The Captain’s Ghostly Gamble: an excerpt

Short story The Captain’s Ghostly Gambleco-written with Catherine Curzon, will be published 11 September 2018. Available from PrideAmazonKobo etc. It’s a related title to the Captivating Captains series.

When a ghostly dandy and his roguish companion try their hand at matchmaking, things definitely go bump in the night.

For centuries, foppish Captain Cornelius Sheridan and brooding John Rookwood have haunted the mansion they duelled and died for. Now these phantom foes must join forces to save both their home and their feuding descendents.

But when Captain Sheridan sacrifices his afterlife for the sake of true love, will Rookwood risk everything to keep his companion by his side, or is it too late to say “I love you”?

Excerpt

John Rookwood peered through the grimy leaded windows and saw lights approaching along the driveway. It was the same every year—uninvited guests always arrived on their anniversary.

“Captain, they’re nearly here! Stop preening, man!”

“Guests!” Captain Cornelius Sheridan didn’t look away from the ornate mirror where he was admiring his own reflection. He beamed at himself before pouting, then placed one hand on his hip. As John watched, Sheridan turned a little to the left, a little to the right, admiring his own form, clad as he was in a suit of shimmering gold silk.

He frowned and adjusted one of his lace-shrouded cuffs very slightly, then considered his reflection again, turning his shapely calf a little before he leaned down to brush an imaginary smut from his white stocking. “Does one need more powder, Rookwood? One doesn’t want to look gauche for one’s chums!”

“You have natural pallor enough, Captain. Besides, they’re not our chums.”

A large conveyance had drawn up to the front door. John turned up the collar of his greatcoat, watching as two passengers, a man and a woman, climbed out.

“The damned impertinence of it, turning up uninvited every year. Wandering about my house, disturbing our peace. They’re lucky I haven’t taken a pistol to them.”

Natural? Lord preserve me from natural! More powder and a touch more rouge on the lips, I think.” Sheridan put his elegant hand to his silken cravat and slightly adjusted the diamond pin there. An even larger diamond was housed in the ring he wore, and it glittered as brightly as his eyes. “My home, Mr. Rookwood, lest we forget.”

At the sound of their guests letting themselves in at the front door, John sighed. “Rookwood Manor has been in my family for generations, as well you know, you damned dandy interloper!”

“Indeed, sir, Sheridan Manor was once home to your people, but one believes there was the small matter of a duel and now it is mine.” Sheridan glanced at John and beamed, his handsome face now fashionably pale. He bowed low, a cloud of rose perfume billowing from the decadent cuffs. “Let us go and say hello to our newest friends, Mr. Rookwood!”

John bowed in return, doffing his tricorne hat. “That duel was unfair—therefore, in default, Rookwood Manor is still mine, I think you’ll find.”

As John’s heavy boots thumped over the floorboards, a woman’s voice echoed up from the entrance hall.

“Did you hear that? I swear I heard footsteps!”

“Ooh, the young lady sounds so terribly nervous!” Sheridan hugged himself in amused excitement then clapped his hands together. His grin was positively wicked as he added, “What fun!”

“Should be easy to get shot of them, then!” John looked over the bannister as the couple began to set up their equipment. He’d seen quite a lot of this caper over the years, gadgets galore ranged through his house with nary a by-your-leave. How terribly rude. “Well, then, Captain, as my footsteps have served to scare her witless, would you like to go next? I’d wager you shan’t terrify them in the least, but I’m happy to watch you try!”

The two men peeped down into the baronial hall below, where the enormous studded oak door stood open on the autumn night. Leaves swirled in around the feet of the second visitor, a young man with a large bag slung over his shoulder. He threw it down and looked up at his splendid surroundings, his face set into a scowl.

“Oh, now what a handsome gent!” Sheridan touched his hand to his breast and quirked one eyebrow. “If my heart had not already stopped, it would certainly have just skipped a beat. Who have we here?”

He began to descend the staircase, polished shoes shining in the light of the chandelier, the diamond buckles on his toes twinkling. With a glance back at John, Sheridan hopped down the last two risers and landed neatly in front of the couple, who continued to unpack their infernal equipment. Then he blew a sharp blast of rose perfume into the young lady’s face.

She stumbled back a step and nearly lost her footing on the uneven floorboards. “What—what was that? Dan, can you smell it? Roses. They say that the highwayman who haunts this place smells of roses. I’m not imagining it, am I? And it’s suddenly so cold in here!”

“You do know that it’s all bollocks, don’t you?” Dan tutted and shook his head. “I can’t believe you’ve even talked me into this. The sooner it’s on the market, the sooner some big hotel chain buys it and the sooner I get to buy that Ferrari I’ve always wanted, so let’s get the night finished and lock the bloody door on this dusty old hole.”

“Can you please not say bollocks when I’ve got the EVP recorder on, Dan?” The young woman crouched down to rummage about in a trunk. “I can’t believe you want to sell this place—my family lived here too, you know. And anyway, a haunted house is much cooler than a Ferrari.”

“Oh, he’s one of yours!” Sheridan called upstairs to John. “A Rookwood, which makes him suddenly far less attractive! A Rookwood who intends to sell my bally house!”

“Balderdash—it’s Rookwood Manor, after all, and will you just look at that handsome face!” John followed Sheridan downstairs. Could the young lady hear him, or even see him? She had glanced in his direction and was gawping at the stairs.

“Dan! I can hear footsteps again!”

But Dan had turned his back, so John prodded him on the shoulder to get a better look. Was this impertinent young man worthy of the name Rookwood?

“Stop pissing about, Jenny,” Dan huffed. “Funny isn’t it, really? Here we are, a Rookwood and a Sheridan, spending one last night in the place where our great-whatever-uncles however far removed supposedly rattle their chains and flap their sheets? And by tomorrow the For Sale board will be up!”

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