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   Steven jumped at the chance to see the Morning Meadow Mansion even if he had just met Caroleigh and did suspect he would have to fend off her amorous attentions for the weekend. The house, one of the few left designed by DeBain, was worth the possible discomfort, and the estate had never been open to the public. There was the added possiblity of landing the job of developing the property for a resort/hotel. Forewarned that Caroleigh's sister, Kari, was a little strange and taking his own transportation in case Caroleigh's advances became too much, he wasn't warned of possible hauntings until the party of four arrived to find themselves locked out and waiting for Kari to make an appearance. There was no doubt Kari was remote and distant. Steven found out why and that there were many more secrets, dangerous and deadly, to the meadow than visits from the hereafter.

Excerpt

#1

Steven made a sudden stop and turned to a small group they were passing. "Did you say Morning Meadow? Fulton DeBain's Morning Meadow?"

The tall slender woman, late twenties, dark auburn hair, and sapphire blue eyes looked him over appreciatively. When she smiled, it was only her mouth, while her eyes held a look of cool calculation, and her voice purred. "You've heard of my home?”

The man beside her drawled out slowly with a slight English accent. "Not everyone has, love." His manner was one of lazy insouciance. With a modern day, well-tailored look of the forty and fifties, English Actor, David Niven, he had the look, right down to the pencil thin mustache, but fair-haired instead of dark. "Perhaps he has a special interest."

"Only professional," Steven said stiffly. He didn’t miss the innuendo or sweep of eyes the man gave him. "Sorry I interrupted you."

"Oh, don't rush off, handsome." She hooked her arm through his to hold him. "Just what profession would that be?"

"Architect, but it was rude of me to interrupt a private conversation." He removed his arm. "As your friend so subtly pointed out."

"Oh, dear," the man yawned behind a raised hand. "How boring to be called subtle.”

"How boring to be a boor," she countered. "I'm Caroleigh Fitzhugh. You are?"

"Steven Chase.” He turned to Robert. "This is Robert Brown."

She barely nodded to acknowledge the introduction. "This boring fellow is Edward Van Philips." She turned to a slender, twenty-year-old blond beside Edward. "This is Evelyn Goodman, new to Denver.”

While Evelyn gave Steven a haughty look and ignored Robert, Edward said, "Charmed, I'm sure." He managed to sound as if he was anything but. "As an architect you would simply love to see the Meadow?”

"What a delightful idea," Caroleigh exclaimed to draw an exasperated roll of the eyes from Edward. "Evelyn and I are driving up tomorrow. Won't you join us?"

"Caroleigh?" Edward conveyed an unvoiced question; what in the world are you doing?

Evelyn voiced hers. "Is it wise to invite a total stranger that way?"

"We haven't met before, but I've heard of the handsome Mr. Chase, architect and developer. Who better to get advice from?"

With one eyebrow raised, Edward asked, "Advice on what?”

"Whether I should sell the Meadow or develop it."

Edward's mouth opened only to snap shut. Whatever he had started to say stayed behind pressed lips and a speculative expression.

Caroleigh laughed softly. "You may come as well to protect us, but I'm sure Steven will be more interested in the Meadow as a possible project than murdering us in our beds."

"Kari would be much more a candidate for that," he answered dryly.

"Kari? Who is that?” Evelyn asked in alarm.

"Little sister, who just happens to live there."

Caroleigh laughed again. "And who is‒I will admit‒a little strange, but never violent. She just has difficulty dealing with anything too complicated."

Edward’s brow rose again as he said, "So generous and kind of you to care for her the way you do.”

She responded with a side-way glance at him and opened the small clutch purse she carried to hand a card to Steven. “Now that that is all settled, meet us at noon, and we will be there in time for dinner. Pack casual and warm. It’s still very cool that high up, and the accommodations are quite rustic. Oh, I must take Emily and Sir Gaylord. We'll have a party all week-end." She quickly became distracted. "There's Patrice. Come along, Evelyn. I did promise to introduce you to the cream of society.”

She flittered off with Evelyn behind. Edward followed only after a slow appraising look at Steven.

Somewhat dazed, Robert murmured, "This is only Wed.”

"Since they don't work for a living, all week is a week-end," Steven answered thoughtfully.

Robert leaned close and whispered in Steven's ear.

"Yeah," Steven answered softly. "Millions.”

#2

Candles lit the room and a fire was built, again courtesy of Kari and with the same degree of appreciation shown as there had been for the two meals she had provided for them. The four sat at a small table, Steven reluctantly. Kari's single refusal to join them had been accepted. His four attempts to refuse had been rejected. Even when Kari came in and took a seat off to the side on a delicate settee to watch in that intent way of hers, no invitations were made for her to join them at the table.

  Caroleigh took charge. "We start by calling forth the spirit."

  "How does one do that?" Evelyn asked.

  "Here ghosty, ghosty," Edward teased, drawing a nervous giggle from Evelyn and a scowl from Caroleigh.

  "Be serious or it won't work," Caroleigh ordered.

  "I must say I'm not sure I want it to," Edward drawled. "He did give Emily rather a nasty start."

  "Because she wasn't expecting it. It would help if we knew his name."

  "I don't believe introductions were made, but one would assume it was daddy."

  "One must never assume. Now join hands, close your eyes and concentrate." She waited long enough for her orders to be obeyed, then began. "Oh, spirit of the house, speak to us. Speak to us now."

  They all fell into silence with the only other sound the abnormally loud ticking of a mantle clock.      "Oh, spirit, speak to�"

  A noise started. Low at first, it gained in volume as it drew nearer them. A sharp, irregular wail
pierced the ears and a chilled cold swept over them, puckering flesh with goosebumps and causing chills.

  "Oh," Evelyn gasped, letting go of hands to rub her arms and look around frantically as the sound grew in volume, heading towards them.

  "Whatever--" Edward began and strangled off with a gasp of his own.

  The sound of a crash reverberated off the walls followed by a violent buck of the table beneath their hands. Edward was suddenly on his feet with another crash slamming their senses. Evelyn screamed, jumped to her feet, stood for a moment in indecision and then ran. A split second later, she screamed again and fell with a thud to the floor. Before one scream faded, she screamed yet a third time when the room blazed into bright light.

#3

 Once outside he planned to walk the perimeter to see it all up close and then walk out away from the structure, passed the drive that surrounded it, to view it from every angle. He changed his mind. The feeling he was being watched caused him to look up to see a shadowy figure behind sheer curtains in a third-story window. He couldn't see the features clearly but reasoned the only person it could be was Caroleigh’s remote, younger sister. Everyone else, including Emily, was on the second floor, the last much to Evelyn's chagrin. To have a servant sleeping just down the hall with equal accommodations seemed inappropriate to Evelyn. She did accept it, grudgingly, when Caroleigh told her she would appreciate it should the need arise to call for a servant during the night.

  For Kari to be up so soon before the others didn't surprise him. He could only wonder as to why she was up there, but for whatever reason, he did not want to offend her. That Caroleigh was in control of the estate had little bearing on the fact it was Kari's home. There was also little doubt in who cared for it, to make him wonder if Kari could possibly be as simple-minded as Caroleigh hinted. He didn't believe anyone who could keep so vast an estate and grounds in such immaculate condition could be simple. After he’d watched her the night before, he was sure her remoteness was more of indifference than mental ability, and he was curious as to what kind of personality lurked behind those oversize glasses.

  She had joined them for dinner, obviously to Caroleigh and Edward’s surprise. However, she barely spoke. She did watch them intently for some time, without comments or questions about their conversations. To him, it seemed she just lost interest. The few times he had spoken directly to her in an effort to engage her in a conversation, someone, usually Caroleigh, interrupted, to drive her back into silence. After the meal, she drifted away and did not reappear for the remainder of the evening. There was not so much as a glimpse of her during the short tour Caroleigh gave them of the house, to make him feel they were tolerated, not welcomed. He didn’t want to add unfavorably to the situation, waved uncertainly, and went back into the house.

  As soon as he opened the door the smell of fresh coffee hit him to make his mouth water. The kitchen had not been included in their tour, but the room was not difficult to find by following the back, servant hall. It was immaculately clean and updated to fixtures of the fifties just as the bathroom off his bedroom, but it was not where coffee brewed. He thought Emily was using a butler's pantry or a servant’s kitchen for the small chore, which he could understand.

  The size of that kitchen could be intimidating. The problem was all three doors directly off the kitchen were closed. A hall ran from the kitchen to the back of the house lined with closed doors as well, and he didn’t want to appear a snoop by opening and closing doors in a search for her. A soft thud behind one of the doors seemed an answer until he opened it.

  He did not find not a servant’s kitchen, a butler's pantry, or Emily. "Emily, could‒” The words choked off as his mouth dropped open. He recovered quicker than Kari even if he tripped over his own feet to back out. The momentum of his near fall pulled the door shut with a slam.

  "I am so sorry," he called out. "I‒"

  "I can't understand you through the door. Wait until I come out," she called back.

  Steven grimaced at the prospect of what awaited him. Puzzlement followed. Next came realization and he groaned. Whoever he waved at had not been Kari, and did she ever look different, stark naked, dripping wet, fresh from the shower with only a towel in her hand.

  He didn’t have long to wait. She hurried. Her wet hair hung halfway down her back to soak the dark blue knit turtleneck shirt. She just finished the button on her jeans as she rushed out. Her feet were bare, and there were no glasses to hide those amber-colored eyes or give her the appearance of an owl.

  "What's wrong?"

  "Huh?" he asked dumbly. He felt dumb and stared at the change in her.

  "What's the emergency? What did you need?”

  "Coffee," he answered with a grimace. "I was looking for coffee."

  Her chin went up, and her voice sharpened. "In a bathroom?"

  "I didn't know it was a bathroom or that you were down here. I thought I just saw you in an upstairs window. I thought Emily‒"

  "You're talking too fast," she told him curtly. "There's nothing wrong?"

  "There wasn't until I opened that door," he told her glumly.


#4

 Emily huddled in a ball at the foot of the stairs. Between shrieks, she sobbed hysterically and pointed at the door. Kari had only taken time enough to leave Nuisance safely in the apartment before she followed Steven although she stopped several feet away with a grimace on her face and winched each time Emily shrieked. They reached her just as Edward, still in his pajamas, reached the head of the stairs.

  "What is wrong?" he shouted to be heard over Emily.

  Steven shook his head and knelt in front of her. "Did you fall?" he asked gently.

  Edward shouted as he jogged down the stairs. "Shake her and stop that horrid noise."

  Caroleigh arrived at the head of the stairs with a different idea. "Slap her,” she ordered. She followed Edward with a cloud of purple chignon floating around her. "Stop that awful racket."

  Steven did neither. He took Emily firmly by the shoulders. "Emily, look at me and tell me what happened."

  "Man," she screamed with another point at the door.

  "There was someone here?"

  "Bloody," she wailed between sobs. “And…and his…his arm was missing.”

  Steven twisted to look at the door. He looked at the spotless marble floor. Last he looked at Edward. Edward shrugged. He’d looked the same places Steven had and saw nothing.

  Edward asked of Caroleigh, "Does she see things, love?"

 "Obviously she has," she answered indifferently. "The last time she behaved this way it was a spider."

  "Did it have missing limbs as well?"

  Caroleigh gave him a look of annoyance and moved closer to Steven. "Emily, stand up and stop this nonsense."

  That was accomplished only with Steven and Edward's help. Emily shook and gasped.

  Evelyn, the last to arrive at the head of the stairs, stayed there to ask, "Whatever has happened?"

  "It would seem," Edward answered, "Emily has seen a spook.” He turned to Kari who still stood off to the side. "Do you have spooks, love?" Since she still stared intently at Emily without answering, he added, "Ghosts, specters‒"

  "Stop explaining everything to her," Caroleigh snapped. "Kari, go fix some tea."

  "Ah, the famous cure all. Personally, I would rather have a valium."

  "I have some," Evelyn told them. "I could use one myself. All that screaming simply shattered my nerves."

  "Oh, goody, drugs, pass them out."

  "Edward," Caroleigh said in a warning tone. She turned on Kari. "Tea. Now."

  Only Steven watched Kari walk away.


Reviews:

blogspot

This well thought out plot is heightened by several bite-sized chunks of family history, supplying the sturdy and intelligent cast of characters with credibility and warmth. The possibility that the mansion could be haunted also adds to the tension and drama, as does the pressure put upon Kari who is deeply involved with a suspect. This novel has romance, mystery, intrigue and portrays a sense of 'who done it?' to keep you hooked right through the end. Another aspect I enjoyed about this lighthearted mystery is Larion Wills' portrayal of the droll, British Edward Van Philips. He has a dry, but highly amusing sense of humour that made me smile along with him, and you can't help noticing his heart is in the right place.

Book pleasures

The segments of action and mystery, the character development, along with the writers unique writing style only adds to the emotions you feel while reading. I, at no time, felt the book was predictable. Even after finishing the book you almost feel there is still mystery left, and leaves you guessing.


Muse Online Book Review

What do we, Ms Will's readers, get? Yet another terrific read with more twists and turns and switches than I can ever begin to tell you about here. As if I even could tell you more, doing so would give too much away as Ms. Wills is still writing a close knit story that unravels in her own unique way one that keeps me guessing

I have been trying to figure out what I can tell you about "Mourning Meadow." There are family secrets and strained relationships. There are lies and misunderstandings and surprisingly, romance from the most unlikely pairing. And underlying it all is an unbreakable will that will drive someone to murder.

Ms. Wills still uses her words to clearly paint the picture of her settings. There are no wasted descriptions or thrown in information, everything has its reason, even when you don't catch it the first time around. Ms. Wills' characters are interesting as they hide behind their own facades.

Chris

I have one complaint, Ms. Wills, your "Mourning Meadow" kept me up to 3:00am and the only reason I didn't finish it that night was because I fell asleep, glasses on, light on, book open, dreaming "Mourning Meadows."

Still, in the end, Ms. Wills throws yet another curve. Makes me wonder if a revisit to "Mourning Meadows" is needed.


Fantasy Book Spot

Kari meets Steven amidst ghosts, saucy siblings, and a secret stalker but that doesn't stop her from doing her best to keep him alive. Whether he feels the same way is still to be determined- by her sister, her sister's new husband, a policeman named Canterbury, and an old family ghost. 


FROM ROMANCE JUNKIES

MOURNING MEADOW is an unexpected but delightful surprise. Larion Wills weaves a story that is deceptively simple with well-drawn characters that come together to solve the mystery of the Morning Meadow mansion.

Steven Chase, a talented architect, jumps at the chance to see the Morning Meadow mansion, designed by the famous DeBain, and is willing to fend off Caroleigh if that's the price. Joined by Caroleigh's friends, the sarcastic, but well meaning, Edward and snobby, impossible to please Evelyn; the foursome set out to see the mansion.

Steven never expected to meet Caroleigh's enigmatic sister Kari or to fall in love with her within the first ten minutes of their meeting. But Kari is hiding a secret, maybe more than one. In the midst of trying to find out what makes Kari so secretive and alluring, mysterious things begin to happen around the property that no one can explain. Suddenly, Steven must convince Kari, whether she wants it or not, to let him help her discover who or what wants her dead.

Having never read Larion Wills' books before, I didn't know what to expect from MOURNING MEADOW. What I got was a charming romance with a large dose of who-done-it that kept me guessing until the very satisfying end. The twists and turns kept me reading late into the night to see what would happen next. The mystery of Kari's behavior was woven seamlessly with the history of the mansion, which becomes a character of its own. Larion Wills has a voice unlike any other author I have read, and I can't wait to read more!

LOVE ROMANCES AND MORE;

MOURNING MEADOW is an interesting and intriguing book. So much so, that I was so caught up in the characters and story and couldn't stop reading until my eyes were droopy, I just had to go to sleep. The very next morning, I couldn't wait to get back to the story to see how it ends. Those cyber pages were flying! Larion Wills gives her readers an intricate plot with leap-off-the-pages characters and a mystery that will have the reader guessing right up to the very end. The romance in this story is sweet, the main focus is on the mystery, but nevertheless, the story will certainly get the reader's heart a-beating. I can highly recommend this wonderful story and it's also available in print!

BookPleasures.com

I found the book to be a good read. There were no dead spots and I didn't find myself at any time disinterested. The characters were believable and endearing. The plot flowed well, so much so that every time an incident was over another was thrown at you. What I liked most about the book was the romance element didn't overuse gushy verses or overdo scenarios to where you felt like skimming through them. The segments of action and mystery, the character development, along with the writers unique writing style only adds to the emotions you feel while reading. I, at no time, felt the book was predictable. Even after finishing the book you almost feel there is still mystery left, and leaves you guessing.

I look forward to reading more books from her in the future.

Review for:

Mourning Meadow, by Larion Wills

After reading the book Mourning Meadow, by Larion Wills, I am, overall, impressed. Larion Wills, a pseudonym for Larriane Wills writes in the romantic fiction and sci-fi genres. She has books in print and ebooks.

This book is a work of romantic suspense with a ghost story thrown in. It centers around four main characters; Kari, Steven, Caroleigh, and Edward. Steven, with ulterior motives came to the Meadow to see the grand mansion and its estate. He found Kari, a remote and reclusive woman with secrets she wasn't ready to reveal. Her sister, Caroleigh, at first a rather wicked woman and a bit of a snob is masking her true feelings as a defense mechanism. Edward, the English jokester and friend of Caroleigh is caught in the middle and just trying to survive the weekend. These four people, of which don't even appear to like each other are swiftly thrown into a murder mystery. They need to get past their differences to find out who exactly it is that wants them dead and why, or no one will be leaving the Meadow. Amongst the chaos there is a budding love attraction between Steven and Kari, as well as Edward and Caroleigh.

While reading this book I found a few misspellings and minor grammatical errors. With the rich family history it was a bit overwhelming trying to keep the deceased characters straight. At times, the dialog can be difficult to follow, and I often had to reread a sentence to be sure I understood what the author was trying to get across. It could use a little editing.

In saying that, I found the book to be a good read. There were no dead spots and I didn't find myself at any time disinterested. The characters were believable and endearing. The plot flowed well, so much so that every time an incident was over another was thrown at you. What I liked most about the book was the romance element didn't overuse gushy verses or overdo scenarios to where you felt like skimming through them. The segments of action and mystery, the character development, along with the writers unique writing style only adds to the emotions you feel while reading. I, at no time, felt the book was predic​table. Even after finishing the book you almost feel there is still mystery left, and leaves you guessing.

I look forward to reading more books from her in the future.

Kelly Moran,

Author and Reviewer

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