Thursday, January 31, 2013

First Chapters: A Gargoyle for the Hotel Gothica by Eleanor Maine

A Gargoyle for the Hotel Gothica was originally published under Eleanor Maine's pen name, Ellie Moonwater. As it is not as raunchy as Ellie's titles, Eleanor has decided to publish it under her own name.

When Claire Handley wins her bid for a Scottish gargoyle and the Journal of Magick written by James Macgregor, she doesn’t believe the Scotsman’s centuries-old tales. It’s only when the legends come alive, invading her home and her bed, that she must decide whose side she’s on.

A Gargoyle for the Hotel Gothica is the first tale to be set around the gargoyles linked to the Hotel Gothica or the gargoyles that reside there. This novella can be found at Smashwords, Kobo, Kindle, and CreateSpace.

 Chapter 1: Arrival at the Hotel Gothica

The crate had been loaded with care, its contents cushioned by foam, and iron bands shrunk to fit so it didn’t burst open. It had been packed in a shipping container and hauled down from the highlands on the back of a monster truck driven by a driver who should have been certified insane long ago. Its contents had been auctioned before being packed back into the crate and loaded onto a ship in Greenock.
Since then, the crate had travelled three oceans and rounded the Cape. It had skirted the southern reaches of the world’s largest island and come to rest in that island’s only island state. The crew of the freighter, Hinchinbrook, was glad to see the back of it.
It wasn’t that there was anything particularly sinister about the crate—it was a normal shipping container, painted a bright reddish-orange and labeled in white with the firm’s logo,  just like all the others. Unlike all the others, however, there were some in the crew who claimed they only had to walk past the thing for it to give them the creeps… and there were some as whispered that something moved within.
Others claimed the wind moaned more loudly when they stood in close proximity, and a few even claimed that the wind moaned when they stood right next to it and there was no wind at all. More than one hinted at seeing a look of relief cross the lorry driver’s face as the thing was unloaded from his truck.
Claire Handley knew nothing of these rumors as she watched it being unloaded at Hobart’s docks—and she wouldn’t have cared if she had. She didn’t have time for such things. The Hotel Gothica, her Hotel Gothica, was due to open in less than a week, and the gargoyle was the last thing that needed to be fitted before the hotel’s inauguration. It would form the perfect finish to the guest entrance in what had once been Saint David’s Cathedral.
Claire had kept her promise of keeping the main area of the cathedral open to the public. The stained-glass windows and vaulted ceiling provided the perfect backdrop for the Gothica Café, and she had reserved a portion as a chapel, using long tubs of carefully pruned and trellised citrus trees to form a living wall around it. Smaller tubs, containing sweetly-scented lavender, formed a low border around the trees, and the two-tiered arrangement gave privacy to any who might need it.
Velvet-covered benches, flanked by statues or more greenery, and iron-work chairs and tables were scattered around the remainder of the hotel’s ground floor to provide people with nooks in which they could settle to wait for loved ones or guests, or stations from which to admire the windows—and all around the place were gargoyles, some hanging from pillars, others hiding beneath benches, and still others peering out from beside potted plants. It was no longer a church, but Claire hoped it was still a place where people could find solace and solitude.
The benches, statuary and greenery had been set aside to provide a clear path for the crate and its contents to follow, and Claire watched as the workmen began unpacking the creature she’d fallen in love with in Scotland.
Perhaps ‘fallen in love’ was too strong a term, but she could think of none better to describe the feelings of pride and affection she felt for the beautiful carving. Yes, it was a gargoyle, and, no, it wasn’t exactly pretty, but it showed superb craftsmanship and elegant lines. Claire suppressed a flutter at the memory of some of those lines.
The corded muscles of its forelimbs stretched into well-muscled shoulders, and the large hands that would rest on the lintel over the door leading to the registry and hotel lifts and stairs were curiously human, in spite of the half-extended claws sprouting from their fingertips.
Claire sighed. Whoever had modeled for the creature, had possessed a fine chest as well… and abs, very nice abs… and the back below the wings. You could run your fingers along those muscle lines for ever… She shook her head, trying to shake her thoughts in a more businesslike direction. It’s only a statue for heaven’s sake!
Leaving the workmen to their task, she decided to visit the kitchens of Café Gothica for a coffee. Matthias, the café’s lessee would probably be in, going over his preparations for opening night, and he would want to tell Claire how they were progressing. Revising Matthias’s plans in her head, Claire turned away from the workmen. As she did so, she noticed a figure standing at the entrance to the cathedral, a visitor far too early for opening night.
“I’m sorry, but we’re closed,” she said, moving to intercept it. “We don’t open until…” She hesitated, recognizing who it was.
“I know when you open,” the man sneered, “but I wanted to see where you would be putting my inheritance.”
If it weren’t for the sneer and fact that every pore oozed arrogance and self-righteous greed, Duncan Macgregor might have been a handsome man. As it was, his dark eyes were like gleaming stones, and the chiseled features of his face were merely the hard lines of a man, who didn’t care who he went through to achieve his goals.
“It seems a shame to waste all that money getting them to put it there, when you’re only going to have to pay them to take it back down again,” he mused, taking a step forward.
Claire ignored his jibe.
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Mr. Macgregor,” she said. “This is a construction zone and it’s not safe. Besides, you’re trespassing.”
He took another step forward, and Claire put herself in front of him, making him halt. Behind her, the workmen went quiet.
“Do I need to remind you that you are one phone call away from a restraining order?” she asked.
At this, Macgregor stopped and stared at her. Neither of them could be considered tall, but Claire’s five-foot-eight put her at an equal height to him, and she looked him in the eye. If he found her intimidating, he didn’t show it.
He glared at her. Leaning forward slightly, he hissed, “You do realize that that is rightfully mine.”
Refusing to be intimidated, Claire stood her ground and regarded him coolly.
“We’ve had this discussion before, Mr. Macgregor, and I’ve already pointed out that, if you felt this strongly, you should have bid at the auction yourself. Now, I’ve already asked you to leave once. Don’t make me insist.”
Macgregor’s hands bunched at his sides and, for a moment, Claire thought he would strike her. Behind her, there was a shift in movement and, with a growl of frustration, Macgregor turned on his heel and stomped out of the cathedral. Claire turned and looked straight up at the foreman who had been supervising the installation of her gargoyle.
“Thank you,” she said.
George Beren shrugged.
“He looked like he was going to get nasty,” he said, “and I’d heard you ask him to leave twice. You might have needed help.”
Remembering the hostility that had radiated from Macgregor, and his claim that she had stolen his family inheritance, Claire thought George might have been right. She didn’t tell him that, though. No-one, beyond the police officers who had intervened in an earlier confrontation with the man, knew of Macgregor’s attempts to convince her to hand over the items she had bought at the Scottish auction—items put up for sale by a recognized claimant of said inheritance. Duncan Macgregor’s claim had been checked, and gone unacknowledged. Since then, he had tried every trick he could think of to get her to surrender the items freely. Claire hadn’t been joking when she said the man was in danger of a restraining order.
Pulling a shaky smile to her face, she looked up at George, and placed a hand on his arm.
“I think I might owe you and the crew morning tea,” she said.
“You needn’t,” he answered, looking embarrassed and glancing back at his men.
“But I want to,” she told him, and then allowed a hint of mischief to curve her lips, “and, besides, I’m the boss.”
“All right then, Miss Handley,” he said, and walked back to the work area, before she could say more. “If you need any help, just let us know. We stop at eleven.”
Eleven! Claire glanced at her watch. She’d go and see what magic Matthias could whip up in two hours. Fortunately for her, the café manager was dying to give his new kitchen a run.


Should you want to read more, A Gargoyle for the Hotel Gothica can be found at Smashwords, Kobo, Kindle, and CreateSpace.

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