The Devil’s Weakness by Kate J. Blake

Chapter One



I can't believe I'm doing this. Going to a stranger's home in the middle of the night. Well, it's not precisely night since it's only nine-thirty. So let's consider it as a late evening. But still, it's definitely a stranger's house since nobody has seen the guy who moved to that mansion.

A Victorian-era home that has stood on the city's outskirts for decades until it was recently bought by some stranger. Nobody even knows if he's British since no one has seen him yet. I don't even know his name, only that he moved in last week. I can't even imagine what he does in life to afford that mansion.

That house was too expensive for an average person and unnecessary for a wealthy one. No millionaire needs a place in the small town of Carlisle with only just over two thousand people. And no Carlisle resident can afford a mansion like that. That's why it stayed empty for so many years.

It is my hometown. We have only one church, one farm market, a couple of pubs, and absolutely nothing to do. But I still always loved this city and never wanted to leave, like most of my classmates did. They moved to London or other big cities for pumpkin spice lattes and twenty-four-seven delivery. While here we have only regular coffee and a market which works until seven. No delivery, of course.

Passing the poorly lit empty road, I remind myself that this is a small, safe town with almost no crime and very kind people.

Yeah, and a new stranger who no one has seen, a voice in my head reminds me again, even though I try not to listen to it.

I really need this job, and that's why I have to go on an interview even if a weird man scheduled it for a late evening. I can't reject an offer like this. The salary is beyond average, and the only condition is to work from early morning until noon. Funny why he scheduled an interview for nine forty-five, though.

I look for a doorknob on the gate, but of course, it's not here. This house was built with no electricity; who would make a doorbell on the gate? I hope the lights inside the house now work.

I look at the long windows closed with massive curtains. Yes, the light is peeping through it; everything's fine.

I take a deep breath before walking up the stairs to the main door. The stairs are wet and slippery, and that's why I do not rush. Or maybe I do not want to go because I'm scared.

Right before I reach out a hand to knock on the massive wooden door, it swings open by itself, and a tall man dressed in a snow-white shirt and black pants stands right in front of me.

I hold a breath out of amusement because I've never seen anyone like him before. It's not like he's handsome because it's not the right word. He’s perfect, that's what. I have to throw my head back a little to see his face.

He looks about thirty years old, maybe less. It's just too dark in here, so I can't say exactly. He has black hair long enough to touch the ears, slightly tanned skin as if from working outside a lot, and deep grey eyes, as if they are a reflection of the English sky, always so cloudy and usually rainy.

His cheekbones are high, with a short bristle on his face. A strong jaw contrasts with slightly full lips. And even a scar that crosses through his left eyebrow does not ruin his beauty—it only makes his face more virile and even courageous for some reason.

This man is a brought-to-life version of Jane Austen's heroes, but better, so much better.

"Miss Burton? You're late," he says with a low voice, and his baritone is like a delight for the ears. I've never heard anyone who talked like that.

Wait, did he just say that I'm late? Maybe by a minute, but does it matter?

"Hello," I say barely audibly, extending a hand to him. My voice is shaking, and I'm not sure anymore if it's out of fear or some kind of spell that this man emits.

"I'm Raphael Darrington, the owner. Come inside," he commands, ignoring my hand and taking a step back, letting me enter the building.

Of course, he’s rude. I'm not surprised. With a look like his, no way he could be friendly and polite like Austen's heroes. Romance novels are fairy tales. It could never happen in real life.

When I come into the hallway, I stop myself from gasping in delight. An old, abandoned building was fully renovated and now looks like a real millionaire's mansion.

I was inside of this house once about ten years ago, still in high school. My girlfriends and I decided to come here on Halloween to see if there were ghosts. After two steps on the squeaky parquet, we heard a loud knock from the window slamming in the draft and ran away screaming. It was terrifying, especially for twelve-year-old girls.

"Put the coat onto the rack and follow me," he commands again and walks away without even offering to help me take off my puffer.

No, Austen's gentlemen would never be this rude. I sniff out of irritation that I'm going to work for a man like him.

I really need money right now, and this job is my only offer, I tell myself and silently follow Mr. Darrington to the living room.