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Authors: May McGoldrick

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Ghost of the Thames (36 page)

BOOK: Ghost of the Thames
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The dog leapt across the kitchen after
it, but suddenly stopped short, and the deep growl emanating from
his throat sent Joanna scurrying for cover. Quietly, she moved into
the deep shadows behind the giant fireplace, to the narrow door
that led down into the root cellars. From there she could get into
the labyrinth of passages beneath the castle, but she paused for a
moment, her hand on the panel, ready to run if the need
arose.

“What are you hiding there, you mangy
cur?” The man’s voice was deep and strangely gentle. “Just you and
the hearth fairy, eh?”

Joanna pressed her face against the
warm stone of the chimney as she listened. From the dog’s friendly
panting and the man’s deep-throated chuckle, she could tell the
newcomer had already won over the animal’s affection.

“Och, I can see already you are in for
trouble. A thief you are, is that it? A piece of cheese. A capital
crime, if that cook finds out, lad. Hmm. I’ll not throw it for you,
you slobbering beast.”

Joanna knew she should go, but she
couldn’t. Curiosity was pulling at her, driving her with a desire
to put a face to that voice.

“So, you want to play! You want me to
chase you, is that it?”

He had to be one of the new laird’s
men. She could imagine him leaning against the edge of the long
heavy table in the center of the kitchen.

“‘
Tis too late in the
night, you beast. Very well. Bring it here, and I’ll throw it for
you. But once only, do you hear me?”

The dog’s low-pitched growl was now
playful, and again the man’s deep chuckle brought a smile to her
face.

“Smart too. For a Highland
cur!”

So they’re Lowlanders, she thought.
Scowling now, Joanna edged forward slightly and peeked at the man
in the dim light of the dying fire. Just as she had imagined it, he
was sitting on the edge of the table with his back to her. At the
moment, he was preoccupied with wrenching the ball of cheese out of
Max’s mouth.

“Now, don’t force me to get rough with
you!”

She studied his broad shoulders. The
warrior was larger, by far, than any of the men her father had kept
in his service. The red of his tartan was muted and dark. As he
stood up for a moment, she drew back, but he only crouched over the
dog again. He was certainly a giant, and not just for a Lowlander.
His long dark hair was tied with a thong at the nape of a strong
neck. In wrestling with the dog, he turned his face, and she got a
quick glimpse of his handsome profile. Suddenly, she was aware of a
strange tightening in her chest. Drawing back further, she felt her
face flush with heat. What was wrong with her? she thought,
fighting for a breath.

What did it matter that the man was
handsome, she thought with annoyance. What difference did that make
to her, a ghost! In the dark of the kitchens, it was easy to let
imagination control reality. In the light of day, he might be the
ugliest man in Scotland, though she would never see it. Darkness.
Perhaps it was the place for both of them, she thought angrily. Who
knows, in the gloom of this chamber, he might not even see her
deformities. Bringing a shaking hand up before her eyes, she gazed
at it momentarily, and then pulled her hood forward over her
face.

Nay, no one was that blind.

“As your laird, I order you to share
that cheese. Och, you are a pig. You’ve eaten it all.”

Laird! Quickly, Joanna drew back
behind the hearth. Her face grim, she slipped through the panel and
into the blackness of the passageway. Feeling her way down the
stone steps, she continued past the wooden door that led into the
root cellars. Silently, she made her way through the winding,
narrow passages, down more carved stone steps, and through wide,
cavernous openings until she was far from the kitchens. Climbing to
the top of another set of steps, Joanna stopped, trying to catch
her breath, and leaned back heavily against a rough-hewn
wall.

Laird! She wished she had never laid
eyes on him. It would be ever so much easier to mourn his death if
she’d never seen him. The poor soul, she thought, starting to move
quickly along the tunnel again. He wouldn’t have a chance against
the evil that surrounded him.

 

BOOK: Ghost of the Thames
11.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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