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GREYSTONE. Novella Excerpt 1.

The thick tires of the four wheel drive, Nate had insisted upon, rolled effortlessly down the pitch black country lane. Ella slept on the back seat, her eyes tightly shut from the world. Safe and sound in a world of make believe, her baby seat locked securely into place. Kate glanced nervously at her daughter in the passenger mirror as the branching shadows of the dark oak trees passed softly across her dimly lit face. Kate had never been to England. Had she known how the damp chill would so quickly seep into her bones, sending shivers up her spine, she wouldn’t have been so eager to leave the welcoming warmth of California’s sunlit beaches. That makes it sound as if there was a choice. There wasn’t really a choice. Nate wanted to find his father, needed to find his father. He’d always been plagued with a restless memory that needed soothing; the smile, deep laughter and strong hands of a man swinging him high up into the air. Arms that loved him and he had lost without trace or knowledge. Now they finally had a lead, how on earth could she have denied him the opportunity to find the man he’s been searching for since he was four years old. Now they had Ella, it seemed even more important to settle the past, to put the nightmares to rest.

It was Kate who had encouraged him to go to therapy. To try and find at least some peace and try to understand why his brain woke him up every night, desperate to tell him something he already knew. His mother had died when he was a teenager, so Kate had never met her, and was extremely grateful for it. Nate’s therapist had thought returning to England, would be good for him.“revisit your childhood, make peace with it and then let sleeping dogs lie”, encouraged Dr. Andrews, “make a holiday of it, share it with your family Nate, don’t shut them out.” Kate knew there were things Nate hid from her, and judging by the cold facts she did know, she was glad. Ella stirred in the passenger mirror, her small hand tightly clasped around a soft pink bunny as the gentle pitter patter of rain began to hit the windscreen. A coyote howled in the distance. No, wait- that's not right- it can’t have been a coyote they don’t have those in England, must have been a fox or wild dog or something. Poor thing. Outside in the cold and wet. Kate pulled her coat tightly round her and for a moment felt comforted by the softness of its lining. Nate reached over and rested his hand on her powder blue jeans. She was the most important thing in the world to him. And Ella of course. He hadn’t understood what family was until he met Kate. He had only one glimpse of it, that memory of his father holding him high above the corn fields, before the scream. The scream that woke him every night in a god awful panic and a sweat covered brow. Sometimes he didn’t know how he would cope without Kate. He still couldn’t quite believe she had said yes.“Kate,” he caressed her thigh, “I want you to know, no matter what happens, you and Ella are everything to me. I want us always to do what’s best for us. If being here gets too difficult, then we leave together. Okay?” Kate smiled into her husband’s eyes. That was why she loved him. That was why she would do anything for him; he always put his family first. “I’m not going anywhere, we are going to face this together and get through it, together, because that’s what love is.” Nate looked down into her eyes, his own glistening,

“I love you, I –

“NATE LOOK OUT” she screamed as the wet tires screeched on the tarmac and catapulted a dark shape 5ft into the air. He slammed the breaks instantly as the dark thud hit the windscreen, the small fox slid down the glass smearing its own blood as It fell.

Nate stopped the car as fast as he could and got out, bracing himself against the ice cold and the raining hail. The cub was lying about 3 ft from the car, it was bleeding but alive and its defenseless deep black eyes burrowed into his own. Ella had started crying and he could hear Kate soothing her as only Kate could. He ran to the trunk and unlocked it, quickly rummaging for a baby blanket and Ella’s bassinet. Grabbing them with speed and slamming the boot shut. Kate couldn’t quite believe that her beautiful Restoration Hardware bassinet was about to be soaked with the blood of a half dead howling animal, but she also knew that was why she loved him. He always dealt with the neediest first. She opened her car door and braved the hailstones with her husband. “Put it on the front seat,” Kate bellowed against the storm, “I’ll get in the back with Ella”. And that was why he loved her, she always supported him. The rain lashed against the windows.It was gone midnight when the car arrived at the old familiar black arched gates. Kate was asleep holding Ella’s hand. Only the black pits of the trusting Fox watched as Nate, once again braved the storm and pushed first one rusted arched gate back and then the other. He couldn’t see the house from here. But he knew what was waiting. Hailstone beat against his face and trickled down his neck. The small fox, alone felt his fear and whimpered in the warmth of its own blood.Key in the ignition he started the car. He’d deal with the gates tomorrow. Old oaks lined the long driveway and the storm danced with their branches casting long shadows in every direction. Nate stared straight ahead. He wasn’t ready for this, but there was no turning back. He had to do it, for Kate for Ella, he had to find peace.

He brought the car slowly to a stop and switched on the car inside light. Kate stirred and he felt stronger as her brightness smiled at him reflected in the Drivers mirror. She reached forward and touched his shoulder reassuringly, “You take our wounded friend,” she said “and I’ll bring Ella.” The foreboding walls of Greystone Manor loomed hard and tall above them. Had it not been for the relentless hailstones beating against their backs the front porch would not have seemed the safe haven it hailed to be. Kate wondered silently how or why anyone would actually choose to live in a country where walking the five meters from your car to front door could potentially drown you. Thank god for porches. Holding Ella, she steadied herself against the stone wall. She had the strangest feeling her hand had brushed the hand print left by another. Keys jangled in the iron lock and the old oak door cracked open and beckoned them in.

Nathan Greystone was home.

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