Whispers From the Past: Vendetta, by Charlotte Holley COMING SOON
#gypsyshadow #paranormal #timetravel
Whoever said the past is dead and buried never knew the evil wizard Arvashan or his fiendish plan to avenge himself on those who caused all the trouble at the very beginning . . . Liz Carr and Kim Henson find they have only skimmed the surface when it comes to the mysteries of the past and their lingering effects on the present. They are about to learn their lives and those of John Carter and Mark Adams are hopelessly tangled with Arvashan’s in a way they could never have expected.
The four friends, the local priest and the ineffable Benjamin McCann himself, have worked hard to return peace to McCann’s Manor, only to find each step forward has brought ever-increasing repercussions, leading them deeper into Arvashan’s diabolical schemes. Now the ancient sorcerer, infuriated by their success in freeing some of his captive souls, makes his demands, offering Liz an ultimatum she can never hope to accept or live with.
Liz has a few weeks to set her affairs in order and return with Arvashan to the past and a fate she has no memory of, or Arvashan will kill everyone she loves. The situation calls for a level of cunning and skill the friends will somehow have to find within themselves, along with a mastery of magic greater than any they possess, before they can emerge victorious over the ancient nemesis. But there is more . . . much more . . . and they are running out of time . . .
Word Count: 154000
Pages to Print: 375+
Psychic ghost busters Liz Carr and Kim Henson are about to learn their
lives and those of John Carter and Mark Adams are hopelessly tangled
with the past in a way they could never have expected. Whispers From the
Past: Vendetta by Charlotte Holley. COMING SOON!
Prologue Arvashan Darkness. Cold, unrelenting darkness so thick it stole her breath was all Liz could perceive, though she strained into the blackness. The entity she knew as Ptarmigan had spoken to her of such a place—a freezing, dark pit where no light penetrated. How had she come here, though? What sorcery was afoot for her to find herself banished to the depths of Ptarmigan’s prison? Or could the darkness, the cold, the feeling of isolation be merely illusion? Surely she wasn’t alone in this place, she reasoned, though she could sense nothing to indicate the presence of anyone else.
She fought to calm her racing heart, slowly drew in a breath and reached her hands out to probe the nothingness in front of her. “Hello?” she whispered.
“You know me, Draita,” the voice whispered, so near her ear it made her whirl toward the sound. “Remember, my beloved. Remember . . .”
She forced herself to remain composed, even though the fear of the dark she thought she’d banished years before clamped down on her throat like a fist, threatening to choke off her oxygen. From where in her past did the all-encompassing panic she felt this moment spring? As a child, she remembered all too well, she had been terrified of the darkness; but she’d believed the dread was far behind her now. She stood staid and still, forcing a deep, ragged breath into her lungs. The darkness did not exclude the air, she told herself. Breathe! Just breathe, and be calm.
She heard another soft laugh very close to her as she felt a hand, light as a whisper, stroke her cheek. “What a strong, intelligent woman you are, Draita.” Her invisible companion sighed the words, more than spoke them.
Against her better judgment, she moved toward the voice and reached for the hand that had touched her, but found herself groping nothing but the velvet, frozen, blinding void. “I can’t seem to place your voice,” she said, feigning nonchalance. “You call me Draita, but my name is Liz—Liz Carr. Could you have mistaken me for another?”
Again the laugh, the mere hint of a touch on her face as she heard the soft rustling of movement so near her. The voice hissed, “What? You are reputed to be such an incredible psychic. Do you expect me to believe you can’t remember your past lives?”
“Past—” she began, only to be silenced as a pair of invisible hands grasped her shoulders and shook her. The question was the same one Benjamin McCann had put to her only a short while ago regarding her lifetime as Constance, yet her reply was still the same, even though the name had changed. “I was Draita in a past life? No, I don’t remember; I truly don’t.” She tried to pull away from the phantom holding her, but stopped in horror as she realized when she tried to touch the being who held her in his grasp, she again found nothing. Why, then, did she still feel the viselike grip he had on her? This was insanity. She thought for a moment she must be imagining things before she realized she’d been in this place before.
Here in this same abysmal, gelid blackness, she’d spoken to this being several times. It must be a dream she was having—a recurring nightmare, one that refused to let her waken. Wake up, Liz!
“No, not this time,” the voice roared as the unseen fingers dug deeper into her flesh. “You are gifted, it is true; but I will not let you leave me again—not until you have heard what I have to say to you. Like it or not, you are going to stay and listen to me this time.”
“You’re hurting me,” she said in a low growl. “If you want me to listen to you, I can hear you better if I don’t have to strain over the noise of my shoulders screaming in pain. Let me go. I promise I’ll stay and hear you out.”
“Such a convenient excuse, that you have forgotten who you are,” the voice sibilated. “Very well, I will loosen my hold, but mind you this: if you leave me before I finish telling you what I wish to say, I will destroy everyone you love, Draita. Your children, your friends, your lover—all will die, and you will have no one to blame for it but yourself.”
Liz shivered at his words, cold as this blackness in which she found herself held captive. “Why would you threaten such a thing?” she asked as she reached to rub her upper arms and winced from the lingering pain she felt.
“You are very clever, Draita, but know this: I never make threats. I will do exactly as I have said if you try to escape me again. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes,” she whispered, “extremely clear. I’m listening.”
“That is reasonable of you,” he spat.
“What do you want?”
“You,” he replied.
“I wonder . . . Is it possible you truly do not remember who you were? Is it conceivable you could have forgotten me? You were mine; how could you forget me? How could you love that miserable Jonathan bartraol more than you loved me?”
“Jonathan bar—John? I don’t know what you mean,” she stammered. “Who are you?”
“Has your beloved John even told you how he betrayed you mere days ago with Andaena, while he was away supposedly making the world a safer place for you? Has he told you he made love to your sister?”
Liz was getting more confused by the minute. Her head reeled; her stomach felt queasy. “My sister? I don’t have a—”
“This lifetime you have no sibling, but when you were Draita, Andaena was your sister. You do know her, though you now know the woman of whom I speak as Moira MacPherson,” he mocked with a dark chortle. “I take it your precious John has yet to tell you all of his escapades while he was in Gorsha.”
Moira? John had made love to Moira while he was in Gorsha? While she and Kim had been fighting for their lives against that demented maniac—she felt her stomach knot, her eyes stinging as she fought to hold back tears. “You’re lying!” she accused. “John wouldn’t—”
He laughed loud and hard while she struggled to maintain her resolve not to cry. “Ah, so perhaps you do not know the man as well as you think, my poor, dear Draita. Perhaps he does not deserve such loyalty. That should make it easier for you to do the right thing; easier for you to agree to go back with me.”
“Go back with you? Where? I can’t leave—”
“But of course you can leave. You owe it to me; you were mine until he stole you. I’d have given you the universe for the asking, but you had to go off with the bartraol,” he accused. “I am a greater wizard than he. I always was. Why should he be entitled to have you as well as the title of the greatest wizard who ever lived?”
She felt her body trembling, but willed herself yet again to silence her fear. “I belong here. Even if I was this—Draita—in a past life, I’m Liz now. This is another lifetime,” she tried to explain.
“You still owe me the rest of your life because you never made it right in all these lifetimes since you chose him over me. You never once felt remorse for the sorrow you caused me, did you? I have waited since the dawning of the world for you. Now you will at last pay with your submissiveness to my will. You belong to me!”
“I belong to myself,” she argued. “I have no place with you, and I won’t go with you.”
“Willful as ever, I see,” he indicted, his tone growing cold and steely. “I realize you will have to have time to think about your situation . . . and your responsibilities. You have kept your word and stayed to hear my demands, so now I will give you your choices. You will return to your bed and prepare to come to me.”
“You’re not listening. I just told you—”
“No, I perceive you are the one not listening. You will prepare to come to me and you shall tell no one,” he restated.
“You’re mad!” she said.
“Perhaps so, my lovely one,” he admitted. “Unrequited love can do that to a man. As I was saying, you are to tell no one. I am prepared to give you the opportunity to say your goodbyes. You see, I can be reasonable; but I will know if you tell anyone of our little conversation, and I will kill them. If you tell even one of them, they will all die. Is that understood?”
Liz stood silent, feeling lost and afraid. How could she tell them goodbye without telling them why she was leaving or where she was going? It was preposterous even to imagine what this man was asking her to do. Is he even a man, she wondered, or is he spirit? What powers does he have that he could know what I say to others?
“I can hear your thoughts, you know,” he said as he drew closer to her again, pulled her hair through his fingers and breathed in its fragrance. “I will know, and that fact is all you need hold in mind. Come now, let us be reasonable. Your children are coming for a visit in a few days, are they not? I know you will want to see them before you leave—want to spend the last moments you can with them . . . After they are gone, I will come to collect you.”
“That’s—kind of you,” she said through clenched teeth. “You’re all heart, aren’t you?”
“I think you will find I deal with others with as much kindness as they show to me,” he said. “I could kill them all anyway, you know. However, I felt it would be kinder to you if I refrained from hurting them, since I am taking you away from them. I want you to remember your last moments with them as being . . . pleasant.”
Liz considered his comment and sighed. “I think I deserve to know your name and how you look, if I’m to go anywhere with you,” she said after a moment of silence.
“What is the matter?” he prodded. “Are you afraid I am some kind of hideous demon or something?”
“The thought had occurred to me,” she replied.
Silence engulfed the darkness while Liz waited for what seemed an eternity. “Very well,” he agreed, “my name is Arvashan.”
She heard a sound like the snapping of fingers an instant before a small glowing orb appeared between her and the one who called himself Arvashan. The light, which floated eerily in front of her, began as a dim glow and gradually grew brighter until she could see the face before her. He indeed appeared to be a man, she noticed with some relief; tall and angular with long dark hair and gleaming, cold steely eyes. He moved closer to her and peered so deeply into her essence she wanted to recoil, but she stood firm, staring back at him. He was attractive—alarmingly so—and his eyes slowly swept her form, seeming to appreciate what they saw.
“I have waited so long for this moment. Now you have seen me, do you remember?”
The words were simple and cool, but she thought she could see past his façade. He seemed to be imploring her to remember, to love him, to surrender to his will. For a moment, she almost wished she did remember, but it was useless. The man had threatened to kill everyone she loved. She straightened and looked at him without emotion, then shook her head.
“I—still can’t remember,” she replied, “but from what you’ve said, I gather it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen one another. Sometimes I can’t remember the faces of people I met last year. Is it really any wonder I don’t remember someone I knew lifetimes ago?” She hoped her words were not as biting as the ones she wanted to say. Who does he think he is to threaten me? What gives him the right to a moment of my time, now or in the past?
He smiled at her, a smile she was certain he believed was charming and irresistible; then he bent toward her and kissed her with a deep, hungry passion. She didn’t like it, but found herself completely powerless to resist or to pull away. He gathered her closer to him and deepened the kiss before he finally let her go and stepped away from her, extinguishing the light of the glowing orb and plunging her again into darkness.
“I will be watching you,” he said with a baleful laugh. “You will do well to remember that. If you talk about me, I will know, and I will take the proper steps to assure you regret it for the rest of your life. Farewell, my love. . . .”
Chapter 1 The Wizard’s Cat Liz Carr swam in a dark, unplumbed well of black swirling current that threatened to pull her to the bottom of its unfathomable depths as she fought to wrest herself from the hold of the dream. Terror washed over her, wave upon wave. In the distance, she thought she heard him—Arvashan—still laughing at her, whispering, “Farewell, my love, my love, my . . . love . . .”
When she did finally manage to open her eyes, she found herself tangled in the sheets, gasping for air and groping for John. He wasn’t in the bed. She looked about the dim room, but saw no sign of him. “John?”
Timothy, Benjamin’s cat, chirred from somewhere across the room and jumped lightly onto the bed, bringing his big, furry face close to hers, his purr loud and comforting. “You know about him, don’t you? Who is he? Why does he want me to go into the past with him?” she whispered.
The big feline touched the tip of his nose to hers, the cold dampness of it shocking her senses as he began making bread on her lap. She hugged him close to her, and realized she was crying. Was it the fear she felt when she couldn’t awaken from her dream, she wondered, or was it because of the things Arvashan had said about John? How could she find out more about him without talking to anyone about him? Did he really know all her thoughts?
“He might,” she told Timothy, answering her own unspoken question. “Ben did . . . He still does, doesn’t he? Or did he give up that ability when he melded with John?” She still couldn’t completely understand what John had told her about Benjamin’s sending his spirit into John’s body at the moment of the transformation of the Gorshans. Benjamin had sacrificed his material being to become one with John. “Is that really why he sent you here? Did he know all along he wouldn’t be returning, except as part of John? Oh, Ben . . .” The thought of never seeing Benjamin again, except through John, tore at her heart as it did every time she let it surface. Tears washed freely down her cheeks and onto Timothy’s fur.
At the mention of his master’s name, Timothy looked at her with an expression of knowing in his eyes, and touched her face again with his nose. The cat was uncanny in the way he seemed to understand every word she said. She’d had animals she was certain could understand her before, especially cats; but Timothy—well, Timothy was something else. She could swear it as she looked into his big, soulful eyes—not only did he understand her every word, but he seemed to have the ability to answer her. He was a remarkable cat, after all—a wizard’s cat. He belonged to the singular man who had built this manor two hundred years ago for Constance. Benjamin McCann was an enigma she had only begun to fathom: a powerful wizard, descended from a line of wizards dating all the way back into the mists of antiquity.
She sighed and scratched the fluffy cat, “Now see, that’s proof, isn’t it? I mean, if I could remember my past lives, you know I’d remember being Constance. If I can’t even remember that lifetime, how on earth does he expect me to remember being Draita, at the dawning of the world?”
Timothy moved in a tight circle in her lap, curled up and lay in a ball flexing his big claws in the air. He watched her attentively, like a child might watch an adult who was about to tell him an exciting bedtime story.
“Does John really know everything Ben knew now? If he does, we’re in a lot of trouble, because he’ll know about the encounter I just had with Arvashan. It can’t have been only a dream, because why would I dream anything so crazy and twisted? No, I don’t remember him, but there is something . . . something about him, Timothy. It’s like he’s somehow mixed up in everything we have experienced here. I don’t know. Am I crazy? Could he be part of Ptarmigan?”
Timothy stopped purring and peered into her eyes, caught and held her gaze, then sat as though transfixed in her lap, peering right into the depths of her soul—or so it seemed. A spark of light flickered between the cat’s eyes and hers, drawing her to another place and time. She felt herself leaving her body and drifting toward another place and time. This wasn’t like it had been when she and Kim and Benjamin had traveled through the portal. No, she had her body with her then . . . this experience was more like the time when she and Kim had first come to the manor and she’d been drawn into the past to witness Ben writing the letter to Constance, and again when she had suddenly found herself in Ben’s time to see the treachery of David Spencer when Spencer locked Ben and Timothy in Ben’s own vault to suffocate beneath the fireplace.
“Where are we going?” she asked, though she expected no answer as she felt herself floating over an ancient keep in a land she could swear she had seen before—almost. The familiarity of it tugged at her, making her speculate as she found herself spiraling toward the earth and then inside the rough-hewn walls of the castle proper. She passed through the solid stone as though it were made of nothing more than vapors, and found herself standing in a great hall, the magnificent fluffy gray cat at her feet looking up at her with an authoritative air.