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Authors: Karolyn Cairns

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BOOK: The Ghost Who Loved Me
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James was always suspicious when a man courted a married woman in such a fashion. In his time, that sort of thing was almost always about the man using such carnal knowledge of the woman for cruel intentions.

Times couldn’t have changed that much in three centuries.

James cursed the fact he couldn’t leave Westerleigh to go with Elizabeth to guard her against such dangers, wary of the maid who couldn’t quite meet her mistress’s eyes before she left.

He knew for certain at first opportunity the girl would tell Anthony Wakefield where Lady Westerleigh was when she reached London at the end of the week. The girl seemed to encourage her mistress to seek Wakefield, making him question the maid’s motives immediately.

~ ~~

James was frustrated. He and Elizabeth argued heatedly once more about exposing the Carlisle family as imposters. He was adamant to tell the world what was done to him.

Now she refused to speak to him at all, tossing the braid of hair to the floor before summarily dismissing him. He was outraged she would think to control whether they spoke at all.

She was ignoring him.

James took great delight in tormenting her in the meantime, moving things about her room to get her attention. She treated him like a sullen child, looking about her with an angry glint in her eyes when he pushed the matter by sending items crashing to the floor.

After a day of this, James decided the lady needed to be reminded who was master here.

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth was determined to think of something other than her conflicting emotions in regard to Anthony. Annie reminding her of what they once were to one another filled her with tremendous sadness.

What they wanted could not be. She was determined to let Anthony go. Her maid’s continually reminding her of their feelings for one another made her feel depressed and lonely. 

The unruly ghost who dogged her every waking step didn’t help matters.

While Elizabeth tried to convince herself ignoring the ghost would make him retreat, James Carlisle went out of his way to prove otherwise. He made it impossible to ignore him, continually plaguing her as she went about her day.

Elizabeth gritted her teeth to think of the way he went about getting her attention just that morning, coloring to the roots of her hairline. He whipped up her skirts while she was walking in the gardens.

She gasped, horrified, and looked about to be sure she wasn’t observed as she yanked down her skirts and ran from the gardens in outrage.

Another prank at luncheon, he knocked a cup away from her lips at the last to cause her to spill the entire contents down the front of her gown. And more annoying, he hid her things in her room from her.

Her favorite hair pins she used daily— gone from her dressing table. Her favorite book she hadn’t read in entirety—gone from her bedside table. And worse yet, he seemed to have confiscated every pair of her silk drawers and hung them from the parapets for all to see.

Her shrieks of outrage and pointing sent the maids fleeing upward to secure her underclothing from the rooftops while the footmen and other male servants stared upward in fascination.

She was mortified and vowed she would not allow this pest of a ghost to further humiliate her before her staff. That lasted one full minute. She summarily stepped into a steaming dung pile placed under her slipper on her way back into the castle. As soon as she stepped down, she cringed, knowing it wasn’t there just moments before. 

With head held high, she avoided the eyes of the snickering servants and abandoned her walk altogether.

Elizabeth fumed to recall the ghost even commandeered her food tray, taking food items from her plate under her withering glare. To see her morning toast floating away outraged her. Chasing it proved pointless.

He was determined she hear him out.

Elizabeth would not be bullied about by a ghost, and shouted as much while the servants listened with wide eyes. They regarded her strangely now, thinking she was indeed losing her mind.

It enraged Elizabeth even more; who knew by their looks of fear and pity that they believed Edward sent her here for that reason alone.

Elizabeth went into the library to find something to read to take her mind off her current problems. She was walking amongst the aisles, perusing the many books when she heard the door slam shut.

Elizabeth knew instinctively it was James. He was determined that she help him. She tensed with fear to think of what he would do after she deliberately ignored him all day. She peered around the high book shelf to see no sign of anyone in the library.

“Who is there?”

She was determined to go about her business. James Carlisle was determined to get her to aid him.

“Who is it, I said?”

Elizabeth gasped as she was grabbed by an unseen force and held against the high shelf, her legs dangling off of the floor. Her eyes filled with terror. She saw nothing before her, struggling to free herself.

Then, she felt suddenly warm all over, a languor stealing over her limbs, feeling her skirts floating upward as though by an unseen hand. She felt an icy tingling along her thighs. Horror filled her as she realized his intent.

“Please stop! No, please! You mustn’t!”

Elizabeth struggled futilely as she felt the icy feathery touches at her throat, twisting to get away, all the while she was held fast in an immovable grip. She turned her head aside with her eyes squeezed shut, biting her lip to keep from screaming.

Then, suddenly she was let go, tumbling to the floor, almost falling onto her knees. She scurried backward, eyes filled with fright, looking around and seeing nothing. Then, she heard the door creak open and slam loudly shut.

Elizabeth felt dazed. She bit her lip in anguish to know James Carlisle’s ghost would not leave her alone unless she agreed to help him. She felt lightheaded and slid to the floor, too scared to leave the room after that.

~ ~ ~

James cursed under his breath as he left the library, angry over what he had nearly done in a fit of anger. Elizabeth tormented him, refusing to use the braid so they might speak again. She ignored him quite deliberately, even when he childishly tormented her. 

James saw her face blanched in horror and was immediately ashamed of his actions. Somehow speaking to her and communicating elicited some sort of respect no other female merited from him in three hundred years.

He almost destroyed any hope of her help by his actions just moments ago, thinking to finally seduce her while she was awake into agreeing to aid him.

Elizabeth was stubborn. She reacted in a manner he didn’t expect and refused, making him feel as monstrous as he was for attempting such out of desperation. He needed her to speak with him. He was running out of time. Her pretending he wasn’t there wasn’t the answer.

They needed to talk and soon or he might very well be doomed here for eternity.

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth reached a trembling hand into the fold of her skirt and finally took out the braid of hair. She was seated within the library trying to calm her fear-filled reservations about dealing with James Carlisle once and for all.

She had a high stack of books before her. All were about the history of the Carlisle family and any other relevant figures of that time period associated with James Carlisle three hundred years ago.

“I already read all those damned books! Over and over again! You will find nothing in them!” James snapped at her back and made her jump in fright.

Elizabeth swiveled her head and turned in her chair and regarded him angrily. “Do you always have to do that? Don’t sneak up on me like that! Announce yourself, if you please? Or I shall have a heart attack!”

James grinned down at her maddeningly, performing a mock bow. “What has you so spun up this morning, my lady? You bite my head off for nothing more than surprising you?”

Elizabeth snorted indelicately. “I was thinking of the other things you are guilty of as well. After being repeatedly attacked by a ghost, I admit to being a bit unsettled.”

“Attacked? You mean my seducing you earlier?” James chuckled mockingly at her reddening face. “You hardly minded my unwanted attentions as I recall. I was the one who stopped.”

“You will kindly keep your hands off of me!” Elizabeth trembled and glared at him murderously. “I do not want your attentions despite what you might think! For a dead man, you are exceedingly arrogant, sir!”

James laughed huskily, his silver eyes dancing. “You would be the first to say such, my lady.”

“I have other matters on my mind,” Elizabeth replied testily. “You aren’t the only one with problems!”

“I heard all about these problems this morning,” James informed her, smiling widely to see her scowl. “The maid will run to this Wakefield fellow and spill all she knows of where you are.”

“I thought I told you to stay out of my room.” Elizabeth huffily sat back in the chair, looking at him in disapproval. “You were eavesdropping on me! That was quite rude! And another thing, you will not touch me again or I will refuse to help you. Is that clear?”

“It’s one of the few benefits of being a ghost,” James admitted silkily, his silver eyes glinting in mischief, his smoky gaze sliding to her heaving bosom rising above her modest décolletage in lustful appreciation. “Among some others I can think of. And you like me touching you.”

“I most certainly do not! You will keep your distance,” she snapped. “You touch my person again I will not help you at all. Do I make myself clear?”

“Are you worried you betray your lover? I’ll not tell him. I see no need for this maidenly objection.” James grinned maddeningly at her blushing countenance. “Besides, this Wakefield character doesn’t sound worthy of your trust, my lady.”

  “You don’t even know Anthony to say such a thing,” Elizabeth said crossly, folding her arms across her chest under his heated stare. “You judge him unfairly!”

James raised a black eyebrow at her staunch defense of the man. “Any man who chases a married woman of your station wants far more than just to get under your skirts, madam. This man has deceived you of his intentions from the start. You were right to break it off with him before his goals reached fruition.”

“That is ridiculous!” She scoffed at his insinuations.

“I was alive once too, Elizabeth. The only time I engaged a married woman in a clandestine fashion was for sport. Since this man has no wealth of his own, I can assume that is what he was after.”

“You don’t even know him to accuse him of such!”

James floated ever closer, towering over her, his handsome face taut with anger. “And it appears you do not either if you think this man loved you! I heard all you said upstairs earlier! Is he not engaged to another? And so quickly? I imagine she’s quite wealthy too, is she not?”

Elizabeth refused to listen to him disparage Anthony. “You don’t understand! He has no choice in it. He must marry. And Miss Fennimore being an heiress has nothing to do with it.”

“You are such a gullible little fool, Elizabeth!” James snapped harshly, making her gasp indignantly. “Even a dead man can see what you do not! This man had designs on far more than just you! Had your husband not nipped all in the bud, you would have seen him as he is.”

“What do you think Anthony meant to do?” She shook her head in disgust. “I have no money of my own!”

“Wakefield encouraged you to leave your husband, knowing all about Edward. Can you not see that money was his only motive to pursue you? It is really quite obvious. Are you so simple not to see it?”

Elizabeth sputtered in growing anger and denial. “Is it so hard to think Anthony might have loved me?”

James rolled his eyes at her impassioned words. “If he loved you he would have stayed away from you to avoid anyone ever knowing his heart in this. He would have never allowed any hint of unseemliness to touch your name. He would have demanded the utmost secrecy when you met with him privately. And he certainly did none of those things to protect you, did he?”

Elizabeth stared at him, feeling the first ache of uncertainty. She thought of how Anthony went out of his way to lure her away from Annie and Miss Weathers this last year.

She refused to believe it was all motivated by money, even if the facts suggested he played recklessly with her reputation. Still, she wouldn’t give James the satisfaction of knowing he was right in that regard.

“You speak as if from experience, James. Do you speak of Lenore?”

James glared at her, his silver eyes narrowed. “Why do you drag her into this? We speak of you!”

“You have a lock of her hair! You loved her, didn’t you? You were married to Isabelle by then, were you not? You are no better than I! Say what you will about Anthony, but there is no difference in our situations here. We were both denied what we wanted out of duty.”

“I was denied my heart’s desire out of stupidity,” James interjected darkly. “That is something quite different from yours. Had I stayed at Hampton Court that day, we’d not be arguing here now. Isabelle would never have gotten a chance to do as she did to me.”

“Anthony loves me! You don’t know anything about this!”

James snorted rudely. “I have more than three hundred years of experience on you, madam. I have seen enough in my time to see right through this Anthony Wakefield. Poor Miss Fennimore did you a favor by taking him off of your hands.”

BOOK: The Ghost Who Loved Me
4.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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