Home > One Magic Moment

One Magic Moment
Author: Lynn Kurland

The castle was crawling with the past.
The man stood on the edge of the forest and looked at the keep in front of him, considering the spectacle that greeted his eyes. He was no ghost hunter, to be sure, but even he could bear witness to the paranormal activity going on under his nose. The air was full of the sounds of shouts of men in battle, the whinnies of horses, the ringing of swords. None of it was surprising, given the number of skirmishes the keep had seen over the years. It had sat squarely between London and the Scottish border for centuries, hosted queens and their lovers, been a refuge for noblemen and villains alike.
And the last had been just the lads in his family.
It was, or so he’d heard, a favorite destination for all manner of paranormal investigators, which he could easily understand. The bloody place gave him the willies, and he’d been born there.
Several years ago, as it happened.
He tucked his hands into the pockets of his very modern though stylishly rustic barn jacket and leaned against an acceptably sturdy tree so he could continue to watch the goings-on and rest his old bones at the same time. Along with the allure it seemed to have for ghost hunters, Chevington also seemed to draw a fair number of reenactment troupes. There was, he would freely admit, ample room on the grounds for the holding of mock tourneys and entertainments, and there were certainly enough otherworldly players milling about to lend the scene a certain air of authenticity.
The National Trust had taken over the place many years earlier and done a credible job of preserving its history and keeping it from being overrun by nutters in tights. The only slight irritation was that even though he’d trotted out his finest gentlemanly manners, he’d left the old woman manning the ticket booth unwilling to accept his most charming smile as entrance fee. Nay, twelve quid it had been to merely walk over the grounds of his own bloody home.
Not that he’d lived there in years, of course. How many years was something he’d shared with only a pair of souls, souls he had trusted implicitly. The bulk of his time had been spent on his private business: popping in here and there; dashing back out when things became tedious; living a life he never could have imagined in his youth—
He frowned as something unusual caught his eye—and considering where he was, that was saying something indeed. The living history enthusiasts were dressed in their usual garb, doing their usual things, save one lad who seemed to hold himself aloof and apart, pacing along the ridge of an earthen bulwark as if he had done the same many times before. The lad wasn’t overly tall and his hood obscured all but a flash of fair hair, but still, there was something about the way he moved that seemed familiar somehow.
The old man blinked, but the hooded figure had suddenly disappeared into the crowd and thereby become lost to his view. He frowned thoughtfully. He had returned to England because he’d felt—how to put it?—as if Fate had been tapping him on the shoulder, then pointing to where he should be looking. He scanned the group in front of him again for possible clues, then shook his head slowly. Perhaps age had rendered him foolish and imaginative. Obviously he needed a bit of a rest. Perhaps he would indulge in a restorative weekender in the south of France where he would find superior fare to ingest and beautiful women to admire. Aye, that was just the thing for him.
Besides, what was there left for him to do in damp, chilly England? He’d put into motion all the things he could and watched as a fortuitous circumstance or two had done what he could not. All that was left for him to do was wait and see how Fate carried on.
Of course, he wasn’t above sticking a pole in her spokes, as it were, to put her off her course and onto his if necessary, but he didn’t imagine there was a need for that quite yet.
He saw again that flash of blond hair, which bothered him. He almost considered marching off into the fray, as it were, but good sense prevailed. Many Englishmen had fair hair and many others a fondness for the history of their ancestors. There was nothing unusual about the sight.
Which didn’t explain why the hair on the back of his neck was standing up, but perhaps he could consider that later, when he wasn’t standing out in a light drizzle that had quite suddenly turned into a bit of sleeting rain that stung where it struck his cheeks.
He turned his collar up against the weather. Perhaps he would follow the instinct that had brought him to England and put off his holiday in order to do a little snooping in the current environs. He ignored an intense desire for a proper afternoon’s tea and a hot fire and kept his attention on what was in front of him. He could safely say that he wasn’t orchestrating the affairs of those around him for merely altruistic reasons.
His life, as it happened, depended on it.
Chapter 1
It wasn’t every day that the daughter of rootless hippies held the key to an honest-to-goodness medieval castle.
Tess Alexander stood at the end of the bridge that spanned the moat in which sat that spectacular, honest-to-goodness medieval castle and had to pause for a moment and contemplate the irony of her situation. Unlike her sisters who had either openly spurned fairy tales and all their trappings or embraced them fully, she had remained out of the fray. She had listened to her siblings argue the merits of possible castle life, but never offered her own opinion on whether or not the possession of a romantically medieval habitation and a knight in shining armor to go with it was a good thing.
There was something of a karmic nature going on that out of all her sisters, she was the one with the key to a castle that boasted running water.
She crossed the bridge that spanned her moat, having to remind herself that she was in the twenty-first century, not the twelfth. She walked under the barbican gate and looked up at what actually might keep bad guys at bay. The steel spikes of the portcullises—all three of them—hung above her head like metal icicles. She’d never had occasion to lower any of them, though she’d been assured they were still fully functional. As long as they stayed up where they were supposed to instead of falling down on her head, she was satisfied with their condition.
The courtyard was, she supposed, much as it had been over the centuries: cobblestones in paths surrounded by swaths of grass that had no doubt been dirt in the old days. She wasn’t unhappy for a bit of green, though she supposed all she had to do to enjoy that was look out the window at the forest that surrounded her castle.
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