Authors: Kathleen Kirkwood
Tags: #romance historical paranormal time travel scotland victorian medieval
©Copyright 1998, 2012 Anita Gordon
Smashwords Edition, 2012
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without written permission from the author,
except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a
This eBook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional
for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this
This novel is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents, other than those in attributed
quotations or references, are either products of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. All characters are fictional
and any similarity to people living or dead is purely
Cover art: Bydand Publishing
Cover images licensed from Deposit
Photos:William Spiers, Anna Kucherova, Marina Tarassova, Claudio
Diviza and Anna Tyukhmeneva at
Couple image from Jimmy Thomas at
With love to my original critique partners,
Dee Gordon, Susie Brack, and Chris Hyatt, who now smiles on us from
above. What golden hours we shared, gathered around our dining room
tables, excited over each other’s stories, discussing, critiquing
and encouraging each other along the writer’s path. Ladies, you are
always in my heart.
Scotland, September, 1893
A chill of unease spiraled through Julia at the
very thought of the name. Strange it should affect her thusly, yet
it did, no less now than when first she heard it, two nights past —
the night Emmaline burst in upon her solitude and made her
ebullient announcement. . . .
“We’re off to Scotland, cousin! Lord
Eaton has invited the lot of us to his Highland estate, Dunraven
Castle. He leaves on the morrow, and we are to follow. Isn’t it
Emmaline whirled off in a flurry of
pastels and lace, leaving Julia slack-jawed and thoroughly
Scotland? On the morrow? How could her
aunts have agreed to such? Certainly, she wished to leave Braxton
Hall, but she longed to return to Hampshire, not the distant wilds
of the Scottish Highlands. Indeed, she had intended to broach the
subject with her aunts over breakfast and remained determined to
still. It was why she had retired early, forgoing the customary
gathering for charades and whist. She had polished and practiced
her speech till it flowed most persuasively from her
But now this. How could Aunt Sybil and Aunt
Rachel accept so precipitous an invitation? And from Lord Eaton.
Now there was a packet of trouble. . . .
The shrill of the steam whistle
pierced Julia’s ears, jolting her back to the present, back to the
constant rattling and shaking of the train beneath her. She
huddled deeper into her thin woolen cloak, her fingers stiff with
“Oh, look!” Emmaline enthused beside
her, wiping the droplets of condensation from the window with her
handkerchief. “A castle. Isn’t it splendidly romantic?”
As she spoke, the solid, rumbling resonance
of the wheels and rails changed to one of hollow clattering. The
mountains nearby, muted by mist and drizzle, slipped suddenly from
Julia leaned forward to see around
Emmaline’s caped and behatted figure. Still, this proved difficult
as the bench they shared faced backward, and the scenery could only
be glimpsed as it flew past and disappeared down the
Closing the space between
them, Julia peered out through the mizzling rain. And regretted it
instantly. The train raced along a viaduct, high above the rolling
landscape and at a fabulous speed. Her stomach did a
threatening to turn
completely as it had so many times since leaving London early this
morn. She steeled herself and at Emmaline’s insistence looked
She saw now that the viaduct curved in a
wide arc, following the contours of a deep and sheltered glen. Far
below, at the heart of the glen, Julia spied the unroofed ruins of
a centuries-old tower house. Its red-sandstone keep rose from a
spit of land that projected into a silvery loch. A gauzy mist
wreathed the grounds and tower remnants, lending the scene an
enchanted, otherworldly aspect.
Lilith, Julia and Emmaline’s elder
cousin and the third in their party, stirred on the cushioned bench
opposite. She rose from her reclining position and gazed out the
“A castle?” Lilith sniffed. “That
“Oh, but surely it was once a great
fortress,” Emmaline declared. “It looks to have endured a
tempestuous history, does it not? Imagine all it has witnessed
throughout the centuries. If only its stones could but whisper,
such tales they would weave of the proud Highland chieftains who
once dwelled there. And loved there,” she added the last with a
A smile stole through
Julia. The tapestry bag at Emmaline’s feet held a cache of Scott’s
stirringly romantic novels
— Waverly, Rob
Roy, The Fair Maid of Perth,
and more, all
well worn. Like so many of their countrymen racing north, Emmaline
had caught the “Scottish Fever.” Julia began to tease her of as
much when Lilith spoke.
“Your ‘proud Highland chieftains’ of
yesteryear were little more than coarse barbarians, dear
“Say what you will.” Emmaline tossed
her dark curls, smiling. “But, I’d wager they were immensely more
passionate and colorful than any of the men in our company this
Surprise stung Lilith’s eyes, as
though she had just received a personal affront. Her lips formed a
response, but before she could voice it, Emmaline turned back to
the window, giving a light shrug.
“Well, almost any of the
Julia blinked, unsure about to whom
Emmaline referred. Lilith eased her rigid pose, presumably
believing Emmaline included Lord Eaton in her comment. It was no
secret that Lilith — and her mother, Julia’s Aunt Sybil — had
staked her future hopes on the exceedingly blue-blooded,
exceedingly wealthy Roger Dunnington, Lord Eaton. Yet, Julia’s
instincts told her Emmaline held someone else in mind. Someone in
their company, then? Traveling to Dunraven?
Lilith regarded Emmaline a long moment
as if considering the same. She then reached across and patted her
hand, concern stitching her brow.
“I do worry for your judgment, cousin.
Fantasies aside, ‘passion’ and ‘color’ might offer temporary
diversion, excitement even, but they cannot replace more solid,
reassuring qualities in a man such as titles and privilege. Those
are the things upon which you must set your heart, if you are to
make an advantageous match.”
“Titles are not qualities. And surely
a heart must be given to more than cold fortune,” Emmaline
retorted, quick, defensive.
A shade too quick and too defensive to
Julia’s mind, and she wondered how the conversation had skipped
from phantom chieftains of centuries past to husband-hunting among
“Do not dismiss their import so
quickly,” Lilith continued. “Passion and color fade. Then what is
left a woman? You have heard our mothers speak. Choices poorly made
carry a lifetime of consequences.” She slid a glance to Julia, an
indefinable look entering her eyes. “Do you not agree?” her tone
turned candy sweet.
Julia recognized the hidden barb,
directed at her own parents’ marriage, but she answered anyway.
“Some choices, well made, regardless of station, prove without
A thin smile unfurled over Lilith’s
lips. “Of course, you would think so.” Drawing up the high fur
collar of her pelisse, she settled back against her seat and
feigned rest, yet her smile remained.
A stricken look washed over Emmaline’s
face and she started to speak, but Julia shook her head. She blamed
herself for playing into Lilith’s manipulations. Again. Soon
enough, Julia promised herself, she would return to Hampshire and
be no longer plagued by Lilith’s ill manners. She would miss
Julia nibbled her lip, her thoughts
circling back to who might have captured her cousin’s affections.
Julia could think of several in their company with more dash than
station. She could also imagine Aunt Rachel’s horror to find her
daughter enamored of any one of them.
Another scream of the whistle caused Julia
to jump. In the next moment, daylight disappeared and the pounding
of the train amplified threefold as they entered a tunnel.
Gratefully, gaslights burned continuously in the compartments on
Scottish lines. She owed this to the numerous tunnels through which
they passed, some miles long.
She prayed the tunnel would prove
short, for every discomfort of rail travel seemed magnified in its
confines — the pungent odors of the engine’s discharge, soot
sifting through the window margins, the deafening noise as the iron
giant labored up the gradient, plus the relentless jarring and the
unsettling motion of traveling backward. Julia pressed her lashes
shut and tried to ignore her stomach as it roiled beneath her
wretchedly tight stays.
She forced her mind to more pleasant
thoughts. Stubbornly, they returned, time and again, to the prick
of Lilith’s comments.
Julia released a small sigh. She did
not belong here, in the highborn circles of her mother’s family.
Not truly. The Symington ties had been severed years before, upon
her parents’ wedding day. And until their deaths, those ties
remained broken, punishment to a daughter who dared choose her
heart over the desires of her parents.
It had been a year since the tragedy. Since
the ship sank off the coast of Ceylon, taking her beloved parents
and all those aboard. Then, several days after the memorial
services, the inconceivable happened.
Julia had spent a grueling morning
with her father’s former partner and their solicitor, reviewing
matters of the estate’s debts. No sooner did she see them out of
her home, when a dark green phaeton, bearing the Symington crest,
pulled before the entrance. A footman hastened to open the door and
a woman emerged, diminutive in size but ramrod straight and heavily
veiled in black. Julia remained fixed in place, stunned as she
realized her visitor to be none other than the “old lioness”
herself, Arabella Symington, her maternal grandmother.
They stared at one another for long
moments before Julia recovered enough to invite her visitor
inside. At first, Lady Arabella moved silently through the rooms,
reaching out at times to touch some cherished object — a family
photograph, her mother’s lace fan and silver hair brushes. But when
she discovered a china doll, once belonging to Julia’s mother as a
small child, Arabella’s steely control crumbled. She clutched the
doll to her breast and sobbed her daughter’s name till her voice
went raw with grief. Julia watched astounded, and in that moment
she could nearly forgive her grandmother the past.