You are cordially invited to Christmas at Hembry Castle. An unlikely earl struggles with his new place. A young couple’s love is tested. What is a meddling ghost to do? In the tradition of A Christmas Carol, travel back to Victorian England and enjoy a light-hearted, festive holiday celebration.
The shadows were about again, long along the winding roads, high upon the hills, deep into the valley below, casting a deathly pallor over the tree-lined path leading toward the grand old manor. The castle, known as Hembry in polite society, looked a specter in the night. Accompanying the shadows were the echoes, a sense of a haunting. And why shouldn’t Hembry Castle be haunted? The house was ancient enough to have seen three centuries pass and the comings and goings of more souls than it could ever be expected to remember.
Who knew from whence such sounds came? The old floors groaned under whatever weight crossed them. Church-like beams cracked like decrepit bones as they leaned closer toward each other, ever closer. Certainly, the stately home was well tended and much loved, but still it creaked occasionally as the old will do. If you listen closely you might hear footsteps on the curving stairs, whispers in the halls, and flutters of damask curtains caught in open drafts.
The later the time the more menacing the shadows grew. With the disappearance of the moon behind rain-filled clouds there was little light, leaving long, distorted shapes. Cumbersome trees shed their red, orange, and gold leaves, pointing finger-like branches at the black-looking grass. And still the shadows. Shadows have always provided a good place to hide, especially on a dark autumnal night that threatened wet and cold. Especially for a ghost.
He was a patient ghost, standing back, not wishing to intrude. He hovered near the window and peered into the servants’ hall, squinting through the opaque glass that could have used a good scrubbing, hardly a surprise since the servants were busy polishing and buffing upstairs all hours of the day. The ghost glanced about, perhaps a bit nervously, perhaps not. He knew to take care not to be seen. He was not an iridescent spirit, pale and translucent. Had most people in the castle seen him they would have fainted. Has he come back from the dead, they would ask? Has he been stricken by some preternatural magic that gives life to the lifeless? It was the right time of year for it, certainly, as they headed toward All Hallows’ Eve. Throughout England were those with their fascinations about magnetisms, perceptionisms, spiritualisms, and other isms. Let the family think what they may. Rather, the ghost decided, let me stay out of their sight so they don’t think of me at all. It’s better that way.
The ghost was comforted by the sight of the housekeeper at Hembry Castle along with his dearest niece, both on their way upstairs, back to bed, presumably. The ghost glanced at his pocket watch and shook his head, annoyed by the time. What were they doing awake at this hour? The thought of Daphne, his niece, left him hollow inside. How he wished he could be at her wedding! He could not have wished a better husband for her than Edward Ellis—of that he was certain. Edward and Daphne were perfect for one another. He knew it the first time he saw them together at luncheon at Hembry, the way they gazed at each other until they felt other, intrusive eyes drilling them with relentless curiosity, when they turned tomato-red faces to their wine glasses, which couldn’t be refilled quickly enough.
The ghost moved away from the castle, not floating, merely walking, certain to stay under cover of darkness. He crossed the grounds at a quick pace and found himself on the outskirts near the decorative mock castles and the Greek temple façades. He stopped at the tree-lined avenue, contemplating his childhood home. He exhaled with pride at the dignity of the place, the sand-colored limestone that rose majestically heavenward, as though its very presence had been
ordained by a Higher Force. The winding river crackled as it jumped the stones, the water running faster from the constant rains they had been receiving. He turned to leave, the ghost. He meant to be on his way. Though he was still well hidden, the morning sun would break soon and his cloak of invisibility would vanish.
And yet he could not leave. He walked toward the castle once again, close enough to see through the library window. The ghost sighed. He had been cursed by his birth, landed into an earldom he was not suited to. He wanted to travel. He wanted to do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. Suddenly, the ghost saw his younger brother, Frederick, looking rather ghost-like himself as he wandered into the library. Seeing Frederick slumped and downcast, rubbing his hands together for warmth since the fire had died away, the ghost felt guilty. Suddenly, every mistake the ghost had ever made weighed on him. Now he, the ghost, was slumped and downcast, feeling the burden of Hembry Castle that he had thrust on Frederick’s shoulders.
Thank you, Meredith Allard and The Coffee Pot Book Club
About the Author
Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling paranormal historical Loving Husband Trilogy. Her sweet Victorian romance, When It Rained at Hembry Castle, was named a best historical novel by IndieReader. Her nonfiction book, Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction, was named a #1 New Release in Authorship and Creativity Self-Help by Amazon. When she isn’t writing she’s teaching writing, and she has taught writing to students ages five to 75. She loves books, cats, and coffee, though not always in that order. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Meredith-Allard/e/B000APN2C8
Meredith Allard’s Website: https://meredithallard.com/her-dear-loving-husband/hembry-cas-
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