Gatehaven Chapter Excerpt by Molly Noble Bull

Molly Gatehaven

Name of Author: Molly Noble Bull

Name of Book: Gatehaven

Genre: Christian Historical Suspense

e-book ISBN: 1621364003

Price: Reg: $9.99 Sale: $2.99

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Short blurb

Gatehaven by Molly Noble Bull is a Christian Gothic historical novel set in a haunting mansion in the north of England where Ian Colquhoun and Shannon Aimee battle a Frenchman with dark secrets—spiritual warfare vs. the occult.  Will they learn enough about God’s words to defend themselves and others or will evil overcome them?

Review

What transpires will send chills racing down the reader’s spine, and keep them riveted on the edge of their seat, as mysteries are uncovered and evil is exposed by the light of revelation. Enemies and allies are drawn up in an epic battle of good and evil, while the plot twists and turns through narrow escapes and brushes with cultish meetings and the supernatural. So much more than entertainment, this story brings truth and balance to a cultural fascination with spiritualism. Written with skill, keen insight and wisdom, this story will please readers of Frank Peretti, Tedd Dekker, and all fans of supernatural thrillers.

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Excerpt

 

Part Eight of Ten

Ian must have been waiting behind that tree because all at once he stood beside her.

“Are you feeling ill?”

Shannon nodded.

He reached out and took her hand in his. “I’ve seen that look too many times not to know it when I see it. I went into the chapel before you came. It made me sick, too. Sit down,” he said as if she were a child, “under the tree. I will go for water.”

Shannon did as she was told. She was too sick to do otherwise.

“I’m leaving now.”

She glanced at his strong back as he walked away. Extreme nausea flooded her. Shannon leaned forward and heaved, spilling her first meal of the day on the grassy lawn.

A few minutes later, he returned with a cup of water and a damp cloth. He handed them to her and sat down beside her.

Shannon drank the water. Then she squeezed drops of water from the cloth into the palm of her left hand, rubbing it on her face. The damp and cooling cloth had helped somewhat. Still, she felt dirty. She doubted that even an all-over bath would make her feel clean again.

She longed to go back to the inn and climb in bed, but the horses and carriages wouldn’t be leaving until the earl was ready to go. Shannon felt too ill to walk the distance. They would have no choice but to wait for the earl and Miss Foster to finish their tour of the chapel.

The earl and his aunt lingered inside. In fact, they didn’t come out for several hours. After a while, Shannon realized that she hadn’t missed them at all.

At first, the earl had seemed upset that Shannon left the chapel so abruptly, but after she explained that she’d become suddenly ill and had no choice but to leave the building, he seemed to understand. He even sent her one of his dazzling smiles.

But when they returned to the inn, the earl left them for that meeting he mentioned. Shannon didn’t see him again until the next morning.

They spent their days traveling and their nights in various inns along the way. Shannon and the earl still hadn’t found a private moment. His aunt never left Shannon’s side. Shannon never spent time with Ian either, and that worried her even more. Ian seemed anxious about something, and she was eager to learn what it might be.

One day Shannon was especially bored. Nobody in the carriage had spoken more than a few words since they broke the fast that morning. Shannon fidgeted in the seat beside Miss Foster, curling a lock of long hair around her forefinger.

“What gave Gatehaven its name?” Shannon glanced at the earl, hoping he’d reply, but he appeared to be sleeping. She turned to her chaperone. “Please tell me, Miss Foster. I would really like to know.”

“Gatehaven was named for the red gate.”

“Red gate? Would that be the gate one enters when a person first arrives at Gatehaven?”

“No.” Miss Foster shook her head with such vigor her glasses slipped to the end of her long, pointed nose. “The red gate I am talking about is inside the house, not out. You will find it soon enough whether you are looking for it or not, and that is all I have to say on the subject.” The woman stretched and yawned. “I am tired, and the earl is sleeping. I think I shall go to sleep, too.”

Miss Foster leaned back and closed her eyes, ending the conversation before it had really gotten started. Shannon closed her eyes, too, but instead of sleeping she kept thinking about the red gate—wondering what Miss Foster’s words could possibly mean.

Mid-afternoon on that same day, the carriage slowed at a fork in the road. A sign pointed to the right. A bird flashed by, finally perching atop a rustic gate, reminding her again of the red gate Miss Foster mentioned.

The carriage took the road to the left, and the earl opened his eyes.

“Oh, you’re awake.” Shannon sent him her sweetest smile. “Was your long nap restful?”

“No, but tolerable.”

“My lord.” Shannon leaned forward. “I have wanted to ask you about the red gate Miss Foster mentioned—the one that gave Gatehaven its name. I find it quite intriguing. Please, can you tell me a little about it?”

The earl shook his head and glanced down at his black boots. “People tell fables about old mansions. Gatehaven is no exception.”

He lifted his head and gazed at Shannon. “Some see a shadow and think it is a ghost. They see a red line connecting one side of a corridor with the other and call it a red gate.” His gaze intensified. “Wash these tales of demons and red gates from your mind, Miss Aimee. They are illusions. Perhaps you didn’t know that such nonsense is not in fashion among the quality.” He turned and looked out a window.

“Look.” The earl pointed his forefinger toward something he must have seen in the distance. Then he glanced back at Shannon. “You can see Gatehaven, if you look through those trees.”

She looked. The mansion was more like an ancient fortress than a home for the earl and his family. They must be richer than she thought possible. Yet even from that distance, there was something dark and mysterious about Gatehaven.

And what of the red gate? Did deeper secrets wait behind the rock walls? Were dangers her mother only hinted at lurking there as well? Shannon tossed back her curls as if she thought it would push away the doubts.

The earl would say that I am imagining things that do not exist. Still, Gatehaven is hugeeven bigger than I expected.

But the closer they got to the mansion, the more foreboding it became—at least in her mind.

#

Leon Picard was about to take the rock path to the double doors of the mansion when he happened to glance toward the road. An impressive black carriage followed by smaller ones and men on horses loomed in the distance.

Fine carriages didn’t arrive at Gatehaven every day. As far as he knew, the earl’s mother and grandmother weren’t expecting anyone. Ladies Catherine and Victoria might not appreciate his company with visitors on the way. He turned around and headed back to his carriage, located nearby. Then he stopped to reconsider.

He needed to know the identity of those visitors. Maybe he would hide in the shadow of the trees to watch—see who came to call. Leon tapped his cane on the hard ground, hobbling over to a nest of closely spaced oaks a few yards away.

His leg hurt, but that was nothing new. His body had ached every day for over twenty years—every day of his life since Rachel pushed him into that well. His jaw tightened.

So what if he tripped and fell instead of being pushed. Either way, it was Rachel’s fault. He hated her for making him a cripple and for other reasons. Yet he still wanted her.

It made no sense.

Rachel was a young Huguenot woman living in his village in France the first time he saw her as an adult. He’d wanted her instantly, but she seemed shy, refusing even to talk to him—especially after she learned that he was married. She wouldn’t even tell him her name until he cornered her one day down by the seashore. She said her name was Magdalena Petit, and that she planned to marry a French Huguenot name Javier Aimee—a young man that wasn’t rich or as well educated as Leon. He wanted her anyway—pursuing her relentlessly.

Not long after that, Leon was waiting for her behind a tree near an old mill when she crossed the glen near the church. She’d taken that path many times, walking right by the old mill, and he knew he’d find her there—if not on that day, soon. He stepped out from behind the tree, and she started running. He raced after her.

In his rush to catch her, he forgot all about the abandoned well near the mill. Someone had put a thin covering of wooden planks over it to keep the schoolchildren from falling in. But when his feet hit the planks with such force, the covering broke. He fell in.

He must have lost consciousness for a moment. Blinding pain in his right leg awoke him with a start. Rachel sat on the edge of the well, looking down at him. She must have been on her way home from the butcher shop because the odor of sausages coming from inside the bag she held floated down to him.

She heard him beg for help from the bottom of that well. Nobody had the right to live after hearing Leon plead for mercy. She told him about the Lord, and then she left.

Not long after that, a priest arrived with several other men from the village. He would always remember the pain he felt as they pulled him from the well.

“A pretty young girl told us to look for you here,” the priest had said. “But she never told us her name.”

Leon knew he was talking about Magdalena. A year later, he learned the truth. Magdalena wasn’t her name at all. Her name was Rachel.

Rachel deserved to die for making him love her—then marrying Javier Aimee and leaving France with the man. Leon deserted his young wife in order to follow them to England only to find them briefly and then lose them again. He had enough money left from his inheritance to travel the world searching for them, but he hadn’t counted on being a cripple for the rest of his life. Without a doubt, Rachel caused all the miseries he suffered now.

He thought of how Rachel had looked that day in France, gazing down at him from the top of the well. Her long auburn mane fell about slender shoulders. Strands of her hair had tumbled forward like a rust-colored waterfall against her milk-white skin.

He couldn’t have seen her eyes from that distance. Yet he remembered well their emerald-like brilliance and the way her long, black lashes framed them.

Rachel could hardly have been more than nineteen years old on the day Leon fell in the well. Yet his mental vision of her was forever young. It seemed impossible that by now Rachel must be over forty.

Had he told the earl how old Rachel would be today before sending him to Scotland? He hesitated in order to give himself time to think—perhaps not. To be honest, he couldn’t recall.

But what did it matter? The earl would not have a hard time finding her. How many Rachel Aimees could there be in a little Scottish village like Luss?

In the years since leaving France and settling in England, he’d learned to hate to an extent he never thought possible. Leon had always hated Jews and Huguenots. Now he hated all Christians. In fact, he hated religion in all its forms—except the craft, of course.

Rachel and her husband, Javier Aimee, were Huguenots. But in England, they were called Protestants.

The earl was a Protestant, as was the vicar, and everybody else Leon knew. All his so-called English “friends” were Protestants, and they all thought he liked and respected them.

A smile that started in his mind melted into an audible laugh that echoed all around him.

If his English friends knew how he really felt, they would be appalled.

#

The first carriage pulled to a stop in front of the mansion. Shannon thought she could make out someone standing in a room on the top floor.

“My lord, who is that?” Shannon pointed to the room in question.

“What are you talking about?” the earl said. “I see no one.”

“That woman with the long black hair—standing at the window. Surely you can see her.”

“Perhaps you are imagining things, my dear. I would suggest you put it out of your mind. We will emerge from the carriage at any moment. You will need to prepare to exit it as soon as possible.”

A woman with black hair stood at the window whether the earl noticed her or not. Shannon continued to gaze at the window.

Another woman with yellow-colored hair joined the first woman at the window. Shannon glanced at the earl. He was studying his mansion with great intensity. Were they looking at the same window? If so, the earl knew that neither of the women were figments of Shannon’s imagination.

#

As Leon watched, the carriage door opened. The earl stepped out. But instead of going inside, he offered his hand as if to help someone down.

Rachel. Excitement at the thought of seeing her again filled Leon’s mind. He thought of kissing her. But for now, he must stay hidden.

A dainty hand reached out. The earl covered her hand with his.

Leon saw a mass of auburn hair. All doubts vanished. She was Rachel.

The woman who stepped down from the carriage looked young, shapely and beautiful. Leon released an audible sigh. The years hadn’t changed her.

She wore a lavender dress and a bonnet of the same color. He would know her anywhere. But why hadn’t she aged in over twenty years?

Thirsty for answers, he wanted to rush right over. But his sense of caution together with his physical condition made that desire impossible.

Leon would wait until they went inside—until they had greeted the earl’s mother and grandmother. His heart pounded. Perhaps then he would pay the family a visit and see Rachel again. The earl had promised to send a letter telling when they would arrive. Yet Leon had received no such letter. As far as he knew, the earl’s family wasn’t notified either.

#

Shannon stopped for a moment before moving down the rock path, staring at the stone mansion the earl called Gatehaven. The women were no longer standing at the window. Perhaps she had imagined them. Still, she didn’t think so.

The sun hid behind the clouds when she studied Gatehaven the first time. Suddenly the sun beamed down on the mansion as if directing her to it—pointing the way. What a difference a bit of sunshine made, and how wonderful to have finally reached their destination.

Other than the castles she’d observed from a distance on the journey from Scotland, she’d never seen a dwelling more magnificent. She hoped to remember every inch of it.

Miss Foster, her chaperone, stood beside her. The woman cupped her hands like Shannon did when she planned to whisper something in someone’s ear. “I must relieve myself before going in to greet Lady Catherine and her mother. I will join you shortly inside.”

Shannon nodded and forced a smile. She was eager to meet the earl’s mother, Lady Catherine, and his grandmother, Lady Victoria.

She liked her chaperone well enough. Still, the woman’s strange behavior troubled Shannon. Miss Foster constantly discussed disturbing topics—like crystal balls and haunted castles, hinting that ghosts roamed the halls of Gatehaven as well. Shannon refused to believe such nonsense, of course, but the thought of it played on her mind.

The earl touched her arm. “Are you ready to go inside?”

Shannon looked up, and his warm smile engulfed her. “Yes, my lord, I most certainly am.”

He loves me. How could I ever doubt it?

She would remember that moment forever, the earl’s blue eyes and how his blond hair curled around the edges of his black hat. He offered her his arm in a gentlemanly fashion, and she took it.

Shannon felt like a queen as he whisked her up the stone steps to a foyer that looked almost as large as her entire house. She glimpsed a white marble stairway before they entered a huge drawing room with its gold cornices above the windows and its flowing purple drapes. The earl had promised to write to his mother and his grandmother to announce their arrival, but from the astonished looks on the faces of the two women glaring at her, Shannon presumed that neither of them knew who she was nor why she came.

The earl made some rather stiff introductions. Then he said, “Miss Aimee lives near our hunting lodge in Scotland, Mum, and she is here as my—my guest.” He gazed at her and smiled in that special way again. “I know having her here will brighten my days.”

Two pairs of blue eyes stared at Shannon—the earl’s mother and grandmother, she assumed. A white cat purred at the feet of the older of the two, and the women looked astounded.

Shannon needed Ian. Why didn’t he come inside when she did? And what was keeping her chaperone, Miss Foster? She should have tended to her private matters by now.

The earl’s mother got up out of her chair. “I will ring for Millie and have her take Miss—Miss Aimee to her room. I am sure she will want to freshen up after her long journey.” She pulled a gold-colored cord that hung from the ceiling. Then she pulled it two more times.

A young woman in a white maid’s cap rushed into the room.

“You rang, ma’am?”

“Yes. Please take Miss Aimee here to the room across from Maude’s and help her settle in.”

With her flushed face and shaky hands, Shannon thought the maid looked as uncomfortable as she felt. Perhaps Millie had never been in the drawing room previously.

“Sure and I will do as you say, ma’am,” Millie said with a Scottish accent. “But—”

“But what? Speak up, girl.”

“Are you sure you will be wantin’ me to take her to the room across from Maude’s—that being the maid’s quarters and all. I just thought—”

“Yes. Take her to the room across from Maude’s. She will be comfortable there, and do hurry. I think the poor girl looks exhausted.”

Shannon swallowed. She thinks the earl hired me as a maid. She glanced back at the earl, hoping he would explain her reason for being there. He started toward her.

“No, Edward,” the older of the two women said. “You stay here. Your mother and I want to speak with you.”

Shannon had no choice but to follow Millie out of the room.

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