The Hollow Curse by Stephen B. Pearl


A paranormal-romance, erotica (romantica) novel, spanning several centuries.


Rated NC17 - adult content - explicit sexuality.


Published by and available from Club Lighthouse Publishing.


ISBN-13: 978-1897532539.


31 chapters, 232 pages, ~92,000 words.


Location: historic and present day UK, USA and Canada - York, England; Colorado Territories, USA; southern Ontario, Canada.


An interview and review about The Hollow Curse is available at Julie's Book Reviews.

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The Hollow Curse book cover - paranormal romance erotica

Description


     Ben and Alysia are the current incarnations of soul mates cursed, in a previous life, to be separated by a gulf of years and social norms until they fully accept their love, share a lifetime, and raise a child together. The book follows them through some of their incarnations and shows how the spirit that now inhabits Dorry, Alysia's collage girlfriend, who was the originator of the curse in a previous incarnation, has hounded them through life after life.


     The story plays out in the current day and with the characters experiencing their past lives as Albert, Bernidine and Darius in the fifteen hundreds. Duke Darius forces Bernidine, a woman half his age who is already pledged to wed her true love, Sir Albert, to marry him. When Albert infiltrates Darius' court, and has an affair with his beloved Bernidine, Darius forces a reluctant witch to cast the curse that he feels will keep the young lovers apart forever. Unable to directly oppose Darius, because of what he will do to her coven mates if she does, the witch works a clause into the spell that if Albert and Bernidine live a life and raise a child together, the curse will be broken. Albert kills Darius in single combat but is mortally wounded leaving the curse to stand for another life.


     Next, Ben and Alysia recall a life where they are Abigail and Bernia, well to do, Sapphic lovers, who are persecuted by Donald, Abigail's dead-husband's brother, in the England of 1775. Abigail sits as steward over her dead husband's estates for her son, Samuel, whom Donald wishes dead so the succession will fall to himself. Samuel accepts his mother's choice in bedmates and offers to impregnate Bernia when she and Abigail wish to have a child together. When Abigail learns that Donald murdered her husband she confronts him and the tragic cycle repeats itself.


     The story continues through the lives of Ada, an emancipated slave, and Bailey, a maverick physician, in the American west of 1876, who are hounded by the local tough, Diego. In addition to Diego's obsession with Ada, whose family were slaves on Diego's grandfather's plantation, Bailey and Ada must face the bigotry of their time and Bailey's concern about their age difference. In the end Ada and Bailey are set to end the curse when Diego murders Ada on her wedding day.


     Throughout the book, the story of Ben and Andrea, Alysia's last incarnation, where she was the older woman and Ben the younger man, is spun out as the catalyst that forces the lovers to recall their lives together. Will Alysia and Ben accept the love they feel? Will Dorry relinquish her centuries old quest for vengeance? Will love prevail, or will the cycle of tragedy death and despair repeat itself? Read on.



The Hollow Curse Chapter 1 The Hollow Curse Chapter 2 The Hollow Curse Chapter 3 Reviews


Forward


     There are two forces that are stronger than death, love and hate. They draw us together in life after life, forming families of souls traveling through time together. Of these two forces, love is the stronger and more persistent. Like gravity, its force stretches between the stars and across all time; because of this no parting in love will ever last, no sorrow is eternal. Love makes a lie of all obstacles: age, race, gender, caste or station are as nothing before its subtle might. Even hate, its strongest foe, must fall before the pervasive force of love. Thus love binds us to love and eternity becomes a friendly place we journey through with those our hearts hold dear.



Chapter 1
Discovery


     Alysia stepped onto the stage in the high school auditorium. Pterodactyls flopped about in her stomach. She nervously brushed back her long, red hair then straightened her graduate's robe.


     The teachers, sitting in a row at the back of the stage, applauded as she moved to the podium.


     Her crystal, blue eyes scanned the audience. Parents and friends filled all the seats with her fellow graduates occupying the front rows.


     An old man with long, white hair wearing a tweed suit caught her eye where he stood to one side of the stage. He looked surprised that she noticed him. An attractive, middle-aged woman with dark hair stood nestled under his arm. They smiled and nodded. She lost interest in them.


     Stepping up to the lectern she adjusted the microphone's height, cleared her throat, nervously ran a finger the length of her swan-like neck then looked down. The robe had vanished leaving her slender, small-busted body on display. Her pale skin flushed pink making her freckles stand out in contrast.


     "Arrrr!" She tried to cover herself with her hands.


     Ben leapt from the teacher's seats and wrapped his suit jacket over her. She looked into his handsome, rugged features and ran her fingers through his short, brown hair with its dusting of gray. Her flush of embarrassment gave way to a different kind of heat as he turned her to the lectern and wrapped his powerful arms around her eighteen-year-old body from behind.


     "Give your speech. Don't be afraid, I'm here." He whispered. His rich-English accent sent a shudder up her spine.


     As it always did when he was near, her fear vanished.


     "As valedictorian, it is my privilege to thank the teachers and staff for their efforts in helping us all achieve an education. Uhh."


     She gasped as Ben's lips touched her ear. Swallowing she continued.


     "Whether we now enter the work force or go on to an institute of higher learning, you have helped us in ways that will be with us for the rest of our lives. Ummm."


     His experienced hands caressed her.


     "I wish to take this opportunity to issue a special thanks to Mister Grahame, who has meant so much to me. So very, very much..." She turned and looked into his face.


     He stared down at her, the hint of laugh lines at the corners of his eyes crinkling as he smiled. "And you've meant a great deal to me, Alysia. More perhaps than you should have. Alysia, I..." Gently, slowly, as if each second was an opportunity for her to escape him, he pulled her lips to his own. The students, teachers and parents applauded.


     "Oh Ben. Please say it isn't a dream." Alysia pulled away and looked into his expressive face. She could always read the truth he spoke in his face. Each line she saw was a badge of honour speaking of a life well lived, and she loved him for them. As she watched the face changed, impossibly becoming other faces; faces she didn't know, but the person, the essence behind them, remained the same.


     "I'd never lie to you, Aly. I'd never lie..." spoke Ben's voice and the face returned to his own.


     Alysia awoke and snuggled down amongst the sheets.


     "Crap! Just a dream." She inhaled the slightly musky scent of the man who's bed she lay in. "Hmm. I love that smell." For a moment, she imagined that the man was there to go with it. "Silly, Alysia. I knew it would be hard when Herb and I split, but I never counted on becoming a nymphomaniac. Just goes to show, get use to something, you miss it when it's gone." She stretched, then sat up and looked around.


     The bedroom's furniture was simple but of good quality. The king-sized bed was matched by a single dresser and a nightstand, while the walls were lined with bookshelves full of books. Her gaze slipped to where her bra hung from the doorknob and she grinned. "Now there's something I would have paid to see in high school." She lay back feeling a vague dissatisfaction with her life.



     #



     The elderly man pulled his eyes away from the candle in front of him. His long, white hair fell down to brush the shoulders of the white robe he wore. A smile showed through his bushy beard as he looked at the handsome, middle-aged woman with dark hair who sat across the candle from him. Her hair stood out in sharp contrast to the white of her robe.


     She smiled back as she took his hands. "It is begun, my love."


     The old man nodded. "Again. I hope it works out this time." He spoke with an odd, vaguely-British, accent.


     "We can only set the stage, they must be the ones to dance." Her accent matched his.


     "Free will can be a pain in the arss. At least this one is inclined to introspection."


     The dark-haired woman kissed the old man. "We'd best get on with it. We still have to facilitate a meeting between old friends."


     The old man smiled and nodded.



     #



     The sound of a door opening pulled Alysia out of her dark and lonely thoughts. She heard footsteps coming up the stairs.


     "Hey, Aly, you up?" Nicole's voice was barely above its normal pitch, almost as if she didn't want Alysia to hear her.


     Alysia considered pretending to be asleep, putting her theory to the test, but the potential complications outweighed the benefits. At least until I talk to Rick about it, she thought. They're both hot, and I do love her, though maybe not that way.


     "In the loft." Alysia scrambled out of bed and struggled into a housecoat.


     "So, sleeping in your first day in your own place?" joked Nicole, as she topped the stairs. She was carrying two travel mugs and a bag of muffins. There were undertones of relief and disappointment in her voice.


     "Yeah, and hey, it's still Ben's. I'm just house-sitting while he does his annual pilgrimage thing to England."


     "How's that work? He's my uncle, and he's never asked me to house-sit." Nicole sat on the bed and passed Alysia one of the mugs.


     "I think he knew my parents were driving me crazy. I mean, Okay, so Dorry and I dated and it freaked them, then Herb came along and he was all like, the great saviour of Western Civilization. So now I think they're worried about who I'll date next."


     "Yeah. See that, sorta. Any candidates?" Nicole glanced at Alysia then stared at the bedspread.


     "Not just yet. If I learned one thing, it's that you have to wait after a break-up. Of course, I might just consider a black, transsexual lesbian with two kids and a lisp."


     "WHAT?" Nicole's attractive, Hispanic features contorting in dismay.


     Alysia laughed. "Well, with the way you were looking at me! Like, oh boy, Niki, are you really so freaked that I might go back to dating girls? Or do you just want me off the market for some reason?" She winked at her friend.


     "Aly, I. Well, Um..." Nicole hung her head.


     "Relax. It will probably be a guy. Herb kinda showed me some advantages I didn't have time to find with Mike. I'm not saying it's a definite, but I lean towards liking the male side of things." Alysia extracted a pair of shorts and a T-shirt from a dresser.


     Nicole caught herself staring at her friend's shapely calves and jerked her eyes away. "Sorry I freaked."


     "Really makes you uncomfortable?" Alysia sat on the bed.


     "You know, I don't know why. I know a few gay women and it's not a biggy. With you though..."


     Alysia reached out, caught Nicole's hand and held it in both of hers. "With me, it could happen. Let's face it, Niki. I love you. I've loved you since grade ten. You're my best friend, and I'm pretty sure you feel the same way about me."


     There was a long silence as emotions chased each other across Nicole's face. She bit her lip, swallowed, then her expression settled on anxious. "Aly, I well... I err, I'm not, and what about Rick?"


     Alysia smiled as she saw the struggle in her friend. "Exactly. Rick and Herb, and what you want, and what I want, what you are, what I am. A whole lot of things have to come together just right to make something work. It's okay. I'd rather keep loving my best friend then risk blowing everything with sex. Besides that, I don't help people cheat! Unless Rick agreed you'd never have to worry. Plus, you're not my type physically."


     Nicole glanced at her own body with its firm, medium-sized breasts and flat stomach, clad in jogging shorts and a T-shirt. "What? What's wrong with my--?"


     Alysia chuckled. "Absolutely nothing." She licked her lips and winked. "I just prefer mannish women. I think it's because I prefer men. Goddess, I can't believe I'm talking about this. I've been thinking a lot about it lately. I guess I need to bounce the thoughts off someone, and you came along at the right time."


     Nicole squeezed her friend's hand. "Best friends, I'm always here to listen."


     "I know, never doubt how important that is to me.


     "I feel like I have a decision to make. I've always wanted a permanent one on one relationship. For me that means making a choice, or maybe abandoning that dream and finding a couple who want a third that I can integrate with. Then again, I could just give up the dream of that kind of committed relationship and bed hop the rest of my life. That sounds so cold to me though. They never warn you that finding the right person is so hard. I don't know if it's sleeping in Ben's bed or what, but all these worries just came to a head this morning."


     "Ben's bed, like eww."


     Alysia smirked. "Come on, Niki. Don't tell me you haven't taken a peek when you thought he wasn't looking. Uncle or no."


     "Well. Okay, he does look good in a tux."


     "Ever wonder what he'd look like out of it?" Alysia arched her eyebrows.


     "Alysia!" Nicole blushed. "Here, have a muffin, use your mouth for something other than shocking me. God, what happened to the girl who couldn't do more than make sounds when she spoke to a guy?"


     Alysia smiled sadly and stroked a finger up and down her throat. "I miss that me. I think she died when Mike ODed. Yup, that's when it happened. It hurt so much, and I was convinced that no one else would ever want me. I just kinda shut parts of myself down. I had to to survive. It's easer to flirt and play word games than to face the pain that life dishes out."


     "I'm sorry. I know Mike meant a lot to you." Nicole squeezed her friend's shoulder.


     Alysia stared at the bedspread. "Yeah, he did. He was my first, but, you know, I think it was more just having someone. Guys weren't exactly lining up in high school, and it seemed so important back then. Ben was the only one who made me feel special, you know, like a woman. Like someone might look at me and not see a skinny, redheaded matchstick. I don't think he ever realized how much it meant when he complimented me. I had such a crush on him!"


     "You and Ben... Well you never--?"


     Alysia pulled away in shock. "Lords and Ladies, Niki! I was in high school. Ben never layed a finger on me! He was just nice. He told me I looked pretty, complimented me on my clothing, that sort of thing. You should get your mind washed, it's dirty!"


     "Sorry. It's just you went through a lot and things happen. You've changed so much. Of all the people I never would have expected to... try on comfortable shoes... and you're hard now. You're right, you try to hide it by flirting and being shocking, but you're cold in a way you never use to be."


     Alysia rolled her eyes. "Niki, you can't be that naive. Innocence dies; reality murders it. In my case, Dorry helped with her manipulations and lies. Maybe someday I can be trusting and naive again; With the right person's help. I just wish I knew who that person was."


     "Herb was..."


     Alysia shook her head. "Over. We both knew it. If he wasn't leaving to do his doctorate, we would have broken up in six months tops anyway. It was fun, but not a lifetime's worth. This way it's a sweet memory and we stay friends."


     "That's what I mean about cold. You have such a head on your shoulders about things like this."


     "It hurts less to think with my head than my heart." Alysia fidgeted with the bedspread.


     "Don't you ever just want to feel? Just run with the emotion and not over-think everything?" Nicole squeezed Alysia's hand.


     Alysia stared at the floor. "Sometimes, but my heart isn't all that smart. It falls for people like Dorry. She really gutted me. I was so broken up about Mike's death, and she started hanging around and roped me in. After a few months she had me convinced I was lucky to have her. If I hadn't caught her with Elaine, I probably never would have broken that bitch's hold on me."


     Nicole nodded. "We all saw how she was treating you, but..."


     "I know, I wouldn't listen. Battered woman's syndrome. Dorry was a real piece of work. Problem is, the way it ended left wounds all its own."


     "She was an idiot to cheat on you."


     Alysia looked up and forced a smile. "Yeah, ancient history."


     "So, new topic. You pick a title for your master's thesis yet?"


     Alysia brightened. "The effect of proto-memory modules on phobias and possible treatment modalities."


     "Have another muffin." Nicole's expression went blank. "What the hell does that mean?"


     "It's a fancy way of saying how past-life memories can make us fear things in our present incarnations and what we can do about it."


     "The psych department is really gonna let you research that?" Nicole shook her head in amazement.


     Alysia took a long sip of her coffee playing out the moment. "Why, is it weird?"


     "Aly." Nicole rolled her eyes and drummed her fingers on her thigh.


     Alysia chuckled. "That's why I used the fancy title. Ben helped me work out the hypothesis and presentation. My Prof thinks it's odd, but he'll let it squeak by as long as my science is good."


     "It's too bad Uncle Ben isn't twenty years younger. You and he would fit. When Mum found out he was a Druid she freaked. You..."


     Alysia shrugged. "Hey, it's neat, and he's the best school counselor we ever had. You ready to run?" Shucking her robe Alysia pulled on her shorts and T-shirt. She smirked when she caught Nicole peeking out of the corner of her eye. Nicole wasn't really her type, but she knew that if you loved someone that could change. If Rick agreed, or ever hurt her and she needed some comforting. Alysia mentally crushed the second thought. I will not be like that bitch, Dorry!


     Hours later Nicole put the last bag of groceries down on Ben's kitchen table and watched as Alysia stowed them in the cupboards.


     "So what did he have here to start with?" Nicole popped open a bag of chips sat in one of the wooden chairs and began to munch.


     "Believe it or not, health food." Alysia moved to the sink then filling a glass turned and added water to a potted carnation she'd placed in the middle of the table.


     "Ben? My uncle? Mister, 'if it doesn't include meat it's not a meal?'" Nicole's disbelief seemed to fill the small, tidy room.


     Alysia shrugged. "I think it's a mid_life crises thing." She smiled at the plant.


     "Berrr. Look, I have to trot. You should join Rick and me at the Dizzy Scotsman tonight?"


     "I'll pass. Some stuff here I want to take care of."


     "You sure? We could call Scott. You know, since LeaAnn left he hasn't been serious about anyone, and you're single now."


     Alysia turned to face her friend. "Nicole! Come on. Scott was so high school. Sure, I love him, like a brother."

     "Okay, just consider it my subtle pressure."


     "Go, I give you leave to depart. I promise not to shave my head and become a raging, extremist, hate-man lesbian without talking to you first." Alysia smiled as she returned to stacking tins of soup in the cupboard.


     Nicole stood scraping her chair legs over the tile floor. "I'm gone, my sweetie awaits. If you change your mind..."


     "I know where the Dizzy Scotsman is."


     When Nicole let herself out, Alysia nearly raced up the stairs.


     "Okay, Benjamin, now we find out just where you hid your grimorie. Shouldn't keep secrets like that from your mystical student anyway." Reaching the bedroom, she pulled out a hand-drawn floor plan of the house then she took a crystal pendant from a box and dangled it by its chain over the map.


     Clearing her mind, she rested her elbow on the floor and let the pendant swing. It slowly took on a circular motion.

     "By Carodwin and Bran, I call on thee, indicate where the spell book of Benjamin Graham is hidden."


     The pendant scribed a tight circle over the spot where the bedroom dresser was. Leaping to her feet, Alysia raced to the dresser and pulled open the drawer. A neatly-folded piece of computer paper lay on top of a collection of sweaters. Picking it up she opened it and read.



     Dear Alysia,


     I told you to leave my Grimorie alone. I'll share it with you eventually. This old Druid still has a trick or two he hasn't taught you. You should stop looking for the book now. You're not going to find it. ;-)


     Deepest affections, Ben.



     "You!" Alysia chuckled. "Well, there's more than one way to get around a spell."


     Alysia's brow creased in thought then she nodded. "That should work, Mister Smartypants!" Returning to the floor plan she picked up her pendulum and once more cleared her mind.


     "I call upon thee Carodwin and Bran, direct my pendulum. Show me where Benjamin Graham hides those things he wishes kept secret and safe." At first the pendulum moved randomly over the diagram then Alysia pushed with her will. Almost as if an invisible hand pulled back a veil her mind focused and the crystal described a circle over the bedroom closet.


     "I thank you Lady Carodwin, Lord Bran and all helpful spirits." Smiling Alysia stood and moved to the closet. She let her intuition guide her and carefully lifted out the shoe rack. A thin seam ran across the hardwood floor. She pressed on various parts of the central panel until a hatch opened."


     "Tricky, Ben. But not tricky enough." She scanned the chamber's contents and pulled out a stack of magazines titled CARROT TOPS. "Ben! You're a naughty boy." She smirked as she opened one of the magazines to find page after page of red-headed beauties posing naked.


     "Funny, I never knew he had a thing for redheads." Alysia lifted out a shoebox and opened its lid, revealing a set of letters in envelopes.


     Her finger traced the pulse line in her throat as she thought aloud. "Alysia. Stop this now! He's your friend; you're his apprentice; he deserves his privacy. Looking for a book is one thing, but this is..."


     Alysia's hand of its own accord pulled out the first of the letters. She opened the paper and began reading before she was really aware she had done so.



     "My beloved Benjamin,


     I can hardly wait to hold you again. To feel your soft kisses fan over my shoulders and your strong arms embrace me. You have restored a fire in me I thought long since dead, and I will love you forever for this gift."



     Alysia was hooked and kept reading, all doubts abolished by this view into an aspect of a man she thought she knew.