Read The Ground She Walks Upon Online

Authors: Meagan McKinney

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Paranormal, #Regency, #Historical Romance

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BOOK: The Ground She Walks Upon
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"But—but why do I have a ring like yours? There must be a reason... " she stuttered, unable to figure out the puzzle of it.

He took hold of her like a rag doll, pulling her to her feet by the rough fustian fabric of her gown. His eyes flickered down at her body and lingered almost imperceptibly at her chest where two small breasts swelled like springtime buds. The fury on his face was a terrible sight. "Get out of here! You're a child! You have no business in my bedchamber! Get out of here before I have the hangman take you out!" He threw her toward the two doors and stalked her as she scrambled to flee. She flung the doors open, a sob caught in her throat. With a renewed burst of terror, she ran down the winding stone steps. And never once looked back.

Chapter 6

G
et me
Father Nolan.
Now,"
Trevallyan ranted to the unwitting footman who had come to light the hearths. The young man scrambled to exit almost as quickly as Ravenna had minutes earlier.

An hour later, Father Nolan sat in the Trevallyan library, sipping Greeves's famous warm whiskey.

"She was in my bedroom," Trevallyan announced, his anger barely in check. "Some kind of children's prank. She wanted to know why she and I both have the same ring." He pierced the priest with one of his frigid stares. "Why do we have identical rings?"

Father Nolan took a long, deep sip of his whiskey. His hesitation showed in his eyes. He seemed to brace himself for the other man's anger. "The night we were all at the cottage, I gave the babe my ring, the one that matched yours. 'Tis part of a gimmal that you and the child both wear. A medieval wedding ring."

"Explain what you mean by wedding ring," Niall demanded.

"A gimmal is given out during a betrothal. It is a ring in three sections. The bride and the groom each wear a ring and a third party wears the last one. During the wedding ceremony, all three rings are united on the bride's hand."

"This ring was given to me by my father. My mother did not wear it."

"You forget, Lord Trevallyan, your parents fell in love. Your father married before his twentieth year. They had no need for the
geis."

Trevallyan glanced at a black Grecian urn on the mantel. His fist shot out and shattered the priceless antiquity into oblivion. "This
geis
is driving me mad. I cannot hear the word again."

The priest watched him, grim and silent. Slowly he said, "What would you have us do?"

"Send her away! Get her out of Lir! I don't want to lay eyes on the child ever again. She's only bound to grow older. I don't want to see her."

"It can be done."

Niall faced the priest as if he didn't quite believe him. "If getting rid of her were so easy, why could I not accomplish this before?"

"I can see to it you never lay eyes on the child ever again, as you wish, but I cannot make the promise that you won't lay eyes on her as a woman."

Trevallyan stared at the ring on his small finger as if he hated it. Slowly he removed it and made to throw it in the fire.

"I would not do it if I were you," Father Nolan whispered.

"My father gave me this ring. He told me to wear it until I was wed. I'll be wed in two weeks. I haven't any use for it now."

" 'Tis only a ring, Trevallyan. Destroying it will not destroy the
geis.
And you will not be wed in two weeks. You don't love the girl. You know it."

"I want a wife," Trevallyan groaned, laying his forehead on the stone edge of the mantel. "I want someone to share my bed and this home. I want someone to dine with of an evening and to help me enjoy the riches this cruel and vindictive God has placed within my grasp only to keep me from sharing them with a mate. You're a priest. Can't you understand loneliness?"

"I understand it too well," the father whispered, "but you shall not be lonely forever, my son, I promise you that —as I promise to send Ravenna away. But you must promise me... no weddings without love. God save us all, tragedy is certain with you, and we have no need for more tragedy."

" 'Tis a curse to force a man to find true love."

"Then you are cursed, my lord, for you
must
find it."

"But true love is for faerie tales. In real life it hardly exists. I would be happy with less, yet you make me scrutinize every woman I wish to bring to the altar."

"The others have failed. The right one will not. You must be patient, Niall. The reward will be worth waiting for."

Trevallyan picked up a shard of the urn and crushed it in his palm. Two crimson drops of blood from his hand splattered on the white marble hearth. "Just send the girl away. Just send her away."

" 'Tis done," the priest murmured.

 

The tears of fright and anxiety that Ravenna had so bravely held in check while in Trevallyan's bedchamber flowed freely as she ran through the fields toward home. She got to the cottage and ran directly to her bedroom to hide her tears from her grandmother, but Grania, who everyone in Lir believed had the second sight, seemed to see them anyway. The old woman appeared in the bedroom doorway not five minutes after Ravenna threw herself on her bed.

Ravenna looked at her for a moment without speaking. Guiltily she wiped at her tears. Grania merely stared, the lines and sagging skin on her face making her expression inscrutable; her gnarled, aged hands clasped around the fat body of a brindle cat the miller had found abandoned in a granary.

"I—I've done something terrible," Ravenna whispered, her lips trembling with unshed tears.

"Ye went to the castle, didn't ye?"

Reluctantly, she nodded.

Grania moved into the room, using her hands to discern a small walnut chair in the corner. Her eyesight was dimming because of the milky blue shadows covering her irises. Ravenna watched her struggle, knowing how Grania loathed help.

"Me child, 'tis not good for ye to be goin' to the castle. Trevallyan is an angry man."

"He—he thinks I wanted to steal from him. But I did not, Grania! I swear I did not!" Ravenna's tears sprang up anew. Grania reached for her and Ravenna fell to the old woman's lap, sobbing.

"There, there, me child. 'Twill soon pass."

"No, no... he—he may bring the magistrate. He thinks me a thief. He thinks all of us thieves." She wept.

"But why, child?" Grania ran her hands lovingly over the jet-black tresses, so much like Brilliana's.

"He caught me in his bedchamber." She told her about Malachi's challenge. "I left without his hair, but Grania..." Ravenna's voice grew hushed, "the lord and I have the same ring on our hands. The exact same ring." She held the serpent ring up to her grandmother so she might see it better. "I—I think he believes we stole it from the Trevallyans.... Oh, Grania," she cried, "I can't wear the ring anymore if we stole it."

Grania grew still, her milky gaze staring at some indefinable spot across the room.

"Where did we get the ring, Grania?"

"Ye must keep it on, for 'tis to bring ye good fortune. Father Nolan gave it to ye, child, when ye were first born."

"When—when we lived in the hovel?" The cottage Ravenna had been born in was now a fallen-down ruin, inaccessible because of the overgrown hawthorn. She couldn't believe it when Grania told her they once lived there. Their cottage now was perhaps not grand, but it had wood floors, a parlor, a kitchen, and two bedrooms.

"The old cottage was where yer mother died, Ravenna. 'Tis best not to think of it any longer."

Ravenna tried not to, but as understanding suddenly dawns upon a child, she burned with questions that she'd never quite thought of before.

"Grania, we must have been unbearably poor to have lived in that terrible little place. Why do we not live there now? What has changed? Why can we now afford this cottage when at my birth we were so impoverished, we could not—"

"Fortunes change, me child."

"But there's a reason why they change. What is our reason?" She stared up at her grandmother with curious blue-violet eyes, purple velvet in shadows.

"Child, child," Grania said, appearing almost grieved.

"Is... Trevallyan my father? Is that why he looked at me with such loathing?"

Grania seemed to have a difficult time watching Ravenna's expression. "Me darlin' girl, how is it ye think of such things?"

"Then he is not my father?"

"He is not."

"I think of my father, you know I do, Grania. I know he believes me to be an embarrassment, and I suppose that is why he has never revealed himself to us, but still..."She looked up at Grania, tears glistening in her eyes. "Does he watch out for us? Is that where we've gotten our money? From him? Does he care about us, even a wee bit?"

The old woman stroked the jet-black tresses beneath her gnarled hands. She didn't answer.

"He does care about us, doesn't he?" Ravenna asked, her child's voice flat, despairing.

"He does not know about us, of that I am sure. Brilliana said he loved her, but she would not tell me his name other than to say he was a titled lord living in Ulster."

"So you do have the second sight! Everyone says you do! Can't you see him so that I might find him?"

"Me child, me dear sweet child, don't think about him anymore. I've seen the visions." She paused as if she knew what she had to say would cause grief. "He is dead, my child. Ye have no father anymore."

Ravenna stared up at her in horror, her smooth, youthful face streaked with tears. The hope that some way, somehow, her father might come find them was put to death as surely as with an executioner. Never again could she daydream with the hope of him rescuing her from her bastardy. Kathleen Quinn would always turn her nose up at her. Forever now.

"Why didn't you tell me about him?" she rasped, her throat raw from weeping.

"There's nothing to be tellin'. Forget about him. Forget about all that is past. Ye should be lookin' to the future."

"What future?" Ravenna asked bitterly, unable to meet Grania's eyes. "I belong to no one, I belong nowhere. The children call me terrible names. And now they're true... they're all true..." Her weeping began anew. Grania stroked her dark head as she sobbed into her apron. The other questions Ravenna had were temporarily forgotten.

 

Father Nolan huddled against the Irish Sea wind and knocked on Grania's cottage door. The evening was a chill one, with a storm brewing to the west. Ravenna answered the door, her face and feet now washed, her wild hair combed and plaited down her back. The child wore a brown linen dress a wee bit too small for her blossoming figure. That she was a beauty, there was no doubt. Even poverty could not hide that.

"I've come to call on your grandmother. Is Grania feeling well tonight?" he asked, trying to get the girl to smile.

Ravenna only looked at him with eyes wide with fright. "Come in," she whispered, and motioned to the parlor. The room had only a long bench and two scuffed and battered armchairs, but all were taken up with cats that had been brought to the cottage for want of another place to go. Ravenna brushed aside a large black tomcat that was warming himself by the fire, and offered the priest the most sturdy chair, then left to fetch Grania.

"Have you been keeping well, my fair woman?" the priest said when Grania walked slowly into the room. He took her gnarled hand into his liver-spotted one and pressed it. Grania returned the welcome.

"Ravenna, will ye be a good girl and fetch the father some tea?" she said.

Ravenna nodded and left for the kitchen, her little oval face white with fear.

"The child cannot hear in the kitchen. What have ye come to tell me, Father?" Grania asked as soon as she was helped to the other chair and the fat brindle cat exotically named Zelda was comfortable on her lap.

"Trevallyan was quite upset to find her in his bedroom today. Did Ravenna tell you about it?"

"She did."

"He wants her to be sent away."

Grania met his gaze, worry clouding her own more than the affliction that left a milky film over her eyes. " 'Tis a cruel punishment for a child's prank. She's only a lass. Where will she go?"

"He'll send her to England to a school for young ladies. There's no doubt at all that she'll be treated well there. 'Tis best, in any case, Grania. The girl is growing up. She can't be running with Malachi and his ilk forever. 'Tis a sure way for her to find herself with a babe of her own."

Grania looked away into the hearth, her stooped figure trembling with emotion. She took a long moment to think about what Father Nolan had said, then she answered slowly, "All right, have Trevallyan send the child away. I could not bear to see her like..." Her words dwindled, as if they were too painful for her to speak.

"Ravenna will have the finest care. Trevallyan can pay for it, and he is willing to see it done. I think he fears her, Grania. Perhaps 'tis best."

Ravenna entered the room with a battered pewter tray, a chipped cup, and the ironstone teapot. She placed it on the table next to the priest and began to pour out.

"Child, the father would have a word with ye. Will ye sit down?"

Ravenna cast her gaze to the floor. Her heart throbbed with fear and anxiety. She knew what this was about. Trevallyan had sent the priest before the magistrate came to take her away.

"Ravenna child, how pretty you've become. You're a young lady now, aren't you?" Father Nolan began gently.

Ravenna could not take her gaze from the floor. She wanted to cry, to run, to scream, but she couldn't. It was all her fault. She had taken Malachi's challenge and she'd known what the price would be if she was caught. And Lord Trevallyan had caught her.

"I wasn't stealing from the castle. I swear I wasn't. I just wanted a bit of the lord's hair to prove he wasn't a warlock," she whispered in so low a tone that the priest was forced to lean over to her.

BOOK: The Ground She Walks Upon
3.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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