Defiance at Werewolf Keep (Werewolf Keep Trilogy)

BOOK: Defiance at Werewolf Keep (Werewolf Keep Trilogy)
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DEFIANCE

AT

WEREWOLF KEEP

Werewolf Keep Trilogy Book 3

 

 

 

Nhys Glover

 

 

 

 

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. With the exception of historical events and people used as background for the story, the names, characters and incidents portrayed in this work come wholly from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental

Cover includes image ©canstockphotos.com/trebuchet

Published by Belisama Press 2013

 

 

© Nhys Glover 2013

The right of Nhys Glover to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988

 

 

This book is copyright. All rights reserved.

Apart for any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of the author.

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The Farn
sworths lived in well-appointed comfort above their large millinery shop. It sat at the very end of a row of regency terraces in a well-to-do outer suburb of London. On that fine early autumn’s morning of 1865 Lily, the only child of the aging milliner and his wife, made her way down the steep stairs that led to their flat, marvelling at the ease with which she made the journey. A short time ago, she could barely get out of bed, so weak had she been. Now, even after the horrendous attack that had occurred several weeks ago in their garden, she felt stronger and healthier than she could ever remember being.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs
, she heard the bell tinkle above the shop door. For some reason, she paused before pushing aside the curtain divider that separated the back of the shop from the front. Staying hidden, she peered out at the new customer who had entered their domain.

If customer was what he was,
for the arrival of the tall, imposing stranger was something of an anomaly.  It was a rarity for any man to shop, or even enter, this feminine domain. But for such a man as this to do so was unprecedented. Lily felt a thrill of unexpected fear combined with excitement as she watched her father clasp a roll of fine lawn to his chest and look up at the stranger.

'Can I help you, s
ir?' Henry Farnsworth asked tentatively as the big man began to scan the room. He appeared to be looking for something that wasn’t on the shelves.

'I am
Byron Carstairs, the Lord of Breckenhill Keep. I was informed that a young woman was attacked on these premises recently. Is that so?'

'Ah
yes, sir, my daughter Lily, that was. It was a hot night, and I had taken her down into the walled garden at the back of the house for some fresh air before bedtime.’ Her father began his much practised tale for his latest listener. For many days after the attack there had been a steady increase in customers as the neighbourhood came in to get the news straight from the horse’s mouth. Her papa had been quick to make the most of the opportunity to both sell more fabric and take centre stage.

Not that he would ever think to do so at her expense. Her father loved her with every breath in his body, she knew that well. But he was not
averse to gleaning every advantage that came his way. Now, as he went on with his story, her father seemed to grow taller and more imposing with each word.


I had gone into the house to get her the cold lemonade my dear wife was preparing for her when that mad man came over the wall and attacked my girl. I didn’t hear her screams, or I would have been out there in an instant. And, had the constabulary chasing him not been so close behind, they might not have been able to save her. As it was, she was badly cut by three deep straight wounds to her shoulder.’ Henry shuddered as he paused for effect. Or was it because he was remembering what the wound had looked like that night – deep, straight and ugly, bleeding away what little blood she still had after so many leechings by the physician.


We didn't think she'd live the night through, invalid that she has been all the twenty-five years of her life. The shock, you know, could have stopped her weak heart. And the blood loss was terrible. However, she has recovered remarkably well, I’m happy to say.' Her father couldn't keep the delight from his voice, even as his hands trembled so badly that he appeared about to drop the roll of lawn.

This was unusual. Could the story be
affecting him more keenly today, for some reason, or was it just his silent listener that distressed him? Whatever the cause, to stop himself from dropping the fabric, Henry set the roll down with a thud on the measuring table.

Disquiet was catching.
Lily felt the icy fingers of fear run down her spine. What did this huge lord want with her? She was nobody. Less than nobody. Her only claim to notoriety in the past had been her sickliness, and in the present, her brush with death at the hands of a madman. Why would that incident be of interest to such a man as this?

The tall
gentleman made an effort to smile politely, but his eyes remained sombre, even worried – if the distance between them didn’t mislead her. Her eyesight had never been good, although, of late, it had seemed almost exceptional.

'Yes, I had heard such. Is your daughter about, Mr Farn
sworth? I would like to speak with her, if I may.'

'Cer
tainly, sir, but may I be so bold as to inquire what this is about?'

For a moment
, the man was silent, seemingly weighing whether to talk to him or wait for his daughter. Then, with a decisive nod, he began to speak.

'I am sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings
, sir, but the madman who attacked you daughter was infected with a rare illness, which he may well have passed onto your daughter. It will be necessary to isolate her for a time, until we can ascertain if she has been infected.'

H
enry Farnsworth blanched and his hands began to tremble even more obviously. 'No, oh no! Lily is as hale and hearty as she has ever been. More so. She harbours no infection.'

'One of the symptoms of this disease is that the injured person recovers remarkably quickly and seems to have unusually good health. Your daughter was an inva
lid, you say, and now she is not? I am afraid that does not bode well. But please, do not fear. This infection is not life-threatening. In fact, she will continue to exhibit good health and live a long life if she has the condition. But there are symptoms that are not as welcome as physical well-being, and the ailment is highly contagious, especially as time passes. Please, will you fetch her for me?'

'Lily is in perfect health
, sir, you can fear not, – ' Henry started to argue.

Lily knew there was no point in staying hidden any longer. Her father might try to protect her, but from the man’s imposi
ng presence, it was clear that Carstairs would not brook opposition for long. Better for everyone if she just presented herself and discovered more about this new, terrible illness she had contracted.

It seemed almost laughable that she should t
ake on yet another complaint to her hyper-supply of them. Her heart was weak, as was her blood. Lungs, which had not had the chance to fully develop before her untimely birth, were forever becoming congested, making breathing a struggle. Even her bones were a problem, being so fragile they broke at the least pressure.

Well, that had been the case up until the attack. Now those weaknesses had disappeared, hopefully for goo
d. Could one illness counteract all others? It seemed impossible.

She pushed as
ide the curtain and stepped into the shop. 'Please, Papa, do not upset yourself. I am here and will talk to this gentleman.'

Lily wondered what this man saw when he looked at her. She kn
ew he would see a young, overly-thin spinster dressed in a lavender cotton day dress with wispy golden brown hair that was neatly pulled back into a knot at the back of her head. Her eyes, she knew, were so big they dwarfed the rest of her features. In this moment, she wondered if those eyes her father had dubbed violet-blue were now filled with the dread she was feeling, or whether she had been able to mask her overwrought emotions with the serenity she had been striving for.

‘Ah, Miss Lily Farn
sworth, I presume. I am Byron Carstairs of Breckenhill Keep…’             

At that moment
, the bell for the shop door sounded again and another imposing man entered. This one was older than the first, possibly in his mid to late thirties. His black hair had already begun to grey and his build and poorly repaired broken nose marked him as a ruffian. There was a wildness about the man, and a threat in his stance – his well-muscled upper body leaned slightly forward as his large arms tensed at his side.

'Will,
' Byron greeted the ruffian, ‘any word on the streets?’             

'No more injurie
s that the locals are aware of.' The man’s slightly accented reply marked him as a Scot. He, too, scanned his surroundings as if checking for danger. Both men had a disturbing intensity that Lily found disconcerting.

'
Luckily, no one else was hurt by the...man,' Lily supplied, though she still didn't feel truthful calling her attacker a man.

Certainly
, the dead body found next to her in the garden had been that of a naked man, her father had seen it with his own eyes. But she had seen no man. In fact, she had no memory of the attack at all, waking in the morning in her own bed to find a bandage on her shoulder and a slight muzziness in her head that was the result of an all-too-familiar laudanum dose. It was only her nightmares that offered insight into what had happened that night. And they didn’t match up with the events as they were described to her.

'Good, that i
s a relief. It is only you, then, Miss Farnsworth, who is in danger of infection. As I was telling your father, the madman was suffering from a rare contagion at the time he attacked you. He may well have passed that contagion to you. There is nothing to worry about. It is not life-threatening. But we will need to quarantine you for a period,' he told her.

'Where would you be taking her
, sir?' Henry demanded, shocked and terrified by the sudden change in circumstances.

'To my Keep in Yorkshire. She will be properly chaperoned and cared for
, of course. You need not worry. You can write to her there, and visit her, once we are certain her condition is under control.'

'Yorkshire? But...
that is so far away. Surely there is an institution closer at hand? I cannot travel to Yorkshire to visit my daughter. I’m a business man. I never leave my shop.'

'We are the best facility
in the country for this condition. Your daughter will be in safe hands.' The man called Byron Carstairs seemed ill-at-ease dealing with her father’s concerns. He appeared more inclined to give orders and expect them to be obeyed than placate an anxious father, as he was being forced to do in this moment.

Henry looked at Lily, his face bleached of colour
. Smiling her reassurance, she covered his shaking hands with her own. Then she turned to Carstairs and nodded her agreement, silently.

'
No, I won't hear of it...' her father said angrily, clutching her hands so tightly she was terrified they would break. Her Papa must have realised this, too, for he immediately let her go and stepped away.

'Papa
, dearest, if these men say I have a contagion, then I must be kept from infecting others. Are you a physician, sir?' She looked Byron squarely in the eyes, trying not to show any of the fear she was feeling. If she showed her fear her father might do something drastic to try to keep her safe. He wouldn’t have a chance of defending her against these two much younger giants.

'
No. I am not a physician, Miss. It is my Keep that has been commandeered for this purpose. I have a doctor's statement here, if you or your parents require more details, and one from Scotland Yard verifying my right to remove you to my sanctuary.'

She took
the leaves of paper he offered and studied them for a moment. Then she handed them to her father. 'It would seem my presence is required in Yorkshire, Papa. I am sure I will be home in no time. It is just a precaution. At this time of year, I imagine the Moors are rather beautiful. There’s heather there, is there not, as there is in the Scottish Highlands?'

It was the man called Will who answered her. 'Aye
, there is, indeed, lass, and it’s a bonnie sight.'

Lily looked at the man more closely. At
first glance, all one saw was a rough, aging, soldier-of-fortune, but beneath that she glimpsed something finer, gentler. This was a man who could as easily comfort a sick child as wield a bayonet. She had no idea how she knew that, but she did, and it gave her more reassurance than anything that had been said or done since the two men entered the millinery shop.

'When must I leave?' she asked resolutely.

'There will be a train leaving London first thing tomorrow morning. I would like to be on it. It is a long trip – Seven hours. But we will travel First Class, so it will not be too onerous. Also, you will have a female chaperone on the way. Lady Fidelia Horton has been visiting her mother in London, but will be returning with us tomorrow. I am sure you will enjoy her companionship.'

'I'm sure I shall...' Lily replied politely
as her heart gave an excited leap. In the twenty-five years of her life nothing had ever really changed. Now, in just a few short weeks, everything had changed, leaving her no control over any of it. Like a rider on a runaway horse, all she could do was hold on, enjoy the ride and see where it took her.

 

 

BOOK: Defiance at Werewolf Keep (Werewolf Keep Trilogy)
12.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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