Fiend of White Buck Hall, The
They say Thomas Hillyer, a wizard, is in league with the Devil and that the white buck roaming his estate hypnotizes people and steals their souls. Molly is a fugitive, wanted for a crime she did not commit. Seeing a want ad for a secretary in a sleepy town, she sets off for White Buck Hall but ignores the warning about the albino stag who lurks in the woods.
Length: Mid Novel
Word Count: 76,008
Genre: Paranormal/Historical Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Alex DeShanks, February 2010
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
March 1897, Stony Mill, New Jersey
Molly Coan turned away from the window. One other table was occupied in the dining room of the Stony Mill Inn, but the man had his back to her and that was fine. She could not take any chances. What if the man had seen a drawing of her on a poster? Twisting a handkerchief in her hands, she wiped away the dampness on her palms.
The innkeeper, a wiry man with several missing teeth, brought her the tea she had ordered. She had been starving herself for more than three weeks, but once she reached her destination, there should be something more substantial for her to eat.
"Can you point out the way to White Buck Hall?" she asked the innkeeper.
The man stared at her with shock on his face. "Nobody goes there."
"But … I'm to be Mr. Hillyer's secretary."
His eyes narrowed as he stared at her. "If I were you, I'd go back where you came from." Drawing closer, he whispered. "Thomas Hillyer is an albino-and you know what they say about them. They're witches and mind readers."
She felt the blood drain from her face, but she stiffened her spine and retorted. "Mr. Hillyer is a scientist."
The innkeeper gave a dry laugh. "Ha! He is a madman or worse. He calls himself a wizard and them that works for him-why they're all peculiar. There's a dwarf, a deaf mute, and a bearded lady. Freaks, the lot of them."
Apprehension slid along her shoulders, but she primly informed the innkeeper he was merely spouting off gossip. "You should have more compassion toward those afflicted with unfortunate physical defects."
The innkeeper shrugged. "Be that as it may, mark my words about the man. There are strange happenings at White Buck Hall. There are them that say Thomas Hillyer bargains with the Devil."
She chilled at his words. A cold knot formed in her stomach and her hunger vanished as fearful images swirled through her mind, but she forced away her doubts.
"That is preposterous."
"You won't be able to reach White Buck Hall before nightfall, even if you take the shortcut through the woods," the innkeeper explained. "And it is madness to go into the woods at night for the white buck is sure to come upon you. He can hypnotize them what stares into his eyes-and then he steals their soul."
She pressed her lips together as her temper rose. "That sounds like nothing more than a horrid fairy tale."
He reassured her he had a vacancy for the night. "I've seen the creature myself. It is a fearsome beast-the very spawn of Satan."
She clutched her bag tightly so he would not see her hands shake. "You are trying to frighten me."
"There'll be no help for you once you cross into the white buck's territory."
Molly's stomach growled. She refused to listen to his warning. After wrangling directions from him, she set off for the dense woods at the edge of town.
She found the path. Quite worn and easy to follow, it paralleled a wide river. The chill of late March seeped through her thin jacket and her teeth chattered. Spring remained thoroughly hidden in the woods. The only green she saw was the thick, velvet moss carpeting the gnarled tree roots.
When the sun sank below the hill, her heart quailed within her. Though a rosy tint touched the distant horizon, above her the sky clouded to a somber violet. She pushed herself to hurry along but with starvation clawing at her stomach her limbs felt like leaden weights.
The toe of her scruffy Oxford hit a root hidden by the lengthening gloom and she stumbled onto a log beside the path. Fortunately, her eyeglasses did not fall off. She pushed herself up and sat on the log. After dusting the dirt from her wool skirt, she lifted it to examine her knee. Swelling rapidly, the joint hurt if she bent it the slightest bit.
"I should have stolen a lantern from the inn," she grumbled to herself. After all, she was already considered a criminal. The familiar ache rose in her throat at the injustice she had suffered, but she swallowed past the pain.
When she heard a rustling in the leaves, her heart beat furiously in her chest.
"Whoo who who?"
The question echoed through the woods and she realized it came from above her. Glancing upward, she saw a silhouette in a tree. It must be an owl. At least, she hoped that's what it was and not some awful demon. If the innkeeper had been trying to terrify her, he had done a very good job of it!
She got up and gingerly put her knee to the test. She could still walk, though with a slight limp. It would take her even longer now to reach her destination. But while the sky grew darker, a half moon's light filtered down through the branches and provided enough illumination for her to see the path.
Hobbling along, she soon came upon a small bridge and stopped to lean on the railing in order to rest her injured knee. The bridge crossed a stream that tumbled down the hill into the larger river. The water gurgled as it rushed over stones and fallen limbs. It might be a pretty sight in the daytime, but in the pale moonlight everything about the shadowed woods became sinister and evil.
She did not doubt that the cold shivers causing her to tremble came more from the disturbing ideas the old innkeeper had planted in her mind than from the temperature. Surely, without the innkeeper's alarming stories, she would not be so tense. She was ready to jump at her own shadow.
She barely finished that thought when she heard something crashing through the underbrush behind her. In a panic, she sought to run but she stumbled and caught herself on the railing. With her twisted knee preventing a quick escape, she fought to calm herself. She was overreacting. Surely only a large squirrel was bounding through the woods.
Slowly, she forced herself to turn toward the sound. She turned numb with terror as she stared at the creature standing on the path behind her. The snow-white buck's sleek coat seemed to shimmer in the moonlight and the red of his eyes shone like perfect rubies. The buck's height and weight far surpassed her own-in fact, she had never imagined a deer would be so huge. Each tip of his antlers looked lethal. She barely breathed as she gripped the narrow railing with hands that felt like ice inside her kid gloves.
The buck stood proud and haughty, glaring at her as if she was the unwanted interloper. He snorted and a stream of vapor flowed from his rosy nostrils like a dragon in a hideous fairytale.