Merry Marquis Excerpt
Richard heard the beautiful music and felt all of his muscles tense. His ghosts were back.
As he stepped into his desolate house, he thought that the fog outside had somehow penetrated his mind. The shadows cast by the single candle flickering on the dusty table somehow accentuated the gloom. He stopped and listened, his coat and hat slipping from his fingers on to the floor.
Surely he was imagining the music?
He had to be.
He shuddered. The only people who had ever played music in this house had been his sister and his wife. But they were both dead.
Their ghosts still haunted his imagination, it was true, but he had never actually heard them playing music. Beethoven’s fourteenth sonata had been his wife’s favorite. How she had loved the sweet soft melody! Today, however, the music echoing through the empty townhouse sounded eerie.
Richard swallowed hard. In the mist of his mind’s eye he saw Julia, smiling and playing her music. She was there beckoning to him, with her light brown hair pulled up, leaving only tendrils curling lightly about her face and neck. Her soft green eyes were laughing at him, loving him. His senses were flooded with the tantalizing scent of roses, which she had always worn. Her voice called to him through the music she played. It moved him toward her, ever closer.
He found himself just outside the music room, his hand on the door handle. He stood there, staring at the narrow strip of light spilling out from under the door. He had not been inside this room since she died. He was not sure he wanted to go in now.
No, he could not do it. He just could not open the door.
Although he knew that the ghosts were only in his imagination, the music seemed so very real. And, for once in his life, Richard Angles, the intrepid Marquis of Merrick, knew he was truly frightened.
Richard squared his shoulders. He would prove to himself that the music was not there, that she was not there. Taking a deep breath, he flung open the door so hard that it banged into the wall.
The music stopped. Richard blinked, his eyes adjusting to the brightness of the room. As he focused on the grand pianoforte in the corner, he let out his breath. There was someone there, but it was not Julia.
The girl sitting at the pianoforte had black hair and eyes. Her face was alabaster white, with deep pink lips.
His relief and wonder transformed into an overpowering rage. Who had dared to play such a trick on him?
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he demanded in his most stern, masterful baritone.
The girl stood up so quickly that the gilt chair she had been sitting on fell to the floor with a crash. She stood for a moment looking him over from head to toe.
He watched as the emotions in her marvelously expressive eyes changed quickly, from alarm and shock to assessment and then to flashing pride. “I am Teresa Seton. I am staying next door with my aunt, Lady Swinborne. The housekeeper has given me permission to be here. She said his lordship was away from home, and that I might practice on his pianoforte.” Her small chin rose a fraction of an inch. “Who are you?”