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Death in Dallas

Some Juicy Gossip From Vikki McGlory Ward in Dallas

DallasSpring 1964

The day President Kennedy was assassinated, my husband Jack also died mysteriously. They ruled it a drowning—in a Dallas bathtub. But he wasn’t supposed to be in Dallas that day, and he never took baths. Determined to find out who killed Jack, because I wouldn’t accept the Dallas Police’s lame drowning ruling and shutting his case, I went from grieving widow to sleuth—and along the way, fell in love with the bodyguard my godfather hired to protect me. His name is Aldobrandi Po, a Sicilian who looks like Michelangelo chiseled him out of Carrera marble.

My journey as a sleuth brought me to a wide range of venues, from the Dallas County Jail to speak with Jack Ruby to a Plaza Hotel suite to confront a reptile by the name of Gio Bati, a lowlife gangster who just might have murdered my Jack.

I went to his suite with Al and my friend Polly, Bati’s ex. But I couldn’t meet him as Vikki Ward. Because we’d gone there on the pretense of offering him a business venture, I had to take on an assumed name and play a role. I’m no actress, and I could have been the next victim to drown in a bathtub if I blew this, but I did it for Jack.

We approached the double doors of Bati’s suite. Polly rang the doorbell, and I held my breath for the six seconds it took him to answer it. The door opened and there he stood—the bastard who’d plunged me into the agony of grief and changed my life.

He didn’t flaunt a greasy gangster look. His eyes weren’t shifty or beady; his lips weren’t fixed into a sneer. He was clean shaven, his shirt was crisp, his pants creased, his tie silk. Everything about his appearance reflected respectability and breeding. He stepped aside and swept his hand through the air in a welcome gesture.

I tried to keep my hatred in check. It wasn’t easy. This was an acting role in more ways than one.

“Hiya, mon cher,” Polly greeted him and Bati gave her a swat on the ass like an old married couple.

“You’re lookin’ good, vamp.” After a quick scan of Polly’s upper anatomy, he turned to me. “And this is Miz Daisy?” His eyes lingered on my décolletage. I tried not to let it repulse me.

“Right you are, but just plain Daisy to you.” Getting into character, I gracefully placed a cigarette in a diamond-inlaid holder and waited for him to light it. He plucked a lighter from his monogrammed shirt pocket. “Allow me. Hey, you’re one right purty filly, dawlin’.”

Al stepped between us and stuck out his hand. I expected his fist. “Aldobrandi Po. I’ll be a silent partner in our venture.”

Polly stood to leave and I knew we had to get down to business. As I fought down nausea, I silently vowed, I’m doing this for you, Jack.

“So—Ben—I hope this venture will be profitable for all of us. I purchased the personal telephone directory of a retiring Park Avenue madam. I caught some high-powered names in there. If this pans out, I’d like to start a male escort service, too.” Stay in character! I silently urged.

DallasWe clinked glasses and I made a sipping gesture but didn’t drink. He sank into an easy chair and took a sip of his drink, running his tongue over his lips. “Sounds like a noble way to make a living. But I’m hoping to make a hefty profit on this venture without having to do much physical labor.”

“You will,” I assured him. “That’s why Polly looked you up for this venture. Said you’d be a great asset to the business.”

“Well, I always steered business Polly’s way and never asked for a finder’s fee.” He stretched his legs out.

“You’re very generous.”

He looked down. “It’s just the way I’m sitting.”

“No, I mean—not wanting to be compensated.” I took another bogus sip. Al stood within shooting range of Bati’s head.

“So—take a seat, Al, and Daisy, was it? Cute.” He snickered. “Not too original, but cute. So drop the curtain and tell me your real name.”

I swept off the hat, making sure the wig stayed on. “My real name’s Cynthia Van Meegeren.”

Bati stood, reached for my hand, and brought me to my feet. “You’re a living doll.”

Al patted the pistol under his jacket.

I told myself to stay in character! “I wouldn’t kick you out of the boudoir, either, Ben.” I felt around until I touched the reassuring coolness of my .22. “You’d make a good male escort, too, if you’re, uh—up to it.”

“So, what brought you to this field of endeavor?” He refilled his glass.

“Well, I don’t know if Polly told you, but I was a call girl a while back, in Washington, D.C.” I recited my rehearsed lines. “I still maintain some contacts in Washington and entertain them when they come this way. Never did get to meet the Kennedy brothers, though. Isn’t it one of the blackest marks on our country’s history the way Kennedy was killed, right there in the open, with his wife right next to him?” I forced nonchalance into my tone, when in reality the memories tore my heart apart.

“Depends on who you’re askin’.” Bati dropped ice cubes into his glass with tongs.

This segue into Jack’s murder was easier than I’d rehearsed it. I pushed the excruciating memories away. Stay in character! “Jack Ward was far better than that youngster at the anchor desk now. Isn’t it terrible how he drowned?” I sallied forth, in agony reciting these lines. But it’s all for you, Jack.

Bati didn’t respond, just unlaced his spit-shined shoes and slid out of them. Like a snake, I kept thinking. A cold-blooded reptile.

“Did you know Jack Ward at all, Ben?” I ventured, going for broke now.

“How would I know him?” Bati glanced at his watch.

“I thought you might’ve traveled in the same circles.”

“They’re pretty big circles. If you ask me, Ward was a nosy sumbitch. Did the world a favor by croaking.” His tone remained detached, like he was talking about some historical figure he’d read about in American Heritage.

I wanted to choke him. Staying in character like this pushed me to the limit of human endurance. “I ask because Ward was one of my best clients. He told me he was onto the JFK plot.”

Bati shot me a quizzical glance. Now he looked interested.

I ventured on, “Ward was on the inside of the whole thing. Do you think he was silenced because of what he knew? Like Dorothy Kilgallen and all those other poor victims?”

“Yeah, so were a few whores with big mouths. I knew a few of ’em personally: Kandi Kane from N’awlins, who threatened to write a book about it, and Theresa Norton, one of Ruby’s gals.” His answer tore through me like a bullet.

On one level, I reveled in self-satisfaction at how well I was pulling this off. On a deeper level, I shuddered in revulsion at who this man actually was. Goosebumps sprouted on my arms. The hairs stood on the back of my neck. Dear God, how did actors do it? Stay in character!

Bati strode up to me and stood so close, I could smell the booze on his breath. “I hope you’re not always all business, Cyn, or sis, or whoever you are.” He bent his head over mine to kiss me. I couldn’t stop him. I tried to push him away, but it was like trying to move a rock.

Al yanked him off me, spun him around, and slugged him in the jaw. Knuckle cracked against bone.

Bati held his jaw with one hand, reaching inside his jacket with the other. Faster than she could blink, he whipped out a gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.

“No, don’t shoot him, please!” I pleaded.

“All right, let’s have it.” His voice grated like steel on concrete. “You might be a whore, but now I know—” He pointed at Al, “—he’s no goddamn pimp. You two and Polly are up to somethin’ no good, and I wanna know what it is.”

The jig is up. “Put the gun down, and I’ll tell you.”

His mirthless laugh made my skin crawl. “Nothin’ doin’. I know you’re both packin’, Bonnie and Clyde. Now tell me what’s goin’ on, and if I don’t believe it, he gets it first, then you.”

“Tell him everything, Vikki,” Al said as Bati raised his gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.

“All right, I’ll tell you!” I shook so hard my jewelry rattled. “Just please don’t shoot him!”

Bati kept a steady aim on Al as I trembled. “Having us followed, shooting at us in New Orleans…” I gulped air. “You killed the detective I hired and you drowned my husband. I had a lot of brushes with death finding out what happened. I want you to spare Al—please—he’s just my bodyguard. But you know what? Right now I don’t give a damn if I die, because I’ll be with Jack again. But first just tell me why you killed him. Tell me!” Hands outstretched, I grasped Bati’s lapels and shook him.

He didn’t make a move to push me away. I opened my palm and smacked him across the face. “You heartless, murdering bastard!”

Bati stared me down without a blink. “What in the holy name of hell are you babbling about, woman?” His voice stayed calm and even.

“My husband, Jack Ward.” I gritted my teeth. “Tell me what happened. For once, just find a shred of decency in that sick mind of yours and tell me why you had to drown Jack!” I raised my fists to pound at him. This time he caught them in one hand and threw them to my sides.

“I didn’t drown your husband, you fruitcake.” His tone was as calm as if he were telling the time.

“Stop denying it, you damn liar!” My breaths came in gasps. “I took a long time to track you down. You followed my husband to Dallas and drowned him in that bathtub. Now, if you kill me, I can accept that. But just tell me why you killed Jack. Why?” So desperate for the truth, I was willing to die for it.

“I don’t know what you’re yip-yappin’ about, and I didn’t drown your husband in no bathtub.” He looked down at me as if I were insane. “I never even met your husband.”

For a crazed instant, I almost believed him. His voice said it all.

“Okay, I’ll tell you.” His voice gentled, but his hand didn’t waver. “Your husband started showing up at JFK rallies and things, and following me and my associates around. I figgered he was onto us. He was a nosy, like I said. Typical vulture reporter. I work for whoever’ll hire me. For the Kennedy hit it was a branch of the CIA in cahoots with the New Orleans mob. I never met your husband, don’t know how the hell he got into a bathtub and drowned or what happened to him, I swear it.” He raised his right hand as if taking an oath on the witness stand.

“Look. Look at me!” Struggling to keep the trembling out of my voice, I tried to get him to take his attention off Al and onto me. Now I shook with fury, not fear. “Don’t you know me? You’ve never seen me before?”

“Nope.”

I yanked off the wig and my hair tumbled to my shoulders. “Now do you recognize me, Jack Ward’s widow? You’ve never seen my picture?”

“You ever pose for Playboy?” He leered, his eyes on my cleavage again.

“Certainly not!”

A wild, brash idea hit me like lightning. “Then maybe you’ll recognize me from the photo you took out of Jack’s wallet.” With one fluid motion, I ripped my blouse open and thrust out my bared breasts. Buttons flew across the room. “Now do you recognize me?”

He blinked, startled. His eyes bugged out. His mouth fell open.

Al lunged for him and knocked him off his feet with a karate kick. As Al grabbed Bati’s gun, I pulled out my .22, aimed, and fired. The silenced gunshot pierced Bati’s chest. He gurgled and gasped. Blood gushed from the wound. The metallic odor stung my nose and throat.

His lifeless body pitched forward. As he crumpled to the floor, I jumped aside and reached for Al.

“My God, Vikki, you saved my life.” His voice cracked.

“I’m glad you kept your wits about you when I yanked my dress open.” I swept my bra off the floor.

“I’m more of an ass man, myself.”

To this day, I don’t know what made me think to whip off my blouse and bare my breasts to distract that monster. I thought he’d seen a topless photo of me in Jack’s wallet. But I was in such a daze, I don’t think I remembered that, at that instant. We never told a soul, and his murder remains unsolved. But all these years later, as I’m in my 80s now, I told my grandkids about it. They trawl the internet for juicy gossip, and now they’ve heard the most salacious gossip of all, from their own Nana. And they promised not to Tweet about it or post it on Facebook.

By the way, I finally found Jack’s killer and he went to prison for life. But that’s juicy gossip for another day.

An Interview with Our Source, Vikki Ward

Vikki, what is your family like?

A bit crazier than others, mainly because my father was in the rackets in the 1930s and he’s a composer of Broadway show tunes. I had an unforgettable childhood. My father took me to every Broadway musical that came out. We had famous people to the house all the time for dinner and cocktails, and to me, they were just folks, I didn’t care how famous they were, or if their albums played in the background. Dad gave me piano lessons, although it wasn’t my calling the way it was his—I preferred painting, sewing and designing fashions as a creative outlet. I never knew my mom, she died tragically and suddenly when I was an infant. But my father’s second wife Greta treated me like her own daughter. We went everywhere together, museums, hair salons, shopping, for long strolls through Central Park. But in school nobody cared whose kid I was. It was a strict Catholic school and I was in a uniform like everybody else. My family is Roman Catholic and we still have all the saints’ statues in the hallways and backyards

Do you have any hobbies? What do you enjoy doing?

Designing costumes, going for bicycle rides with my husband and kids. I love to sing opera arias, although I’m not trained, and I make sure I’m alone when I do it. Fortunately, Al and I share a lot of interests – opera, painting, fashion—and one that most couples don’t share—guns. We have contests at the shooting range to see who’s the best shot. He also likes to hunt, which I don’t. But I’m good at cooking the venison he brings home

What is your greatest dream?

To write my father’s memoirs with the notes he won’t let me see until, as he says, “I’m planted.”

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

I want to be more introspective, to look within and find my spiritual path. But I’m always out there doing something with the kids—it never ends. I’m too exhausted at night to meditate or do any soul-searching.

DallasAbout The Book   

The third in the New York Saga, The End of Camelot centers on Billy McGlory’s daughter Vikki, whose husband is murdered trying to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Vikki uses her detective skills to trace the conspiracy, from New York to New Orleans to Dallas, and at the same time, tricks her husband’s murderer into a confession. A romance with her bodyguard makes her life complete.

November 22, 1963: The assassination of a president devastates America. But a phone call brings even more tragic news to Vikki Ward—her TV reporter husband was found dead in his Dallas hotel room that morning.

Finding his notes, Vikki realizes her husband was embroiled in the plot to kill JFK—but his mission was to prevent it. When the Dallas police rule his death accidental, Vikki vows to find out who was behind the murders of JFK and her husband. With the help of her father and godfather, she sets out to uncover the truth.

Aldobrandi Po , the bodyguard hired to protect Vikki, falls in love with her almost as soon as he sets eyes on her. But he’s engaged to be married, and she’s still mourning her husband. Can they ever hope to find happiness in the wake of all this tragedy?

An excerpt from The End of Camelot

November 22, 1963

Larchmont, New York

Vikki entered her foyer and dropped her shopping bags on the floor. As she locked the door and kicked off her alligator pumps, the phone rang. She answered it in the kitchen, so she could raid the pastry box while she chatted.

“Vikki, it’s Linc Benjamin.” His ragged voice came over the line. “I have terrible news. Jack is dead.”

“What?” She couldn’t have heard right. “What did you say?”

“Jack was found in the bathtub of his hotel room this morning—”

She dropped the phone and slid down against the wall. Her glasses fell off her face. The room spun. Sunlight glared. She smelled the new coat of wax on the kitchen floor.

“Vikki? Vikki?” came faintly from the dangling receiver. She crawled over and grasped it. He would tell her it was a mistake, they had the wrong man, or it was another of Jack’s practical jokes.

“My Jack?” she whispered.

“Vikki, I’m so sorry,” he sobbed.

“Linc—no, please. Tell me it wasn’t Jack. Are you sure? There must be a mistake. Not Jack.” Her heart thudded like a hammer. A stabbing pain pierced her chest. She held the receiver away from her ear.

“Vikki, are you there?” His voice came through the earpiece. “If you want, I’ll be right over. I can tell you everything when I get there, or right now, whatever you want.”

“Now!” she demanded.

“The Dallas police found him drowned in his hotel bathtub—”

“Dallas? What was he doing in Dallas? He’s supposed to be in Chicago doing a story on the FBI!” she screeched, beyond rational thought. No, this had to be a mistake!

“I don’t know, Vikki. The maid found him. The Dallas police tried to call you all morning, but you weren’t home, so they called here, at the network. Do you want me to come over and—”

“Wait!” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Now—where is he now?”

“Parkland Hospital. They’re going to bring the bod—er, bring him back to New York after the autopsy.” His voice broke again. “God, Vikki, I’m so sorry. I feel like I lost my brother.”

She went blank, too stunned to think. Her hands shook so much she could hardly hold the phone.

“Vikki, do you want me to come over—”

“No.” She released the receiver. It swung away and banged against the wall. She curled up on the floor as the ticking clock echoed the thudding of her heart.

She wept in unbearable grief. Shutting her eyes tight, she cradled her head in her arms. A jumble of thoughts rendered her helpless.

“Please, God,” she prayed, “Let it be a mistake and Jack will come walking through the door.”

The doorbell rang. “Jack?” She forced her eyes open.

“Vikki!”

Her head throbbed with each pound on the door.

“Vikki! Are you okay? Can you hear me?”

The voice was her father’s, and as much as she wanted him with her, holding her, rocking her, the present was too much to bear. She wanted one last visit to the past with Jack, happy and alive and free from harm.

But the raw truth seared her soul: The past is gone, and so is your beloved Jack!

Too weak to walk, she crawled to the door, reached up, and unlocked it.

Her father rushed in and knelt beside her. “Vikki, honey?”

She collapsed into his arms, heaving gut-wrenching sobs.

“It’s okay, I’m here,” he crooned, like he was singing the songs he wrote for her.

“Dad—Jack…”

“I know.” He nodded. “JFK was shot in the head. The governor of Texas was shot, too.”

“No. My Jack! They found him—” Sobs burst from the depths of her soul.

“Huh? What…your Jack?”

Unable to speak any further, she nodded.

“Something happened to him?” He sat her down on the couch.

She drew in a ragged breath and he grasped her hands.

“Oh, God.” He held her and stroked her hair as she sobbed, her tears staining his scarf. “Okay, Dad’s here, I’ll stay with you. I’m sorry, I thought you were talking about President Kennedy. He just got shot.”

“President Kennedy?” She shook her head in disbelief. “No. Jack’s friend from the network called, and—” She couldn’t go on.

“Don’t talk. I’ll get you a brandy or something.” He glanced over at her liquor cabinet.

She didn’t even want him leaving her for a few seconds. He hung her phone up and it started ringing instantly. She heard spurts of conversation. His voice sounded like an echo in a marble tomb. He finally stopped talking and came back with a brandy bottle, a snifter, and her eyeglasses. “I found your glasses on the floor.” He took her into his arms and rocked her back and forth. “You’ll be okay, you’re strong, you’re my girl,” he murmured, and she wished he’d sing to her.

Instead he explained that President Kennedy had been shot on the motorcade route in Dallas.

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About the Author

Diana Rubino says, “My passion for history has taken me to every setting of my historicals. The “Yorkist Saga” and two time travels are set in England. My contemporary fantasy “Fakin’ It”, set in Manhattan, won a Romantic Times Top Pick award. My Italian vampire romance “A Bloody Good Cruise” is set on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

When I’m not writing, I’m running my engineering business, CostPro Inc., with my husband Chris. I’m a golfer, racquetballer, work out with weights, enjoy bicycling and playing my piano.

I spend as much time as possible just livin’ the dream on my beloved Cape Cod.

Visit Diana:

Her Website
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Where Has That Woman Been?

Dear Mr. Clemens,

Thank you for letting me chime in with my addition for your wonderful chronicle.

Finding people who have the knack for irreverent curiosity, digging out the juiciest of tidbits and passing them along to you, is a favorite past time of mine.

Today my guest has the most fascinating story regarding a young woman who has been the talk of the town most recently, Arose Du Mouchelle.

A more ill-fated heiress you would be hard-pressed to find. She is the daughter of François Du Mouchelle. A widower. Until Lady Katherine Abbott, formerly of Gloucester, caught wind of his prosperity. Her ladyship came in lock stock and barrel with her two daughters and six cats. She skillfully set off to be me the next Mrs. Du Mouchelle.

The girl, after living with her new mother for only a few months, disappeared! We were told the child, being of gifted circumstance, had been sent abroad for ‘lessons’.

After many years already having seen over twenty summers, she returned home. When Lady Katherine’s eldest married, rumor has it Arose ran off with the notorious pirate, Captain St. James. Her whereabouts are still unknown.

My dear readers this is the most scandalous story of the year!

This brings me to the guest I entertained today.

Through delightful happenstance, during a meeting that purely coincidental, I am now in the confidence of a Miss Beatrice Cleary. I have discovered she had a front row seat to what transpired only days before the young lady’s quick exodus from Le Mason Du Mouchelle, based in Montego Bay.

I have invited Miss Cleary here for tea to discuss, before you my friendly tattlers…what exactly happened that day.

With my Shih-Tzu puppies Molly and Sophie yapping at the housekeepers heels, Miss Beatrice enters my home. Since having sent a note around inviting her to tea I am, as always, in hopes that she imports herself with more manners then her decade old hat and muddy shoes insinuate.

“Please come in Miss Cleary have a seat by the window. Have a teacake.” I say with earnest.

Afternoon genialities were saw to and after which I got down to the matter at hand.

“Miss Beatrice,” I ask, “What did you see Thursday last of Miss Arose? Inquiring minds simply must know.”

“Well, I sees Arose walking down the center of the street you see.” Beatrice’s bustle squeaked as she shifted in her seat. She continued, “I then spots those no account Murphy boys hawking about. I just knew they was in for some trouble. I sees them glaring at her in her fine frock.”

Miss Beatrice shoved another teacake into her mouth and said, “I runs up to her and tells her –‘that’s Shaw, Faolan and Liam. They ruined more than one ladies good name they has’.”

“My goodness, did she heed your warning?” I asked her divinely concerned.

“Well, you think she would have walked off, but she didn’t. Next thing you know, quick as a wink Missy herself lays out the biggest one, Shaw, on the street. Blood splattered everywhere, but not a drop on her ladyship’s jumper. She bows her head and walks off. Cool as a cucumber that one.”

There you have it gentle readers! A first account witness to what has taken Saint Anne’s Parish by storm. Where has Arose Du Mouchelle been and what has she been learning? Maybe this will give us some clues as to why she left and why with a notorious pirate. More to come next time…ta-ta for now.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Tellula Gossifer
______________________________________________________

About the Book

In a time and place where women are bred to be lambs, Arose has the soul of a tigress.

It is 1693 on the isle of Jamaica, and twenty-one-year-old, Arose Du Mouchelle, is the mixed-race heir to a sprawling sugar plantation. From an old gypsy, she receives a matriarchal heirloom: the Gem of the Red Spirit. She spends years in exile, learning its secrets and mysteries, the most important of which is the ability to enter the Astral Plane. In exchange for her powers, Arose must act as the sentry between this dimension and her world, forcing back the creatures held captive there.

Morel, a voodoo Priestess, covets the Gem. Taking hostage Arose’s family and the port town, she attempts to force Arose to give up the powerful amulet. Morel’s plan is to rule over the evil creatures imprisoned in the Astral Plane, unleashing them upon the rest of humanity.

While evading Morel’s henchmen Arose collides with Captain St. James a notorious pirate, whom she has already met in a vision. Leary of him at first, he gains her trust after he aids in her escape. She is knocked unconscious and wakes to find she has been had – both he and the opal gone. However, even if she recovers the opal she’ll have a bigger decision to make: keep the opal and doom her family, or give it to Morel and let the world fall into a demonic wasteland.

~excerpt~

She crouched on the ledge of a dune. The dying sun’s embers lit the sky just before the night arose.

     The previous hours of her day were difficult and tiresome. She wasn’t sure if her queasy stomach came from her boiling blood or the fact she hadn’t eaten since morning. The day’s close did give her some relief from the evil Voodoo and treachery, which followed her since that afternoon. Still her troubles would not simply end because the day did. In the guise of her alter ego, Evan, she could fool anyone. She had perfected a manly swagger. But, no matter how drunk she got in the pub, her troubles would remain. “He” would be on the hunt for her, ready to pounce, like a feral animal on his prey.

     Arose held a polished dagger up to the sunlight, to inspect the blade’s oily sheen. A jewel-encrusted fleur-delis adorned the pommel, glinted in the late evening sun. The same symbol of French royal heraldry decorated her family’s coat of arms.

     With a flick of her wrist, the perfectly balanced blade spun from her hand, flipped once, and pierced the sand between her feet. She retrieved the dagger and pursed her lips. Specks of sand flew from the swirling calligraphy of the monogram engraved on the shaft: NDM—Nessarose Du Mouchelle. The “N” made her shake her head. She preferred instead the name “Arose,” as her father called her, or even “Rosie” reserved for those who knew her well enough. Her youth had consisted of tussles with those who played on her name, giving her cruel nicknames like “Nessy” or “Pesty.” She’d grown to hate it.

     She traced the monogram with the tip of her finger and clucked her tongue when she saw the smudges left behind. Her breath came out as a steamy puff on the cold steel. Arose wiped off the droplets with her sleeve and checked the razor-fine edge for nicks.

   With a gentle whoosh, she slipped the blade back into its sheath built into her thigh-high leather boot. Swollen eyes from earlier tears prickled, tempting her fingers to rub them until their yearning was happily satisfied. She would be much happier staying in her room with a cool cloth rinsed in lavender water, but the entity invading her home made it impossible.

She had to search for the man who could help her save her family and the dragon who taught her everything. Never having met the man, seeing him only in a vision, she would know him by his aura and his scent, consisting of iron, cedar and citrus fruit and she knew his name: St. James, Captain St. James.

She crouched on the ledge of a dune. The dying sun’s embers lit the sky just before the night arose.

     The previous hours of her day were difficult and tiresome. She wasn’t sure if her queasy stomach came from her boiling blood or the fact she hadn’t eaten since morning. The day’s close did give her some relief from the evil Voodoo and treachery, which followed her since that afternoon. Still her troubles would not simply end because the day did. In the guise of her alter ego, Evan, she could fool anyone. She had perfected a manly swagger. But, no matter how drunk she got in the pub, her troubles would remain. “He” would be on the hunt for her, ready to pounce, like a feral animal on his prey.

     Arose held a polished dagger up to the sunlight, to inspect the blade’s oily sheen. A jewel-encrusted fleur-delis adorned the pommel, glinted in the late evening sun. The same symbol of French royal heraldry decorated her family’s coat of arms.

     With a flick of her wrist, the perfectly balanced blade spun from her hand, flipped once, and pierced the sand between her feet. She retrieved the dagger and pursed her lips. Specks of sand flew from the swirling calligraphy of the monogram engraved on the shaft: NDM—Nessarose Du Mouchelle. The “N” made her shake her head. She preferred instead the name “Arose,” as her father called her, or even “Rosie” reserved for those who knew her well enough. Her youth had consisted of tussles with those who played on her name, giving her cruel nicknames like “Nessy” or “Pesty.” She’d grown to hate it.

     She traced the monogram with the tip of her finger and clucked her tongue when she saw the smudges left behind. Her breath came out as a steamy puff on the cold steel. Arose wiped off the droplets with her sleeve and checked the razor-fine edge for nicks.

   With a gentle whoosh, she slipped the blade back into its sheath built into her thigh-high leather boot. Swollen eyes from earlier tears prickled, tempting her fingers to rub them until their yearning was happily satisfied. She would be much happier staying in her room with a cool cloth rinsed in lavender water, but the entity invading her home made it impossible.

She had to search for the man who could help her save her family and the dragon who taught her everything. Never having met the man, seeing him only in a vision, she would know him by his aura and his scent, consisting of iron, cedar and citrus fruit and she knew his name: St. James, Captain St. James.

About the Author

My name is Andrea. I have been spinning yarns since I was old enough to string two words together to make a sentence. I hope you enjoy reading about my debut novel Nights Arose. I loved writing it! I hope you love reading it.

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The Housekeeper’s Fears

From the diary of Beatrice Mellor, housekeeper at Blackheath Manor:

I worry about him, my boy.

He’s changed and I’m afraid I know the reason why.

ladyThomas James Worsley is the son of my late employer. So he’s not really my son — my husband and I were never so blessed, but nonetheless I nursed him.

I nursed him when he was as helpless as a babe returned to Blackheath after the war with Napoleon.

He was near death; the pneumonia had a strong hold on him. Each breath rattled through his lungs and I feared it would be his last.

I nursed him. I fed him when he was too weak to feed himself. I stayed with him night after night even when the doctor all but pronounced him dead.

I encouraged him when it seemed there was no hope. But I knew him. He was a fighter. Even when he got into scraps with his brothers, he would always been the last to yield. That fighting spirit helped him to live to another Christmas and then another.

I hadn’t realised he was blind at first, not when he was so ill and he spend more time in fever than not. And his leg! So many breaks in those bones and so many scars that he cannot straighten it for any length of time without pain…

My dear boy…

The way his brother treated him was shameful, but it’s not my place to question the Earl’s decision, mine is to do my duty and care for the people under my charge. And that is what brings me to this dilemma.

There’s a new addition to the household, a governess for the little misses.

Her name is Ella Montgomery and she knows.

She has seen Thomas and he seemed enraptured by her. I haven’t seen him this happy since the spring of 1815 – six years ago.

This can only end badly. I fear for him. His body has been broken, but what of his heart?

Nocturne-Cover-2400x1600ResizeAbout the Book

In her first posting as governess, Ella Montgomery discovers beautiful Blackheath Manor hides family secrets and suppressed passions. Mysterious piano music in the darkness of night draws Ella to the talented Thomas Worsley, the brother of her employer, the Earl of Renthorpe. Grievously wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, Thomas is held prisoner at Blackheath by more than his blindness and scars. Driven by bitter jealousy, the Earl has ensured Thomas is only a memory, his name etched on a marble memorial in the Bedfordshire village graveyard. Drawn together by their love of music, Ella and Thomas begin a clandestine affair, but how far will the Earl go to keep his family’s secret?

~Excerpt~

Ella crossed to the small window and looked out over the dales where she caught a glimpse of the village through the grove of trees and farmlands beyond, all wearing a blanket of snow.

Turning back to the room, Ella unpacked her precious few belongings. Before hanging them in the wardrobe, she laid her dresses on the bed to smooth them out – a winter Sunday dress of felt, the color of ripe raspberries, a forest green walking dress, and a Sunday dress for summer in soft buttery yellow linen, along with her slate grey day dress. The first three were all gifts from the Bishop’s wife. They were hand-me-downs, but still of the finest quality and not too out of fashion.

As she hung the dresses up, she reflected that Mrs. Stanton’s generosity had more than doubled her wardrobe. Before that she had owned only the grey day dress in addition to the black one she wore now.

Ella placed her most valued possession on the bed – her father’s Bible. She stroked the black leather cover, rubbed soft with age, and opened it. Inside were her father’s commentaries. Seeing his handwriting made her feel as though he were alive once more. Ella closed her eyes. The sharpness of his loss had barely lessened over the year.

She had never felt more miserable in her life.

The chimes from the grandfather clock echoed up the stairwell, registering the fourth hour of the afternoon. No one had yet brought the promised meal to her room – not that she was hungry, anyway.

She straightened her back, suddenly struck with the resolve to at least do something.

Although Mrs. Mellor had set a timetable, Ella was the girls’ governess, and therefore they were her responsibility. She would see them now and introduce herself before they were to be presented to their parents at bedtime.

Ella took a tentative step or two toward the staircase and looked up to the top floor. She could hear no sounds there. If she listened hard, she could hear maids downstairs preparing the dining table. Then she looked to the left and the right. If the school room was on this floor, perhaps the nursery was as well.

She knocked on several closed doors and received no response. The house was a jumble of passages and Ella soon found herself at the last door before a narrow stone spiral staircase. The sounds of kitchen activity below confirmed her belief these were the servants’ stairs.

She heard movement from behind the door – the scrape of a chair and a softly grunted curse. A moment’s indecision, then her hand was raised to knock on the door when Mrs. Mellor startled her for the second time today.

“Are you looking for something, Miss Montgomery?” she asked sharply.

Ella turned and found the woman’s expression as cold as the day outside.

“I’m seeking the nursery, Mrs. Mellor.”

“You won’t find it here.”

“Then if you would kindly direct me–”

“On the second floor. It is the room above yours. Use the main staircase, not the servants’. You do not want to give the wrong impression when you are new here.”

Mrs. Mellor extended her arms, drawing attention to a tray of food which Ella, so focused on Mrs. Mellor’s stern expression, had not noticed. The tray bore an elaborate silver savory dish warmed underneath by two small votive candles. Beside it was a platter of fresh fruit, a wedge of cheese and a sweetmeat dish filled with nuts.

“Oh,” said Ella, “I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble on my account.”

The woman frowned a moment, then saw Ella’s gaze upon the tray and her look became glacial.

“This is not for you. I have more important duties than to be scullery maid to a governess. Get out of my way.”

Mrs. Mellor set the tray on a side table opposite the door on which Ella had been about to knock. With cheeks flushed red, Ella turned and hurried back down the passageway. Behind her as she fled, she heard a male voice answer Mrs. Mellor’s authoritative knock on the door.

Ella found the main stairs and started climbing, mentally berating herself. She had been here a scant two hours and gotten off on the wrong foot with one of the most important people in the house.

Her first post had not started well – and she had a horrible feeling it was not going to get any better.

Available from  Amazon  and   iBooks

Nocturne is a novella from Elizabeth Ellen Carter whose full-length titles include Warrior’s Surrender, Moonstone Obsession, and Moonstone Conspiracy.

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