Phil did have a fondness for reading Gothic novels. In fact, she’d brought a copy of Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Doom of the Griffiths with her. Never dreamed she would find herself in a Gothic setting, but here she stood, smack in the middle of one.
The hallways were dark and narrow, which made traversing difficult. Everything smelled of damp and decay. The lighting in the place consisted of a strange combination of candelabras and oil lamps, which showed how new mixed with old. With each step she took, the floor groaned and squeaked in response. At the end of the long hallway, a light flickered from under the door. The sound of barking dogs startled her; she nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Justinian, Theodora, quiet!”
Phil stopped dead in her tracks at the deep, commanding voice. The animals immediately silenced. Who wouldn’t at such a tone? It must have been the professor. Taking a deep breath, she stepped to the door and knocked. No response. She tried again.
To hell with it. She turned the handle and crossed the threshold. What struck her all at once was the coziness. A fire blazed in a large stone hearth on the left side of the room. Before it laid two large, gray dogs the size of ponies. Good God. The hounds of hell. They eyed her with indifference, but a keen intelligence shone in their gazes, which they kept firmly on her. What were the beasts, wolfhounds? Enough speculation on the dogs. Phil swung her gaze to the large, ornate desk at the front of the room and the man sitting behind it.
The professor sat hunched over, his pen scratching furiously. He was a great hairy man with nary an inch of skin showing through. From the light of the lamp on his desk, it appeared his long wavy locks contained a curious mix of gold and brown as they hung forward like a curtain. He did not look up.
Phil scanned the room. Bookcases stuffed with ancient tomes filled every wall. On either side of the desk were two tables, the surface covered with books, maps, scrolls, and a thin layer of dust. No doubt the man himself would smell as musty as this room with dust and cobwebs collecting on his shoulders.
“You may leave the tray, Mrs. Brickell.”
Phil gave herself a moment to let the sultry and deep rumbling tone of his voice seep into her being. The sound lingered and made her weak in the knees. Quite a surprise, since most men didn’t garner any response from her at all. His voice, though cultured and refined, held the dangerous purr of a large predatory cat. Oh enough, Phil.
Suddenly, he stopped writing, flipped through a stack of papers, stroked his beard, glanced at the nearby bookcase, and muttered a quiet “oh.” He rose from his chair, and the loud creak that accompanied his movement meant the source to be either the banker’s chair or the professor. Revulsion moved through her upon seeing him lurch toward the bookcase to retrieve a stack of yellowed and stained parchment, keeping the same bent posture he had while sitting. Bloody hell, was the man a cripple? Another important fact those idiotic bastards neglected to mention. She shook the shocking revelation from her mind. The professor then moved swiftly back to his chair and sat all the while keeping the same crooked stance. Another disturbing creak could be heard, and she exhaled as she realized the sound came from the oak chair. The poor man was a hunchback. Well, no matter. She was paid to do a job regardless of the customer’s appearance.
“If you are referring to that drunk, putrid, old woman lurking about your filthy kitchen, I regret to inform you she’s done a runner.”
The professor laid his pen on the desk and slowly lifted his head, cocked his thick eyebrows, and gazed at her. “Indeed?”
Good God, she was correct, a great hairy beast. His unruly hair stuck out in all directions, as if it hadn’t been combed in many days. He stared at her with great owl eyes. His spectacles were huge, taking up one half of his face while the other half was covered in a bushy beard of all shades of color. Wouldn’t be surprised to find a swallow making a nest in it. The attraction that occurred at hearing his voice dissipated like a morning fog.
This man resembled one of the filthy beggars frequenting the streets of London. A duke’s son? Impossible.
Karyn lives in a small town in the western corner of Ontario, Canada. She whiles away her spare time writing and reading romance while drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea. Tortured heroes are a must. A multi-published author with a few bestsellers under her belt, Karyn loves to write in different genres and time periods, though historicals and contemporaries are her favorite.
As long as she can avoid being hit by a runaway moose in her wilderness paradise she assumes everything is golden. Karyn’s been happily married for a long time to her own hero. His encouragement keeps her moving forward.
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl