Saturday, March 30, 2013
Saturday's Chapter from Savage Possession by Margaret Tanner
Several weeks after Storm’s arrival on his doorstep, Martin awoke to sleeting rain lashing at the windows. Storm still slept, worn out from their torrid passion. So young and vulnerable. He eased himself out of bed and felt a sudden surge of compassion. What must it be like to have spent time with those brutal gypsies? To have no memory of your previous life? The fear – loss - absolute bewilderment.
After he washed and dressed he strode downstairs. “Sam!” His father’s cousin, Sam Bainbridge sat in the kitchen sipping a cup of tea. “How are you?” Martin clapped the wizened, gray haired man on the shoulder. “Profitable trip?”
“Yes, I sold all my sketches.”
“Good, I’m pleased for you. When did you arrive home?”
“Last night. I must say, you've done a fine job with the kitchen, or is Mrs. Irvine back?”
“No.” Martin grinned. “I had help.”
“One of your women friends from Melbourne?”
“I still can’t believe what happened myself, but I answered a bang on my door one stormy night and found a girl slumped on my doorstep.”
“You’ve been drinking again.”
“I swear I did find a fey young woman on my doorstep. Actually she’s upstairs.” He gave a low chuckle on seeing the shocked expression on Sam’s face. “You can meet her in a few minutes.”
“Where did she come from?”
“I had no idea when I first found her. Because of the stormy conditions I named her Storm. She’d suffered a blow to the head and had amnesia. The only words that made any sense were ‘Black Stallion, so I assumed she’d come from there.”
In reality she’d escaped from some gypsy encampment.”
“For heaven’s sake. You brought some gypsy’s whore in off the street. Martin, are you mad?”
“She wasn’t a whore when she came here, pure as the driven snow, in fact, but she’s a whore now, for my exclusive use. I’ve taught her everything I know. A man could travel the world and not find better.”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“No. Well, maybe I have. My little storm girl drives me to the point of insanity. I’m like a rutting stallion around her.”
“Don’t be crude,” Sam snapped. “Didn’t you make any effort to find out her identity?”
“Yes. I did. She can’t remember what happened to her prior to stumbling into the gypsy encampment. They abused her and she ran away. She’s good in bed.” He laughed at the old man’s grimace of distaste. “And an excellent cook and housekeeper, too.”
Martin glanced up. Storm hovered in the doorway. “I thought I heard voices.”
She wore one of the gowns he had bought her, a blue taffeta that complimented her blue eyes. Her silver hair, draped like a cloak across her shoulders, shimmered like moonbeams when she moved.
“Come here and meet Sam, my cousin about three times removed.”
As he stepped over to draw her into the room, the old man rose to his feet. Sam’s face turned red, then the color drained away, leaving him haggard and sick looking.
“Are you all right?” Martin dropped Storm's hand and strode over to the old man. “What’s wrong?”
Sam struggled to speak, but couldn't get any words out. Veins bulged in his neck. Martin feared he might have a seizure.
“Hurry, Storm. Get him some brandy.”
She dashed off, and on her return put the half full glass into Sam’s shaking hand.
“Drink this.” She patted his arm. “It will make you feel better.”
The old man’s hands trembled so much she guided the glass to his lips. He swallowed the contents in a couple of gulps and coughed and spluttered.
“This is the girl?” Sam’s mouth dropped open, a pulse convulsed in his jaw. “Oh my God, Martin. What have you done?”
“What the hell’s the matter with you?” Martin tried to hide his worry. Had the old man lost his mind?
“Would you like some more brandy?” Storm asked.
“No, no thank you. Drink has been the ruin of the Mulvaneys.”
“For God’s sake, Sam. What’s wrong?”
“Your, your, Storm is named Elizabeth,” Sam said in a harsh whisper. “Elizabeth Campbell, old Fergus’ granddaughter.”
“What!” The statement was like a mule kick to his stomach and Martin almost doubled over with shock.
“No! She can’t be,” he rasped.
“Didn’t you see the resemblance?”
“What’s the matter?” Storm asked in a panic stricken voice.
Martin ignored her distress. “You’re a Campbell,” he snarled, advancing towards her with deadly intent. “Get out of my sight.”
“But, Martin,” she pleaded, “what have I done?”
“Done?” He gritted his teeth to stop himself grabbing hold of her. “You’re the granddaughter of my mortal enemy.”
“Stop it,” Sam intervened. “Go to your room, girlie, until we sort this mess out.”
As she fled, Martin hurled a string of curses at her.
“I’ve made a whore out of Fergus Campbell’s granddaughter. Better than killing the old bastard.” He gave a harsh bark of laughter. “I heard somewhere he doted on those twins of his. I ought to grab her by the scruff of the neck, drag her to the Black Stallion and tell everyone in the public bar what a talented little harlot I turned her into.” He enjoyed the idea for a moment.
“Listen to me, son.”
“No. You listen to me. I’ve waited years for a chance to destroy old Fergus. He ruined my life. Oh, revenge will be sweet. Took a stock whip to me once, did you know that? I want that Scottish Highland pride ground into the dust. I want him to be so humiliated he’ll want to crawl off somewhere and die.”
“What about the girl? You said the gypsies abused her.”
“They did, but she’s a whore, a Campbell whore.”
“You can’t blame her for what happened years ago. Bury the past for the love of God,” Sam pleaded. “This thirst for revenge will destroy you.”
“Oh, I’ve waited, bided my time for an opportunity like this.” Martin’s heart filled up with such bitterness, he wondered why it didn’t burst wide open and spill on to the floor.
“You’ve ruined the poor girl’s life, isn’t that enough?”
“No,” he ground the word out. His hatred reverberated around the kitchen and chilled the air.
“How long has she been here?”
Martin shrugged. “Several weeks. Why?”
“And you were, er, um with her every night?”
“Yeah.” His lips twisted into a vicious smile. “Every single night, sometimes during the day, too.”
“No,um, er,” Sam spluttered, red faced with embarrassment, “monthly ailment?
“I heard you.” Martin’s gut clenched.
“You should do the honorable thing and offer marriage.”
“Marriage!” Martin rocked back on his heels. “I’ve no plans to marry. If I did it wouldn’t be to a Campbell.”
“You might have got her with child.”
“Hell.” The churning in his gut returned a hundred fold. He felt physically ill.
“You've ruined her chances of marriage to a decent man. If she’s with child, God alone knows what will happen to her.”
“Fergus Campbell’s precious granddaughter having a bastard.” Martin bared his teeth into a snarl. “Yes, I like it.”
“The child will have Mulvaney blood in its veins, have you forgotten?”
“Please, I’ve thought of you as the son I never had. How many times did I save you from those vicious beatings your father meted out?”
“Plenty of times.” Martin forked his fingers through his hair to get his anger under control. If it weren’t for Sam he would have been bashed to a pulp as a boy.
“Then listen to me, son, I’m older and a lot wiser than you. I’ve watched hatred of the Campbells devour you over the years. Don't let what happened in the past ruin the rest of your life. The past is dead and buried. Let it stay that way.”
“You think old Fergus would let a Mulvaney marry his precious granddaughter?” Martin’s mouth twisted. “A snowflake in hell would fare better.”
“Not if she carried your child. He’d have to agree or risk her being ostracized when everyone found out. She’s his sole granddaughter, the apple of his eye. He might hate the Mulvaneys, but worships her.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Martin,” Sam persisted.
“What?” He clasped his hands behind his back so Sam wouldn’t see them shaking. This would have to be one of the worst moments in his life. Why the hell hadn’t he seen the resemblance to old Fergus? The blonde hair. Those arresting pale blue eyes. Too inebriated and shocked when he first found her to notice the likeness, and later, too blinded by lust.