Updated: Mar 16
Hollybrook Park, Cornwall, September, 1812
“You!” A voice barked as she opened the door. She blinked. “You’re back.” “What the blazes are you doing up here…in…in…” he gestured to her person. “Dressed like that. Have you no shame?” Miranda glanced down at the wrapper covering her nightshift. She was certainly modestly clothed, even if inappropriate for receiving guests. Except, Uncle Jonathan wasn’t a guest. “Well? Are you going to answer me?” Then he gestured to his desk and bookshelves. “What have you done to my personal belongings?” He was still cantankerous, but Miranda didn’t mind. He’d been much the same since she’d first discovered him looking through his spy glass. She’d only been five at the time and he’d been just as surprised at her being able to see him. Except, when she was little, he’d been kinder. It was only after she’d grown that he became short with her and didn’t like his privacy invaded. “I had it cleaned,” she answered. “Would you rather I let your belongings remain covered in dust only to decay from lack of proper care?” Many of the papers that had been left out after his demise needed to be tossed years ago, but the books, journals and rolled maps were only a bit yellowed and Miranda wanted to preserve his belongings for as long as possible. He scowled. “Why are you traipsing around not properly attired?” “If you must know, the room beyond is now my sleeping chamber,” she answered with confidence as she walked to the table where the maid had left her a pot of chocolate. Uncle Jonathan pulled back as if shocked. “They relegated you to the attic! What did you do to warrant such punishment?” She laughed. “Nothing. The manor will soon be near to overflowing with guests as it had been at Christmas. As I did then, I’ve taken up residence here until they are gone.” Or permanently if she could talk Adam into letting her stay. “I remember,” he grumbled. “Too many damned people in my home.” Miranda knew very well that Uncle Jonathan hated to be disturbed, but it wasn’t as if she had planned the week of festivities or invited anyone to visit. “Where do you go?” It was something she’d often wondered when he disappeared without word or warning. “None of your business,” he scowled again. Goodness, he was cantankerous and behaved more like her grandfather had, before his unexpected death nearly a year ago. Then again, Uncle Jonathan would be two and seventy, if he hadn’t died y in 1769. “Why is the manor being invaded again?” he countered. “As I’ve told you previously, my sister, Diana, is marrying Lord James Bryant, Earl of Somerton, and there is to be a week of wedding festivities.” “Bloody hell,” Uncle Jonathan grumbled and turned to look out the window. “Can’t they do that at a church, or have the celebration at Somerton’s estate? I assume he owns one given his title.” She shrugged as she had no answer, nor had she been consulted. “Why is it that you disappear for weeks and months on end?” “Because I don’t like to be bothered.” “I’ve not seen you in weeks so you must go somewhere.” “Perhaps I can hear you coming,” he countered. “I leave so I won’t be badgered about my comings and goings.” Miranda smirked. It was likely he was here when she wasn’t. And perhaps he did avoid her, not that she cared. Besides, there was a journal she wished to read and if Uncle Jonathan knew that she’d found it hidden in the false bottom of a cabinet, he’d not be happy. “I insist that you return to your former chamber at once.” He thrust a pointed finger toward the floor. “I will not,” Miranda held her ground. Just because Uncle Jonathan was a ghost didn’t mean he scared her. “You will do as I tell you,” he yelled. “I will do no such thing. I have every right to sleep in that chamber.” She pointed to the adjoining room. “Not when it’s attached to my quarters.” “These aren’t captain’s quarters. We are in a manor. Not on a ship.” “I’ll call my set of rooms whatever I damned well please,” he bellowed. Miranda blew out a heavy sigh. It wasn’t worth arguing. “I promise that I shan’t bother you.” “You already do,” he thundered. “Oh, why don’t you move on. I’m quite certain you would be much happier.” Though, she’d miss him no matter how irritable he happened to be. “I can’t,” he grumbled. “Why not? What is holding you here?” He glared at her for a moment, inhaled deeply then turned his back on Miranda. It was rather odd to watch him inhale, his shoulders raise, and chest expand, given there was no need for oxygen since Uncle Jonathan was, well, dead. Yet, she supposed spirits took habits and mannerisms into the afterlife. It was the only explanation. Miranda relaxed and sipped her chocolate. She was not going to vacate the attic no matter how much he wished it. A moment later he glanced over his shoulder and studied her. Miranda quirked a brow. He’d not intimidate her no matter how much he tried. “How old are you anyway?” Miranda gasped. “That is a rather impertinent question.” He narrowed his eyes. “I’m not known for politeness or niceties. Now answer the question.” She huffed. “I’m two and twenty.” “Twenty-two!” he roared as he turned. “Why the blazes haven’t you married? You should have at least one brat clinging to your skirts by now.” “It’s a wonder you never married.” Miranda snorted. “What woman could dare resist such charm?” “I’ll have you know…” He wagged a finger at her but didn’t finish what he was going to say. “You’ll have me know what?” Miranda taunted with a grin. Further, she’d like to know if the woman in his past had been named Hester. Not that Miranda could ask, because then Uncle Jonathan would know that she’d found his journal. She’d just started reading about their first encounter and was anxious to read more. “Nothing!” Uncle Jonathan crossed his arms across his chest and turned his back on his great-niece to look out over the sea. While he’d not been married, had he been betrothed? In love? At least it was more than she’d experienced. Though, she had fallen in love with Lord Epworth. Unfortunately, he did not share the same emotion since she’d not seen or heard from him since that glorious kiss—three months ago. “If you must know, I’ve not met anyone who would suit,” Miranda finally answered. Though, she had hoped that Epworth was such a gentleman. Uncle Jonathan turned from the window. “Of all the bachelors in London you could not find one that you liked?” he questioned in disbelief. Miranda notched her chin with determination. “I have not.” “Perhaps you shouldn’t be so finicky.” “Perhaps gentlemen should be more interesting,” she countered. When one was contemplating spending their life with another, it was important to be careful in that choosing, even if Uncle Jonathan perceived it as being finicky. “What of that bloke who followed you around Keyvnor in June?” Miranda sat forward. How did he know about Epworth? Uncle Jonathan eyed her as if waiting for an explanation. “He’s not a bloke and he didn’t follow me.” Her uncle snorted. “How would you know anything? You weren’t even there.” “You don’t think I have connections?” He laughed. “There are a few charming maids, dead long before me, who love to gossip.” “Well, they’re wrong,” Miranda insisted and flopped back against the settee, nearly spilling her chocolate. Epworth’s rejection was painful enough. She couldn’t endure to be humiliated by her great-uncle as well. “What’s his name?” She arched an eyebrow. “Didn’t the charming maids tell you?” “It didn’t seem important at the time,” he shrugged. “Who is he and why haven’t you married him?” Miranda blew out a sigh. “Wesley Claxton, the Marquess of Epworth, and we will not suit.” Much to her disappointment. He pulled back in surprise. “Do you know him?” She chuckled. It wasn’t possible that he did, of that she was certain. “I’m familiar with the family name,” he grumbled. “What of this wedding? Will there be bachelors in attendance? By chance has any of them caught your eye?” It was a question she’d not answer with complete honesty. “I’m unaware of all who are on the guest list, as I’ve little interest.” Though she’d like to know if Epworth was invited, as he was a friend of Somerton’s. She just wasn’t certain how she felt about seeing him again. “Hopefully there is at least one bachelor who shows an interest because something must be done with you.” Miranda blew out a breath. “Nothing need be done with me; I can assure you.” “I beg to differ.” He began to fade. “Where are you going now?” “To find you a husband,” Uncle Jonathan answered after he’d disappeared from her sight. Husband! How the blazes was he, a ghost, going to manage such a feat?
THE GHOST AND MISS MIRANDA is out NOW!