Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Ravenous

Mel Ryle

Mia Harnett is a woman fleeing a dark past and a painful secret. But when wealthy and powerful Erik Kingsley starts making inquiries in the tiny Scottish town where she has sought refuge, Mia knows there is nowhere to run. Having lost everything, she learns that there is always more to be taken...

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Sexual assault/abuse, Rape, Self-Harm)

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Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Ravenous

Mel Ryle

Mia Harnett is a woman fleeing a dark past and a painful secret. But when wealthy and powerful Erik Kingsley starts making inquiries in the tiny Scottish town where she has sought refuge, Mia knows there is nowhere to run. Having lost everything, she learns that there is always more to be taken...

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Sexual assault/abuse, Rape, Self-Harm)

1: 1

MIA

Somewhere in Northern Scotland

Present time, August 1990

The smell of rust and oil was heavy in the air. Half an hour had passed since they’d left the city port, yet they’d seen no end to the swaying of the vessel.

Feeling cramped in the captain’s cabin, Mia decided to cool off and walked out on the deck. The breeze brushed her pinkish cheeks, carrying the smell of the sea, which hardly bothered her by now.

There was a sense of freedom in the wind. With her eyes closed, she could easily imagine it was true.

She was free and away from the bustling street of the city, which was filled with people as they went about their daily routine.

The rustling of crowds and the roaring sound of horns during rush hour felt suffocating. It used to give her comfort to be surrounded by people.

For years, her work involved her presence in front of an audience. For a moment, she could still hear an echo of applause. Now, it felt like a dream.

Then it was gone.

A loud roar from the engine startled her awake. In reality, she was nowhere near freedom, though her aunt hadn’t viewed the island the same way as she did.

There was another throaty sound of the engine as the rusty floating vessel carried them closer to their destination.

She lingered by the front railing with no hint of seasickness kicking in, unlike her youthful and spirited aunt, whose face was drawn and pale in comparison to her own.

There were times she’d shown signs of throwing up. Yet in the hours they were at sea, she never once asked for a bucket.

“Mia! Mia! Where are you?” Her aunt’s shrill voice was drowned by the sound of the waves splashing on the side of the boat. “Mia!”

The third time, Mia heard her aunt. She looked up toward the captain’s cabin and found her peering over the rusted steel door.

“Don’t lean too far, or you might fall!”

“I’m fine, Aunt Leanna.”

“Why don’t you come up here? It is much safer!”

“I’m fine.”

“Mia! Come up here, will you?”

Mia sighed in defeat and turned away from the view. She walked up the steps and joined her in the captain’s cabin.

Her aunt’s pale face nearly matched her platinum blonde hair. It hadn’t occurred to Mia that she hated traveling by sea. Since she visited here yearly, she might have overcome her fear.

Her sickly face was proof she had not.

“Do you need any medicine, Auntie?” Mia asked, worried.

“I’m fine, dear. It will pass. Besides, we are a few minutes away from disembarking.”

“Okay. But if you need anything, just tell me.”

“Thank you, Mia.”

Mia sat in silence, waiting for another ten minutes to get a better view of the island. It was then she got up in anticipation.

Leanna mindlessly followed Mia to where she stood by the main exit. Her sickness had subsided, and her cheeks slowly showed more color.

“You’ll love it here. It’s peaceful and away from city life.” Leanna said. “The air is fresh, and the people are welcoming. You do not have to worry about who you were. Here, you can be yourself.”

“How many times have you visited here, auntie?”

“I always come back every other year. But for the past five years, I always come back once a year to stay for three months.”

“Why?”

“Because I can work here peacefully. And I consider it my home.”

That piqued her interest. Mia knew her aunt had various houses around the globe, not because of her job, but because she’d married a rich man.

The particular place they were headed was one of the islands north of Scotland.

There were many such islands, to her knowledge, and her aunt Leanna had named the place before their departure from America. However, she still forgot.

It would be rude if she asked for it again. So, Mia humored her aunt until she could unearth it from memory.

“I won’t say my place is like the mansion you lived in as a child. You could say it is more of a cabin.” Leanna added. “But it is cozy and has everything we need.”

Mia turned. Her interest shifted.

“Do you also have other houses in places that you’ve regularly visited?”

“Yes. At least five in cities and towns I like and frequently visit.”

“Did Uncle Kevin know about them?”

“He did. He didn’t mind. He liked it because he could stay there when he did business in the city.” Her lips curved into a sad smile.

Mia was quiet for a moment, feeling bad for bringing him up suddenly. “Do you remember him whenever you visit this place, Auntie?”

It had been years since her aunt’s husband died, leaving her alone but wealthy and well taken care of. However, after his passing, she noticed her favorite aunt never stayed in one place for too long.

She was always traveling for leisure or work. She’d never called one particular property home until now.

“I do. This was one of our favorite homes,” she quietly admitted. There was a distant look in her eyes.

Mia gave her aunt a comforting smile and placed a hand on her back, giving it a brief, comforting caress. “Thank you for inviting me here, Auntie. I truly appreciate it.”

Leanna smirked. The sadness in her eyes evaporated. “I think this place will do you some good, Mia.”

“I hope so,” she replied dryly and turned her attention back to the view of the island. She chuckled and moved further out of the captain’s deck.

As she’d expected, it did the trick. The mood between them shifted. Mia was smiling from ear to ear as she held out her hand to Leanna, which she took without hesitation.

They stayed there in silence, their bodies swaying in rhythm with the boat as they approached the dock.

The port wasn’t grand like the one they boarded from the mainland. It had what you expected from a small island whose only mode of transport was boats rather than planes.

The dock was busy with deliveries and wooden crates being unloaded from the ship. It was also the only passenger boat that had daily trips to the island.

After the captain gave them the signal to disembark, Leanna’s energy perked up. Her cheeks regained their rosy flush, and her blue eyes sparkled like the calm sea at midday.

They rolled and hauled their luggage, which totaled five bags between the two of them. The clothes alone would last them for at least two weeks before Mia had to think about doing laundry.

She contemplated the chores to be done at her aunt’s cabin. She imagined the place to be dusty and covered in cobwebs, unused for most of the year.

As they reached the end of the harbor, an unfamiliar woman waved enthusiastically in their direction. Her silver hair stood out from the dull array of dirt, wood, and soot.

Behind her, an old, rusted blue truck was parked. Since they were the sole human passengers of the only boat in the harbor, the woman had to be waving at them unless she was one of the crew’s relatives.

Mia looked around the harbor, but no one returned the woman’s greeting. It was then her aunt looked up and smiled. Her face brightened and her lips widened in a cheery grin.

“Adelia!” Leanna called out as the old woman approached them, beaming as well.

“Leanna! Ye’ve made it!” Adelia called back. “How did yer trip go? Since ye made it here, ye did fine, I suppose.”

The woman’s Scottish accent wasn’t as thick as Mia would have expected.

She’d heard a few heavily accented locals arriving at the airport and on their way to the harbor, but it seemed her aunt’s friend wasn’t one of them.

“We did, thankfully.” Leanna dryly replied, but her smile never left her face. “Oh, I did inform you I’m not alone on my trip this time.”

Adelia turned to Mia. “Aye, I can see that.” She held out her hand to her. “Welcome, my dear. I’m glad ye’ve come and joined yer aunt for her visit this year.”

Mia grabbed her outstretched hand and shook it before letting go. “I’m happy to be here. This is quite a lovely place. Very picturesque and all.”

“Ye haven’t seen the rest of the view yet. Wait until we drive up to yer aunt’s cabin. It’s a view that’ll take yer breath away,” Adelia remarked with a smile.

“Now, come. Let’s put these in the car. It is a long drive up there.”

“It always is,” Leanna agreed with a chuckle.

Once they tucked and secured the bags in the back of the truck, Adelia took the wheel. Leanna sat in front with her on the passenger side.

Mia had no choice but to sit at the back with the luggage they didn’t trust to be jostled and exposed to the damp air, as they sensed some light rain coming soon.

As the truck climbed up the island's terrain along a rough gravel road, the journey got a bit bumpy. As Adelia had promised, the view was breathtaking.

Mia no longer minded the rocky ride as her eyes stared out the window. An endless field of green grass ran along beside them, overlooking the seas.

Further in the distance, she made out the shape of another island—or the mainland. The distant view of real civilization compared to the barren land she was in made her miss the city.

But she wasn’t here by force. She had chosen to be here, to be surrounded by the beautiful endless fields of grass.

The trip to the cabin took an hour. But the drive wasn’t bad, with Leanna and Adelia giving her details about the small town in the area and the people in it.

When they were near the end of their drive, something caught Mia’s eye. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing and pointed out to her companions.

“Is that what I think it is?” Mia exclaimed in disbelief.

“Och, it is,” Adelia replied with a smile.

“That’s Kingsley Castle.” Leanna pronounced proudly. “It’s a known tourist attraction on the island, along with the view and farmlands.”

“A castle on an island? Why is it here?”

Before Leanna could answer, Adelia took over the conversation again.

“Kingsley Castle was built in the fourteenth century by an English aristocrat for his mistress.

“Throughout the years, the family used the castle as a refuge through wars, and as a home for a time before they started making a lot of money.

“I’m not sure what sort of business made them wealthy. But it kept them from losing this place. It is still owned and run by the same family who built it.

“Mind ye, presently, the family no longer retain their aristocratic title. However, the money allowed them to keep the castle in good condition.

“Now, they’ve made it a tourist attraction and also a vacation home of some sort.”

Leanna nodded along with Adelia’s narrative. “Believe it or not, I’ve met one member of the family who owns the castle, and I think you’ve heard of him too, Mia,” she giddily said.

“Really? Who is it?” Mia pried her eyes away from the architecture.

Adelia seemed intrigued as well, which struck Mia as odd, given that Leanna and she had been well acquainted for many years.

Mia concluded the meeting with the mystery person was recent—so recent that it made her aunt think about the name’s connection with someone she knew. Someone with that surname.

“What does this person look like?” Adelia inquired a moment later, snapping Mia out of her reverie.

Leanna looked smug, remembering her encounter with the young man. “He was young enough to be my son—close to your age Mia—yet older by at least five or six years.

“I felt charmed and entranced by his appearance. If I close my eyes, I can see it vividly: dark brown hair, strong jawline, high cheekbones, thick eyebrows, and eyes the color of deep blue sapphires.

“Any woman of any age would find him undeniably attractive. Plus, he was very amiable and poised.” Leanna breathed dreamily.

Mia noted her aunt’s description of the Kingsley man and smirked. “Drop dead gorgeous, I see.”

Leanna turned around, gave her niece a cheeky grin, and winked. “He truly was.”

Mia rolled her eyes and smirked. “Goodness, auntie. Keep it to yourself, will you?”

Adelia chuckled and brought the topic back to the castle owner. “And what is his name?”

“Erik Alexander Kingsley.”

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