The Wild Rose Press
Accused of her husband’s murder, druid Kylah McKinley travels back through time to her past life in 1324 Ireland and brings the true killer to justice.
This story took 11 years from start to finish. In 2004, I read an article by Pamela Butler in the Richard III Society’s magazine The Ricardian, about Alice Kyteler, who was accused of witchcraft in 1324. She then vanished into history. I couldn’t resist writing a book about her.
Two months of hell change Kylah’s life forever. On her many past life regressions, she returns to 14th century Ireland as Alice Kyteler, a druid moneylender falsely accused of murdering her husband. Kylah’s life mirrors Alice’s in one tragic event after another, she finds her husband sprawled on the floor, cold, blue, with no pulse. Evidence points to her, and police arrest her for his murder. Kylah and Alice shared another twist of fate, they fell in love with the man who believed in them. As Kylah prepares for her trial and fights to maintain her innocence, she must learn from her past or forever be doomed to repeat it.
Brooke gave Dominic a finger-wave goodbye as she slipped into her rented Lexus at the airport. She knew where Barnstable was; she summered here and on Nantucket when she started making serious money. Up to Route 6A and head east, easy enough. She punched the address into the dashboard GPS.
Ordinarily she’d get a crew out here to cover this, but the story was too important to leave in the hands of underlings. This would pack a ratings-busting punch with its reverse twist—the wife killing the husband.
While driving, she mentally ran through questions she had for Kylah’s neighbors, then she’d dash to Kylah’s store to grill the employees and whatever customers wandered in. The Ancient Oak—cute name—was probably packed now, with Kylah on the brink of infamy. What tourist visiting quaint old Cape Cod wouldn’t want to bring home a souvenir from a store owned by the witch who cast a death spell over her husband?
She planned to grab a souvenir of her own, to wear on her show. Maybe one of those flowing dresses, or a witchy looking 5-pointed pendant. Dazzling diamonds did look kitsch day in day out, in the immortal words of her beloved late pal Joan Rivers.
She knew one thing: no matter what Dominic said about Enid Streetman, the poor woman whose daughter had committed suicide—she’d be the best subject of all, next to nabbing Kylah herself. She had to find out where Mrs. Streetman lived, and knew the obvious way to find out—get Dominic in a good mood. A slobbering good mood. She smirked, admiring her blepharoplastied eyelids, Botoxed forehead and silicone-injected lips in the lighted visor mirror as she stopped at a light.
Oh, yes, the Reverend Dominic Bugbee, the inspirational speaker and Lord’s instrument, was just like any other man when aroused to the point of no return.
Brooke couldn’t believe her eyes or her good luck. There they were, in the flesh, not fifty feet from her, trapped like two ranch minks. She never thought she’d get anywhere near Kylah. Why hadn’t the witch hired bodyguards?
She halted the Lexus directly behind his car and slid out, smoothing her dress and clicking the digital recorder on.
“Mr. Richardson!” she called him in a musical, charming, seductive tone that no man could ever resist.
He turned to face her. After the usual delay when disbelief becomes reality, his features returned to normal, as if he could now believe his eyes.
“Are you—Brooke Hill?”
“That’s me, sir.” She inched up to him so slowly, she had the microphone in his face before he realized she’d moved a muscle. “I’d greatly appreciate if you and Mrs. McKinley could answer a few questions.”
As he moved to shove her away, the passenger door opened and Kylah McKinley unfolded her svelte figure from the car. “Mike, what—huh?” Her eyes stabbed Brooke. “What are you doing here?” Her tone wavered between accusatory and disbelief.
“I’d simply like to ask a few questions, Mrs. McKinley.” Dodging the lawyer’s attempted shove, Brooke made a quick about face and strode up to Kylah. “I’m Brooke Hill.” She thrust her hand out. Aside from being face to face with a famous TV personality, her out-thrust hand always brought their guard crashing down. Guys especially turned to mush before her eyes. Kylah took her hand, looking lost as to what else to do.
“We don’t want any interviews, now please remove yourself from the premises.” Richardson stepped between her and Kylah, shielding her with his muscled arms. Never having been punched in the nose or in the path of a flung chair, Brooke was always bolder than her male counterparts.
“But just a few questions, not an interview.”
“No chance.” The lawyer stood his ground. “You’re trespassing on private property. Now leave before I call the police.”
She ignored him, looked past his broad shoulder and peered up at Kylah, clearly a head taller. “Mrs. McKinley, I thought you’d want to set the record straight. Do you truly believe your husband committed suicide or was he murdered?”
“Don’t answer her, Kylah.” He nudged Kylah back, his arms now extended in front of him, warding Brooke off. “Look, Ms. Hill, we want privacy, Mrs. McKinley is in no emotional state to talk to you, and if you’re not out of here in five seconds, I’m calling the cops.” To prove he wasn’t bluffing, he slid a cell phone from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and slid it open like a switchblade.
So he wanted to duke it out. En garde! “I’m speaking to Mrs. McKinley, not to you, sir.” Brooke’s voice dripped with honey as she shifted her eyes over to Kylah and smiled, displaying her dazzling crowns.
“Wait, Mike,” Kylah said calmly, placing a hand on his arm. “I’ll talk to her.”
His astonished eyes met Brooke’s.
“Thank you ever so kindly, Mrs. McKinley. I truly appreciate your understanding.” Brooke made her voice sound like a swirl of whipped cream.
“You don’t want to talk to media hounds, Kylah, they’ll never leave you alone!” the lawyer ranted.
“It’s all right, Mike. I can handle this. I do want to set the record straight.” She narrowed her forest green eyes directly on Brooke. “At first I believed Ted committed suicide by taking a lethal combination of my herbs.” She spoke as if on the witness stand. “But now I tend to believe he was murdered. The District Attorney believes he was murdered, too. And it’s up to me and my counsel to prove my innocence, and set them back on the path of the true killer.”
Without any more questions on the subject, Brooke came right out with, “Would you be willing to grant an interview on the air, Mrs. McKinley? Public opinion really can sway the outcome in cases like these.”
She waited a moment and mulled it over. Brooke held her breath, wanting to shake a yes out of her. Glancing over at the lawyer, she could see he was bursting to wrap a gag around his lover, client or whatever she was to him—Brooke would find that out soon enough, too.
Finally Kylah spoke. “Not at this time. Thank you. Come on, Mike.” She took his hand and they turned their backs on her as they disappeared around the side of the house.
“But Mrs. McKinley—” Brooke ran after them and clutched Kylah’s shoulder. “Is it true you have no alibi for the time your husband was reported to have died?” She spoke with rapid-fire speed, as she learned to do when a subject was getting away. Sometimes one last provocative question led to another—and before she knew it, she had her interview.
Kylah shook Brooke off, brushing auburn strands out of her eyes. “I can’t comment any further,” she replied evenly, with the hint of a smile.
Damn, she’s good, Brooke admitted to herself. The witch was playing her. Where had she learned that? Did witches do it to normal people when they cast spells on them? That thought caused Brooke to physically back off as Kylah inserted a key into the side door, pushing it open. What if Kylah could put some spell on her, do her harm? No, that’s silly! Brooke chided herself. She was a seasoned professional; a target for nuts of all kinds. Her daily mailbag more than spelled that out. She didn’t fear any supernatural mumbo-jumbo some amateur stargazer brewed up.
But she knew it was time to get out of here anyway. “Thank you,” she uttered and turned to leave.
Knowing no one was watching, she dropped her professional mask and the pasted-on smile. She now looked like she felt: defeated, knocked down. But Brooke Hill didn’t stay down. She came up fighting. She’d get an interview with Kylah McKinley before the trial, dammit. Now she knew Kylah was the easy-going, accommodating type. A little more buttering up, and Kylah would ask her to come around and grant her some publicity!
She had to believe that, if her show was going to stay on top and collect another pile of Emmys. But it wouldn’t be easy. The hotshot lawyer would try to parry her every thrust. How to get his guard down? While wondering if Dominic could help her, she saw a dented red car slow to a stop and the window roll down. “Brooke Hill?” The driver stuck her head out and called in a small, timid voice.
“Yes, can I help you?” She clip-clopped down the driveway on her heels, which pinched like hell.
“I’d like to talk to you. And make sure you get the full story.”
* * *
Brooke peered a bit closer. The girl was anywhere from late teens to early twenties, but garbed out more like a teen, with pink-streaked hair pulled back into a scrunchie and haphazardly applied concealer that did little to hide the circles under her eyes. Gaunt and pale, she was obviously connected to this case, by the look of anguish hardening her features.
“I’m Charlotte McKinley. Ted McKinley’s stepdaughter. I can answer any questions you have about the case.”
So, if a bag of gold hadn’t landed in her lap, this was a bag of silver. The stepdaughter’s angle on the story would be entirely different from the widow or the lawyer. And it saved Brooke the trouble of scouting out McKinley’s biker friends for now.
“Of course we can talk. How about you park your car down the street there and come with me? We can sit in my car. Have you ever been in a Lexus?” she asked encouragingly.
“No, but my mother owns a brand new 450 SL convertible and part of a Learjet.”
“Oh.” So much for that. They had dough. That was a good point. The masses liked gawking at the other half. She could play up the affluent bit. “Then come sit with me and we’ll talk.”
The girl parked her car on the corner and Brooke pulled up to meet her. She already knew how cute Charlotte would look on television. She’d be swamped with adoring Twitter followers in no time. Maybe a recording contract was even in the future. Could she sing? Oh, well, since when did that matter?
She remembered reading in a woman’s magazine, this was the hug—around the waist from behind—that told a woman her guy was in love with her. A warm thrill spiraled through her.
“So how did we find each other over six centuries?”
“The universe brought us together. It knows what we need, even if we don’t know. The universe, which created all of us and our fate, knows what’s in our subconscious, and in our hearts. The universe ensures that our paths cross. If you lived in France, I would’ve met you in France. If I lived in Mongolia, some set of circumstances would’ve brought you there, so we could meet there. We just happen to live in the same state, so it was a little easier this time.”
“But why did it take all these centuries and bad marriages?”
* * *
Druidism has three branches of learning. There’s the Bards, the Ovates and the Druids—all part of the Druid philosophy. In ancient times an Ovate was a prophet, a seer, a healer, medium and time traveler. In modern times, an Ovate practices herbalism, healing, and still can practice divination.”
“Aren’t Ovates witches?” he asked.
“No,” she replied. “Because of the similarities to Wicca, a lot of people think Ovates are witches, but we’re not. The Ovates are the ones who have the best understanding of the mysteries of death the rebirth, for transcending time, seeing into the future, conversing with the ancestors, learning the patterns they’ve woven—although I don’t have the seer ability.”
“You mean psychic ability?”
She nodded. “Similar. The way Ovates travel in time is like it’s been explained by physics. We believe in reincarnation, that everything—life, the stars, the planets—is an endless circle. Spirits do not die, but after death pass from one body to another. That’s why Druids have their ceremonies at ancient stone circles. Our spirits are immortal, and after a certain number of years, we live another life when the spirit passes to another body.
Bring my spirit back to Alice’s body, alive in the year thirteen-twenty-four.”
‘Si an bhean ina raibh m’anam i rith a shaoil féin. Tóg mo anam ar ais go choirp Ailis agus í beo i mblian míle trí chead fiche cheathair.’
* * *
I’m talking about going back in time so I can learn from history.”
“When I lived there, I visited the Kyteler Inn she once owned. I instantly knew I’d been there before. I modeled my herb garden after the garden there. They keep it as closely as possible to what she grew. But something drew me there in the first place, and once I settled in, I knew I somehow belonged. I was there long ago. Before this life. Over the last few years, I was regressed by various hypnotists, and when I was under, I had vivid visions and uncovered specific facts that told me beyond any doubt that I was Alice in a previous life. I’m her reincarnation.” She thumped her chest with her fingertips. “Then I found out Ted’s life and her husband John’s life paralleled. Alice was accused of killing John. During his murder trial, she went on trial for witchcraft at the same time, which blew up to immense proportions. Court records detail the trial. And when I saw that record of her trial, I already knew how it would end.”
“How did it end?” Now he sounded curious.
“Yes, that’s part of it. But I won’t ask you to go there with me. We are together in that time, as we are now. Time isn’t linear, it doesn’t come and go. Every second exists simultaneously. The year 1324 is going on right now, in another dimension. So I will see you there. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
He said, “I took quantum physics in college, so I’ve heard this theory before, but never knew Druids had a way to prove it can happen.”
“We’ve been doing it for thousands of years. Before the words ‘quantum physics’ ever entered any language.
* * *
He lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her. Liquid fire surged through her and she pulled away before their desire got the best of them. “This is hardly the place to get romantic. We’ll have plenty of time to spend together when this is over with.” She indulged in one more touch to the lips and a lingering squeeze of his hand.
Adam was either working the fields or visiting his tenants. He’d be home ere nightfall, as always, with a warm hug as she greeted him with his tankard of ale. She looked forward to his return, eagerly awaiting his embrace, his kiss, their shared intimacy. But before she greeted him at the door, she wanted to freshen up. She headed back to her chamber. She would surprise him with her hair flowing down her back. She began pulling out pins and tossing them on the dresser.
That dream of the other night—it was Michael she’d dreamed about. A rush of love warmed her heart. Without him, she’d be a lonely widow she tried to remember what had brought her and Adam together. It had something to do with Will’s death, and—
Now here she was; she wasn’t in prison, she was back in her inn, safely married to Adam. But it didn’t make sense; this didn’t parallel her present life. Where had their lives diverged? And why?
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a diary on the night table and interrupted her grooming to dash over and open it. The handwriting was upright, the wording that of the Middle Ages, but the minute she lay her eyes on the page, she understood every word. It was the date that stunned her: May 25, 1304. Oh, no! This was twenty years before Alice was convicted of witchcraft and murdering a later husband. In 1304, she’d just married Adam le Blund. Alice wasn’t accused of witchcraft and murdering her final husband until 1324. She racked her memory for that husband’s name. John something. John LePoer, that was it! Good God, she’d landed in the wrong decade of Alice’s life!
Confusion hit her, scrambling her thoughts. She was relieved that she and Adam were cleared of Will’s death, but why was she in 1304 and not 1324, as she’d concentrated on? There had to be a reason.
She knew she couldn’t stay. This was the wrong time; she needed to be later in Alice’s life, when she was accused of John’s murder, and the witchcraft trial, the huge battle between church and state. Most of all, she needed to know if Alice escaped her fate and if she ever found the killer. She knew in her soul that she could never kill anyone. In 1324, she was set up, just as she was in her present life, and needed to learn if and how Alice cleared her name.
She had to get back to her own time and take the journey again. But she’d need to concentrate even more intently on returning to 1324, to the events she needed to re-live.
“Oh, God, I have to get back home!” Her confidence dwindling, her fear escalating with her rapid heartbeat, she clasped her hands and prayed to get out of here alive.
As she heard footsteps rustling in the grass behind her. She turned to see the man she’d held and loved in her dream, the man she didn’t want to leave when she woke. She instantly knew who he was.
“Adam!” Instinctively she held out her arms, wanting him to embrace her and hold her close. He rushed up to her and enveloped her warmly.
“Hello, luv. I missed ye today.” His lips came down to claim hers and she shivered with delight at his warm inviting kiss. She tingled all over.
“Me, too.” His embrace relaxed and she looked up into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen, bluer than the sky above. Flecks of gold sparkled in them as he gazed at her lovingly. She inhaled his essence of leather, the outdoors and rugged manliness.
They linked arms and walked toward the house. “Have a busy day today?” He brushed the top of her head with his lips.
“I—” She couldn’t tell him anything about her day. She’d just gotten here no more than fifteen minutes ago. Her surroundings looked familiar and she knew she’d been here before, yet she felt strangely disoriented. She juggled a disconcerting mixture of feelings. But she knew how she felt about Adam. She felt as if she’d known him all her life—which life, she didn’t know. But he certainly was no stranger.
“I kept busy.” Her vague reply seemed to satisfy him, because he glanced into the hearth, lifted the cauldron lid and peered inside.
“I see that.” He turned to her, smiling, one brow raised. “Couldn’t decide what to prepare for the evening meal?”
“Oh, goodness.” She clutched the square neckline of her bodice. “I’m so sorry, Adam. I was tending the garden all day.”
“Not to worry.” He waved a hand. “Has getting your herbs back together busied you?”
He nodded, gesturing. “Aye, after they confiscated it all, when we were arrested. They did take all the herbs, did they not?”
This sounded familiar, too. The police took four of her herb jars away—but in her modern life. Had it happened here, to Alice, also? She had to think fast on her feet. “Oh, y—aye, I haven’t actually done anything yet, but—” She knew where the herb cupboard was, downstairs. She glanced at the door leading to the cellar. Alice must have had a cupboard, too, and they’d taken the contents when she was accused of killing Will Outlawe. That was it! Relief relaxed her muscles, no longer coiled like springs. But niggling at the back of her mind was the need to get out of here and back home, the sooner the better. As Alice, she didn’t want to leave Adam. She was undeniably attracted to him, and for an instant, considered staying the night. She mentally berated herself for thinking Alice’s thoughts instead of hers.
“Adam, I’m sorry, I’ll get the meal cooking right away. How does shepherd’s pie sound?” It sounded good to her and got her mouth watering.
“Never mind, what’s say I take you to the Tinker’s Rest for a meal? We haven’t done anything like that in ages.”
“Why, that sounds grand.” She looked down at her worn, wrinkled work dress. “But I needs change into more presentable attire.”
“Ye do that, milady, whilst I wash up. Be there any fresh water about the house?” He glanced over at the basin.
She had no way of knowing that. “I’m not sure, my dear, the chambermaids might have emptied all the basins this morning. Ye’ll have to check.”
“Will do.” He snapped a finger, turned on a heel of his leather boot and galloped up the stairs.
What a charming, delightful, loving man. She longed to spend more time with him. But she had to get home. She dashed back out into the garden and began gathering rosemary, calendula, angelica and chamomile. She wished she could drink it in a nice warm brew, but there was no time for that. All she could do was pour water over the mixture in a pewter tankard and gulp it down.