Silent Deception

Silent Deception
Cathie Dunn
(2012)

Can a ghost scare off a young heiress determined to make her new manor her home?

Having inherited a family estate she’d never heard of, Minerva Goodridge travels to Cornwall to take charge of her new home. But fatal memories lurk in the shadows of Trekellis Manor. As the locals keep away from the house, Minnie accepts the help of a stranger. Can she trust him?

Gideon Drake, 8th Earl of Rothdale, is on a mission to uncover a family secret linked to Trekellis Manor. But the arrival of Minerva, the new owner, disrupts his investigation. Attracted to the headstrong heiress, he decides to take action – and ends up uncovering more than he expected.

Gideon must weigh up his family’s reputation against Minnie’s, but will the revelations tear them apart?

Silent Deception is a romantic Victorian suspense novella set in Cornwall.

SILENT DECEPTION

 

 

CATHIE DUNN

 

 

Copyright © 2012 by Cathie Dunn

 

Cover design by Laurence Patterson.

Photograph courtesy of Penny Mathews.

 

All rights reserved.

 

 

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except for brief quotations used for promotion or in reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Discover Cathie Dunn’s other available titles at 
www.cathiedunn.com
!

 

Author’s Thanks

 

Silent Deception
emerged from a challenge. Can I write a novella to a tight deadline? I had two weeks!

 

I managed to meet the deadline, but the completed version was, of course, nowhere near publishable standard. So, my gratitude goes to my wonderful critique partners for their encouragement, suggestions and eagle eyes. You are fabulous!

 

A big Thank You also goes to Laurence, my patient husband and talented cover designer.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

 

Cathie Dunn writes romantic suspense and adventure. A hobby historian, she enjoys researching her favourite eras: Scottish medieval & Jacobite times, and medieval England and Normandy. This latest foray into Victorian England provided her with a fascinating glimpse into a different time altogether.

 

Cathie’s first historical romance,
Highland Arms
, was released in July 2011 through The Wild Rose Press. A romantic Scottish historical, Highland Arms has received outstanding reviews.

 

Dark Deceit
, the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, and Cathie’s second release, was published through Crooked {Cat} Publishing in February 2012.

 

Cathie is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. She lives in Scotland with her husband and two cats.

 

Praise for Dark Deceit:

 

“Captivating characters and vivid descriptions...very well researched storyline...crafty mix of fiction and history...an engrossing read that I highly recommend.”

 

Booked Up Reviews

 

 

 

 

Praise for Highland Arms:

 

"A compelling story teller...Maybe just maybe love will find you along the way and take you into a journey of romance with a smuggler...I canna wait for more from Ms. Dunn."

 

Romancing the Book

 

Chapter One

 

A gust of wind tugged at her cloak the moment Minerva Goodridge alighted from the coach. She took a deep breath, relishing the salty tang of sea air after the stuffy interior and looked around. A row of neat cottages flanked a whitewashed inn, church bells rang the hour from behind her.

After a week’s travel, she’d finally reached her destination this early afternoon, the tranquil tin mining village of Trekellis. A gust of wind billowed her skirts and she patted them down.

“Thank you.” She smiled at the young lad who’d assisted her down the steps. “My, it’s a little breezy.”

“Aye, miss.” He grinned as he took her portmanteau from the coach driver, almost falling over in his effort, and set it down beside her with a thump. “Anyone coming to collect you, miss?”

Minnie shook her head. “No, I simply need to find someone to take me to Trekellis Manor.”

The lad blanched and took a step back. “Why would you be going to that place? It’s...empty.”

Minnie smirked, certain he meant to say it was haunted. “I know, but not for much longer. Is there anyone…?”

“Nobody goes there, miss.” He vehemently shook his head and pointed at the inn. “Best make yourself comfortable in the Deer’s Head first.” The boy grabbed the handles of her case and lugged it inside.

Minnie followed him through the smoky main room, keen not to lose sight of her only belongings. Well, apart from Trekellis Manor, that was. Excitement coursed through her again, just as it had done since she first heard about her unusual inheritance. A manor in a remote part of Cornwall.

The lad set down the portmanteau beside a small table in what was clearly the ladies’ corner, partly hidden by a wooden partition, then doffed his cap and rushed past her.

Surely, it can’t be that bad. Was she supposed to be haunted, too, simply by association? Superstitions! She shook her head.

Several men watched her. Head held high, Minnie sat on the wooden bench beside her case and returned the stares over the rim of the partition.

A young girl dressed in a simple black gown approached her. “Care for refreshments, miss?” She smiled, but Minnie declined.

“Thank you, another time. Once I’m settled. For the moment, I’m looking for a man to take me to Trekellis Manor. Would you know such a guide?” Someone would have a horse and cart to take her there. According to the map, the house was barely two miles from the village, perched high on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Minnie thought the location was rather romantic, even though the house would require some work after it had stood empty for over forty years. After a suicide.

“Trekellis Manor?” The lass took a step back, her voice hollow. A hush descended over the room.

Not another one. Minnie sighed. “Yes. I’m not asking anyone to enter the house. I can do that perfectly by myself, although I’ll be keen to hire servants to help me with the running of it.”

In a far corner, an old man spat on the floor, his grey, straggly beard quivering. “You wouldn’t want to stay there, miss. Walker’s ghost haunts the corridors. Go back to where you came from.” He rose and left, muttering to himself. The solid wooden door banged shut.

A shiver ran down Minnie’s spine. Walker’s ghost? Bartholomew Walker, the last resident owner? She glanced from one man to another, all obviously miners, their pale skin etched with wrinkles from a lifetime of working underground. Each wore the same forbidding expression.

“Old Joseph’s right, miss.” The lass nodded. “It’s not safe, the house.”

Minnie’s precarious hold on her temper flared. “Well, the estate belongs to my family, and it’s my decision to live there.”

“You’ll not find anyone wantin’ to work there and it’s not a good place to stay.”

“Look,” Minnie stood, imploring, “all I need is–”

The door opened, sending the wind howling through the inn.

“Damned gale,” a tall man murmured as he pushed the door closed. He turned, spotted the lass and smiled. “Apologies, Kitty.” His dark gaze met Minnie’s and he cocked his head. “Good day, miss.”

Heat shot into Minnie’s cheeks, and she held a gloved hand to cool her suddenly scorching skin. “Sir.”

The girl, Kitty, headed back behind the counter with a sudden sway of the hips. “An ale for you, sir?”

The new arrival nodded, muttering greetings to the other men, then he faced Kitty. “I saw the coach arrive and hoped for a letter, but nothing as yet.”

“Sorry, sir. Nothing for you. It takes a long time for anything to reach Trekellis.” She placed a tankard of ale in front of him.

Minnie tapped her booted foot. She stepped forward, hands on her hips, and scanned the room. “I beg your pardon, but someone must be able to take me to Trekellis Manor.” Several pairs of eyes lowered; no-one volunteered. Then she met the tall stranger’s. His black eyes glinted as he turned to face her. The intensity of his gaze sent tingles across her skin; his height and the breadth of his shoulders blocked the room from her view. Her mouth went dry.

“Why would you want to go there, miss?”

Sighing, she gritted her teeth. What was wrong with these folk? This man–a gentleman of sorts, given the rich, grey fabric of his greatcoat and his expensive leather boots–didn’t look to be from from these parts, but he still appeared to hold the same superstitions.

“Because it’s mine.”

***

Gideon Drake, 8th Earl of Rothdale, stared at the beauty in front of him, puzzled. The lady’s pout and stubborn look intrigued him. He knew Trekellis Manor belonged to a landowner in Canterbury, but he was sure the man had died a few years before. Was she a relation?

Remembering his manners, he set down the ale and bowed. “Gideon Drake, at your service, Miss…?”

“Minerva Goodridge.” Her stance relaxed a little.

He smiled. She must indeed be related to William Goodridge, the last owner. He kissed her gloved hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Minerva Goodridge. So, Trekellis is yours, you say?”

She withdrew her hand and linked it with the other. “Yes, I’ve inherited it from my father.”

Ah, that explained the ownership. But did she know what had happened?

Not waiting for his response, Miss Goodridge continued, “I’ve travelled over a week and I’m exhausted. And now there’s nobody willing to take me to the house.”

“The manor may not be fit to live in. You might not even like it. Perhaps you should stay at the inn first?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. It’s mine, and I have no other choice.” Her voice quivered, and the amber eyes moistened with tears. “It is imperative I get there today.”

Gideon bowed again. “Then it will be my pleasure to accompany you myself.” He turned toward a young man nursing an ale in a corner. “Jim, get that cart of yours outside. We’ll take Miss Goodridge to her property.”

The lanky young man stood. “But I–”

“It won’t take long.” Sensing the man’s hesitation, he added, “It’ll be worth your while.”

Jim downed his ale and strode out the door.

Gideon turned to Miss Goodridge. “Please take a seat until Jim has brought his cart round, then we’ll be on our way before this gale worsens.” He sent her an encouraging nod, then followed Jim.

He caught up quickly with the young miner whose sullen expression showed Gideon exactly what he thought.

“I know, I know.” Gideon lifted his hands. “The place is supposedly haunted, but I’ve yet to hear of a ghost that attacks people for simply going near. Now, let’s go.”

 

Riding on the damp grass beside the cart trudging up a narrow lane toward the coast, Gideon watched as Miss Goodridge’s gaze roamed the untamed countryside. It must be quite a change to the bustling streets of Canterbury where her father had resided, a town he knew well. His associates had failed to advise him William Goodridge had a daughter, an omission which set back his own plan. He furrowed his brow.

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