Legacy of Darkness
The Jago Legacy Series, Book One
It is 1837 and the young Queen Victoria has just ascended the English throne.
Orphaned and penniless after her father’s death in India, Lucy Alleyne is forced to accept a post as companion to an elderly lady, until a distant relative spirits her away to Castle Athal on the Cornish coast. But Lucy’s initial gratitude at Lady Demelza Jago’s benevolence soon gives way to unease.
The ancient Cornish castle, known locally as Tenebris, is a dark monument to the family’s history and secrets. Within its embrace Lucy is drawn into friendship with Tynan Jago. The young Earl of Athal is handsome and poetic yet tortured, like his father before him. Tynan is utterly different from his uncle, Uther, whose seductive, leonine power radiates from his every word and gesture.
Between them the two Jago men have innocent Lucy enthralled…mind, body and soul. If she remains within the bloodstained castle walls, with their history of ill-starred passion and madness, a mere broken heart will seem a blessing.
Copyright © 2015 Jane Godman
All rights reserved
I could not sleep. Whether it was the strangeness of my surroundings, the speed with which Demelza had whisked me away to this place or, as I suspected, the unsettling effect of meeting Uther Jago, I could not say. But I rose from my restless, curtained bed and sat in a chair by the dim light of the dying fire for what seemed to be many hours. The shadow of the bedpost danced upon the wall, but my thoughts were as still as the grave.
I remembered with great clarity how my mother talked of her occasional childhood visits to Tenebris. Although she died when I was young, she had a remarkable gift for painting with words a vivid picture of reality. Her stories stayed with me long after she had gone. Bemused affection always tinged her recollections of this Jago stronghold, the walls of which had seen so many bloody endings. She viewed Tenebris through the romantic eyes of a fanciful child, and it had not disappointed. Ghosts and hauntings, mysterious whispers, troubled winds, darkened moors and secrets…these were the colours of her memories.
The awful grandeur of Tenebris, it seemed, exerted a powerful attraction over the Jago family, even those for whom it had never truly been home. My grandmother, a Jago cousin, spent her childhood nearby in an unremarkable manor house. Once married to a successful London diplomat, and with a family of her own, she made regular summer pilgrimages to the remnant of her ancestry. My own mother had married well, but perhaps not quite brilliantly enough for her Jago relatives. Although my father died a baronet, the title came to him through hard work, not birth. I suspected that my mother’s visits to Tenebris were curtailed because her husband—who, at that time, had been plain Mr Reginald Alleyne—was not quite grand enough for her noble relatives.
Of her Jago cousins, my mother had spoken little. And that struck me, with the great gift known as hindsight, as rather odd. I wondered at the charismatic duo who made up two-thirds of my new family. Brother and sister had physical beauty in abundance, undeniable charm and something more besides. Their wealth and pedigree were beyond question. Yet both were well past the expected marriageable age and remained unattached. Were they particularly difficult to please? Or, as my aunt had hinted, had their great sacrifice to the altar of family duty been their care for an orphaned, delicate nephew? And what of that nephew? Of Tynan Jago, the man who was master of this towering monument to the cruel vanity of men? In spite of Demelza’s dismissive assurances, I remained nervous about how the Earl of Athal would view the introduction of an indigent—and tenuously distant—relative into his ancestral home.
Uther, yielding to Demelza’s promptings, had promised to escort me around the castle on the following day. I looked forward to learning something of the castle’s history. Dare I also admit that I relished the prospect of his company? My thoughts, unbidden, returned repeatedly to dwell on this possibility. Indeed, if I am honest, my mind had not strayed far from Uther Jago since the minute I met him. I was utterly devastated by his charm.
At first, my mind was so preoccupied that I thought I must have imagined the sound. When it came again, it was faint and my ears strained to fully catch it. It was a cat, surely? Or maybe a fox had strayed into the gardens beneath my window. The hoarse, yipping sound could only have come from a wild animal.
I rose and drew my elegant new dressing gown tighter. The casement window creaked as I opened it. The moon was full and threw its benign silver-gauze veil over the unfamiliar scene. The sound grew louder. It became a croaking, screeching banshee wail that broke on a note of wild laughter before dying away to an embittered moan. Frozen into immobility, I stood by the open window, as the soulful lament—urgent and frenzied—went on and on, branding its madness into my brain. No emotion so effectively robs the mind of all reason, or the feet of all action, as fear. But my terror was not induced solely by the haunting desperation of the sound. It was also because its source was here inside the castle. In the corridor outside my bedchamber.