Chapter 13 sneak preview of my current work-in-progress:
Luca – Book 1 of the Demon Born Series (paranormal romance).
Pre-edit version. May change before publication.
An arched stone bridge soon came into sight. It looked old, but rugged and wide enough for a large car to cross comfortably. And it was a good thing the bridge was there, because the furious river it spanned looked ready to swallow anyone foolish enough to wade into its raging waters.
Belle stepped onto the bridge’s narrow walkway, and with a nervous glance at the swirling river below, hurried to the other side.
The trees crowded thicker here, but a clear path cut through their midst. Suddenly though, she felt alone as she walked. Whoever or whatever had been following her had stayed on the town side of the bridge. She glanced back, unsure whether or not to feel relieved about that.
Then a little ahead, the trees cleared to reveal the most imposing set of black gates she’d ever seen. They were nearly double her height and ornate and heavy-looking, and their dull menacing sheen silently radiated the fierce message ‘Keep Out’. It wasn’t even a surprise to find they were locked tight.
But it was the view of the big house through the gates’ metal swirls that had Belle staring.
House? It wasn’t a house. It was a damn gothic castle.
The building stood grey and weathered like a ghost’s cloak, three to four storeys high. Its jumble of wings and extensions sprawled across its unkempt grounds, and its pointy spires and rows of chimneys rose high into the darkening sky. It looked like the resting place of countless murdered souls and the last place on earth any sane person would willingly enter.
Which made it even more strange when a homely feeling that was entirely out of place swept over her. It was as if her Uncle Carl was suddenly standing beside her. With a frown, Belle looked around. But she was still very much alone. Unease had her wrapping her arms around herself. She hadn’t felt her uncle this strongly since the day he died. Was she feeling his presence because Aunt Dee was somewhere in that house? Maybe being kept prisoner? The thought had her panicking, and she tested the black gates again. They didn’t budge an inch.
Belle glanced around. The high wall surrounding the house seemed to stretch forever on either side of the gates. Whoever owned this place really didn’t like visitors.
She set off around one side, hoping there might be another entrance somewhere. But all she came to was a curtain of red ivy that reached from the ground to the top of the grey wall.
Well, it was better than nothing. And throwing out a hopeful prayer that her magic would work even just a smidgen, she flattened her palms against the ivy and concentrated. ‘Hold me, okay? I’m not asking for much. Just don’t break.’ The familiar warmth flowed from the plant into her hands. And feeling somewhat reassured, Belle took firm hold of the ivy stalk and pulled herself up onto the dense weave of leaves and stems.
The ivy held, and after a couple of experimental tugs, she clambered up further. Her soft flat shoe slipped once, but the ivy leaves curled up and cupped her foot so she wouldn’t fall. Belle smiled with relief and climbed on.
Now that her mind was free from the worry of falling, other thoughts rushed in. Lilah hadn’t been sure just whose soulmate they’d found in this place. What if it wasn’t Aunt Dee’s? What if it was hers?
Equal amounts of curiosity and trepidation flared in Belle. If her soulmate was here, then there was an awfully good chance he was a werewolf. Oh dear, pointy teeth and claws. She grimaced. Fate just couldn’t give her an easy life. But then again, maybe it was a good thing. Because no way was she risking getting entangled in a mate bond, so if the guy turned out to be a werewolf, then it would be a breeze to avoid falling for him.
And she reached the top of the wall feeling so much better.
Luckily, the ivy continued down the other side of the wall, though it looked thinner here. Belle swung her legs over and made to climb down. But maybe overconfidence had her moving a bit too fast because the plant buckled beneath her. Her stomach plunged, and her body followed. She yelped and grabbed fistfuls of ivy as she dropped. At the same time, her dress caught on a stalk and swung up, baring her flailing legs to the cold air.
But then suddenly, something stopped the ivy’s fall.
Belle hung there, clinging on for dear life and thanking all her lucky stars that the ivy seemed to have remembered her magic again.
“Cherries,” a man’s voice drawled beneath her. “And a sexy bounty of them too. It’s my lucky day.”
Belle’s face blazed hot. He was talking about her cherry-print panties, and with half her dress hooked up above her head, they were no doubt on wild show for the entire world to see.
“You know, you could help me down,” she snapped, unable to see him with the skirt of her dress in the way.
He laughed, low and deep. “Where’s the fun in that? Maybe I’ll just stand here and look to my heart’s content. It isn’t every day I get thieves breaking in and waving their sexy asses about.”
Jeez! Belle gritted her teeth. The ivy seemed to be holding firm, but she didn’t trust it enough to let go and reach up to unhook her dress. She was well and truly stuck.
“I’m not a thief,” she said.
“But you’re breaking in.”
“Only because you didn’t have the good sense to leave those damn gates of yours unlocked.”
He chuckled. “Well now, there’s some fantastic logic.”
Belle huffed. Her arms were tiring from gripping on, and bit by bit the ivy was weakening. She’d drop soon. “Look, I shouldn’t have to teach you this,” she raged down. “But if you had any gentlemanly manners, you’d help me instead of standing there ogling.”
“Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do?” he asked. “All right then, jump.”
“I’ll catch you.”
“No bloody way!”
“Trust me, cherries.”
Hah! Like that would happen. He sounded smooth, but he was probably some razor-fanged werewolf who’d likely let her crash to the ground and then make a feast of her mangled body. She gripped the ivy tighter. But the plant had taken all it could, and with a sad sag, it bid the wall goodbye and dropped with her.
To be continued next Friday…