"Deliciously creepy, atmospheric." -Janet Butler Taylor, author of Into the Dim
Long ago I was a servant girl at the great manor house in the quiet English villageof Grenshire. My mistress, Madame Arnaud, proved cruel, and many died at her hands.To stop her, I tried to kill her.
I failed. And I lost everything.
But that was then. Now, Phoebe Irving's family has moved into the Arnaud Manor.Phoebe, her friend Miles, and I crossed paths and discovered a powerful connection.Together we might be strong enough to untangle an ancient prophecy hanging over thistroubled place where old, deep magic mingles with greed and revenge. We might save Phoebe's baby sister and other innocents. We might even save ourselves.
Praise for Haunted
"A vampiric ancestor, a selection of ghosts, an historic family estate, an unexpected twist...recommended." -VOYA
"Remarkable...a twist you'll never see coming."" -Michelle Gagnon, bestselling author of Don't Look Now
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About the Author
Lynn Carthage is the pseudonym of an acclaimed fiction writer who has been a Yaddo fellow and a Bram Stoker Award finalist. She lives in California and teaches novel writing. Her website is www.lynncarthage.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Arnaud Legacy, Book Three
By Lynn Carthage
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Erika Mailman
All rights reserved.
It is with hopes of the museum becoming a more cosmopolitan institution that I enclose the funds herein. Surely it will credit the facility to highlight objects of a broader focus than the inconsequential items of a local nature. I will assist the staff in reorganizing the collections to not appear so provincial and brutish.
— Scrap of a letter from Reginald Q. Boswick
Told from the point of view of ELEANOR DARROW
The life of one such as me was never meant to be extraordinary. The tales my mother spun by my bedside involved princesses and ivy-twined castle walls, people whose blood beat royal in their veins even if cinders etched their faces temporarily untidy. There were never stories about servants, only about girls cruelly cast as servants until woodland creatures and love-struck princes proved it all a falsehood.
There is no glamour to a life in service. There is only waking when your bones ache and you wish you might sleep in longer, kneeling on cold, hard flagstones to clean the grease left by others, carrying heavy trays up steep, dim staircases used only by your kind. Your betters barely care what your name is. Your good work goes unnoticed; your errors earn angry shouts.
This was the world I was born into, intended for service from the moment I emerged from my mother's womb and was identified as female. The Arnaud Manor, whose influence presided over the small English town of Grenshire, was immediately my destination after I'd finished a modicum of schooling and learning my letters.
All we serving folk of Grenshire had the misfortune that the mistress of the manor, Madame Arnaud, was a woman of deep evil and committed deplorable deeds. I can scarcely account for the fact that I found hidden strength in me — the strength ordinarily assigned to princesses and not servants — and tried to kill her. I had thought my actions effective and Grenshire released, but some deeper magic, embedded in the very stones of the manor, revived her.
Thus proceeded many dark decades.
After my death, I became the subject of those begged-for tales of long ago, the wraiths who rattled their chains and tore through their death shrouds to haunt the living, the tales my mother would set princesses aside for only if her mood suited it. Rare were these sinister tales, and I became one, though my mother never knew.
Wafting down hallways was not an attractive prospect, as the manor was the place that spelled my doom, so I took to haunting a meadow where Austin and I used to tryst. Where he and I once lay on our backs looking at the clouds racing between the leaves of the trees whose cover we sought, kissing as if we had all the time in the world, now I implored the winds for deliverance.
We had never joined our bodies together, although I dreamed of marrying him. After death, the regrets that might've been hot and angry instead turned to quiet pains one bends one's body around. I wish I had given Austin everything, and he me.
By the time I met Phoebe and Miles, I had already had a century of nursing my grievances.
They showed up, skin brighter than my muted translucence. They were fresh; there's no other way to describe it. They still carried the vehemence of emotions that death had erased from my arsenal of feelings. They had desire for each other, and oh, my dear ages, did it hurt to see that they could have each other. In a strange way, they outwitted death. They still managed to have love.
I've come to understand that my role in our strange triad is not equal to theirs. For so long, I thought it was because I was powerless, the servant, while they came from an era in which servitude had largely subsided. But sometimes as I sit and wonder — one of the timeless activities I have eternity to perform, a verb without much sway — if perhaps my role is not equal because it is, in fact, greater.
A mind-spinning possibility.
* * *
Phoebe's family — still living, God bless them — all stand on the west lawn watching a bulldozer rip through soil that hasn't been touched since gardeners abandoned the Arnaud property eons ago.
Tabby, Phoebe's two-year-old sister, is in her mother's arms, halfway terrified but thoroughly fascinated. She periodically points at the machine (whose name, bulldozer, Phoebe very nicely supplied ... I do like the idea of the mechanism being somehow related to the brute work of a bull) and then buries her face in her mother's neck.
It's very loud, but I find myself enjoying that. Death muffles so many sensations, that to hear something rip-roaring through your ears, dinning so that you want to cover them, is exhilarating. I stand smiling at the whole spectacle, the man in the broad orange hat yanking on levers, trying to make a better show for the watching family.
The earth peels away in stripes, rich loam beneath the caked surface, roots exposed and a glad smell coming up to meet our noses. In an instant, I remember my mother's cottage garden, kneeling with her to tend the weeds and smelling the soil as it came away clinging to the white roots. Ahhhh. I haven't thought of that in a hundred years.
"What's he doing here?" Steven, Phoebe's stepdad, yells over to his wife. I turn and stare in the direction he points.
It's Reginald Boswick.
He's one of the local Grenshire villagers. His face is red as he paces across to the bulldozer and flags its driver. He's moving very quickly; one might almost surmise he knows he will be stopped if he acts with even a degree less certainty.
"Stop your motor, sir!" he calls up to the driver.
Steven throws a look of disbelief at his wife and marches over to join Boswick. "What's the meaning of this?" he asks. "This is private property."
"I'm here on village business," says Boswick. "Cut the motor!"
The driver looks down at Steven, who nods. The man stops the engine, and the bucket of soil lurches a bit midair, getting used to the idea of not moving. In the sudden silence, I hear the single whistle of a bird.
"Steven Arnaud, I'm here to deliver an order from the Village of Grenshire, immediately halting work at this site for now or any time in the future," says Boswick. Sweaty, but bearing an expression of triumph, he brandishes an envelope, which Steven rips out of his hand.
"You've got to be kidding," mutters Steven. He rips open the envelope as the rest of us, living and dead, come to peer over his shoulder and read the paper. It bears a golden embossed seal of the village at the top and a red-stamped date. The document does indeed order the family to cease work "to, or around the environs of, the Arnaud Manor."
"Why?" asks Steven flatly.
"As I've told you before, in no uncertain terms which were nonetheless outright ignored, there is to be no digging here."
"I understand that part. The part I don't get is why."
I was impressed with Steven's demeanor in the face of such rudeness. He had the bearing of a gentleman of my day, a politeness that I noticed during our recent tour of the Continent seems to have evaporated from society.
"This is a powerful piece of land," says Boswick. "It ought not to be tampered with. We're protecting you from your own idiotic selves. I told you we could set you up with a very nice home in the village."
"You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," Phoebe's mother murmurs.
"Honey doesn't work with you people!" Boswell explodes. "If I call you stupid, it's to drill home the idea, which you refuse to accept, that this property needs to be left alone."
"Excuse me," says the driver. He leans out of the elevated window of the bulldozer.
"You don't have any jurisdiction out here," says Steven. "The National Trust for Historic Preservation has reviewed all our plans and approved them."
"You're still a tax-paying property owner in Grenshire and subject to its rules."
"Its rules, yes, but not orders drawn up by off-balance citizens with their own agenda."
"I'm helping you!" roars Boswick. "This is all done to protect you, since you're too idiotic to realize the danger you're in."
"Then tell us," says Phoebe's mother.
I lean in, wanting to hear the answer to her very sensible question. What exactly is the danger at the Arnaud estate, in his opinion?
"Excuse me," says the bulldozer driver again. "There's something you might want to see here." He opens his door and steps down from the cab, then goes to stand at the edge of the hole he's dug. He turns to look at the rest of the group expectantly.
Dully glinting in the freshly turned soil, two slender metallic objects have appeared.
The sight affects me, although I can't even tell what the objects are. My hand flies to my throat. I feel panic, rage. Emotions bolt through my bones and I hear a clamor as if from far away.
"What are those?" asks Phoebe. Her tone is too light; she doesn't feel what I do.
I shake my head and try to push away the sounds, but men still shout although I know they're not real. Or not anymore.
Miles runs both hands through his thick dark hair, as if overtaken by grief. Our eyes meet, and it is an old message we share that I don't quite understand. He steps into the hole and gestures for me to follow him.
We can't disturb the earth; our footfalls have no weight. I could've intentioned myself over to the silver objects instantly, but instead take the time to duplicate the slowed walk of the living. I'm somehow reluctant to look.
Miles and I kneel next to the silver artifacts. Now that we are so close, I can tell what they are. The din in my head resolves: I can tell that I'm hearing swords clashing in between the shouts and cries. As soon as I recognize the sounds, they fade away.
We're staring at the blades of two swords half buried, their hilts hidden.
"Odd," murmurs Phoebe. "Shouldn't swords be buried with their warriors?"
Soil has done no favors to these swords, and the edges, once lovingly sharpened by their wielders at some fireside as they told the tale of battle, have rusted and lost their crisp lines. Dirt has been attracted to the wet metal and cloyed to it. The swords are sad emblems of once-fierce men.
I look at my friends' faces. Phoebe looks intrigued in a detached way. But Miles ... he feels the agony and bloodshed associated with these weapons. I can almost hear a howl from down the centuries, men fighting for their lives, teeth bared, their whole souls on display as blood seeps into soil.
Did I once battle in that way?
I look at my own palm, pale, soft despite my years of service, and can't imagine it clamped around a hilt.
But if I focus harder, I can almost see another hand ... and that one is worthy of wielding a sword.
"It looks like you get your wish," says Steven, and I wake from this dream of the past. "At least for this part of the property. We'll have to stop digging and get some experts out. I'm sure archeologists are going to want to work this over."
I look at Boswick, to see if he's suitably thrilled. Instead, his face is drawn and white.
"You fool," says Boswick. He kneels in the dirt and stretches his hand toward the closest of the swords. His arm goes through my skirt.
"Don't touch that," says Phoebe's mother, Anne. "That's a historical artifact."
He ignores her. She bends down and pulls his arm back. "Maybe you didn't hear me," she says.
"Mr. Boswick, you need to leave," says Steven. "I'm going to call the proper authorities to come and look at this. In the meantime, you won. Construction has been halted."
"I can't leave now!" says Boswick.
"Oh, you will," vows Steven grimly.
In the space of months, his daughter has died and he and his family upended what remained of their lives to move to England, where he learned that his daughter was a ghost. He isn't about to suffer Boswick's stupidity. "On your feet now, or I'll get you to your car with the imprint of my shoe on the back of your pants."
Boswick complies, but takes his time to do it. He scowls up at Steven and slowly rises. "Why'd you even come here?" he mutters angrily. "You've disturbed soil that hasn't been touched in centuries."
"I came here because it's my home," says Steven. "Now get the hell out."
* * *
After Boswick leaves, Steven consults with the man who drives the bulldozer. There's a process in place to alert archeological experts whenever a construction dig encounters historical artifacts.
I approach Miles, standing directly above one of the swords.
"Do you think these swords were yours?" Phoebe asks.
It's hard to imagine, staring down at the tarnished ruins in the dirt, that I wielded one of these, particularly as a female. But I feel an undeniable pull.
"Somehow, yes," says Miles.
"And there's more here," I say, surprising myself.
"Yes," marvels Miles. "You're right."
If I focus, I can feel the untouched earth pulsing where other weapons lie.
"The archeologists are going to have a field day," says Miles.
"And Reginald Boswick is going to lose his mind," says Phoebe with a half smile.
"Don't you feel anything?" I ask Phoebe. "These swords have no effect on you?"
She shrugs. "I don't think so."
An emotion comes over me that makes me feel guilty. I'm glad she isn't linked to these swords. In the short time I've known her and Miles, they have displayed powers that I'm not given, traveled through the centuries in a voyage that wasn't offered to me, and far worse ... I despise myself for thinking this, for the low pettiness within me ... they are connected by love, and I have been the outsider in this trio. For once, it is nice to be the person who is included while someone else is excluded.
"I wish I could move the soil myself," says Miles. "Here, and here, and ..." He continues pointing around the overgrown plot. "It will take the archeologists forever to see the pattern."
"There's a pattern?" asks Phoebe.
Oh yes, it seems the bits of iron lie in a ceremonial circle, roughly drawn across the yard.
"A circle," Miles answers her.
"It's interesting you would've had a sword, Eleanor," says Phoebe to me. "You must've been a woman warrior."
I'm tempted to correct her, but I don't know the truth myself, just a gut-level rejection of her words. I don't bother to say anything, because there isn't anything to say.
"Pretty impressive," says Miles with a wink at me. That wink undoes me every time. I wish he wouldn't do it. He belongs to Phoebe, and that shared, secretive flirting gives me a lurch of false hope.
"What do you think they'll do with the objects after they process them?" asks Phoebe.
"They'll probably go to the museum in Rookmoor," says Miles.
"There's a museum?" I ask. Miles looks disconcerted.
"Yes. I suppose it was established after you died. I went when I was nine years old, as part of a school trip."
Phoebe grins at me and shakes her head slightly as she looks over at Miles. "Given that the past is trying to tell us things, don't you think it would be a good idea for us to visit?"
Miles looks embarrassed. "Of course, I should've thought of that long ago. It just didn't strike me as important. It's a lot of broken pots and old stuff."
"I'm going to kill you if the answer to all our questions is on display in a big glass case," says Phoebe.
He straightens up and gives her that magisterial look I adore. Strong Miles. "It would've been your fault for not enquiring. Plus, as it pains me to add, it's impossible to kill someone who's already dead."
"My fault for not enquiring?" sputters Phoebe.
"You are the Arnaud in our trio," I say, bolstering Miles's playful jab. "It falls upon you to lead us in asking the pertinent questions."
"Listen, if I'm the leader, this whole mission is doomed," says Phoebe. "But maybe our local tour guide here could show us the museum. You know, if you felt like it, Miles, and if the timing was right for us to learn stuff. Or we could just hang around and haunt the mansion for a few hundred years, like Eleanor."
I step back. Her joke went too far. She's only been dead awhile and can't imagine what it was like all these years, helplessly stuck in a region of no rest. Miles opens his mouth and I can tell he's about to stick up for me, but before he can say anything, I feel Phoebe's arms around me, tight.
"I'm sorry," she whispers. "I didn't think before I said that."
I hug her back, amazed how nice it feels and how strangely right after my lifetime of not even thinking of touching my superiors in such an informal way, I perform a quick mental correction. She's not my superior. We're equals.
"It's fine, miss," I hear myself say before I can bite back the automatic miss.
"Thank you, miss," she says back, and I smile at her gentle rebuff of my maid's language.
"Well, let's hit the museum and solve all the world's evil problems," says Miles.
Excerpted from Auenged by Lynn Carthage. Copyright © 2017 Erika Mailman. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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