Historical, 281 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
Jesse West is determined to destroy the family that wronged him so badly. For former governess Michelle Devine, it becomes a battle of wits to deal with Jesse, who has no other purpose in life than to kill her.
Michelle watched two men carry the body of her husband down the stairs. Both were dressed in long black coats and black top hats and holding a stretcher covered in a sheet. James had died on a sheet in Michelle’s arms. She shivered and felt cold in her flimsy nightdress.
The servants silently looked down from above. She wondered what they were thinking, especially Mrs. Gillard and Ruth Johns. Serves her right, no doubt. Michelle shuddered and not with the cold. They hated her.
“Mrs. Devine,” a man’s voice broke the silence. “Mrs. Devine.”
Michelle realised Ben Morrell had arrived.
“Mrs. Devine,” he repeated. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Michelle wanted privacy but couldn’t go back to that bed. “Yes, please, Mr. Morrell. Can you ask Nora to prepare another room for me? I need to rest.”
Michelle waited, wondering why she didn’t feel grief. Shock of course, but not grief. Amelia came to her. “Your room is ready, Mrs. Devine.”
“Thank you, Amelia,” Michelle replied. “I’m very tired but I don’t know if I can sleep. Best wake me later in the morning.”
“You can ring for me.”
Michelle vaguely remembered the cords and bells. She had only been mistress of the manor for a few short hours. “Yes, I will ring for you.”
Michelle and Amelia climbed the stairs to where the servants were gathered. Michelle stopped. “It’s over and you can go to bed now,” Michelle told them. “You too, Amelia; I will be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
A fire blazed but the room was still cool. Michelle slipped between icy sheets but didn’t notice the cold. The happiest day of her life had disintegrated in the most tragic way possible. She rolled onto her side but knew sleep would never come.
~ * ~
Jesse West hid behind trees at the foot of the garden and watched two gentlemen place his father’s body in the back of a cart. Justice: married and died the same day. Jesse was surprised his poison had worked so fast. The undertakers rode away with a half moon to guide them. One by one the lights at the house winked out, leaving Bagtor House in darkness. Jesse thought about Michelle Blissett, former governess now widow. Her turn would come, and the two bastard children as well. But first she would suffer for what she’d done. Suffer first in grief and suffer later in terror. He would terrorise her until death was a relief.
He climbed up the hill to the house and strode through the front door which was always unlocked. He went to the sitting room with his arms spread wide. “This is mine, this is all mine,” he said. “I’m the Lord of the Manor.” He walked around the room touching trinkets on the mantel above the fireplace, running his hands over smooth leather chairs, brushing timber furniture so polished that it sparkled in near-darkness. He spread his arms while roaming around the room, daring anyone to challenge that he wasn’t the lord of the manor. After a while it was time to return home.
Jesse left the house and headed to his hut at Mill Wood. Feeling happy that events had turned out better than he’d ever expected, Jesse looked forward to a good night’s sleep.