THE LEGEND OF NIMWAY HALL: 1794 - CHARLOTTE, p.1Karen Hawkins
The Legend of Nimway Hall: 1794 - Charlotte
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The Legend of Nimway Hall: 1974 - Charlotte
Copyright © 2018 by Karen Hawkins
Ebook ISBN: 9781641970136
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About This Book
THE LEGEND OF NIMWAY HALL
Discover More in the Nimway Hall Series
Discover More by Karen Hawkins
About the Author
About This Book
New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins writes a ravishing addition to an exciting series of romances touched by magic as old as time.
A properly raised young lady rebels against the restrictions of both society and family when she meets a dark, dangerous, and wildly passionate man as they both fight to resist their forbidden love ... and the seductive pull of an ancient magic.
Miss Charlotte Harrington knows what’s expected of her. Properly raised and newly reminded of her duties after the unexpected death of her far-more-perfect twin sister, Charlotte is resigned to wedding the son of a near neighboring land owner and live a sedate and proper, respectable life. But Charlotte’s high spirits will not be contained and she yearns deeply for a life of adventure, excitement, and love.
When wild and untamed Marco di Rossi arrives at Nimway Hall, commissioned to carve a masterpiece for the family home, he finds himself instantly drawn to the far-from-subdued Charlotte. Despite the potential ruin to his own brilliant career, he cannot resist her spirit and beauty, nor the call of the deep, wild magic that resides within a mysterious and magical orb hidden deep in the walls of the ancient house of Nimway…
THE LEGEND OF NIMWAY HALL
A love invested with mystery and magic sends ripples through the ages.
Long ago in a cave obscured by the mists of time, Nimue, a powerful sorceress and Merlin’s beloved, took the energy of their passion and wove it into a potent love spell. Intending the spell to honor their love and enshrine it in immortality, she merged the spell into the large moonstone in the headpiece of Merlin’s staff. Thus, when Merlin was far from her, he still carried the aura of their love with him and, so they both believed, the moonstone would act as a catalyst for true love, inciting and encouraging love to blossom in the hearts of those frequently in the presence of thestone.
Sadly, neither Merlin nor Nimue, despite all their power, foresaw the heart of Lancelot. A minor adept, he sensed both the presence of the spell in the moonstone and also the spell’s immense power. Driven by his own desires, Lancelot stole the headpiece and used the moonstone’s power to sway Guinevere to his side.
Furious that the spell crafted from the pure love of his and his beloved’s hearts had been misused, Merlin smote Lancelot and seized back the headpiece. To protect it forevermore, Merlin laid upon the stone a web of control that restricted its power. Henceforth, it could act only in response to a genuine need for true love, and only when that need impacted one of his and Nimue’s blood, no matter how distant.
Ultimately, Merlin sent the headpiece back to Nimue for safe keeping. As the Lady of the Lake, at that time, she lived in a cottage on an island surrounded by swiftly flowing streams, and it was in her power to see and watch over their now-dispersed offspring.
Time passed, and even those of near-immortality faded and vanished.
The land about Nimue’s cottage drained, and the region eventually became known as Somerset.
Generations came and went, but crafted of spelled gold, the headpiece endured and continued to hold and protect the timeless moonstone imbued with Nimue’s and Merlin’s spells…
Over time, a house, crafted of sound local stone and timbers from the surrounding Balesboro Wood, was built on the site of Nimue’s cottage. The house became known as Nimway Hall. From the first, the house remained in the hands and in the care of a female descendant of Nimue, on whom devolved the responsibilities of guardian of Nimway Hall. As decades and then centuries passed, the tradition was established that in each generation, the title of and responsibility for the house and associated estate passed to the eldest living and willing daughter of the previous female holder of the property, giving rise to the line of the Guardians of Nimway Hall.
THE GUARDIANS OF NIMWAY HALL
Nimue - Merlin.
through the mists of time
Moira Elizabeth O’Shannessy b. 1692
m. 1720 Phillip Tregarth
Jacqueline Vivienne Tregarth b. 1726
m. 1750 Lord Richard Devries
Olivia Heather Devries b. 1751
m. 1771 John “Jack” Harrington
Charlotte Anne Harrington b. 1776
m. 1794 Marco de Rossi
Isabel Jacqueline de Rossi b. 1797
m. 1818 Adam Driscoll
Miranda Rose Driscoll b. 1819
m. 1839 Michael Eades
Georgia Isabel Eades b. 1841
m. 1862 Frederick Hayden
Alexandra Edith Hayden b. 1864
m. 1888 Robert Curtis, Viscount Brynmore
Fredericka “Freddy” Viviane Curtis b. 1890
m. 1912 Anthony Marshall
Maddie Rose Devries b. 1904
m. 1926 Declan Maclean
Jocelyn Regina Stirling b. 1918
m.1940 Lt. Col. Gideon Fletcher
Are we there yet, my lady?”
Lady Barton kept her eyes closed. Verity was trying her best to nap and the last thing she wanted was to be drawn into conversation.
But her maid, the tall and angular Lucy Mull, had other ideas. She repeated herself in a louder voice and added, “I vow but we’ve been in this coffin of a coach for nigh on ten hours now! We must be close.”
That was too much, even for Verity, who prized her naps almost as much as she did her morning cup of hot chocolate. She opened her eyes and favored her maid with a sullen glare. “Is the coach still moving?”
Lucy sniffed. “It is, as you well know.”
“Then we are not yet at Nimway Hall! Now hush, you pestilent maid, and let me sleep!” Lady Verity tugged her feathered hat further down so that it shaded her eyes and then snuggled deeper into the puffy squabs.
“For the love of—” Verity shoved her hat from her eyes and sat upright, scowling at her ungrateful maid. “Stop this caterwauling at once. I cannot sleep for the noise.”
Lucy folded her thin lips. “I was not caterwauling. I was just saying—”
“Lud, don’t repeat it! We will arrive when we will arrive. And you have not been in this ‘box,’ as you call my lovely coach, for ten hours. We didn’t leave the inn until well after eleven this morning and it’s barely three now, plus we stopped for lunch for over an hour.”
Lucy said in a grumpy tone, “Well, it feels as if we’ve been in here for ten hours.” The whip-thin maid with her tight brown curls and permanent scowl was as cantankerous as a recovering drunk, but she was also as loyal as the day was long and possessed an almost uncanny genius for repairing gowns and designing coifs. For those reasons, as well as the fact that Verity shuddered to think of the effort she’d have to expend to train a new maid, Lucy’s complaining was tolerated. Lady Verity loved many things, but expending herself was not one of them.
She wilted back into her corner of the coach and delicately covered her yawn with a gloved hand. “I wish you hadn’t awoken me. I was having a lovely dream involving lemon cake and Lord Rackingham.”
Lucy’s irritation vanished. “Was it a naughty dream, my lady? Lord Rackingham is as handsome as they come.”
“Lud, no!” Verity patted her mussed curls. “Not this time, anyway.” More’s the pity.
Lucy looked as disappointed as Verity felt. The maid said in a wistful tone, “I had a dream about Lord Rackingham once. He was naked, he was, and bold as a pirate, too.”
“I’m sure he was, for he seems to have tendencies in that direction, but please, do not share another word. I have to meet that man in public and I’ve no wish to think of—“
“So there I was, in a stone tower, locked behind a huge door, and reclining on a divan like a princess in a cream silk gown that was open from my chin to my ankles. Wide open it was, too!”
“I daresay you were chilly.”
“I think I was, now that you mention it,” Lucy admitted. “And then Lord Rackingham arrived. He kicked down the door and, sword drawn, burst into my room naked as the day he was born—”
“Wait. He was already naked? Before he even entered the room?”
“And yet he broke down a heavy door? With his bare hands?”
“Aye, so he did.”
“Was he bleeding, then? I can’t imagine he could break down a door whilst naked and not bruise or at least scratch himself. And why was his sword drawn? Did he expect to fight you? I vow, Lucy, but that dream makes no sense.”
Lucy sputtered. “But you dreamt last week that you owned a tiny elephant that fit in your teacup!”
“A tiny elephant. Which is why it fit. I didn’t, however, dream about a naked man knocking down a heavy wooden door without marring his skin and running in with a drawn sword for no reason at all. I mean, how did he knock down the door if he wasn’t even wearing stiff boots in order to kick—” The coach slowed and Verity brightened. “Ah, the drive to Nimway Hall!” She pushed back the curtain to expose a beautiful forest. “Balesboro Wood, so we’re close. We shall be having tea soon, which is good, for I’m famished.”
The maid peered out the window, her eyebrows lowered. “There’s a darkness to this wood.”
“Woods are notoriously unfriendly places to be. They’re damp, and dirty, and contain all sorts of creatures, some of whom bite. Fortunately, we shall only see it when we come and go, and then from the safety of a coach.” Verity dropped the curtains back in place. “The house itself is quite lovely, and I hear my sister-in-law Olivia, who is the guardian of Nimway, has been redecorating it, so it’s vastly improved from the last time I was here.”
“That’s nice to hear, my lady. But ah . . . Mrs. Harrington is the guardian and not your brother?”
“Correct. The whole thing’s quite complicated, and I won’t pretend I understand, but Nimway Hall is always held by a female. Something to do with the entail or – Lud, I’ve no idea. Anyway, it’s Olivia’s, and one day, I suppose it will belong to Charlotte now that her sister Caroline is—” Verity closed her lips over the rest of her sentence, unable to give voice to the thought even eleven long months after the fact.
“Now that Miss Caroline is no longer with the living,” Lucy offered helpfully.
Verity forced a smile. “Yes. From what Olivia has said, Nimway’s line of succession was determined in ancient times. In fact – and do not ask me if this is true, for I’ve no idea – but some of the villagers say the house and lands have something to do with Merlin.”
“The sorcerer?” Lucy gawped. “You cannot mean it!”
“Oh yes. Local lore says that the love of his life was a witch called Nimway, so the house must have been hers, although I don’t think it’s that old, so perhaps she owned the land or—or—Well, I’ve no idea. It’s all rumor, of course, but a fun one.”
“You don’t know it’s a rumor,” Lucy cocked her eye at her employer. “My lady, you said yesterday that you’d visited this hall many times. Have you seen any magic whilst staying here?”
“Lud, no. I never saw anything untoward. Well, except—” Verity wondered if she should mention that day, for it had been long, long ago and, to be honest, over time she’d come to wonder if her memory hadn’t been compromised by wine or—or—well, she wouldn’t say ‘age’ as that would be too much and she was only 30(ish).
Lucy’s eyes widened. “What did you see?”
“Nothing. At one time, I thought—” A strand of light broke through the crack in the curtain, so Verity flipped it open. “And there is Nimway Hall!”
Lucy peered at the house sitting on a faint rise before them. “It’s nowhere near as large as Chatsworth.”
“Few houses are,” Verity returned sharply. “Nimway Hall is not as large, but it’s still quite, quite pretty.” Her family pride roused, she added, “In fact, I would even say it’s prettier than Chatsworth.”
Lucy wrinkled her nose, and then muttered something under her breath that sounded like “I can’t imagine that!” but must have been something far less impudent.
Verity sniffed her disapproval. Her beloved brother and his dear wife had found their happiness within the walls of Nimway. Besides, who wouldn’t adore such an old, stately house? The real problem was that Lucy had no appreciation for architectural majesty.
Verity smiled at the house and admired its position upon a wide bluff, a silvered pool of mist swirling at its feet. The house was built of local stone that shimmered under the wan sun. It was three stories high with an expanse of jewel green lawn that rolled gently down to the wood that encircled this aspect. But as beautiful as the front lawn was, Verity knew the back lawn was even more beckoning with its green grass and beautifully cultivated gardens, all framing sparkling Lake Myrrdin. Ah, how she looked forward to seeing it all from the comfort of a settee near a large, open window.
The coach continued to the house, the scent lifting from the lavender bushes that lined the drive and lifting Verity’s spirits. As they approached the forecourt, the mist curled away from the drive as if making a path for them. It was enough to give one the shivers, if one believed in such nonsense, which Verity most certainly didn’t. Besides, her real concern wasn’t with the house or the silly rumors one heard about it, but with the person waiting on them. Oh Charlotte, my favorite and now only niece, I wonder how these last few months have changed you?
“My lady, you look sad. Missing Miss Caroline, are you?”
“It is odd, being here without her. But as difficult as it is for me and the rest of the family, I’m convinced it’s been a hundred times harder for her sister Charlotte.
“I didn’t know they were twins! It’s tragic, when someone so young dies.” Lucy hesitated, and then said, “If you don’t mind me asking, how did Miss Caroline die?”
“She was out riding in the wood late at night and something must have startled her horse. She fell and hit her head upon a rock.”
“Riding after dark?” Lucy shook her head. “Young people can be so foolish.”
“‘Foolish’ is not a word I ever thought to use to describe Caroline. The child never broke rules, said a cross word, or did anything other than what was expected.”
“Then why was she out in the middle of the night?”
“No one knows. It was so unlike her. A thorough investigation was done, and for a time we all thought the answer would be in Caroline’s diary, for the child wrote in one every day, but no one could find it.”
Lucy gaped. “It disappeared?”
“No, no. Not disappeared. We just couldn’t find it. It must be somewhere, I mean, who would take it?”
“Someone with an eye on murder, that’s who,” Lucy said grimly.
“Well, it wasn’t a murder, so you can keep those thoughts to yourself,” Verity replied testily. “The family was traumatized enough without such nonsense. I’m just hoping things are better now. Which is why we’re here. My brother and his wife are in London visiting their son John, who is a captain in the Navy and has been temporarily brought to dock while awaiting repairs on his ship. So I’m to chaperone Charlotte until their return.”
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