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The Ghost of Harding Hall

Published by: eXtasy Books

Author : Beth Fuller

ISBN :978-1-4874-3769-5

Page :54

Word Count :15255

Publication Date :2022-12-23

Series : #

Heat Level :

Available Formats : The Ghost of Harding Hall (prc) , The Ghost of Harding Hall (pdf) , The Ghost of Harding Hall (mobi) , The Ghost of Harding Hall (epub)

Category : Historical Romance , Romantic Suspense and Mystery , Christmas

  • Product Code: 978-1-4874-3769-5

At Christmas, all things are possible.

The famous mourning doves of Harding Hall have come home to roost this December, and with them they bring Lord James Rathburn, widowed master of the estate. His little daughter, Giselle, is crying out for his affection, but nothing she or her governess, Hannah Therman, do can reach him. As the guests start arriving for the Christmas ball, Giselle complains of hearing a ghost haunt the neglected halls. Hannah would be inclined to dismiss it as imagination until she hears it, too, and suddenly it isn’t just Lord James’ memories that echo through the corridors any longer.  Could there possibly be a ghost at Harding Hall? One who is responsible for certain unfortunate incidents? And how is Hannah to know what to do when suddenly faced with questions she never thought to hear, from two unlikely sources? This Christmas will be one she won’t soon forget.

The mourning doves wailed from the winter-stripped treetops of Harding Hall estate, their distinctive grey-brown feathers ruffling against the December winds as they shivered in their nests.

“Look,” Hannah whispered to Giselle, her young charge. “They’ve laid their eggs already. Very few species lay their eggs in the middle of winter instead of in spring. That’s what makes the mourning doves so special.” She parroted Mr Magnus, the head gardener, almost verbatim.

His grey eyes had sparkled and his broad hands, dirt-smudged as ever, had waved through the air as he lectured them all over the dinner table the night before.

“You can always tell when nesting season has started.” His Yorkshire accent always grew thicker when he was excited. “The skies come to life with ‘em. Male and female building their nest together. Sitting the eggs together, too. Mate for life, mourning doves. Just like a husband and wife.”

Hannah dutifully tried to impart this knowledge to little Giselle as a good governess ought to, but the child was already merrily skipping through the mud, collecting posies of holly for Papa. Hannah privately doubted Lord James would be home for Christmas. He usually spent the festive season feasting on someone else’s hospitality, but dear Giselle was an optimist still.

Hannah pulled the shawl about her shoulders more closely, watching as the birds wailed at each other in their nest.

Mourning doves were rare in England, as Mr Magnus regularly reminded them all if they made the foolish error of disturbing the nests. The first nesting couple had arrived the winter that Giselle had been born. And now, six years later, the whole of the skeletal dell came alive with the cooing and sighing of their offspring when winter rolled around. Hannah, who had only been a resident of Harding Hall for a year or two, still wasn’t accustomed to them.

“Here you go!” Giselle said brightly. She thrust a new posy of holly at Hannah, ignoring the miraculous birds above.

“Make sure you don’t damage them, Miss Therman. We need to keep them safe for Papa,” the little girl added sternly before scampering back up the path through the overgrown, neglected gardens.  

Lord James had cut back on the Harding Hall staff when he was in his London home. These extensive grounds were kept only by Bernard and the twins from the village, Henry and Robbie Clyde. They did their best, of course—Bernard was possessed of a steady pair of hands, and the young apprentices were energetic if nothing else—but three men were not enough for grounds of this size. The spent stems slumped and decomposed in the mulch as Hannah swept past. Harding Hall loomed imposingly at the top of the hill before them—cold, dark and empty, for it was mostly closed off when Lord James Rathburn wasn't at home.

Which is more often than not…

Not that Hannah minded much on her own account, for she was used to solitude, but for Giselle’s sake the situation really was too bad.

Giselle is a bright, inquisitive, lively little sprite and ought to be the darling of her father's eye.

But even when Lord James deigned to visit the estate, he rarely bothered with Giselle. He was too busy with hunting parties and balls, teasing eligible young ladies, and provoking all the matrimonial hopes of their mothers ...

A shrill scream abruptly rent the air, shattering Hannah’s musings. Her heart leapt into her throat.


Hannah’s gaze darted desperately across the gardens. She couldn't tell where the scream had come from.

Exposed roots tangled at Hannah’s feet as she picked up her skirts and sprinted on. Thorny brambles tugged at her new dress, but she scarcely cared. Hannah pushed her way through the gardens, screaming for the little girl. The noise set the mourning doves around her fluttering skywards, their doleful cries breaking through the quiet country air, mingling with Hannah’s frantic yells.

“She's here, Miss Therman,” a reassuringly deep voice called out.

Hannah all but fell over a log and scrambled down the slope beyond. Bernard was cradling Giselle gently in his arms down in the dell. Though she was howling, her new winter frock now a damp, earthy hue, she seemed not seriously injured.

“Giselle, I’ve told you before about running off! You must stay where I can see you. Anything could have happened! Show me where it hurts.”

Giselle held up a scraped elbow, seeping blood. Hannah tutted and wrapped a clean kerchief around the wound.

“She was walking along the log on the top of the ledge when a bird startled her. She slipped and fell,” Bernard said quietly. “I couldn't reach her in time. Reckon as she scraped her leg up, too, but she didn't hit her head, as I could see. Reckon a hot bath and a sweet treat would fix her up again.”

“Thank you, Mr Magnus. Giselle, can you walk?”

Giselle wrapped her little arms around Bernard's neck, squealing most pitifully.

“You must at least try,” Hannah said sternly. “I cannot carry you, and we cannot take poor Mr Magnus from his business any longer.”

“It’s no bother, Miss Therman. It's clear enough the lass needs to rest her legs after all that fuss.” He rose to his feet, Giselle still in his arms, before Hannah could protest. Hannah lay her shawl over Giselle as a blanket. The young lady snuggled almost smugly into the gardener’s arms.

“You shouldn't spoil her,” Hannah said in an undertone. Bernard just smiled at her silently.

Together they clambered up the steep slope towards the kitchens. The rest of the house was cobweb- and shadow-drenched, but the kitchens were always warm, well-lit and welcoming.

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Tags: Romance, Holiday, Christmas, Historical, Suspense, Supernatural