In March, a writing network to which I belong is launching three books. As part of working together (always a good thing), I am showcasing excerpts of those three books on the blog this month. Today, read part One of a Christian Gothic novel. And don't forget to read all the way to the end to enter the giveaway for the launch!
Gatehaven by Molly Noble Bull is a Christian Gothic historical novel set in a haunting mansion in the north of England where Ian Colquhoun and Shannon Aimee battle a Frenchman with dark secrets—spiritual warfare vs. the occult. Will they learn enough about God’s words to defend themselves and others or will evil overcome them?
What transpires will send chills racing down the reader's spine, and keep them riveted on the edge of their seat, as mysteries are uncovered and evil is exposed by the light of revelation. Enemies and allies are drawn up in an epic battle of good and evil, while the plot twists and turns through narrow escapes and brushes with cultish meetings and the supernatural. So much more than entertainment, this story brings truth and balance to a cultural fascination with spiritualism. Written with skill, keen insight and wisdom, this story will please readers of Frank Peretti, Tedd Dekker, and all fans of supernatural thrillers.
Molly Noble Bull is a Christian novelist, a native Texan, and a graduate of Texas A&M University at Kingsville, Texas. Her first two novels, For Always and The Rogue's Daughter were published by Zondervan, and later reprinted as promise romances from Guideposts.
She has also been published by Love Inspired, and is the author of The Overcomers: Christian Authors Who Conquered Learning Disabilities. She is a mother of three and grandmother of six.
Molly Noble Bull
Part 1 of 10
A country estate in Northern England
Early January 1784
His name was Leon Picard. But Etienne Gabeau was the only name he’d answered to since making England his home.
He stood at a window in his sitting room, smiling inwardly as he looked out. “The haunting presence that surrounds your mansion always amazes me, my lord.”
The young earl made no reply.
“Christians who read the Bible might say the atmosphere at Gatehaven is quite the devil’s doing. We both know why.” Leon/Etienne’s laugh had mocking overtones. He pulled his dark cape closer to his thin, shriveled body. “It’s a bit chilly tonight. Surely you must have noticed.”
“Of course I noticed.” The earl laughed from across the room. “An icy rain was coming down when I arrived. You might have to put me in a spare bedroom for the night, Monsieur. And why did you mention the Bible? Who among our circle of friends pay any mind to it?”
“A point well taken.” The Frenchman pushed back a curl from his eyes.
His thick mass of dark curly hair had more white strands than black, making Leon look older than his forty-five years. But twenty years ago, he was called handsome.
“Still,” Leon continued, “to the local villagers your estate is quite mysterious. It reminds me of structures I saw in France, growing up. And who can forget the red gate which gave Gatehaven its name?”
“When did you learn of the red gate, Monsieur Gabeau?”
“I learned the secret when your late father was the earl. You were but a boy then.”
Lightning cracked the night sky. Thunder boomed.
“I saw it again, my lord.”
“Really?” The earl’s weak smile indicated that he was mildly interested. “What did you see?”
“Gatehaven…during that flash of lightning.”
Someday I will have Rachel and own Gatehaven as well, Leon vowed mentally.
The earl cleared his throat. “I’ve decided not to go to Scotland after all, Monsieur.”
“Not go?” Leon turned around in order to face him. “You must go.” Leon Picard limped to his high-backed leather chair near the fireplace, tapping his cane on the pine floor as he went. “You will go.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“I said that you will go.” Leon hooked his cane on the arm of his chair. Then he sat down and reached for the portrait on the small table beside him. “I demand it.” Leon’s words, spoken with his usual French accent, hung heavy in the air.
The earl didn’t answer.
Leon thought that Edward Wellesley, the Earl of Northon, looked stiff—as if he’d suddenly turned to stone. At last the earl gazed at Leon from a chair facing his.
“Demand?” The muscles around the young earl’s mouth slowly relaxed. “You have crossed the line, sir. Besides, I cannot go to Scotland. I have pressing business here. However, a French gentleman like you should enjoy such a journey.” His smile was edged in sarcasm. “Why not go yourself?”
“On these crippled legs? I think not. Besides, she would never receive me.”
“I am sorry. But it would be impossible for me to leave the country at this time.”
Leon turned, gazing at the fire flickering and popping in the hearth. “You want the money, do you not?” He looked back at the earl like a hungry cat that cornered a mouse.
“But of course. You know I need money to pay my gambling debts.”
“Precisely.” Leon didn’t miss the fleeting expression of fear that crossed the younger man’s face. “I recently bought all your debts. I will destroy them all, but only if you do exactly what I say. At dawn on the morrow, you will set out for Scotland. And do dress warmly, my young friend. It will be cold out.”
The earl’s forehead wrinkled. “You say her last name is Aimee, and she lives in the village of Luss. But how would an English earl meet a Frenchwoman living in Scotland?”
“I believe your family owns a hunting lodge near Luss, does it not?”
The earl shrugged. “Even if I saw her on the street or near the Loch, I would never recognize her. What is she called?”
Leon’s quick laugh held a trace of mockery. “In France, she was called Rachel. I see no reason why that would not be her name today.” Leon grabbed the pearl handle of his cane with his left hand, leaned forward, and handed the portrait to Edward. “Look at this portrait carefully. Burn it into your brain. When you have brought her to me, your debts will be paid in full—and not a moment sooner.”
“But how can I convince her to come to England? I don’t even know the woman.”
“You are a fine-looking young man with your gold-colored locks and blue eyes. I am sure you will find a way.” Leon rubbed his aching knee. “Romance her. That should meet with success. Tell her you love her and plan to marry her. Women like that. And my spies tell me that she is not wedded at the moment.”
“You have known me long enough to know, sir, that I am not the marrying kind.”
“Have you no wits about you?” Leon sent the earl a harsh glance. “I don’t want you to actually marry her—only promise that you will.”
“I cannot see how…”
“Tell her you want her to come to England to meet your family before the engagement is formally announced.” He smiled. “Yes, that would be the thing. She is a peasant woman, but well educated. Apparently, at one time her father was a teacher and a historian of sorts; she will understand that you must have your mother and grandmother school her in the ways of the quality before she becomes a part of it. And do smile a lot, Lord Northon. Let her see those sparkling teeth of yours.”
“I will do as you say. But I doubt it can possibly work.”
“It will work. Or you could find yourself in debtor’s prison.” Leon sent the earl another smile—long and slow and filled with hidden meanings that only Leon and Lord Northon could know. “And on your way back to England, stop by the chapel near Edinburgh your grandmother told you about. Do you know the one I mean?”
“I should like to hear the latest news from there. One can never learn too much about the craft—as I am sure you would agree.”
Four months later
“Mama, Papa.” Shannon Aimee stood with her back to the fireplace—barely able to hold in her desire to shout her good news from the housetops. “I have been offered a proposal of marriage, and I accepted. He is coming here on the morrow to ask for my hand.”
“So, Rachel Shannon.” A quick smile lighted her father’s face. “Ian Colquhoun finally asked you to be his wife.”
Why did her father always call her Rachel Shannon? Mama was Rachel, and he knew she liked to be called Shannon. And why did Papa assume she was marrying Ian?
“Tell Ian that your mother and I could not be more pleased.”
“And about time, too.” Her mother smiled. “Ian has loved you all your life.”
“I have no wish to marry Ian. He plans to become a man of the cloth, and I would never make a pastor’s wife.” Shannon took a step toward her parents, seated side by side on a blue settee so faded with age its color had all but disappeared. “With your permission, I hope to marry the earl—the Earl of Northon—as soon as my baby sister or brother is born.”
Don’t miss Part 2 of 10 on March 2 at: http://www.malobel.com/christian-books.html