“…ever since Mrs Carraway’s visit, bad luck has dogged our family. Fortunes gambled and lost, freak accidents, disease, relationship troubles, stillbirths. You could say we’re cursed.”
The Tipping Point is my time travel romance published as part of the Timeless Encounters anthology. In my story, Bella and Reuben are a couple on the verge of divorce after the strain of Reuben’s money-guzzling ancestral home, Bella’s homesickness, and a tragic miscarriage. Bella returns to Reuben’s estate one last time to collect her belongings. There the crumbling mansion and Reuben’s cousin’ s ominous tales of the past combine to fill Bella with dread and unease.
Here’s an excerpt:
Reuben frowned. His cousin was a little screwy and he didn’t like sharing her reaction to the room Bella had chosen.
“It’s just a room, and she had that room before when we …” He shrugged, unwilling to continue. Phoebe and he weren’t confidantes.
Her soft, dimpled face wrinkled up like a ball of dough. “I don’t like it. It’s the bad luck room. The source of the Carraway Curse.”
“Stop right there.” He held up his palm to her. “I don’t want to hear anything about the stupid curse. It’s superstitious nonsense.”
“Is it?” Taking the seat next to him, Phoebe leaned closer, her sticky wooden spoon dangerously close. “You can’t argue with the facts. Our family has been riddled with bad luck ever since the notorious Mrs Carraway came to stay.”
“Look, I know you go in for all that mystical New Age stuff, but I don’t. I’m a realist, and it’s impossible that some woman who visited here more than a century ago has any effect on me.”
Phoebe looked indignant. “She’s not just some woman. She seduced Robert Erskine and—”
“No, I’ve heard it all before.” He kneaded his temple where a headache had started. “Please, Phoebe. Don’t start with all this nonsense. It’s the last thing I need right now.”
She squeezed his hand sympathetically. “Aw, I was just trying to help. If you don’t mind, maybe I can suggest to Bella she choose another room for the night.”
“Another room?” Bella spoke from the door to the kitchen. As Reuben and Phoebe turned, she moved further into the room. “Why?”
“Bella!” Phoebe leaped to her feet, the wooden spoon clattering to the table, and rushed over to hug Bella. “How lovely to see you again.”
Bella seemed a little surprised by Phoebe’s enthusiastic greeting, but she hugged her back. “Hi, Phoebe. I’m glad to see you here.”
Reuben couldn’t help frowning. Was that a veiled dig at him?
“I don’t understand why you want me to move?” Bella asked Phoebe. “After all, you did turn on the heater for me in my room.”
“Me? No, I didn’t do that.” Phoebe glanced at Reuben.
“It wasn’t me,” he reluctantly replied.
“Oh.” Bella bit her lower lip. “Then who did?”
In the ensuing silence, Phoebe’s eyes widened, and Reuben knew she was about to spout out some rubbish about ghosts or spirits. “It must be the wiring,” he improvised quickly. “That room hasn’t been rewired for some time.”
“It can’t be safe. You’ll have to move,” Phoebe interjected as she laid a hand on Bella’s arm. “I’ll make up a bed for you somewhere else.”
“Okay.” Bella gave her a wary look. “But you still haven’t told me why.”
“Well. It’s quite a story.”
Phoebe drew in a breath and Reuben knew they were in for a long, lurid tale if he didn’t intervene.
“Bella doesn’t have all night to listen to your epic, so let me give her the condensed version,” he said. He motioned to Bella to sit before he continued briskly, “About a hundred and twenty years ago, a Robert Erskine was the heir apparent to the estate and engaged to a Miss Anne Pryce, heiress to a mind-boggling fortune. She came to Ashwood House for a visit, bringing with her a paid companion, a Mrs Carraway, who was the widow of some minor relative. Anyway, a secret liaison developed between Robert Erskine and Mrs Carraway, and they eloped, causing much uproar and scandal. End of story.”
“That’s not even half the story,” Phoebe protested.
“It’s all that’s relevant.”
“I disagree.” Phoebe turned to Bella. “He forgot to mention that without Anne Pryce’s fortune the Erskines fell into a deep pit of debt, and we’ve never recovered. In fact, ever since Mrs Carraway’s visit, bad luck has dogged our family. Fortunes gambled and lost, freak accidents, disease, relationship troubles, stillbirths. You could say we’re cursed.”