Amelia.

Three ladies were huddled together, blocking me. Not to be deterred, I cut around the side and came to a halt right in front of Amelia.

“Ned,” Amelia said in surprise, smiling widely.

“Oh hello.” He didn’t smile back.

I thought Ned would be happy to see Amelia but instead he sounded completely downtrodden. Good grief, was he blind? Amelia looked really good.

I smiled at her warmly. “Hey Amelia, I love your outfit.” She was wearing a bright green riding ensemble with a jaunty little hat cocked to the side. The feathered plumes, curved around her face dramatically. She had a riding crop in one hand and a drink in the other.

“Oh, hello Katherine.” Her brow wrinkled in displeasure. “Funny, I didn’t know you were invited.”

“Ah, I wasn’t. I mean, I came with Ned.”

“That was kind of him.” Amelia eyes slid up and down my body with visible distaste.

Immediately, I revoked my earlier comment. Amelia wasn’t nice—she was a bitch!

“What an interesting piece of jewelry.” Amelia leaned forward to get a better look in the dim light.

“Ah, it is. Thanks.” Reflexively I covered the necklace.

“Wherever did you get it?” Amelia narrowed her hazel eyes, which made her fake lashes, clump together. It looked like a spider was attacking her left eye.

I may have found some humor in that but instead I was trying to come up with yet another lie.Erhm … ah, someone’s grandmother from another mother,” I mumbled stupidly.

“What?” She leaned in closer.

I took a step back, and hugged my stomach. “Oh gosh, I have got to go to the bathroom,—it just hit me.” I made a strained face.

Ned looked suspicious. “I will accompany you.” He made a grab for my arm.

“Oh no, I really think it would be best if I go alone.” I played it up a bit and bent down slightly, pretending to have cramps of some sort.

Ned made a sour face, and flared his nostrils slightly. “Oh, I see, of course, you should go alone. You will need your privacy.”

I added another strained look for good measure, turned, and walked away.

“Try to hurry back,” he called out from behind.

“Oh, I’ll try,” I lied as I called back over my shoulder and walked briskly through the crowd. A broad smile quickly replaced the pained look. I snatched two more glasses of champagne from a passing waiter, and took off to explore the castle.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

Ravenhurst- Present Day


THE light of the full moon made an eerie glow at the end of the hall through the mullioned windows. I walked slowly past armored knights stationed in alcoves on either side of the hall. Finishing off one of the glasses of champagne, I set it on the base of one of the knights. Standing up fully, I patted the cool metal. “I’ll pick this up on my way back,” I assured the stoic figure of a knight in shining armor.

Walking down the hall, I stepped into the glow of the moon and looked out the large bank of windows. A dark cloud spread across the horizon and gave the impression of a hand reaching out across the sky—searching for something or someone. Instinctively, I reached up and stroked the amulet.

A cloud drifted over the moon and blocked the illumination. The hall turned black. I shivered.

After a few moments, the clouds dissipated and the hall filled with illumination once more. Over to my left there was a large gallery. I stepped through the arched doorway. Vaulted ceilings soared high above. The vast floor was filled with strategically placed statuary. I wondered if this was where the lords of the estate courted their ladies, or were they brought here to be seduced. It certainly looked like the perfect place for seduction. I ran my gloved fingers over the muscled arm of David, moving down to his perfectly sculpted buttocks, and patted them lightly.

The champagne was taking its toll and I laughed out loud at my foolishness.

Gilded rows of paintings covered the far wall of the room and I wandered over to them. My heels clicked out a rhythm on the parquet floor, keeping time with the music wafting up from below. I stopped and admired one of the paintings: a knight in profile, his long black hair was blowing away from his face as he looked off into the distance across a vast countryside. Dark clouds gathered above his head, and his cloak billowed out from behind. He looked sad.

A brief glimpse of him in misery flashed through my mind and my heart went out to him. I tried to recall where I may have seen him before, but couldn’t grasp it. There was nothing tangible. Determined to have a good time, I moved away from his portrait. Taking another small sip of champagne, I looked at the next portrait. My breath caught and I instantly wished I took the bottle instead of just two glasses.

This portrait showed a man leaning against a mantel in a library or study. I could swear the room turned colder as soon as I looked at the unpleasant man in the portrait.

It was disturbing. There was no other word for it. He was not unattractive, but his eyes were cold, unfeeling, like he wanted to or did some foul deed. Trying to ward off the unpleasantness, I rubbed my arms, but the feeling held tight. Quickly, I strode away to the next painting and froze. My heart skipped an entire beat as I stared into the eyes of yet another man. He was all alone on a grassy hilltop, with this very estate as the backdrop. He was smiling broadly—he was… perfect.

Disjointed images hit me in waves and my stomach lurched. I felt like I was going to be sick. Then I saw him in another time, laughing. Then for a split second, his gray eyes flashed anger before they softened. I could see the love in them, which made me feel warm all over. I barely had a chance to catch my breath when another image hit me. This time, his beautiful face was devastated. I watched his suffering, and my heart dropped. Then, just as suddenly, his eyes went blank, devoid of all expression. There was no spark of life, anger, or love… he became a shell of emptiness.

I couldn’t take it. It felt worse than his suffering. Choking back a sob, I turned away. It was horrible… I could not stand seeing him like that. However, the vision did not fade. It stuck in my mind, suffocating me. Trying to alleviate the terrible feeling, I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing.

After a few moments, the feeling abated a little, but not entirely. Forcing myself to move, I walked towards another painting at the far end of the room. This one stood all alone in the corner. The soles of my shoes scuffed loudly against the floor as my feet moved forward, but my mind wanted no part of where they were taking me.

Friction began to build in the air. I stopped in front of the last portrait. Lifting my glass, I gulped down the rest of my champagne, with my eyes tightly shut. I knew I was being a coward, but I did not want to look.

Still, I forced my eyes open and immediately wished I had kept them closed. Recognition slammed through me. “This can’t be happening,” I whispered in disbelief as my world fell away and everything turned black.


REFLECTIONS

Ravenhurst- Victorian England


SEBASTIAN de Winter-The Earl of Ravenhurst, looked out his library window toward the setting sun, watching it disappear into the coming night. He couldn’t help thinking it was vanishing, just as Marguerite had, without a trace.

Placing his glass on the desk, he let out a heavy sigh. She was certainly not his first choice for a bride, and would not have been a candidate at all if he had any say in the matter. He was quite content with his life just the way it was. When he wanted a woman, he bedded one. There was no rhyme or reason to his choosing. He enjoyed all women and they him. He had yet to hear a complaint.

He laughed lightly, remembering Annabelle’s reaction when he told her he was getting married.


The Dandridge’s Townhouse - London


What do you mean you are getting married?” Annabelle Dandridge shrilled out loudly and pushed her long red curling hair away from her face. Her blue eyes ignited in anger.

“Sorry love, I do not know what to tell you. A man has to do what a man has to do,” Sebastian said absently and pulled his breeches up. Her pretty face had an angry pout. “Annabelle, now do not be that way,” Sebastian cajoled and tossed his shirt on carelessly. Letting it hang open he walked towards her and stood over the bed.

“Remember you are married as well, or have you forgotten your husband, Adam, so easily?”

Annabelle fell backward on the pillows and covered her face with her arm. “Oh, right, I am,” she said as if it suddenly dawned on her. “He is old, though. And he makes me sick when his wrinkled fleshy body touches mine.” She shuddered. “And you are the opposite.” She sat up and placed her hand on his taut stomach. “You are young and handsome and you make me feel so good when you touch my body.” Her hand slid lower. “And I have not even mentioned the best part…” she teased, and smiled up at him. She pushed her hair back and leaned forward. Deftly, she unfastened his breeches and released him fully in her hands. She looked up and gave him a wicked smile.

Sebastian lifted his brow. He knew that look.

Annabelle lowered her head and took his length into her mouth.

Sebastian closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment.


WHEN IN ROME

Ravenhurst- Victorian England


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-57 show above.)