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Jaclyn Reding | Exclusive Excerpt: WHITE MIST

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Excerpt from WHITE MIST by Jaclyn Reding

 

She was utterly surrounded by them.

Eleanor could feel their frozen gazes on her at all sides, watching her in silent study as she sat with her hands folded, gloved fingers laced together in her lap.  No matter where she looked, no matter how she tried to avoid them, they were there.  If she closed her eyes, she could almost hear them, their voices whispering to her on the flurry of the island wind—

Run...

Get out now...

Before it is too late... 

Eleanor's eyes shot open.

A medley of assorted deer, wildcat, and furry pine marten met her gaze, stuffed and mounted on gray stone walls that were unfinished and rose a good twenty feet above her head.  Nearby, a fierce-looking claymore whose scratched and pitted blade had no doubt contended with more than its share of severed heads hung alongside a dagger that looked quite able to gut an ox.

Oh dear, she thought to herself.  What in heaven had she just done?

Eleanor sat alone, back lamppost straight, knees pressed tightly together, wondering not for the first time what could have possessed her to come there.

Perhaps she should have listened to the warnings of Mrs. MacIver, the innkeeper's wife in Oban, cautioning Eleanor not to leave the safety of the Scottish mainland for the remote and perpetually mist-shrouded isle of Trelay.

'Twas the place haunted by lost souls, home of the Dark Viscount, Lord Dunevin—or as Mrs. MacIver had called him—The Devil of Dunevin Castle.

"He's the last of the MacFeagh and may they die wi' him," the woman had said in a hushed and secretive voice, crossing herself as if she truly feared the man could somehow hear all the way to the Scottish mainland.  "They are a clan branded by generations of unexplained deaths and rumors of otherworldly worship.  'Twas said their kind held mystic powers.  Sprung from a seal-woman, they were.  Even the name, MacFeagh, had roots itself in the Gaelic MacDhuibh-shith, 'son of the dark fairy.'"

As if to lend credence to the woman's dire admonitions, when first within sight of the island as her boat had approached, a sudden white mist had swelled thickly around them.  The notion of Charon's mythical ferry approaching the gates of Hades had come upon Eleanor so suddenly so that she half expected to see the dog, Cerberus, with his three ferocious heads and snake-like tail, standing guard at the bleak shore.  Even the boatman Eleanor had hired with the last of her money to take her across the choppy waters of the Firth of Lorne had shaken his head when she'd stepped foot from his small smack, his brow tilted sadly as if he truly believed once she disembarked, she would never be heard from again.

"Watch yerself there, lassie," he said, his eyes hinting that he meant more than just the step off the boat onto shore.

But then Highlanders were a superstitious lot, she knew, and Lady Eleanor Wycliffe was not.

Even as she sat now amongst the draft and must of this most ancient keep, Eleanor assured herself that the room didn't really have the looks of the den of Satan.  In fact, there wasn't a pitchfork or puff of hellish smoke to be found.  There were books tucked neatly in tall shelves, a worn carpet stretched across the stone floor, a broad and battered desk with papers piled properly in one corner.

Behind her, a fire burned happily in the stone hearth.  No smell of brimstone filled the air, only salt and mustiness and age, and the earthy scent of the peat that the locals were even now drying on the moor to prepare for the coming winter.  The wind didn't howl with the yawning terror of the underworld, but instead whistled through the battlements at the top of the castle's central tower, tugging playfully at the tartan curtains through the narrow window beside her.

Indeed, the place presented itself as just what it was, a very ancient-looking tower fortress on a most remote Hebridean island off the Scottish western coast, and if she put aside all those many things she'd been told about the castle's owner, she could even begin to believe there was nothing for her to be nervous about.

Until a sound came from outside the door then, like an approaching footstep, bringing Eleanor instantly more upright.

He is coming, she thought, and her bravado turned to instant ether as she wrapped her fingers around the carved arms of the chair.

What would she say when he arrived?  Good afternoon, my lord.  Yes, I've come to apply for the position of governess to your spawn—pardon me—child.  And if you please, I would be ever so grateful if you would not sacrifice me to the nether reaches while I am in residence...

What if he was truly as terrifying as everyone said?  Mrs. MacIver had told her the child couldn't speak, that her voice had been stolen away by her father in effort to keep her from revealing the truth of his evil deeds.  And what exactly, Eleanor wondered suddenly, had happened to the previous governess?

With a quick glance away from the dagger on the wall, she looked to the window, wondering how far was the drop should she need to flee.

 

Copyright © Jaclyn Reding with permission from Oliver Heber Books

WHITE MIST by Jaclyn Reding

Regency Rakes #4

White Mist

In effort to escape from a newly-revealed and terrible truth, Eleanor Wycliffe flees her former life as an heiress and gently-bred society miss in London. She happens upon an advert inquiring after a governess, and decides to seek the anonymity of a remote Scottish island, whose laird is reputed to be plagued by a curse.

What Eleanor finds is Gabriel MacFeagh, a man tormented by his past, known to all as the Devil of Dunevin Castle. On the isle of Trelay, Gabriel lives as a curious recluse with his young daughter, who hasn’t spoken a word since the loss of her mother in mysterious circumstances. With secrets of her own to conceal, Eleanor soon realizes there is more, much more to the man than the dark rumors have hinted at...

 

Romance Historical [Oliver-Heber Books, On Sale: March 5, 2024, e-Book, / ]

Buy WHITE MISTKindle | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Jaclyn Reding

Jaclyn Reding

Jaclyn Reding’s award-winning, bestselling historical and contemporary romance novels have been translated into nearly a dozen languages. A National Readers’ Choice Awards finalist, and Romance Writers of America RITA Award nominee, she is the proud, proud mom of two grown sons, and willing minion to an elderly cairn terrier and a tuxedo cat. Home is with her family in New England, in an antique farmhouse that she suspects is held together purely by old wallpaper and cobwebs. A lifelong equestrian, she spends her free time in the saddle, going over plotlines and character arcs with her confidant and toughest critic, a very opinionated retired racehorse named Brunello.

Regency Rakes

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