Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

A Magical Tale for a Winter’s Day: “A Cold Spring” Episodes 5 and 6

At the beginning of December, I started posting “A Cold
Spring,” a witched-up serial story, on Paranormal Romantics for my monthly guest post. But it seems to me like a month is too damn long to wait–Let’s hear it for Immediate Gratification!!! So I’m speeding up things by posting here every week as well as on Paranormal Romantics when it’s my turn.

If you missed the first 4 episodes–here they are!

Episode 5: Everything Changed

Twice, Lucia blasted the Darkmore and La Croix families nearly into oblivion. I was very young the first time, the memory a blur of panic and fear and grief. A thousand years later, Maddock and I intended to lay old ghosts to rest.

We hoped the formal dinner to celebrate our marriage would be a first step toward healing the rifts between our two families. Time, we hoped, had eroded their ancient fears. Intoxicated by our own joy, we invited everyone: La Croixs and Darkmores, those who remembered the Time Before along with the young ones who knew of such things only in legend.

. . .Fear flickered behind a thousand smiles.

My stately Celtic Darkmore relatives mixed with Maddock’s New World La Croix family in an oddly familiar blend. I was only a child when Lucia destroyed Old Castle Highmoor and blew the alliance apart, but I remember peeping over the banister from the upper level of the old castle on a throng much like this one on the last night of the Time Before.

New Castle Highmoor, erected on the ruins of the old castle, was supposed to be a symbol of a new beginning. Nearly a thousand guests overflowed from the sumptuous drawing room of New Castle Highmoor to the elegant ballroom to the spacious veranda even spilled out into the verdant gardens. In the foyer, Maddock and I greeted each and every one.

Giggling cousins in brightly colored gowns cascaded down the steps into the garden, a bubbling tributary from the main concourse of matronly aunts in their finest brocades and portly uncles whose interests lay closer to the Scotch bottles and comfortable chairs in the drawing room.

All afternoon and into the evening, they came. Some drove modern cars or opted for traditional horse drawn carriages—equally impressive to manage in this secluded region. Others dispensed with pretense and materialized from dramatically boiling clouds of smoke or, more festive, alighted from gauzy spheres of purple magic.

Our secret would be common knowledge soon enough.

Many extended a blessing for an abundance of children to their greetings and a private smile passed between Maddock and me. Our secret would be common knowledge soon enough but for now it was a sweet and intimate bond only we shared.

On that night months ago, I listened to a thousand versions of “may you have a long life and much happiness,” grasped a thousand hands in welcome, noted fear flickering behind a thousand smiles. A millennium had not erased the terror associated with this valley.

In our families, old habits die hard.

Episode 6: Fashionably Late

Fashionably late, Aunt Clarissa, the matriarch of my family, stepped regally from an elegant silver and gray coach drawn by four matched gray mares. Her burgundy brocade gown emphasized the gleaming green eyes and ivory skin for which we Darkmores are known. An onyx and diamond comb adorned her once blonde hair, now streaked with glittering strands of silver. Escorted by a young footman in sable livery, she ascended the seven steps to the broad veranda of Castle Highmoor and into the foyer like the queen she was. She extended a stiff hand to Maddock.

“A pleasure to welcome you to our home, Aunt,” he murmured his voice dripping with charm. His blue eyes twinkled as he solemnly raised her pale claw to his lips. “You’re by far the classiest dame here.”

She snatched her hand away, but not before a blush rose on her pallid cheeks. “‘Classy dame’ is not an acceptable term for a powerful sorceress such as myself. I forgive it in light of the general festivities. But I’ll thank you not to call me ‘Aunt’, young man. At least, not in front of all these people. You’ll give them the impression I condone this union.”

“Watch them eye each other like hungry wolves.”

I hugged her tight, despite her protestations. “They’ll never suspect a thing. It’s only been a millennium since the Darkmores and the La Croixs broke bread together. I doubt most of them know who is who.”

 “Oh, they know. Watch them eye each other like hungry wolves. What’s the old saying—keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Lucia’s curse may have kept us separated in space, but even she can’t control everything.” Aunt Clarissa wriggled from my embrace and smoothed the brocade gown back in to place with perfectly manicured fingers. A satisfied smile curled her tinted lips. “And you two needn’t look so smug. Your little secret won’t be a secret for long. You’re not the first couple to achieve such a thing. Now, point me in the direction of Aurora La Croix. It’s been a thousand years since I laid eyes on her and I doubt she’s aged as well as I.”

Aunt Clarissa cocked an elegant and knowing eyebrow at us as she swept into the drawing room where raven-tressed Aurora La Croix sipped blood-red wine amidst an admiring throng of La Croix cousins.

Black magic simmered in his cool, blue eyes.

“I’m never sure if she likes me or if she is simply humoring her favorite niece,” Maddock whispered, his lips close to my ear.  A delicious tremor prickled my neck.

“If anyone else called her ‘a classy dame’ she’d turn him into a fly and fill the room with spiders. She likes you, alright. But you are exceptionally ignorant in courtly manners. I blame America.” I smoothed the collar of his velvet jacket, ran my hands down his arms, enjoyed the feel of taut muscles beneath the garment.

Black magic simmered in his cool, blue eyes. “Touch me like that again, and I’ll be forced to carry you upstairs, courtly manners be damned.”

I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled his face to mine. “Scandalous. What will Aunt Clarissa say?”

Next Week:

Episode 7-“Goblets of Fine, Old Wine” and

Episode 8- “Hijinks in the Castle”

Looking for previous episodes? Here they are.


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