USA/Kindle: Ghosts of White Raven Estate
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Now that my 2013 novel, “Ghosts of White Raven Estate” is published, I’ve chosen to introduce, in this blog entry, Chapters 2 and 3. It gives the reader insight into the relationship between Victoria Calais and her sister, Evangeline; and the tension between them that reaches into Victoria’s life from beyond the grave.
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Where the Bones Are Buried
Victoria placed the marker ribbon at that day’s journal entry and closed the leather bound book. After rummaging to make room, she slid it into the top drawer of her writing desk and locked the drawer with the tiny key strung on the gold chain that she wore around her neck. Pushing back her chair, Victoria felt her way to the bedroom window and strained to see across Prytania Street toward the scene that just two months earlier she could easily make out—the Calais Cemetery and Mausoleum. The foot traffic along Prytania Street that day would have observed Father Vivenzio on his way from St. Ann’s Church to La Maison du Corbeau Blanc. The priest smirked, The House of the White Raven, or simply Corbeau Blanc—how pretentiously mysterious. He was practicing his lines aloud as he stepped gingerly: “Madame Calais, I want to ensure that your wishes for Victoria are met.” Thinking of a better approach, he started his speech anew. Father Vivenzio continued up the curved carriage drive. Lanterns affixed to the side posts of the wrought-iron gate adorned the entrance to the driveway. He avoided the cold stare of the alabaster lions. At that very instant a crow swooped down from behind the priest. Father Vivenzio heard the flutter of wings as the vagrant soared toward him. He winced, fearing that the bird would graze his ear. The terror of rabies clutched at him as the scavenger cawed loudly, landing on its intended perch—the lantern to the right of the carriage drive. “To Hell! To Hell!” The bird responded to the banishment by turning its head left, then right, and examining the priest with one eye, then the other. Its squawk sounded a call to arms, and four more crows swooped down. In horror, the priest rushed toward the porch. He scampered up the steps and pulled on the heavy cord, sounding the bell – that announced his arrival. The door creaked opened. There stood Jasmine, imposing, judgmental. Humph! Jasmine! The slave’s face was sullen, as she looked the priest up and down. She was the one woman in the Calais household who didn’t greet the priest with adoration. No sweeping gesture that he should enter. In fact, she usually left him to close the door on his own—unless Madame Calais was standing in the foyer upon his arrival. Then it was “Father Vivenzio! I’ll be tellin’ Madame that you’ve arrived!” All nicey-nice on those occasions!
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“Father Vivenzio! I’m in here! Do come in,” Madame Calais sang. “How is Victoria? Maybe she would care to join us?” the priest inquired of his generous benefactor. “I’m sure she would, Father. But first, I’m hoping I can confide in you. I’m concerned about Victoria and her loss of vision. The epidemic that nearly wiped out our family is undoubtedly the cause of Victoria’s vision loss. I have a lot to consider, and I may need your assistance planning a course for her future.”
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Victoria crossed the parlor into the conservatory as Jasmine fell back where she stood silently in the shadows of the parlor. “Victoria, darling, sit down with me and Father Vivenzio and have some lemonade. I’ve barely seen you all day.” Father Vivenzio moved to the high-backed chair across from the two women. “If I may, Madame Calais. Shall I begin?” Madame Calais patted the sofa, and Victoria took the cue to sit down as the priest began speaking. “Victoria, your grandmother has made a very generous financial gift to the church. She and I agree that the funds that she has given at your mother’s behest would best be used to renovate the convent where you stayed when your family fell ill.” Victoria gasped. “Shall I continue?” Victoria nodded. Madame Calais held her breath as Victoria glared at the priest. Then she dropped her gaze to the cat. “Bon-Bon?” The cat was flexing her claws in the hem of the reverend’s cassock. “Bon-Bon!” Father Vivenzio looked down and snatched at his robe. “Bon-Bon! No clawing!” The priest stomped his foot at the cat. It raised its back and snarled before darting back to Victoria. He shrugged his shoulders at Madame Calais, grinning sheepishly. Suddenly, with the swiftness of a panther Bon-Bon bounded from Victoria’s lap and, in one wild leap, landed at the pontiff’s feet. The feline then made a mad scramble up the front of the priest’s robe, batting and snarling. The priest screamed, a girlish cry of distress. Madame Calais let out a shriek, matching the cat’s snarl to a pitch, causing Jasmine to rush in from the parlor. The matriarch jumped up. Her teacup clattered, breaking in half. Hot rooibos tea spread over the rug like a bloodstain. “Mon Dieu! Someone, grab the cat! Dear God, what’s got into her! Get her before she scratches Father Vivenzio’s face!” “I should take my leave. Really, I should,” promised Father. As Father Vivenzio left the estate and walked along the towering wrought-iron fence, his thoughts turned to the appointment waiting for him at the rectory. He chuckled as he quickened his pace. Approaching Prytania Street a pack of dogs began to bark and snarl at him from the grounds of the cemetery. Fear danced in tiny prickles up his spine as he imagined the fangs of angry dogs tearing at his garments, biting into his skin. His breathing quickened; he cautioned himself to not appear fearful. Don’t look over. Don’t look over. A lone howl, long and mournful, emanated from the shadows of the pine grove near the back of the graveyard. The exact source of the howling could not be determined.
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Excerpt Chapter 3
Before the Epidemic
When Victoria awoke, Evangeline was standing at the bedroom window, looking out over the rose garden. Moonlight flooded the room, casting her sister in profile. Evangeline’s white nightgown was no more than a gossamer veil over her young body. Everyone in the Calais family was either tossing and turning or fully awake as it was too hot to sleep in the early autumn before the Yellow Fever epidemic hit. Every creature moved about under the bright glow of the harvest moon. Katydids sang. Beetles skittered through the warm earth; spiders dropped from stalk to leaf, anchoring their glistening webs; garden snakes slithered languorously through the dewy grass, and the spirits floated back and forth between La Maison du Corbeau Blanc and cemetery, catching up on family gossip. It was too hot for all of them. “Evangeline?” “You’re awake, Victoria?” “Yes. What’s out there?” “The night voices are murmuring. I can hear them.” “Whose voice are you hearing tonight, Evie?” Victoria asked, propping herself up on her pillow and winding her long hair up off her neck. “Grandpa’s. I saw him today.” “You did?” “Oui.” “What was he doing?” Victoria fanned her sheets as Evangeline continued to look out over the tea roses, flooded in light as though it were midday. “Sitting at his desk, doing his books.” She brushed her bangs away from her forehead and pricked her nightgown away from the curves of her body. “Was he happy?” “No, he looked sad. Victoria, he looked straight at me.” “Did he say anything?” “Yes. He said one thing.” Evangeline turned to face her sister. Victoria thought how much her sister looked like an angel at that moment. “He did, Evangeline?” She pulled her knees up to her chest, waiting. “What did he say this time, Evie?” “He said, ‘I’ll see you soon, mon cher.” “He’ll appear to you again?” “I don’t know, Victoria. I just got the sense it was actually a warning.” “Why do you say that, Evie?” Evangeline looked out the window and stared, for a moment, at the full moon that hung in the indigo sky before responding, “because as the vision faded, it was replaced by a death mask.”
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I hope you’ve enjoyed THIS peek of ‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’.
Ghosts of White Raven Estates ~ on Kindle
Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Nook
Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Smashwords for iBooks