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GREYSTONE: Novella Excerpt 2.

“Wait here. I’ll get the lights”. Nate’s footsteps quickly echoed into the darkness. Kate stood still. Huddled close to the door, nervous to take even one step into the biting darkness, warmed only by the sleeping babe protected in her arms. She instinctively edged closer to the bassinet at her feet, letting the injured fox know he was safe and not alone. Slow pearls of water dripped gently from the corners of her coat. Then with the flick of a switch, the lights were on.

Nothing could have prepared Kate for what she saw. The great hall reached several stories tall, its stone walls lined with taxidermy. Bears, Wolves, Foxes all with their razor teeth gnarling. They were completely surrounded. A grand oak staircase lay directly ahead and rose to a meet an old oak balcony that wrapped itself around the entire room. Kate giggled, she couldn’t help herself. This was like something out of the middle ages. She started to relax. It felt more like a bad movie set than a scary past.

“Whats so funny?” Nate quizzed wrapping his arms around his beloved wife. “You’re not delirious are you?” “Delirious? No, of course not, it’s just when you told me it would be “very English and a little cold” I thought you meant teapots and crumpets not 16th century by Jove King Henry’s ready for the hunt!” Kate reached up and kissed her husband.

“I love you," she reassured him, "these animals are a little weird but hey what else do you fill a stone mansion with? Ha”.

“I know - some relative was an explorer or something, tremendously un-PC but we can have them moved if they bother you." Nate took in the animals surrounding them. "They should be in a museum anyway.”

“Its fine, besides this little one may like to see his ancestors.” Kate passed the stirring Ella to her father and picked up the bassinet.

“What shall we call you? You look like an Oscar to me.”

“Perfect, Oscar it is, I think he’s got a broken leg, he doesn’t seem able to stand, we’ll have to get him to the vet first thing in the morning.”

“yes, first things first, lets all get some rest, we can all sleep together tonight and you can save the grand tour for the morning. Lead the way your Lordship.”

“Stop it Kate,” he snapped, “I'm sorry, its just – its just – oh I'm being stupid.”

She touched her hand to his cheek and found his beautiful blue eyes twinkling back at her.

“Hey, we’re doing this together, this is just a part of where you came from. It doesn’t define who you are.”

Nate smiled and took his wife’s hand and without looking back or even checking if the Front door was bolted shut, Man, wife, child and small injured fox in a box, ascended the staircase. They turned left down the first hallway which seemed a little more modern. Well certainly recently painted anyway. Nate opened the first door they came to, and reached for the light. Ushering his wife ahead of him, he instinctively took one look behind him, in each direction of the corridor from which they had just come, mindful, he shut the door and swiftly turned the key in the lock. The Executor of the Estate had said they would leave the heat on in this room and they would have everything they would need upon arrival. They hadn’t let him down. Nate almost smiled as he saw his wife changing his daughter on the bed, she wasn’t phased by anything, Kate. How did he ever manage without her? There was a small cot made up by the window, but they decided just for tonight the three of them would sleep in the bed together. The midwife would not approve but she was along way away and tonight Nate just wanted to be close. To feel his family, the one that mattered, the one that was truly his, in his arms.

They took off their soaked clothing and each took a hot shower, whilst the other watched the babe. Oscar meanwhile relaxed in the bassinet placed wonderfully close to the radiator and at last closed those deep dark pits to the world. Nate lifted the covers back and crawled into bed beside his family, calmer than he ever imagined he would feel. Kate brushed his cheek with her soft lips, and reached to switch of the bedside light.

“Leave it Kate,” Nate instructed, “just for tonight," she stared deeply into his eyes as he struggled for a straightforward explanation "with Oscar in here and it being a strange place, let’s just leave it on low.”

Kate smiled, stifled her second giggle of the evening and did exactly what her husband requested. She knew this wasn’t just an adventure for him, or bad movie set, for him, she knew this was going to be an overwhelming stay. She was so proud of him. She hoped he felt that. It didn’t take long for the Greystones' to fall asleep, so deeply that they missed the soft howling that crept closer and closer through the trees and even if they had been awake, the lion lock of the Old Oak door was turned so gently and with such skill, no human ear could have recognized it, not two stories up and tucked safely under the fine Egyptian silk bed covers, sleeping safely in that first room on the left. Oh no, there would be no disturbances for the Greystones tonight. For tonight, Peace had found them. The hailstones ceased and the gentle pitter patter of soft water droplets trickled gently down the glass windows.

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