Adult(ish) Excerpt from The Dead of Haggard Hall by Marie Treanor
As I skirted the throng, which was broken into several smaller ones, like satellites around my mother, I cautiously opened myself further to their emotions. I felt my gaze tugged once more towards the open doorway to the hall. And there he was, my sceptic, looking right at me.
Something jolted inside me. I had been right. Full-on, his face was dramatic. Angular, almost bony, it was dominated by black, straight brows over dark, harsh eyes that concealed layers of turbulence and profound, conflicting emotions; a hard mouth with a sensual curve.
Tall, straight, and broad shouldered, his body gave the impression of being only loosely flung together. His dress was respectable and yet hung on him with such carelessness that it somehow suggested the entirely disreputable.
His unblinking regard washed over me in waves. Anger; constant anger. Curiosity and annoyance. He didn’t want to be here and yet needed to know what would happen. Contempt, disbelief. And a sudden surge of lust that made me gasp and spin away from him in shock, for my own body flamed in wicked reply.
It was hardly the first time I had sensed such feelings directed at myself. It was a normal part of life, usually distant, unthreatening, and easy to ignore. But this man’s emotions ran deep.
Deep, damaged, dangerous, just the kind of man we didn’t need here. Just the kind of man I should avoid. My entirely worldly, physical response to him told me that. Even with my back to him, I could feel his eyes burning into me like caressing hands. And I wanted those hands. I needed them—on my breasts, between my thighs, everywhere—with a force that made me tremble. He would be a fierce lover, strong and demanding and exciting… I longed to be excited like that.
He wanted me. If I walked over to him now, I’d only need to smile and touch his arm and he’d take me away, to his own rooms, wherever they were, or to some anonymous, discreet hotel where we could spend all night in wild, sensual delights. Forbidden, delicious, without inhibition
Maybe he’d exorcise the demon in me. Maybe I’d ease the demons in him.
But it would never happen. I needed my demons safely locked up, and I knew instinctively that this man spelled danger for me.
But I’d watch him for my mother’s sake, for I sensed he meant us no good.
As I walked back, I glanced to either side. He moved with me, following me, not just with his gaze but with his person, along the length of the wall, like a large, predatory cat. Or a wolf, perhaps. His lust enfolded me, teasing my own. But even over the space between us, interrupted by other guests who blocked my view from time to time, I caught the hint of contempt, the tinge of anger amidst the desire in his dark gaze.
Which made my temptation suddenly easy to resist. I halted and lifted one haughty eyebrow, allowing my own disdain for his undeserved judgment to curl my lip. I’d always found my stare and my eyebrow to be an infallible deterrent, but this man didn’t hesitate. His lips curved upward, and as though he took my attention for an invitation, he swerved suddenly in my direction.
My breath caught in uncharacteristic panic. A new, fierce tug of sensual yearning told me I couldn’t be anywhere near this man, and yet I wouldn’t run. I refused to be despised when I’d done nothing to deserve it.
“Shall we begin?” my mother said, shattering the strange illusory bubble which seemed to have formed over myself and the sceptical stranger. “Those who would like to join in, please sit down at the table. Everyone else, feel free to watch and move around as you wish. All I ask is that you don’t interrupt. Sir, would you mind closing the outer door?”
She looked directly at my sceptical stranger. She might have seen our little byplay, or she might have sensed the same danger I did. On the other hand, he was nearest the door. I wondered if he’d be rude enough to ignore her request.
But my sceptic inclined his head. The gesture was somehow more mocking than gracious, but he obediently walked back and closed the door as she asked. Then he leaned one powerful shoulder against it and waited, apparently, to be entertained.
I found my own refuge by the bedroom door for escape purposes, and waited with resignation for the show. God knew there was enough emotion in that room to make it a good one.
Spirit possession is easy to remedy. Possession of the heart is another matter.
Darke of Night, Book 1
After vicar’s widow and natural medium Barbara Darke loses her respectable teaching position, she reluctantly agrees to become companion to her former pupil Emily, now the bride of young Sir Arthur Haggard.
Once settled at Haggard Hall, Barbara finds her friend is beset by ghostly voices and unexplained deaths. In a maelstrom of dark spirits and wicked emotions, Barbara battles to lay Emily’s ghosts to rest—both hampered and helped by Arthur’s skeptical cousin Patrick, who provokes and attracts her in equal measure.
It would be a mistake to trust a secretive, guilt-ridden man suspected of driving his wife to suicide, if not outright murdering her. And it could well be lethal to give in to her own desires, confused as they often are with the lusts of the dead.
But Arthur and Emily are in genuine physical danger, and suspicion is falling closer and closer to Patrick—the man who haunts Barbara’s sensual dreams. The man who stands to inherit Haggard Hall.
Warning: Contains a medium whose body is open season for spirit possession, and a scandal-ridden journalist who only believes what he can see—and touch.