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Authors: Sara Mackenzie

Passions of the Ghost

BOOK: Passions of the Ghost
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S
ARA
M
ACKENZIE
 
P
ASSIONS OF THE
G
HOST
 

 

To Emma,
who helps me in so many ways.
A big thank you!

Contents
 
 

Prologue

The Sorceress strode through the great cathedral, enjoying the sense…

 

One

Reynald stood perfectly still. Despite the darkness and the dank…

 

Two

Amy felt the prince’s hands drop away from her. He…

 

Three

Reynald stood in the antechamber and glowered at the big…

 

Four

Reynald looked up. And stared in utter amazement.

 

Five

The Ghost was looking back at her, and she could…

 

Six

Reynald peered grimly through the arrow slit and saw that…

 

Seven

Reynald woke to the sound of a bell. Deep, somber…

 

Eight

Amy couldn’t think straight. Did he mean to dedicate the…

 

Nine

The dragon stretched, stiffly testing each muscle and sinew. She…

 

Ten

While Amy slept, the Ghost made his way down the…

 

Eleven

Amy woke suddenly and glared at the illuminated numbers on…

 

Twelve

Reynald watched her walk off. He was disppointed that she…

 

Thirteen

Amy had barely taken a step into the reception area…

 

Fourteen

Reynald was climbing the stairs as Amy was coming down.

 

Fifteen

“You again!”

 

Sixteen

“Rey!” she shrieked. “There’s something behind us!”

 

Seventeen

She was a liar, and she’d lied to him. She…

 

Eighteen

Amy stood by the bar in her slinky black dress…

 

Nineteen

The girl’s name was Morwenna, and she was young and…

 

Twenty

Reynald felt a new lightness. As if his body might…

 

Twenty-one

Jez answered his door on the third knock. Silently, he…

 

Twenty-two

Reynald had always found peace in the castle chapel, and…

 

Twenty-three

The mock-battle was to have been held outside in the…

 

Twenty-four

Jez had arrived late at the pavilion to watch the…

 

Twenty-five

Reynald took the stairs. He knew he had no time…

 

Twenty-six

“Where is he? Where’s Jez?” Amy knew she was asking…

 

Twenty-seven

Reynald knew where they were. Soaring high above them was…

 

Twenty-eight

Amy was desperately shaking her head and waving her arms,…

 

Twenty-nine

Nicco returned to his room. He’d spent a pleasant hour…

 

Thirty

Amy was right about Coster, but it gave her no…

 

Thirty-one

It was Jez who found them. They’d returned to Amy’s…

 

Thirty-two

Reynald was feeling dizzy. His head was spinning like that…

 

Thirty-three

Amy let out a surprised shriek. The sound was only…

 

Thirty-four

Reynald was concentrating so totally that when the light failed,…

 

Epilogue

The Sorceress sat quietly. This room was one of her…

 
 
 
 
 
 

The Sorceress strode through the great
cathedral, enjoying the sense of space around her. Incense burned, flowers bloomed, and there was a deep, ancient silence.

She smiled, congratulating herself. Everything had gone very well with her past two attempts at improving history, and she hoped for more success again this time.

She entered a white marble chapel bleached by the light of many beeswax candles. The man in repose upon his tomb was big—he’d once been called a giant among men—and his powerful arms and chest proclaimed him a warrior.

But Reynald de Mortimer had been far more than that.

With his white-blond hair and gray, almost colorless eyes, he was well named the Ghost. He was a brutal and powerful lord who lived on the Welsh Marches in the thirteenth century, and he’d had to be strong in mind and body to hold on to his lands while both English and Welsh tried to take them from him. Yes, he was feared in his day, but even his enemies said of him that when the Ghost gave his word he kept it.

That was why it was so strange that he hadn’t kept his word the day he died. Afterwards his lands had fallen into chaos, with people dying in the slaughter that seemed to go on endlessly. The Ghost could have prevented that if he had lived. If he had opened his eyes to what was happening within the safety of his walls.

Well, this was his chance now to make amends, and the Sorceress had found a particularly interesting mortal to help him out. She smiled. Yes, there’d be some fireworks between them, but that was all part of their journey.

She held her hand over his face, not touching him, but close enough to feel the stir of his breath. There was an ugly scar on one side of his throat where someone had tried to kill him long ago, although the rest of his face was unmarked. Handsome, but it did not look as if he smiled very much.

“Your chance has come, Ghost,” she murmured, and her voice caused the walls of the chapel to vibrate. She raised her arms and the heavy wolfskin cloak rose about her, the strands of her long red hair writhing like serpents around her face. She looked frightening, like a witch from the days of old.

She began to chant, and the man on the tomb moved restlessly, as if he were fighting against some imaginary foe, and then his eyes sprang open. They were of the clearest, palest gray—almost the color of water. And he spoke one word.

“Run!”

One
 

The Welsh Marches—the border lands between Wales and England

Winter, present day

 

Reynald stood perfectly still. Despite the
darkness and the dank underground smell, the castle enclosed him, welcomed him, embraced him with familiar arms. One moment he’d been in the great cathedral with the redheaded witch, and the next he was here. In the deep tunnels beneath his own castle.

Slowly he oriented himself. The tunnels were here prior to the castle. They were the remains of some Welsh burial chamber or sacred building—no one knew. They were useful for storage of foodstuffs and weapons, and sometimes prisoners, but even he who knew every inch of his domain did not venture down here very often.

Reynald bent low, awkward in his coat of armor—the garment was thick and heavy, made of steel plates and chain mail—only just avoiding knocking his helmeted head against the jagged ceiling. At first he’d thought he was back in the between-worlds, that fearful place he had inhabited before the witch took him to the cathedral for his long sleep. But this was different, this was familiar. This was home.

He realized he was still holding his longbow and a couple of arrows clasped in his hand. In his heart he had always believed that the task of striking down his enemy was his alone, but he hadn’t trusted his feelings and had allowed himself to be persuaded otherwise. He shivered with a mixture of guilt and regret. He’d failed his people when they needed him most.

Reynald bumped his head and swore.

Moving about in the constricted space in his coat of armor, and with his sword strapped to his side, was difficult enough without the longbow. What use was it to him anyway? As he passed a niche in the wall, he paused long enough to place the longbow and arrows within it, for safekeeping, until he sent someone back for them later.

Was it still 1299, the year of his death? Were the men of his garrison still up above, in disarray and awaiting his orders? His servants would weep with joy when they saw him again. Somehow he would change history and turn defeat into victory.

There were steps, narrow and dusty. As he climbed them he saw a light ahead, but it wasn’t the uncertain flare of torch or candlelight, this was brighter…steadier.

He paused to stare at the strange burning globe. The steps continued up, toward the armory, and he climbed on, refusing to listen to the increasingly uneasy voice in his head. Was the battle still going on outside? It was very quiet.

The armory wasn’t there. No weapons cleaned and shining, no dented coats of armor or well-used chain mail. Instead, there were some boxes and chairs stacked against the wall.

More stairs, and a door that no longer had a latch or a bar, just a round knob that he gripped in his big hand, and turned.

Reynald stepped out into a world run mad.

All about him were colors, frenzied discordant colors. Yellow and red and pink. Everywhere his eyes rested they were assaulted by a rainbow of different shades and hues. How could his good stone walls have been so vandalized? A half-sized tree stood in an enormous barrel, its branches hung with many sparkling balls, while ropes of glittering gold were wound about and through them. As he stared, eyes began to wink at him from the greenery. Many-colored eyes. Shocked, he forced himself forward and peered closer. The eyes were in fact small balls with colored lights inside them that flashed on and off.

“Jesu…”

His voice sounded deep and rusty from disuse. A moment later all thoughts left his head as a terrible whiny noise burst forth. He spun around, and found himself confronted by a fat, bearded creature in a red gown.

“Jingle bells!” it shrieked.

Reynald lurched back as the creature began to swing its hips lasciviously at him, the reddened lips pouting as it sang. He drew his sword and brought it down on the creature’s head, splitting it asunder. There was a smell of burning, a whirring groan, and it slumped into silence. Reynald could see within the bearded head. This was no flesh-and-blood being but a man-made abomination, full of cogs and thin steel wires.

He backed away, sheathing his sword, bewildered and afraid.

This was his home, and yet it wasn’t. Something was very very wrong.

Striding quickly, ignoring the jarring changes—telling himself that perhaps if he ignored them they would go away—he made his way toward the thick iron-studded door. Where was his garrison? Surely they were as keen to find him as he was to find them? he told himself as he flung it open.

Outside it was nighttime, and cold. Far colder than the air behind him in the castle. There was a flurry of snow, and he could see that white flakes lightly covered the surface of the ground and sparkled on top of the castle walls. There were winking lights here, too, stretching along the battlements and hanging from the towers, flashing on and off jauntily and seeming to mock the blood that had been shed in this place.

The gatehouse rose grimly before him, and beneath it the heavy doors were open wide to the drawbridge and the moat beneath. His enemies could walk in unopposed!

Angrily, Reynald de Mortimer strode forward, calling for his men, calling for the gate to be closed and the drawbridge lifted. His voice echoed back mournfully, and the snow swirled about his feet. He might have been all alone in the world.

Perhaps I am all alone. Perhaps there is no one left but me.

The thought was so horrifying, he went to step outside the gates…and found he couldn’t.

His body simply refused to pass over the threshold.

Frowning, he tried again, moving forward, pushing hard. And couldn’t. It was as if there was some invisible shield between him and the outside world, something he could not feel or see, and yet it held him captive. Frustrated, he raised his fists, but again he could not move beyond the gates. Whatever it was, he could not push through it.

I am a prisoner here in my own castle.

If it is mine,
he added bleakly. This place was very different from the world he had left behind in 1299. The witch had brought him back to life, yes, but it was not the life he knew and understood.

With a groan, Reynald turned and made his way across the bailey, toward the winding stairs of the infamous north tower. He needed fresh air. He needed to look out over his lands. He needed to think.

 

 

Amy Fairweather lifted the hem of her long, gauzy skirt as she negotiated the narrow stone stairs that circled around and around to the top of the north tower. The castle was full of passages and steps leading up and down, and sometimes nowhere at all. It was easy to get lost. And stairs like these certainly weren’t made to be climbed in four-inch heels, but Prince Nicco had insisted. And the prince, she had learned, was used to getting his own way in all things.

It was possible that in some men this might have been exciting and macho—not many, but some. In Nicco it just seemed spoiled and petulant. And when it came to Nicco that said it all, really.

He’d made it more than clear that he expected Amy to accompany him to his private suite and into his luxury-sized bed. Not that she was averse to some hot quick sex. She wasn’t a prude, and it was true Nicco would be far more pliable if she gave him what he wanted. But when it came to the point, Amy couldn’t bring herself to do it. Didn’t want to.

No matter how much she owed Jez.

In fact—Amy paused as she stepped out of the stairwell and onto the roof of the north tower—she really didn’t want to be here at all.

“Ah, magnificent!” Typically, Nicco was making a grand gesture, sweeping his arms at the view.

As far as Amy was concerned there wasn’t much to see. Cold, dark countryside and some bulky hills against an only slightly lighter line of sky. It was beginning to snow again, and as she picked her way over to the crenelated wall the roof felt slippery beneath her shoes.

She shivered, clasping the thin, gauzy cloak around her. Jez said she was meant to look like a medieval lady of the manor, and although the costume was very flattering and feminine, Amy was pretty certain no medieval lady had ever worn something like this, unless she was the Barbie version.

Thanks, Jez, for the hypothermia…

For a moment the height made her feel quite dizzy, and she reached out to clutch at the cold hard stone before her. Down below was a deep ravine and the sparkle of a frozen river. The sense that this was a big mistake and she didn’t want to be here was suddenly so strong she felt sick. She should have told Jez “no” once and for all. But even now the thought of facing him, of explaining to him, made her flinch. She owed her brother…more than she could ever repay.

 

 

“Nicco likes beautiful women,” Jez had told her. “Redheads, in particular—so no need to color your hair, sweetheart. Women and jewelry are his top picks. And he likes to boast. A woman like you, Amy. He’d be putty in your hands. I need to know where the Star is.”

“Why wouldn’t it be locked up safe and tight in a bank vault?”

Jez grinned. “The Star of Russia? The diamond ring of Catherine the Great? Come on, this bloke likes to feel it against his skin. Owning it isn’t enough. He has to see it, touch it. The Star is hidden somewhere accessible—probably in one of his houses. I just need you to find out which one.”

“I wish you’d stuck to stealing cars.”

Jez laughed.

“Jez—” She tried to tell him, she really did, but the words stuck in her throat.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be a walk in the park. I trust you, Amy. You always come through for me.”

But maybe I’m tired of coming through for you, she’d thought. Maybe I want to put the past behind me. Maybe I want to put you behind me.

“What have you been up to anyway?” he said. “It took me ages to track you down. You’ve moved, sweetheart.”

“I know. Sorry, I meant to tell you. I’ve been studying. I went back to school to get my degree.”

Jez laughed, just as she knew he would. “You don’t need to go back to school. How daft is that? What do you want to do that for?”

For myself, Jez. For myself.

 

 

Nicco’s hand closed over her arm, and Amy came back to the present with a jolt. She was standing on the freezing roof of a castle in winter in a dress more suited to a harem. Still, she was here now, and the sooner she got Jez the information he wanted, the sooner she could be gone.

Amy turned and gave Nicco her most winsome smile. “I’m sorry.”

“You were certainly far away. What were you thinking of, Amee?”

She stopped herself from cringing at the way he drew out her name. “Diamonds,” she said truthfully. “Sapphires, pearls, emeralds, rubies…”

His smile was indulgent. She’d already told him of her passion for jewelry. Jez had got her a cache from somewhere or other to wear this week. It was all part of the character she was playing. The spoiled darling who was never satisfied.

“One day I will show you my Star,” he said softly.

Amy felt her heart beat a little faster. “I wish you would,” she pouted.

“I will place it on your finger, and you will never be the same again.”

“Where is it? Perhaps we could go and see it?”

Tell me, tell me…

But he gave her a secretive smile. He trailed his fingers up her arm and fastened them on her shoulder. It felt uncomfortable, as if he was arresting her. His face was pressed close to hers, his breath panting against her frozen cheek. “You are very beautiful, my Amy.”

I’m not yours…

She let him kiss her. He was an experienced kisser, she’d give him that; but despite his skill something was missing. She didn’t feel special. It was as if she was just another body to add to his list of conquests. The thought made her feel icky. She leaned back with a gasping laugh, pretending to be overcome with the heat of passion. He came after her, pressing his body to hers, pinning her to the battlements. Behind her the world fell away dizzyingly.

There was something in the guidebook about a girl falling off here, hundreds of years back.

“Nicco,” she said, trying to wheedle, but he ignored her. She’d kept him at arm’s length too long, while making too many promises with her lips and eyes. He pressed his hips against hers, and she could feel his erection. “Please, I don’t like heights.”

“I will make you forget about such things, Amee,” he said arrogantly.

Amy mentally gritted her teeth as he came in again, all hands and tongue. She was going to have to stop him. Jez would be furious with her, but she couldn’t stand this pawing another moment, even for the Star of Russia. Amy clenched her hand into a fist and drew it back for a hard, sharp jab to His Highness’s midsection.

A deep soft voice came out of the darkness, full of threat, and something more that made the hairs stand up on the back of Amy’s neck.

“Unhand the woman, or I will spit you like a pig.”

BOOK: Passions of the Ghost
8.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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