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Night's Sweet Caress

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Posts : 46
Join date : 2009-10-13
Age : 55
Location : North Carolina

PostSubject: Shadows of Moonlight   Fri 16 Oct 2009, 12:24 am

Author - Night's Sweet Caress


Rating - "R" possibly NC17 depending on the amount of sexuality depicted


Disclaimer - As always, I unfortunately do not own Katharine McPhee nor any other character who will appear in this story.


Summary - Leaving England for a tutoring position at breathtaking Wolfram Castle in Germany has been no easy choice for Katharine McPhee. But the job offers her a chance to slip her tattered reputation...for while she is bold, beautiful, and imaginative, she has not always be prudent........

I had originally started this over on IFF....maybe the reception will be more conducive to continuing it here.



Chapter 1:


“I’ve heard that werewolves roam the woods of Germany,” Katharine McPhee said, peering out of the carriage window into the dark wintry woods, the snow on the ground gleaming in the moonlight.

The swift intake of a breath was her companion’s only response, and she glanced over at Frau Katrina Strobel. The elderly woman glared at Katharine and let out a breath; it crystallized in the air, as frigid as the woman’s expression.

“You will please not say such foolish things when we arrive at Wolfram Castle,” she said, her tone gruff and her lightly accented voice holding anger. “Ever!” She huddled in her black cloak and frowned over at Katharine in the dim light cast by a carriage lamp, her dark eyes snapping with annoyance.

“I…I was speaking in jest,” Katharine said, weakly. She shoved her gloved hands together deep in her muff to warm them—with no success—as she tried to decide in this instance if silence or an explanation would be better. As kind as Frau Strobel usually was, her occasional descents into anger mystified the young brunette. “All thinking people,” she said, carefully, steadying herself as best she could against the jolting of the carriage along the deeply rutted road, “know that werewolves do not exist. Those tales are merely folklore, bedtime stories told to frighten little children.” When she received no response, she continued, “We are in the year 1795, not 1595!”

“The year does not matter,” the woman replied. “Do you think because we live in this modern time that the eternal has ceased to exit? That is blasphemy. There are in this world, Katharine, phenomena that we do not understand, and more that we will never comprehend. Their invisibility to our mortal selves does not negate their existence, and they are not a matter for jest.”

Katharine sighed. She sat back in the shadowed corner of the carriage, out of the pale yellow gleam of the lamplight. “I was not denying the presence of the deity, Frau Strobel, nor was I postulating a worldly view denying all that is preternatural. All those old horror tales, though—ghosts and witches and werewolves—those are just myths.”

But the woman had turned her face away, effectively ending the conversation, so Katharine was left to direct her thoughts elsewhere, to her destination, Wolfram Castle, and her new position as tutor to Charlotte von Wolfram. It was a wrenching and difficult decision she had had to make, to leave England and travel all the way to Germany, but the opportunity had presented itself just when life in her native land had become insupportable for her. If not for the friendship of Frau Strobel and her miraculous offer of such a valuable position, Katharine didn’t know what she would have done. Her reputation in tatters, her life turned upside down and with nowhere else to go, it had been a godsend.

But she rejected such morose reflections on past mistakes and past pain as a shivering excitement rose in her. They were close, Frau Strobel had told her an hour or so ago, as the sun began to descend and the moon to rise; though it was only late afternoon, the sun set early in January. If not for the full moon they would have had to stop for the night, but the shimmering orb made travel possible, so they had continued the last several miles toward Wolfram Castle.

The woods had closed in on either side of them a half hour ago as they moved past a village and toward the castle, and though it would seem to be monotonous, miles of unbroken forest on either side of them, the brunette found the mysterious timberland strangely compelling. It was so very different from what she was accustomed to, and what she had grown up with.

Her home in Dover, the misty seaside, the fishing boats…all had receded into the hazy past and lived only in her memory now. She might not return for years, or even decades. Or ever. That part of her life was over, and she must be brave in her new adventure.

Though she felt that she should be composing her thoughts for the evening ahead when she would meet her employer, Frau Strobel’s nephew-by-marriage Graf Nikolas von Wolfram, the scene outside the carriage window tugged her attention away from those serious thoughts. Optimistic by nature, she hoped this journey would take her to a better life, and she was determined to achieve peace, at the very least, and respect if she could earn it.

And yet since they had started on this lonely highway a few hours before, she had been feeling, along with the increasing excitement, uneasy. Perhaps it was just how towering the pine trees were, how deep the glittering snow, how bright the full moon. That luminous disk, following them with a wise gaze, was behind her sudden unfortunate mention of werewolves, for every bit of folklore she had ever read had mentioned the full of the moon as the time humans transformed into beasts and roamed, looking for prey.

Ridiculous, she supposed, but still there was some vestigial fear that haunted even the most pragmatic of people. Who in their life had not experienced the fear of the unknown?

In her case her whole future life was unknown to her at that moment, and she was poised on the lip of a precipice, the yawning chasm before her, black and unexplored. But fear would not defeat her. Friendship was proven in moments of great need, and Frau Strobel, for all her idiosyncrasies, had been a fast friend. This position was a boon, a treasure; it was the promise of a new life far away from those who had hurt her. As they crossed the channel and began their land journey at Ostend in Belgium, she and Frau Strobel had often spoken of that immediate past and the deception she had suffered, but in recent days the subject had paled in comparison to the future, and that is how it should be. The journey—difficult and dangerous as it was at times—had become a symbol to her as she turned away from old torment and betrayal toward her new life.

“I still don’t think I understand everything about the household yet,” she said, breaking the enveloping silence. “Your nephew, Graf Nikolas von Wolfram…should I address him as ‘my lord,’ or ‘Graf,’ or…?” Katharine trailed off.

Frau Strobel shrugged her heavy shoulders and huddled back into her cape. “In my brother-in-law’s time, the head of the household was addressed by the English who visited as Graf von Wolfram, but Nikolas…he has been educated in many other places—Italy, France, Greece—and so has other ideas. His title is ‘count’ in your language, you know, and so I presume he will be known to you, but I have no doubt Adele will tell you how to address them, for she is very correct.”

“Adele…” Katharine searched her memory, for she and Frau Strobel had spoken about the entire household on the journey, though not in depth. “That is Graf von Wolfram’s eldest sister, Grafin Adele von Wolfram. I suppose I would call her ‘countess’ in English, though I think I will stay with German titles until I am told otherwise.”

“She is the keeper of the house, also. She was accounted the beauty, you know, of the sisters, but it was her younger sister Gerta who married.”

“Gerta…uh…von Holtzen? Am I right? That is her married name.” Frau Strobel nodded and Katharine continued. “She lives at Wolfram Castle, too, and…has two children.”

The elderly woman was silent for a long moment, and Katharine thought perhaps she had drifted to sleep, but then she spoke again. “Eva and Jakob are her children, twins, you know, but they are at school, and have been so for some time. Nikolas is their guardian, as well as of Charlotte, your charge, Christoph—Charlotte’s brother—has reached his adulthood, though I would say he acts still the boy in his refusal of any career. And yes, Gerta is a widow now; her husband has been gone fifteen years, almost. Very fragile, she is, frail.” Her tone was full of sadness.

“How did her husband die?”

“It was a very bad time. We do not speak of such things,” the woman said, harshly, biting off each word.

Silence reverberated in the dim carriage. It was not the first time Frau Strobel had roughly ended a conversation by simply saying, “We don’t speak of such things,” and Katharine wondered if she would be continually putting her foot wrong in conversation at Wolfram Castle. She would try to be retiring, though it was not in her nature, as it was vital to her comfort not to offend in her new position. Natural curiosity, a good imagination, and enthusiasm, all traits she had thought worth cultivating, were her enemies in this instance. They were not suitable qualities for a tutor, nor for a governess, as she had discovered in her last position.

“This road is getting worse,” Katharine said to change the subject, having to toss aside her muff and hold on as the carriage bumped and jostled.

“Yes, it is this weather. It has likely thawed and now the road has frozen again into these ruts.” Frau Strobel was holding on grimly, too, but then her expression softened, her wrinkled face in the lamplight wreathed in a broad smile. “When the snow is new we use a sleigh. I remember Viktor, when we were young and fist married; how proud he was of his new sleigh! It was painted red and very beautiful, with brass lanterns and silver fittings for the horses. He would take me driving for hours with the fur robes piled high in the sleigh, and then we would come back and he would warm me in front of the fire.”

Katharine was silent, for the other woman rarely spoke of her husband, now gone for many years. But as always the woman didn’t say anymore, lasping into abstracted silence.

They went on for another ten minutes, and then the carriage slowed and the incline became more pronounced. It was the signal Frau Strobel had said would mean they were approaching the castle.

“We must be getting close,” the younger woman said, as the carriage jolted and jounced.

“Yes, we are…”

Frau Strobel’s comment was interrupted as the carriage jerked and skidded sideways, the lamp spilling oit as the wick went out and the body of the carriage creaking with an ominous shudder as it came to a halt at an angle. The older woman shouted a guttural expletive in the sudden blackness, and the door popped open at that moment, the faulty latch Katharine had noticed earlier giving way.

“I’ll find out what’s wrong,” the brunette cried and crept from the relative darkness of the carriage to the moonlit road.

The vehicle shuddered and creaked as the team of horses kicked and pawed in their traces and the driver shouted at them in intelligible German. The carriage tilted precariously, having slid too close to the embankment that edged the road.

“What’s wrong?” Katharine shouted, staggering sideways on the slippery hump of frozen snow and mud. “What happened?”

She attempted to regain her footing, but the driver ignored her as he tried to bring his team into control. The horses were wild, stamping and bellowing, rolling their eyes, steam puffing from their nostrils. Katharine, who had been trying to approach the driver, was forced back by fear of the giant beasts, and as she stepped back she slipped and fell, her skirts and cloak wrapping securely around her legs until she was bound as tightly as a babe in swaddling clothes.

As if she was separated from her body, she could hear her own voice whimpering in fear, and the snort and whinny of the horses. Peril, as close as the slashing hooves of the horses, loomed above her and she rolled out of the way, crusty ice tearing at her gloved hands. But then she saw, crossing the road in front of the pawing horses, a woman, as slim and lithe as a young girl but most definitely an adult woman. Silvery hair unbound and streaming, her body naked, gleaming pale in the moonlight like a ghost, she bounded down the embankment and raced into the dark woods on the other side.

Katharine only had the chance for a brief glimpse of the spectral vision before a horseman on a black steed, his cloak billowing and a hood concealing his face, galloped across the snow-coated road. She struggled to right herself as he skidded down the other side and crashed into the woods after the woman.

“Help her!” Katharine screamed, unwinding her skirt and struggling to her feet. “Help that poor woman,” she cried again, striding to the side of the carriage near the driver, who was finally succeeding in getting his team under control.

He glared at her with dark eyes, his pouchy face a mask of incomprehension.

“Help her!” she shrieked, pointing into the forest, but he just stared at her and then shouted a string of unintelligible syllables. “Oh for pity’s sake I’ll do it, then.” She found the path in the moonlight and crunched down the embankment, her feet breaking through the crust of icy snow. Her bonnet obscured her view, and she pushed it back impatiently.

“Katharine!”

She turned and gazed up the hill; Frau Strobel sat in the doorway of the carriage, moonlight illuminating her pale face in stark contrast to the gaping maw of the dim vehicle.

“I have to go,” the younger woman cried, pointing into the forest. “There’s a woman, a girl…she seems to be in trouble…” It was useless to try to shout out the case from such a distance, and she gave a cry of exasperation and turned and stared back into the woods; could she see movement in the black depths? Or was it her imagination?

Hands grasped her from behind and she gasped, struggling as the driver tried to haul her back up the hill toward the carriage.

“No,” she shouted, twisting away from him. “No, there is a woman…eine frau ist in die... oh, what is the word for forest?” she cried out in frustration, speaking to herself, for there was no one else to understand. “How do I say she needs help?”

Her world abruptly turned upside down as the stolid driver hoisted her over his shoulder and carried her toward the hill.

“No!” she yelled and twisted in his grasp. “Let me go!”

But he was strong and determined and urged on by the elderly woman, who sat in the doorway of the carriage screeching commands in German. As much as Katharine struggled, she could not break free until he had scaled the embankment and deposited her at Frau Strobel’s feet.

Katharine, gasping and out of breath from her ordeal, rose and dusted the snow off her dress hem as best as she could and with what dignity she could muster. “What was the meaning…”

“Do not ever go into the forest alone!” the older woman said. She had her ebony cane, the knob a silver wolf’s head, and she banged it on the ground for emphasis with each word. “Never!”

Shaken, the brunette gazed at her friend as she peeled her saturated and torn gloves off her cold, scraped hands. “You don’t understand. I saw a woman running across the road and a man on a horse behind her, chasing her. She may be in danger, and I wanted—“

“If what you say is true,” Frau Strobel interrupted, glaring up at her, “what could you do to a man on horseback?”

“It’s true, I saw her!” Katharine cried, latching on to the doubt in her elder friend’s remark. “Do you think I’m fabricating this? She was…she was…running.” She turned back to gaze at the fringe of deep green conifers at the bottom of the steep decline and gesticulated, trying to illustrate, frustrated by the older woman’s lack of action. “The horseman, he was mounted on a black steed and had a cloak on, and he rode down the side of the embankment into the forest,” she said, pointing to the trail left in the pristine snow, “and galloped into the woods after her.”

“And what would you do if you were so fortunate as to find them in the dark of the forest? It is likely a matter between husband and wife, and so not our affair.”

“But—“

“No!” Frau Strobel held up one hand. The driver stood to one side and watched their exchange. When the older woman spoke to him again, waving her cane, he nodded and mounted the driver’s seat. “Help me get in, Katharine. I have hurt my head and need your aid.”

“But that poor woman, she wasn’t even properly dressed—she’ll freeze to death.”

“We cannot help her,” she said.

Her tone was grim, and Katharine stared at her, the wrinkles on the woman’s face pronounced in the moonlight, shadows concealing her eyes. Clouds had gathered around the moon like a shawl drawn around a dowager, but instead of concealing the moon they radiated a clearer light, casting a more even, diffused glow. By that blue-white the brunette could see that there was indeed a trickle of blood on her friend’s forehead; she tossed her spoiled gloves into the carriage and drew a kerchief out of the small purse she had tied to her waist. She dabbed at the wound, staunching the flow.

“I don’t understand,” she said in a low tone, shivering with the cold. “How can we ignore what just happened? That woman clearly needed our help.”

Frau Strobel pulled herself to her feet and began to climb back into the carriage, grunting with the effort. “Help me, Katharine!”

Katharine offered her arm, and they managed to get back into the black interior of the carriage, the faint smell of lamp oil all around them. No sooner were they settled—the faulty door latched as securely as possible—when the team started and the carriage bumped and jounced, eventually the rutted path on the highway again and moving on.

“I don’t understand,” the younger woman repeated, unable to leave the subject alone. She tried to right her bonnet as best she could, tying it under her chin again and tucking in a stray wisp of hair. “Why can’t we help that poor woman? Who knows what that man intends? Who knows—“

“Enough, Katharine.” The elderly woman’s tone was weary. “I have heard enough. I would ask that you not mention this when we arrive at the castle, please. If I feel it is necessary, I will tell of what you saw.”

In silence they moved on through the night; Katharine no longer gazed out the window but let the darkness of the carriage envelop her. Her subordinate position had never irked her more than at that moment, when she truly felt how helpless she was to do what she wanted, what she felt was right. Would she ever learn not to strain at the traces? Her fate was to do others’ bidding, but how hard a fate it seemed when one had an independent spirit.

“Katharine,” Frau Strobel said. “You are beginning a new life here. Do not begin it badly. Do not make trouble for yourself.”

“I won’t,” the brunette said and was surprised to feel the elderly woman’s gloved hand take hers in the dark. “I won’t,” she repeated, warmed by the old woman’s concern. “I promise.”

“I would not have you make an unfavorable impression on my nephew. Things at the castle are not always easy. There are many personalities, many people, and some may not have your best interests at heart. I have been away many years, but this I know. Be wary.”

With that warning ringing in her ears, Katharine settled herself, as hard as it was, to forget the slender, pale figure and her pursuer. There was truly nothing more she could do without the cooperation of Frau Strobel and the driver. It infuriated her and she worried about the woman who would surely freeze to death in hours if she was not helped, but there was not another thing she could do.

The carriage made a final turn and Wolfram Castle came into view, an imposing structure of stone and wood, with two wings stretching back from a central tower. It hugged a flat outcropping on the hillside like a giant predatory bird ready to take flight into the moonlit sky. Katharine shuddered and Frau Strobel squeezed her hand.

“I will not desert you child. This I promise. Always, you can rely on me.”

What should have been a comforting reassurance left the younger woman feeling uneasy. But as they drew closer to the porte cochere, and the brooding entirety of Wolfram Castle was not before her, replaced as it was by the view of an open door and lamplight streaming out yellow into the night, her worries eased.

I am not faint of heart, I am strong, brave, and have survived much in my life. This will be no exception, Katharine promised herself. I am not a child, but a woman of intelligence. She would try to find a way to get help to the woman in the forest, if it was at all possible. But it might not be possible, and she would have to accept that fact.

With the aid of a liveried footman, she descended from the carriage and stood by while two others helped Frau Strobel step out. The elderly woman leaned on her cane and gazed up at the structure, murmuring something in German; she then held out her arm to the younger woman.

Katharine took her friend’s arm, but as she began toward the steps up into the castle, a sound in the distance made her skin raise in bumps and the hair at the nape of her neck bristle. She looked over her shoulder. Somewhere in the nearby woods a wolf howled, and even the stolid footman cast a fearful glance into the dark edge of the forest.

“Never mind that,” Frau Strobel commanded. “Let us go in together.”

They started up the steps, Katharine suppressing the urge to accelerate her pace. She would not look foolish, nor superstitious; she was neither and wouldn’t give in to mere nerves. At that moment, from the great hall, a woman stepped out onto the landing at the top of the steps. “Tante Katrina,” she called out, as Katharine and Frau Strobel ascended.

Frau Strobel advanced on the other woman, a slim lady of perhaps forty years with a coiled braid of silvery blond hair worn high on her head. “Adele, how many years has it been?” she said, speaking in her flawless, but accented English. “And still you are slim as a girl.”

“Ah, how good that you have come home,” Grafin Adele von Wolfram replied, she too using English.

Katharine expected that a familial greeting would follow and the two would embrace, but instead they shook hands, as strangers would on first meeting.

“And this is Miss Katharine McPhee,” Frau Strobel said, drawing Katharine forward with a hand at her elbow.

“Welcome, Miss McPhee, to Wolfram Castle.” She inclined her head, her only form of greeting.

She curtseyed but was at a loss for words.

“But your head, Tante Katrina!” the woman exclaimed, reaching out but not quite touching the wound. “What has happened?”

Though Frau Strobel’s cut had stopped bleeding, the mark was still evident on her pale forehead. “It is nothing, Adele, nothing. Please do not mention it again.”

Grafin von Wolfram inclined her head once more, in answer, and then said, “What am I thinking, keeping you standing out here in the cold night? Come in, come in!” She turned and led the way into the great hall. “I trust,” she said over her shoulder, “that you had a good journey. The roads are better than they were just a week ago when we had an unexpected thaw.”

“You would trust wrong, Adele,” Frau Strobel said. “The roads are terrible! What is Nikolas thinking, not to send out some men to make them better?”

“Nikolas has other concerns,” the other woman retorted, her tone sharp.

Katharine halted, awed by the cavernous great hall that the Grafin led them into. Vaulted ceilings soared fifty, or maybe even sixty, feet receding into dimness; gothic arched windows lined the front, the brilliant moon glistening through, making them silver. Along the side of the hall opposite the wall of windows, stone pillars supported an upper gallery, and blood red pennants on posts mounted on the pillars fluttered in the breeze from the open door. Flambeaux lit the chamber, the wavering flames casting ghost shadows across the floors and walls; liveried servants scuttled back and forth, their footsteps echoing.

Though she had been in great houses in England, never had she seen anything like this, and she felt as though she had been transported back in time to medieval days. Any moment a knight in armor would stride into the hall claiming it in his own name. When she stopped gaping, Katharine met her new acquaintance’s gray eyes and unsmiling expression. With all that gone on, she felt raw and preternaturally aware of everything, every nuance, every voice, every gesture.

The Grafin, though welcoming, appeared distracted. “Willkommen,” she said, opening her arms wide and gesturing to the hall. “Welcome to Wolfram Castle. I hope you will be happy here, Miss McPhee. My brother is otherwise occupied at the moment, but I will see to your comfort.”

A door slammed somewhere and a susurration of voices echoed in the upper heights of the hall, perhaps from somewhere along the gallery. But Katharine’s attention was caught by another door opening closer, the light streaming out chasing away the shadows under the second floor gallery and showing her that there were clearly rooms off the main hall, formal reception rooms perhaps, with gothic doors of heavy, deeply carved oak.

One of these was the door that had opened and two men came from the room beyond—one of the gentleman older, with a paunch and a gray, balding plate, and the other tall and of middle years, distinguished and immaculately dressed.

“Ah, what a pleasure,” one of the men, the older, balding fellow, said in heavily accented English as he approached them. This must be our new little teacher, and of course my dear sister, Katrina. How long it has been!”

He put out his arms to embrace her, but Frau Strobel merely stuck out one gloved hand and gruffly said, “Tag, Bartol. Wie geht es ihnen?”

“Ah, you have not changed,” he said with a comical look of dismay on his round face. “Always, you are most cool,” he continued, waggling a finger at her. “But English, my sister, English, for I have been practicing; I had no English when you last saw me, but now…I speak so very well. We have a new little friend in our midst, and I would not exclude her.” He shook his sister-in-law’s hand and turned to Katharine. “Unless you speak German, my dear?”

“A very little,” Katharine said, taking his offered hand.

He tilted his head to one side and peered nearsightedly at her, as he cradled her hand in his large, knobby one. “So, you are the little teacher. How delightful you are, so pretty. We are fortunate indeed to have you in our midst.” He patted her hand and released it.

Such a gracious welcome warmed the brunette, and she relaxed.

Grafin von Wolfram said, “This is Miss Katharine McPhee, Charlotte’s new tutor. Katharine, this is Herr Bartol Strobel, my uncle.” With a softening expression, she turned then to the taller of the two men, a distinguished and courtly looking gentleman of middle years. He had a mane of silvery white hair drawn back from a high forehead, and he was clad in a powder blue velvet jacket and silver knee breeches. “And this is Count Delacroix, our honored guest.

The gentleman cast her a fond look and turned to Katharine, taking her hand and bowing low over it. “Mademoiselle. I am only a poor émigré from the terrible revolt in my land.” He kissed the air an inch above her hand. “My lady, the Countess Adele is too kind, for it is I, an exile from my suffering land, who treasures my time in this gallant and stalwart place.”

Katharine noticed a quickly concealed expression of concern on Garfin von Wolfram’s gaunt face.

“As I said, my brother is this minute busy,” the woman said, interrupting the Frenchman’s courtly gesture of welcome. “But he will presently greet you properly. Come, and I will see you settled in your rooms, Miss McPhee, Tante Katrina.”

Her body trembling with exhaustion, her mind reeling from the last hour of strange happenings and this overwhelming welcome, Katharine wearily mounted the stairs, the stone steps worn in the center from centuries of feet, following Grafin von Wolfram and Frau Strobel. They made it to the gallery floor, slowed by the oldest lady’s deliberate progress and the heaviness of their winter cloaks, but as they were about t6o mount the steps to the third-floor bedchambers—the lady of the house explaining that the second floor was taken up with family living areas since the main floor was formal reception rooms—a dark figure slammed out of a room and strode down the hall toward them.

Katharine, her nerves jangled by a difficult day, gasped, the sighing sound echoing up through the staircase.

“It is merely my brother, Nikolas,” Grafin von Wolfram said, a tone or reproof in her hard voice. She cast the young brunette an assessing look. “Nikolas,” she said, raising her voice, “we have here our Tante Katrina and new tutor arrived.”

The man, dressed in black breeches, black boots, and with a white silk shirt stretched taut over muscular shoulders and arms, looked up and stopped in front of them. His unsmiling face was ruddy, his lips compressed into a single hard line. His eyes were the dark gray of an angry autumn sky, and Katharine thought she had never seen such a handsome man in her life.

But it was more than mere good looks that made him attractive. He charged the air about them as a storm does, with electricity, and she felt the same exhilaration, the same anxiety mixed with excitement as she had as a child on the beach, watching a storm approach from the sea.

This man was her new employer, the one she would have to impress with her skill and awe with her erudition. And she would have to do all that while ignoring the way he made her heart pound and palms sweat.

How awful.
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Voice In The Darkness
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PostSubject: Re: Shadows of Moonlight   Sat 17 Oct 2009, 10:36 pm

I really liked the mystery in this and hope it gets the recognition you deserve here at Writers Fortress. Clearly well written, your wonderful imagination is displayed throughout. Nice job with the characters, very unique in setting and plot. It is obviously carefully worded and makes a beautiful example of how to write. The plot is embedded in a larger one to come. Overall very nice. cheers Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Shadows of Moonlight   Sun 18 Oct 2009, 11:10 am

Robyn, we loved this over at IFF and were disappointed when you didn't continue it. The mystery and intrigue that you built up in this update was great. We anxiously await to see what transpires between Katharine and Nikolas. We hope that you will finish this lovely tale. I love you Very Happy
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Cupid's Crooked Arrow

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PostSubject: Re: Shadows of Moonlight   Sun 18 Oct 2009, 3:17 pm

WOW!! This is like really great! I do not know how you do it Robyn. Each story I read from you just blows my mind! I really love the setting, Germany back in the 1700s, it sounds so very dark and mysterious. I want to read more! I love you I love you
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PostSubject: Re: Shadows of Moonlight   Mon 19 Oct 2009, 6:32 pm

Cupid's Crooked Arrow wrote:
WOW!! This is like really great! I do not know how you do it Robyn. Each story I read from you just blows my mind! I really love the setting, Germany back in the 1700s, it sounds so very dark and mysterious. I want to read more! I love you I love you


Amanda, I've stopped trying to figure out how Robyn does it. I just sit back and enjoy the goodness that is her writing.


Robyn, once again your writing prowess stuns me. Another extraordinary tale you've woven. The setting, the mood, the intrigue, all sets the stage for yet another masterpiece. cheers Very Happy I love you
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PostSubject: Re: Shadows of Moonlight   Tue 20 Oct 2009, 8:08 pm

Finally! The one story that I always hoped that you would continue Robyn. I loved this the first time I read it, and I pray that you will finish it this time. Katharine in 18th century Germany, one can only imagine what mischief she'll cause, LOL. cheers I love you Very Happy
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Night's Sweet Caress

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PostSubject: Re: Shadows of Moonlight   Wed 25 Nov 2009, 12:11 pm

My thanks go out to all of the readers here for their wonderful comments. They are very much appreciated. I hope that everyone will like this next chapter. thanks hug



Chapter 2:


Frau Strobel, during their journey to Germany, had described Nikolas von Wolfram as slim and studious, retiring, diffident. Unless the lady’s memory was faulty, he had transformed in the years his aunt had been away from a boy into a man of unusual force of character and presence.

His steady gaze locked with Katharine’s and she could not stop staring, aware that her expression could be seen as unbecoming and forward, but unable to look elsewhere. She could feel the confusion mantling her cheeks with pink, the heat spreading through her body.

Tall and broad shouldered, a lock of raven hair black hair falling over his high forehead, he was casually dressed, his white shirt loose at the neck, exposing a shocking V of dark hair on a bare chest, the skin pale as alabaster. All of this she had taken in before their eyes met. She had the odd feeling that he had made a rapid assessment of her, too, his gaze traveling her body in the few seconds it took to meet in the hall. He was the first to break their connection, though, as he heeded his sister’s abrupt repetition of his name and turned to his aunt. “Tante Katrina, welcome home.”

“You have changed, Nikolas,” the elderly woman said with a wry twist to her lips. “I left and you were a boy, but now…I would not have known you.”

He took her hand and squeezed. “Circumstances have made me who I am.” He then turned his attention back to Katharine and held out his hand.

She offered her own, but instead of shaking it he bowed and brought it to his lips. It was the merest whisper of a moment, but she felt the warmth of his breath on her naked skin and sighed. He stood, still holding her hand, and their gazes locked again; she saw confusion in his gray eyes, or was that just the mirror of her own emotions? Moments passed.

The Grafin cleared her throat, breaking the silence. “I was about to show Miss McPhee to her chamber, brother, as she is undoubtedly exhausted after such a journey, and Tante Katrina, too, of course.”

He released Katharine’s hand and bowed. “Of course. Excuse me, and excuse my attire, ladies,” he said, mopping his damp brow with a cloth he had tucked in his waistband. “Cesare and I—Cesare Vitaldi is my secretary, Miss McPhee—have just been fencing. It is a habit of ours this time of day, for exercise in this frigid season is vital for the spirit and body.”

Grafin von Wolfram, the brunette noted, gazed at him and raised her eyebrows. There was some silent communication between brother and sister, but it end abruptly when the Graf bowed once more and excused himself, heading up the stairs ahead of them, bounding two steps at a time, muscles flexing and bunching under the tight breeches he wore for exercise.

Katharine would have sunk down to sit on the step if she were alone, for she felt light-headed and ill. He was nothing she had expected, and her stomach twisted with combating sensations of attraction and repulsion. He was very handsome, but it was in an alarming way; he had dark eyes and hair, a sensuous full mouth, broad forehead, and muscular physique only too evident under his breeches and damp, clinging shirt, and the overt masculinity of him was not reassuring to someone who depended on his kindness for her living. In her experience, such vigorously vital men were not gentle, nor were they forgiving of even the slightest errors.

And yet, his dark good looks and charismatic mien had enkindled a glow within her that she must conquer, for her own benefit. The last thing she needed was to be so attracted to her employer, for that could only mean trouble if he were a man like other men, willing to take advantage of a position of power. But she was stronger than such a weak feminine reaction to an attractive man, and she would maintain a distance. She had learned from the past and would never let herself be vulnerable again.

Stiffening her backbone, she took a long, deep breath. “Shall we go on?” she said and mounted the step, placing her foot in the damp footprint left by her new employer.

Her room, second from the stairs, was lovely, much more than she ever expected in such a large and ancient castle and for a woman in her position—tutor to a young lady of the house. Left alone by Grafin von Wolfram and Frau Strobel, Katharine sank down on the partially canopied bed and gazed around her as she undid the ties of her bonnet and loosened her cloak, welcoming the warmth of the blaze in the hearth.

It was a big room, but not so high ceilinged and fearfully tomblike as she had feared. The walls were covered in ivory fabric, and the bed was draped in the same material. A Turkish carpet covered part of the floor, though the rest was wood, and near the fire were two chairs with a table between them. By the high window, the curtains of which were closed against the darkening night outside, was a table and chair suitable for use as a desk.

On the far wall, barely perceptible in the gloom, was a large carved garderobe, and her trunk had already been placed near it.

How had the trunk arrived upstairs before her? Of course there must be another staircase used by the serving staff, she reasoned. In such a large castle there were likely more than just two staircases, in fact, for it was clear from her brief view of it in the twilight that there was a central part to Wolfram Castle, the old stone portion of the castle, but then jutting additions built later, likely, flanked it, spreading like a raven’s outspread wings on either side of the main body.

She tossed her bonnet aside and lay back on the bed, closing her eyes. What had Frau Strobel once said about Wolfram Castle, that once you entered, it entered you, too, and never left, always to be a part of your soul? At the time it had sounded like superstitious nonsense, but now she thought she understood. The castle seemed to possess a spirit of its own, a powerful personality much like that of its master.

She blinked and sat up abruptly. It was best to face the truth at once and be done with it; she was powerfully attracted to the master of Wolfram Castle, but it was surely just the fleeting, transitory attraction of purely physical response, enhanced by exhaustion. It was imperative that she eradicate such wayward thoughts from her mind forever if she was to blot out the misdeed in her past. Giving in to a physical impulse was dangerous for a woman, as she had learned to her everlasting regret. This opportunity, presented to her by the kindness of Frau Strobel, was a chance to cleanse herself of her indiscretions and she would not make the same mistakes over. Only a fool did that, and though she was impulsive and headstrong at times, she was no fool.

She heard an outcry and a scuffle and crossed swiftly to her door, wondering what was happening. But when she glanced out, she only saw a door close down the hall toward the end. Her overactive and weary imagination was making something out of nothing, she thought, closing the door and returning to the bed. If only she had time for a nap, just to cleanse her mind as a mint leaf cleanses the palate, for the jumbled impressions of a long journey, finished by the odd sight of that poor woman in the forest, had left her nerves jangled and raw.

However, she was expected downstairs for dinner, perhaps to meet her student, so she would have no time to calm her frayed nerves. She would, however, try to find peace in establishing herself in her new home and in changing out of travel-soiled clothes. Fighting fatigue, she shrugged out of her heavy traveling cloak and unpacked her trunk, shaking the wrinkles out of her modest wardrobe. She then unpacked her traveling desk, removing her quills, ink, sand, and sealing wax and then her most precious traveling companion, her journal.

She set the journal down on the desk and touched the engraved leather binding, tracing her name in gilt letters on the cover. Had she done the right thing coming all the way to this foreign land? Her English upbringing seemed so far away now, and there was a desolation in wondering if she would ever return. This land was interesting, and she had been welcomed with some warmth, but it wasn’t England.

A maid tapped at her door and entered with a pitcher of steaming water. When thanked in English she looked uncomprehending, and so Katharine repeated the thanks in her limited German. The maid curtseyed then and answered with a string of words of which the brunette only caught a fraction. How she wished she had spent more time with Frau Strobel on the journey learning more than her sparse smattering of German words! She had learned French as a girl, but no other language had been deemed important by her frivolous and flighty mother. It was a failure she vowed she would correct now that she was settled. As she taught English manners, would she try to be the student, learning German.

She stripped down to her chemise and washed quickly, shivering in the chill away from the fire. Her pale face, framed by her dark brown hair, looked ghostly in the mirror, and she was stopped by her own expression reflected there.

“You look,” she said sternly to herself, “as if you have been frightened by an apparition. You must calm yourself, for as you know from past troubles you are too imaginative by nature. Frau Strobel was likely right about that poor woman in the woods.” She folded a cloth and patted her neck and cheeks. “It was merely a domestic matter, and as much as you abhor physical correction of a wife by her husband, it is an unfortunate fact of life. Men are brutes.” She nodded sharply, happier at the returning color in her cheeks. Talking to herself occasionally had such a salutary effect, for she rarely heard so much sense as she heard from herself.

Men are brutes. Katharine rinsed the cloth in the warm water and scrubbed her face, blotting her eyes, trying to rid them of the sleepiness and grime of a long, tedious day. That bitter refrain—men are brutes—was the philosophy of Katharine’s mother, passed on to the daughter, not believed at first but sadly confirmed by unfortunate experiences in the past year. Men, her mother had told her, preferring scandal and gossip over bedtime stories as fit conversation for her daughter, had the upper hand in all of life and cared little for women. They all went their own way; she had said, taking what they wanted and discarding that which no longer suited them.

Katharine, as a child, had understood little of what her mother was talking about, but as she grew and saw the fights between her mother and father, the tears and tantrums, the anger and cold silence, she had begun to see. Though the claimed to be extravagantly fond of one another, still they tormented each other with petty quibbling and bitter acrimony. That was what marriage became, clearly, even when one began the lifelong bond as in love as her mother and father said they were. Later experience gave her little reason to think differently as she witnessed much the same in other homes after her parent’s death.

She wrung out the cloth and laid it over the edge of the plain porcelain bowl, then she turned to the wardrobe and selected one of her favorite dresses, a pale blue gown of simple cut. Although not in the modern style, which was following the French pattern of higher waists, she had altered it so that it was flattering, if a little worn at the cuffs.

Perhaps it was good that life, for her, seemed destined to be lived as a spinster, she thought, as she slipped the gown on over her head, for she had no good opinion of a woman’s role in marriage. Spinsterhood would require overcoming a shamefully acute physical appreciation of masculine company, but she was stronger than her impulses, and those unfeminine sensations would dwindle with time and self-mastery. She had vowed to put her own good ahead of any urgings of her impulsive nature this time. She would not waste this opportunity to start fresh.

She buttoned her dress, made sure she was neat and tidy, and went to sit by the fire for a while, just to warm her feet and hands. The chair was comfortable and the blaze cheery; she stared into the flickering flames and felt her inner turmoil calm. This was good. This was what she would learn to trust in herself, this strength of character, this coolness, this resolution. No one would ever disturb her peace and convince her against her conscience again.

Just as she was beginning to get sleepy, a rap at the door startled her out of her drowsy state. She rapidly rose, crossed the room, and opened the door.

A young girl, garbed in a simple but well-made gown that denoted her status as an upper servant, stood in the doorway. She curtseyed and said, “Dinner is about to be served, Miss McPhee. I am to escort you.”

Katharine was extremely hungry, she realized, retrieving her shawl and joining the girl in the hallway. This was a different maid from earlier, and she spoke perfect English, though it was oddly accented. Someone had thought to send this girl instead of the German-speaking one from earlier, and she blessed the kindness.

“Your English is very good,” she said, closing the door behind her. “What is your name?”

“Thank you, Miss McPhee,” she said with another graceful curtsey. She was a pale, plump girl, very pretty, but solemn. “My name is Fanny, miss. My father was English, valet of the previous Graf; because I speak English, Grafin von Wolfram told me to escort you. I will attend you, also, in the future, and act as your maid when necessary.”

The brunette appreciated the gesture from the lady; it indicated a kindness not readily apparent in her bearing, but likely there beneath the surface. She followed Fanny, grateful for the guide, for the castle was daunting in its size. They moved to the stone staircase, descended two flights of stairs, during which she only had the fleeting impression of other halls branching off, and reached the huge great hall, where a cold draft fluttered the pennants. In Fanny’s wake Katharine drifted across the stone floor until they reached the overhanging gallery, beyond which she could dimly see the large gothic arched doorways, their heavily carved oak covered in a riot of symbols and shields.

Fanny then curtseyed and melted away, leaving her to enter alone, past liveried footmen who held open the door for her. It was not the dining room she entered, though, but a large hall with two fireplaces, one on each side, each big enough to walk into if one was so inclined. But only one had a fire in it and she approached, for that was where the group of people was gathered.

Looking around nervously for someone she recognized, she saw Grafin von Wolfram standing alone and moved toward her, welcoming the beckoning heat of the fire. “Thank you so much for sending Fanny to me, ma’am. I will make the attempt to learn German so I can communicate with the rest of the staff.” The woman inclined her head. Katharine glanced around. “Is Frau Strobel not coming down for dinner?”

“No, my aunt has taken a tray in her room. She is exhausted, I believe.”

“Miss Katharine McPhee,” Bartol Stobel cried, approaching with a smile. “How lovely you look, my dear. So beautiful…and how becoming that dress.”

Smiling, Katharine curtseyed and thanked him. It was reassuring to be welcomed so effusively.

“Enough, Bartol,” the Grafin said sharply. She turned back to the younger woman. “I was concerned earlier of whether I should take you immediately to see Charlotte, but I think we decided rightly to give you time. I know how tired you must have been when you arrived, and you will see Charlotte now. Come, I will introduce you.”

With an apologetic smile for Herr Strobel, Katharine followed her hostess to the tight knot by the hearth. The French count was there and he bowed and smiled and murmured a greeting to her as she passed. Adele singled out a young woman, pale with blond hair, who stood by an equally blond young man of startling beauty.

“Charlotte, this is Miss Katharine McPhee, come all the way from England this day to be your tutor.”

The girl, her face a pale oval and her lips plump and perfect above a cleft chin of molded perfection, curtseyed and opened her mouth to speak, but as she was murmuring a hello, she was interrupted.

“Adele, you should have introduced me first, as the eldest lady present,” a peevish, thin, nervous-looking woman said.

Í thought, Gerta, that since Charlotte is her student—“

“Never mind, I am accustomed to being last always,” the woman said.

“Miss McPhee,” Adele said, with restraint evident in her voice, “this is my sister, Gerta von Holtzen.” She gestured with her bony hand at a woman smaller than she and somewhat younger.

“Grafin von Holtzen,” Katharine said, offering her hand and hoping she had addressed her correctly. “So pleased to make your acquaintance.”

The lady, as blonde as her older sister but not as distinguished looking, nodded, but seemed not a bit mollified. She ignored Katharine’s outstretched hand and turned away pettishly. She drifted to the French count’s side and took his arm, clinging to him possessively.

“And this is my nephew, Christoph von Wolfram, Charlotte’s brother.”

The young man merely bowed and said nothing. His beauty was almost ethereal, his skin pale, and his hair glittering golden in the firelight, but the luminous effect was spoiled by his peevish expression. A pulse throbbed in his neck, and his lips were pursed in an unattractive pout.

The brunette smiled, but he didn’t return the expression. “You will have to excuse me,” she said, talking in everyone with her gaze, “if in the next few days I address anyone wrong. Frau Strobel most kindly has told me much of German ways, so if I misstep in my address or manner it is my own misunderstand only, and I would appreciate being corrected.”

“Nicely said, Miss McPhee,” the Grafin said, her tone cool. “But on the morrow I will sit down with you and tell you anything you wish to know. We do not stand on ceremony when it is just this family group.”

“No, we don’t stand on ceremony,” the lord of the castle said as he strode toward the group from the doorway.

Among the gathered family and guests he seemed even larger, Katharine thought, watching as the others greeted him, each in their own way, and then parted before him. The French count, who, she noted, had shaken off Grafin von Holtzen’s steely grasp and was standing apart from her, was as tall as he, but slender competitively, and neither Christoph von Wolfram nor Bartol Strobel were as tall. Far from his disarray earlier, Graf von Wolfram was very correctly dressed in a gray sateen frock jacket, velvet knee breeches, and clocked stockings, but she could not forget how he appeared before, but she could not forget how he appeared before, though she would try to erase that image from her mind. It was disturbing to her peace, for some unfathomable reason, the memory of that open-necked shirt and thatch of dark chest hair. Perhaps it was worse for her because unlike the pure and chaste young woman she must pretend to be, she had a too-vivid idea of what taut musculature filled the perfect jacket and formal knee breeches.

“Miss McPhee,” the Graf said as he approached. He bowed formally. Glancing around and gathering his family group within his gaze, he said, “I would like you all to make this young lady welco0me here. It is a great sacrifice to leave your homeland, as she has done, and it behooves us to show her we appreciate that.” He directed his look especially at his nephew. “And in her presence, please speak English, as I am sure you have been, all. To do otherwise would be discourteous. For those of you not comfortable in that language,” he continued, eyeing Herr Strobel, “it is an opportunity to practice.”

“Yes, nephew, for I have said so, have I not?” The older man beamed a smile, glancing around.

Katharine, her gaze riveted on her employer, felt that she was missing something and glanced around, but most of those gathered had neutral expressions. Charlotte was quiet, and her gaze was directed to the floor. That seemed odd, for if she was in her place she would be examining her new tutor, at least covertly. But for the rest of them, Graf von Wolfram’s arrival seemed to have revivified the gathering, that electricity she had noticed earlier in his presence sparking the others to a livelier expression.

“Shall we dine?” he said, glancing around at his family and guests.

He turned and was moving toward her, but his eldest sister, Adele, grasped his sleeve and drew him away from the others for one moment, and Count Delacroix offered Katharine his arm in his courtly manner. She gladly accepted and they all strolled to the dining room, which proved to be a large hall adjoining; her escort murmured to her that this was the family dining room. There was another in the new wing—new only in that it was under three hundred years old—that was larger, an even more formal dining hall. Gerta von Holtzen directed the seating, which the brunette found odd considering this was supposed to be an informal family dinner according to the Graf, and she ended up last, on the left of the French count, quite a ways down the table from her new employer and across from her pupil. She didn’t mind, because it gave her the opportunity, partially obscured by shadow, to observe this group. She still felt awkward and drained, but she trusted in a night’s sleep to give her more confidence.

When Graf von Wolfram entered with his sister there were only twp places left, with him at the head, of course, and his sister on his right. He paused, glanced down the table at Katharine, and seemed about to make some remark, but she smiled and spoke to her dining companion, Count Delacroix, and the Graf sat down.

Conversation was desultory at first, as appetites were sated. Katharine feared the Graf’s injunction that they all speak only English in her company had stilted things badly, though most seemed to have an excellent grasp of the language. Some, as time went on, slipped back into their native tongue as they conversed with each other.
The Frenchman, though, offering her wine and taking some with her, said, after sipping, “I admire your bravery, mademoiselle, in crossing the continent so, surely a feat for a gently born English lady?”

They chatted about her trip for a few minutes as they ate, he questioning her closely about the situation of the French armies and their attitudes, gathered as the forces were in the southern and western portion of Germany. The count’s soothing voice was perfectly suited for putting her at ease, and she was grateful to Gerta von Holtzen for her firmness in seating people.

Though the food was delicious and served on the most exquisite of china, and even as hungry as she was, weariness blunted her appetite. She ached all over, but she did her best to stiffen her back and appear engaged and calm. This family’s first notion of her was vitally important, especially so with the absence of her champion, Frau Strobel. It was up to her to fit in seamlessly and make a good impression. She took small bites and chewed thoroughly, leaving much untouched as the footmen removed plates. It was unlike her to eat so little and strange considering her hunger, but she was sure she would make up for it the next day once sleep had revived her.

“Have you formed any opinion of your student yet?” the count asked, as a footman placed before him a plate of fish and another refilled their wineglasses.

“Not at all, sir. I will leave my mind open and make her acquaintance on the morrow, I’m sure.”

“She is a lovely young lady, but very shy, I fear. And depressed of spirits.”

“It may just be that she is not sure how we will deal together.”

“I would say shyness is her natural manner. I have long known the family. Was this your type of position before, Miss McPhee?”

“I was…more of a governess,” she replied, measuring her words carefully as she picked up her silver fish fork. “The girls were younger. But if you are asking about my tutoring the young lady in manners, my mother was a lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty, Queen Charlotte, for a time, and so I am well acquainted with court ways. My mother spoke of it often.”

The count glanced over at her, his eyebrows knit tightly. “Pardon, but I fear I do not understand. If your mother was lady-in-waiting, that means she was of elevated…pardon my English, I’m not sure I am expressing right.”

But she understood him perfectly. She frowned down at her food and chose her words, as there was much in her life she had decided to conceal forevermore. “Yes, my mother was daughter of a viscount. I…both my parents died many years ago leaving little money, and position as governess seemed my best chance at life. I lived with some distant family members and taught their daughters.”

“Do you have no close family to take care of you?”

Katharine was silent, slowly chewing a mouthful of food. How to answer that?

The count glanced at her as he cut his turbot and said, “I must apologize, Miss McPhee, for my intrusive and unbecoming question. A thousand pardons. It was unforgivable and mere concern on my part that such a gently bred lady as yourself should be left to fend in the world without someone to look after her.”

Katharine, with hysteria bubbling up within her, laughed out loud at the notion of a family member being required to care for her, but she felt an awkward tear rise in one eye. She dashed it away, impatiently, and said, “Family does not always have one’s best interests at heart, sir.” Her voice sounded unnaturally loud in the sudden silence, and when she looked up it was to see many pairs of eyes on her. “Excuse me,” she said, her voice echoing. “I—“

“We were merely having an amusing exchange,” the count said with a flourish of one hand. “And Miss McPhee was so polite as to laugh for my benefit.” His smooth manner sent everyone back to their meals and conversations, but there was still on pair of eyes locked on her. She met them. Graf Nikolas von Wolfram was not persuaded.

The brunette glanced away again and stared at her plate. Her position in the castle depended on concealing her past, and on the very first night she had been so foolish as to reveal that her relationship with her family was not all that it should be. She didn’t want to raise questions that she was not willing to answer, and she must learn to be circumspect. Timidity and reserve must be her subjects of study, for she was unnaturally bold and forthright, she had been told lately. It was unwomanly to be so independent.

Taking a deep breath, she finally dared to look up. She was still the study of scrutiny, but this time the one studying her was Charlotte, her future pupil, and Katharine couldn’t help but think that the expression on the girl’s face was one of profound resentment.
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