Gothic Paranormal Romance Novel
Coming April 2017
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Nestled on Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin is a small, secluded town called Bloodmoon Cove with volatile weather, suspicious folk…and newly awakened ghosts.
Don’t close your eyes…
Back into the mouth of hell…
Daniel and Hannah Reynolds are newly married with their first child on the way when a notice comes from a lawyer saying that the remaining member of the Bonavaris clan has died and willed Bloodmoon Manor and all its possessions to Hannah, her former maid and cook. While Hannah can’t fathom the reason for the bequeath, the notion of selling the manor and the valuable items inside it begins to grow inside her like an obsession. She and Daniel have begun their married life with little more than outstanding debts from his medical education—debts that come due around the same time as the birth of their baby. After a lifetime of poverty, Hannah refuses to allow her child to face the kind of scavenging, hand-to-mouth existence that had led to her employment at the horrible Bloodmoon Manor in the first place.
Unable to convince his beloved wife to forget about returning to Bloodmoon Cove to secure a future for their family, Daniel has no choice but to follow her into what he aptly calls “the mouth of hell”—a place Hannah just barely escaped with her life last time.
Daniel’s worst fears are justified when the doors of Bloodmoon Manor slam shut behind them. They’ve been lured here deliberately, and the horrors that haunt the dark, evil manor aren’t willing to let Hannah leave ever again…
Return to Bloodmoon Manor
(The follow-up to The Bloodmoon Curse, Book 2: Bloodmoon Cove Spirits Series)
Excerpt © Karen Wiesner
“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awakening, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil…” ~Eleonora by Edgar Allan Poe
They didn’t talk once they set the timer in the bathroom and, as one, got into their bed in the room next door. They both had a rare, mutual day off, and a part of her still couldn’t accept that this was how they’d chosen to spend it. Taking a home pregnancy test.
The Hannah Cavanagh of old, the Hannah who’d been unloved, unwanted, cast into a nightmare with no one to save her, no one to even notice her existence, would have thought this situation was a dream. A dream come true. But also a nightmare.
The aspect of the situation that never ceased to send her mind reeling was that she’d been that damaged girl not long ago. It’d been little more than a year since her escape. One year, two months, and 18 days. Sixty-three weeks and two days. 443 days. 10,632 hours. 637,920 minutes. 38,275,200 seconds…
“What are you thinking about?” Daniel asked softly, his down-turned-at-the-corners, grass-green eyes tender.
Hannah fought the urge to laugh. He really didn’t want to find out that her mathematical brain had kicked in. Coping mechanism. I do it when I’m baking at the restaurant, too, trying not to think about how long before the rest of the staff shows up. How much faster I need to work to avoid them all.
“I can’t believe this is my life,” she spoke the recessed thought behind the superficial one. “I can’t believe how much has changed since…” Since my parents sold me to the Bonavarises, for all intents and purposes–and for such evil purposes.
“I love you,” he murmured, leaning closer to kiss her.
Hannah closed her eyes and sank into her salvation. Daniel Radcliffe had changed her life just by being the amazing person he was. From the first time she’d met him after she and Amberlyn and the Saunderby children had been rescued from Bloodmoon Manor, she’d trusted him. She couldn’t even say why. She’d trusted no one, not after what’d happened to her. Something about him… No, not just something, something random. This was definite, black and white. This, specifically this–the way he touched me. The way he looked at me. He seemed to understand me, seemed to love me even that first time. I didn’t know what that was, and I couldn’t resist the curiosity, my drive to find out exactly what I was dealing with. Even now, I can’t resist. In the few months since we married, my every deeply-buried dream has come true. Because of Daniel, all that he is and all that he makes me just by being the center of my life.
When he eased away a fraction, she reached up to stroke his dark, reddish brown hair with messy curls. He looked so much like a boy, other than the thick five-o’clock shadow that sometimes looked painted permanently on his freckled face. “You’re worried, aren’t you?” he guessed. He always seemed to know exactly what she was feeling.
“We were careful,” he started.
This time Hannah laughed quietly. “No, we weren’t.”
His face cracked with his sheepish grin. “This is so unfamiliar for both of us. We’re newlyweds.”
Daniel had been raised in a Christian home. In all the years he’d been a bachelor, he said he’d never met a woman who made him want to break his vow of celibacy until marriage. But with us, it was different. I never knew I could want someone to touch me like he does. It was unimaginable in my life until him. As soon as we got married, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. And, even though we used birth control sometimes, we didn’t always. Sometimes the thought never entered either of our heads. Now we may pay for that, for good or evil.
Gathering her closer to him, he said with the kind of confidence and faith she couldn’t imagine possessing, “We’ll be okay, baby. No matter what happens, we’ll be all right.”
“How?” The flood of uncertainties broke through the fragile dam of hope she’d built inside herself, insisting they hadn’t been that careless. “Daniel, we’re in so much debt, we might never get out of it, even when you get your degree. And, if I’m pregnant, how can I start that pastry arts program at the college? Even the two-year degree would be too much for me, if I can get myself to go in the first place.”
After coming to Marshfield with Amberlyn and Daniel, she’d tried to hold a job–all she qualified for, being a maid at local hotels. She’d had nowhere to go, no way of earning a living and inevitably she got fired from each position because she couldn’t handle being around other people. Normal people. She’d stayed with Amberlyn for awhile, but she’d felt wrong being there, sponging off someone she’d been anything but a friend to.
She’d even stayed (for a very, very short time) with Jack Devoti, who’d asked her to care for the Saunderby children he’d gotten custody of after his sibling had died. Jack had gone looking for his new charges after they’d been kidnapped by Katerina Bonavaris and brought to Bloodmoon Manor, where Hannah had been for a decade at that point. While it was true Jack wasn’t home most of the day and she was earning her keep, her guilt for the damage she’d inadvertently caused those kids with her selfishness had eaten away at her night and day. Somehow Daniel had seen her torment and he’d offered her the second room in his not-great apartment at the same time Amberlyn’s husband had given her a position as the pastry chef at Lyon’s Main Course, his nationally known restaurant. The job allowed her to work when there was no one else there and earn her living legitimately in a way she could handle.
With her living situation secured and a job she excelled at in place, she’d been attracted to Daniel the way she’d never been to another human being. He’d convinced her he’d hardly ever be at home, since their schedules were in conflict, but that hadn’t been the case. Not when they were magnetically drawn to each other, not when she couldn’t sleep, and she’d found everything about him–from his chronic slob nature to his contradictorily optimistic pessimism–irresistible. She’d asked Amberlyn once, “What does it mean when my heart turns into a bird and seems to fly around crazily inside my chest?” The answer, so simple and so unfamiliar had thrown Hannah for a loop. Amberlyn had said, “You’re happy.” Not “You’re in love”, which would have equally been true. Daniel made her happy the way she’d never imagined human beings could be happy. Even the tiniest matter, the playfully silly things they said and did together, brought her ecstatic joy.
Within weeks of moving into his apartment, she’d told him things about herself and her life that she’d never admitted to another living soul. He’d led her to believe and follow the God she’d prayed to a million times and been disappointed by in the past. She now believed God had sent Amberlyn, and Daniel most of all, to save her. She’d fallen in love with everything about Daniel Radcliffe almost overnight and, whenever she looked back now into the not-so-distant past, she marveled at the radical shifts that’d taken place inside and outside of herself.
“You worry too much. We’ll find a way. The Lord will watch over us.”
He believed that. She could see the total lack of worry in his beautiful eyes, and she let herself relax and believe, too, despite all evidence that pointed in the opposite direction. “Would you be happy?” she whispered, her fingertips on the rough hair outlining his full, firm lips.
Just as she’d known he wouldn’t, he didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
“You would? You want…a baby?”
“I want everything with you, Hannah. I want a family.”
How can I be a mother? “You would be a good father.” His brothers and sisters had many children, and he was good with all of them, regardless of age.
“And you’d be an amazing mother.”
How could he believe that? Everything in her life screamed her inadequacy, her failures. But she already knew how Daniel believed. Daniel was Daniel. He didn’t believe the best in everyone–far from it–and somehow that was what made the difference for her. He was generally a pessimistic who distrusted nearly everyone. Yet he believed in her. He loved her.
I’m a better person just for that. But how can I ever be worthy of a child after the horrors I’ve inflicted on those poor kids I should have protected? All I cared about was myself. I already know I’m nothing like a good mother.
“I hope so,” she whispered.
“I know so.”
They smiled at each with the familiar refrain of those words. But, like a warning, the timer went off in the bathroom. Deep fear settled inside Hannah again. Instead of letting it overwhelm her, she allowed Daniel to ease her out of bed and into the other room. He picked up the test stick in one hand. The word written on the stick couldn’t have been clearer when he turned it toward her with a blown-away expression.
Daniel quickly set down the tester when Hannah gasped and all the strength in her legs seemed to give out.
“I threw them to the dogs,” she muttered in wild terror.
He knew exactly what she meant. He shook his head, insisting, “You’re not the person you were, baby. You were desperate. Imprisoned in that hell-house for a decade. You were threatened with torture and abuse. A person who lives in that kind of daily terror…you become someone you’re not just to survive. Now, you wouldn’t make the same choices you did then. You absolutely wouldn’t now.”
“How can you be sure? I’m not at all certain of that.”
“Even that proves you’re a good person.”
She closed her eyes. Daniel drew her head to his shoulder, guiding her back out to their bed. It was barely six a.m. While they were both used to whatever their schedules required of them–four in the morning or noon–he knew she hadn’t slept much last night, when they’d decided they’d take the test first thing in the morning.
“Daniel, how can we be parents? We’re still working on lives for ourselves. We can’t afford this. We can barely afford the next tank of gas in our cars. And I shouldn’t even consider that education program. Cain won’t fire me if I don’t get the certification to bake at his restaurant. He’d be happier if I had it, but he won’t fire me without it.”
Amberlyn’s husband Cain owned a restaurant that’d earned a Michelin star long before he’d hired a full-time baker. Previously, he’d had desserts brought in from a local bakery each day. But, since hiring Hannah to do all the baking for the restaurant, her desserts had become so popular that customers were forced to “pre-order” to make sure they got one. The pre-orders were booked weeks in advance. No other pastry chef would get that kind of fanatical devotion–one Daniel shared. Hannah’s desserts, and her cooking in general, had him obsessed. He’d been attracted to her even when she’d been a lost waif, scared of the world. Scared of everyone except me. Thank You, Lord. An awed part of him had wondered if he’d taught her to smile and laugh. She’d said something like it the first time they’d done something silly together.
As soon as he got them settled under the blankets again, he drew her against him and she sucked in her breath, her almond-shaped, hazel green eyes widening slightly. He’d been so careful all this time since she’d come to Marshfield with Amberlyn because she had no one, nothing and nowhere else to go. He’d been wary about not spooking her, scaring her, making her run into the arms of darkness that would extinguish the light he’d seen in her from the first. That he hadn’t sent her running was another “God thing” in his life. What were the odds that this woman who’d been so damaged and traumatized would be drawn to him the same way he’d been to her? And, from the initial touch, he’d seen she wasn’t afraid of him. She’d been intrigued. Needy. We’ve both been alone so long, looking for each other even when we didn’t realize we were.
Slowly, he slid his hand inside her nightgown, watching her eyes continuously. He wondered when he’d stop being so aware she couldn’t have allowed anyone else this kind of intimacy at any other point in her life. This is just for me.
“We’re gonna be okay, baby. Trust me. Everything’ll work out. Okay, maybe we are poor, but we’re gonna have a baby. Our own baby. We’ll be good parents. We’ll give our kids everything they need. We’ll love them.”
“Kids plural?” She sounded terrified at the prospect.
He shrugged like his assumption was no big deal, nothing to worry about, certainly not right now, and she seemed to relax when he said casually, “Someday.”
He knew exactly what worried her so much: The fact that she hadn’t protected the Saunderby children more than she had when they were imprisoned alongside her inside Bloodmoon Manor. Beyond that nightmare of the past, they were in debt up to their eyeballs. That was his fault. Like everyone else in his family, his education had seemed more important than whether or not he could afford to be educated. His college debts were astronomical, and, when he and Hannah had gotten married, he’d had to reveal the truth of that to her. For the first time, he’d been ashamed. During the multiple times he’d become disillusioned and unsatisfied with the role he’d chosen at the hospital, his family had encouraged him to find something he enjoyed doing there instead of sticking with what he wasn’t happy doing. That had seemed like a priority, and so he’d gone ahead without worry about the future. Seeing his debt and his inability to settle down in his career choice permanently through Hannah’s eyes had been painful for him. He’d resolved then and there to finish out his bachelor’s degree that he was well into already. He would stick with radiology after that, even if he eventually decided he wasn’t happy doing it. In the future, he wouldn’t let himself change his chosen career just because he wasn’t feeling fulfilled or because something else sounded more exciting. More than ever with a child in the center of his future, he needed to make his vow count this time.
“I’m not doing my share, Daniel. It’s not just you. I have to stop letting my fear hold me back. Maybe I’m ready to do that. Maybe I can take on more hours at the restaurant. So we can have more money for the baby when he or she comes.”
She’d tentatively agreed to the program at the college–Cain had exerted a little pressure and even Daniel had thought she might be ready for such a big step. She was handling the whole person-in-a-world-full-of-people thing so much better than she had when she’d tried hard to hold onto those maid jobs that put her in constant contact with other people who could never understand what she’d been through.
“We have to have this verified first, Hannah,” he murmured, watching her eyes as he stroked her ultra-sensitive skin. Her stomach was impossibly flat. She’d been so thin when they met, gaunt even and ghost-white from living in the darkness of that house on top of the mountain for so long. Though she’d finally put on some much needed weight, filling out curves that had barely been there before, she was still so slim, he couldn’t help wondering if it was safe for someone as small as she was to have a baby. We need to get the proper medical guidance throughout her pregnancy. But convincing her of that…
Meeting new people was hard for her, almost as hard as getting close to anyone was, and he knew this would be even more so because a doctor would eventually have to touch her and sometimes in private places she’d protected most of her life until he came along.
“A doctor?” she asked.
He nodded, understanding her expression. She surprised him when she nodded as well. “I will.”
“I’ll be with you. Every single step of the way, baby. I won’t leave your side.”
She offered him a shaky smile. “Then I’ll be okay. I can get through anything if you’re with me.”
2 weeks later
Hannah’s gaze strayed, not for the first time, to the letter they’d gotten yesterday, informing Daniel about his college loan payback. Somehow that’d seemed like the precursor to the sick feeling settling inside her stomach and it’d carried over to her very first doctor’s appointment. Her pregnancy had been verified officially. She and the child she was carrying seemed to be in perfect health. If all went well, their baby would arrive in mid-January next year–around the same time they’d have to start paying back Daniel’s loans.
We can’t even afford doctor’s appointments, but Daniel is adamant about making sure me and the baby get the best healthcare throughout my pregnancy. My mother never went to the doctor with her numerous pregnancies, not even when the time came for the baby to be born. She never had any trouble. But would she have cared if she had, if one of us had died in childbirth? No, only if she was in danger would it have mattered to her…
Hannah thrust the bitter memories from her. How will Daniel and I pay for all this?
The timer went off, and she pulled the pie she’d baked from the oven. After she’d gotten home from her doctor’s appointment that morning, she’d gone for a long walk away from the paths other people might traverse. She’d found private walking trails almost as soon as she’d moved into Daniel’s apartment. As much as she wanted to be alone in the world, away from anyone who could hurt her, she’d also realized she didn’t want to be cooped up anywhere inside ever again. She needed to be outside, in the outdoors, with the sun and wind and fresh air and wide-open spaces. She’d never once had to use the mace Daniel had bought for her so she’d feel safe alone.
Back home again, she’d thrown herself into cleaning the apartment (Daniel was incapable of not making little messes wherever he went throughout the day), then starting dinner. She was making an all-new menu. Daniel loved when she experimented. She’d never met anyone who liked to eat as much as he did. She enjoyed watching him indulge in her lovingly prepared creations.
And once he’s replete, I’ll tell him I’m not going to go ahead with that pastry arts program starting in September. There’s no way we could afford even the associates’ degree, not with Daniel starting a whole new semester at the same college. He won’t get his bachelor’s degree in radiology for years. The only relief was that his job at the hospital was full-time. Combined with her almost full-time job at the restaurant–and the raise Cain had recently given her, maybe but hopefully not motivated by her tentatively spoken intention of getting certified–they could at least make ends meet week by week, even if things were always tight. But Daniel was either at the college or at work, studying more often than not. He excelled at juggling a very full life, rarely dropping the ball. She’d wondered more than once what would happen if he took on too much and they couldn’t spend time together the way they had since she moved in. His physical presence had become as vital as oxygen to her. She lived for their moments together.
Hannah’s gaze sought the clock. He would be home soon, and she could hardly wait to be near him again. If only things were easier, if an oasis could appear on their horizon pointing toward a time when their financial situation wouldn’t be so stretched so thin paycheck to paycheck. But there wasn’t anything to alleviate the mounting debt.
Other young couples had parents they could borrow money from, just until things settled and weren’t so strained. She and Daniel would never have that option. His parents (whom she loved) would rack up astronomical debt until they day they died, while hers… Daniel told me to forgive them. But I’ll never forget how I was nothing more than another mouth to feed in a family that was already too large. Unable to make ends meet, Hannah’s parents had seen her as little more than a meal ticket for them, especially because she had natural prettiness even without makeup or nice clothes.
When the Bonavarises advertised for a maid and cook, Hannah had been seventeen, the middle of seven kids. She’d had a part-time job since she was twelve. That restaurant had been where she’d perfected her cooking and baking skills, where she’d experienced her only joy in life up to that point. Her parents had taken every last penny she’d made. Hannah had never wondered what they were thinking when they agreed to send her to work at Bloodmoon Manor, an isolated mansion at the top of the mountain. There, the Bonavarises had no electricity, no telephone, and getting to the manor had been a time-consuming, weather-dependent ordeal without a proper road. The family was a rich, old one. Old money. Old mansion. Hannah’s parents had expected to receive paychecks, large ones, indefinitely. They didn’t care if I lived or died. Didn’t care that my “employers” were monsters with a far more nefarious purpose for me than simple domestic chores. And, when my parents heard four months ago about the Bonavarises’ criminal activities, they came looking for me. For a handout that I didn’t have to give them. I told them I never wanted to see them again, and I meant it.
Hannah swallowed the tension growing in her throat like a tumor. No, Daniel and I are on our own. But at least my family will never find me again, since they don’t know Daniel’s last name or where we settled after we got married. The letter they sent me was addressed to Bloodmoon Manor and got diverted here somehow–through bad luck. The only relief is that I’ll never have to return to that hell-house again. Thank the Lord. That is something to be grateful for.
Unfortunately, Hannah knew herself and her vices far too well. Daniel would handle her pregnancy without worry. He would focus on the life they’d conceived together, the love they shared. He could juggle the contradictions of being both pessimistic and obscenely optimistic the way she’d never known another person to. She would try to have faith for him, but in her hours alone she would go over and over every tick in the negative column until she gave herself a complex and got sick from the stress.
Focus on the baby. On how much I love Daniel. How well he loves me.
She got through another two minutes, counting those blessings, before her mind again turned to the three Saunderby children. Jack, who’d been eleven; Lydia, five; and Simon, only four months old. They’d been kidnapped by Katerina in order to draw Amberlyn to Bloodmoon Manor. When Katerina had realized the children wanted nothing to do with her, she’d enlisted Hannah to care for them in addition to her other countless duties. For those few weeks, Hannah had felt something she’d never experienced before–a kind of love and protectiveness she’d never experienced for anyone she knew, not even her younger siblings who were little more than strangers. But when Katerina’s jealousy at how the children had taken to her became violent and she’d made Hannah suffer for her pettiness, she’d let go.
I let the children go. I didn’t protect them. I took care of their basic needs, nothing more. Anything to escape Katerina, her mother Miriam, and their cruel cane beatings, their threats to send the men into my room at night… Amberlyn was the one who saved those kids. She would have given her life for them–for strangers–without thought.
I didn’t save anyone. I didn’t even try. Not really. What kind of a person am I? How can I ever be a good mother? I’m too selfish.
When she heard the lock on the apartment door click, Hannah threw down her towel and rushed to meet her husband. He dropped his bags, nursing shoes and socks as he pushed the door closed with his bare foot (he’d taken them off in the car, she knew), already reaching for her. Instantly, all her torturous thoughts dissolved, leaving her in the one place in the world she was safe, even from herself. She lost herself in Daniel’s arms, his kiss that transported her out of real life.
Why can’t I stay here forever? This is the only thing I don’t doubt.
“How are you?” he asked softly when he eased away a fraction. He kept her close and, just to be sure he didn’t try to move away, she wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned her forehead against his.
She didn’t need to speak. From the first, Daniel seemed to be able to read her every thought just by looking into her eyes. Today, he’d seen everything she was feeling as soon as he came in.
“Everything’ll be fine, baby. I promise you. We’ll do this together, and our lives will only get better.”
“All that matters to me is that we’re together,” she said, not even believing herself. This past year, that was all that ultimately mattered to her, but now they were pregnant. They were going to be responsible for another life. She’d already been assessed cosmically in this regard and failed. Do I deserve a second chance? Daniel thinks I do. He doesn’t even blame me. Maybe I’m not a bad person…maybe I really am only a victim of circumstance. The worst of circumstances…
“Dinner smells incredible.”
“Are you hungry?” she asked, already aware of the answer but smiling when he kissed her again ravenously. She didn’t let him go even then. She looked into his eyes, loving every adorable aspect of his face. He wasn’t picture-perfect, not like Cain Lyons was with bright, denim blue eyes and his tanned, movie-star looks that could have gotten him a permanent spot in GQ magazine. Daniel had a bump on the bridge of his nose, a scar in his thick left eyebrow from childhood folly, and a crookedness to his grin that never failed to get the “bird in her heart” fluttering wildly.
“How was work? Your classes?”
“Busy. I have homework.”
“I’ll find something to do while you work.”
He took her hand in his and pressed it to his chest. “As long as you don’t too far.”
She smiled. “I won’t. Come on. Dinner’s ready.”
Not until he’d plowed through the meal with his usual hearty appetite did she notice his shoulders seemed more slumped than usual, as though he’d carried a heavy burden there all through this day.
My pessimism? My worry? Apologetically, she murmured, “You already know what I’m going to say about that pastry arts program in September, don’t you?”
He nodded, leaning closer to her. They sat so close at adjacent corners of the fiberglass table with mismatched, brilliant orange and green chairs that he could easily take her hand and kiss the back of it. “I understand. We don’t have a lot of money, and neither of us likes the idea of daycare, which we couldn’t afford anyway. When the baby gets here, we don’t want to have lives as busy as we do now. Besides, I knew you weren’t in love with the idea of going through that program anyway.”
“Cain doesn’t understand. He’s frustrated with me.” Hannah was well-aware that Daniel had been on the other end of Cain Lyons’ frustration at one time. He’d spoken of how Cain had opposed Amberlyn’s continued friendship with him after Cain and Amberlyn got married. Amberlyn and Daniel had grown up as brother and sister, but Cain had been jealous anyway. Daniel had also spoken of how paper-thin Cain’s tolerance was for other people’s “bat poop”.
“How can he understand? He’s never been oppressed to the point of being a prisoner. He’ll accept your decision not to get certified. He knows you’re invaluable at the restaurant, doing what you do now.”
“I hope so.”
“I know so.”
She smiled at their melodic refrain. “Maybe someday I’ll be able to handle a job, my life, getting an education all at the same time. But not anytime soon. Not while we have a baby to think about.” She stood and lifted the pie cooling on the kitchen counter behind them that Daniel had been making cow-eyes at for most of the meal. Dessert was his favorite part of the day.
“Is that all that’s wrong?” she asked, setting the pie on the table. She cut him a huge serving that he would slather thick with his beloved Cool Whip.
He glanced at her only after he’d eaten a bite that he savored for a long few seconds of obvious bliss. Then he spoke carefully with that bit of casual discard designed to make her believe what he had to say was no big deal when it was the opposite. “I tend to hear about every death that takes place in the hospital.” He’d worked in the emergency room for a number of years that had taken their toll on him emotionally. The unexplainable premonitions he frequently had about death, even evil people, had proved to be overwhelming for him while in that section of the hospital, so he’d switched medical professions in hopes of lessening his premonitions on a daily basis. That had been the only time he chose to switch his specialty for reasons outside of boredom or greener pastures.
“There was a death in the hospital?”
“Yeah. This one really caught my notice.”
“Why? Who was it?”
He set down his fork and looked at her for a long time before he said in a low voice, “Miriam Bonavaris.”
Though the name was so familiar to her, something she thought about multiple times every day of her life and wondered frequently if a single day would ever go by that she didn’t remember her past, Hannah felt punched in the stomach at this news. “How…? What…?” she started, choking on the flood of questions rising in her throat.
When Cain and Jack Devoti arrived at Bloodmoon Manor and rescued Amberlyn, Hannah and the kids, Katerina had shot and killed her father, all of her uncles. She’d tried to kill her brother before she shot herself. But Russell, severely deformed and retarded by the incestuous relationships of the Bonavarises “pure” lineage, had somehow survived the bullet in his brain. No one had anticipated that.
Miriam, the matriarch of Bloodmoon Manor, had claimed during the preliminary hearing following her arrest that she’d known nothing about her daughter’s kidnapping of the Saunderby children. Katerina had orchestrated everything on her own. While Miriam’s claims had no real credence, the jury had ruled insufficient evidence at her trial. During the proceedings, Miriam had been diagnosed with lethal cancer that would claim her before the year was out. That may have played a part in the leniency she’d been given by the court. Russell wasn’t expected to live long either with old and new disabilities. With Bloodmoon Manor all but cut off from the rest of the world at the top of Bloodmoon Mountain, the law probably thought the two of them wouldn’t be much a threat to the general population and so they’d allowed them to return to their ancient familial home to live out the rest of their short lives. Local police had been alerted to their return and they were being watched closely–especially in the event of any other young women being lured to the mansion for the sole purpose of becoming a bloodmoon bride, not to be a mere servant as the Bonavarises had claimed with Hannah.
“I heard about it just before my shift was over,” Daniel told her. “I don’t know anything beyond that. But if you want me to find out more, Candy can probably look into it.”
Hannah tensed at the mention of their same-floor neighbor. Deep down, she knew Daniel could never find someone like Candy attractive, despite (or, in his case, because of) her sleaziness. Hannah’s jealousy of the woman was irrational, but she’d never been able to shake it, not from the first time she met her and realized Candy would probably do anything Daniel wanted. Anything.
I could never be like Candy. I’m not attractive in that bleach-blond, just-got-out-of-bed-tumbled way. I don’t dress in any way that can be described as fashionable or even in line with the times. I don’t have deeply-tanned skin and mile-long legs that I show off with rubber-band skirts and shorts and too-small tops. Candy comes to the door of her apartment in nightgowns that wantonly reveal all.
The fact that Candy worked at the hospital had always put gasoline on Hannah’s fire. Once upon a time, their neighbor had worked in the ER alongside Daniel, but she now worked on the cancer ward, where Miriam had no doubt been taken before she died.
At the moment, Hannah’s jealousy was usurped by endless questions. “We assumed Miriam and Russell would die at the mansion. It might be months before anyone knew it because there’s no easy way for law enforcement to get up there or communicate with them during bad weather, especially in the winter. But they were watching everything and said we’d be contacted if Miriam or Russell did anything. How did Miriam get to the hospital? Russell couldn’t have brought her. He’s disabled mentally, so there’s no way.”
“Do you want me to go talk to Candy?” Daniel asked, glancing at his watch. “She’ll be leaving for her shift soon.”
Though Hannah would have rather had her nose hairs plucked out with cooking tongs, she nodded. Candy could find out the details–she would ask around if Daniel requested it of her.
He stood and dropped a kiss on her forehead. When he went out of their apartment, Hannah wondered what Candy would be wearing this time. A band aid? Nail polish?
Rising from the dinner table, she went to the bathroom, realizing she’d paid no attention to her appearance for a moment today. While an indentured servant at Bloodmoon Manor, she’d been forced to attire herself in long, black muslin dresses that covered her from chin to ankle. Her hair had dutifully been worn in an old-fashioned bun everywhere in the mansion except her own small, dark, cold room. She hadn’t used makeup. Today she still wore shapeless dresses (knee-length) with tights and the garage-sale, low-heeled boots she’d gotten shortly after coming to Marshfield with Amberlyn and the kids. All her clothes were black and white with a few earth-tone pieces. She had enough clothing to get through three days without doing laundry. She didn’t pay attention to what she put on her body any more than Daniel did. All his clothes were ripped, worn and torn. That was a product of his inability to care about what materials he wore and also his lack of funding for new clothes.
He’d never cared that she didn’t use makeup, or did only once in a while, on special occasions like their wedding. He seemed to love her hair, especially when she left the thick, waist-length, black strands down.
Hannah swallowed as she viewed her sloppy appearance. She’d never been able to look at herself for long. But thinking about Candy next door, throwing herself at Daniel right this minute, she admitted to herself what always made her feel guilty. She knew why her parents had chosen to give her away to the Bonavarises. Of all her sisters, she was the most attractive. Miriam had chosen her out of all of them specifically because she was pretty, even without nice clothes and makeup. She’d heard her mother say just before she’d been sent away to Bloodmoon Manor that she was ‘classically beautiful’, but nothing about that assessment had made her feel special. Instead, she’d wanted to hide and that, above all else, was what she did best.