Merryweather Lodge - Ultimate Sacrifice by Pauline Holyoak by Pauline Holyoak - Read Online



Four years have passed since that dreadful event in the cellar. Belinda gave birth to a baby girl nine months after Emily witnessed the creature raping Jonathan. The child appeared normal, but looks can be deceiving. For four years, there has been no paranormal activity at the cottage or reports of suicides or murders in the area. Merryweather Lodge is the fairytale kingdom Emily always dreamt it would be—or so it seems. In just one week, Emily is going to marry the man of her dreams, her literal soul mate. Will her unearthly adversary allow the wedding to take place? Come to the West Country in England and experience the final act at Merryweather Lodge.
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781611606164
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Merryweather Lodge - Ultimate Sacrifice - Pauline Holyoak

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Published by


Whiskey Creek Press

PO Box 51052

Casper, WY 82605-1052

Copyright Ó 2013 by Pauline Holyoak

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-61160-616-4

Cover Artist: Gemini Judson

Editor: Laura Josephsen

Printed in the United States of America


This trilogy is dedicated to my parents, Reg and Elsie Wellings. You are the diamonds in my collection of treasured memories. Thank you for a wonderful, magical childhood and your unconditional love.


Four years had passed since my first Christmas at Merryweather Lodge and that dreadful event in the cellar. Belinda had given birth to a beautiful baby girl nine months after I witnessed the hideous creature raping Jonathan. Belinda named her baby Abigail. The name means a father’s joy. We called her Abby. There had been no mention of who the father was. Belinda would not tell, but everyone assumed that it was a young man from a neighboring farm who had been a childhood friend of Belinda’s. He was a little slow and socially awkward and had always had a crush on her. But I knew differently, and somewhere in the back of Jonathan’s mind, he knew it too, although he would never admit it.

Shortly after giving birth, Belinda took a turn for the worse and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and she had been in and out of institutions ever since. Abby hardly knew her mother. When she was forced to spend time with Belinda, she protested by throwing temper tantrums or shutting herself in her room. Abby’s grandparents were raising her, but she spent a good deal of her time with Jonathan and me. I had grown to love her as if she were my own child.

I never told anyone about Jonathan’s mother coming here and threatening me on that dreadful evening. What would I say? That she came here to kill me, to steal the pentagram, and that she was really an evil Druid sorceress who had killed the real Maud McArthur and stolen her identity? Auntie would think I was batty, and Jonathan, even though he had witnessed so many horrifying things, wouldn’t believe that such a thing could be possible. He would defend to the hilt the woman he believed to be his mother. I wasn’t even sure if I believed it myself now. Maud, though still stern and miserable, had mellowed a little and was a kind and loving grandmother to Abby.

The past four years had been blissful here at Merryweather Lodge. There had been no paranormal activity, strange sounds or unearthly visitors. And there had been no reports of anyone’s sudden disappearance, suicides or murders. I had been given a column in a popular English magazine called the Country Woman, and I was also writing a book. I was doing what I loved to do, and Merryweather Lodge was the fairytale kingdom I had always dreamt it would be. Or so it seemed. I was still reluctant to venture up to the attic room or down into the cellar, but I had done so on a number of occasions, and all was well. In just one week I was going to marry the man of my dreams, my literal soul mate, the gorgeous Jonathan McArthur.

Come with me to the West Country in England and experience the final act at Merryweather Lodge.

Chapter 1

I could smell the intoxicating fragrance of lilac and apple blossom through the open car window as we wove our way through the narrow roads that curved, twisted and looped, like a slithering snake in front of us. The countryside was lush and alive with all the colors and scents of spring.

We were on our way home from the airport. I was sitting between my auntie Pam and my cousin Kim in the back seat of Jonathan’s BMW. My dad was sitting in the passenger seat next to Jonathan. My dad, my aunt and my cousin were here for our wedding, and in a couple of days, my best friend, Skye, and her partner were going to arrive. I was so excited and bubbling over with anticipation. Thoughts of my wedding day, visions of my handsome prince charming standing beside me in his suit, reciting his vows, surrounded by the people we loved, danced joyfully in my head.

So why, just lately, had I felt a subtle uneasiness? Like a nagging, cautionary whisper of something from far away, warning me. Of what? I didn’t want to think about it; I didn’t want to go there. Not now, not after all this time of undisturbed peace. She had been put to rest, hadn’t she?

So, are you going to tell us about the dress, or are you going to keep us guessing? Auntie Pam asked as she drew close to my ear, giving me a strong whiff of her Estee Lauder perfume.

It’s a secret, but I will tell you that it’s extraordinary and exquisite, I said. Dad turned his head, grinned and raised his eyebrows.

Auntie Pam smiled. I can hardly wait.

Kim was staring out of the open window with a sort of weary gaze. Her fine, mousy, brown hair was fluttering about her face. She had hardly said two words since she’d arrived. I assumed that she was feeling jet-lagged or was a little apprehensive about being in a strange country and staying with people she didn’t know. Even though Kim and I had spent a lot of time together when we were young, it had been a long time since we had seen each other. She was no longer the pretty little girl who looked up to her big cousin but an overweight twenty-year-old with square, dark-rimmed glasses and a plain, round face.

I turned to her and smiled. I have a question for you. She glanced at me and creased her brows. Would you like to be my bridesmaid? I asked her in a cheerful tone. I had no idea why I was asking her this; I had not planned on it. It had simply come out of my mouth, as if someone had willed it. I’m sorry I hadn’t asked you sooner, but I wanted it to be a surprise, I lied.

She glared at me as if she were confused or humiliated. Why would you ask me?

I smiled at her. Well, I have a maid of honor and a flower girl, and I’d like you to be my bridesmaid. Would you consider it?

Auntie Pam’s face lit up as she grabbed my hand. Emily, how nice of you to ask; I’m sure she’d be delighted. She leaned over and grinned at her daughter. Wouldn’t you, honey?

Kim just looked away and shrugged her shoulders. I guess.

What will she wear? Auntie Pam asked enthusiastically.

I leaned towards her and whispered, Purple, but don’t tell anyone.

I didn’t want Jonathan or my dad to hear. I had already decided that even though our wedding was going to be outside and had lots of unconventional elements, I didn’t want anyone to know what our dresses were like until the big day. Jonathan had asked what color dresses my bridesmaids would be wearing so his best man and groomsman could coordinate. But I’d told him that they didn’t need to match, that they could choose any color they wished, but that he wasn’t to tell anyone, including me. I wanted to be surprised, too, but I was a little concerned that they might pick something outrageous. Jonathan’s best man, Conner, or Con as he liked to be called, played in a heavy metal rock band and was a little freakish. Jonathan and Con didn’t have too much in common, but they had been good friends in college and had kept in touch. Jonathan said that Con made him laugh and he was the only one who had befriended and understood him. The groomsman, Matt, was one of Jonathan’s work colleagues.

Merryweather Lodge looked delightfully charming, draped in her spring garments of creeping ivy, clematis and pink climbing roses, which seemed to soften the hard edges of her old stone wall. They were accompanied by bushes of lilac, honeysuckle, and clumps of sweet-smelling daffodils and tulips, and hemmed in by a white picket fence. She looked so enchanting, just like she had the first time I’d seen her, but now she boasted an addition, bulging out of her south side wall. Jonathan, with the help of his dad, had built an addition onto the cottage. It was made out of the same gray stone, had a quaint gable roof and tiny spider web windows. He had tried to make it blend in to look as if it had been built at the same time as the original cottage, but it looked too polished and lacked the character and essence of the old cottage walls. It looked very much like it had been stuck on years later as an afterthought.

Auntie had asked if we would consider living here and help run the farm after we were married. We had accepted, with the condition that she let us build an additional room, as we needed our own private space. The addition served as our bedroom and sitting room. Auntie was not pleased that we slept in the same room before being married, but she had come to accept it as what she assumed was one of the shameful perils of our generation, and she always grimaced when we retired to our room at the same time.

I felt the familiar pull of the cottage’s warm, motherly arms, drawing me in and welcoming me home, as we pulled up to the gravel driveway. Auntie hurried up to the car to greet us. She was groomed. Her hair crowned her head in a gray cap of tight curls, and her chubby little form was dressed in a modest white blouse and navy blue skirt. One of her best half aprons with deep pockets was tied about her waist with a thin ribbon.

Hello, m’ luvs. Welcome to Merryweather Lodge.

Auntie Pam took a deep breath, sneezed, then looked about and smiled. It’s quaint, just like Penny described it, like a storybook cottage. Then she walked up to Auntie, threw her arms around her and gave her a firm hug. And you are the little English rose she was so fond of.

Auntie stepped back, flashed her a half smile and said, Not much like yer sister, are ya? She were a sight for sore eyes, that one. Then she moved Auntie Pam aside and flung her short, thick arms around her bother-in-law, giving him an emotional squeeze. As my dad grew older, he was getting to look more like his brother, and I’m sure this resemblance touched Auntie’s heart.

Auntie Pam frowned and seemed offended by Auntie’s tactless remarks. She was not as attractive as my mom was, but, like Mom, she took great pride in her appearance. And, like my mom, she still adhered to her strict Catholic upbringing. I linked my arm with hers and whispered, My auntie Em is blunt and a little tactless, but she’s got a heart of gold, and you’ll get used to her.

Kim was chewing a wad of gum, her jaws chomping rapidly. Her right hand was wrapped around the handle of her pink designer suitcase, and she was staring at the cottage as if perplexed.

Auntie ushered everyone inside and ordered them to sit, take a load off, while she went to put the kettle on.

Flip the switch on the coffeemaker, Auntie, I called as she strolled out the door. Pam doesn’t drink tea.

Funny woman, I heard her mutter as she closed the door.

Auntie Pam nudged Winny off Uncle Reg’s faded wingback chair and picked at the cat hairs with her manicured fingernails. Winny gave a soft meow in protest. My cousin sat on the edge of the sofa, looking visibly uncomfortable and uneasy.

Are you okay, Kim? I asked. She gave me an awkward grin and nodded her head. What can I get you to drink?

Do you have any beer? she asked coyly, while twisting a few strands of her drab hair around her fingers.

Auntie Pam gave her a disapproving glance while Jonathan rose from his seat. I have some cold lagers in the fridge, if you’d like one.

Great. Thanks, Kim mumbled.

Auntie returned from the kitchen carrying a tray full of lemon cookies, pound cake, cups of tea and one cup of coffee. Jonathan followed behind her with a large mug of cold beer. Kim wrapped her hands around the hefty mug eagerly, put it to her lips and gulped. I sat down beside her as Auntie babbled on about the weather, the neighbors, her visits to Canada and the wedding. Dad and Jonathan sat in the corner of the room carrying on their own dialogue. A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Kim jumped. Her eyes grew.

What is with her, I thought. I put my hand on her arm as I stood. It’s just the door. I’ll get it.

No, I’ll get it, luv. There’s no rest for the wicked, there ain’t, Auntie grumbled as she heaved herself out of her comfy chair, gave her butt a quick scratch and ambled to the door. There were voices—voices that I recognized. Suddenly a little girl dashed through the doorway, and sprang into my arms. Kim slid to the corner of the sofa.

I hugged the little girl close, embracing her tenderly, lovingly, as if she were my own child. But she was not my child. She was Belinda’s, or she could be the child of my evil adversary, my cousin from another lifetime, the Druid Priestess, Merthia. But I didn’t like to think about that. It was too absurd, too unfathomable. Or was it?

John dropped ’er off. I told ’im to come in and meet our guests, but ’e were in a ’urry; said ’e’d drop in and meet them before the wedding. Told ’im she could stay the night, I did. ’Ope it ain’t put a spanner in yer works.

No, Auntie, that’s fine. I brushed the little girl’s long, auburn hair with my fingertips and gave her a gentle kiss on her soft cheek. I’d like you to meet Jonathan’s niece, soon to be my niece, Abigail, or Abby as we call her.

She looked up at me and smiled sweetly.

Auntie Pam leaned forward in her chair and said in a mushy voice, much like my mom used to with me, Aren’t you a pretty little thing? We are very pleased to meet you, Abby.

Abby smiled shyly, then she dug into her pants pocket and pulled out a tiny bunch of flattened lavender and offered it to Kim. I glanced towards Auntie, looking for her reaction. I knew how much she hated lavender, but she was grinning, with her hand on her heart, seemingly amused and touched by Abby’s generosity. Where did she get that? I asked myself. It’s too early for lavender to bloom.

These are for you.

Kim kept her hands firmly on her lap, gave Abby a funny look and turned away, as if she had been asked to take a bone from a vicious dog. I could feel the tension emanating from her form, but why? I took the lavender bundle from Abby’s hand and shoved it onto Kim’s lap.

Then I moved Abby’s soft locks aside and whispered in her ear. She’s a little shy, sweetheart, but she’ll come around. Then I flashed Kim a critical frown, while asking myself, what is with this girl?

Did you get me a new bed in your room, Lee Lee? That was what Abby had called me before should could pronounce Emily, and it had stuck. She called Jonathan Jo Jo.

She usually slept on the pull-out bed in the parlor when she stayed overnight, but we had decided to buy her a single bed and put it in our little sitting room for now. That way our guests could sleep in the parlor. Yes, we did.

Can I see it?

You’ll see it when you go to bed.

Now, I want to see it now, Lee, Lee, she pleaded.

Okay, but we can’t leave our guests for too long; they have come a long way. I lifted her off my lap and took her hand.

Auntie Pam stretched and yawned. Don’t worry about us, honey. We’ll be off to bed pretty soon. I can hardly keep my eyes open.

Not before ya ’ave a proper English tea, ya ain’t, Auntie commanded. She rose from her chair, brushed the crumbs off her apron and shuffled to the kitchen.

Abby trotted beside me, her delicate little hand wrapped around my fingers. She gazed up at me with her bright green eyes and asked, Have you got my flower girl dress yet?

Maybe, maybe not, I teased. You’ll have to wait and see.

I had bought her dress for the wedding and hung it beside her bed as a surprise. I knew that she would be delighted with its silky bows and frills, and like me, she loved the color purple. I opened the door to our private retreat and stepped inside. I gasped and drew Abby to me, shoving her face into my hips, shielding her eyes from the horrid scene before us. A cold shiver passed through me.

Chapter 2

The pretty flower girl’s dress that I had ever so carefully hung on the wall beside the little bed was in tatters. Its delicate pale purple silk and white lace was ripped to shreds, and its ribbons had been cut into tiny pieces. The blankets and sheets had been stripped off the bed and lay in a heap on the floor.

What’s wrong, Lee Lee? Let me see.

I kept my hand over Abby’s eyes as I backed out of the doorway and closed it behind us. I forgot, sweetie. It was supposed to be a surprise. You have to close your eyes and count to one hundred. Then you can open the door and see the surprise!

She gave me a curious look and screwed up her nose. But I can only count to fifty.

That will do, but slowly now, and no peeking.

Abby stood behind the door and covered her eyes with her small fingers. One, two…

I pulled open the door, closed it behind me and dashed towards the bed. I grabbed the tattered dress and gathered the remnants of ribbon and shoved them into the closet. Then I picked up the bedding from the floor, threw it on the bare mattress and started to make the bed. My hands moved with haste as I tucked and smoothed.

The door flew open. Coming ready or not.

I sat on the little bed and took a deep breath, trying to steady my racing heartbeat. So what do you think? A princess bed for a little princess. I stood and motioned her towards the bed.

Abby’s face was beaming. It’s awesome, Lee Lee! It’s the one in my book, isn’t it? she asked, with her bright green eyes gazing up at me. Then she lowered her head. And it’s much nicer than my bed at Nana’s.

She was referring to the plain green, hand-knitted quilt and sensible wooden bed in her room at her grandparents’ house. I had looked everywhere for a bed like the one in her favorite book of fairytales and found one almost identical to it at an antique store in Salisbury. It had an ornate white headboard in the shape of a crown, with gold etchings and a footboard to match. The pink and mauve bedspread that I’d bought featured a printed scene from a fairytale, with princesses in fancy coaches, princes on white horses, tiny, colorful fairies with wands, and jealous, evil queens. Its pretty ruffles draped over the sides of the bed, and at the head