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Spirited Getaway

By Leslie Mitchell

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction and any characters, names, places and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, businesses, establishments, events, etc. are entirely coincidental.

Cover background: Original photo by Tsvibrav of Dreamstime

Cover foreground: Original photo by Mimagephotography of Dreamstime. The model who posed for the image has no relation to any characters in the book.

Copyright 2018 by Leslie Mitchell

All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 1

Joline drove down the long lane that led to the historical Reading Estate, a unique bed and breakfast situated about seventy miles northwest of Richmond, Virginia. Located on the edge of beautiful Shenandoah National Park, she looked forward to a relaxing stay, leaving behind the troubles of the big city.

The narrow lane was lined with ancient oaks, their gnarled limbs reaching out over the road, vibrant red and orange leaves fluttering in the light morning breeze. Joline liked this time of year, where the air had a brisk scent of the winter to come, and all the world was awash in color.

Emerging from her tunnel of orange and red she came upon the wide estate grounds with the Federal Style mansion in the distance. The place was huge, with the expansive well-manicured lawn, meticulously clipped shrubbery and scattered trees in their fall foliage. Even the residence was inspiring, a sprawling two story brick home with symmetrical windows, a low-pitched roof, and decorative moldings.

She had visited the bed and breakfast twice before in the not too distant past, and knew something of the estate’s history. Joline remembered the first time she heard the story, from the lips of Mrs. Fowler, the present owner of the fine establishment. They had been at the dinner table, and she had animatedly related it to her guests.

“The main residence was built around 1830 by retired English general Ernst Reading,” she had said with some enthusiasm. “He was a very strict man, no doubt a carryover from his days in the military. Also, he was a tried and true bachelor, having little to do with women. So he whiled away his days in retirement until the outbreak of the Civil War. Rumor was he sided with the north and so the place was spared the depredations of the advancing Union Army. But the local southern gentlemen branded him a traitor, and he possibly met his fate at their hands. No one really knows for sure.” She paused for effect, and then continued in a low voice. “In fact, there are rumors that this place is haunted by this very man, and at night you can sometimes hear him walking the hallways in lonely solitude.”

At the time she had found the story thrilling. But so far Joline had observed no direct evidence of any spectral manifestations in the mansion, and placed the tales and rumors under the category of folklore. Even now, years later, the place was still her favorite bed and breakfast to visit and get away from it all.

Pulling into a narrow parking space reserved for guests, she looked over at the main building and sighed. The place never failed to amaze her, for it almost dripped history, and yet she felt relaxed here, almost as if she were able to merge herself with the past, leaving the problems of the present behind. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of a vacation?

Grabbing her bags, she made her way up to the landing, and grasping the handle, stepped inside. Looking around, Joline noted that the place had changed little since she last visited, about a year ago. The ambiance of the estate still made her sigh, like she was stepping onto hallowed ground to become one once more with its elegant past.

“May I help you, miss?” asked the lady behind the small reception counter that occupied part of the foyer. Joline immediately recognized the owner, perhaps a little older than she remembered, but she could never forget that inviting smile.

“Yes, I have a reservation for the weekend,” she said, stepping forward.

“Name?” the lady inquired, looking at a small computer screen behind the counter. The estate may be old, but the owner made use of modern electronic equipment.

“Joline Harper,” she said.

“Joline…” said the proprietor, almost as if to herself. Then she took a closer look at Joline over the top edge of her glasses. “Oh, my gosh, it is you!” she exclaimed. “It’s been ages and ages! How have you been?”

“Just fine, Mrs. Fowler.”

“Please, call me Patrice.”

“Ok, Patrice,” she smiled.

“Well, we have certainly missed your patronage. I must say that you are one of my favorite guests!”

“Why, thank you,” Joline replied, genuinely pleased that Mrs. Fowler remembered her. She realized that the owner likely told all her guests that, but it felt nice anyway.

“Well, let’s see now,” mused Mrs. Fowler. “You are a little early, but fortunately the room I have reserved for you is presently untenanted, so you can go right on up.”

“That’s good,” said Joline. In fact she knew she was early, but had wanted to drive out here as quickly as she could, once she had finished a few things at the office.

“Ok, here is your key, room 209,” Mrs. Fowler said, handing her a key attached to a fancy key chain. Go right up the stairs, turn right, last room on the left.”


“I think you’ll like the view. It’s very pretty this time of year.”

“I’m sure I’ll love it,” Joline said, turning to go.

“Oh, and we’ll be serving lunch in about fifteen minutes. I know you’ve just gotten in, but I’m sure the other guests would enjoy meeting you.”

“Thank you, yes. That would be nice.”

Joline knew that the actual check-in time was around two or three in the afternoon, and so lunch shouldn’t have been provided for today. But that was the way Mrs. Fowler ran her bread and breakfast, and one of the many reasons why Joline continued her patronage, especially when the stress of her financial consultation firm became too great.

The stairs were wide and elegant, and remarkably easy to negotiate even with two small bags. Arriving at the top of the stairs she looked both ways, taking in the ambiance of the original woodwork, old paintings, and intermittent statue ware that lined the hallway. With a sigh she turned to the right, took five steps, and almost immediately collided with a man who burst from a room, looking behind him.

Frantically he tried to steady her but in doing so pulled her down on top of him, fortunately her bags cushioning him in the process. Joline raised herself somewhat, still not sure what was going on, only to look directly into the stranger’s sea blue eyes that seemed to leave her stunned, like she was adrift on an ocean of dreams.

For some reason she could not look away, and like a deer in the headlights she lay transfixed, breathing in his male fragrance, and doing her best to suppress the unexpected urge to press her lips to his in an uncontrollable kiss.

“Miss, are you all right?” asked the man from below her.

His question seemed to snap her out of the spell, the spell of a close encounter with a man that she now realized was quite handsome, though in a rugged sort of way. She noticed the light brown hair, again those enchanting eyes, and a square cut jawline that reminded her of the painting of English general Ernst Reading himself that hung in the parlor.

“Oh, yes, I’m fine, thank you,” she replied, slowly climbing off of him, though to her surprise quite reluctantly.

“I’m very sorry, ma’am. It was completely my fault,” he said, jumping to his feet, as if falling to the floor with a woman on top of him was merely a minor physical happenstance.

“No, no, it was partly my fault as well.”

“Here, let me help you up,” he offered. To her surprise he wrapped an arm around her slim waist and tenderly drew Joline to her feet. Joline immediately noticed that he was tall, at least six feet, and built like a professional athlete. Lifting her dead weight seemed an almost effortless act.

“Oh, one of your shoes is missing,” he exclaimed, looking around. Then he saw it poking out from underneath her smaller bag and deftly grabbed it.

“Here, steady now.” He squatted down before her, almost as if he were proposing, grabbed the shoe, and gently lifting her leg, slipped it on her foot. For a moment she felt like Cinderella, standing there, looking down upon her prince, her right hand resting on his broad shoulders.

“There,” he said, “all good.”

Slowly he rose to stand beside her, in fact all too close for Joline’s comfort, and the resulting pattering of her heart she had not felt in some time. And, she had to admit that this was a discomfort she could well get used to.

“Now, are you sure you’re ok?” he asked.

“Yes… yes, I’m fine,” Joline stammered in reply.

The man breathed a sigh of relief, as if he were genuinely concerned with the welfare of a stranger. Her cynical nature tried to explain away his apparent concern as self-centeredness, but for some reason she knew it was not. Just a look into his eyes told the tale, and again she was lost in those limpid pools.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that. And, again, I apologize. I should never have left my room that way, in such haste, not looking.”

“Why did you?” she asked, actually wondering what would cause such an action for a man that actually seemed quite level-headed.

Then a perplexing look crossed his face. “You know, I’m not really sure. For some reason I had the strangest urge to leave the room, immediately. For the life of me I can’t explain why.”

Joline thought for a moment. She herself had never directly experienced anything strange happening at the bed and breakfast, but she had heard rumors. And now could add this occurrence to the list, though this time she was directly involved. Why had he burst forth at that very moment, only to collide with her?

“By the way, I’m Nathon Jones,” he said. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“What? Oh…I’m Joline Harper,” she replied, breaking out of her train of thought. She then noticed the out-stretched hand, and shook it. To her surprise it felt warm and comforting, bringing on an involuntary sigh that escaped her lips. Reluctantly she let go, but noticed an inviting smile on his face that left her entranced.

Reaching down he picked up both her bags with effortless ease. “May I help you to your room?” he asked.

“Oh, you needn’t bother…”

“It’s the least I can do,” he replied, gazing into her eyes, and again she noticed that enchanting look that made her want to lean against him and be enfolded in his strong arms.

“Well, all right,” she replied in a soft voice.

“Which way?” he asked, looking to left and right.

“Um, down the hall, that way. Room 209.”

“Ok.” Nodding in agreement he matched Joline’s slow pace, though she realized he could probably have dashed down the hall in four seconds flat, even carrying her luggage.

“You know, I have to admit that I’ve never met anyone in quite the way I met you,” he laughed. “I hope you can forgive me.”

Joline looked up momentarily at Nathon, and saw his earnest eyes, then looked back down. She didn’t want to again lose herself in that sea blue expanse, as much as she wanted to. “Of course, think nothing of it,” she replied. “Besides, I should have been more aware of my surroundings, and so bear some of the responsibility.”

“Well, I can understand that. Every time I visit here I am almost mesmerized by the place, by the history that surrounds us.”

Joline gave an intake of breath. So, she was not the only one impressed with the estate. “I agree. I find the entire place quite amazing.”

“Here it is,” said Nathon. “Room 209.”

Joline reached into her small purse that had somehow remained slung over her shoulder, and pulled out the key. Mrs. Fowler may use a state of the art booking system, but she had kept to old fashioned keys, that frankly added to the experience, as far as Joline was concerned.

Placing the key in the lock, she turned it and heard the click. Grabbing the doorknob she pushed open the door to reveal a tastefully decorated room with a desk, chair, dresser, and twin bed covered with a delightful hand-crocheted lace bedspread, which tastefully mixed the historical past with the amenities of the modern world. Part of those modern amenities included a small half bath on the left, likely a recent addition.

“Nice room,” said Nathon, slowly following her in, looking around as she herself was doing. “Where would you like the bags?” he asked.

“What? Oh, just place them on the bed.”

She turned back to gaze out the window, which gave a panoramic view of the grounds behind the mansion, with its beautifully manicured lawn and shrubbery, trees, fountains, walking paths, and an ornately decorated gazebo at the center.

“Nice view,” she heard him say, standing close to her. She looked up to see him looking out across the expanse, clearly as amazed as she. But, still, she felt uncomfortable at his near proximity. No, not a distasteful discomfort, but rather quite the opposite. She almost wished he would wrap his arms around her, and kiss her on the neck, as she gazed out across the beautiful scene. But, the moment faded, and she turned and went to the bed, arranging her bags for unpacking.

“Well, I guess I’ll be going,” he said.

“Thank you for helping me with my bags,” Joline replied, trying not to look at him, fearing she might do something she would later regret.

“It was the least I could do,” he said. “Are you going down for lunch?”

She looked up, saw his inquiring expression, and then immediately returned her attention to a stubborn zipper on her bag. “Perhaps,” she replied.

“Then maybe I’ll see you there. It was nice meeting you, Ms. Harper.”

“The same, Mr. Jones.”

He left the room and slowly closed the door behind him. With a sigh Joline almost collapsed on the bed next to her bags.

Why had it happened now? she asked herself. She just wanted to get away for a while, get away from the stresses of the office, and relax at her favorite bed and breakfast. And, then, before she can even get settled in, she literally falls atop a man. And what a man! Her will just turns to jelly when she looks into his eyes. Yes, not only has she fallen atop a man, Mr. Nathon Jones by name, but she has fallen for him as well!

Chapter 2

Shaking off her inner revelation, Joline applied self-therapy by immersing herself in her unpacking, and trying not to think of Nathon Jones, of his square cut features, tall athletic build, and easy demeanor. Simply put, he was an amazing man, the best she’d met in ages, in fact ever! Perhaps not quite thirty, his good looks and sea blue eyes sent shivers down her spine. Joline couldn’t remember the last time she felt this way.

But truthfully she knew nothing about him. Still, he seemed kind, and had several opportunities to make a pass at her, and yet for some reason did not. Yes, she had met a number of men over the years, though none had ever thrown her for a loop like this one.

Joline sighed in resignation. Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. She was bound to eventually encounter a man to which she had no immunity. Joline laughed to herself. No immunity. Now she was treating love like a disease!

“Love? What?” she exclaimed out loud. “Am I really falling in love with Nathon Jones?” Impossible, she said to herself. This was just a temporary infatuation. Given time, it would pass, and she could return to work refreshed and ready to go.

She took her time unpacking, and so arrived late for lunch. Looking about the Great Hall, what she had named the large main dining room, she noted that the guests were already seated, leisurely eating, drinking, and involved in casual conversation. Joline saw only one empty seat, and immediately made a beeline for it.

Joline nodded to the older man seated on the right and said hello to an elderly lady on her left as she pulled out the chair to sit down. She scooted the chair up to the table, looked up, and immediately became transfixed by the knowing blue gaze of Mr. Nathon Jones, who was seated directly across from her.

She didn’t know what do, but just stared stupidly, like seeing a man was a rare event, like some astral phenomena to be savored and set aside in memory forever. He merely smiled back, and then nodded. “Ms. Harper,” he said in a low voice.

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