Silent Deception

Silent Deception

Having inherited a family estate she’d never heard of, Minerva Goodridge travels to Cornwall to take charge of her new home. But fatal memories lurk in the shadows of Trekellis Manor. As the locals keep away from the house, Minnie accepts the help of a stranger. Can she trust him?

Gideon Drake, 8th Earl of Rothdale, is on a mission to uncover a family secret linked to Trekellis Manor. But the arrival of Minerva, the new owner, disrupts his investigation. Attracted to the headstrong heiress, he decides to take action - and ends up uncovering more than he expected.

Gideon must weigh up his family’s reputation against Minnie’s, but will the revelations tear them apart?

Silent Deception is a romantic paranormal suspense novella set in Victorian Cornwall.

Praise for Silent Deception:
"very enjoyable romantic novella with more than a hint of mystery"
5*, Maureen Vincent-Northam, author of Trace Your Roots

"Enjoyable and intriguing...Gothic romance with a bit of a mystery"
3.5*, Booked Up Reviews

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Excerpt from Chapter One:

A gust of wind tugged at her cloak the moment Minerva Goodridge alighted from the coach. She took a deep breath, relishing the salty tang of sea air after the stuffy interior and looked around. A row of neat cottages flanked a whitewashed inn, church bells rang the hour from behind her.
After a week’s travel, she’d finally reached her destination this early afternoon, the tranquil tin mining village of Trekellis. A gust of wind billowed her skirts and she patted them down.
“Thank you.” She smiled at the young lad who’d assisted her down the steps. “My, it’s a little breezy.”
“Aye, miss.” He grinned as he took her portmanteau from the coach driver, almost falling over in his effort, and set it down beside her with a thump. “Anyone coming to collect you, miss?”
Minnie shook her head. “No, I simply need to find someone to take me to Trekellis Manor.”
The lad blanched and took a step back. “Why would you be going to that place? It’s...empty.”
Minnie smirked, certain he meant to say it was haunted. “I know, but not for much longer. Is there anyone…?”
“Nobody goes there, miss.” He vehemently shook his head and pointed at the inn. “Best make yourself comfortable in the Deer’s Head first.” The boy grabbed the handles of her case and lugged it inside.
Minnie followed him through the smoky main room, keen not to lose sight of her only belongings. Well, apart from Trekellis Manor, that was. Excitement coursed through her again, just as it had done since she first heard about her unusual inheritance. A manor in a remote part of Cornwall.
The lad set down the portmanteau beside a small table in what was clearly the ladies’ corner, partly hidden by a wooden partition, then doffed his cap and rushed past her.
Surely, it can’t be that bad. Was she supposed to be haunted, too, simply by association? Superstitions! She shook her head.
Several men watched her. Head held high, Minnie sat on the wooden bench beside her case and returned the stares over the rim of the partition.
A young girl dressed in a simple black gown approached her. “Care for refreshments, miss?” She smiled, but Minnie declined.
“Thank you, another time. Once I’m settled. For the moment, I’m looking for a man to take me to Trekellis Manor. Would you know such a guide?” Someone would have a horse and cart to take her there. According to the map, the house was barely two miles from the village, perched high on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Minnie thought the location was rather romantic, even though the house would require some work after it had stood empty for over forty years. After a suicide.
“Trekellis Manor?” The lass took a step back, her voice hollow. A hush descended over the room.
Not another one. Minnie sighed. “Yes. I’m not asking anyone to enter the house. I can do that perfectly by myself, although I’ll be keen to hire servants to help me with the running of it.”
In a far corner, an old man spat on the floor, his grey, straggly beard quivering. “You wouldn’t want to stay there, miss. Walker’s ghost haunts the corridors. Go back to where you came from.” He rose and left, muttering to himself. The solid wooden door banged shut.
A shiver ran down Minnie’s spine. Walker’s ghost? Bartholomew Walker, the last resident owner? She glanced from one man to another, all obviously miners, their pale skin etched with wrinkles from a lifetime of working underground. Each wore the same forbidding expression.
“Old Joseph’s right, miss.” The lass nodded. “It’s not safe, the house.”
Minnie’s precarious hold on her temper flared. “Well, the estate belongs to my family, and it’s my decision to live there.”
“You’ll not find anyone wantin’ to work there and it’s not a good place to stay.”
“Look,” Minnie stood, imploring, “all I need is–”
The door opened, sending the wind howling through the inn.
“Damned gale,” a tall man murmured as he pushed the door closed. He turned, spotted the lass and smiled. “Apologies, Kitty.” His dark gaze met Minnie’s and he cocked his head. “Good day, miss.”
Heat shot into Minnie’s cheeks, and she held a gloved hand to cool her suddenly scorching skin. “Sir.”
The girl, Kitty, headed back behind the counter with a sudden sway of the hips. “An ale for you, sir?”
The new arrival nodded, muttering greetings to the other men, then he faced Kitty. “I saw the coach arrive and hoped for a letter, but nothing as yet.”
“Sorry, sir. Nothing for you. It takes a long time for anything to reach Trekellis.” She placed a tankard of ale in front of him.
Minnie tapped her booted foot. She stepped forward, hands on her hips, and scanned the room. “I beg your pardon, but someone must be able to take me to Trekellis Manor.” Several pairs of eyes lowered; no-one volunteered. Then she met the tall stranger’s. His black eyes glinted as he turned to face her. The intensity of his gaze sent tingles across her skin; his height and the breadth of his shoulders blocked the room from her view. Her mouth went dry.
“Why would you want to go there, miss?”
Sighing, she gritted her teeth. What was wrong with these folk? This man–a gentleman  of sorts, given the rich, grey fabric of his greatcoat and his expensive leather boots–didn’t look to be from from these parts, but he still appeared to hold the same superstitions.
“Because it’s mine.”

(c) Cathie Dunn 2012