Only Scarlett can lift the Curse…
Scarlett Locking can see ghosts. When on the brink of womanhood, she and Luke le Tellier share a terrifying graveyard encounter. He is the only person who believes in her affinity to see the departed. But they part, and years pass.
Now widowed and running a dress shop, she supplements her days of hard work with remembrances of when life was simpler: when she was a beloved gentleman’s daughter before her station in life sank so low.
Luke, a spy, runs into her and requests her help on a mission to catch a counterfeiter, needing to dress as a commoner. The pair uncover a hoard of coins and another ghost. However, a mission of national importance calls him away, and they part on Christmas Day, her birthday.
He returns to Telford Hall to discover his father has fallen ill. Luke fears the Earl is dying. During a discussion about the family curse with his cousin’s new fiancée, he begins to wonder if the family curse is coming to take his father. A curse that condemns all earls to die by their son’s actions. Can his shared past with Scarlett break the curse, despite their class differences?
A thin young man came next, one unknown to her; he followed Mr. Bell closely. She wondered if he wasn’t a servant. A shiver ran down her back as she huddled over involuntarily in her hiding place before straightening. But her terror dissipated a fraction as she watched the handsome form of Mr. Bell and his companion. Scarlett wondered what interest all these people had for the churchyard.
Her eyes darted wildly along the path they paced, and she realized that they were all heading towards the graveyard; then, her distress returned two-fold, and Scarlett brought her shawl up to her mouth in panic. She wondered if they were people or scepters? Mr. Bell’s appearance warmed her cold toes and brought a smile to her face as she thought he must be the man she was to marry.
But she couldn’t account for so many others being awake at midnight and pacing the churchyard without hideous, horrendous thoughts intruding. The desperation to flee struck her; twitchy feet danced her away from the doors to the porch’s edge. One foot stepped on a stair tread then found the path barred by one she had no desire to see. Her uncle, Reverend Blisworth, blocked her way.
“Uncle!” She couldn’t help the words escaping, though it passed out as a whisper. “Uncle,” she repeated. The hoofbeats of blood pulsed everywhere, in her temples, across her palms, and the soles of her feet. She felt like a filly, wanting to run at the sight of the slightest disturbance. He came to scold her after having found the study door unlocked.
Her uncle strode purposefully into the churchyard, but he didn’t see Scarlett, who hid. She willed herself not to be seen—as though she could turn her skin and clothes the color of painted wood. The vicar paced the same path as the others, and as soon as his back was visible, Scarlett’s feet leaped down, and she sprinted for home.
The full moon lit her path; besides, she knew the way by heart. Her footsteps didn’t make a discernible sound as she turned into the lane. Light in the vicarage windows indicated that the Blisworth family had yet to go to bed. Her eyes fixated on the glowing windows, and Scarlett imagined sneaking up the staircase to her room. She didn’t hear the hoofbeats in the road as a man on a horse came barreling down on her, turning off the main road and onto Church Lane.
The horse was simply there, in front of her. The scream in her throat died in her mouth as she stumbled backward and fell to the ground forcefully as the man worked to control his prancing horse. Finally, it stopped moving.
“Jesu Maria!” he cried, seeming to fall out of his saddle and land on his feet. At first, she thought that he’d lost control of the horse, but Scarlett realized that the leads were firmly in his hand, and the man—tall, formidable, and stern (sterner than the Reverend Blisworth ever looked)—stared down at her, making her feel foolish and slight.
“What are you doing in the road at this time of night!” he cried.
“Church! I’ve been to church,” stumbled from her lips. Scarlett wanted to curl into a ball the more he stared at her. As though she were ten and being chided for some wrongdoing (which, perhaps, she had).
“No one goes to church at midnight,” he scolded. He kept one hand on his horse’s bridle and held out the other to help her to her feet. She shrank away from his hand.
“I…I…” she bit her lip, not knowing how to explain herself.