It’s a rainy day here in Salem, MA, so I’m staying indoors, baking an apple pie, and writing more of Night of the Owl, the fourth of The Novels of Ravenwood. Time travel plays a large role in this one! Here’s a peek at the first pages of this work in progress:
For the love of God, stay awake! It’s not much farther. Ardyth Nightshade gripped the steering wheel of her rental car and yawned, bringing welcome tears to her dry, scratchy eyes as she continued driving north.
The morning traffic was unremarkable. Nonexistent compared to rush hour in Chicago. Even so, driving on the left side of narrow roads flanked by stone walls waiting to crush one at the slightest mistake required all the focus she could muster. If only she’d been able to sleep on the plane!
Excitement forbade it, on both the overseas flight to London and the connecting one to Newcastle. Ruled by adrenaline, she’d daydreamed the hours away. A PhD student in Medieval Studies couldn’t ask for a better summer job than the one she’d landed. Not only would she work as research assistant to Professor Henri Seacrest, but after two long decades, she was finally returning to her father’s ancestral home. Memories from childhood—some vague, others clear and resonant—had made Nightshade Manor synonymous with magic. She itched to see the place again.
Now she was paying for her eagerness, running on fumes and sporting dark circles under her eyes. She cast a second glance at the rearview mirror, in the hope that her first was too critical.
It wasn’t. Long but limp blonde hair. Shadows beneath her brown eyes. Next to no redeeming makeup. She’d worn only foundation, just enough to keep from scaring small children on the flight, and then the airline lost her makeup case. Better that than her clothes, but still…
At least she wore a new skirt and blouse. Travel had wrinkled them a bit, but there was no possibility of ironing them now. No way to cover the fresh scuff on her right shoe either.
With a sigh of acceptance, she returned her attention to the road. I’ll make one hell of an impression on my new boss. If I can keep my eyes open long enough to get there.
Like a beacon of mercy, the ruins of Nihtscua Castle—her ancestors’ earlier home—came into view. High on a throne of rock, the ancient keep held vigil over the modern town of Prestby, the merger of the medieval villages of Preostbi and Nihtscua. Most of the buildings dated to the 18th and 19th centuries. Relatively new to a history buff like her…and her professors…and PhD candidates like…
No! She refused to blight her summer with thoughts of her ex-boyfriend. This was her time, her adventure. Afterward, she would return to the university trailing clouds of glory, and no one would interfere with her academic career. Not even that rank-stank piece of—
Let it go!
The castle towered above as she braked before its entrance path. She couldn’t wait to explore the place again. Later, she promised herself. First things first.
She turned right and drove the short distance up the hill to the manor. The gates were open, so she went on through, followed the circular driveway toward the house, and parked right in front. Her pulse quickened as she stepped out of the car and gazed upward.
Nightshade Manor was everything an Elizabethan home should be: built of stone and crowned by a multitude of chimneys reaching toward the soft morning sky. Its large mullioned windows beckoned, and she hastened to the great oak door. She lifted her hand to knock, but the door swung open before she made contact.
A marvel of masculinity stood before her. It was as if the doorway existed for the sole purpose of framing his tall, broad-shouldered frame. His short black hair framed a clean-shaven face whose smooth, hard lines set the stage for a full, sensuous mouth and wide gray eyes. Despite his casual attire of jeans and a blue, button-down shirt, he oozed authority…and more sex appeal than she’d ever encountered up close.
After a heart-stopping moment, she found her voice. “Professor Seacrest?”
He enfolded her upraised hand with both of his. Their warmth flowed into her as his steady gaze held hers.
“Please, call me Henri.” A French accent laced his words. “You must be Ardyth.”
I must? Argh! Don’t be an idiot. “Yes.”
She hadn’t expected him to be so young. Mid-thirties at most. Her father had made him sound quite distinguished, which he must be to convince her parents to let him spend the entire summer in their home while researching Anglo-Saxon sites. Of course, her mom and dad were currently back in Illinois, in the house where she’d lived most of her life.
Henri still held her hand. She looked down at it and cleared her throat.
Quickly, he released it. “Forgive me.”
That’s it for now. What I’m writing today is much further along in the story, but I wanted to show you a snippet. If you’d like to catch up on the whole Ravenwood story by reading the three previous books, click here for buy links: https://judithmarshallauthor.com/my-books/
Hope you’re enjoying your weekend! 🙂