There is a hint of the wicked about Julian d’Alveda, a darkness that fascinates pretty student Chloe Anthony. Keen to learn more about his scandalous activities, she joins him at Candle Street Hall in Norfolk, a house with a reputation darker still. Once there, she quickly finds herself drawn in like a moth to a flame, first as his lover, and then rather more as the full scope of his strange obsessions and desires becomes clear.
We never did find out exactly why Julian d’Alveda was expelled. All we knew was that it had happened in the chapel, that it involved a girl from the village, and that it was, above all, dirty.
I pretended to be horrified, just like everyone else. Secretly I was thrilled, but then I always did have a taste for the darkness, and for Julian d’Alveda. He was older than me, very dark, with a strong, slightly harsh face that must have come from his Portuguese father and the blackest, deepest eyes I’ve ever seen. I used to watch him across the dining hall and imagine his powerful, bony hands on my body, doing things to me I’d never had done, rough things, rude things, things polite young ladies very definitely were not supposed to permit. His only failing, in my eyes, was that he seemed rather detached, academic, and far more likely to be found in the library with his nose in a book than out on the playing fields.
Then there was the scandal and any doubts I’d had disappeared completely. I was fascinated, entranced, my imagination running wild as I imagined what might have been going on when Reverend Smith caught them, and imagining myself in place of the girl. In the very tamest of my fantasies I was naked across the alter as he took me from behind, and the things I thought about in my wilder moments – late at night with my knickers pushed down and my hand busy between my thighs – those were enough to leave me blushing afterwards, for embarrassment at my own dirty mind.
I knew I was safe, of course. He was gone, and he’d never taken the slightest notice of me anyway. Why would he? I was that much younger than him, shy, studious and a bit of a mouse, I suppose, with my glasses and my hair up in a bun, my outward image a million miles away from what was going on in my head. True, I did get quite a lot of attention to my figure, but not from Julian.
The scandal happened on midsummer night, not all that long before the end of the summer term. By the autumn we all had new things to think about, and Julian d’Alveda and his expulsion quickly passed into legend. I still thought about him, particularly late at night when the disturbing, arousing thoughts would begin to crowd into my head, but I had no idea what had happened to him and I wouldn’t have had the courage to do anything about it if I had.
So time passed; my last few terms and my year off as a conservation volunteer in India, and university, to leave me a little wiser, a little more cynical. I’d almost forgotten about Julian as I sat in the careers room wondering what to do with myself. Term was over, campus almost deserted, myself and a few other unfortunates who were obliged to stay on beyond the end of term the only students about. The thought of settling into a regular job was depressing. I didn’t feel in any great hurry to start an attempt to climb the corporate ladder, but I was skimming through magazines on the off chance of finding something to inspire me.
I was reading an article on unusual jobs and suddenly there he was, as darkly handsome as ever, with a group of people on a sunny lawn in front of a house built of flints and age-blackened wood. I was sure it was him, but had to check the text to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself. Sure enough, he was showing people around Candle Street Hall in Norfolk, a tour guide for ghost hunters. I’d always imagined him being terribly successful; a politician perhaps or a high-flying banker, with a trophy wife six feet tall and most of that leg. To see him doing something I might easily have aspired to myself gave me mixed feelings; sadness to see my idol fallen, a sudden thrill blended with remorse to think that perhaps he might have been accessible after all. I was also curious, and suddenly wistful, remembering how he had made me ache, how I’d wished he’d even notice me, how I used to touch myself over him in the warm comfort of my bedsit; my top up so that I could play with my breasts, my knickers off or taut between my ankles, my thighs spread to the summer darkness as I thought of myself in the chapel, made to do something at once utterly unspeakable and impossibly thrilling.