Author: Bonnie Dee
Book: The Medium
Page/Word Count: 57K words
Categories: Gay Romance, Historical Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Release Date: May 29, 218
Cover Artist: Fantasia Frog Designs
Cast out of his family for being a freak, psychic Justin Crump helps others find peace by using his ability. When he’s called upon to release a distressed soul from a haunted house, a child’s angry spirit draws him into a dark mystery. Equally intriguing is the skeptical homeowner, Albert, a man who has buried his sexuality deeper than the grave.
Albert Henderson humors his mother’s wishes by inviting the medium for a visit. While he doubts Justin’s gifts, he can’t deny one truth: the man stirs desire in him that Albert has spent a lifetime denying. Slowly, the walls of his proper life crumble. And when Justin proposes some emotion-free experimentation, neither imagines it might lead to love…and danger.
After learning the terrifying truth about the deceased child’s persecutor, the two men pursue a perpetrator of great evil. When they coax a confession from their quarry, the vengeful spirit unleashes power nearly beyond control. To free the earthbound ghost from the past that holds it shackled, Justin must risk his own soul. And Albert must find the courage to break free of the chains of doubt that will deny him and Justin the future of which they once only dreamed.
The day Crump was to arrive, I could not concentrate on my work, even though the factory in York was faltering and I needed to review their finances. Our groom, Flint, had taken the pony trap to the Mewsbury train station to fetch the visitor. I kept drifting to the window to check if the trap had returned. I might have been a ghost myself, haunting the den where several generations of Kingman males had retreated for privacy. Fresh paint, new drapes, carpet, and furniture could not completely extinguish the odor of smoke from years of pipes or cigars. I imagined Sir Cyrus sitting at the fireplace with his cronies making plans for a fox hunt or to seduce a housemaid or whatever else their sort got up to for entertainment.
My father had sneered at the landed gentry who had run their estates into the ground through lack of any business or common sense. Father only believed in what he could own, bank, buy, or sell. He never let a penny lie idle and expanded his machinist father’s company into a conglomeration of businesses. But new Henderson wealth couldn’t buy the respect of our social betters. Father hadn’t cared, but of course, he’d never had to attend Eton as I had and suffer the snobbery of brats. Only breeding separated my tormentors from vicious lowlife thugs. Once one was appointed the role of victim, there was little hope to escape it.
I heard a noise and bolted up from my seat to make another trip to the window. My nape prickled as I waited for Justin Crump to arrive. Why did his imminent arrival affect me so? From the moment I’d looked into his pale blue eyes. I’d felt something akin to instant recognition, coupled with an electrical charge that set my body buzzing. It must be this magnetic personality that made him such an expert at winning converts. I could find no other way to explain why Crump influenced me so.
At last I heard the distant clip-clopping of hooves on the driveway and caught a glimpse of the pony and cart. I hurried back to my desk like a lad pretending to study when he’d been daydreaming the afternoon away. I stared at the quarterly spreadsheet for Drayton Ironworks, but listened for the sound of Lassiter’s footsteps in the hallway. After a light tap, the butler opened the door. “Mr. Crump has arrived, sir, and awaits you in the parlor.”
“Very good. Thank you.”
I forced myself to take my time putting away my pen set before walking casually toward the parlor. I refused to appear eager, although my pulse was racing as I entered the room and beheld Crump’s backside. That is to say, I beheld his back since he was facing away from me—not that I was staring at his arse.
He stood studying the large oil painting above the fireplace mantel, a pastoral featuring a forest at night with a full moon glowing between tree branches. He turned to greet me, the unusual light hue of his blue eyes stopping me short and stealing my voice.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Henderson. I was just admiring this painting. Quite an unusual scene, mysterious yet strangely welcoming.”
I looked at the artwork I’d hardly noticed before. Room decorations were not something I generally paid much attention to.
“One of Mother’s choices,” I remarked, wondering what he’d meant by welcoming. “She has greatly enjoyed overseeing the remodeling. Or she seemed to at first before this gloominess set in. Won’t you sit down?”
“Where is your dear mother?” Crump settled in the chair facing mine, his legs gracefully crossed. He had a gentleman’s way about him that told me he wasn’t some jumped-up sales clerk having a field day fooling the swells.
“She is resting and will join us directly. I wanted to take an opportunity to speak candidly. As I told you, I haven’t felt one iota of the negative energy in this house that my mother speaks of.”
“It’s not uncommon for most people to remain unaware of psychic disturbances which to others are as concrete as anything in this world,” Crump replied.
I cleared my throat. “At any rate, these negative feelings are very real to my mother. I’ve begun to fear she suffers from melancholia, but I would never send her to a sanitarium for treatment. The idea of cold-water baths or electrical stimulation jolting a person out of a dark mood is as nonsensical as believing in ghosts.”
If he felt insulted, Crump didn’t show it. “You’ve made your skepticism quite clear. I promise to do my best to dispel this darkness that haunts your mother, but it will be of great help if you refrain from using the term ‘nonsensical.’ She should feel she has your support.”
“She would see right through me if I pretended to believe, so I’ll simply keep mum.”
Crump glanced at the moonscape above the fireplace. “What can you tell me about the history of this house? Your mother mentioned it was built by more recent generations of Kingmans.”
“The ruins of the original structure are on a rise toward the north. Cyrus Kingman, the current baronet, could no longer keep the entail intact. I suppose some king granted the land and baronetcy to a Kingman forebear, but I couldn’t tell you the date or the king. I was far more interested in learning the condition of the masonry and roof than in historical details about the house.”
Crump’s smile formed crescent grooves on either side of his mouth. “You are a man who exists very much in the here and now.”
For an employee, he didn’t show much deference. I didn’t like the way his smile set off a skittering feeling through me like a dog trying to run on a polished floor. “It’s the sensible way to live. No good dwelling on the past, or in existing in a dream world. Such frivolity doesn’t affect the price of tea,” I snapped, sounding disgustingly like my father.
Crump’s smile died, and I immediately regretted my sharp tone. No need to start off on the wrong foot if he was sincere in his desire to help Mother, and I believed he was. He had a gentle, nurturing manner which might ease her troubled spirit.
I added, “There are estate ledgers in the library. Feel free to search the shelves for whatever might be of use to you.”
Crump did not reply. His eyes had grown unfocused, and I realized he hadn’t heard me. His mouth dropped open slightly, and his breathing grew shallow.
“Mr. Crump?” I prompted.
There was still no response, as if he could neither hear nor see me, and his chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. Was this the prelude to a seizure, or was he putting on a psychic show for my benefit, trying to draw me into his imaginary world?
“Mr. Crump.” I spoke louder.
He shook his head. “No. Please,” he murmured.
This was different from his display at the séance, when he’d pretended to speak for Lady Barton’s son. He’d used his own voice then. Now his tone was lighter and higher.
I shivered as if a cold gust had invaded the room. “Mr. Crump!” I shouted, determined to either draw his attention back to this world or demand he quit playacting.
His body began to shake, and I grew truly frightened. What was one supposed to do for an epileptic? If he fell to the floor twitching and frothing at the mouth, I had no idea how to help.
I lunged forward, grabbed his shoulders, and shook him hard. “Mr. Crump, wake up!”
I felt the solid warmth of his body under his jacket and inhaled a whiff of the pomade that slicked his wavy hair. Tears had escaped his eyes, one of them cupped like a diamond at the corner of his mouth. Something stirred in me at that detail, something protective, yearning, and inexplicable.
He shuddered and blinked, lashes fanning slowly. When he opened his eyes, I noticed the navy ring of the outer iris wrapped like a frame around the paler blue within.
I exhaled a pent breath. “Good Christ! Are you all right?”
He nodded. “Thirsty.” His tongue darted out to wet his lips, and another indefinable pang of emotion shot through me.
I released him and hurried to the sideboard to pour a glass from the pitcher. His hand trembled as he took the glass from me, and he drank it without a pause, his Adam’s apple moving up and down with each swallow.
“What happened to you? Do you often suffer from such fits?”
He smiled, and the tear caught at the corner of his mouth trickled down. “Not generally. Usually my contact with the other side is under my control, but this…” He shook his head. “I’ve never felt anything quite like the misery and fear of this entity. Its feelings became my own.”
I wanted to hit him! Here I was worrying about his physical health, and he was offering more nonsense. It was all an act designed to get me to buy in to his story. Either that, or he was mentally unbalanced enough to have gone into some sort of fugue state.
I folded my arms and glared at him, distancing myself from the proximity that had put odd notions of empathy and protection in my head. “Perhaps your presence here is not a good idea after all. I’m not sure my mother should have—”
“Mother should have what? Her fancies indulged?” Mother swept into the room, as self-assured as I’d ever seen her with none of her recent querulousness on display. “I am not a child, Albert. I don’t need to be either catered to or protected. I am not suffering the ‘nervous melancholia’ we women are supposedly prone to.”
“I didn’t say that.”
She gave me a hard stare, then held out her hand as Crump rose to greet her. “Good day, Mr. Crump. Lovely to see you again. I am so relieved you are here.”
“I’ve already encountered the entity you’ve described. The experience was not pleasant.”
She took his hand between both of hers and gazed into his eyes. A momentary thought flashed that I wished I were in her shoes, before I quickly squelched it. “I never considered myself receptive to the otherworldly,” she said, “but all this has made a believer of me. If I ever had any doubt that life exists beyond this world, it has been extinguished.”
“I hope, together, we may do some good for this tormented soul,” Crump replied.
The pair of them stood united, excluding me, the skeptic. They were of one accord. I could only watch and wish I’d put up more of a fight about bringing Crump into our home. The man disturbed me in ways I didn’t understand, and I wanted him out—probably more than Mother wished to exorcise her ghost.
About Bonnie Dee:
Whether you’re a fan of contemporary historical or fantasy romance, you’ll find something to enjoy among my books. I’m interested in flawed, often damaged, people who find the fulfillment they seek in one another. To stay informed about new releases, please sign up for my newsletter. You can join my street team at FB. Learn more about my backlist at http://bonniedee.com and find me on FB and Twitter @Bonnie_Dee.
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