The Traitor's Legacy Series, Book 3
Halifax, North Carolina, 1783.
Captain Stuart Monroe returns home from the Revolutionary War to find Thornton Hall threatened by a peacetime foe: debt. He knows the location of a treasure amassed to pay for the capture of Benedict Arnold that would restore his manor to its former glory. The catch, it's hidden in the graveyard, and coveted by old enemies.
Hettie Fairfax inherited the Sight from her Cherokee ancestors, and her otherworldly visitors warn her, and Stuart, away from the buried treasure. Half-dead from fever, she delivers a message: the treasure is cursed. But will he believe a girl half out of her mind with illness? Even when a very real enemy attempts to poison her?
Stuart soon wants to marry Hettie, but she fears her "odd ways" will blemish his reputation. The spirits have their own agenda, however, and the battle against darkness tests everything the couple holds dear, including their love for each other.
“Master Stuart, do not venture here.”
Master? Apart from the servants, Stuart Monroe hadn’t been called by that title since he was a boy, and better deserved to be addressed as Captain.
Taken aback by the strange caution, he stopped on the hazy path and peered through the cloudy vapor for the disembodied voice uttered in feminine accents. Frost coated the slick leaves beneath his boots and cloaked the bare tree branches and gravestones, faintly illuminated in the silvery predawn light.
No one. Only his chilled breath bore evidence of a living soul. This place was eerie enough without the odd warning.
“Who speaks?” Probably a townswoman, he reassured himself. Though why she’d be here at this hour was beyond him.
“Turn back. A man watches you.”
Again, the warning carried from the unseen source.
What man, and how did she know Stuart was observed? He could barely discern anything.
“Who are you? Show yourself.” Uneasiness lent indignation to his demand.
Through the haze, he spotted the figure of a young female dressed all in white. A death shroud?
Pray God, it wasn’t. His gut knotted, and he stood staring at her.
Ethereal, ghostly, she seemed to float toward him, but must have walked.
A cold shiver stood the hair on the back of his neck on end. Was she flesh and blood, or spirit? Had she crossed the divide between the two worlds?
He scarcely dared to breathe.
Still, he stood rooted to the trail. And not only from fright. Fascination.
Despite fear of being haunted, an aura about her drew him. He waited, every muscle taut, poised betwixt heaven and earth, the scent of crumbling leaves in his nose. At least, that was real.
Whiteness swirling around her, she neared.
Then he spotted it, an ivory coverlet draped over her head and around her slender shoulders pinched together in front with pale fingers.
The blanket reached to her ankles and trailed behind along the ground. Mist muted the flowers stitched into the cloth. This accounted for him not spotting her sooner. She’d blended in with the vapor.
He relaxed his tense vigil slightly.
The wrapping parted in front, exposing a long white shift, more fitting for the bedchamber. Where leather shoes were wanted, slippers damp from the wet clad her feet. Like him, her breath showed in the sharp air. Her face, an exquisite oval outlined by the fabric, captivated him. She possessed rare beauty, with a hint of the exotic. But something was amiss. And not only her attire.
Blue eyes, like a clear wintry sky, searched his, their expression troubled. Circles smudged the creaminess of the skin below her seeking gaze, and her eyes seemed a little too bright, her cheeks abnormally flushed. Lengths of hair as dark as the rain-wet branches overhead escaped her coverlet and tumbled to her waist. If the wind stirred, these tendrils would blow about her, but the air was still. Only an occasional birdcall broke the silence.
Expecting solitude, he’d chosen this early hour to visit the site his sister Claire and her husband, British Major Vaughan, both in England these past two years, had determined held not a body but considerable treasure. Rather than lying in the grave with the headstone bearing the name John Monroe, his father’s final resting place was said to be in Bruton Parish, Williamsburg.
Stuart recoiled from unearthing anything in this holy place, but must before many more days passed. The Monroe family estate was sorely in want of fortune. Disquiet had stayed his hand from bearing the shovel, left in the carriage. He’d ventured uneasily into the cemetery for a look, and now these ungodly tidings.
What did it all mean, or was this merely the ranting of a mad woman? She had a different look than any lady of his acquaintance, and reminded him of an Irish or Indian woman the way she held the blanket around her head and shoulders.
Her eyes invited him in, and he plumbed their depths. “Who are you?”
She waved aside his question as if it were of no consequence. “Beware. You are watched.”