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Authors: Karolyn Cairns

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BOOK: The Ghost Who Loved Me
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Any thief who tried to steal something would realize that. They would drop the item they intended to lift and run away screaming when they realized they couldn’t remove it from any one particular room.

An immovable force would only put it back where it went. It was as if the castle and its contents were also held prisoners here, a fact that all who resided here were aware of and ignored.

The china used for meals, the silver warming trays on the serving tables, and all of the dishes used in between, waited only until the last cup and saucer were dried by the maids to begin their journey back to their proper place in the china case.

The silver behaved much the same, separating from spoons and forks to align themselves in the drawers. Crystal glasses would sail through the air to find their former resting spot. The servants learned to ignore it over time. Some were even relieved it was one less duty for them to perform.

This new Lady Westerleigh was a lovely woman when James bothered to pay more note to her looks. She had a graceful petite figure with gentle curves and a high womanly bosom.

He watched her remove her wide-brimmed elaborate hat and smooth her fine hunter green velvet travelling skirts. Her face was turned away from him in profile its classically beautiful lines ivory perfection.

The sunlight played havoc with the riot of reds of every hue and the chocolate browns in her hair in the upswept style she wore, making him long to touch it and see if it was as soft as it looked.

He had seen hair of that color before. He forced himself to forget the one who was blessed with that glorious mane.

James had to know the color of her eyes.

Suddenly it seemed imperative he know. He walked towards her, aware his presence was often felt by the living in an unseen way. If he got too close to them, the fine hairs on their arms would bristle. A chill would be felt and they would become alarmed.

He simply had to know what color her eyes were.

The lady was perusing a decorative embroidered throw pillow on the settee closely. He bent down to peer into her face, gasping and standing back, staring at her as if in shock.

Those long-lashed cerulean blue eyes were unmistakable. The very shape of them was identical. He would never forget those eyes as long as he existed. Seeing them again in this young woman made James back away quickly, forgetting himself and stepping through furniture instead of around, sapping his strength for a moment. Moving through dense objects was something he learned to avoid as a rule.

It required more strength to walk through a solid object, such as a door or a wall, leaving him drained of energy for several moments. He learned to make his image small, to go under gaps in the door, or drift through a keyhole.

But that took considerable concentration too.

He could only stand there and watch her until he felt strong enough to move away. And he did, running as fast as he could from the room.

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth stiffened as the hair bristled upon her arms and looked up from her inspection of the room’s furnishings, her eyes now wary. She cursed under her breath at her silly fears, knowing she must have just imagined a presence near her just then.

She looked around to see she was quite alone in the room. She sighed, knowing it would be a long time before she would ever feel completely at ease in this place, the stories of ghosts making her shiver despite herself.

She bit her lip to think of remaining here indefinitely. Edward would do so to torment her. He thought he could get his way in matters by taking away her loyal staff, her friends, and Anthony. Her lips tightened. He would learn she could be quite stubborn.

Mrs. Gates then arrived, an imposing woman in her early fifties who offered to take her on the tour once she finished her tea. Elizabeth took a few sips and declared she was ready to see the castle, following the woman out of the room almost on her heels.

~ ~ ~

“It cannot be her,” James repeated once more, shaking his head in disbelief as he floated high above the woman below in the great hall, staring down at her as she and Mrs. Gates went from room to room on the first level. “It’s not possible!”

James couldn’t explain why his descendant’s wife Elizabeth Carlisle bore the face of the woman he once loved. He hadn’t said her name aloud in almost three hundred years. The fact this woman looked to be her twin was as amazing as it was painful.

His lady was a foundling left in the queen’s household, told her mother and father died before she was born. They had many pet names for her over the years, this beloved child they all embraced.

King Henry called her My Sweet Minx for she was always getting into devilry and talked her way out of it.

Queen Catherine of Aragon called her My Sweet Poppet and was said to have preferred the child to her own daughter Mary more often than not, because of her much sweeter nature.

Henry’s doomed second wife Queen Anne nastily called her The Brat out of earshot and devised schemes to be rid of her. That lady lost her head before she could succeed at that.

Queen Jane called her Darling Girl and showed her how to do her hair and dress elegantly.

Queen Anne, formerly of Cleves, called her Dear One and showed her how to play cards as well as any within the household.

Queen Catherine was about her same age when she married the king. A one-sided rivalry forced the girl to be moved out of the residence for a time. Cat Howard’s favorite nickname for her was never repeated aloud in gentle company.

When Henry Tudor married his last wife Katherine Parr, his lady was a woman nearly grown and took on her duties to the queen, assigned the role of Mistress of the Cloak, caring for the queens cloaks and many furs in her wardrobe.

Queen Katherine adored the young woman and took a special interest in her happiness. When others heard the new queen call the girl My Daughter, they knew she finally earned her place at last and with the perfect mistress.

He knew her as merely Lenore.

James was engaging in a rousing jousting match when he spied the lovely young woman in Queen Katherine’s box watching from the stands. He might have taken his eyes off of her and retained his seat on his horse. He lost the match, earning a deep scowl from King Henry from where he was seated.

Lenore was allowed to partake of the festivities within the household but not deemed appropriate for court attendance. He was never told why. He assumed her not of noble blood but that never explained her place in the royal household.

No foundling no matter how adorable they were would be kept as long as Lenore unless she was the child of someone held quite dear by the royal family. If Lenore knew her origins she never told him. She took the name of her house, known as Miss Lenore Hampton, but in truth she was never told who her parents were.

James fought his attraction to her. He was already wed to Lady Isabelle Gordon. But when his wife was sent from court and he stayed on, he struggled with every glimpse of Lenore about the palace, frustrated when the court moved to occupy another residence. He waited for her patiently to return with the royal family, wanting to get to know her, unable to stop thinking about her.

His patience paid off when a chance meeting in a dim corridor within the palace brought them face to face. She stared up at him wide-eyed, almost running him down with an armload of Queen Katherine’s furs that had to be cleaned after they arrived back from Windsor.

For a moment they were both transfixed by the sight of the other. He broke the silence and offered to help her with her burden. She blushed furiously, her pretty face downcast. He asked her name and she told him in a breathless voice and ran away quickly.

It seemed they would run into each other more often whether contrived or by chance. They began to talk, and soon they laughed. James couldn’t seem to get through a day without seeing her at least once. He was careful to keep his interest in Queen Katherine’s servant to himself, asking nothing about Lenore to alert any of his growing infatuation.

The night he found her crying in the gardens was his undoing. Lenore refused to tell him why she wept. He couldn’t help but to hold her. Comforting her turned to kissing her. Before long they slipped to the dew-covered ground, lost in a moment he would never forget for all of eternity.

James took her innocence under a blanket of stars and moonlight with the gentlest of passions; holding her tightly and was overwhelmed with the feelings within him. She told him she was glad it was him who took her virginity. She professed no regret, emotion glimmering in her eyes before she left to return to her room.

James grew accustomed to finding Lenore waiting for him in his rooms after that, warning his personal servants with certain death if they ever breathed a word of it to anyone. Their meeting in his rooms each night was the only secret kept in the palace that long splendid summer.

It was the best time of his life if he were honest with himself. To have never told Lenore how he felt for her before he cruelly abandoned her left him shaken, even now, three hundred years later.

Then, that fateful afternoon he received word from Father Creaton of the strange happenings at Westerleigh, jarring him back to reality. No, it was more like learning Henry succumbed to pressure by the queen and was seeking a husband for Lenore, the reasons for her tears that night in the gardens.

Lenore finally admitted she would be married in a month to a man of Henry’s choosing. He had no right to be jealous. He was married already, but the thought of her going to another was something he couldn’t bear to think of.

With the onset of fall, leaving court at that moment seemed the only solution to forgetting Lenore. He had a duty to Isabelle. As hard as it was to leave her, he did, and never saw her again, never learned whom she married or if she was happy.

He would die just a few days later.

The last time he saw Lenore she was still sleeping in his bed that early October morning. When he returned there later that evening after his audience with the king, his mind was made up to go home.

James couldn’t bear to look upon Elizabeth Carlisle right now and see his beloved Lenore, to wonder if she was this young woman’s ancestor, likely considering the uncanny resemblance they shared. He was desperate to find out what happened to Lenore after he left court that fateful day and never returned.

Chapter Five

 

Elizabeth looked about her suite and shared Annie’s dumbfounded expression as the pair was shown into the large luxurious apartment on the east side of the castle.

The duke’s apartments were on the very west side, making one wonder if any of the previous lords and ladies ever got lost trying to find the other in the night.

The room boasted a huge four-poster canopied bed swathed in pale blue velvet hangings with a matching duvet and dozens of throw pillows strew on the coverlet. The thick Persian carpet under her feet was in matching tones of blue and grey.

Heavy dark bureaus and wardrobes lined the walls. A large blanket chest was at the foot of the bed. The gleaming mahogany vanity was fit for any queen with a huge oval mirror hung above it.

A large decorative stone hearth occupied one side of the room, with a lovely sitting area with two comfortable chairs. Large oil lamps sat upon tables on either side of the bed.

The room seemed more modern than the rest of the house. She reasoned Edward’s mother must have made such changes when she was mistress here. She stepped into a sitting room and into a bathing chamber, nodding in approval as Mrs. Gates beamed from the doorway.

Annie set down her cases and began the task of unpacking. Soon, three more house maids arrived and the four of them had her things put away in no time at all.

Elizabeth wandered around the room when the maids took Annie below to introduce her to the staff, looking at the oil paintings on the walls, appreciating the view of the east grounds from her windows, immensely pleased with everything.

Elizabeth sat down at a secretary and wrote to her mother first, telling her she arrived to Westerleigh and all was well. She asked after her father and insisted she be notified at once if her presence was needed there.

Next, she wrote to her brother, demanding he tell her anything their mother may have avoided saying in her last letter. George would not lie of it if their father was indeed dying. She could be sure he would keep nothing from her.

Her biannual visits to Camden Downs were much looked forward to by her. Because she was now exiled to Westerleigh she wouldn’t make it there next month.

Elizabeth refused to consider that her father would die before she could see him. Edward couldn’t be that cruel. He cared what others thought of him. Refusing to let her see her father at a time like this was something he wouldn’t stoop to, worried of what speculation it would derive.

She wrote to Edward, informing him all was not well at Camden Downs, letting him know if her father worsened she would be travelling there on a moment’s notice. She smiled to think she didn’t actually ask for his permission to leave Westerleigh. He had nothing to say of it as far as she was concerned.

Elizabeth left the letters on a tray for the post and decided to explore the upstairs. She giggled to think she might need to employ the use of bread crumbs to find her way back.

She tiptoed out of her room, looking up and down both ends of the hall before leaving her room and shutting the door.

~ ~ ~

James followed the woman on her snooping mission, frowning at her trim back, wondering why this one’s curiosity was so annoying to him. She acted like a bloody child with a new toy.

She invaded his privacy and was forever touching everything, going room to room down the hall. The woman had the need to put her grubbing little mitts upon everything she passed along the way.

He watched her entering the west wing and followed, floating behind her quickly, hurrying his progress before she slammed a door shut in his path.

The anger he felt was not at her but of the past and how much she looked like Lenore. If she looked like Lenore that only meant his lady did marry and have children, passing down her great beauty to this one.

James wanted to howl in fury to see Elizabeth enter his own bedchamber. None of the servants dared ever enter his domain. It was expressly off limits to them and they all knew better, except for the little sneak he trailed who rifled through his belonging in his wardrobe without any shame at all while he fumed and watched her.

Elizabeth opened a large wooden box she found at the bottom of the wardrobe. She gasped when she opened it, revealing an odd assortment of old men’s jewelry. She went to put it back and dropped it, making James roll his eyes at her clumsiness.

He watched her kneel down to pick all up. The bottom of the box was now broken. He was taken aback to see the bottom of the box had a false compartment to it. He couldn’t remember the box, vaguely recalling it being his father’s. His eyes widened to see what she found within.

It was a small braid of sable-colored hair tied with a faded pink ribbon. It was Lenore’s. He was shaking in ire as he saw her pick it up and hold it, turning it over in her hand. He had forgotten Lenore giving it to him or his keeping it.

Elizabeth put all back under his watchful gaze, all but the braid of hair. He was incensed to see the woman pocket it, outraged beyond belief at her daring. She perused everything else in the wardrobe and moved on to the bureaus.

What she did next was rather odd.

Elizabeth bent and removed her lace-up heeled shoes, making his eyes widen to see a hint of a trim ankle. Before he knew what she was about, the daft woman leapt upon his bed and began jumping upon it, laughing like a madwoman before throwing herself down upon the spotless burgundy duvet cover, giggling and rolling about in glee.

James watched her with glowing silver eyes, his anger growing as did her joyful laughter. It was a sound so hauntingly familiar to him he gritted his teeth, wanting her to stop before he lost all control.

It was time this rude interloper who trespassed upon his home knew her place.

James stared at the opened door to his room, his anger a force that caused it to slam shut loudly. He engaged the lock and looked back to the bed.

She was sitting up with a shocked expression, no longer laughing, her eyes filled with terror. Her mouth opened to scream but no sound emerged.

He smiled in satisfaction as he walked towards her.

~ ~ ~

“If you come near me, I shall scream!” She held up a hand as she scooted closer to the bed frame, her eyes wide with fright to see the frightful man dressed so strangely, standing in the doorway glaring at her with a fierce expression.

The intruder was incredibly tall with long raven locks tied back at his nape, dressed in a leather jerkin and ruffled white shirt. His breeches were also made of leather, his long powerful legs encased in high black boots. A long fur-trimmed cloak was about his massive shoulders, secured with a jeweled-broach at his neck.

“Who are you? What are you doing in here?”

James was too shocked to react. The fact the woman could see him and was speaking to him now after years of being ignored by the living rendered him speechless.

“If you mean to hurt me, you will find I am not at all opposed to beating you off soundly, sir!” Elizabeth then snatched up a heavy silver candlestick from the bedside and held it threateningly aloft. “State your business or I shall scream until the servants come running!”

James stared at the woman incredulously, finding his tongue finally. “You can actually see me?”

“Of course I can see you! You are standing right before me! For a thief you must really try to hide yourself better! Not being seen is the whole point of it!”

James couldn’t help it, his lips twitched, beginning to laugh uproariously with relief that finally someone could see him, and more importantly, hear him. He waited for three hundred years for this. He needed help, and help that only the living could give him.

“I really must ask you to leave at once, sir,” Elizabeth began again in a more forceful tone. “You are trespassing. If you do not leave here without incident, I shall have the servants call for the constable.”

“That won’t be necessary, my lady,” James told her mockingly and bowed gallantly. “I believe you know who I am. I am well acquainted with who you are.”

Elizabeth swallowed hard, looking at him quizzically. “And who might you be, sir? I can assure you we have never met before. I just arrived a few hours ago.”

James grinned widely, displaying enviable white teeth. “Allow me to introduce myself, my lady. You see before you, Lord James Carlisle, the third Duke of Westerleigh.”

Elizabeth snorted in outright disbelief and rolled her eyes. “Poor thing, I’ll see to it Mrs. Abbot gives you a warm meal and you best be on your way.”

James frowned darkly at her. “But I am James Carlisle! I am I tell you!”

“If you say so than I suppose you are,” Elizabeth said with a shake of her head, getting off the bed and lowering the candlestick. “There is no shame in what you suffer from, sir. I’ve seen a great deal of this in London at the mental hospitals where I’ve raised funds for charity. You are merely confused a bit and not dangerous, I think. We will say nothing of this, just this once, but I must advise you to not skulk about in period garb saying such things aloud or they will lock you up for your own safety. Now how did you get inside? If you allow me, I shall escort you out. Come along now, I may be able to get you out unseen.”

James knew by her softened expression she was pacifying him, assuming he had lost his wits. He knew no other way to convince her, not wanting to frighten her. The only thing to do was to show her.

He thought a hasty exit might give her much to think upon and promptly disappeared before her eyes, grinning to hear the high-pitched screams reverberating in his wake.

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth was sent to bed with a powder. Annie was left to watch over her. When Mrs. Gates secured the keys to His Lordship’s room and found her hysterical within, all the upstairs servants were wide-eyed.

Her Ladyship was found in a pitiful heap on the floor after fainting. She then babbled nonsense incoherently about seeing a ghost and talking to him. She was a sobbing pitiful mess, screaming and carrying on.

Mr. Pettigrew sat with Mrs. Gates and Mrs. Abbot in his sitting room later that night to discuss the validity of the first actual sighting of His Lordship at Westerleigh.

“I think we can safely say we know why Her Ladyship was sent here,” Mrs. Gates said unkindly as she sipped her tea. “The poor thing is obviously losing her mind. Who would have thought it? She seemed quite sharp to me at first.”

“You don’t believe she saw His Lordship—that he spoke to her?” Mr. Pettigrew sipped his port and appeared thoughtful.

“He has never been seen before now or spoke to anyone that I can recall, do you?” Mrs. Gates shook her head vehemently. “It’s obvious the young woman is going mad. Her husband sent her here to avoid the embarrassment of it all. That seems more likely to me, Mr. Pettigrew.”

“But what if she did see him?” Mrs. Abbot quailed under Mrs. Gates dark frown. “I’m just saying she could have for all we know, even if she’s a wee bit touched. They say those types see more than we do. I had a cousin once who claimed to see—”

“Please, no more of your family!” Mrs. Gates rolled her eyes in disgust. “For once, we don’t need a comparison made, Mrs. Abbot.”

“His Lordship does not ever reveal himself. Nor does he ever speak, Mrs. Abbot,” Mr. Pettigrew said and shook his head doubtfully. “I too, am beginning to wonder why the lady was sent here. I think the less we say of her hysterical observations in the west wing the better. We wouldn’t wish to confuse her anymore than she already is.”

Mrs. Abbot set down her tea with a clatter. “Now wait a minute! None of us ever goes in there. We know better of it. But she didn’t because we haven’t told her! Maybe we should tell her the truth! Maybe she saw him like she said she did! It might be a first time, but it’s possible!”

“I find it rather unlikely His Lordship would reveal himself and speak to her after three hundred years of never being seen or speaking to anyone else, Mrs. Abbot. I’m in agreement with Mrs. Gates. The young woman is obviously suffering from some sort of mental break. The less we speak of this, the better.” Mr. Pettigrew’s stern words silenced both women.

~ ~ ~

  Elizabeth woke up with a start in the middle of the night. She sat up in bed quickly, looking around the dark room fearfully at first. The only light was from the banked fire in the hearth.

She yawned deeply, struggling to recall the day’s events, still groggy from the powder sedative she took. Her eyes filled with terror to remember the man in the west wing, of what he said to her.

The man claimed to be James Carlisle. It was impossible what she saw and heard. She knew what she saw, even if the servants regarded her strangely and refused to believe her.

She wasn’t going mad!

Far from it
, Elizabeth thought furiously.

She slid out of bed and grabbed her knit wrapper lying on the back of a nearby chair. She picked up a box of matches and lit the oil lamp at her bedside. She paced before the fire for a time, her mind racing to think that all of the accounts of a ghost at Westerleigh were all true.

Come to think on it, the man in the west wing did look much like the portrait in the hall below. Elizabeth studied the oil portrait of James Carlisle at great length, wondering what sort of man he was in life.

BOOK: The Ghost Who Loved Me
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