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   Chapter 15 Close surveillance

The Curse of Kalaan By Linda Saint Jalmes Characters: 22865

Updated: 2018-05-18 10:22


Virginie whimpered in her sleep. Pain was boring into her skull, keeping her from coming back to reality. The throbbing in her temples spread all the way to her ears, making them ring. That is not what woke her up, however. No, what woke her was the feeling of a soft damp cloth being placed on her forehead.

Where was she? Gradually Virginie became aware of the weight of a sheet and blanket on her body and the firmness of a mattress under her and she realized she was in a bed. Her eyelids began to flutter and as she slowly opened her eyes she could barely make out an imposing silhouette sitting on the bed next to her. The light from the fireplace behind gave the impression of a shadow puppet. She could not see who it was, but she knew it wasn't a woman, for the contours were definitely masculine. Darius!

The shameful name was the first to come to Virginie's mind and she reacted purely on instinct. Jumping back against her pillow, she pulled her knees up to her chest and cried out in fear.

"This is the second time I've frightened you." The deep voice sounded amused. "Yesterday you threatened me with a glass. What will your weapon of choice be tonight, your nightdress? Not that I would mind."

Virginie was still shaking with fright, but little by little she started relaxing. The voice's unique baritone timbre could only belong to one man — Kalaan.

"What… where am I?"

"In your room."

"And you?"

"It would seem I am too!" Kalaan laughed and put the cloth he'd used on her face back in the porcelain bowl full of cold water.

She sighed rubbing her temples, then closed her eyes and counted to ten before speaking. Virginie needed to gather her thoughts before talking to this brash young man. Meanwhile, remembering the scar on his palm, Kalaan took advantage of her closed eyes to put his black leather gloves on.

"You hit your head sliding off your chair at dinner, " he told her, his tone slightly more serious this time. When she opened her eyes again, he held a glass under her nose before continuing. "You have been unconscious since the accident, until just now and it is two o'clock in the morning."

"What is this?" Virginie looked suspiciously at the contents of the glass Kalaan had in his hand.

"It isn't cognac. Don't get your hopes up, my sweet." Kalaan, an undisciplined brown lock falling across his forehead was enjoying himself. His sensuous lips curled up into a magnificent smile.

Virginie, captivated by his humor, returned his smile as she pulled the sheet up across her chest, which luckily was already covered by her nightgown. Her hand trembled as she took the glass.

"'Tis but a sedative, prepared by our druid, Jaouen. It is he who took care of you after your fall. You gave everyone such a fright!"

"Oh… I am so sorry." her soft voice was almost a whisper. She tasted the bitter concoction with some reluctance and made a face.

"It has poppy seeds in it, just enough to curb the pain, which may make you sleepy. You have a pretty bump on her forehead, " he said teasing her.

Virginie forced herself to drain the glass then gingerly felt the bump on her head, near her hairline.

"Ouch!"

"For goodness sake! Don't touch it! You also likely have a concussion! Women! I tell you!"

Now that she was completely conscious and had collected her thoughts, Virginie realized that the count was sitting much too close to her on the bed. He was as attractive as ever in his dark cloths and white ruffle shirt and his shoulder-length hair flowing free. In the presence of so much charisma, the young woman felt deep turmoil and her heart began to pound.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, sitting up straight and looking around the room, realizing that they really were alone.

"I'm watching over you."

"But, a man alone with a woman in her room, well, it is simply not done! Gwendoline could have taken care of me!"

Kalaan sighed in feigned sadness, lit a candle on the bedside table and brought a gloved hand to his heart, his amber-green eyes sparkling with humor.

"I devote myself to you, body and soul, and this is how you thank me? How ungrateful of you! Joking aside however, undesirables have invaded our home. I am of course referring to the Duchess Delatour and her servants. As a result, your chambermaid and much of our personnel have had to move back to the village. As for your reputation, have no fear; it is safe… at least for tonight, " Kalaan added, pleased to see her blush at his innuendo. "Isabelle has just gone to request light refreshment. We've been relaying each other at your bedside."

"And Monsieur Borgas?" Virginie asked, holding her breath after the words escaped her.

Kalaan's face froze and his expression darkened. A muscle in his jaw twitched and he opened and closed his fists before standing up and turning away.

"He is lodged at the inn and the seminarian grandson is staying at the presbytery. Why? Does it matter to you?"

"No, not in the least!" Virginie flinched. She didn't understand the count's sudden mood change.

"Have you known this Borgas person, long?" he asked, grumbling. His baritone voice had turned harsh losing all trace of sensuality.

"Just over a year… we were introduced a few months before my father passed away." Virginie replied, nervously playing with the embroidery on her sheet.

She remembered a dance; Darius was there, his behavior not worthy of a gentleman, and her father, Josephe de Macy, had protected her from the man's shameless advances. Afterwards, he had come to their home in Paris on several occasions, until the day he and her father had that huge argument in her father's study.

Josephe died in the early hours of the morning following the quarrel. He suffered from convulsions and abdominal cramps, made worse by nausea and vomiting. He suffered terribly, and before dying he'd fallen into a sort of delirium, incoherently babbling about Darius and a guild.

The family doctor was at his bedside the entire time and only an hour after his arrival said he was certain it was a poison. But when Josephe started talking about Darius and the guild, he suddenly changed his attitude. In the early morning, before his precipitated departure, his opinion had changed and on the death certificate he wrote: "Cause of death – heart attack."

It was then that Virginie became convinced her father had been murdered by Darius and contacted Georges Maltinard. A few months earlier her father gave her the address, "If ever something serious happens to me, contact this man. He is absolutely trustworthy and will know how to help you."

"Are you lovers?"

Kalaan's tone sounded aggressive which startled Virginie out of her painful memories. Thinking she'd misunderstood, she asked, in a frightened whisper, "I beg your pardon?"

"Are you having an aff

aan twisted its neck making a popping sound, much to the horror of the Duchess Delatour.

"Sweet Jesus, she's decapitated the Holy Virgin!" The old bat screamed, on the verge of fainting.

"Now, now, don't exaggerate." Kalaan said teasingly. "The head is only a stopper, and if I must sing, then I need strength!" he added drinking the brandy that was inside.

"The statuette… is a… bottle?' The duchess stammered.

"But of course."

"That… that is absolutely disgraceful! 'Tis sacrilege!"

"No. Not sacrilege, simply exquisite, " the count retorted, going to Virginie and taking her by the hand.

They all went to the entrance hall where Clovis and the footmen were waiting with their coats and gloves. Virginie discreetly glanced at the butler who shook his head to let her know that there still wasn't any mail for her. The young woman told herself that in any case, the detective being dead, a letter would never come; and now it was impossible to prove that Darius was a murderer.

With a heavy heart and walking as fast as possible so as to keep her distance from the despicable individual, Virginie took the path leading to the village church. Kalaan, ever alert, walked next to her. Her silent exchange with Clovis hadn't escaped his sharp eyes, nor did her disappointment and the sadness in her eyes. It was going to be a long day, until he could shed some light on the story as full-fledged Kalaan and not the thing that was Catherine.

He would go speak to Salam, Jaouen and Lil' Louis as soon as possible because he needed their help to put a surveillance plan into place. The fox was already in the henhouse and, for once, Kalaan saw his curse as more of a blessing in disguise. As Catherine, he could act as discreetly as necessary.

"Skedaddle! Go home! Now!" he ordered. The husky was trotting along happily behind them.

The animal yelped and whined, and in the end obeyed his master, but only partially. He lay down on the grass near the church and whimpered pitifully. Virginie, standing next to Kalaan, laughed lightly and raised her beautiful eyes to look at him.

"You know how to make people listen, Catherine; if only you could learn to listen as well."

Kalaan, surprised by her comment, did not know how to respond, and started laughing as they entered the house of the Lord, which was overflowing with people. All the sailors were there, those who knew about the curse, and they all chuckled as he passed by. In his close-fitting dress and with his curls hanging over his ears, Kalaan must have looked absolutely ridiculous. But did that give them the right to jeer at him? Definitely not! Quietly, he looked each and every one of them in the eye and with sadistic smile slid his finger across his throat, to warn them of possible retaliation. The sailors immediately began praying as if their lives depended on it.

A few moments later, not far from the altar, Kalaan began singing, very off key and very loudly in honor of Charles-Louis. All the while he grinned at a very appalled duchess who had gone red in the face with anger. And that is what happens when you visit the Isle of Croz as an unwanted guest!

The day continued in much the same way. Kalaan and Virginie were inseparable, with the husky following them everywhere. Darius tried to approach the young woman several times, but each attempt was easily thwarted and he disappeared for quite awhile before returning to the castle at the end of the afternoon. The anger that drove the man could no longer be denied. It was evident in his strained, highly-strung attitude. He wanted something from Virginie; that much was certain.

At sunset Catherine inevitably turned back into Kalaan, who gave Isabelle the responsibility of watching over Virginie during the supper and the rest of the evening.

"Not for long, " he assured her. "The two of you should stay near our mother. Never leave Virginie alone with Darius and you stay away from him too! I'll return as soon as possible." he added just before going out the door to be swallowed up by the fog that had descended on the isle. True to character, Skedaddle ran after his master and also disappeared from Isabelle's sight.

"What's the point of telling a dog to 'come here' when his name is Skedaddle?" she muttered to herself. She shook her head and quietly laughed at her brother's sense of humor.

Hidden in the shadows of the hall, someone witnessed the whole scene and was perplexed by the husky's behavior with the count. It was just one more detail. Doubt was no longer acceptable.

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