Kympton House, The evening of 31 October, 1928
The outpouring of terror that spread through the house made the blood of all those who heard it run icy. It was as if the hands of the devil himself had wrapped around the throat of the distressed and wrung out the cry of despair from her tortured body.
It came from the library and a furor ensued as Eliza, Caroline, the housekeeper, two footmen and the butler all went rushing in at the same time. In the middle of the room was a housemaid, shaking uncontrollably and sobbing into her apron.
"What has happened?" the housekeeper asked her as she approached. The maid was unable to speak until she accepted some water.
Charles had left Jane with the girls and rushed downstairs and into the library just as the maid began her story. "It was the Master, Mr. Darcy, himself. When I walked in he was taking one of those big swords from the wall." She pointed to an empty space on the wall where some Indian daggers and swords were displayed. "When he saw me he asked if I was harbouring any Scottish soldiers in the house. I told him, 'No, of course not,' and he told me the English will go easier on those of us who cooperate with them. Then he ordered me to ready the dining hall for his men as they would be wanting a proper banquet later tonight."
She looked completely bewildered at her tale. "He was waving the sword around like a wild banshee," she said before she broke down once again.
"Where did he go?" Charles urged her on. She looked over to the draperies, flapping in the breeze. The French doors behind them were open. As Charles strode over everyone took a step backwards. He bravely parted the drapes but he was confronted only by the darkened garden; Fitz was nowhere to be seen.
The housekeeper began to look uneasy. She had witnessed the commotion by her employer in the dining room earlier in the evening. Eliza pulled her aside and had a quiet word. Then she spoke briefly to the butler. When they were done, the butler informed the footmen that they would be escorting the young girls to the festivities in the village. The housekeeper led the housemaid away to have a glass of sherry by the kitchen hearth.
When they were quite alone, Charles asked, "What did you say to them?"
'The staff all know of Mrs. Reynold's death and about Fitz being present. I told them that Mr. Darcy had taken the whole thing quite badly and that his actions were a result of his shock in the affair."
"Oh please. We have more serious things to discuss!" Caroline walked over to the wall. "Look! He's taken an Indian Tulwar saber." She gestured dramatically at the empty spot where the weapon had been. Caroline finally said something that made sense. "It's a dangerous weapon."
Then her nerves kicked in and she began to fall apart. Her voice quavered as she wrung her hands together. "Perhaps we should get the authorities." Her bravado was fading. Caroline was scared.
Eliza was showing signs of stress herself when she snapped, "We can't get the authorities. Everyone will know what's happened to Fitz if we do."
"Well, I'm frightened. Fitzwilliam is running around ranting and raving like a lunatic and he really does have a sword. God knows what might happen." She brought her fist up to her mouth and bit her knuckles in a poor imitation of a silent movie heroine.
Eliza shook her head. Oh Lord, the melodrama! Where's Douglas Fairbanks when you need him to come swashbuckling in?
"Caroline," Charles stepped in, "no one is going to hold it against you if you want to retire. I dare say this whole business will be sorted out by the morning, and it will all be forgotten." He took her arm and began to guide her to the staircase.
"Do you really think so, Charles?"
"Yes, you needn't bother yourself with all this nonsense. Perhaps the best thing for everyone is for you to go and get some rest."
"Thank you Charles. I believe you're right."
"Wait," he said as they passed the doorway to the sitting room. He came back holding the brandy decanter. "Here, take this with you. I think you need it."
As she began to climb the stairs, she heard her brother call after her, "Don't forget Caroline, lock your door." She hugged the vessel close to her and began taking the rest of the steps at a much faster pace. Not slowing down, even when she made it to the top, she proceeded to nearly knock Jane over who was coming from the opposite direction.
Standing at the top of the stairs, Jane called down, "Eliza, can you come up and help me with the girls?" The next hour was spent dressing them up in ghoulish costumes and applying make-up so that the end result was a gruesome group of giggling 14 year-olds dressed in ghoulish garb to confuse the demons. They were more than ready to join in the fun with the villagers.
When Jane and Eliza brought the girls downstairs, Charles joined them as they all stepped out the front door. He was generous with compliments about their costumes; however their blushes from his attentions could not be seen under their creepy makeup. With the adults looking vigilantly around for signs of Fitz, the lights from the men's torches were seen as they moved away from the castle and back towards the festivities in the village.
Charles had them wait while he got Wickham to drive the group over. It took only a few minutes to locate him and have the truck brought up to the door. The girls all piled in the back and covered up with a mix and match assortment of tartan print lambs wool blankets. After the footmen got in the front, Charles leaned inside and instructed Wickham to wait with the girls and not have them stay too late, especially if things got a little unruly in the village. Eliza and Jane waved them off and watched the truck drive away into the night.
They stood there looking at each other. The eerie quiet that now surrounded them was undeniably disturbing.
Quite unexpectedly, as if it were calling to them in the only way it knew how, a sudden gust reached out from the direction of Castle Caerlaverock. It grasped them with a piercing twinge that touched their very souls.
It was the breath of death, and it shrouded them with a cold and stony ambiance. Each succumbed to the desolate effect it brought.
The leaves on the trees rustled in movement. Eliza shivered. "What should we do now Charles?"
Charles hadn't realized he'd been elected leader of the group. Rubbing his hand over his face and sighing loudly, he addressed the sisters seriously. "Whatever may be Fitz's state of mind," he turned to Eliza and continued, "I won't admit that he is possessed, but for argument's sake, let's say that Hugo the Terrible has decided to take up residence in his body for All Hallows' Eve. By my calculation," and he swiftly looked at his wristwatch, "there's about three and a half hours to go until midnight. Let's see if we can find him. We can humour his alter ego and play to his whims while we count down the clock."
Eliza let out a snort. "That's easy for you to say. You aren't the one he has chosen to pleasure him tonight."
Jane gasped at her sister's frankness. "Eliza!"
Charles couldn't help but smirk. "No, thank heavens I'm not. Let's stick together and see if we can't all get through this with our," he cleared his throat, "dignity intact. Especially Fitzwilliam." Then he had an afterthought. "I was serious about appeasing him. I do think it would be best that if we find him," and then he corrected himself, "when we find him, we play along with him."
After Eliza and Jane fetched some cable knit coverlets from inside to use as shawls, the three took up a long rambling search of the grounds all around the house, venturing as far as the banks of the river, covering all of the outer buildings and circling back around to have a good look through the gardens. They saw not so much as a sign of Fitzwilliam, much less the man himself.
Castle Caerlaverock could not be put out of their minds. Each one of them knew, after searching so extensively in and around the house, the best chance left of finding him was to head in that direction and yet no one suggested it. The ominous presence of the ruins was intimidating in the pale light of the moon.
More than that, confronting a possessed man wielding a sword in the darkness of an ancient battlefield was daunting to say the least, even if that man was the best friend, fiancé and future brother-in-law of the band of Darcy hunters. Right at this moment, the man they knew was lost to a power stronger than all of them combined.
It was Jane that heard it first, as they stood in silent contemplation. She quieted Eliza just as she was about to ask Charles if they ought not venture out and search closer to the castle. Then Charles heard it too, for his brow creased as he registered bewilderment at the sounds.
Eliza thought it was the wind at first and then, when the noises became clear, her mouth dropped open, and she raised her hand to cover it. "What is that?" Her question came out in a whisper as if her voice might disturb both the living and the dead.
She knew what she thought it was, but she wanted to get a second and third opinion.
"I think it's Fitzwilliam fighting with the sword," Jane chanced a guess.
"Well, if it is, he certainly isn't alone. Listen!" Charles stood very still and Jane and Eliza followed suit.
The high-pitched sounds of metal striking metal, unmistakably the sound of swords doing battle, pierced the night, and as the three strained harder in the direction of the castle, they could hear the faint, yet distinct, curses and cries of warriors.
The sounds of the general din of a battle field in the midst of high tumult could not be questioned but something else could.
Charles was the one to pose it. "If Fitz is out there, just whom is he fighting with?"
They all studied the sloping hills on the horizon. Nothing could be seen but Castle Caerlaverock at the edge of the trees. They saw no movement of any sort amongst the hills and valleys in front of the castle.
Eliza never posed her question. Visiting the castle grounds just now might be injudicious. Instead, they retired into the house to fortify themselves with toddies and smokes. Once back inside the cosy confines of the sitting room, Eliza realized how cold she had been wandering about the countryside, even with the soft coverlet around her. Jane must have been feeling the effects of the cold as well. Both sisters huddled in front of the large, deep fireplace with large toddy mugs containing a steaming mixture of whiskey and heather honey cupped in their hands.
They heard the approach of the truck, and all wondered what had happened in the village. It stopped and after a slight pause the sound of ebullient conversation filled the hallway as the girls came inside. All three went to greet them before the girls could escape upstairs and were told that the celebrations in the village had been superb. When Georgiana asked about her brother, Charles told her he had gone to bed. She seemed relieved to hear this, and as all the girls tramped upstairs the housekeeper and the scullery maid followed along behind with trays of hot cocoa and sweets of Scottish tablet and butterscotch, petticoat tail shortbread, and traditional bannocks.
"Perhaps Wickham saw something of Fitz either in the village or on the drive." Eliza was now very worried about Fitzwilliam.
Charles took a sip of his drink and replied, "Yes, maybe he heard some rumours, God forbid."
"Do you think he's the kind who would come rushing in here and tell us?" The expressions on Jane and Charles' faces made it clear they did not. "Maybe I can catch him if he's still in the garage."
"Oh Eliza, I don't want you going out by yourself." Jane glanced at Charles to see what he thought.
"Take the dogs with you,"' he suggested. "And be careful."
"Jane! Charles! Don't worry. It's only around the side of the drive. And if I'm not mistaken the whole idea is to find Fitz anyway."
She grabbed the coverlet and flung it around her shoulders. She called Merrie and Scot to come along with her. They heard her heels clicking across the polished marble floor and the dogs' lighter sets following after her.
She stepped over the threshold and told the dogs, "Come!" They stood very still and would not go out the door. Eliza tried again and, as the wind gusted by, the dogs turned tail and ran back towards the sitting room. Odd.
Eliza noticed the wind had picked up as she stepped out into the drive and she pulled the soft coverlet tightly around her. Her footsteps tread along the crushed stone driveway as they nimbly fell with her progress. The lights of the house blazed invitingly warm from the windows, but the comfort they gave was quickly replaced by apprehension. They were beckoning her to return to the snug safety of what lay inside.
She had never felt so completely alone in her life.
She hurried to the garage and saw the large doors were still wide open and inside were several cars, including the Hispano-Suiza as well as the truck. However, the interior was completely dark, and Eliza stopped at the doorway and called, "Mr. Wickham? Are you in there?"
"Mr. Wickham?" She continued to enquire. There was no answer. She was already well and truly spooked by everything that had occurred that evening. Now, looking around and feeling intimidated by her growing unease, she cautiously walked over to the truck. "Mr. Wickham?" her low voice called quietly. "Mr. Wickham?"
Just as she was ready to give up and return to the house, from behind her came the loud, heavily accented voice of George Wickham. "Yes, I'm here."
Eliza whirled around in fright, for he had made no sound at all. "Good God! You might have given me a heart attack!" she accused him brusquely. "Why didn't you answer me?" Eliza's heart was beating like mad in her chest. She couldn't see his face, only the outline of his form from the moonlight through the doors behind him.
"I'm sorry Ma'am. I was leaving through the other door when I heard you."
Eliza waited until her nerves settled a little and then she asked, "We were wondering whether you had seen anything of Mr. Darcy in the village tonight, or perhaps along the road on the way?"
"Is he missing?" The story of what had happened in the dining room had made the rounds of the staff and Wickham had heard it all. He was a believer. Unlike the others, he had known it was a power from beyond that had seized control of Mr. Darcy.
"Yes, he went out some time ago and hasn't yet returned."
Wickham shook his head. "No, I haven't seen him tonight." He was fingering what Eliza knew to be a garlic necklace around his neck. He had nothing more to tell, and the strange feeling that Eliza got from the man and his silence made her want to get away from him.
"Well, thank you anyway." More than ready to head back to the safety of the house, Eliza said goodnight and left the garage.
An inner feeling of dread twisted her stomach into a tense ball as she came close to the corner of the house. A roosting Scottish Peregrine was disturbed and it flew from the window frame that jutted out from the ground floor. Her eyes followed it to gnarly an old tree very close by.
It perched in the same tree where Wickham's grandfather had been discovered dead exactly 22 years ago to the night. The bird sat with its sharp hunting talons grasping the same branch that the rope had been looped around. Peering down at Eliza above the spot where old Wickham had been strung up, its nocturnal eyes glared menacingly at her.
As Eliza stared back her heart stopped. She saw something so fleeting that it might not have been there at all.
For a split second Eliza thought she saw a man wearing working clothes hanging by the neck from the branch of the tree. The apparition had been ghostly pale, almost transparent as he had swayed back and forth, and yet he had looked so real.
She trembled under the coverlet.
What had appeared before her was not to be believed and it was not there now. The watchful eyes of the bird of prey still rested steadily upon her. She felt the shadows closing in around her and she turned around in great haste to round the corner of the house.
She ran headlong into the chest of a tall figure and practically screamed, "Mr. Wickham! You must stop frightening me like this!" Then, she smelled the distinct odour of ham.
A pair of large, strong hands grasped her forearms and impeded any further progress. Fitz's face materialized before her. He was looking at her with a fearsome longing.
"I have been searching for you," he rasped with his sore throat. "I covet the comfort of your body." His appearance was about the same as in the dining room, although he seemed to have lost the frantic edge about him.
As he pulled her closer, she ventured, "Is the battle over?" She didn't know what else to say.
"Indeed, the Scots have been slaughtered. They lay dead and dying on the fields below the castle. Once again Castle Caerlaverock is in the hands of the English." With a glint that was unmistakeable even in the dim light of the moon, she saw his eyes travel up and down her body. "Now it is time for celebration. Come my beauty. I know how I prefer to rejoice." He began to lead her back towards the gaping doors of the garage as the sword stuck inside his belt clunked against his leg.
As they walked Eliza recalled Charles' advice. I do think it would be best that when we find him, we play along with him.
Eliza tried to keep her reservations out of her voice. "Where are we going?"
"I have found a spot where we will not be detected," he told her as they went into the dark building.
"But, wouldn't you rather go into the house? It's much warmer inside." She couldn't keep the rising anxiety out of her voice.
"Nay, I have not the patience for that." He held her against his body and said darkly, "There will be warmth enough between us." He backed her up against the wall and she was trapped. "I fought hard today. I saw a vision of you before me as my reward with each Scot I slew."
An unfulfilled edge that spanned centuries of time crept into his voice. "I have come to claim my reward now."
At all costs, Eliza did not want Fitz to disappear again. While she doubted her ability to keep him safe from himself, she knew she would be able to occupy him in a way that would keep his attention firmly on only one thing. She thought once, but not twice about it, and despite the misgivings she had, she committed to action.
Taking a deep breath, she laid her hands upon his chest and began to move them up and down in an inviting way. She tipped her head up and saw raw emotion upon his face. She moved her hands around his waist and began to run her fingernails along his back.
This seemed to make him overly impatient to have her. He reacted as he had in her room with his actions controlled by his ravenousness hunger. He seized her tightly and kissed her so deeply that she could scarcely breath, even when they parted. His hands never stopped moving her dress up and down against the curves of her body.
"You are a tiny creature," he murmured against her throat, as the blood from the wound on his neck brushed off onto the coverlet around her shoulders. In between eager kisses he asked, "You are not prone to sickness, are you?" His hands continued to search over her with a gentleness that Eliza found very paradoxical, considering he was a demon. He touched her with the delicate attention she would expect from Fitzwilliam.
"No, I'm in perfect health," Eliza stammered.
Hugo's hands followed the curve of her lower back and when they reached the rise of her derrière he savoured the feel of her flesh. A timeless torment of loneliness began to fade as he held an enticing example of womanly charm in his arms. Her warmth and vulnerability cleared a space in his cold, unmoving heart to allow room for some genuine feelings of romance.
"Excellent." Eliza let him press powerfully against her and watched his reaction. He seemed pleased by her submission. His hand reached up under her skirt and she felt his fingers roaming freely up the back of her leg. He cupped his hand and gently cradled her bottom before giving it a hearty squeeze. Then his eyes twinkled in delight as she gasped. "As my woman you will be required to bear me sons."
Eliza barely got out, "Will I indeed?" She was having difficulty separating Fitzwilliam from Hugo. The twinkle in his eye had done it. No matter that Hugo was in control of the situation, there were distinct mannerisms of Fitz that made her think she was in his company.
This brought her back to the situation at hand and her efforts to try and keep him, and herself, safe. She felt the sword's blade along the length of her leg and ventured, "When you lie with a woman, does your sword share the bed?" Good God, now I'm talking like Hugo!
He glanced at the object in question and, very much preferring to keep one hand where it was, managed to pull the sword free from his belt with the other, tossing it across the floor. He once again directed his attention to what was under her dress. He slid his hand up inside her French knickers and lingered over Eliza's feminine backside. "You are a tempting wench. I can see I'm going to enjoy this."
Eliza's eyes widened with his remark. A rumble of laughter came from Hugo. "Do not worry lass, I know how to please a woman. You will not be disappointed."
As he pulled her over to the Hispano-Suiza, she didn't try to stop him. "Have you been thinking of us?" he asked as he opened the back door, but he didn't wait for an answer. He made no attempt to coax her into the vehicle; instead without ceremony she was propelled flat on her back on the wide, pliable burgundy leather seat with the full weight of Fitz crushing her.
He raised up on his elbows and, slower than she thought it would be possible, his mouth formed a demonic smile that left none of his plans for her in doubt. But then his eyes narrowed and his countenance changed. Under his hand he could feel her body shaking wildly.
"Are you cold?" he asked. She shook her head. His callused palm brushed against her cheek as, much more slowly, he asked, "Are you frightened?"
It dawned on Eliza just what she had opened the door to and she watched Hugo closely. Or is it Fitz? Eliza didn't know whom she was with. She took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves.
"I am not frightened. Perhaps I'm a little too eager for you."
Clearly pleased with her response, he spoke softly to her. "Then I will not keep you waiting any longer." He tugged on her dress and after a moment, actually smiled in embarrassment. Eliza's heart dissolved when she saw a glimmer of her charming Fitz. "What type of clothing do you wear? I am unable to remove it."
"My dressmakers are foreign," she ventured as she unzipped a side zipper from under her arm. He took over immediately once there was room to manoeuvre the dress over her head. Then his rough fingers took her silk chemise and touched it. "Indeed, you must be a woman of means." He yanked it over her head with ease and disposed of her panties at the other end.
She could feel his rapid breathing, an inextinguishable need that had been left unrealised for too long, was fighting to be released. He shed his own clothes with great speed, slowing at the belt and zipper until Eliza helped him, and once again lowered himself over her.
Eliza gazed into his eyes. Two men looked down at her. The one she loved whose face was so handsome and the one who held power over him with eyes blazing red with desire.
Her mind was unable to sort out the philosophical aspects of her current situation. Am I about to make love to my fiancé? Or am I going to bed a demon that is, at this moment, ready to ravenously consume me?
He whispered to her, "My beauty, you are filled with a fire that rouses me as never before." Then she sighed as he assailed her with his words and actions, rendering her unable to resist him. He slowly glided his hands over her body, missing nothing in his search.
"You are truly an exceptional for a Scottish woman."
"I am not a Scot," Eliza stated.
"No, you are mine now, to amuse me as I choose."
"Fitzwilliam!" He ignored her as her ran his hand across her breasts. "Fitz..." she tried again but then abandoned her efforts. In her excitement Eliza wrapped her hand behind his neck and pulled him successfully down to her. It was much more enjoyable to concentrate on what he was doing: she willingly let him take her. His skill at titillating a woman was incredible. He nibbled and licked every inch of her, bringing sheer euphoria to Eliza. She rolled her eyes and gave in. Talking could not be accomplished while his tongue was so artfully exciting her.
But her mind would not stop thinking of her dilemma. Am I breaking the pledge Fitz and I have as an engaged couple by this act of intimacy? Or is it he who is sharing it with me? She wondered if she was abandoning her principles.
One thing she was fairly certain about, no other woman had had this type of moral issue to ponder before.
Hugo broke into her thoughts as he grated out with a tortured voice, "I want you now." He was poised over her, pressing urgently between her legs.
She could think no more about such weighty matters. With the slightest movement, she shifted her body and offered what he so desperately needed. He slid inside of her and began to move smoothly, slowly at first but increasing fairly rapidly; he was unable to stop the intensity of his response. As he did, she reacted; the feel of his forceful movements within her spurred her to meet his thrusts with an equal eagerness.
Eliza found his style of lovemaking rollicking, exhilarating and very fulfilling. It was an unforseen windfall in the midst of a most bizarre encounter. Perhaps the fourteenth century would have suited me. She wrapped her legs staunchly around his hips and hung on tightly.
Then, with little warning, the unexpected happened. While she kissed him she began to moan against his mouth as she orgasmed.
Hugo, who had more women than could be counted in his day, knew exactly what had happened and, after driving into her deeply a few final times, felt himself unleash in a shattering orgasm that culminated centuries of frustration.
When he gathered his wits about him he leaned down to kiss her. It was a gentle kiss now filled with more emotion than raw passion. She compared it to Fitz's, but they weren't the same; there was a difference that she could not pinpoint. "I have never known one such as you," he told her as he touched her hair.
She closed her eyes not knowing if she should laugh or cry. He kissed her again and stated emphatically, "You are mine forever now."
She could do no more than gaze up at him and silently agree. For an eternity.
She saw him looking down and her in such a caring and tender way that she couldn't help but call out to Fitzwilliam. "Fitz.." She whispered. "Fitz!"
"What isFitz?" When she didn't answer, he demanded, "Answer me!" Then he grew wary and began to think. "You are not Scottish?"
"No, I am English." She thought this would please him but it had the opposite effect. He squinted at her in confusion.
"Why do you live with the Scots? Here in this house?"
"No! Perhaps you are a spy, sent here to distract me with your feminine wiles." In his distracted thought, he absently began to trace his finger around her torso. It made a nonsensical pattern all over her skin that was dewy from their sweat. When he brushed across her nipple, he loitered and rolled it teasingly. Eliza moaned faintly. "I will gladly submit to your charms, but be warned, I am no fool. All you will get from me is the pleasure of sharing my bed. No secrets will ever be spilt amidst our passion." Then he took his finger and led it down along her ribs, across her stomach, and into the dark soft patch between her legs. His face came perilously close and he inclined into her neck before he hesitated slightly. "I wonder if I can trust you." And with that her let his finger slide inside her.
Now he heard her moan again, this time with an appetite. He would gladly be her source of nourishment. He moved his finger teasingly back and forth. When he saw this pleased her, he interrogated her some more while she was weakened.
"Are your friends also English?" As he questioned her, he added one and then another finger, moving them in and out to quench her carnal desire.
"Yes," she murmured.
He positioned her leg over his shoulder and watched as he made her squirm and wiggle. "And, what might their business be in Scotland?"
"They...are...visiting...friends," she panted.
He had massaged Eliza to the point of experiencing another climax when he stopped. He gave her a deadly stare. "Perhaps they are spies. Perhaps you all are." With that he rolled over and pulled her around so she was now on top. Grabbing her hips, he plunged into her once more and began to move her in time with his rhythm. She watched him watching her, his eyes burning again with the mysterious fire of the Otherworld.
Across his face was a series of emotions: from insatiable craving to pure ecstasy as he once again found pleasure in Eliza. As he relaxed, Hugo shut his eyes and held her face against his.
But when he opened them again, his eyes had grown dark with a change in his mood and he instructed her, "Get up and get dressed!" They both got out of the car and immediately Eliza felt the cold air. She found her clothes and hurriedly put them on. Hugo had also dressed and figured out how to zip the pants and buckle the belt. As he reached down and picked up her coverlet, he noticed it's high quality. "This is very fine. Your weavers are also foreign?"
"Yes?" Now she was unsure how to answer him. She knew she had vastly miscalculated what was going on here. I guess I'm no Mata Hari.
He set it on the back of the Hispano-Suiza and took her hand, steering her out of the garage and into the night, before she could protest about wanting it around her.
"Where are we going now?" she asked as she half ran to keep up.
He looked at her as if she were the mad woman who sold potatoes in his village. "To Castle Caerlaverock."
As Hugo led Eliza across the gravel drive and out into the fields that lay between Kympton House and the castle, a figure emerged in the darkness of the garage, took up the sword and began to follow the couple.
Nearing Midnight, All Hallow's Eve, 1928
Wickham had watched as Mr. Darcy led his lady friend into the garage. With stealth and agility, he had snuck inside and hidden himself in between the motorcars. He was poised, still and quiet in the dark, ready to flee upon detection.
But he had not been discovered. As he sat tucked away like a forgotten old tyre, he had been privy to everything between the demon and Miss Bennet. Wickham felt no shame from his actions. Far from it. He had been raised a believer and considered the demons who came to life at Samhain to be the messengers of Lucifer. And mortals who consorted with them were no better.
One from the Otherworld had come close to his family, taking his grandfather on All Hallows' Eve years ago. Wickham held this as an undisputed truth. And, he harboured a fanatical hatred that bent on revenge. He believed it was his duty to rise up against them any way he could.
After all these years, the opportunity had finally presented itself.
Once the evil spirit had left with the young woman, he had come out of his hiding place and searched for the sword, groping around in the darkness until his hand felt the long metal blade. Knotting his tartan scarf tighter under his chin against the cold, he followed well behind the couple. It didn't matter how close he tracked them; he knew he wouldn't lose them. There could only be one place they were going: Castle Caerlaverock.
All the way, as he walked purposely through the dark, Wickham had one sinister thought that was as evil as the demon himself. This will be for my grandfather.
It was by sheer luck that Charles and Jane happened to be standing by the window. They had lost track of time, but had been jarred back to events of the evening as they saw Wickham striding along the edge of the drive. He was headed in the direction of the castle, and there was an object of some sort in his hand. With a growing sense of alarm they saw that it was the missing sword.
With the same thoughts, they looked briefly at each other before rushing to the front door and out onto the portico. By that time Wickham had vanished.
Castle Caerlaverock, All Hallows' Eve, 1928, Nearing Midnight
Eliza thought her arm was going to be wrenched out of the socket, Hugo was pulling so hard on it. Her shoes weren't made for hiking through the fields and she kept stumbling on the ruts in the ground. Every time she tripped, Hugo would look back and glare at her, obviously unhappy with her inability to march like a warrior, and then he would give her an even harder yank.
She had finally had enough and after the last hard tug she simply stopped dead. This did not have the desired effect, as he kept going and swept her off her feet and onto her backside. She fell right on a rock and knew a painful bruise would emerge on her hip.
"Damn it! Would you slow down?" she yelled at him. Then she saw his face and decided that her outburst might have been a bad choice.
Hugo's temperament had changed dramatically from their interlude in the motorcar. The soft side to the demon that had emerged with their intimacy had vanished. He was all business, in a supernatural sense.
"Get up!" he demanded.
"What's the hurry?" she said still on the ground.
Hugo narrowed his eyes as they glowed dangerously. "Get up."
"I won't get up until you tell me why we are going to the castle."
He sighed. "If you are a spy, perhaps your friends are too. I will need to discuss this with the king. I may need help to capture your friends and have them interrogated." He looked sternly at her, "Get up now!"
"Don't be so pushy! I'm getting---" She got no further as Hugo's arms encircled her and picked her up as if she were no more that another wildflower on the hillside. Before she knew what had happened, Eliza was six feet off the ground and slung over his broad shoulder.
"What the hell---" but she was cut off again by a swift, sharp wack to her backside. She sighed and looked down at the ground. In a battle of wills Eliza should have known she would never win over a demon.
"I'm not a spy!"
"It matters not if you were a spy. You are mine now. And you will be too busy bearing my children to engage in other activities."
"You know you really---" His hand connected with her backside again.
Their progress towards the castle was now a mystery to her as she could only see where they had already been. She didn't try to talk anymore; her bottom hurt.
Jane and Charles wasted no time following along the route to the garage. They had lost track of time and hadn't realized that Eliza had been gone for so long a time. Added to the fact that Wickham had the sword supposedly in Fitz's possession, there were too many elements of danger and uncertainty to deal with.
They called all around inside and out of the garage but no one was to be found. Just as they were about to make a long walk around all the other outer buildings, Charles exclaimed, "Look Jane!"
He stepped forward and scooped up the beautifully patterned coverlet that had been around Eliza's shoulders when she left the house. They looked at it closely and Jane gasped in fright, "Oh no!"
On the coverlet were several crimson bloodstains. Not knowing where they came from, Jane began to panic. "Charles, we have to do something."
"You're right, Jane enough is enough." He glanced at his watch and saw that there were barely thirty minutes before midnight. He hesitated and opened the door of the truck and had her jump. She scooted over as he slid in next to her and pushed the electric starter. The engine sputtered to life and, after allowing it to warm up, Charles was able to carefully back it out of the garage. They were just proceeding down the drive when headlights came in their direction and stopped them.
Unaware that anyone was expected at Kympton House at this late hour, they watched curiously to see who would emerge from the motorcar in front of them.
Castle Caerlaverock, 31 October, 1928
Eliza was jostled as Hugo was crossed the dry moat and after a moment she the water of the filled one below her. She closed her eyes as they crossed the temporary bridge. He took her to the middle of the triangular courtyard and told her to stay. Her arms were crossed in frustration and she was shivering from the cold. Hugo had disappeared, telling her he was requesting an audience with the king. She stood watching in the direction that he had disappeared until; finally, she looked up to the sky, trying to see if the position of the moon might suggest how close the midnight hour was.
She didn't hear the approach of the man behind her. She thought she was completely alone. So, when a hand clamped over her mouth and an arm wrapped tightly around her waist, she came closer to fainting than she ever had in her life. An involuntary scream came from her, but the hand that gagged her muffled it. She could not see who it was but her heart wilted to think it might be Hugo. Sure he was crude, in a fourteenth century way, but he had shown feelings for her. Besides the fact that he just had a corker of a good time in the backseat of the motorcar.
A bitter whisper in her ear set her straight. "Now you and your spirit can spend all of eternity together. You should like that." When Eliza tried to mumble, he jerked her head back and stilled her. "Yes, I saw and heard everything in the motorcar. You are tainted by the demon. You are impure and will forever be soiled by his evil touch. There is no other option for you. You have chosen your destiny."
Wickham! Good God where is Hugo?
Eliza was petrified. Still covering her mouth, Wickham backed up towards one of the old walls to gain some safety from out in the open area. Squeezing her waist even tighter, he released her mouth and her scream let loose, "Hugo!"
When Hugo came running from around one of the crumbling walls, he saw Eliza subdued by Wickham. She had the sharp, curved blade of the Indian Tulwar saber snugly against her throat.
"Don't come any closer," Wickham warned the demon. "I'll slit her throat if you do." As if to emphasize his point, he put pressure against her skin and a tiny trickle of blood rolled down her neck.
But Wickham underestimated both the supernatural strength that Hugo had and Eliza's sheer will to live.
Hugo called on powers that were not of the living. Staring at Wickham in fury, he forced the man into submission simply by the strength of his sinister look. At the same time, Eliza lifted up her right leg and extended it backwards with as much force as she could. The heel of her shoe connected with the man's most private parts and he dropped the sword as he doubled over in pain.
Eliza ran into Hugo's open arms and broke down in tears. His comforting words to her were very much like that of a mortal man. He tenderly kissed her cheek and told her softly, "Go now. Get away from here before any harm comes to you."
"I will not. I won't leave you," Eliza ignored his request.
"Do not worry. He cannot harm me." His eyes lost the tainted sheen of evil and they looked upon her tenderly. "You are a good woman. You must believe me when I say, we will be together forever."
Strangely enough, out here in the middle of the ruins, she'd believe just about anything from the demon in possession of her fiancé's body. She was living the strangest dream. "I do believe you."
Wickham had recovered enough to take up the sword again. They both saw him advance slowly in their direction. "Get behind that wall," he told her brusquely, pushing her towards a section that was still intact. Eliza ran, dodging loose stones scattered about and stopped next to the crumbing wall.
The moon had climbed to its spot in the evening sky where one day changed to another. All Hallows' Eve was departing for another year and would take with it all those spirits who crossed the thin line from death to life on this one night.
Hugo stood very still. He turned away from Wickham and looked to Eliza. There was a mournful look of despair on his face when he understood what was happening. He held out his hand to her and opened his mouth to speak. No words came out. But as his spirit was vanquished from Fitzwilliam his eyes glowed once more with an amorous fire for Eliza. They held her gaze for a fleeting moment and then they dulled.
Samhain had passed.
Wickham held the sword out in front of him and began advancing on Fitzwilliam.
"Fitz! Fitz!" Eliza shouted and began to run back to him.
He awakened from his dazed state and saw his employee coming towards him with his father's Indian saber. Has the man been stealing things from the library? In the knick of time Fitz jumped aside and Wickham went forward, tripping over some ancient debris.
Fitz saw Eliza and yelled, "Run Eliza! Quickly!"
She was torn. She wanted to stay but thought she should get help so she turned and headed for the bridge. She had just crossed the dry moat when she saw headlights approaching. The truck from the house pulled up next to her and Jane jumped out and ran over.
"Eliza! Are you all right?" When she saw the cut on her throat she asked ominously, "Did Fitz do this?"
"No, Wickham did." By this time Charles had joined them. Then another man approached and Eliza was thrilled to see Fitz's cousin.
"Richard! Charles! Wickham has the sword. He's in the castle and Fitz has no way to protect himself. I think Wickham wants to kill him."
The Colonel ducked to the back of the truck. He pulled something out of his bag and tucked it into his jacket. Then the men rushed past Eliza and Jane and crossed the moats before disappearing inside. The sisters looked at each other in silent agreement. Then they too took off running towards the castle.
As they were crossing the moat they heard shouting from above. They looked up and saw two figures balancing along the edge of the very top of the castle. One, Wickham, had a sword and was pressing forward on the other.
"Oh Lord! Jane! I can't watch this." She buried her face in Jane's shoulder. Jane hugged Eliza and watched for them both. They could hear shouts coming from Richard and Charles.
As Eliza peeked between her fingers, there was a lone shot that cracked in the air. The figure with the sword froze and then began to fall over. First the sword dropped from his hand and they watched it plummet over the side and land with a splash in the moat. Then Wickham staggered forward and seemed to collapse in slow motion at the edge of the castle. He went over the side, was caught in one of the outcroppings of old stone by his knotted tartan scarf, and was hanged alive from the castle wall.
Eliza and Jane both stood in shock. After a moment, Eliza shook it off and cried, "Oh God, where's Fitz?"
They went into the courtyard and saw Charles helping Fitz down the precarious path from the top of the castle. When Fitzwilliam saw Eliza, he smiled that familiar smile that told her he was indeed back.
She rushed to him but before she touched him she asked, "Are you injured?" He shook his head, and she fell into his arms. They were the same arms that had held her minutes ago and yet they belonged to someone else now.
And there was no contest; this was the man whose arms she wanted around her.
While the Colonel waited at the castle, Fitzwilliam was assisted into the truck and driven back to Kympton House. Once there, Charles saw to it that the authorities and the doctor were immediately called, Jane arranged for more toddies and Eliza saw to it that Fitz was able to freshen up.
Once again in the company of his friends, Fitz refused for the umpteenth time to go upstairs to bed, arguing, "I've been told you had me up there half the day already!"
Eliza countered, "Yes, but the other half was spent with you running around the countryside causing all kinds of mischief. My dear, if you aren't exhausted I certainly am from chasing you down."
"Or running from me." Fitzwilliam was rapidly beginning to sound like his old self.
Suddenly Eliza's brow furrowed in deep concern. "Fitz," she ventured and looked to her sister and Charles, who were watching at the window for either the Colonel and the authorities or the doctor. "Are you all right?"
He narrowed his eyes, knowing to what she eluded. He nodded slowly and gestured for her to come closer. "Eliza," he began, taking her hand, "It is me here now. I am back. But I don't remember what happened today after we left Mrs. Reynolds cottage." A shadow crossed his face; clearly what he had to ask was distasteful. "I want to know if every thing is ok. With you and me. Did anything happen between us?"
The philosophical side of Eliza's personality took over. She gave him an honest answer. "No Fitz. Nothing happened between you and me." Then she smiled and squeezed his hand in reassurance.
The Colonel returned with the local constable from Dumfries and they were handed toddies to warm themselves. It was revealed that it appeared Wickham had died from strangulation. He had only a superficial wound to his arm. After some perfunctory questions were put to Fitzwilliam and Eliza they were informed the authorities would consider it an open and shut case of accidental death.
The doctor arrived. When pressed for a diagnosis as to the state of Fitzwilliam's neck and throat, the doctor carefully unwound the bloody gauze from his neck and cleaned him off. He examined him thoroughly and then looked at the group as if they were a pack of pranksters. There was not a mark of any kind visible upon his neck and his throat was in no way inflamed. Fitzwilliam was pronounced a perfect physical specimen. His mental state was a matter for speculation, although the doctor could detect no outward effects of his ordeal. He suggested that they all get some rest and, after Eliza's cut was cleaned and covered, he said goodnight and left with the constable.
As Eliza finished her drink, events from the day flashed before her in a helter-skelter fashion. She found much of it hard to believe, even though she had lived through it all.
She had a serious concern about one particular aspect of it. But she knew just how to rectify it.
"Fitzwilliam," he heard Eliza whisper into his ear, careful not to attract the attention of any of the others in the room, "I think you need to go to bed."
He was about to protest when he saw the way she was watching him. She had a devilish gleam in her eye, which he hoped promised more than sleep.
Everyone seemed ready to retire and they all began to make their way upstairs. Fitzwilliam was disappointed when Eliza said goodnight at her door. The needs he harboured with him ached for her closeness. For talk, for comfort, for love.
He was weary and, after a bath he lay down on the bed and closed his eyes.
Kympton House, 1 November, 1928, Sometime in the Night
It was not much later when the panel inched open and a figure in a long flowing gown stole into his room. The satin fabric of her lingerie caught the faint light of the fire. Eliza moved silently across the carpeted floor and stood at the window looking out to Castle Caerlaverock. When she turned towards the bed, her eyes glowed with a deep devotion as if the flaming embers from the fire had leapt to life within them. Her features softened as an amorous intent spread over them.
Fitz awakened and became aware of a warmth in the air that permeated through the layers of covering protecting him. Then he felt what seemed to be the touch of love upon his face, and, as his eyes popped open, he looked upon the woman he was going to marry.
Elation spread through him. "Eliza, you surprised me!" Then he lowered his voice, "You didn't hint that you had plans to visit me."
She was bent over him, the current of her breath falling across him. Without a word she eased onto the bed and most urgently began to inundate his neck with a torrent of kisses. Then Eliza closed her eyes and let herself be overcome by the passion of her fiancé.
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