Behind the Book Post- The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall
Two years ago, on a cold October night, I sat in a booth of an old pub house in Weymouth, England. The wind outside howled and whistled through the cozy little wood and brick pub. I held a letter written on thick, expensive card stock which bore the Weymouth family crest. Yet the letter was from my friend, Jane Seyton. She’d come here to finish her thesis on haunted castles the previous year. The local titled lord here was the Earl of Weymouth, but I’d never met him.
I’d read the letter over and over, trying to make sense of its contents. She had sent me a list titled “You May Be Dealing With Ghosts If…” and had listed several statements. Checking my watch for the time, I saw I had another couple of minutes before Jane was scheduled to arrive and meet me for drinks. Time enough to read the strange and curious list once more.
Taking a sip of my beer, I read the list again.
You May Be Dealing With Ghosts If…
1. You start having mysterious dreams about a castle you’ve never seen before.
2. You feel like a set of unseen eyes are always watching you, the press of their gaze like an icy pressure on the back of your skull…
3. You witness a forlorn woman in a white flowing gown floating along a cliff’s edge during a heavy storm.
4. You come face to face with a brooding, arrogant, yet sexy earl who doesn’t want you snooping around his castle or investigating his family’s tragic, bloody past.
5. There’s a two hundred year old portrait of a woman who looks exactly like you hanging on a wall in the earl’s drawing room.
6. Shadows keep forming in the shape of dragons on the library floor while you try to do research on your haunted castle thesis.
7. A diary dated from the early 1800s finds its way into your hands.
8. When the earl kisses you, it’s as though you’ve kissed him before in another life.
9. You keep seeing visions of a jealous witch casting a curse.
I folded the list and slipped it back into my coat pocket, just as the pub house door opened. There was Jane, her gray eyes pure and clear like mercury. Her raven black hair was a tumble of wild waves about her shoulders. She wasn’t alone. A tall man with burnished gold hair wearing a black knee length winter coat followed her. There was something elegant in his features, a handsomeness that wasn’t often seen in this century.
“Hey!” She walked through the maze of little rickety tables and slid into the opposite side of the booth from me. The man followed her like a shadow, protective, quiet, but not unfriendly. His eyes held so much sadness, but there was joy too and surprise, as though he’d only recently learned to embrace happiness.
“Jane!” I grinned, delighted to see my old school friend.
“You’ll never believe what’s happened.” She rubbed her gloved hands together to warm them, a bright gleam in her eyes.
“What?” I asked, retrieving the letter from my pocket.
“I’d like you to meet Bastian, the Earl of Weymouth.” A pretty blush colored her cheeks. “Bastian, this is my dear friend Lauren from college.”
Bastian nodded politely and shook my hand. “A genuine pleasure,” he murmured. His voice was rich and dark like aged Scotch.
“That’s wonderful, but Jane, what’s the meaning of this list you sent me.” I offered the list to her.
A little devious smile ghosted across her lips and she shared a knowing gaze with Bastian before she looked my way again.
“That’s just it. I have quite a story to share and I want you to write it down…”
To defeat a dark evil, they must face his family’s past…
Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Even though tragedy and mysterious hauntings have driven his family away from his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall, he is determined to restore the castle to its former glory. His plans are disrupted when a stubborn American shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history.
Jane Seyton, an American graduate student, is convinced there’s more to the tragedy of Stormclyffe Hall than history claims. Ever the scholar, she is determined to discover the truth, even if it means putting up with the arrogant, yet sexy, Bastian.
Although Bastian wants nothing to do with the pushy American, it soon becomes clear that something evil is in the house—and that something is targeting both Jane and Bastian. The two must join forces to purge the ghosts of Stormclyffe Hall once and for all—even as they try to fight a physical attraction between them that grows more and more impossible to deny.
Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets—a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She's won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
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Randolph cleared his throat. “Will she be staying here, my lord? I can have a room prepared immediately.”
Stay here? Surely he couldn’t let the woman stay in the castle. Bastian was about to declare as much when something out of the corner of his eye flickered. A shadow at the edge of his vision seemed to be creeping along the wall toward him. He turned and focused in the direction he’d glimpsed it, but all signs of the shadow were gone.
I’m seeing things, too, blast it! These workmen are driving me to madness as well. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.
“My lord?” Randolph prompted, which made Bastian realize he must have been silent for several moments. The shadows had him on edge. Perhaps it would be nice to have a bit of company, if only she wasn’t a bloody American. Given the rumors of ghosts and other such childish stories, most of the staff at Stormclyffe refused to stay overnight. Only Randolph and a few of the loyal staff from London remained after dark.
“I shall meet with her. She will not be staying here.”
Jane Seyton was sure to be like every other historian he’d met and probably as stubborn as one of the Queen’s corgis with a bone. Given half the chance, she’d run off to the nearest garden and bury his secrets where only she could find them. He didn’t like anyone having that power over him.
Well, he did have a way with women. If she proved too troublesome in getting her to leave, he’d simply seduce her. There wasn’t a woman born yet that would say no to an invitation to dinner if the Earl of Weymouth asked her. No doubt she was a lonely little bookworm, probably wearing spectacles and never been kissed. The idea was almost charming. He smirked as he headed toward the drawing room. If he wanted her gone by nightfall, she’d be gone and all it would cost him was dinner.
When he reached the drawing room and laid a palm on the heavy oak door, it swung open revealing the rich red- and gold-papered walls and dust covered furniture. He hadn’t had the chance to visit every room in the castle in the last seven months, since he’d been here sparingly, and he had definitely not been into this one. Randolph had been overseeing the cleanup of the rooms upon Bastian’s instructions and given the number of rooms, many had yet to be opened.
Personally, he had been avoiding this room because it was the only room in the castle where a portrait of Isabelle hung. His grandmother had said looking upon Isabelle’s face was bad luck, and since Stormclyffe had been abandoned for longer than he’d been alive, he’d never had the chance to find out himself if it was true. But now, seeing his ancestor for the first time…he was arrested at the sight.
There on the wall was the infamous woman whose swan dive off the cliffs had tainted his family’s lives forever. Bastian studied the portrait for a moment. A fair-skinned woman with a hint of rose in her cheeks gazed out from the layers of oil with serious gray eyes. Her pale blue gown molded to her curves, and waves of rich ebony hair tumbled down her shoulders to tease the tops of her breasts. There was a curious expression on her face. She was happy, but wariness lurked in the depths of her eyes, as though she expected to lose her joy at any moment.
Below the painting, a flesh-and-blood woman stood with her back to him. Windblown hair, dark as a raven’s wing, spiraled down her back in enticing waves. He had the sudden urge to thread his fingers through the silken strands and shape her full curves with his other hand. A curious burning settled deep in his bones, and a ringing filled his ears as visions of him pinning her to a bed filled his mind. Wild, erotic thoughts tumbled through him, stealing his breath before he regained control and focused on his visitor again.
As though she’d heard his lustful thoughts, the woman turned to face him, cheeks flaming. She couldn’t have known what he was thinking. His hand dropped from the door handle, and his jaw slackened in shock.
The dreamy gray eyes fixed on him were identical to the eyes of the woman painted above her. Noble, high cheekbones, curving brows, a sensual mouth made for kisses, and that nose, both delicate and impish, a perfect fit for the face of the woman before him. Her inky-black tresses and curves designed perfectly for a man’s hands made her a living memory of a woman centuries gone.
Dear God… He repeated the words in his head over and over, mesmerized by the closeness of their shared features.
“You must be Lord Weymouth. I’m Jane Seyton.”
The woman strode over to him, hand outstretched. Without thinking, he took it. Heat flared between them. He inhaled sharply.
Lynda Again --
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