Danielle Carmichael’s back was aching.
Heaving a bereaved sigh, she rolled to the other side of her bed, yanked a pillow from behind her head and shoved it between her knees.
Somebody, she couldn’t remember who, had once told her that doing this would ease the pain in her lower back. It did, but only marginally. If she was lucky, it would dim the pain enough for her to eventually fall asleep. If she were lucky, that is.
Most nights she wasn’t and the pain was so acute she could not get to sleep.
However, tonight she felt that it might be one of those rare nights- her back gave an involuntary spasm of agony and Dani flinched. Maybe not.
Curse the horse that had thrown her five years ago. Ever since then, her back had been giving her painful protests every time she was in a horizontal position or when she sat down for too long. The doctor said she had come close to breaking it and that it would give her problems for the rest of her life. He did not, however, state that insomnia would be one of them.
Sighing resolutely, Dani gingerly climbed from her bed, her back panging as she did so, and lit a candle on her bedside table. Maybe she could read herself to exhaustion. Most nights she would sit or stand by the large window of her room that stared out over the short expanse of countryside to the dark oblivion of the English Channel’s horizon. If she listened carefully, she could hear the waves crashing against the vast, precarious cliffs of Cornwall’s coastline.
Silently, she padded over to her window where a silvery blue stream of moonlight cascading in through the open, heavy drapes. Folding her arms under her breasts, she leaned against the cool wall on one side and looked out at the dark view provided to her.
She loved it here. The country was beautiful, yawningly stretching as far as the eye could see and there was just something about the ocean that moved her.
Her aunt and uncle’s cottage was situated on the top of a hill in the small village of Falmouth which provided them an uninterrupted view of the landscape right down to the precipitous cliffs that dropped into the ocean. On a warm, cloudless day the ocean was a vivid blue or turquoise. On a more cloudy, unwelcoming day, the water could turn just as vehement.
Although dark, Dani liked to picture the countryside just as it would be were the sun up. Rolling green hills descended towards the ocean, dotted with trees and little brown roads. And then, right on the edge, Falmouth Castle. An abandoned, monstrous creation of beauty and wonder, it looked over the ocean soberly, keeping a solemn, melancholy watch over the English Channel. A gothic sentinel for passing ships…
Dani studied its dark spires, admiring the sleek design and history of the monument. Oh, she would love to explore there one day. It was said to be abandoned but how anyone could leave such a wondrous home was beyond her. But if it were abandoned-
Wait. Was that… a light? A small, orange rectangle suddenly appeared in one of the eastern spires of the castle. A light? Surely… that could only mean it wasn’t abandoned… or somebody had taken vacancy there illegally- a vagrant.
Well, Dani huffed, that certainly would not do. She’d not watch some loathsome person make such a beautiful monument derelict. Seeing that she wasn’t going to get any more sleep that night anyway and her aunt and uncle were soundly unconscious, Dani made a quick decision and hurriedly went to her wardrobe.
It was easily an hour’s walk to the castle, half an hour if she walked fast, she reasoned as she pulled on a black day dress (her mourning colours). God knew she couldn’t take a horse and a carriage absolutely played havoc on her spine, so she would have to walk. It wouldn’t be so bad if she kept to the roads and didn’t dally, which she never did. Danielle Carmichael didn’t have an idle bone in her body.