Read The irish lover Online

Authors: Lila Dubois

The irish lover (page 11)

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It was barely five o’clock, but when he reachedthe window-filled hall connecting the east wing to the main castleit felt like 3 A.M. as rain sheeted down the glass from a blacksky. There was no way he was going outside, as nice as a walksounded, so he’d settle for touring the castle. He really likedcastles. He’d even booked himself a room in a castle-lookingB&B later in the week. As Tim emerged into the foyer, hewondered if there was any hope of finding Caera and begging her fora tour.

The foyer was empty except for the blonde who’dchecked him in.

“Good evening, Mr. Wilcox, is there anything Ican help you with?”

“Is Caera, uh…” Tim’s brain took a moment tocome up with her last name, which he’d seen on her emails,“…Cassidy around?”

The blonde frowned. “I’m sorry, she’s busypreparing for the concert. Is there something you need for yourperformance?”

Tim considered making up something so he couldtalk to her, but that was a shit thing to do. He shook his head.“No, I just wanted to say hi. I think I’m going to go for a tour.Maybe just find someplace to sit.”

“I’d take you on a tour myself, but I’m afraidI’m the only one here. If you’re looking for quiet, I’d recommendthe Rose Room or the formal front room. You can access them throughthat door.”

She directed him to another old,expensive-looking door, almost directly opposite the one he’d justcome through.

With a nod of thanks, he opened the door.Rather than more wood, he found himself in a carpeted hall withfancy wallpaper and several white doors. The first one had a smallplaque, labeling it the formal front room. The need to explore thecastle—Tim didn’t care that it wasn’t technically a castle, it wascalled castle and that was enough for him—was on him, so hebypassed that room and examined each of the other doors. He foundone marked Staff, a billiards room, the Rose Room and the door thatled to the other covered hallway and the west wing.

He stepped out of the main castle building,into the covered hallway. The rain on the windows made it hard tosee anything, but the air that seeped through the stones wasvibrant with cold and atmosphere. Feeling like a great explorer,which he knew was stupid since Sorcha had said the TV crew was inthe west wing, Tim entered the third building of thecastle.

Disappointingly, the first floor of the westwing was a generic hotel hallway. Nondescript patterned carpettraversed the length of the hall, all the way to a window in thefar wall, which was stone. The interior walls were beige, the doorswhite. A few of the doors had Do Not Disturb signs up, so heguessed those were the TV crew. Feeling more than a little stupid,Tim walked the hall, counting nine rooms and an elevator and stairsin the space by the door where a tenth room wasn’t. The onlyinteresting things about it were the large gold keyholes and realhandles on the doors, rather than the key-card mechanisms Tim wasused to.

“Worst explorer ever,” Tim muttered tohimself.

Either the aspirin or the fake exploring hadlifted some of his jet lag exhaustion. Deciding to go back to themain building and check out the billiards room, he put his hand onthe door handle.

And stopped.

He looked at the stairs.

He needed to check the second floor.

Heart beating fast, for no reason he couldname, Tim took the stairs two at a time. At first glance, thesecond floor was just another level of hotel rooms—the same painton the walls, same carpet on the floor. But it wasn’t the same.There was something wrong. Tim knew it the way he knew when a songwas right.

Unlike downstairs, the hall didn’t end in astone wall, but rather in more of the same beige paint. The lightfrom the sconces between each door seemed dimmer, making the painta sickly yellow at the windowless end of the hall.

Tim took a step, then another, wondering whatthe hell he was doing. The hair on his arms was standing on end, hewas breathing fast and his hands were fisted and ready—for what, hedidn’t know.

Either his system had gone completely haywireor there was a something up here that he could feel but notname.

Tim had grown up on a steady diet of folkmusic, the kind of songs that made a boy believe in love thattranscended death. He’d grown into a man who sang about thecynic-less longings and hopes that people like to pretend theydidn’t feel or believe.

He would never deny a feeling, even if hecouldn’t name it. Even if it frightened him.

Tim crept forward, pausing between each step totake a breath.

This level had only five rooms, the hall abouthalf the length of the one on the lower floor. The hall ended in asmooth wall, with no apparent access to what Tim guessed was aboutfifty percent of the second floor. He checked the castle map. Therewas nothing on this section—half the second floor of the west wingwas simply blank. There was no room name or numbers, noexplanation.

Tim stopped in front of the wall, staring atthe expanse of beige paint. The closer he looked, the more certainhe became that there was a darker patch visible in the paint—alarge rectangular patch. A door.

It was cold, so cold that for a moment Tim wassure he could see his breath.

He raised his hand, fingers reaching for thedarker patch on the wall.

“Tim? Mr. Wilcox?” A lilting voice called hisname, the voice seeming to echo, as if the speaker had shoutedthrough a pipe.

Tim pulled his hand back, curling it into afist. His heart was beating so hard he could taste his heartbeat.The cold was seeping up the legs of his pants and down hiscollar.

This was bad. He needed to leave.

No longer feeling like the open-mindedexplorer, Tim turned and ran. He braced his hands on the banistersand took the first set of stairs in one leap. He nearly crashedinto Sorcha, who stood on the landing.

“Mr. Wilcox.” Sorcha’s eyes widened. Shetouched the back of one finger to his cheek, quickly pulling herhand away. “You’re freezing.”

“There’s something going on up there, you needto go up there and—” Tim’s words tumbled out.

“Mr. Wilcox, we don’t use the second floor ofthe west wing.”

Tim blinked. Was she not hearing him? “There’ssomething up there, it’s cold, really cold at the end of the hall,and I think maybe you walled over the door. I could see, like, anoutline in the paint.”

“You could see it?”

“You know about it?”

“I should have warned you. No one goes upthere.”

“You know what it is? Is it haunted? Was that aghost?” Tim was secretly thrilled with the idea of a ghostencounter, but that had felt almost…dangerous.

“There’s no such thing as ghosts. That’s aterrible thing to think, souls wandering lost.” Sorcha took hisarm, drawing him down the second set of steps.

“Fine, it’s not a ghost. It’s something. Do youknow what it is?”

“It’s an old building, there are places you’llfind that are—”

“No, there’s a door behind that wall. I thinkyou accidentally walled it up when you remodeled or something.There’s something back there.”

They were standing at the head of the hallwayon the lower floor. Tim glanced down it, expecting a twinge, butthere was nothing. It was only the second floor. Sorcha too lookedover her shoulder, then drew him out into the coveredhallway.

“Mr. Wilcox, I’ll ask you not to alarm theother guests.”

“Then tell me what it was I just had a run inwith.”

Sorcha shook her head. With a backdrop ofsheeting rain through the windows, her red hair catching the halllights, she looked like a sorceress, a keeper ofsecrets.

“I don’t know what, and if you want answers sospecific, you’ll be disappointed. As for the door…” She turned tolook out, into the rain. “When you cannot open a door for fear ofwhat’s on the other side, you wall it up.”

Tim whistled between his teeth. It was nice toknow he wasn’t losing his mind—there was a door outline in thepaint. Being told that there was something so crazy up there thatthey’d walled in the door rather than deal with it blew hismind.

“You just…walled it up?” Tim rubbed his hand onthe back of his head. His mind was going a million miles a minute.She must have been lying when she said she didn’t know what it was.People didn’t wall up access to half a floor of a castle becausethey suspected there might be something bad. They must know it wasbad, therefore they had to know what it was.

“I did nothing.”

“What’s back there? You must know, otherwiseyou wouldn’t have walled it up.”

“You act like I did this, but I did not. Nordid anyone here, or even the O’Muircheartaigh family. That door wassealed shut with brick and mortar over one hundred yearsago.”

Tim rocked back on his heels, eyeswidening.

“So what you felt,” Sorcha continued, “musthave been a draft, coming through a crack. That room, that wholepart of the building, is not in the best shape. Your friend Paddyis looking for you, hoping you’ll join him in the pub fordinner.”

Tim looked over his shoulder, through thewindows at the massive west wing, then let Sorcha lead himaway.

****

And don’t miss Sorcha’s story,The Fire andthe Earth, coming May 2013!

 

 

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About the Author

 

Lila Dubois is a tech writer by day and aromance writer by night. She’s living her own version of a romancenovel with her Irish Farm Boy, who she imported to Los Angeles.Having spent extensive time in France, Egypt, Turkey, Ireland andEngland, Lila speaks five languages, none of them—includingEnglish—fluently.

You can visit Lila on the web athttp://liladubois.net.

 

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