Thursday, March 13, 2014

GATEHAVEN: Part 10 of 10

This will be the last installment of Gatehaven:
Divided into10 Parts.  
Gatehaven,  the entire book, is available in trade paperback
and as an e-book at  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold   

               Part Ten of Ten

Shannon wiped moisture from her right eye with a white linen cloth. “Ian, why would the earl treat us as if we were servants? I don’t understand why he walked away.”
“Remember, he said he had important business to discuss with his mother and grandmother. Perhaps he did.”
“But I am to be his wife.”
“I know.”
Ian nodded as if he understood how terrible she felt. Shannon felt very close to him.
“I hate to worry you,” Ian went on. “But you must consider the possibility that the earl is not the man you think he is.”
That did it.
Shannon tensed, glaring at Ian. It was one thing when she listed the earl’s shortcomings. But she refused to hear them from anyone else.
“Do not start on that topic again, Ian. It is disloyal to the man I love.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I was looking for a reason for his strange behavior—not condemnation.”
“Your loyalty is to be commended, even if slightly misguided, and you are certainly loyal.”
She put her hands on her hips. “I have the feeling I have just been insulted.”
“Take my words any way you wish, lass.”
“The earl is still the man I love,” she insisted. “He is just—he is behaving strangely because he failed to tell his family about me before I arrived. That must be the reason. He needs time to explain who I am.” She forced another smile. “Then everything with be splendid again—as it was in Scotland.”
“For your sake, I hope you are right. Still, I think you should give some thought to my conclusions. Not all people are good, you know. Some only pretend to be good in order to achieve a particular goal.”
Shannon put her hands over her ears. But it was too late. She’d already heard what he said.
She dropped her hands. “You are only three years older than I am, Ian. How did you become suspicious at such a young age?”
“Have you forgotten that I spent part of my growing up years at a school for boys in England?”
She hadn’t forgotten about the time Ian spent in England. Those were the loneliest days of her girlhood.
“Was it very bad here—in England?”
“Not entirely. But there was one boy. We called him Eddie.” Ian shook his head. “Until today, Eddie had not crossed my mind in years.”
“And was Eddie unkind to you?”
“Yes, lass, he was. But not just to me. Eddie was cruel to several of the boys—especially those who were younger or not as rich as he.”
“But surely you do not think that Edward—surely you cannot think the earl is—”
He shrugged. “I am not sure, but I have every intention of finding out. But for now, I need to check on my bags.” He glanced toward the door. “I will meet you in the garden behind the mansion shortly. And then we will go inside the mansion and eat.”
Unless somebody had moved it, Ian’s luggage was still stacked on top of the carriage he arrived in. But before he would worry about that, he needed to find the guardhouse where he would store his bags and spend the night.
Certainly he couldn’t count on the earl for help. He’d had suspicions about the British lord since the day he arrived in Luss, but never more than when he and Shannon talked with him earlier. It was the arrogant way the earl had cocked his head, as if looking down at them, and that had caused Ian to remember Eddie’s blue eyes. He’d seen a flash of anger behind the earl’s eyes, and he had a feeling that Eddie recognized him, too.
While helping the portly footman with Shannon’s box, he’d learned the location of the guardhouse. Ian was determined to go there as soon as possible.
At the corner of the mansion, he was about to take the path to the left when his body slammed into something.
Ian froze. Then his jaw hung loose. He’d collided with a middle-aged gentleman. The man, dressed in black, fell back, landing in a bed of pink flowers that edged the north wall of the mansion.
“Pardon me, sir.” Ian offered his right hand. “Let me help you up.”
The man pressed his thumb and forefinger to his forehead. Ian thought he looked dazed—perhaps bewildered. He finally reached out and allowed Ian to help him to his feet.
The man must have dropped his cane as he fell. It lay on the walkway near the flowerbed. Ian brushed dust and dirt from the man’s dark jacket and handed him his cane.
“Are you all right, sir?”
“I—I will be.” The older man had a heavy French accent. “As—as soon as I have time to catch my breath.” He peered up at Ian’s face. “I am Monsieur Etienne Gabeau. And you are the young man in the carriage behind Rach—behind the earl’s carriage. I saw you and the lady when you arrived—from Scotland, I believe.”
“Yes.” Ian took the man’s free arm. “My name is Ian Colquhoun.”
“My surname has what some might call an unusual spelling, but it is pronounced Ca-hoon. Let me escort you to wherever it is you were planning to go.”
“I had planned to inspect the earl’s flower beds behind the mansion and then meet him and one of his guests there. But I’ve had some unfortunate outcomes today and would rather not try for a third. I think I shall get in my carriage and have my driver drive on home.” A black carriage was parked on the road to the north of the mansion. “My estate is not far from here.”
“Should we tell the earl what happened, sir? I could go and tell him. The earl might want to contact a physician before you leave.”
“That will not be necessary. I have no need of a physician. And I visited briefly with the earl earlier. I had planned to leave soon anyway.”
“Then please allow me to walk along with you to your carriage. It’s a nice day, and I should like a stroll before eating my noon meal.”
“I should enjoy the company,” the Frenchman said.
Ian thought he looked a little shaky. Ian would walk the older man to his carriage, and he looked forward to inspecting it and the team of black horses he saw in the distance. The man dragged one of his feet as they trudged along. Ian couldn’t help feeling sorry for him.
“Sorry we met under such unfortunate circumstances,” Ian said, “but I’m glad to make your acquaintance. I would offer my hand in friendship, but it might be best if we put that off until we reach your carriage.”
The older man nodded, and then he looked up at Ian. “And where were you going in such a hurry, Mr. Colquhoun?”
“To the guardhouse. I need to find a place to sleep tonight. I am to be the vicar’s new assistant and will be residing at the vicarage. But I was told that he is currently on holiday. I hope to find lodging in the guardhouse until he returns.”
The man with the French accent smiled. “So you are the one. I thought that might be the case. The vicar told me to keep an eye out for you. He didn’t know exactly when you would arrive, and he hated to leave without knowing. But a close family member is gravely ill. He needed to be at her side immediately. So I told him I would look after you until he returned.” He glanced at Ian’s hand on his arm. “But it looks now as if you are taking care of me.”
Ian laughed. “It is the least I could do after knocking you down as I did.”
“You must stay with me until the vicar returns.” The Frenchman nodded yet again as if to confirm it. “Yes, I insist. The vicar would be put out with me if I allowed you to stay anywhere else, and I have many extra bedrooms. Not only that, but I live near the vicar’s cottage.
“I have been lonely since the vicar went away and would appreciate the company. Besides the earl and his family, the vicar is my oldest friend since moving here from France.”
“I appreciate your kind offer, sir. But I cannot put you out like that by accepting.”
“Nonsense. You will accept and stay with me until the vicar returns. I refuse to take no for an answer.”
Ian didn’t like being forced to do something he might not want to do. At the same time, he needed a place to stay, and the gentleman’s dwelling seemed like the perfect solution. He was about to accept when the earl stepped out from behind a stone wall and strode toward them.
“Oh, here you are, Monsieur Gabeau.” The earl smiled at the older gentleman, but when he turned to Ian, his smile vanished. “Mr. Colquhoun.” He sent Ian a sharp look and gazed back at the older man. “My mother and my grandmother told me to tell you that the upcoming meeting we have all been waiting for will be held here at Gatehaven as planned. We would like for you to help us decide the time and the exact date before an announcement is sent out.”
The muscles around the Frenchman’s face tightened, and his thick lips turned down. Ian imagined sparks shoot out of the older man’s eyes, and those sparks were aimed at the earl.
“As I told you in the library, my lord. I am not feeling my best today and have much to do at home. Mr. Colquhoun has promised to reside with me until the vicar returns.”
Reside with him?
Ian had fully intended to accept the Frenchman’s offer, but he hadn’t put that conclusion into words yet. It bothered him that Monsieur Gabeau spoke as if he had.
Edward looked shocked. “Monsieur Gabeau, you cannot mean that Mr. Colquhoun will be staying at your estate as your guest.”
“Yes, but only until the vicar returns. He will keep me from feeling so lonely in that big old house. I want to get Mr. Colquhoun settled in as soon as possible.”
“I can see that you are eager to be on your way,” the earl said. “But if you would be so kind as to put off leaving for—for a say an hour—and share a meal with us, I would appreciate it. I wish to speak to you alone on matters of utmost importance.”
The Frenchman’s jaw tightened. “I am a busy man, my lord, and not feeling my best. I will agree to delay my trip home for one hour—no more.”
“One hour should be plenty of time, Monsieur.”
He turned to Ian. “If you will show McGregor, my driver, where your bags and boxes are located, he will help you load them onto my carriage. I will join you shortly.”
“I will help him load my belongings into your carriage as you suggested, sir, and then I will visit that garden you mentioned. I also understand that a meal is waiting for me in the kitchen, and I am looking forward to that as well.”
“Excellent.” The Frenchman motioned to the portly guard that Ian had talked to earlier. “McGregor, help this gentleman load his bags into my carriage. I should be back in about an hour, and then you will drive us home.”
“Very good, Monsieur.”
As he limped away with the earl at his side, Ian shook his head. Apparently, some sort of hostility was going on between the earl and Monsieur Gabeau.
Not only that, the Frenchman had said his portly driver was named McGregor. The driver had seemed friendly enough when Ian saw him for the first time with the young maid at Gatehaven, but the Colquhoun and McGregor clans had never gotten along. Would his friendship with the driver continue if he knew that Ian was a member of the clan Colquhoun?

Ian had assumed that the Frenchman was a commoner. Normally, an earl would assume the dominant position in such cases. But the Frenchman took the high road—strange, to say the least. Ian didn’t know what this was all about, but it would be interesting to find out.   


Caroline said...

Great story, Molly! Tweeting. . .

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks, Caroline. I hope this book does well, and New Agers read it.

Carol Brown said...

Bought the book Molly...can't stand not knowing!