“Someone bought the Devil’s Den?”
“McDevin Manor,” Dagon corrected his wife.
Sarina placed their eight-month-old, sleeping son Alexander in the cradle not far from the sitting room’s large fireplace tucking the soft blue, handmade knit baby blanket around him. Castle Rasmus could be a drafty place and with autumn proving colder than usual in Scotland this year fireplaces were kept lit in many of the castle rooms.
She turned to her husband comfortably seated in an overstuffed, mocha chenille chair. His handsome, aristocratic features never failed to flutter her heart and stir her passion. Her feet took flight and she was soon curled in his lap snuggling against him.
His arms were quick to wrap around her and his lips even quicker to kiss her. Dagon had discovered soon enough that his wife’s inquisitive and challenging nature could prove a handful and even though she was petite he dared not underestimate her.
“The castle has a reputation for once having been the den of the devil,” Sarina said. “And isn’t it odd that having sat empty for so long, it suddenly gets sold only a couple of weeks before Samhain, a sacred time for witches and warlocks… a time when the dead can join the living and walk the earth.”
He nuzzled his mouth at the crook of her neck, nipping lightly. “Need I remind you that we’re both witches—powerful ones—and we would certainly sense the presence of a warlock.”
“We would be well aware if the devil’s dominions were present but what of the devil himself?” she whispered near his ear. “What if he has decided to walk among mortals on Samhain?”
Dagon pressed his cheek to hers and whispered in return, “I daresay he would keep his distance from a nosy, petite witch who no doubt would annoy him so much that he’d return in a flash to Hades.”
Sarina gave his chest a jab and winced, her finger hitting firm muscle and Dagon chuckled. She floundered trying and failing to get off his lap which made him laugh all the more, and he grabbed her around the waist and forced her to settle in his lap.
“Forgive me,” he said with a kiss to her cheek. “I didn’t mean to upset you, but I meant what I said, though I said it poorly. You are a formidable opponent for the devil and he would rue the day he met you.”
Sarina let her body relax against her husband’s. He had made amends quite nicely and she appreciated it. “Perhaps I should go introduce myself to our new neighbor.”
“What new neighbor?”
Dagon shook his head and Sarina turned with a smile to greet Ali and Sebastian Wainwright hovering in the doorway.
“We didn’t expect you for at least another week,” Sarina said hopping off her husband’s lap and hurrying over to Ali. She stopped just before reaching her and shook her head. “Where’s Jade?”
Ali and Sebastian’s daughter Jade was a few weeks older than Alexander and Sarina hoped they would grow to be as close as brother and sister just as Dagon and Ali had.
Sebastian grinned. “Try prying her away from Aunt Sydney and Uncle Duncan. You would think the child was theirs they fuss over her so much. They’ll be bringing her along with them when they arrive from the States next week.”
“What are you doing sitting there when you should be over here hugging me,” Ali reprimanded Dagon with a smile.
Dagon got slowly out of the chair. “It’s good to see that you are the same gorgeous, demanding woman you’ve always been. I was afraid that motherhood might have changed you.”
Sebastian snorted and Ali jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow not that it did much good. He had more muscles than Dagon so his wife’s poke just made him laugh harder.
“Watch it, husband,” Ali warned with a point of her finger.
Sebastian drew his finger as if drawing a six-shooter. “I’ve gotten quicker and more accurate, witch, so be careful or I just may turn you into a docile mate.”
That brought a round of laughter from everyone and a grunt form Alexander in the cradle.
Sarina and Ali hurried over to him and Ali was disappointed that he had only stirred and not woken.
“I can’t wait to cuddle him,” Ali said. “And while I wait for him to wake I am in dire need of a cup of tea and I still want to know about your new neighbor.”
Dagon instructed Bernard, his manservant for years, to bring tea and biscuits. Ali naturally asked Bernard if his wife Margaret, the cook and housekeeper, had by any chance baked a fresh batch of biscuits. Bernard had grinned and Ali yelped with delight.
It wasn’t until the two couples were settled with hot tea and lemon and rosemary biscuits that talk turned to the new neighbor.
“Someone bought Devil Manor?” Ali asked wide-eyed. “Who was foolish enough to do that?”
“The place is actually called Devil Manor?” Sebastian asked.
“No,” Dagon said and shook his head at Ali, “though she was instrumental in the place getting the nickname.”
Ali rolled her eyes at him. “That’s not the way I recall it—oh wait, I forgot—you’re three hundred plus years so you must being getting senile.”
Dagon ignored her grin. “Since we’re the same age it would mean that your memory is not what it used to be.”
“My memory is perfect,” Ali insisted.
“She’s right about that,” Sebastian said. “She never lets me forget anything.”
Everyone laughed, except Ali.
She laid her hand far up on his thigh and squeezed ever so lightly. “Think of all the important things I don’t let you forget, darling.”
Sebastian leaned close and whispered in her ear after giving it a nip. “You’ll pay for this, dearest.”
“Promise?” she asked with a sweet though salacious smile.
“Would you like some privacy?” Dagon grumbled.
Ali turned to him with a teasing grin. “Jealous?”
Sarina answered. “He has no reason to be.”
Dagon smiled as he got up and gave his wife a kiss and he joined her on the settee. “I knew there was a reason I loved you so much.”
“While my husband and you,” —Ali pointed to Dagon— “wouldn’t mind whisking us gorgeous women away to the bedrooms; I would prefer to continue the discussion about Devil’s Manor.”
“I’m curious myself,” Sebastian said. “Do tell the tale.”
Dagon gave a gentlemanly nod. “Your tale to tell… and a tale it is.”
Ali shot him a scathing look.
“Since it acquired the reputation of being the den of the devil,” Sarina said preventing any further verbal sparring between the two. “I assumed that somewhere in the past it was owned by a noble who practiced debauchery.”
“That could very well explain it,” Sebastian said. “Was the manor occupied at that time?”
Dagon and Ali exchanged glances.
“Well are you going to tell them or shall I?” Dagon asked.
Sebastian chuckled. “So you did have something to do with why McDevin Manor got its reputation.”
“The place deserved it,” Ali said with a shiver and Sebastian’s arm wrapped quickly around his wife.
“What happened?” Sarina asked her hand slipping into Dagon’s as she cuddled in the crook of his arm.
“My friends and I would explore the woods after our studies were finished for the day,” Ali said.
“She means they gathered for a gossip fest,” Dagon corrected.
“Who’s telling this?” Ali snapped and continued not giving Dagon a chance to argue. “We’d often forage for plants trying to identify the ones we’d learned about. There seemed to be an unusual amount of those plants in the surrounding area of McDevin Manor.”
“Don’t forget to tell them that our teachers warned us about gathering or practicing the craft near any occupied residences,” Dagon said. “We were to stay deep in the forest and for a good reason. It was a time ripe with fear and ignorance.”
“True enough,” Ali agreed with a nod. “But we made certain to keep a safe distance from the manor.”
“Until one day…” Dagon turned a stern glare on Ali.
“We heard an atrocious moaning. It sounded like someone was suffering horribly. Naturally I and Marissa, the girl with me, worried that someone was in dire need of help. So Marissa and I approached the castle.”
“And what did you find?” Dagon asked a wide smile surfacing.
Ali ignored him and continued the tale. “It was a most disturbing scene… a man and a woman having sex, though not enjoyable sex from the horrid expression on her face. And his dark eyes,” —she shuddered— “pure evil.”
“That horrid expression the woman wore couldn’t have been because you caught her naked having sex? And the evil-eyed man? What did he do when he caught you both staring through the window?” Dagon asked.
“I can still see his face and the audacity,” —she shook her head— “he brazenly crooked his finger for us to join them.”
“At which point you and Marissa high-tailed it like the devil was chasing you and ran right into me,” Dagon said. “Where you both couldn’t tell me what happened fast enough.”
“And then you went and reported it to the council of witches,” Ali accused.
“I did not,” Dagon said empathically. “I assumed you and Marissa told everyone and the council, realizing the danger to the students if they were caught practicing the craft, forbid anyone from venturing anywhere near McDevin Manor.”
“Marissa and I never said a word,” Ali insisted. “We both did not get a good feeling from the whole incident and therefore decided it was best not to speak of it and give it anymore energy.”
“And then there was the matter of punishment once the teachers discovered you disobeyed the rules,” Dagon said.
Ali shrugged. “I did give it thought.”
“It wouldn’t matter if the three of you kept silent about it,” Sarina said. “The council of witches would have known about it. There is always an extremely skillful seer on it who would have sensed or seen the whole incident.”
“There were rumors after that about the devil occupying the place, though I imagine it was as Sarina suggested… a place of debauchery,” Ali said. “Noblemen loved having their getaways where they could do all sorts of nasty things.”
“Then it makes sense that Ali and I go and introduce ourselves to the new owner of McDevin Manor and—”
A cloud of fairy dust suddenly appeared and out of it popped Beatrice, her one fairy wing crooked and her head wreath sitting askew. “What’s that you say?”
“Sarina and I are going to McDevin Manor—”
“No! You can’t go to the Devil’s Den,” Beatrice protested.
“Not you too, Beatrice,” Dagon said. “It’s time the rumor is put to rest.”
Beatrice gave a quick look around before she whispered, “It’s no rumor. McDevin Manor is the gateway from Hades to earth.”
* * *
Look for Part Two of The Devil’s Den next Wednesday, October 12th.
Until tomorrow when the month of Halloween Magic continues…