Nicole wanted a nice quiet vacation. What she got instead was a ghost hunting excursion across the British Isles. Her sister proclaims, she needs a little excitement in her life. The Veil has decided she needs a lot more than mere excitement.
Kit Krushenski, trapped by his cousin Jarrod inside the folds of time for over 150 years, has finally found the woman who can release him from the Veil. The only problem is he's arrived in a time before his birth.
Why the Veil has sent them there is a huge unknown. What they discover is even more dangerous to Kit's family.
Archeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been.
Beware and aware of things that go bump in the night.
“This is the stupidest thing you've ever gotten me into, Claudia.” Nicole Colbert wanted to throw something at her sister. Nearly tripping over a low to the ground headstone, she felt a fresh set of chills raise goosebumps on her arms. She pirouetted in a slow circle, trying without much success to get her bearings. “I'm going back to the hotel.”
Sure I am, as soon as I figure out which direction takes me to the car. They'd been walking for over an hour through the Wolfson family graveyard, had gotten turned around so many times it was disgusting and were now trying to track their way to the manor house situated on the hill. At least they could see the mansion despite the low light given off by the crescent moon.
“Stop it, Nicky. You said you wanted a little excitement in your life.” Claudia called back from her place a few rows ahead of her. “You don't think this is exciting?”
“No, I don't. This is a recipe for heart failure as well as stupid.” Nicole bit her lip to keep from shrieking in terror. Trying without much success to calm her raging heartbeat, she gritted her chattering teeth together.
To think, she'd proposed this trip as a break from the rat-race pace they both lived. Fly across the ocean, put them up in a five-star hotel and chill for a week. Together, they'd soak up the culture and visit museums. It made perfect sense to Nicole. Claudia threw a wrench into what sounded like a fabulous vacation, a dream respite from the craziness at home. Oh no, Claudia wanted to go ghost hunting. She'd found some wacky group while surfing the net which went on what the members called Legacy Trips.
The premise came across as a combination of a pitifully scripted reality show and a guided trip through hell.
Actually, the idea was off-the-hook crazy. They posted a list of places to visit, gave a bit of background on the legend, and then challenged a tourist to enter the haunt where they performed a ridiculous ceremony. At the end of the test, you were to report what you saw, felt and give proof by way of a digital photo that you performed the task.
Don't you get enough insanity at work?
Claudia was working as a junior trader for a major investment firm in New Jersey. Her days were rife with stress. Nicole understood that the anxiety of perhaps making a misstep with a client’s money was taking a toll on her baby sister especially since the market went down then jumped up, but in the stock market nothing was a guarantee.
Her own career wasn't much better. She worked days that felt like years on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. With the Dow Jones getting crazier, the markets reacting to the volatility, she knew she needed to take a breather before the pressure cooker she worked in gave her a major coronary. “Ouch,” she bit out between her clenched teeth when she banged her knee on a different slab of marble.
“You okay?” Claudia stilled.
“No, I'm not okay. This is ridiculous.” Not only was it ridiculous, but it was a sad fact they were lost. How the hell did you lose your way in a graveyard? It should be easy enough to find the main path and follow it out. The same packed earth trail they'd started their trek on. “I hate this. We’re lost.”
“We keep moving toward the manor house. From there we'll track our way down the drive to the main road once we fulfill the challenge. It's only a little way further.” Claudia pointed her flashlight at the dark outline of the house rising above them. The beam glinted off a window on the upper floor.
Half expecting to see a filmy figure staring back at them, Nicole blew out a stilted breath. The house was empty—she knew that much. After all, they’d waited for the caretaker to leave before they’d entered the cemetery. Seriously, she didn’t think a group of overenthusiastic cheerleaders could give Weston House what it desperately needed—life. She understood how she’d come to that conclusion, too. It was the way the darkened windows stood out against the backdrop of the brilliant white-washed exterior. In her opinion, Weston House was soulless. Another set of chills raked over her. “I know.”
“Then what's the problem?”
“I feel like we aren't alone.” As hard as it was for Nicole to admit her deep seated suspicions, she couldn't knock them either. The frigid air was one thing, the sensation of harsh glares being thrown at her from the shadows was a whole other problem. She couldn't get away from them or the suspicion they'd pissed off a gaggle of ghosts.
“All the better reason to get the hell out of Dodge. Right? According to our Legacy Trip challenge, all we need to do is find the Wolfson family crypt.”
Wanting to have anything to divert her attention from the fright encroaching on her, Nicole forced her feet to move over the fertile earth until she caught up with Claudia. She calmed a little with the knowledge she was next to a living, breathing person. “What is the story behind this place again?”
“The supposed haunting revolves around Christopher aka Kit Wolfson-Krushenski, the seventh Earl of Weston, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1861. The record says he might have been murdered, but a formal inquiry dredged up nothing definitive.” Claudia blew out a hard sigh. “The fear scale was based on when a new autopsy was requested by a distant relative. The examiner opened the crypt only to discover the Earl's body was missing.” Claudia paused. “The Legacy Trip says his corpse might be gone from his final resting place, but his spirit remains. He roams the cemetery looking for his body and is aggressive against those who desecrate this hallowed ground.”
Nicole digested the information. Desecrated? That's what they were doing. Walking through the maze of headstones with no regard for the dearly departed planted in the ground. They'd not cared who they stepped on or which headstone they cursed when they carelessly bumped against it. A flashing dash of a dark shadow to her left had her reaching for Claudia's jacket-clad arm. “What was the rating on this place again? Scared shitless?”
Claudia hesitated for a moment and a shiver entered her voice. “The Weston Family Graveyard was issued with a disclaimer, 'Enter at your own risk'.”
“Why the hell are we here?” Nicole's panic must have been contagious since her normally brash and brave sister started to shake.
“Let's get the picture and get out of here.”
The sound of footsteps rustling through the leaves took 'get the picture' out of the equation. She started to pull Claudia toward the Georgian-style mansion. “I say, screw the crypt and high-tail it for the manor.”
“You know what?” Claudia asked in a breathless whisper. “I agree.”
Before either of them knew what they were doing, they were racing around the graveyard, their gazes focused on Weston House. Skirting a mausoleum, they came face to face with a high, spear-tipped iron fence. “Fantastic,” Nicole bit out on a gasp. Her fingers curled around the cold metal, her eyes measuring the distance to the top. Leaning her forehead against the fence, she panted, her brain coming to the obvious conclusion. They couldn't climb the obstacle separating them from freedom.
No way. No how.
Claudia wasn't doing much better. Bent over, she'd leveled her hands on her knees and tried to catch her breath. “What do you think we should do?”
Through the rails, Nicole watched the tree limbs flow on the stiff breeze. Her heart ached to race from this place. Above them loomed Weston Manor like a specter rising from an unhallowed grave. There was only one way out. “We stick tight to the fence. It'll eventually lead us to the main gate.”
“That makes sense. Give me a minute to get my legs to stop shaking and we'll be on our way.”
“No problem.” Brushing a wisp of hair from her face, Nicole gritted her teeth against a sudden blast of biting wind.
//You must help him.//
“Did you hear that?” Nicole asked. With her head bowed against the driving gusts pummeling her, she peeked at Claudia. “Claudia, did you hear that?”
Horror-stricken, she watched her sister slap at the wind as if she was fighting off unseen hands. Inching her way toward Claudia, Nicole gasped, her heart pounding in her throat when something grabbed her arm.
Captured in a phantom grip, she tried to shake herself loose. All the while, Claudia screamed in horror. It was like a shroud was pulled down her line of sight until Claudia was nothing more than a shadow—then she was gone.
//He is trapped within the Veil. Only you can save him...//
“Who said that? Who are you?”
The eerily hollow whisper of her name stroked over her in the same instant the ground seemed to fall from beneath her feet. More like, their feet, the feel of a much taller figure took form. She could sense the specter gaining strength too.
The terror was no longer imagined or a product of dark shadows and leaves rustling, it was palpable—alive. “Let me go!” she shrieked. All around her, the world changed. The instinct to close her eyes failed her. She couldn't look away no matter how much she wanted to or how terrorized she became. Snapshots flew past her. Snippets of people, places and bygone days. The only problem with the scenario was that the images were so real she felt she could reach out and touch them.
Needing an anchor in this nightmare, Nicole lifted her hand toward them.
“Not yet, milady,” a thoroughly masculine voice informed her. The arms gripping her tightened their hold until she could barely breathe. “We're nearly through the Veil. If I don't time our departure correctly, we'll exit before my attack.”
Honing in on his words, taking stock that whoever was holding her knew what he was doing, she managed to calm down her thriving respirations a little. “Who are you?”
“No way.” But, you're dead. For some unknown reason, she focused on his voice and his arms around her. Probably, because knowing I'm not alone is better than the alternative. For an unbidden and sickening minute, she wondered if she was dead. Then, just when she wanted to scream she hadn't been a bad person, that she didn't deserve to die, he pulled her back to the freaky reality she was trapped in.
“Yes, way.” He chuckled at her. “Prepare yourself, we're there.”
In stunned dismay, Nicole watched him drag his fingers through a fleeting image flowing past them. “Oof.” All the air in her lungs was pushed out when they landed with a hard thud. Her fingers curled against the wood flooring she laid on. Gritting against the pain ricocheting from her ankle up her leg, she dared to peek at her surroundings. A cabin or shack of some sort. “Where the hell are we?”
Her gaze locked with his as he clamped his hand over her mouth.
Leaning close, he whispered his answer against her ear. “The better question is 'when' the hell are we?”
* * * * *
Christopher Wolfson couldn't believe he'd finally found her. The key to his freedom. The only person who could help him go home.
When he'd first spied them strolling through the cemetery, he felt a tug at his heartstrings. In truth, it made little difference he was going to kidnap one of the lovely ladies and take her to the past. He had to escape the Veil.
For what seemed like forever, he'd been trapped between the folds of time in the mysterious anomaly known as the Veil. His only link to reality coming by way of visions sent to him from the Voodoo priestess, Madame Camille. The same woman, who had explained the Veil to his grandmother nigh on fifty years before his disappearance, was his anchor in the storm of emotions that followed his capture in the shadowy bleak world of the Veil. The elderly lady didn't just communicate news from his parents and the earldom, but she also educated him in the intricacies of the Veil.
She even explained how his cousin Jarrod had managed to procure a spell to open the Veil and push him inside the folds of time.
At first he believed none of it. The Voodoo Priestess, who’d been a fixture in his life since his first trip to the Weston sugarcane plantation, had a way of staring at him. It was almost as if she was judging his soul and considering whether or not he was worthy of something. Exactly what the ‘something’ was, he didn’t know.
Then she told him how his family was chosen by the mysterious Veil. His grandmother had been born in the future and whisked back to the past. His own father found himself resigned to a similar fate.
She promised him all would work out once he understood the anomaly. There was a caveat attached to his escape, though. Once he exited the Veil, he was trapped in that time.
The Veil only works one way. Be careful, Kit. She’d told him time and again.