I anxiously waited in the lavishly decorated Egyptian room as Lord Weymouth and his fiancé Jane enter. They had graciously agreed to meet with me to discuss their unique story and how the ghosts of Stormclyffe Hall had brought them together. The first thing that struck me was how lovely they look together. I suppose it is more the way they look at each other, how they seem to move in sync and react like two halves of the same whole. They took their seats opposite me and smiled.
“We’re ready when you are.” Lord Weymouth said.
“Thank you, my lord,” I stammer, a little nervous. He was an earl after all.
“Please, call him Bastian,” Jane insisted with a naughty wink at her love. “He likes to act all stuffy and proper, but he likes us Americans. Do you?” She nudged him in the ribs with an elbow and he grinned down at her.
“I suppose I do like you colonists, don’t I?” He chuckled. “Yes, call me Bastian.”
“Very well.” I clicked my pen and folded to a crisp blank sheet in my notebook…
Lauren: Bastian, what made you think by restoring Stormclyffe Hall, the tragedies that had mysteriously plagued your family for generations would cease?
Bastian ran his hand over his jaw as he debated on answering. “My family has lived in this place for hundreds of years. We were born here, died here, but the most important part of it is that we lived here. It is my home and yet it felt broken to me. My ancestors have endured so much loss and I couldn’t begin to think of giving the hall up after everything they had sacrificed. Perhaps,” he chuckled wryly, “if I can fix it, the place won’t hold such bad memories, or bear the taint of the past.”
Lauren: Did you believe any of the gossips surrounding the hall? Had your family ever expressed any concerns?
Bastian rolled his eyes. “Of course there are concerns, like any good family, we don’t like rumors abounding over our family and its history. But once a rumor ignites, we cannot change much of what follows. I believe the important thing is getting to the kernel of truth.” He turned to flash Jane a smile. “That’s what good historians do best, isn’t it.” When he winked at her, Jane covered her mouth to hide a smile.
Lauren: Jane, I have to tell you, that I’d have hightailed it back to America as fast as I could if I’d encountered what you did when you first laid eyes on Bastian. Can you share a little bit about that, er, unusual experience?
A heavy blush works its way across Jane’s cheeks. “You mean what happened to us in the library?”
“Er, right. Well, after the nightmares I kept having, I was still frightened, but not surprised when something seemed to take me over from the inside out. It’s terrifying to be a prisoner in your own body while someone is behind the controls. Richard was using us both.” She reached for Bastian’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “He was trapped in the hall and couldn’t reach Isabelle, and when he saw me, he couldn’t hold back. He jumped into Bastian and things just sort of snowballed. The passion between us was there, but we never would have done that so quickly if it hadn’t been for Richard.”
“Not that I wouldn’t have minded, darling, you were damned adorable.” Bastian leaned over and kissed her cheek, following it with a wicked grin.
Lauren: Bastian, forgive me, but you’re the stereotypical playboy. Rich, handsome…you’ve led a privileged life and dated many sophisticated women. What attracted you to Jane? I means, she’s not your usual choice of companion.
The earl looked a little amused at my question. Jane stared at him, lips pursed as she waited to see how he would answer.
“Every woman before Jane was a shell, a temporary fix for my loneliness. I couldn’t talk to those women, couldn’t bear my soul to them, not like I can with Jane. They were safe choices. But love,” he paused, meeting my gaze directly. “Love shouldn’t be safe. It’s a wild ride, a desperate risk that you take and you can only pray you are fortunate enough to be loved in return. Jane was my risk. I wanted to know every little thought that passed through her mind, I wanted to sing with her and dance. Lord, I love dancing with her. She’s not perfect, not like the women I’ve dated in the past, but that’s what makes her real. She’s better than perfect. I love the way her nose wrinkles when she is frustrated with me. The way she steals blankets at night. I love all of her.”
At his answer, Jane had relaxed, her eyes softening and her sight seeming far away as she curled her arm around his. I couldn’t help but wonder what her secret thoughts were in that moment. Was she remembering all of the times they’d shared together as they’d fallen in love?
Lauren: Jane, were you more mesmerized with Stormclyffe or Bastian in the beginning? What about after you’d stayed there for a couple of days and gotten to know him better? Which was the greater allure then?
Jane sat up a little straighter. “That’s a tricky question. I’d been having dreams about Stormclyffe for a while before I came here. It’s what drove me to the castle in the first place. I had to solve the mystery of Isabelle’s death, but when I learned Bastian was the current heir, well he had me intrigued. Even if he was a rich playboy.” A little twinkle gleamed in her eyes as she teased him.
“But to answer your question, after that explosive kiss in the library, I felt connected to him. I sensed his own lost soul tied to mine. He was searching for things, as I was and we needed each other. I had to stay and help him. Help Stormclyffe.” She laughed a little. “It didn’t hurt that he was an English god.” She winked at me and I laughed too.
Lauren: You both experience supernatural events. Can you each share just a bit what that was like?
Bastian spoke. “I didn’t believe any of it at first. I thought my workmen were suffering from superstitious natures and letting the town gossip get to them. But after nearly losing Jane to her jumping off the wall, I was having trouble dispelling thoughts of Stormclyffe not being haunted. It was the most terrifying sight to see her at the top of those battlements, ready to leap to her death.” He shuddered and drew Jane closer to him. “A damned nightmare. It was exactly as Richard had written in his diary. I hated that I could not slay her dragons because I could not see them.”
“I was possessed by Cordelia. Twice. It was terrifying. It was like she blacked out all sense of myself and I could only see what she wanted me to see and do what she wanted me to do. There wasn’t much I could do. Her will became mine in the worst horrible way. She wanted me to kill myself. It was awful.” Jane’s eyes were bright with tears not yet shed. “I’m a strong person, but when true evil gets a hold of you, you can’t always fight it.”
Lauren: When did you first start to realize it was your ancestors communicating with you, Bastian? What was that like?
Bastian stood up from the couch and walked over to one of the bookshelves on the side of the room. He plucked a small book, a leather bound one, from the shelf and handed it over to me. I flipped through the pages and realized it was a diary.
“Is this Richard’s?” I asked, dumbfounded that they would hand me something so precious to them.
“Yes. It was after I touched that, when I started having the dreams as though I were Richard. The first time I put my hands on that book, a little electric shock when through me. After that, I dreamed a lot from his perspective. It was unnerving to be in another man’s head.”
Lauren: Jane, did you feel an affinity for Isabelle? Were you compelled to help her, despite the danger?
Jane nodded. “She and I were very close. She was reaching out to me through my dreams. I was living her nightmare of dying on the cliffs every night and I knew she’d been murdered, could feel the hands at my back, invisible hands, pushing me off into the abyss and I had to figure out who did it and why. If nothing else, I hoped it would put her spirit to rest.
Lauren: Jane and Bastian, your attraction to each other is quite apparent from the very beginning. When did you suspect it was becoming something more serious?
Jane shot a glance at Bastian, her cheeks pinkening. “I knew when he kissed me that night in the kitchen after we survived the fight in the town, that there was something more between us, at least for me. That kiss undid me. I felt a thousand different things in his arms and I knew I wanted things I didn’t think I could ever have.”
I waited for Bastian to answer.
He swallowed hard. “When Jane told me about her dreams and I could see she was trusting me not to do what her first fiancé Tim did and walk out on her, that was trust. Trusting someone always makes thinks more complicated and more serious. I wanted to protect her, to show her that I wouldn’t be like Tim, but at the same I knew I had to push her away to keep her safe. I was torn because things had become too serious. I loved her but had to protect her and there was not easy solution where I didn’t have to send her away too.”
Lauren: Do you think Richard and Isabelle wanted you two to be together? That perhaps they knew what your fates were and orchestrated events to help you along?
Jane smiled. “I think they did want us to be together. They drew us closer and wove a spell over us that we couldn’t escape, not until we got to know each other enough to love each other. I think Isabelle knew all along that Bastian and I together could defeat Cordelia and give Isabelle and Richard the peace they deserved.”
Lauren: The timeless love Richard and Isabelle had for one another was so gripping. What was it like to experience someone else’s love, for surely when they possessed you, you each must have felt their emotions.
For a long moment neither Jane nor Bastian spoke. They gazed at each other, lost in memories I could only guess at.
“It was beautiful and tragic,” Jane whispered. “They loved each other so much and lost their future before it had even begun. It breaks my heart every time I think about it,” her voice broke.
Bastian curled his body around hers, hugging her close as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Shhh. It’s all right,” he soothed her. I felt as though I were watching something private and personal and was intruding on them.
“In many ways,” he said, “it’s a raw wound for the both of us. To know how much they loved each other and how quickly the lost their lives without a chance to live them. It hurts us both.”
The pain, so evident in their faces and their voices, forced me to change the subject.
Lauren: So, Jane, what’s it like being a ‘lady’ now? How has that changed your life?
Jane brightened at my question. “Being a lady? It’s interesting. There’s a lot more social gatherings I have to go to, but since Bastian’s with me, it’s easy. Plus, his mother is a real sweetheart. She gets me through all the royalty nonsense that would totally confuse me otherwise. I have to say though, the perks are nice. Stormclyffe is all ours and I get to rummage through all the family documents since I’m soon to be part of the family.”
Bastian barked out a laugh. “Cheeky little thing,” he muttered and shook his head before he looked at me. “She’s always after my papers. This is what happens when you marry a historian.”
Jane scoffed. “Says a fellow historian.” She nudged him in the stomach.
Lauren: Bastian, how often do you see the doves that returned to the dovecote after Cordelia is finally destroyed? Do you think they might truly be Richard and Isabelle?
“Ever since we destroyed Cordelia, the doves have been back. The same pair. This past spring, they had a nest of chicks. I would say that I’m not a man who believes in coincidences, but I have to admit, it makes me think perhaps they are Richard and Isabelle. I’d like to think so anyway.”
After the interview was over, I thanked Jane and Bastian and returned back to the little inn where I’d rented a room. The white lady still hung on the creaky wooden sign and the chill in my room was less menacing than before. Perhaps the cold was friendly spirit, someone merely watching over me. With a smile, I set down to write the book The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall.
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About Lauren Smith
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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