When Lilacs Bloom

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 104,027
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Changing history won't be easy--not even when Libby goes back in time to save the man she loves.

Libby Leverett senses nothing evil in Mohr House and refuses to believe in a murderous ghost. Her beloved home is her treasure, and she won't entertain her fiancé's demands that she sell the old place. Things have changed between Walter and her, and when she finds James Mohr's letters and journals from 1842, she discovers an intelligent and sensitive man engaged to someone he doesn't love. The more Libby learns, the more she feels James is everything she's ever wanted--and everything that Walter is not. But when she writes a letter to James and leaves it in one of his old books in the study, strange things happen. The letter disappears.

When Libby learns that James's fiancée dies and her vengeful mother accuses him of killing her, Libby can't stand to watch the horrible scene play out. If a letter reached him, maybe she can too...

When Lilacs Bloom
0 Ratings (0.0)

When Lilacs Bloom

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 104,027
0 Ratings (0.0)
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Excerpt

Shades of Scarlett O’Hara! Libby Leverett twirled to survey her image in the ladies’ room mirror of the Cultural Arts Center. In her azure-striped ball gown, she almost believed herself Kate Dickens, the wife of the celebrated novelist. She didn’t often get to wear such an elegant costume, but the Ohio Historical Society’s annual fundraiser required period dress, which meant petticoats and full skirts.“How’s your ghost?” Susan Haver, her best friend, asked. The word “ghost” hovered in the air, but shattered in the harsh neon light of their surroundings, adding to the day’s aura of unreality.“What?” Libby blinked and stopped adjusting the dark brown coil of hair over her left ear. Wide-eyed, she stared at Susan. “What do you mean?”“I researched the Mohr family archives for you.” Susan bent to lace her leather boot. As Anne Cornelius, Kate’s companion, she wore a snuff-brown dress and resembled a demure blonde Quaker. “I came across some newspaper clippings from 1842. Mrs. Goodge demanded James Mohr be tried for murdering her daughter.”“James Mohr of Mohr House? My Mohr House? Did he even know the daughter?” No way did she want to hear anything nasty associated with Mohr House.“He was engaged to Camilla Goodge. She died at Hayden Falls.” Susan gave a final tug to her bootlaces and straightened her white collar. “The coroner ruled it death by misadventure, but Mrs. Goodge wrote to the governor demanding he overturn the verdict.”“Misadventure? What does that mean?”“I’m not sure, but I guess he meant her fall had been a tragic accident.”“So what did James Mohr have to do with this…uh, Camilla Goodge’s fall?“Maybe he wanted to break the engagement and Camilla refused.”“No way, I don’t believe it.” Libby frowned. “I haven’t found anything about that. You’re kidding, right?”“Hey, I’m the archivist, remember? Anyway, Mrs. Goodge blamed him. I’ve been going through her papers. She wrote letter after letter to the sheriff, the mayor, the newspaper editor, just about everyone in town.”“That doesn’t prove he killed her daughter or that Mohr House has a ghost.”“I never said it did. I thought you’d like to know because you own it now. Besides, a little ghost might liven it up a bit.”Libby responded with a nervous laugh. “You have too much imagination. Right now it does look like a Halloween haunted house, but ghosts? No way.”“I don’t believe in ghosts myself.” Susan smoothed her skirt. “We’d better hurry or they might send Jeremy looking for us.”“No man would dare invade the ladies’ room.” Libby gave a last twist to the hair coiled over her right ear. “You’re right about hurrying, though. Walter is picking me up here. He hates it when I’m late.” She pulled on the short cotton gloves Susan had assured her fit the period.The limelight made Libby’s stomach churn. Give her a warm fire, a good cup of Earl Grey, A Tale of Two Cities, and she was happy. Mohr House needed her efforts so much more than the society needed her to play Kate. However, Susan had insisted Libby take the role, and Susan usually got her way.“Ghost” echoed in her mind. Those strange noises… No, of course not.“When are you two getting married?”Startled from her thoughts, Libby stared at Susan again. “Married? Not for ages yet. I’ve so much to do on Mohr House before Walter and I can live in it. I’m camping out for the present. Walter would hate that. He wants everything modern and spotless.” Libby sighed. “I’m beginning to think he hates Mohr House.”“While you love it.”“It’s home. From the moment I saw it, I can’t tell you why, but that house is me. The Palladian window over the front door—”“Come on, Libby, don’t start that. I know how you feel, but they’re waiting for us downstairs.”Libby swept to the door and held it open. “All right, Anne Cornelius, let’s show ‘em.”“No, no, Mrs. Dickens, after you. As your personal maid, I open the doors.”Laughing, they scurried down the hall to the corner staircase. Jeremy would be waiting at the bottom so he and Libby could make their grand entrance as the author Charles Dickens and his wife Kate.When Susan had turned up that clipping on the Dickenses’ 1842 visit to Columbus, she and Libby had pounced on it as the perfect focus for the Historical Society’s annual fundraiser. Because so many people liked a chance to dress up, they easily convinced the society’s president to use it.At the staircase door, Libby stopped. “I’ve got butterflies.” She inhaled sharply. “Nerves. I didn’t think I’d be so anxious about this whole thing. You said all I had to do was smile and look agreeable.”Susan reached down to shake out the folds of Libby’s skirt. “Jeremy will hog the spotlight. Pardon me, I mean Mr. Dickens. He enjoys this kind of thing. He always plays his role to the hilt.”Grinning, Libby straightened her shoulders. She flourished her lace-covered fan and gave Susan a tremulous smile. “We’d better join him—that is, Charles—and greet the colonials.”She swished down the stairs holding the sides of her full skirt high. Each step revealed the toes of her black ballet slippers. Susan held the back of the bell-shaped skirt to keep it from trailing on the steps.Jeremy Cole, attired like a proper English dandy with the traditional white ruffled shirt and a black frock coat with matching trousers, waited for them at the bottom of the stairs. He reminded Libby of Colin Firth in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice…with just a hint of wickedness. He suited his part, despite being taller and better looking than Charles Dickens had been.He gave Libby a broad smile and winked. “You look superb, m’dear. No one would guess you’d spent twenty-three hours in a mail coach.” He took her hand and drew it under his arm as he led her toward the Center’s main floor. Society volunteers had tried to decorate it to look like the grand Neil House salon, the site of the real Dickens reception.Smiling, Libby focused on playing her role with dignity. “Ah, the effects of eight hours sleep and a good meal work wonders even on me.” She fluttered her fan with grace.As they swept through the doors into the large rectangular room, the sound of tinkling glasses, loud conversation, and occasional laughter greeted them. One guest, dressed as a coachman, gave them an elaborate bow as they entered, while in a corner to their right, a string quartet played an unfamiliar waltz.Through tall, arched windows in the brick walls, Libby glimpsed the reddening sunset sky. Long shadows stretched out over the partygoers. About a third of the attendees had chosen period dress. Of the rest, the men wore dark business suits and the women cocktail dresses. They mingled between the white-covered tables lining both sides of the room. Behind the tables, bartenders with beards and mustaches served beverages.The large, open room, with its planked wooden floor and high ceiling, would have made a wonderful ballroom. Despite its size, she and Jeremy could hardly move because so many society supporters had come. The volunteer coachman struggled to make a path through the throng. The attendees clapped and craned their necks for a close look at Mr. and Mrs. Charles Dickens. Some of the young women ogled Jeremy while one or two of the matrons fingered Libby’s gown.The society’s president, Gerald Wilson, portraying Columbus Mayor A. J. McDowell, approached them with a jovial smile on his face. Stuffed into a plain vest and dun-colored suit at least one size too small, Wilson’s normally ruddy complexion glowed even redder. A provincial next to the resplendent Jeremy, he greeted them with an outstretched hand. The inquisitive audience left off their chatter and laughter to listen to the two men.“Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Dickens, it is a distinct pleasure to welcome you to our fair town and offer our humble hospitality.” Wilson struggled with his lines and then stifled a nervous laugh. “Uh, my wife adores The Pickwick Papers and she cried copious tears over poor Oliver Twist and Little Nell. It takes a while, but we try to keep up with new literature.” He tugged at his high shirt collar.Jeremy, his arms crossed, gave Wilson an ironic smile. “Yes, but some of your compatriots print without permission. You wouldn’t expect your law clients to seek advice from you and not pay your fees, now would you?”Libby fanned the air just as she was sure Kate Dickens must have when Charles started on his tirade against the rip-off artists of the day. Her thoughts soon reverted to her favorite topic, Mohr House. The new wallpaper for the dining room had cost more than she’d planned. She hadn’t yet told Walter how much she’d paid. He’d have a regular tizzy fit when he found out. He complained over every penny she spent on renovations.An elbow in her side jarred Libby’s attention back to the reception. Jeremy repeated the statement she hadn’t heard. “So Mrs. Dickens and I decided to break our homeward journey here at Columbus, didn’t we, dear?”Libby nodded. “Yes, yes, it’s such a nice, clean city. Pity we can’t stay longer.” Her eyes met Jeremy’s and they both laughed.Wielding her fan, Libby again let her thoughts shift to Mohr House. When she first saw the wonderful Palladian window over the door and the staircase inside the large foyer, she knew she had come home. The house almost whispered to her, “We are one, I am yours.” The place wrapped her in a warm embrace that filled a void in her.The building inspector had assured her its basic structure remained sound despite the plaster falling off the interior walls and the discolored linoleum hiding the old wooden floors. She’d need a long time to fully restore it to period splendor on her income as a freelance writer and researcher. She could sell her father’s collection of coins, money, and medals, but she had little of him other than that memorabilia. Just a few photos.She snapped her fan closed. Her fiancé Walter tried to discourage spending any money on Mohr House. Since buying it, her feelings for him had changed. Now, she wasn’t sure she wanted to marry him.Breaking away from Jeremy, she worked her way around the room, greeting friends and smiling into faces she remembered from society meetings. With her parents dead, the restoration of Mohr House filled her time to the exclusion of a social life and even Walter. If he helped pay for the renovations, they could get married sooner and live in it as their home. He also wouldn’t have to pay rent. However, knowing how he felt, that seemed wishful thinking.She and Susan had searched the society’s archives of the Mohr family to find the details of how the house had been decorated and what furniture had been used. Tonight, Susan’s comments about Camilla Goodge and James Mohr made Libby determined to learn more. She wanted to know everything about her beloved home. A ghost, depending on whose ghost, could be interesting. She hoped it would be James and not a vengeful fiancée.A motion caught her eye. From across the room, Susan and Jeremy waved to her to join their group. She crossed the floor, her silk skirts and petticoats whispering at every step. As she joined the group, she spotted Walter steaming toward her. For a moment, panic struck. His rapid pace underscored the look of irritation on his face.“Here comes Walter, and he looks angry,” she whispered to Susan behind her fan.In his dark, three-piece business suit, he appeared so ordinary compared to Jeremy. A high collar, cravat, and frock coat would have looked more appropriate than his dark business suit and green striped tie. His dark hair, cut conservatively short, should have been longer, and he should have worn wire-rimmed glasses instead of contact lenses on his brown eyes. Libby chuckled at that. Walter would sooner be caught dead than appear in what he considered a costume in public. Still, his impeccable appearance drew admiring glances from many of the younger women.They just showed their ignorance. Walter was an accountant with a precise mind for figures. Not at all dashing or romantic, his insistence on good investments and his complaints about Mohr House riled her, but his sympathy when her parents died had pulled her through that awful time. She owed him more than she could ever repay.He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Libby, you aren’t ready yet. We’ll be late.” Annoyance lined his face.“Late? Oh…” At that, his words of yesterday about the importance of this evening flooded her mind. She hung her head. “With the fundraiser, I forgot.”Pausing a moment, she surveyed the crowded room and sought a solution. “As a guest of honor, I can’t run out. We’ll finish soon.”“By then we’ll be late, and you can’t wear that ridiculous dress.” He eyed her costume, and frowned as his eyes rested on the hair coiled over her ears. “It’s a company dinner, and I want you to look like an executive’s wife. Not like some…some…” He didn’t finish the sentence, but looked at his watch.He rubbed a hand over his chin deep in thought. “We haven’t much time, so you’d better change now. The restaurant’s at the other end of town.”Libby sighed. “Look, Walter, why don’t you go ahead? I’ll meet you there.”His face reddened. “Fine, fine, I show up alone, you get sidetracked, and I’m stuck. Forget it, Libby.”Sighing, she rolled her eyes as Susan appeared beside her with a glass of punch in each hand. “Walter, you remember Susan, don’t you? She’s an archivist at the society’s library where I’ve been doing my research. She’s helped me locate information on Mohr House.”Susan handed Libby the extra glass of punch and then offered Walter a warm smile as she extended her hand. “Hello, I’m glad to see—”“Hi, how are you?” Walter spared Susan an automatic smile and turned to Libby. “We just have time.”“Walter, I can’t leave yet. We finish at seven and that’s…” She looked at the clock on the opposite wall and tried to make her tone soothing. “A half hour, less than half an hour. It won’t take me long to change, and traffic won’t be a problem.”He reached for her arm as if to hurry her. Over his left shoulder, she spotted a bank president and the CEO of a small manufacturing firm talking nearby.“Why don’t you mingle a bit? Who knows, you might find a customer or two here. The society has some wealthy supporters.” She nodded toward the two men.“Libby, there are times…” Walter followed her gaze. “Umm, yes, I see, but please, hurry.” He walked toward the bank president.With relief, she watched him approach the two men. “We’d better finish on time.”“Well, you can always plead a headache or the vapors and retire to your boudoir,” Susan said.Libby grinned back. “At least I brought my black dress. The women at these affairs almost always wear black or boring beige. I won’t look as elegant as Walter would like, but at least I’ll pass.” She glanced down at the black slippers peeping from beneath her gown “Damn! I forgot to bring my heels.”“Don’t worry, flats are fine, too. You lucked out. Black and flats. Everyone wears them. Why not leave your hair like this?” Susan tucked in a stray strand. “They’ll assume you spent the afternoon at the hairdresser.”Libby released a long-suffering sigh. “I hope so. I hate Walter’s business dinners. I don’t know the people, and I never know what to say. They talk about making money and the Republican Party. It gets even worse if they complain about the Democrats.”Susan chuckled. “Well, maybe you can pick up some investment tips. You said you needed some money for Mohr House.”“I do, and I thought about that earlier this evening, but it takes money to make money and I haven’t any to spare right now. Never mind about that. Come on, Susan, we should mingle.”Libby moved toward the far corner where Jeremy held forth to a group of three men and four women. He appeared to enjoy himself as the women hung on his every word. Off to the other side, Walter talked with the bank president. She turned away before he saw her.Greeting people, Libby and Susan worked their way through the crowd. They had almost reached Jeremy when she noticed the bartenders removing the liquor, packing bottles into boxes with quick, practiced movements.A glance at the clock read seven. “Susan, I’ve got to run, and I have to change. Give my excuses to Jeremy and Mr. Wilson.” She picked up her skirts and slipped through the door to the stairs. Racing up the steps, she took them two at a time, down the hall, and into the ladies’ room where she’d left her clothes. As she shed her gown and petticoats, she stuffed them into a large plastic bag and pulled her black cotton knit dress over her hips.When she glanced over her shoulder into the mirror, she saw that several wisps of hair stood on end and one strand hung down her neck. She wet her fingers and smoothed the unruly hair. After applying lipstick, she shoved it in her purse.“Well, Walter, I hope I’ll do.”Carrying her purse and the bag with her costume, she hurried downstairs, the overstuffed bag bumping against her legs. The crowd had diminished as volunteers on chairs and ladders removed the decorations. She spotted Walter still deep in conversation with the bank president. Oblivious to her arrival, he focused on the banker’s every word.Walter nodded in vigorous agreement with the banker’s last comment. “Yes, we’ve looked at some property in that vicinity. If the rezoning goes through, we expect to sell the place at a profit.”“You will,” the president replied. “Well, I see my wife is ready to go. If you’ll excuse me?” He turned and strode toward a silver-haired woman wearing an amber Anne Klein dress. Libby sighed, wishing she had the money that dress must have cost to pay for her new wallpaper.“Nice talking to you, J.C.,” Walter called after him.“I thought you were in hurry.” Libby handed him the bag containing her gown.“I am, but it isn’t every day I talk with J. Calvin Cunningham. Did you hear what he said about the zoning? Now that’s worth something.” Walter took her arm, a smile on his face as he marched toward the exit.Tonight she had to survive a boring dinner and listen to business chitchat. Walter’s colleagues never noticed if she had little to say, so she could focus on Mohr House and her plans for it.Tomorrow she would corner Susan about James Mohr and his fiancée, Camilla Goodge. A ghost. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. If it was a friendly ghost.

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