Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy & the Bewitched Sisters Chapter Four Part Two

Road in dark forest

Previous sections: Prologue / 1.1 / 1.2 / 2.1 / 2.2 / 3.1 / 3.2 / 4.1

“Just the usual nerves and village disputes. Nothing malevolent.”

“Charles?” Darcy watched as his friend, a telepath, flushed a little. The others had not remarked on it, but Darcy had noticed how little Charles actually spoke during his dances with Miss Bennet, who rumor had it was an empath. Darcy would have bet Charles conversed through thoughts with her.

“Sir William Lucas has done his job well,” Charles said, at last. “The Bennet ladies seemed sufficiently ignorant of their powers, and all the jobbards had no suspicion of magic being the cause for our return.”

“Eleanor?” The General looked hard at his daughter who had not said a thing all evening.

“I agree they did not seem to know of their powers, but I sensed great potential,” she answered in a gentle voice. “They are strong, confident and unaffected young ladies. They will rise to the task if allowed.”

Before more could be said on the subject of “allowing” the ladies to become true witches, Mr. Hurst let out a loud snore. Judging by the look on the General’s face, it was best to not allow the conversation to continue anyway.

Mrs. Tilney must have noticed as well.

“Louisa,” she said, “I’m afraid Hurst is long overdue his rest. You must wake him.” Mrs. Tilney stood and called for the servant who began using spells to clean the room. “I will bid you all adieu.” She looked at her husband meaningfully.

“Allow me to escort you,” he said and stood. He gave the room a sloppy bow before placing his wife’s hand on his arm and leading her up the stairs.

Before Caroline’s eyes could brighten with the opportunity of more secluded conversation with him, Darcy announced his intention to retire as well. He extended his arm to Eleanor, who sat near the door, as Caroline nearly fell off the sofa trying to stand. Mr. Hurst’s feet rested on her train.

In his chamber, Darcy dismissed his valet and sighed. It continued to feel too stiff and formal. He hated being a guest in other places. He had grown up just outside the one all-wizard town in Britain. The rest of the county, of course, was inhabited by many non-magical people. It was only in Pember Wigan that wizards and witches did not have to worry about blending in with jobbards. He supposed other people that grew up in that environment were more adept at it than he. His parents sent him to jobbard school so he might learn to fit in better, but by that age, it was rather sealed. Unfortunately, he was awkward among wizarding-kind as well.

The necessity of living double lives to avoid detection had caused an interesting revolution in the practice of magic in the last century or so. While the learning of potions and spells continued to be taught, they were increasingly less useful. Even more so, the rich shunned using them at all and instead hired magical servants. Now, a simple spell to carry away tea things was seen as low work. The lack of practical application of magic had an adverse effect on the wizards. Fewer and fewer families had children with any manifesting powers at all. Three sisters with inherited powers was a potentially devastating weapon. Darcy and the other members of the Quorum were tasked with finding the sisters before Napoleon did. Recalling his recent letter from his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, who was non-magical but served in the King’s Army added fuel to Darcy’s already steadfast determination.

Darcy punched his pillow without success before climbing out of bed. “Solatium,” he said, and the room was transformed to a mirror image of his bedchamber at Pemberley. He sank into the comfortable mattress that lacked the frilly lace with which Mrs. Tilney decorated. The room was now covered in muted colors and thick carpets, the furniture a dark and sturdy wood. Just before he closed his eyes, the fire went out, and he heard the crackle of ice frost over his windows. He smiled as he felt the tension of the evening ease away. It was his duty to lead the Quorum in this journey to find the Bewitched Sisters, but the truth was, he much preferred solitude.

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewtiched Sisters, Chapter One part 2

Road in dark forest

Here’s the second part of Chapter One! I really like how we get more of Darcy’s point of view in this version.


September 23, 1811


Fitzwilliam Darcy now just under thirty, with the same dark hair and piercing blue eyes of his youth, leafed through several letters of recommendations. He brushed an unruly and curly lock slightly to the side.

“Richard,” Darcy said in a deep but distinct voice, “I think Mrs. Annesley is the one.”

Richard, around the same age as Darcy and wearing Regimentals, took a sip of wine before replying. “I believe you’re right, which will come as no surprise to you.” He assumed an exaggeratedly pompous posture as his companion scowled. “Fitzwilliam Darcy is never wrong.”

“Very amusing,” Darcy scowled. These days, he felt like everything he did was wrong. “Has she spoken to you at all?”

“No. Father and I only get one-word answers. Mother gets little more. When we mention her returning here, she bursts into tears.”

Darcy glared as Richard drained his glass as though there was nothing unusual with what he just said.

“Well, if you’re sure her references all check out, then I’ll be off. The Major has complained about my absences recently. You’ll be ready for Georgiana at the end of the month?”

Darcy’s grip on the papers tightened. He had checked Mrs. Annesley’s references three times personally and employed half a dozen others to do so as well. He would not be caught unawares again. It was all entirely his fault, but Georgiana could not bear the devastation she almost caused by her planned, but thankfully interrupted, elopement. “Yes. I think redoing the upstairs drawing room will excite her. And by then I will be free of daily correspondence with my steward at Pemberley. I do not want any distractions when she returns.”

Richard stood and shook his head. “You’ll frighten her more if you hover. Don’t treat her like a child — ”

“That is precisely what she is!” Darcy said with a quietness that belied his intense feelings and the temperature in the room dropped. “I never should have allowed her to go to Ramsgate, or to entrust her care to a woman who was not a relation.” His sister, twelve years his junior, was all he had left of his family. His parents had believed he would protect her and instead his selfishness nearly led to her ruin.

“You will not always live with her,” Richard said. “Someday she will marry, and you will have to have faith that man will see to her wants and needs. You will have to trust Georgiana…and yourself,” he added softly.

Rather than replying to his cousin, Darcy turned his attention to other correspondence. His mentor wrote to him of a group of ladies in Hertfordshire that he expected to come into magical powers very soon. The General reminded him of his duty to his mother’s memory. He alone knew all of her prophecies — which ultimately got her killed — and he alone could determine if these sisters fit the prophecy of restoring balance to the forces of good and evil.

Darcy did not need the reminder. He could never forget his duty, even as he loathed the requirement. Did anyone understand the pressure he felt having to straddle two worlds? The mortal world required he present the face of a typical English gentleman: impeccable manners, landlord, with a healthy interest in sporting, ladies, politics, concern for over taxation, and his estate’s drainage ditches. To be entirely mortal would mean sacrificing his magical heritage. The magical world, however, desired he fully embrace his legacy. Yet, how could he want to live in a world which killed his loving mother? A world that now thought they had endless claims on him no matter that he had his own desires. Both worlds had one thing in common: they expected him to marry one of their own.

Memories washed over Darcy. His father and mother had a love story the likes of which few could understand. However, his mother had kept her powers a secret and the older Mr. Darcy did not take to the truth very well. Especially as he only became aware of his wife’s abilities when he began having premonitions himself. It was proof that they were true soul mates but put the Darcy family into even more trouble when the Caligo took over.

While Mr. Darcy had been called away on Council business, Caligo struck at Pemberley. Even now, that day haunted Darcy. If he had been braver, he would have protected his mother instead of hiding. He could have prevented her death, and that tormented him more than any concerns about weaknesses in the magical world. In the years that followed, Darcy’s father could hardly look at the boy who led to his wife’s demise.

“What a monstrous frown, Cousin,” Richard interrupted Darcy’s musings.

“News from the General.”

Although Darcy did not serve in the military or the magical community’s counterpart the agmen, he headed the Cabinet of Premonition. In particular, he had taken over his father’s tasks of investigating claims of an ancient prophecy regarding three sisters who would restore the balance of power between good and evil. His mother had the sight and became a renowned oracle. In her later years, most of her prophecies proclaimed the impending arrival of the Bewitched Sisters. Darcy did not realize it at the time, but most of the things his mother taught him, from nursery rhymes to fables, held some degree of memorizing her prophecies. The instruction served as insurance should she be killed and evil infiltrate the Council.

“He and the family will return to their estate in Hertfordshire around Michaelmas to investigate a claim to the prophecy.”

“Ah,” Richard said with raised eyebrows. “So it begins again. Are you ready for it?”

Darcy sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I only wish I did not have to leave Georgiana, but she must stay.” In the years since he had become Minister of Prophecy, he had investigated many claims between sisters.

“This is the first time you will be staying with the Tilneys, however,” Richard said. “Bingley’s sister—”

“I know she’s a devious, grasping woman, and a powerful witch. I will not fall prey to her wiles — magical or mortal.”

“I did not mean to insinuate you would,” Richard raised his hands to cease Darcy’s tirade. “I only worry about the added stress you must bear.”

“Thank you,” Darcy gave his cousin a soft but sincere smile.

He had few he could count on and few who understood him. Richard had reason to fear Darcy’s travels to Hertfordshire with the General. Tilney’s first wife had died five years ago, and he remarried last year. It was not a love match by any means. Mrs. Bingley was still lovely at forty and had a substantial fortune. Additionally, she had a noble magical legacy. Darcy, however, had reason to rejoice and mourn the match. His good friend Charles Bingley was now the General’s step-son, and that would naturally help advance his career and position in both worlds. On the other hand, Charles’ sister Caroline had set her cap at Darcy years ago and would not give him up.

“I had best be off,” Richard said and stood. “Give my regards to Charles and Henry.”

“Is that all you wish me to do?” Darcy asked with a raised brow.

“Oh, I’ll be around with a letter for Ellie. Why would I trust you to give her my sentiments? She might just as easily fall for my loving words from your rich mouth.”

Darcy laughed. “She is far too intelligent for that.”

“That she is,” Richard smiled and agreed. “She loves me, after all.” The gentlemen shared a laugh and Richard took his leave.

After his cousin had left, Darcy perused the General’s letter again. It was an unusual set of circumstances. Mr. Bennet had two daughters. The eldest was an empath, and the younger had the ability to create and control fire. His step-daughter had just come out and was rumored to have the sight. However, Darcy did not think as step-sisters they would have the required bond to manifest the strength of the Bewitched Sisters. Additionally, their powers were currently bound, and while they would soon be released, they would be utter novices at the craft. It seemed unlikely they would fulfill the prophecy, but Darcy’s duty required he examine them anyway. Too many mortals and witches both had perished in the last twenty years. Once peace was restored, Darcy could have the peaceful country existence he had always craved.

A Phantom Courtship- Chapter Two

phantom courtship 7Lily awoke to raindrops on her head. At first, she remained motionless, allowing the refreshing chill to wash over her and ease the aches of her body and the sting of her wound. As the storm picked up, she attempted to sit, feeling dizzy as she did so.

“Easy now, Miss!” a lady’s voice called from several feet behind her.

Lily struggled to turn to see who approached but moaned in pain at the action. She heard footsteps increase in speed.

“We saw you fall. We will be there in one moment.”

“Try not to move,” a masculine voice said.

Who were they? Lily had never seen others visit the cemetery before. Although at the moment all she cared about was ending the near blinding pain in her head.

“Let’s get you out of the rain,” the man said as he reached her side.

Lily took in his Wellington boots, buckskin breeches, and black overcoat before slowly moving her head up the inches of his frame to see his face. Any sudden movement would end in agony. A kind face and pale blue eyes gazed back at her.

“Do you think she has a concussion?” the woman said.

“Out of the rain first, Sybil.” The man knelt before Lily. “Can you put your arms around my neck? There’s a folly not too far from here we might seek refuge.”

Lily attempted to speak, but no sound came from her. Deciding that nodding would be too painful, she lifted her arms, fighting the dull, heavy feeling of those limbs. Her teeth chattered as cold crept in from the rain. Already sodden, she began to fear she would never be dry or warm again. What would have become of her if not for these angelic strangers?

In one graceful movement, the young man scooped her up and marched toward the folly built by the previous squire. The lady kept pace with them.

“I am Sybil Morgan and this is my brother Peter. We are visiting kin in the area.”

When Lily did not speak, Sybil chatted on. “You must be overwrought from your experience. Never mind speaking to us just now. I only thought introducing ourselves would put your mind at ease.” She paused and beamed at her brother. “Peter is a doctor. He’s going to be the best doctor this country has ever seen!”

Lily glanced up at the man who held her. He looked as though he had just finished his training. They reached the folly, and he set her down gently.

“May I examine you?” he asked with practiced calm.

Again, finding speech too difficult, Lily gave a slight smile and Mr. Morgan began his assessment. His fingers ran over her limbs and ribs, looking for signs of any broken bones.

“It is as I suspected. Other than a few scrapes and bruises any injury was to your head. I imagine you have the devil of a headache.”

Lily attempted to nod and moaned at the sensation.

“Help me with her bonnet,” Peter said to his sister. Together they undid the strings of Lily’s sodden hat. Sybil undid her hairpins and Peter speared his fingers through Lily’s dark brown mane. Locating the tenderest spot, Lily yelped. Peter withdrew his fingers.

“No blood,” he frowned.

Lily furrowed her brow and looked at the siblings, hoping one would explain.

“After a fall like that, I would expect bleeding. That there is none on the outside indicates an internal contusion,” Peter said matter-of-factly. “Can you tell me how many fingers I’m holding up?” He held up three, two on the one hand and one on the other.

Lily opened her mouth, but again, no words came out. She motioned to her throat.

“No voice?” Peter asked.

Lily nodded, wincing at the pain.

“But you understand our words?”

“I do not think she is a mute,” Sybil said. “She wouldn’t try to talk if she were.”

“I agree,” Peter said. “How curious.” He reached for Lily’s chin and turned it gently in his gloved hands. He trailed his fingers over her neck which would have made her blush if she were not so cold.

“Does your throat hurt? Have you had a recent cold?”

Lily shook her head and held up three fingers.

“Three?” Peter said in confusion. “Oh, from a moment ago. Yes, I held up three fingers.”

“Well, we need to get you home Miss. You need dry clothes and a warm fire.”

“How can we manage that if we don’t know who she is?” Sybil asked and twisted her hands. “We could bring her—”

“You know we can’t do that,” Peter said quietly but in a tone that left no room for argument.

Lily thought for a moment. Her quick mind moved slower through the pain and the cold. If only she could write out her name and directions to her home. She held out her palm and shaped her other hand as though she were holding a pen. She went through the motions of writing.

“I’m afraid neither one of us have any writing instruments,” Peter frowned.

Lily’s shoulders sagged for a moment.

“I’m sure someone in town must know who she is. Her clothes are fine enough, she must be local,” Sybil said.

Lily’s eyes widened at the thought of her being carted off to town as they asked every passer-by if they knew her as she looked ragged and a mess. Frantic to avoid being made into such a scene of pity—again—she held up her fingers in the shape of a cross.

“A cross?” Peter and Sybil echoed together.

“You would like us to take you to the church?” Sybil asked. “I do not think anyone will be there at this hour.”

Lily would roll her eyes if she did not think it would cause pain. Sybil was not the most intelligent lady Lily had ever met.

“Perhaps she means the vicar’s house. He would know her at the very least.”

Lily clapped her hands in approval rather than risk moving her head again, earning a smile from Peter and Sybil. Peter looked out at the horizon.

“The rain is easing, and our carriage is not very far.” Again, he scooped her up and carried her as though she weighed nothing.

Sybil took to chattering again. “Our father was a doctor too. Of course, Peter paid much more attention to doctoring than I did. I suppose he would have wanted me to be a nurse like our mother, but I was not made for that kind of concentration.”

By the way the lady walked—nearly skipping—Lily would agree.

“And not to be outdone with displeasing our Papa, Peter took an assignment that had him travel all over England, the Continent, and the furthest corners of the Empire.” Sybil grinned. “He brought me with him, of course.”

“Sybil, let us not air all of our private lives just now,” Peter said with a hint of annoyance.

“Well, I suppose you are correct. It is more fun to release it in small doses and surprise one’s friends. When next we see you, I will tell you a tale from India.”

Lily blinked and wondered if Peter’s worry about a contusion on the brain was indeed correct. They thought they might see her again? They did not even know her name! And now they were laughing and carrying on as though she were one of their dearest friends. And as strange as it was, Lily also found herself yearning for it. She had felt so very alone since her mother died.

Once in the carriage, Peter brought out a blanket from a box beneath the seat and Sybil arranged it around Lily. The trundled the small distance to the parsonage house. Rather than carry her to the door, Peter assisted Lily out of the carriage, and then both siblings helped her walk to the door. They knocked and at first no one answered. Tears were welling in Lily’s eyes as she reached for the knob, determined to see herself inside when the door opened.

“Oh, it’s you,” Daisy said and moved aside. “What on earth did you do to yourself? Hurt your ankle, I guess,” she supplied when Lily did not answer. “Well, put her in the parlor here.”

Daisy pointed in the direction and then yelled for the cook, marching off when no one answered. The siblings brought her to the room and lowered her on the settee.

“You are certain she will be looked after here?” Sybil asked her brother.

“She is with her people,” Peter said. “It is wrong for us to intrude longer. We will call on you tomorrow. Ice for the head,” he said then bowed.

Sybil curtsied and followed her brother out of the room. Lily laid her head back on the pillow, thinking it the strangest but most thrilling day she had ever lived.




In three days’ time, Lily recovered from her fall. At first, heavily bruised and sore, the pain eased with the application of ice and rest. Her voice, as well, mended and returned within a day. Not that Lily had much use for it. Her sisters did little more than pop their heads in and gawk at her. Her father avoided her room entirely. Although disappointed that Peter and Sybil did not visit as promised, Lily determined to leave the house on the third day. She had spent too much of her life in the sick room.

Strolling through the muddied lanes, she approached the cemetery. Closing the gate behind her, she meandered through the paths to her mother’s grave. Laying aside the now destroyed flowers she had last left at the tomb, she lovingly placed a new bouquet.

Hearing the squeak of the gate closing in the distance, Lily lifted her head. A gentleman and a lady entered the grounds of the cemetery. As they came closer, Lily made out the faces of Peter and Sybil. How strange that they frequented the graveyard but were not residents of the area.

They paused for several minutes at a set of stones and Lily allowed them privacy. When they looked up, Sybil caught her eye and tugged on her brother’s coat. Nodding to his sister’s unspoken request, they began walking toward Lily. She met them halfway.

“Good day,” she said with a polite curtsy.

“Miss Shapcote,” Peter said with a bow. “Forgive us for not calling on you. I am happy to see you are well.”

“It is of no matter, but I was sorry to not be able to thank you earlier. I shudder to think what might have become of me if I had not been discovered so quickly.”

“Yes,” Peter agreed.

“Fate must have played a hand in our meeting,” Sybil said with a smile.

Since her mother’s death, Lily had no trust in fate whether it was called destiny, Providence, or God’s handiwork. How could there be any good in her mother being taken from her? Rather than disagreeing with her new acquaintance, Lily gave them a tight smile.

“Will you walk with us, Miss Shapcote?” Peter asked and extended his arm.

Lily took it and allowed him to lead her from the graveyard. They walked in silence for several moments. Perhaps like Lily, they considered the most likely candidate for conversation—that of mourning a loved one—too intrusive. Finally, it occurred to her, that they had learned her surname.

“You discovered my name,” she said. Her voice rose, indicating her apprehension. She dearly hoped her story of falling and rescue in the rain like a drowning kitten was not bandied about the town.

“I hope you do not mind,” Peter said. “We asked our aunt the name of the vicar and were told he is Mr. Shapcote with three daughters and recently lost his wife. Seeing as we met you at the cemetery, it seemed likely you were a daughter and not a servant or friend.”

“Yes, I am his second daughter. Lily.”

“We are pleased to formally meet you,” Sybil said with a gentle smile.

“You seem to know the area well, and yet I do not recall meeting you before,” Lily said and redirected the conversation.

“As my sister told you when we found you, we have spent many years abroad. My father moved here, at his sister’s request, shortly after our mother died over ten years ago. Not to malign your town, Miss Shapcote, but coming from the bustling city of Liverpool, we found it too confining. I took a post to India and Sybil came with me.”

Lily glanced at the couple she walked with. Ten years ago they would have been in their early twenties, and well out of the sphere of people Lily would have known as a child. “Who is your aunt?”

“Mrs. Wilson,” Sybil answered.

Lily’s eyebrows shot up. She had not heard Mrs. Wilson had any kin. The widowed woman was reported to not have left her home for nearly ten years.

“You do well to seem surprised,” Peter said in a melancholy voice. “It seems she has shut herself in after our father died. News of which did not reach us until recently. I fear there is no one to blame for his death but myself.”

“Peter! No, do not say such things!” Sybil let go of her brother’s arm and stood in front of him, hands on her hips and tears in her eyes.

“It is the truth, Sybil. I broke his heart when I left home.”

Lily shrank back, uncertain she should hear such a private conversation.

“You are not to blame for his illness,” Sybil shook a finger at her brother. “As a physician, you should know better. Nor was he so heartbroken that he bothered to read your letters.”

“I suppose you are correct,” Peter said looking at his toes. “He simply returned them unopened.”

Lily stifled a gasp, shocked that a father could do such a thing. Then, she considered the indifference her own had shown her in the recent months and tears welled in her eyes.

“No matter how much he blamed you for Mother’s death, it was not your fault,” Sybil said. “I am sure Miss Shapcote would agree.”

Sybil looked in Lily’s direction. “Oh, my dear!” She rushed to Lily’s side and embraced her. “I am sorry our discussion distressed you so much. Peter is always telling me to quit chattering so much and telling all the world our woes.”

She rubbed her hand soothingly over Lily’s back. She had not had an embrace since her mother died. Her sisters had not shown much emotion at their mother’s passing, and Helena was not the demonstrative sort.

“I apologize for my tears,” Lily said and rummaged for her handkerchief but not finding one.

“Use mine,” Peter said and pressed his into her hand, giving it a squeeze.

“I can sympathize with your troubles,” Lily said when she could speak. “My mother died after caring for me through illness.” Lily sniffed then confessed, “I know my father—” Her voice broke, “My father blames me.”

Beauty’s Mirror- Chapter Nine


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Bella sagged into her bed at the end of a long day. She had been home for a week and immediately cast into her old position of servant and housekeeper for her family. Her sisters seemed barely shocked that she arrived without notice, or without them writing to her, and instead seemed annoyed at her being away at all. That she came with no gifts for them, they found equally insulting.

Her father did not seem as ill in truth as she had seen in the mirror. Or perhaps she was merely finished with treating him as an infant for every minor ailment. Yesterday, he admitted the reason she had been requested as governess was because he had tried to take Rosie from the house.

Bella could understand how it must have seemed to her father, but she could not excuse his deceit in leading her to believe the arrangement was because of George’s debt. When she defended Leo and his relationship with Rosie, her father insisted she was wrong and sent her to the kitchen. As far as Bella could tell, the only person that seemed to appreciate her presence was Cook.

She rubbed her aching feet and then stretched her back. The truth was, she had eagerly launched herself into Leo’s troubles. It seemed she felt some innate need to rescue people. The difference was she felt appreciated at the Castle and Leo never took her assistance for granted.

“Enough about him. You knew him only a few days and in the end…” Bella trailed off. For, in the end, he proved exactly what she had seen in the beginning. Perhaps not exactly, but neither was he what she had believed him to be.

“George was right,” she mumbled before she fell asleep. She needed to find some way to live life on her terms.

The next morning, Bella awoke at her usual time and immediately began chores. By mid-morning, she had accomplished much of her to do list. The difference between planning a fine meal and ball for a duke and scrubbing in her father’s house was stark, however. Unexpectedly, she heard a vaguely familiar male voice calling out in the hall.

“I will see to it,” Bella told Cook.

Arriving upstairs, she stopped in her tracks. “Lord Morgan?” She rubbed her eyes in disbelief.

“Miss Beauley,” he executed a perfect bow, even as his eyes scanned her stained apron. “Forgive me. No one answered my knock.”

Bella hastily wiped her hands on the offending garment and then attempted to untie it. “Allow me,” he said and came behind her to undo the string. His presence unnerved her. Freed from the apron, she invited him to the drawing room.

“This is a fine home,” Morgan said, and Bella felt the weight of ridiculous small talk.

“May I ask why you are here, Lord Morgan?”

“You suddenly vanished, Miss Beauley. One minute we were enjoying each other’s company at Erroll’s ball and the next you left without a word.”

Bella blushed but raised her chin. “I would not say it was so sudden as that. I had previously left your side.”

Morgan nodded his head. “Yes, to dance with Erroll but you did not return to the ballroom. I worried.”

His tone sounded almost hurt and deeply concerned. “I apologize,” Bella said before recalling his plans with Leo. She would not be made to feel the villain here. “However, I believe you spoke with His Grace and did not seem concerned about my whereabouts then.”

Morgan’s eyebrows raised high. “You heard my conversation with Erroll?” Bella nodded her head but would not explain how. “And that offended you in some way?”

His incredulity was obvious to her. “That you both should consider I would marry a man I had just met, with knowing very little of his character or temper, yes. That I would marry him without so much as being asked, moreso. I suppose you believed I would marry you based on your rank and wealth alone. To me, that is the highest insult.”

Bella had stood and begun pacing during her speech. “To think that Mrs. Hammond’s friendship was nothing but an insincere ploy!”

Lord Morgan shot out of his chair at that charge and stood before her, ceasing her movement. “Alice’s friendship was genuine. Do not lay such a charge on her feet. Will you listen to me?” He reached for her hand.

Bella pulled her hand away and turned her head. What could he say?

“It was Erroll’s idea!” He said angrily.

“I know!” Heat rushed into Bella’s cheeks.

“So you know that he loves you? I know he is ugly, but why not go back to him?”

“What?” Bella’s eyes snapped to his. She could not breathe as she waited for him to repeat the words.

“Erroll asked I marry you in exchange for half his income. I thought then that you were his mistress.”

“No!” Bella said and began to storm off.

“Wait! I apologize!” He called after her.

Bella whirled around, tears threatened to spill out of her eyes. “If he loved me, why would he wish I marry you?”

Morgan shrugged his shoulders. “He said he was dying. I assume he wished to protect you. He asked for me to become Lady Rosalyn’s guardian as well and to allow neither of you to enter the Castle again. If you want to know more, you would have to ask him.”

The world titled and Bella stumbled to a chair. She worked hard for breath, it felt as though someone stood on her chest. “Breathe, lass,” Morgan said as he thrust a glass of wine into her hand.

Oh, Lord. Leo loved her. He didn’t want to tell her because of the curse. Couldn’t he see that even if their time together was short, she would have rather spent it with him? He loved her enough to give her up. That was more than anyone had loved her before.

“How is he?” Bella asked when her mind began to calm. Morgan would not meet her eyes and remained silent. “Tell me!”

“We found him after you left. He had destroyed the South Drawing Room and was shouting, incomprehensibly. He was holding this,” Erroll held up the mirror.

“Where did you get that?”

“He has spent all day with Lady Rosalyn since you left. Every night he would hide in his study with books and the mirror—but it was broken. Four nights ago, I found him staring at this—whole, with no cracks. Tears filled his eyes and he chanted your name over and over again.”

Tears welled in Bella’s eyes. Leo must have consulted the magical books to find some way of fixing the mirror. And then his first desire was to see her?

“After he finally fell asleep, I took the mirror and determined to find you. I needed to understand what happened.”

“You can never understand,” Bella said and shook her head.

“Try to explain,” Morgan pushed.

Bella took in a deep breath and began to tell all she had experienced in the days since arriving at Leo’s Castle. Not caring if Morgan believed her tale, she needed to know how Leo and Rosie were. “Did anything unusual happen after Leo left the room? Was Lady Rosalyn safe?”

“If you mean to ask if this ghost of the duchess returned to haunting the Castle, I would say it did not appear so.”

“What use is that?” Bella cried and then recalled the mirror. “Let me see the mirror!”

Morgan handed it over. Bella watched as the mirror showed her George with a sword and breathing hard. “No, I do not worry about George now. Show me Leo! Show me the Duke of Erroll!”

Again, George appeared but this time, Bella noted he was not wearing fencing gear. Then, she saw Leo tossing a matching sword down. “I will not fight you, Beauley,” he said calmly.

“You will pay for what you have done!” George screamed and charged at Leo.

“No!” Bella cried in horror. Then, immediately a new fear emerged. “Rosie! Mirror, show me, Lady Rosalyn!”

Lord Morgan, disturbed by Bella’s reactions, leaned over her shoulder. They saw Rosie in a carriage, crying and begging to return back to the Castle.

“Who has her? Oh my goodness! What shall I do?” Bella stood to her feet and raced to the door. Her ring! It had allowed her to travel in the blink of an eye once before.

“Wait!” Morgan called after her.

Bella cast an impatient glance at him with her hand on the door.

“The carriage was mine. I believe my sister has chosen to take Lady Rosalyn from the Castle. We had discussed it before I left. If your brother is there and acting like a madman, Alice will do anything to ensure Rosalyn’s safety.”

Bella nodded her head. Of course, they had no idea of the curse and even Rosie did not understand why she could not leave. But, oh! Leo! Even now he could be dead. She only hoped she could get there in enough time to say goodbye.

“Thank you, Lord Morgan,” Bella said. She knew she had seemed hateful and ungrateful before. “I truly appreciate your coming. I must go, immediately. You do understand?”

“Of course,” Morgan said, and Bella raced up to her chamber. Sliding the ring on her finger, she twisted it and immediately stood before Sundridge Castle. Heart pounding, she ran toward the front entrance.


Leo lay panting on the floor of the great hall, blood pouring from the wound received by Bella’s brother. “I did not dishonor your sister!”

“No more lies! You called my debt and forced her to come here. And then you couldn’t keep your filthy hands off her!” George Beauley swung wildly, and Leo had only just enough energy to slide out of the way.

“No! She worked as a governess. You have heard lies.”

“I do not believe you! You killed your first wife. I am happy Bella got away before you ended her life too.” Beauley’s blade swiped Leo’s arm.

Were all Beauley males so hot headed? Even still, his words pierced sharper than the blade. Leo’s heart ached for missing Bella, but he too was glad she had left before he had ruined her life. She had become too embroiled with his concerns. And suggesting she marry Morgan? A life without love—for Morgan surely did not love Bella, no matter his pretty words on finding her enchanting—would be worse than death for her.

“Such an ugly, beastly thing. A monster. I would be doing the world a service to kill you,” Beauley said as he hovered over Leo.

“Do it, but ask if you think your sister would want you as a murderer. I already forfeited the duel,” Leo said, his chest heaving.

Beauley swore and took a moment to consider Leo’s words. Leo braced for the mortal blow. At this rate, his life was ending anyway. Before Beauley had made contact with his skin, and even now it was not a grave wound, Leo felt the life draining from him. Mrs. Hammond had taken Rosie away when a madman stormed into the house. His hours were numbered. Perhaps he had only minutes.

Suddenly, the door slammed open. “George!” Bella screamed.

Beauley immediately spun around and Leo jerked his head up, the movement making him dizzy. Forcing himself to focus, his eyes locked with Bella’s.

“Bella?” George asked amidst the confusion.

“George, stop this!” Bella demanded and walked closer.

“I am defending your honor,” Beauley said like a child blaming poor conduct on another one starting it first.

“My honor is entirely intact. I do not know what you have heard, but His Grace has always behaved well toward me.”

“But you came back so suddenly. Meg wrote to me of it. Then I heard of the ball. Several of the guests thought you were his mistress.” Leo said with far more disapproval than a man of the world such as he should have.

“Do you think I would do such a thing?” Bella asked angrily. “Do you really believe I would do that—even for you and your debt?”

George shifted his weight between his feet. “I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

“Of course you didn’t. Do you think he forced me? If he managed to force himself on me, what are the chances of me then being able to escape? Or that he would have me act as hostess for his ball and mistress of his estate?”

“Oh…” George said and dropped the sword with a loud clatter.

Bella approached her brother, and they spoke in hushed tones. Or perhaps it was that Leo’s ability to hear was diminished by the sound of his heartbeat in his ears and a rushing sound.

Unexpectedly, they grew very close.

“Leo,” Bella’s sweet voice whispered.

He tried to respond, and no sound came out.

“What is happening?” Bella asked, her voice shaking.

“I do not know…” George replied. “I swear I didn’t wound him that badly.”

“No…look! He’s glowing!”

Leo felt his eyes begin to flutter open and something the size of a large dog threw itself on his chest and wept bitterly.

“There, there. All will be well,” he said uncertain as to why a dog wept on him.

“Papa!” At last, the creature croaked out, and Leo recognized the mop of curly hair was Rosie.

“How did she get here?” Bella asked.

“She opened the door and jumped from the carriage,” a disembodied voice broke in.

“Love you, Papa. Love you!” Rosie cried over and over again, and the tears dropped on his chest.

Leo rubbed her back. “I love you too, poppet. Be a good girl for Mrs. Hammond.”

“But I want to live with you and Miss Beauley!” Rosie cried.

“Miss Beauley has to go home, sweet,” he said gently. Was this his afterlife? Living with Rosie was no hell, but no Bella could not make it heaven.

“I am home,” Bella said and Leo tried again to focus his eyes. “Hush, rest now,” she said, and Leo obeyed.

Leo could hear nothing else. Instead, he had the sensation of being lifted into the air as bright lights assaulted his eyes. He was filled with warmness. Then, everything went black.

After what felt like an eternity, Leo awoke. His eyes opened with ease. He took in his surroundings. Bella and Rosie were curled up next to him on a bed. Bella’s eyes fluttered open.

“You’re awake,” she said with a smile.

“I’m alive?” he asked.

Bella slowly nodded, her smile growing.

“I’m alive,” Leo repeated in disbelief. “How?”

“Rosie,” Bella said. “She would not go with Mrs. Hammond. She would not leave you. You were freed by her love.”

Leo looked over at the child sleeping on his side. He would have never guessed all those years ago that loving Rosie would have broken the curse.

“And you are…staying?” he asked.

“Yes,” Bella said and smoothed a hand over her skirt. What was she nervous about?

“I admit I am a bit jealous of Rosie.”

“You are?” Perhaps he was not recovered enough for he was not following the conversation very easily. “Why?”

“She has your love,” Bella said.

A low rumble sounded in Leo’s chest.

“Why is my affection humorous?” Bella asked and sounded hurt.

“I’m not laughing at your confession, only how you confessed it. You’re jealous of a five-year-old!”

“I’ll remind you that you’ve not given me any reason to not be jealous,” she said raising an eyebrow and he laughed again.

Lifting one of her hands to his lips, Leo bestowed a tender kiss. “I love you Arabella Beauley. I am not worthy of your esteem but would be greatly honored by your hand in marriage.”

“I love you Leonard Sundridge, and I promise to never leave your side again.” Bella picked up his hand and kissed it. “So, you see I must marry you,” she added with a playful grin.

“Your brother is not around to run me through, is he?”

Bella shook her head. “No, everyone has left for home. And I am home. Where I belong.”

Leo smiled, marveling at how it felt to do so. “Why do you think Rosie is the one who broke the curse?”

“Because I had loved you for weeks, you silly man! Trying to make me marry Morgan!”

“I thought to do it because—”

“I know, I know,” Bella said and Leo smiled again. For the rest of his life, he would be grateful for this woman. “Rosie said it first, though.”

“Say it again,” Leo said and he hugged her close.

“I love you, Leo. Now, look in the mirror,” Bella said as she retrieved the enchanted mirror from the bedside table. She handed it to him and then returned to her position with her head leaning on his chest.

For the first time, when Leo looked in the mirror, he saw his outward image reflected back. The love of Bella and Rosie had done that and freed him not just from Celia’s curse, but it allowed him to see the good in him. He would never feel unlovable again.

“There we are,” he said. “Two beauties and their tamed beast.”

“You were never a beast to me,” Bella said before kissing his cheek, “but you made me a beauty.”

“You have always been, but I will gladly tell you hourly if it will give you peace,” he said before claiming her lips.

“I knew it would be a happy ending,” Rosie said sleepily from his other side.

Leo laughed to himself. A happy ending indeed!

The End

Beauty’s Mirror- Chapter Eight


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Bella looked in the mirror in her dressing room and smoothed the gown. It had been a rush order for the dressmaker in the local village, but it was the most ornate gown she had ever worn. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach.

This night was to be a dinner and small ball with neighbors. Leo had asked her to act as hostess, and she had spent many hours, when not hunting for magical artifacts or reading the books for clues on how to end the curse, planning the evening with Mrs. Potter. Even more so, she would be blind to not notice Lord Morgan’s interest in her. It flattered her, and she could hardly conceive that she had gained the notice of a peer and future duke. The mirror in front of her was not Leo’s enchanted one, but when Bella looked in the mirror, she now saw a lady who had faced dangers and peril and came out stronger. She saw a woman who had the love of several friends instead of the mere necessity of her family. No, her physical features had not changed in the least, but Bella finally felt comfortable in her own skin.

“Oh, Miss Beauley,” Jenny sighed as she put the final touches on Bella’s hair.

“My brother will not be able to keep his eyes off you,” Mrs. Hammond had joined her and offered assistance.

Bella blushed. “Lord Morgan is very kind and civil.”

“Civil? I have never seen a man more smitten!” Mrs. Hammond gave the maid a conspiratorial look, “I think he may have selected his future duchess.”

“Me?” Bella jaw’s dropped to the ground. “Impossible!”

“He would be a fool to not see your worth.”

“Alice,” Bella said as Mrs. Hammond had asked her to call her last night after dinner. “I am nervous enough this evening.”

Alice nodded her head and allowed the subject to drop. “You are lovely, everything perfectly in place. You certainly look like you could be the real mistress of this estate. Surely that gives you some confidence?”

Bella smiled. It was nice to have an older woman to discuss matters with again. Alice was nearly old enough to be her mother but was more like an older sister. “It does.”

“And you could never claim to be ignorant. You will do splendidly!”

Toying with a necklace from Leo’s vault, Bella blew out a deep breath. She had managed her father’s household and her siblings. She had survived confrontations with a vengeful ghost and a trap intended to kill her. A dinner party and dancing she could navigate with her eyes closed. “I should check on matters again. You are certain you do not need my help, Alice?

“Jenny will be perfect. I will see you soon.”

The lady left, with the maid following after her. Just before leaving the room, the door connecting to Rosie’s nursery squeaked open. “You’re so pretty!” Rosie said in awe.

“Thank you,” Bella stooped down to speak with her on eye level.

Rosie shifted her weight from foot to foot. “Papa asked me to give this to you,” she held out a small box.

Bella took it and looked at it in wonder. Leo had already given her so much. His selflessness seemed unending.

“Lady Rosalyn?” Maria called from the nursery.

“Go now, love. Mrs. Potter has promised to send you up some of the sweets. Tomorrow I will tell you all about the ball.”

Rosie scampered off, and Bella opened the box from Leo. A note rested atop.

“A diamond does not compare to the sparkle of your eye. The finest jewels in the kingdom do not compare to the beauty of your soul. An enchanted ring for an enchanted beauty. Turn this ring and it will take you to your heart’s desire.”

Arabella held the note close to her heart for a moment. How did others see a beast? Leo was the kindest, gentlest man she had ever known. Looking in the box again, her eyes beheld the most beautiful ring she had ever seen. The diamond was a pale pink color and set as a rose. Bella slid it on over her gloves. It perfectly complimented her gown, complexion, and other jewelry.

Smiling radiantly, Bella left her chamber and descended the stairs. Guests would be arriving any moment, and she finally felt ready for the task. With the ring on her right hand, she felt as though she wore a special shield.

Unfortunately, she never had a moment alone with Leo to thank him for the gift. Lord Morgan monopolized most of her time. Leo had seemed to avoid her since Morgan’s arrival. At the moment he was circled by several female guests, each prettier and richer than the next. The dinner had gone perfectly, and now the ball had commenced. She had danced with Lord Morgan twice and several other gentlemen but craved a dance with Leo. As if he knew the nature of her thoughts, he turned, and his eyes met hers. Wordlessly, he left his companions and approached her.

“Miss Beauley, may I have the honor of this dance?”

“You may,” she smiled at him.

His brown eyes seemed guarded. All of his emotions were expressed in his eyes. She slipped her hand into his, and he led her to the dance floor. They spoke little during the set. They had always had an unspoken communion and tonight was no different.

And yet everything was different.

She had gentlemen paying her attention and had met so many people her head swirled to attempt to remember all the names. She had more stimulating conversation and laughed more than she had in many a week let alone a solitary evening. She felt she was on the verge of something great and wonderful. She even had a suspicion of what it was. Before she was ready for that, she desired to view her family in the mirror. A reminder of where she came from and who she once was would not be amiss. And she needed to know all was well without her.

“Leo, I wondered if I might use the mirror,” she asked as the dance ended.

The question caught him off guard, and he tensed. “All that I have is yours,” he smiled, and Bella imagined she felt the faintest of pressure added to her hand.

“I wanted to see how my family was doing,” she gave a shy smile.

“Of course. It would ease your nerves.” She nodded her head, and he pulled the mirror from his pocket. “Do not tarry too long,” he said as he put it in her hand.

Quickly agreeing, Bella departed to another room for privacy.

“Mirror, show me, my family.”

Bella watched in horror as she saw George ranting, drunk, at an assembled crowd. Next, she saw her home. Her father lay in bed, coughing. Meg and Kate talked in hushed tones wondering about a doctor and paying for it.

Fear seized her heart. Her family needed her! How could she choose between her family and Leo and Rosie?

“Mirror, show me,” she commanded, and the image changed to Leo in his study with Lord Morgan.

“Where is Miss Beauley, Erroll?”

“She will be along momentarily,” he took a sip of port.

“I know I fought this at first, but I am quite enchanted. She will make a splendid duchess.” Bella furrowed her brow. What did Morgan mean? He continued speaking. “You have selected a fine bride. Even Alice adores her.”

Leo said nothing but merely raised his glass in a mock toast.

Her hand flew to her mouth, and she thought she would be ill. Leo suggested Lord Morgan marry her? More than that! It seemed to be an entirely arranged matter, as though she had no choice or opinion. How could she have been so stupid and blind?

“A monster,” she muttered as she fled the room and tears streamed down her face. Leonard Sundridge, third Duke of Erroll was too arrogant, self-centered and selfish. And if she stayed a moment longer she might find herself betrothed to a man she knew little of but that she could never love him.

Tearing off her gown, she quietly changed into one of her old dresses and stuffed the remainder in a valise. Her elaborate hair she could not change. She would be unable to say goodbye to Rosie. Using the mirror, she saw the child sleeping peacefully. At least she had been able to bring the angel some peace.

Creeping down the stairs, Bella returned to Leo’s study to leave the mirror. One last time, she watched him in the mirror.

Leo stood before the fire of the parlor he spoke to Morgan in. His eyes looked pained and haunted. “Bella,” he said.

The mirror fell from her hands, startling Bella. It felt as though his eyes had been piercing hers, as though he could see her. Forgetting about Leo’s note, she worried the ring with indecision. Should she keep it as a reminder of the happy times she had here? Deciding to leave it behind, Bella began to slip the ring off her finger when suddenly the world began to spin and bright lights assaulted her eyes. Covering them, she cowered until the movement was over. When she opened her eyes, she stood before her family home.


Leo looked around the ballroom and could not find Bella. Her crimson gown would stand out against the sea of white dresses. Her red tresses made her distinct amongst the brunettes and blondes assembled. More than that, his heart could recognize her without seeing her, and he knew without a doubt she was not in the ballroom. Leo saw Morgan looking around for her as well. The time drew near when their betrothal was to be announced.

For his own sake, Leo desired to get it over with. Earlier, Morgan drew him aside to thank him, and Leo had the distinct desire to punch him in the face. However, that would only serve himself. Bella needed a husband, and Leo would never dare the presumption she could love him. The things he could offer: a title, wealth, luxuries, meant nothing to her.

Leaving the ballroom, Leo looked in a nearby parlor. Pausing at the fireplace, he leaned his arm on the mantle as though to draw strength from the mighty flames. Resting his head against his arm, he stared at the fire as it danced. It reminded him of dancing with Bella and how gracefully she moved. At least he would not have to live long without her. Anguish ripped through him at the thought. “Bella,” he rasped out.

Taking a deep breath, he continued his search. After several minutes, he found the mirror, discarded on the floor and the glass cracked. But there was no trace of Bella. An unholy terror surged in his breast. Had Celia somehow harmed her? Had she been taken?

Leo raced to the South Drawing Room Bella had made into a prison for Celia. “Show yourself!” He demanded as he walked to the center of the room, tip toeing around the debris of his dead wife’s tantrum the week before. He had told the servants to leave the mess be.

He heard Celia’s unearthly cackle before she appeared before him. “I win,” she said as she circled around him.

“What have you done with her?”

“I have done nothing. It was all you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You showed her the selfish beast you really are. I suppose she did not like Lord Morgan.”

“Celia…” Leo said in an angry tone, although there was nothing he could do. Any threats he made would be empty, and she knew it.

“You and your silly mirror. Child’s play! You had a magical tool but had no idea how to work it! I heard her explain to Rosie how you thought it worked.”

“Did you possess it? You showed her something that made her leave?” Although Leo had been reluctant to explore the magical texts, he did use them to understand more about the items he had retrieved from Celia’s room. He had discovered the ring was enchanted and that the mirror could be used for goodness or darkness—just as Bella had hypothesized.

“I showed her the truth! Her family lies in tatters because of you. You were going to treat her no differently than a piece of horse flesh—given to any bidder.”

“That’s not true,” Leo roared and suddenly heard murmurs behind him.

“What’s the problem here?” Morgan asked and shuffled into the room.

“Bella,” Leo said helplessly. The pain he now felt was worse than when the fiery beam that killed Celia fell on him. It was worse than the pain of neither parent loving him.

“What’s wrong with Miss Beauley?” Mrs. Hammond asked.

“She’s left,” Leo said as he turned and saw a group of curious onlookers and realized he stood in the middle of a room full of broken rubble, holding a broken mirror in one hand and had been shouting at no one.

“Erroll,” Morgan said in a warning tone.

“Lady Fitzwalter, might I show you the library next?” Mrs. Hammond directed the group onward.

“Such a pity,” one person muttered.

“A shame. From such good stock,” said another.

“Killed his wife, I always said,” was the harsh whisper of yet another person.

“Unseemly. You simply can’t find good help these days. I wouldn’t be surprised if the governess had his child in her belly. The way she acted mistress of the house!” An accusatory voice said in nothing like a whisper at all.

“Now, see here!” Leo said and strode after the offender, but Morgan pulled on his arm.

“Let it be. Idle gossip.” Morgan shook his head. “She really ran off?” Leo’s stony silence was confirmation enough. “Any idea where she would go?”

“To her home, I would guess.”


“Near Dumfries. Mrs. Potter has the name. You will go to her?”

“It is the honorable thing to do.”

Leo scrutinized Morgan’s face. “Do you love her?”

“Do you?” Morgan asked in a half warning, half accusatory tone.

Leo made no answer and stalked off. He was done with the ball and heirs. As he left, he heard Celia’s mocking laugh echo down the hall. She had won in one way, but not another. They were still imprisoned together, and the curse was never further from being broken than now, but Rosie did not need to suffer for it.

Creeping into the nursery, he pulled a chair next to her bed as she slept. “I’m sorry I wasn’t the father you needed, Rosie. I’m sorry I wasn’t the man she needed.”

He fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, holding the mirror in his hand.

“Papa,” Rosie’s quiet voice awoke him.

“Yes, Poppet?” Leo asked as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“Why are you here?”

“I..I needed to tell you something.” He got up and stretched. Sleeping in a chair was definitely one of the worse ideas he ever had. “Miss Beauley left last night to visit her family. They needed her more than we do.”

Immediately, Rosie’s face fell. Her lower lip trembled, and tears filled her eyes. “But she will come back to visit?”

“Maybe,” he said noncomittingly.

“Can we see her in the mirror?” Hope filled Rosie’s eyes.

Leo held it up. “It seems it broke, but I will read and see if I can mend it. In the meantime, let us have a bit of fun today.”

Rosie gave him a slight smile. He was uncertain what constituted as fun for a five-year-old, having no memories of enjoying childhood himself, but when one’s governess quit without replacement, surely a day in pursuit of recreation was called for.

There was now one month until Rosie’s birthday and Leo hoped they could spend the time in peace and the mutual missing of Arabella Beauley from their lives. Besides time spent with Rosie, fixing the mirror would be his chief concern. He needed to see Bella one last time.

Beauty’s Mirror- Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Bella, Mrs. Potter, and Maria gathered in the South Drawing Room. They sprinkled a mixture of salt and rose water around the windows and pianoforte but nowhere else.

“Do you really think it will work, ma’am?” Maria asked Mrs. Potter.

“It is worth a try, isn’t it?”

Maria frowned. “Unless it stirs her up something awful.”

“There, that’s the last of it for this room,” Bella said. “Now the book said to say the blessing three times while we join hands.”

The ladies formed a circle and repeated the strange words written on the yellowing page of a spell book. If they expected whooshing winds and loud banging from a discontent ghost, they were disappointed.

“How do we know if it worked?” Maria asked.

“I will retrieve Lady Rosalyn. We should go about business as usual but stay close.”

Bella went upstairs and found Rosie playing nicely with Jenny. “Lady Rosalyn, shall we try another music lesson?”

“Yes!” the girl raced to the door.

“Manners! Ladies do not run and gallop like horses.”

Rosie laughed but obliged. Arriving in the drawing room, Bella watched her charge closely. “Join me on the piano bench.”

Bella hesitated just before she reached the threshold of the salt. “Come along,” Bella said and patted the space beside her. “When we finish Cook has the strawberry biscuits you like.”

Rosie smiled and rushed forward, eagerly climbing up on the pianoforte bench. “Put your finger here,” Bella pointed to middle C on the keyboard.

Rosie obeyed and applied herself diligently for several minutes before her eyes wandered to the large windows. “Focus, Lady Rosalyn. A few more minutes and then we may take a break for the biscuits.”

“Miss Beauley,” Rosie whined, “I’m tired.” Rosie leapt down from the piano bench. “Can I look outside?”

Bella frowned. “You must make a choice. You can misbehave and be sent to the nursery, or come back and finish your lessons. If you show me you can listen then we can open the windows and enjoy the breeze while we eat our biscuits.”

“Mother wants me to come to the window,” Rosie chewed her bottom lip.

“What do you want to do?”

“Won’t I be a bad girl if I do not listen to my mother?”

Bella took Rosie’s hand and gave an affectionate pat. “I think you’re a good girl no matter what but there are consequences for bad choices.

“What kinds of consequences?”

“No biscuits, for one. You will also not earn my trust.”

Rosie looked back and forth between the window and the bench several times before taking a step toward the bench. Then she stopped and Bella could see the child was trembling.

“Lady Rosalyn, is something wrong?”

“She is very angry,” Rosie whispered.

“Are you scared?”

Rosie nodded her head. “Come here,” Bella held out her hands. “She cannot hurt us here. We put a protective enchantment around the pianoforte.” As she said the words, Bella prayed they were true.

Rosie reached for Bella and climbed onto the bench. The temperature in the room dropped by several degrees.

“She is angry the windows will not open for her,” Rosie said.

Bella smiled triumphantly. It was working! “I had noticed she likes to play with them.”

A pillow from a sofa suddenly floated from its resting place. Then it soared through the air toward a window. Bella held her breath. Would it reach the window, or would the enchantment protect it?

The pillow fell to the ground before reaching the window, as though it met an invisible wall. Next, a vase followed its path. The loud clatter on it crashing on the ground caused Rosie to jump. Bella put her arms around her and pulled her close. “You are safe. She cannot hurt you.”

Tears rolled down Rosie’s cheeks. “Do you promise?”

“Yes, little one. His Grace and I and everyone in the Castle cares for you. We wish you to be free of your mother.”

“But doesn’t she love me?”

The confusion and hurt in Rosie’s face broke Bella’s heart. She wiped her student’s tears away as things continued to crash around the room. “Your mother was not well. Has no one told you?”

Bella suddenly realized that no one had told Rosie that mothers do not generally haunt their children. Rosie shook her head as confirmation. “My mother died a few years ago. I miss her very much.”

“Why do you miss her?”

“Because I cannot see her or speak with her anymore.”

“Like the princesses in the story?” Rosie’s eyes went round.


“Are you a princess?” Rosie regarded Bella with wonder.

Furniture scraped across the room and Bella wondered how long Celia would throw her fit. Did ghosts fatigue? At the same time, she knew that the other servants were spreading the mixture about the house. When they were finished, Celia would be locked in this room. “Heavens no!”

“You’re as pretty as princess!” Rosie said and squeezed her tightly.

“I do not think so, but thank you. Normally, when a person dies their soul leaves this world.” Rosie looked at her in confusion. “Have you seen a bouquet of flowers wilt?”

Rosie nodded and Bella continued. “Everyone must die, Rosie. Some may die young and some die old, but like the flowers they do not suddenly bloom again. They cannot persist living. Only an unfinished soul will stay on the earth.”

“Why did Mother not vanish?”

“She greatly disliked His Grace and wanted to hurt him. She does not mind using you to do so.” After Bella’s speech there was a flurry of crashes about the room. Bella could see Rosie felt conflicted by the information, but also afraid of her mother’s actions.

“Doesn’t she love me?” Rosie whispered.

“My dearest, I do not know if she can love anyone. Some people are deficient in loving others. It means there is something wrong with them not the others in their life. You are perfectly loveable.”

“No one loves me!” Rosie wailed.

Bella rubbed her back through her sobs. “I love you and everyone in the Castle loves you.”

“His Grace does not,” Rosie sniffled.

“Did you know he has a magic mirror?” Rosie shook her head. “And it only shows what a person most loves. He sees you in it.”

“He does?” The look of fragile hope in Rosie’s eyes, made bluer from the tears, made Bella’s heart weep.

“He does. Would you like to see it?” Rosie slowly nodded her head. “You are not afraid of him?”

“He is big and scary like a monster. He has fangs. There are big ugly marks all over his face.”

If Rosie had said such things to Bella mere days ago, she would have scolded the child for meanness. Now, Bella assumed Rosie saw the curse on him. And yet, it sounded like Leo saw the same image when he looked in the enchanted mirror. Leo and Rosie described Bella as beautiful, and she had seen herself as such in the mirror. What had Leo said? It reflected one’s true self? She refused to believe that of Leo. When she looked in the mirror, she saw him a man fit to be Adonis.

“When I am afraid, I like to learn more about it,” Bella said. “What if you learn more about His Grace?”

“You will be with me?”

“Yes, of course,” Bella said.

Rosie nodded her head but still trembled. “She won’t like it.”

“She will simply have no choice. Hold on to me,” Bella said and slipped a necklace over the child. Inside the locket was the enchanted mixture*.

Confidently, Bella stood and Rosie jumped into her arms. “We are leaving Celia. Enjoy the prison you have made for yourself. You will never hurt Rosie again.”

Bella forced herself to walk calmly through the room and remain unflinching even when objects flew around her. They could not touch her or Rosie. As she came to the door, a figure appeared before her. The woman was dressed in black. Her face looked like fruit rotting from the inside and Bella was sure it reflected the woman’s heart.

Boldly, Bella meet the ghost’s eyes and raised her chin. Then reaching forward, turned the door handle and walked out of the room, allowing the door the slam behind her. Heart pounding and trembling, she stepped forward and into Leo’s waiting arms.


“You were magnificent!”

Leo sighed with relief when Bella collapsed into his arms. He almost missed how Rosie pulled away from him in fright. It caused him to loosen his hold earlier than he would have liked. He had watched through the mirror the entire scene, heard every word, saw every broken glass. It took all his restraint to not storm into the room to defend his ladies.

Collecting herself, Bella stood straighter and put Rosie on her feet. “Your Grace, Lady Rosalyn would enjoy a visit with you, if you would suggest a room?”

“Certainly,” he said after a civil bow to the child. “I suggest the library.”

They walked in silence and he did not miss Rosie’s reticence. She tightly gripped Bella’s hand. When they reached the library, he asked the ladies to be seated. “I brought out some of my favorite books when I was a child. I didn’t know what you liked,” he told Rosie. “I will read anything you choose.”

Obviously tempted, she released Bella’s hand to look through the covers. Selecting one with a princess in a tower, she nearly tossed the book at him and rushed back to Bella’s side. He supposed it was an improvement from being kicked at. Overall, not a bad reaction for a man who looked as beastly as he.

Bella smiled encouragingly at him, and he was lost. Leo read and as he did so, he saw Bella soften. She nearly transformed and looked at him in interest instead of disgust. “What is it poppet?” He asked when he was finished.

“What did you do to your teeth?”

Leo briefly covered his mouth. For years now, what he saw in the mirror affected his sensibilities even if he knew others still saw him as a man. “What do you mean?”

“Your fangs are gone. And your scars aren’t big and angry anymore.”

How interesting!

“We all change,” Bella said sweetly.

“You look nicer since meeting Miss Beauley,” Rosie said matter-of-factly.

“I am very grateful to have met Miss Beauley. Now, do you think I shall become too beautiful?” he teased and felt his heart lift when she giggled.

“Your Grace is very silly,” Bella said but beamed.

“Have you changed, Rosie? You no longer scream when you see me.”

“Do I look different too?”

Bella cleared her throat. “Lady Rosalyn spoke of asking to see your magic mirror.”

“May I see your mirror…” Rosie trailed off and Leo awkwardly realized this was his first real conversation with the child who clearly had no idea how to address him. He really had been quite cruel and insensitive to her feelings. Bella looked at him anxiously.

“What kind of Papa would I be if I refused such a kind request?”

Bella smiled so widely, Leo felt like the sun had suddenly came burst into the room. Rosie looked relieved.

“You must sit here,” he said and patted the seat next to him.

He felt a twinge of guilt. With any luck, Celia would be banished forever from influencing Rosie again but in other ways nothing had changed. Leo still accepted his imminent demise. It was hardly fair to finally claim parentage just to die weeks later. By the same token, she deserved at least one loving parent at some time in her life. He could not forget, however, his plans involving Morgan.

Gently, Leo pulled the mirror from his pocket and learned close to Rosie, curious to see what she would see. “Look, Papa! Your face is almost all better!” she cried.

To Leo’s amazement, he saw it as well. He ran a hand over his jaw, stretched up past his cheeks and along one temple. His skin looked—and felt—flawless. “What else do you see?”

“I’m happy!” she cried gaily. “I see my teeth when I smile!”

Again, Leo was ashamed to admit he did not know Rosie’s usual smile, but assumed she, like him, usually had a different reflection in a mirror before.

The clock struck three and Bella stood. “Rosie, it is time for us to return to the nursery for our biscuits. His Grace is expecting visitors this afternoon and if you are good for Miss Jenny and Miss Maria, perhaps you can see them before bed.”

Rosie happily agreed. Just before jumping down from the sofa, she gave Leo a kiss on the cheek. If Leo had not thought it before, he was certain now. His heart had been made of ice, but a large chunk just thawed off.

Like the ladies, he went upstairs to change. An hour later, he awaited his guests in the downstairs drawing room. Bella arrived moments later looking refreshed and as pretty as ever. If he was not destined to die on Rosie’s sixth birthday, his impending plans for Bella would surely kill him anyway. They chatted and focused on small talk. Neither mentioned Celia by unspoken agreement, they would not mention her while guests were in the Castle.

An hour later, his heir, Lord Morgan, and his sister arrived. Morgan was in his mid-thirties, tall and athletic with just a touch of grey around the temples. He seemed everything gentlemanly and proper. As a young man, Leo had watched that sort of personality from a distance with loathing. Flattery and wit did not come easily to Leo. He had never mastered the art of putting others at ease, he often felt so uncomfortable himself. Today, he told himself Bella deserved nothing less.

Morgan’s sister, Mrs. Alice Hammond, was the older of the two siblings. She paid no special attention to Leo and with the age difference, he grew ashamed of his earlier prejudice. Mrs. Hammond was restrained but friendly.

“You must be tired after your journey,” Leo said after the usual topics of small talk were exhausted. “Dinner will be served at six. If you would like to refresh yourselves before then, please allow Miss Beauley to show you to your rooms.”

His guests agreed and as they were leaving, he called out with a seemingly impromptu request that Morgan join him for drinks in his study before dinner in three quarters of an hour. The gentleman agreed and Bella performed her role as mistress perfectly.

At the appointed time, Morgan returned and Leo waged into his plans. After asking questions to learn the man was financially solvent and upstanding, if relatively boring, he admitted the truth.

“I confess I was happy to hear that your father had already passed and you are the heir.”


“You must be thinking of marriage soon.”

Morgan took a sip of his port. “Few ladies seem interested in an aging baron.”

“The right sort of lady would not mind,” Leo said while thinking of Bella’s kind heart. “I will cut to the chase. I have an illness and am assured I shall not live many weeks hence.”

His guest’s face paled. “Is it certain?”

“As certain as we can be. You will be the Fourth Duke of Erroll by the end of the year.”

“I am sorry to hear it,” Morgan said and he seemed genuine in his feelings. Leo cursed him for being so perfect.

“You must know that only the title goes to you. I have made arrangements, however, for a large piece my personal estate to go a you on a few conditions.”

“That is unnecessary…”

Leo interrupted. “Hear my conditions before you accept or refuse.” He waited for Morgan’s agreement. When it was gained, he continued. “I will choose your bride and you will be guardian to Lady Rosalyn. Half my fortune and the estates will go to you but you must never allow Lady Rosalyn to return to the Castle.”

Morgan’s eyes grew round with wonder and then he crossed his legs and assumed a business-like mien. “It is an excellent offer but I would be a fool to accept unless I knew the value of what you’re talking about.”

“Your share is valued at three million pounds and the annual income would be ten thousand pounds. My solicitor has already sent documents to yours. You should receive confirmation of the legitimacy of my claim in a few days.”

“And the bride?” Morgan appeared disinterested but Leo knew the man would not turn down such a sum.

“Miss Arabella Beauley.”

Morgan suddenly sat up erect. “The governess? I can hardly make a servant my duchess!”

Leo leaned forward. “For three million pounds you can. She is the daughter of a Scottish baron. Beautiful, collected, calm—”

“A favorite of yours, then? I will not suffer to raise another man’s child. Marry her yourself or pay her off.”

Annoyed at the assumption, Leo feigned indifference and shrugged. “Are you certain you wish to risk that? I could legitimize a male heir.”

Morgan furrowed his brow. Clearly he had not considered that before. There would be time later to set the record straight. For now, Leo just needed the man’s agreement.

“Very well,” Morgan said.

“And you shall court her properly.”

“Of course,” Morgan said.

“We are hosting a small ball next week. It is the first time the Castle has hosted one in half a decade. We will introduce you as betrothed. You will wed in three weeks, before my passing.”

“Is that all?” Morgan stood and sneered, revealing his true personality after all.

“I have nothing else to say to you. You are dismissed.”

After the man left, Leo wondered why it felt like he had just made a bargain with the devil.