Hi everyone. With the current icy weather sweeping the UK I remembered putting a very snowy scene in my slightly supernatural tale, MOONSHADOWS, so I thought I would share it with you.To set the scene, Jez is travelling back from a business appointment in the Midlands with Piers, her devastatingly attractive boss. Despite their mutual attraction she is determined to be faithful to her boyfriend. However, there is someone else - or something - also atracted to Jez.....
The volume of traffic in the town was keeping the roads clear, but by the time they reached the motorway it was snowing hard, thick flakes flying towards them and building into a white frame on the edges of the windscreen. The traffic slowed to a crawl. Piers tuned the radio to the traffic reports.
“Heavy snow falling in the Midlands… M69 closed north of Coventry… M1 closed north of junction 20… A46 southbound blocked by a jack-knifed lorry…motorists are advised to avoid the area for the next few hours…”
“Sounds as if everything’s coming to a standstill.” Piers leaned forward, staring out at the swirling snow which was now beginning to coat the road signs. “We’re approaching a junction. I think we should get off the motorway while we can. We could be snarled up in traffic for hours. What do you think?”
“Whatever you say—I don’t know this area very well.”
He pulled onto a slip road and headed off the motorway.
Jez peered out of the window. “Where are we going?”
Piers did not answer immediately, for the car hit a patch of ice and he fought to stop it careering into the bank. Not wanting to distract him, she did not repeat her question. As they drove away from the motorway, the roads were almost deserted and soon they were driving through an unfamiliar white landscape.
“I’m heading for the Manor. It’s only a few miles from here, and I think we should get off the road until the weather improves.”
She stared at the white verges, where the snow was beginning to pile up. “No chance of that for a while, I think.”
Piers turned on the radio again, but the weather reports were not encouraging. Snow was forecast for several hours, strong north easterly winds, drifting. Jez kept her eyes fixed on the snow-covered road and wondered how Piers could find his way. The sports car slewed occasionally on the slippery roads, and she reluctantly admired his skill in keeping the powerful engine in check. The snow was beginning to build up on the road itself, forming deep drifts against any obstacle. She began to fear that the low Aston Martin would soon find it impossible to get through.
“Here we are.”
She looked up and saw the lights of the Manor shining through the trees ahead of them. They slid into the drive and crawled towards the hotel.
“Shall I drop you at the door?”
“No, let’s park and I’ll walk back with you—if you stop on this you might not get going again.”
Once they had parked, Jez climbed out of the car and pulled up her collar against the chill wind as Piers collected her luggage, then they set off towards the welcoming lights of the entrance. Her heels slipped on the icy ground and she instinctively put out her hand. Piers took her arm and walked her quickly across to the entrance. As they entered the hotel she felt her face glowing in the sudden heat. Piers put down the bags, grinning at her as he pulled off his gloves.
“I didn’t like to say anything back there, but we came very close to getting stuck a couple of times.”
“I know. And I was beginning to think we were lost. I didn’t see a road sign for miles. Lucky you know this road so well.”
“Come on, let’s get cleaned up.” He lifted an eyebrow. “One room or two?”
“Two,” she said firmly.
She watched as he spoke to the receptionist. She felt an almost physical blow as she realised again just how attractive he was. His black hair was gleaming with melted snow and the turned-up collar of his dark coat gave him the look of an adventurer. A buccaneer, she thought, or latter-day pirate…
Down, girl! she told herself. You’re on dangerous ground. She hoped Piers could not read her thoughts as he turned to speak to her.
“Do you mind a room in the old wing? It’s all they have left.”
The receptionist was eager to explain. “A lot of our guests should have been leaving tonight but unfortunately, due to the snow, they can’t get away…”
“No, no, that will be fine. I was in the old part of the house last time—” she broke off, blushing, and was grateful that Piers appeared not to notice.
He picked up her bag, glancing at her key. “Room forty-six. Come on then, I’ll drop you off. My suite is at the end of that corridor.”
“Hang on—if they’re so busy, how did you manage to get a suite?”
He grinned and leaned closer to say quietly, “I told you, I own the place. Come on.”
When they reached room forty-six he unlocked the door and carried her bag into the room.
“Hmm, a bit small—are you sure you don’t want to share mine?”
“It’s fine.” She took her bag and gave him a push towards the door. “Go and have a cold shower, Piers.”
He grinned. “I’ve booked dinner for nine, that suit you? Good. I’ll call for you at eight thirty.”
Jez shut the door, smiling. How easily they slipped into this bantering. He found her attractive and it showed—she might not be able to reciprocate, but she was human enough to be flattered. She thought of him now as a friend, and as long as the banter did not get out of hand she could relax in his company.
She glanced at her watch: time for a shower and a change of clothes. The little bathroom was cramped, the obligatory en-suite built into the bedroom. This was obviously one of the smaller rooms, used only when everything else had been taken. The wall panelling was probably original and the faded velvet drapes were in need of replacing. Even the lighting was substandard, with the lights by the bed and over the mirror not working at all. She grinned. She’d complain to the management—better still, the owner.
After showering, Jez pulled on the heavy towelling bathrobe she found hanging on the bathroom door. She took off the shower cap and shook out her hair. It was still damp from the snow and curled wildly about her head. She suddenly remembered Kate’s comment about pre-Raphaelite tresses—perhaps she would drag a comb through it and leave it loose tonight.
Jez yawned, suddenly feeling very tired. It had been a very long day. She walked to the window to pull the curtains but stood for a moment, her head resting against the wooden frame, watching the snow. It was still falling heavily, large feathery flakes hurtling against the window before being whipped away by the blustery wind that moaned around the old building. The movement was relaxing, mesmerising.
Suddenly, Jez was aware that she was not alone. Someone was behind her, very close, and the subtle smell of sandalwood filled her senses. A hand stole around her waist.
“Oh Piers, I thought we had agreed.” She could not resist him. With her eyes still closed, she tilted her head back, silently willing him to kiss her neck. His lips were gentle on her skin, the merest touch. The bathrobe fell open and she gave a long, shuddering sigh as his hand moved up to caress her breasts.
“No, no don’t.”
“You know you want me.” The words were a whisper, almost inaudible, close to her ear. “Don’t fight me, I’ll never let you go now. Ah, Sarah, Sarah.”
Jez started. She opened her eyes and for a moment stood rigid, a cold chill running down her spine.
“Piers?” She forced herself to turn around.
The room was empty.
She pulled the bathrobe around her and tied the belt in a knot, trying to control the shivering.
“Where are you? Who are you?” she whispered, her eyes straining to pick out the slightest movement, the faintest shadow.
The room was empty, but she did not feel alone. Her words echoed around the room, unnaturally loud, bouncing off the panelled walls. She slumped on the bed and reached for the telephone. Dead. Jez forced her trembling legs to move and stumbled to the door, but it resisted her attempts to open it. She took a deep breath. She must not panic. She dare not lose control. Slowly she tried the door again, but still it would not open.
“This fear is in me,” she said aloud. “This is my imagination. There is nothing to be afraid of.”
Had she heard it? Perhaps it was just the wind outside. She felt a draught on her face, as though something had come close, disturbing the air around her. Suddenly she wanted to be out of that room. She banged on the door with her fists.
“Help! Anyone—help!” She hammered and kicked the door, screaming. In her distress she did not hear the footsteps in the corridor, or the voices.
“Someone in that room, sir? Yes, I’ve a master key—but it’s not locked. I can’t open it, they must be leaning against the door—”
“Jez? Move away from the door. Jez—”
She was crouched against the door, sobbing with fear. Someone was pushing at the door, trying to get into the room.
“Jez, we can’t open the door unless you move away. Move back.”
She shifted slightly and the door opened wider, enough for someone to enter. Piers was the first through the gap, dragging her out of the way to allow two hotel porters to follow him. They stood in the doorway, looking anxiously down at her.
After a quick glance around the room, Piers nodded at them. “It’s all right. I’ll handle this now. Thanks.”
The men hovered, looking concerned. “Perhaps we should get a doctor…”
Kneeling beside Jessica, he shook his head impatiently.
“Do you think you’ll get anyone to come out in this weather? She’s fainted, that’s all. I’ll take care of her. You can go.” He waited until they had left the room, then said softly, “Jez. Jez, it’s all right, I’m here. Come on now.” He lifted her to her feet.
“There was someone here—I thought it was… He t-touched me, c-couldn’t open the door—” She was shaking uncontrollably.
“No-one’s here, love, only me.”
She stared at him for a long time, unable to focus. Then gradually recognition returned and she clung to him, sobbing.
Moonshadows - MELINDA HAMMOND
This was a bit of wish fulfillment-I have always wanted a Piers to rescue me (in fact, when I was walking home through the snow on Wednesday night I would have loved him to come along!). However, I am not sure I would want the haunting....
Sarah Mallory / Melinda Hammond