Title: The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall
Series: Dark Seductions # 1
Author: Lauren Smith
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Modern Gothic Romance
Formats: E-book and Paperback
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Cover by: Heather Howland
Editor: Tracy Montoya
Pages: 253 pages
Date Published: 29 September 2014
To defeat a dark evil, they must face his family’s past…
Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Even though tragedy and mysterious hauntings have driven his family away from his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall, he is determined to restore the castle to its former glory. His plans are disrupted when a stubborn American shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history.
Jane Seyton, an American graduate student, is convinced there’s more to the tragedy of Stormclyffe Hall than history claims. Ever the scholar, she is determined to discover the truth, even if it means putting up with the arrogant, yet sexy, Bastian.
Although Bastian wants nothing to do with the pushy American, it soon becomes clear that something evil is in the house—and that something is targeting both Jane and Bastian. The two must join forces to purge the ghosts of Stormclyffe Hall once and for all—even as they try to fight a physical attraction between them that grows more and more impossible to deny.
The crash of thunder woke Richard, Earl of Weymouth. The fire in the hearth was low, the embers no longer crackling, and a cold draft pressed in around him as a storm raged outside. Pulling a loose sheet around his hips, he reached across the bed for his wife, who was still weak from bearing him a healthy son a month ago. His hands stopped short as he encountered nothing but the twisted sheets where her body had lain.
An icy tendril of fear churned in his stomach. She never left their bed when it rained. Storms frightened her. Isabelle usually curled into his side, burying her face against his throat for comfort.
Heavy rain whipped against the windows, the fierce staccato a warning to stay inside. Wind whistled through the room, teasing tapestries out, then back against the walls as though bodies moved behind them. A rumble of thunder seemed to shake the stones of his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall.
“Isabelle?” he called out. “Love?”
Only the crash of thunder answered.
Lightning streaked past the window and illuminated his son’s cradle.
A sharp cry split the air.
Richard leaped out of bed, the icy floor stinging his bare feet as he rushed to the cradle. Murmuring soft, sweet words, he lifted his son, Edward, tucking him in the crook of one arm, relieved the babe was safe. He never thought he would be the paternal sort, but Isabelle and their babe brought out the tenderness in him.
The town viewed his marriage as a disgrace. Earls didn’t marry the daughters of innkeepers. But Richard hadn’t cared. He loved her and would do anything to have her in his life.
A frown tugged down the corners of his lips. “Where is your mother, Edward?”
Thunder once again rocked the hall. October storms thrashed the castle and nearby cliffs with a wicked vengeance. Trees were split in half by lightning; the edges of the cliff decayed inward, inching ever closer to the castle. Although the storm this night was no different, something felt wrong. A bite to the air, a sense of dread digging into his spine.
As the baby’s long eyelashes drowsily settled back down on his plump cheeks, Richard assured himself that the baby’s linens were dry and Edward was content. He brushed his lips over his son’s forehead and set him back in the cradle.
When he stepped back, glancing out the window that overlooked the sea, his blood froze. A feminine silhouette clambered through the rock outcroppings by the cliff’s edge.
Even from a distance, he knew with a horrifying certainty it was Isabelle.
It was madness to be outside, alone by the cliffs. She knew the dangers, knew the soft dirt around the cliffs crumbled into the sea. Only the year before, a boy from the village had fallen to his death when the ground by the edge gave way.
“Isabelle!” he gasped, the single intake of air burning his chest as though fire had erupted within.
Before he had time to move, the sky blackened, his vision robbed of light.
When lightning again bathed the rocks, Isabelle was gone.
His stomach clenched with a fear so profound, it flayed open his chest with poison-tipped claws.
Shouting for his cloak and boots, he raced from the room. The nurse emerged from down the hall, her white cap askew, and gray hair frizzing out from under the edges.
“Take charge of the baby!” he yelled as he ran past her.
She nodded and hurried to his room.
His valet, followed by several footmen, raced to his aid, carrying clothes. He snatched them and dressed as he ran, his men right behind him dashing through the deluge.
When they reached the cliffs, there was no sign of Isabelle.
“My lord!” a footman by the edge shouted.
Afraid to look, yet unable to tear his eyes away, Richard stared down to where the man’s finger pointed. The black shadow of Isabelle’s cloak caught on a razor-thin piece of rock, fluttering madly like a bat’s wing. Lightning slashed above them, its terrible light revealing a dark smear beneath the cloak’s erratic movements.
Blood. Isabelle’s blood. Had she jumped to her death?
“No!” A crash of thunder swallowed his roar of despair.
He dove for the edge, wanting to follow her into the frothing gray seas. A cloak smeared with blood. All that remained of his wife.
He’d fought too hard to win her love, her trust. They’d suffered through too much together, to be divided now. He couldn’t raise Edward alone.
“No…please, no.” The pleading came from the bottom of his soul, torn from his heart.
She was gone.
Strong arms hauled Richard back from the ledge, pinning him to the earth.
“It is too late, my lord. She’s gone.”
She was his Isabelle, his heart…
Why had she jumped? Had she been unhappy? It couldn’t be that. He would have known, and he would have done anything in his power to make her happy.
“We must find her,” he told the men standing around him.
An older man, Richard’s head gardener, shook his head. “We can’t search in this weather, and her body will be gone by the time the storm ends. But we’ll try to find what we can on the morrow, if you wish.”
“I do,” Richard growled. Despair was replaced with vengeance.
He faced Stormclyffe. Lightning laced the skies behind it in a white, delicate pattern. The centuries-old castle loomed out of the darkness, a defensive wolf with the battlements as its bared teeth.
It didn’t matter that his infant son waited in a lonely cradle, eager for the loving touch of his remaining parent.
Richard was lost.
He wanted nothing to do with the life he’d had, the riches, the earldom. He despised it all. Every blessed memory he ever had that reminded him of Isabelle made him furious. She was gone from his life forever. He could not bring himself to dwell on his son; it only cleaved his chest in two. His love, his heart, was being battered against the rocks below.
Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets—a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She's won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
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