Darkness Unchained The Jago Legacy Series, Book Three
The Jago Legacy Series, Book Three
1922, Cornwall, England
Could the maddest, baddest, sexiest Jago of them all really be back?
Growing up in the shadows of the Drakensberg mountains, ever since she can remember, Annie van der Merwe has envisioned a golden eyed man she calls Uther. Now, half way across the world, in a beautiful cliff top mansion known as Tenebris, Annie comes face to face with the embodiment of her visions.
Torn body and soul between mesmerising nobleman Uther Jago and his brooding brother Nicca, headstrong Annie must face the awful legacy of the Jagos. Lust, betrayal and a darkness older than time await her if she remains within the encircling walls of Tenebris.
Only in sultry South Africa can Annie hope to conquer the darkness borne in blood and bone that threatens to destroy them all. But once the Jago darkness has been unleashed, can it ever be vanquished?
Copyright © 2015 Jane Godman
All rights reserved
The old house slumbered in the morning sunlight. It allowed that unique Cornish glow—the one that bounced back from the sea in all directions—to bathe its tired corners and crevices with warmth. After centuries of darkness, Tenebris had enjoyed a brief period of quiet. This world, a whirl of automobiles, telephones and air travel, could not understand the ancient creeds. This brave new century thought it knew everything. It had survived a great war, one that it arrogantly called “the war to end all wars,” but there was greater horror to come. The darkness that waited patiently within the ancient walls knew it. A man who led a small, but vocal, political party in Germany—a man named Adolf Hitler—knew it, too. The world would cringe before the awful truth in time.
The darkness missed the Jago clan, the true family of Athal. The Hungarian woman had brought peace, and with her coming, the evil had moved on. For a while it had stalked the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, knife in hand. But it was on its way back. Tenebris sensed the true darkness drawing ever closer. It smiled to itself, hugging its secrets tightly. The Jago legacy was about to be unchained once more.
Cornwall, England, 1922
I paused astride the top of the wall, looking down at the expanse of garden below me. Nothing moved. When I was absolutely certain that there was no other living creature around, I dropped down onto the grass and crouched low in the late afternoon shadows. If I’d thought this through, I’d have come at night, equipped with a torch. But I’d reached the age of twenty-two and not yet acquired the skill of thinking things through. The garden was overgrown and deserted, not at all what I had expected or imagined. I thought of Rudi’s paintings. They invariably depicted this pale marble manor, a castle with its soaring ramparts and flying pennants, or an impossibly handsome man with golden eyes and a cruel smile.
“Sies tog, Annie! For shame,” I scolded myself under my breath. “Did you think he would be here, waiting to greet you?”
I moved away from the wall, confident now that the house really was, as I had believed, empty. It was a hauntingly beautiful place. Rudi’s brushstrokes had been remarkably accurate. He had even managed to reproduce the shape of the ornate lake, now a still, dark mirror, and the way the contours of the house clung sinuously to the scorching drama of the cliffs. Bolder now, I followed a path through well-planned gardens. Someone had put great thought and love into the arrangement of these, but their upkeep now showed signs of definite neglect.
I had attempted, in what Rudi would doubtless call my “sledge-hammer Annie” fashion, to get into the house by more conventional means two days ago. Ever since we had first seen this place and realised, with an awe-filled exchange of glances, that we were here, I had been determined to get over the doorstep. Rudi, always more cautious than I, had put forward a series of reasoned arguments.
“It’s a coincidence, Annie. It must be.”
I gazed steadily back at him. “Coincidence?” I said at last, pointing to his sketchpad. He had the grace to hunch one thin shoulder. “Don’t worry, broer, I’ll make some excuse. I was out walking and the laces on my shoe broke, or something like that. Even I’m not going to march up to their front door and blurt out the real reason.” I fluttered my eyelashes and affected a flirtatious tone. “Oh, goeie more, meneer. Good morning to you, sir. Yes, you with the eyes like a hunting lion. My broer and I live over five thousand miles away, but I just dropped by to say ‘hello’ because we’ve known about you and your house ever since we were little babas. We have the pictures to prove it.”
I had made some enquiries in Port Isaac. People seemed surprisingly reluctant to talk about the impressive mansion on the jutting peninsula, but I learned it was called Athal House. The name meant nothing to me, which I found slightly disappointing. I had expected a cacophony of bells to chime in my mind when at last I heard its name. I swung briskly along the cliff path in preparation to put my plan into action, only to encounter an ornate gatehouse that spanned the drive. The huge gates themselves, carved from wrought iron, were embellished with a crest of gold stars on a black background. The words Lucent in Tenebris were engraved in flowing script across the top of the closed barrier. I didn’t know any Latin, but these words did strike a chord somewhere deep inside my subconscious. Not bells and whistles, but something I didn’t understand stirred within me, and the hairs on the back of my neck lifted. The feeling intensified when I had reached out a hand to touch the cold metal of the gate. I knew it would be firmly locked against me before I tried it.
You are not welcome here, Annie. We are not ready for you…yet.
Telling myself to get a grip, I had given the gates a shake. They refused to budge. Stepping back, I scanned the mullioned windows of the gatehouse. Blankly, they stared back at me.
“Hello?” My voice had sounded nervy and hesitant. Distinctly un-Annie-like. I had glanced to the sides of the gatehouse. A wall ran away to either side, and I had seen on the approach that it bordered the perimeter of the house on three sides. On the fourth was the cliff. Although the wall was above head height, I knew I could scale it easily. But I had been dressed for an afternoon visit, not for climbing. My best dress, matching coat and smart shoes would have been ruined, as would my dignity. And if I got myself arrested for trespassing, what would happen to Rudi?
“Hello?” I had cupped my hands around my mouth and raised my voice. “Can you help me, please? I’ve broken my shoelace. If I could come inside? Just for a minute…”
It was useless. Dispirited, I had made my way back to the diminutive cottage we had rented for the summer season. But Athal House had taken a firm grip on my imagination. It had become a challenge. And I was never going to resist one of those. Which was why I had come back again, clad in Rudi’s clothes, with my braided hair tucked up under one of his tweed caps.
I approached the house from an oblique angle. Although the windows stared back at me like sightless eyes, I wasn’t prepared to take any chances. This was the side of the house with ocean views, and the first window I peeped into showed me a glimpse of a library, a room that fired my reader’s soul with bitter envy. The next was a beautiful parlour, and I somehow sensed the hand of an elegant, fashionable woman in its cool, comfortable design. As I approached the third window, a light flickered on inside and I leaped back in alarm, hoping to avoid detection. My instincts had failed me in the most spectacular fashion. I had been here only minutes, but it was already time to go.
Keeping low, I ran along the side of the house, heading back in the direction of the perimeter wall. I reached the corner and entered a large, desperately overgrown rose garden. Making my way through this proved fraught with obstacles, and I was soon hopelessly entangled in a thorny grip. As I twisted to free myself from sweet-smelling captivity, a huge paw of a hand grabbed me by my collar and plucked me bodily from the ground, holding me suspended so that my legs dangled in midair a foot above the grass.
“Now then, my boy.” The voice was low and rumbling, as befitted an owner of such immense proportions. “Might I ask what you are doing here? Casing the joint in preparation for a spot of house-breaking later, perhaps?”
I squirmed wildly in an attempt to break free. My feeble efforts made my captor laugh, a fact that caused me to gasp furiously. “Jou bliksem!” For the purposes of clarity I said it again in English. “You bastard! Put me down.”
He turned me easily in his grasp at that, and I found myself looking into a pair of puzzled blue eyes set in a strong-jawed face that was pleasantly handsome without being in any way remarkable. Although he retained his grip on my jacket, he did set my feet on the floor, and seizing the opportunity this presented, I kicked out. My boot gave a satisfying thud as it connected with his shin. He gave a grunt of annoyance, but still did not release me. I swung a punch in the direction of his jaw, but because of the man’s height, it fell short and connected with the base of his throat.
“Unless you want your ears soundly boxed, my lad, you’ll keep these pathetic attempts to do me physical damage under control.”
Ignoring this piece of advice, I kneed him sharply in the groin. He gave a loud “Oof!” and doubled up in pain. Not surprisingly, he did let me go at that, and I prepared to run. Unfortunately, the giant was not as badly hurt as I had hoped, and he reached out a hand, sweeping the tweed cap from my head as he did. My braids tumbled free, falling almost to my waist. My captor caught hold of one of these, jerking me to an instant standstill.
“Not a boy, after all,” he remarked, as though finding a girl in disguise prowling around his garden was an everyday occurrence. He wound the plaited length of my hair around his hand like a rope, drawing me relentlessly toward him. I regarded him belligerently as he studied my face. “The question remains the same, however. What the devil are you doing here?” Inside my pocket, I surreptitiously slid my little dagger out of its stitched leather sheath. “Cat got your tongue? Well, since you won’t speak to me, perhaps you’d rather talk to the police?”
Relying on speed and surprise, I twisted the knife in my hand. His eyes flashed as he saw it, but before he could react, I brought it up and sliced neatly through my own thick hair. I had time to register the look of comic surprise on his face as he stood there, clutching a length of plaited black hair in his hand before I sped off like a streak of lightning and hurled myself at the wall. Laughing, I turned back at the top.
“Call it a keepsake, meneer,” I called as I dropped down into the gathering twilight on the other side.