The Possession Chronicles Book 1
by Carrie Dalby Genre: Supernatural Southern Gothic Family Saga
Their love brought scandal and demons.
Lucy Easton, an aspiring novelist, will do anything to help boost her chances at publication—including betraying her family. But when she crosses paths with the charismatic Alexander Melling, her aspiration for success pales in comparison to the attraction she feels towards him.
Alexander is a young lawyer from a powerful family, striving to free himself from his father’s shadow. The more time he spends with Lucy, the more desperate he becomes to shed the secrets of his past—a past which can destroy the both himself and the woman he’s falling in love with.
While Alexander struggles with his past sins, Lucy must decide whether loving him is worth risking her own safety…and her heart.
From gossip magazines to gleaming Mardi Gras balls, Lucy and Alex navigate the Edwardian era in the Deep South with both passion and guilt.
Lucy knelt and stood throughout Mass, but her heart and mind were set on one person and it wasn’t the Lord. Toward the end of the service, she removed her notepad and pen from her reticule, quickly fingering Alexander’s handkerchief tucked inside. As reverent as possible, she made her way to the portico.
“Taking notes on my church attending habits?” Alexander, dressed in a smart grey suit with a coordinating derby, stepped out from between two of the monstrous Doric columns that flanked the front of the cathedral.
“More like the lack thereof.” Lucy returned her items into her pouch and accepted Alexander’s arm.
“I was there, Lucy.” As they descended the steps, the smell of his sandalwood soap wafted over her like the first smell of peppermint at Christmas—delicious and invigorating. “I sat a few rows back, making sure you prayed when prompted, but I left twice as early to avoid any suspicion of us leaving together.”
They exited the wrought iron gate that enclosed the church yard and paused on the sidewalk.
“And just how discreet is strolling through town?”
“It’ll take the congregation a little while to catch up with our activities.” Alexander winked. “Would you like me to walk you all the way home or bring you to my house where we can pick up an automobile?”
“I’m fine with the two mile walk. It’ll give us more time together, though I’m sorry we live so far out of the way. My parents wanted a bigger lot than those in the city for all of us to run around freely when we were young. But don’t worry about me, I planned ahead.” She stuck the toe of one of her sensible black boots out from the hem of her dress.
“I’m pleased to know you aren’t a slave to fashion.” They went around The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and headed west on the paved sidewalk on Dauphin Street.
“When dealing with clothes passed down from three sisters from the previous century, it’s difficult to be picky.”
“You always manage to look beautiful, though I’ve often wondered why you don’t wear gloves like other ladies. Did your sisters wear them all out?”
Lucy’s laughter rang like a silver bell. “I have several new pairs, but my mother gave up trying to force me to wear them when I turned eighteen. I need my fingers free to hold my pen.”
Alexander smiled. “There’s nothing less personal than the touch of a gloved hand. I liked being able to feel you last night.” He placed his right hand on top of hers on his arm, allowing his fingers to briefly intertwine with hers. “I love how you shirk societal regulations, going to church gloveless and wearing old boots under a fine dress. Things like that shouldn’t matter, though they are often all that are discussed by women in your social circle.”
“My circle is smaller than most.”
“And that’s just the thing! It’s refreshing to see that you don’t fill your life with hollow relationships and cram your calendar with worthless events. Lucy, I’m honored you allowed my foot in the door of your cozy life.”
If they weren’t walking down the sidewalk midday, she would’ve kissed him. As it was, she waited until they passed another couple walking toward them, Alexander tipping his hat and nodding to them.
“Your whole self is invited into my world, Alexander,” she whispered.
A mischievous smile lit his face as Lucy gave him a look that communicated she wanted more of the passion he’d spoken to her about. He brushed his thumb over her cheek. “Soon.”
Murmurs of Evil
The Possession Chronicles Book 2
During the spring of 1906, Magdalene Jones is hired to be a companion to Ruth Melling at Seacliff Cottage, the Mellings' second home on Mobile Bay. Magdalene's simple country upbringing is no match for high society banter and a manor hour infested with demonic activity. Alexander, the Mellings' bachelor son, and Magdalene find themselves oppressed by demons playing upon their lusts. Claudio De Fiore--a young Italian deacon training to become a priest--and newly arrived from Scotland, Douglas Campbell, seek to protect Magdalene from the evil within the walls but they themselves might be part of the trouble.
Mr. Melling turned to the far corner of the room, with what appeared to be a smile. “Alexander, I’m sure you would be happy to entertain Miss Jones until I return.”
“Yes, Father.” From a small settee, a solemn young man with wheaten hair and a square jaw stood.
While Mr. Melling commanded distance and respect, the fresh, clean-shaven face of Alexander Melling drew her in, despite his seriousness. Mr. Melling and Captain Walker took their leave and Alexander came to Magdalene’s side.
“Welcome to Seacliff Cottage. Where would you be more comfortable?” Alexander motioned to both a chair and the matching settee in the corner he’d vacated.
“Here’s fine, thank you.”
Alexander followed Magdalene to the settee, and then took a seat in the armchair across from her. She tried not to study him, but with his coloring at odds with the luxurious reds and mahogany furniture that filled the space, it proved difficult to not turn toward the brightest spot in the room. His blue eyes were the color of the sky on a cloudy day, but they weren’t cold—though Magdalene was certain they could be. Alexander’s pleasing looks caused an ache to open within. Her social time the last few years consisted of her father and his apprentices at mealtimes, church functions, and occasional dinners with extended family. Being this close to a man stirred memories of William and the future she could have had if he hadn’t left her the week before their wedding.
As though seeing the melancholy on her face, Alexander offered his assistance. “I’m sure it’s been a long day for you, Miss Jones. Since Father is gone and no one needs to be the wiser, would you care for a tonic to help you through the remainder of your day?” He motioned to the side table, where a silver trimmed decanter trio stood at the ready. “We aren’t a household to shy away from the occasional drink.”
Magdalene clasped her hands in her lap. “No, thank you. I’m quite comfortable for the time. I understand sympathies are in order.”
“I need no one’s sympathy, but thank you nonetheless.”
“I’m sorry to speak out of turn. I know it’s difficult to lose someone.”
Alexander walked to the mantel and retrieved a framed photograph that was tucked under the drape of the veiled mirror. “You have no idea of the oppression, but you will soon enough.”
Hesitant to touch the gilded frame, Magdalene took the cold thing in her hands, but the face staring back chilled her more. Large, haunting eyes, like her brother’s—but accompanied by the piercing glare of Mr. Melling—was an image she would not soon forget.
“That was taken on her fifteenth birthday. A painting in her cotillion gown hangs in the upstairs hallway, but Mother has it veiled. And, of course, she has Eliza’s final photograph by her bedside. There are some things Mother doesn’t like to share.”
“She’s lovely. Do you both take after your mother?” she asked as he took his seat.
His laugh sounded bitter, but the smile that broke the grief on his face was worth the awkwardness between them. “You’ll be hard-pressed to find out anytime soon.”
“I was under the impression Mrs. Melling is here as I am to be her companion.”
Alexander scoffed. “But of course she’s here. I assess Father did a poor job interviewing you. He was probably afraid to scare off a naïve country girl and conveniently forgot to supply you with all the details about the lady of the house, you poor soul.”
Magdalene sprung off her seat, fists clenched at her side and her pert head high. “You can be sure I’m neither naïve nor to be pitied.”
Alexander rose, meeting her fierce gaze with an expression near admiration. He turned to the side table and opened a decanter. “It’s good to see you have pluck. You’ll need it in the days ahead.” He offered her a crystal chalice of amber liquid.
Magdalene saw it as a challenge. Trying to prove she wasn’t a girl to be pushed around, she took the glass. Their hands touched in the exchange of the goblet. She never knew a man’s hand to be so soft, un-callused. A thrill went up her arm and she kept her eyes on his as she slung back the drink and returned the empty glass into his still outstretched hand.
Then the burn inside her empty stomach struck, followed by coughing. Alexander took her elbow and eased her to the settee.
After the wracking coughs subsided, he touched a strand of her brunette hair that had shaken loose, tucked it behind her ear, and then rested his hand on her shoulder. “We were supposed to toast and then sip, you impulsive thing.”
If her chest wasn’t already seized with burning, it would have engulfed in flames. Not since William had someone touched her so tenderly. Breathless from coughing, Alexander’s nearness flooded her with yearning to absorb all the sensations around her. She wanted to stroke the velvet of the cushion and inhale the different scents of the various decanters. Then dizziness struck, causing her to close her eyes and lean her cheek on the top of Alexander’s hand.
He gently removed his hand from her shoulder, and though in that moment she wished he wouldn’t let go, relief enveloped her when he did. A tear welled in her eye and she turned away from him.
“Guess you aren’t up to brandy.” Alexander patted her knee. “Here, take this. It will help clear your head and hide the odor. We don’t want Father or Mother thinking you have trouble with the bottle.”
Magdalene discretely wiped her eye and turned to accept the mint. After it melted on her tongue, she could breathe easier and ventured to speak. “I hope you don’t think less of me.”
“On the contrary. I have more respect for you than when you arrived.” Alexander poured himself a drink. “And respect is no cheap thing. It’s something you have to earn, and many people find the price to win the respect of a Melling too high.”
He raised the leaded crystal glass and leaned toward her. “This is how it’s done properly.”
It was easy for Magdalene to watch him drink. Soon one of her fingers followed the scrolling pattern on the settee and ventured closer to Alexander on the other end. He set the empty glass on the table and smiled.
“You need to pace yourself, Miss Jones.”
She hiccupped, covered her mouth with her wandering hand, and smiled. “Please call me Magdalene.”
“The Lord will strike me down for getting you drunk on your first day.” He crossed himself.
The feeling of lightness Magdalene first experienced turned heavy. She gripped the armrest with her left hand and used her right to brace herself from falling onto Alexander.
“Oh, for the sake of all things holy, please don’t pass out.” Alexander rang a silver bell from the side table. When the butler came, he gave swift instructions to fetch food and tea from the kitchen.
“Come on, Miss Jones.” He stood in front of her and held out his hands. “You need to get up and moving.”
“I’d rather take a nap.” Her arms went limp and she started to lean to the right.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Alexander caught the weight of her upper body as he dropped to the settee beside her. His left arm went around her waist and his right nudged her head so it nestled on his chest rather than slipping toward his lap.
She looked up at him, brown eyes dewy and wide. “I feel fuzzy, like a peach.”
“Miss Jones.” He leaned forward with her. “If we don’t stand up now, I may regret whatever I do next even more than I do giving you that drink.”
She wobbled so much he had no choice but to tuck her against him, pulling her to his chest as he stood. “Mother Mary, make me strong,” he muttered as he fought to distance himself from her without letting her fall.
“Are we dancing, Mr. Melling?”
He slowly shuffled her toward the fireplace. “Mr. Melling is my father. Call me Alexander, Miss Jones.”
“And I told you to call me Magdalene.” She straightened her back so she wasn’t completely dependent on him.
“That’s possible only when we’re alone.”
She looked up at him. “And how often is that going to happen?”
“Not often enough.”
Carrie Dalby, a California native, has lived in Mobile, Alabama, since 1996. She’s published several non-fiction articles in national and international magazines, served two terms as president of Mobile Writers Guild, worked as the Mobile area Local Liaison for SCBWI from 2012-2017, and volunteers with Metro Mobile Literacy Council’s annual Young Author events whenever possible. When Carrie’s not reading, writing, browsing bookstores/libraries, or homeschooling, she can often be found knitting or attending concerts.
Carrie’s two young adult novels are Fortitude(historical) and Corroded (contemporary). Fortitude is listed as a “Best History Book for kids” with Grateful American Foundation for its historical accuracy and being an engaging read for fifth through tenth graders.
Her current project is a historical Gothic family saga for adults, The Possession Chronicles. The first book in the series, Perilous Confessions, released in January 2019 from Bienvenue Press and the second book, Murmurs of Evil releases June 11, 2019.