Celebrating Love in Another Time! A blog discussing timeless lovers throughout history, myth, legend and literature.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Serial Sunday: The Gypsy's Curse Post 2
Each Sunday I'm doing a serial thing, no not serial killer, but the protagonist in my story may be a killer! Each week I'll be posting a rough draft excerpt of one of my works in progress, and yes, they will be concurrent, so if you follow along, you'll get the story in the correct sequence. Feel free to comment or add suggestions from time to time. Happy Reading!
Here is part of Chapter Two of The Gypsy's Curse. Chapter two is the hero, Stephan St. John's point of view. He's a rich landowner, although not aristocracy. His father was a rich merchant so he's still considered 'merchant class'. Stephen has a little problem, as you'll see . . . is he a killer, or does he just indulge too heavily in drink and black out, and those grisly murders are a coincidence?
Copyright Lily Silver 2014
London, November 1816
Stephan St. John flipped the collar of his coat up around his neck and exited
his stately townhouse on Grosvenor Square. It was colder than a witch?s teat
outside this time of year, and after dark, too, but he wanted to feel cold.
He wanted to feel something. Anger, lust, hate, hunger. Even cold, yes,
that would do.
"Sir, if you'd just allow me to have the carriage brought around?"
Geoffrey, his butler whined as he stepped out onto the front stoop behind
"I'm fine, don't bother." He ground out, annoyed by the butler's
toadying. He clasped his walking stick in his fist and descended the stairs to
the street. "Don't wait up for me."
The butler acknowledged his command, stepped back into the house and closed the
Stephan moved past the line of townhouses, past rows orange lit windows with
glowing fires behind them, homes with families gathered together in cozy
drawing rooms. He marched past feminine trills of laughter and male banter at
the soiree four doors down from him, a gathering he'd been invited to, but
didn't plan to appear at.
A tall, sparse figure was headed toward him on the walkway, sporting a familiar
limp and equally familiar grey beaver top hat. He cursed inwardly, hoping the
dandy didn't recognize him in the shadows as they passed each other.
"Stephan, is that you" James Hadley, Lord Cavendish exclaimed,
drawing to a dead halt before they passed each other. "I say, you're
leaving Lady Carstair's already?"
Stephan leaned heavily on the brass topped cane in front of him with both
hands. "No, Hadley, I haven't been at Lady Carstair's soiree, nor do I
plan to be. I bid you good evening." Hoping that would be sufficient, he
straightened and started to move past his old acquaintance.
"Stephan, wait." Hadley placed his hand on Stephan's arm. "Why
not come with me? You need diversion. There's a new crop of Debs to be
inspected, you know. They've come to town for a bit of shopping and socializing
before winter sets in. Their Mamas are priming them for the season next spring,
a dry run, you know. It's always amusing to see the new swans glide about, fluffing
their feathers, hoping to catch the eye of a seasoned drake."
"Not tonight, thank you." Or any night, he thought, but didn?t
say aloud. "Perhaps we'll meet at White's soon." He started off
again. Hadley had the good sense to let go of his arm this time and let him
"Damn it, St. John, you need to stop this incessant moping."
Hadley's voice followed Stephan past the next set of stairs.
Stephan stopped again, tossed his cane upward and caught it lightly in his
fist. He kept his back to his companion. Few men would dare call him out so,
and on a public street at that. Few men would be brave enough to confront him
at all. James Hadley, Lord Cavendish, was an old friend, and thus, he was
allowed a bit of latitude where others might find themselves sprawled on the
street, their face bruising from a cruel left hook and challenged to meet Lord
St. John at sunrise at the opposite end of a sword. Stephan remained still,
biting back a sharp verbal riposte as his friend continued to take him to task
for his self-imposed seclusion.
"I know Byron's made it fashionable for men to brood." James went on.
"It;s considered romantic according to the ladies, but Julia's been for
dead two years. It's time to rejoin society while you still have people willing
to have you, that is. Come with me, Stephan, please. You can practice your
brooding on the ladies and perhaps break a heart or two into the bargain."
"James." Gripping his brass wolf head cane, Stephan turned about to
face his would be conscience. "I'm in no mood to suffer the inept wiles of
a group of adolescent girls fresh from the schoolroom, nor do I wish to endure
Lady Carstair's obnoxious attempts to set me up with one of this years darlings
she's agreed to sponsor. Leave it alone, old man. You don't know what you're
inviting in, if you did, you would be horrified, you would free yourself of any
and all connection to me as quickly as possible and advise others to do the
James Hadley laughed. His heels clicked on the cobblestones as he advanced, and
placed a firm hand on Stephan?s shoulder from behind. "Such drama! You
should take up writing poetry, or perhaps some ghoulish story, like Mrs.
Shelly's. I hear she's become more popular at the bookseller than her poor
husband, Percy. Where are you off to? I'll join you."
"I'm going to walk the streets for a while, enjoy the fog." He
returned with impatience. Would this man never cease his carping and let
"Walk the streets at night to search for Julia's killer! I thought
..." If James Hadley, Lord Cavendish, had an ounce of sense,
Stephan prayed he was calling upon it now. "I thought you gave up on that
old game. Its no good, the bloke who did it is long gone. Come, let's go have a
drink at White's, please Stephan."
Stephan ground his teeth, and remained silent. Damn the man, why wouldn't he
just leave him to his wandering and cease this incessant carping! "A
drink then." He muttered, giving in.
With any luck, James would be drunk in an hour or two and then he could send
the bloke to his rooms and be on his way. Stephan wasn?t looking for his wife?s
killer any more. He didn't need to, he knew who it was who had slashed her
throat and tore out her insides on that dreadful night two years past. It was
the devil staring back at him in the mirror each morning.
Stephan awakened to Brisbane's shuffling movements
about his room. Brisbane was pulling his master's riding clothing out
of the armoire and setting up his shaving tools. The man was a godsend.
Brisbane stayed with Stephan through the grueling months after Julia's
death. Brisbane stayed with him when he drank himself into a stupor
for weeks afterward and cursed at everyone who dared come near him.
Brisbane stayed with him when the
constable and the sheriff kept questioning him and doubting his
answers. Brisbane stayed close when Stephan doubted himself. Another
servant, with less loyalty and less fortitude, would have abandoned his
post and sought a more temperate situation with a less volatile master.
"Good morning, sir." Brisbane offered, seeing that his charge was watching him from the luxurious pillows.
"It is morning." Stephan replied dryly. He sat up and removed the covers.
Damn, that brandy didn't make one ounce of difference. He thought that
a couple of drinks with his friend James at White's might soothe the
beast that haunted his dreams or at least give him a night without
dreams. No such luck. His inner demons seemed fueled by the noxious
brew, not sedated, as he'd hoped. Last night's dreams were frightful. He
was in the woods again, standing over Julia's body, his hands covered
with blood. Only they weren't hands, the bloodied forelimbs he held out
in front of him were claws.
There were other images mixed with Julia's mangled corpse, jumbled pieces merging together that did not make sense. A
wolf, a vicious, deformed sort of animal that most closely resembled a
wolf or a bear. A wretched sound of howling echoing in his ears and
the taste of blood in his mouth. Darkness, night, the moon above, and
the serene lake below the hill he stood on. Voices in the darkness,
shouting, and torches marching through the trees.
And poor Julia, crumpled like a broken doll on the forest floor, her
nightgown shredded and a bloody mass of gore where her lovely ivory
throat had once been. She'd been with child, his child, or so he'd been
led to believe. Stephan cursed himself for opening the old wounds. It
was pointless to harbor bitterness toward a woman who had died a
horrible death. She may have betrayed their marriage vows but she was
not here to defend herself.
Stephan emerged from the warm bed with reluctance, his primal desire
to remain in the cozy nest for a little longer. That wouldn't do. He'd
only court danger by thinking of the dreams or of Julia's death. It was
best to get busy, move about, concern himself with estate matters
instead of moping about in a self indulgent bout of melancholy. He
stood, stretched, relieved himself, rinsed the dragons out of his mouth
and then sat in the chair before the mirror so that Brisbane could
make him look civilized for his morning ride.
The mist intrigued him. Stephan loved Hyde Park at this hour of the
morning, before the crush of carriages as the Ton converged on the
place in the hope of seeing and being seen. It was nearly deserted,
save a couple of other early riders like himself. They, too, seemed
content to remain anonymous during their morning exercise. He allowed
his stallion, Hades, to wander as he listened to the birds chirping
greetings to one another in the trees nearby. The dew would soon become
frost, in a week, perhaps less. As he inhaled the crisp autumn air and
surveyed the misty landscape, a peculiar yearning came upon him, the
desire to return to his estates.
He stayed away from the abbey since Julia's death. He shut up the
place, vowing never to return to his ancestral home and the bitter
memories that festered there. His steward kept him informed of the
business end of the estate and the cottagers who lived nearby kept
watch over the mansion in his absence. The people of Huntington Downs
were not to blame for his bad choice in a wife. Nor was the house
itself at fault for his failed marriage. Yes, perhaps it was time to
return to Huntingdon Abbey and face the dour ghosts and monsters
straight on instead of trying to run away from them.
It didn't work. No matter where he went, whether it be Bath where he
sought refuge, London or his sister's house in Devonshire. The memories
dogged his steps and haunted his every waking moment. He spent enough
time trying to evade the ghosts of his past.