The Fall of the House of Usher – Clandestine Style
What made me think that Edgar Allen Poe was a romance writer? Well, nothing really. As a matter of fact, when I was searching for a classic horror story to pair with Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Published back in May) I had considered and discarded almost immediately the idea of using any of Poe’s stories. After searching around however, there wasn’t really anything that hadn’t already been done by other Totally Bound authors, or there was absolutely no way of making it into a romance.
What brought me back to Poe was The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s always been one of my favorites, but it seemed to be impossible to reconcile with Madeline and her brother dying horribly, as well as Madeline only being in the entire story at all for no more than a dozen or so sentences. But when I re-read it, my thoughts went to a couple of different ‘what-if’s’, and I came up with a story line that turned doom and gloom into a happily-ever-after.
To give you a little hint as to how I morphed the story without changing any of Poe’s original words (part of the Clandestine Classic rules), I’m including the following excerpt from when Edward – Roderick’s boyhood chum – is finally able to locate the mysterious Lady Madeline Usher and sneak into her room late at night.
Gloom, dread and fear possess the House of Usher and its inhabitants. But Edward sees nothing but light and love in the fair Madeline. Can he save her from the deadly illness that has plagued the Usher family for centuries—before it is too late?
Invited to the gloomy, decaying House of Usher by a boyhood chum, Edward is perplexed by his friend’s mysterious affliction. Roderick tells him that it is a curse on his family, and that all of the Ushers must eventually succumb. Upon briefly viewing Roderick’s sister—the lovely Madeline—Edward determines to save both her and Roderick from their awful fate.
But there are strange twists and turns that Edward encounters in his quest to discover the truth of the puzzling illness. Is the valet Henry up to no good? Does the house itself hold some unnatural sway over its residents? Or is there an even more sinister explanation? When Edward finally chances to meet the Lady Madeline secretly, he has no doubt that only his love and resolve can save her.
One night, it appears that he hasn’t acted soon enough. Is there still hope that he can rescue sweet Madeline from the clutches of the evil House of Usher?
Excerpt from The Fall of the House of Usher
By Edgar Allen Poe & Morticia Knight
She lowered her head and placed a hand to her cheek as if there were a blush there.
“Please forgive me for being so open in my words to you, Edward. I am just so lonely, and without any companionship anymore.”
I longed to reach out and caress her hand in reassurance, but was sure she would think me nothing but a cad, so I restrained myself.
“Dearest lady, Madeline, I swear to you that anything you say to me will be held in the strictest confidence, and that I am not at all offended by your speaking plainly. Do not take insult at what I am about to say, as I hold your brother in the highest regard, but his apparent imprisonment of you here seems rather cruel. Why do you suppose Roderick forbade you from being courted by this young man?”
I did not want to admit it to myself at that time, but I had become a little miffed at the thought of another man wooing her.
“He told me that it was for the good of everyone. That I should not get Gregory’s hopes up, as it was obvious that I suffered from the same family malady as Roderick did, and that there could never be a match. Oddly, that was right about the time I began to experience my first symptoms, but still, I believe it had to do with something else that happened. With Gregory.”
She paused, and looked away from me, towards the door. I had the feeling that she was fearful that we were being listened in on, or that she might be afraid to tell me the rest of her story.
“Please, Madeline, let me be here for you as a companion. Let me try to make up for all the loneliness you have been through these last several months.”
She turned back and gave me a feeble smile.
“I suppose if I am to meet my end soon, as Roderick says, then what’s the harm?”
My gut clenched at the thought of the exquisite creature before me being lost to the work of the gravedigger, and I shook my head vehemently.
“I will say now, Madeline, that I refuse to believe that your passing is imminent. I will do all I can to help you in that regard.”
She nodded, but looked doubtful.
“Dear, kind Edward. Now I know why my brother was so anxious to see you again. He too has been lonely. But never mind, I have accepted my fate, as he has too.”
I found myself sorry that I had broached the subject of helping her in her illness. It was obvious that she had consigned herself to hopelessness the same way her brother had. I believed my best course was to first present myself to her as a friend, then lead her into the subject of her physical welfare.
“So you said that you believed something else drove your suitor away?”
“Ah yes. I will blush as I say this, but I imagine that you will not be able to tell in the dim light. I assure you that it will be so, for I would not want to drive you from my company, lest you think I am a wanton girl.”
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, suddenly concerned that perhaps I should not hear what she wanted to share. I was aware of my own barely controlled excitement being near her, and the thought of another man being intimate with her would surely only make me angry. Not at her—I was not holding her in judgement in any way. I knew she had to be at least five and twenty years of age, like myself, as Roderick had described his sister as being his twin when we were at school. She must have surely had some experience with a man, even if it were only gropes and kisses. A lady of her standing should have had many suitors from the first time she came out.
“Please be assured, Madeline, that I will not question anything you tell me.”
“That is very generous of you, but I still say this with some embarrassment.” She wrung her hands, clearly in a nervous state. “I was in the garden with Gregory, and we were kissing. It was the type of kissing that some of my fellow debutantes described to me when I was presented at my first season, when I was so young and full of so many dreams. He had pushed his tongue into my mouth, and I was so caught up in the new sensation I was not even aware of him sliding his hand down to cup my breast. But then he skimmed his thumb lightly over my nipple, and it hardened. I was so shocked at the thrill it gave me that I lost all sense of propriety and allowed him to continue.
“It was then that I heard Roderick yell for me from the terrace, and even though we were seated on a bench behind one of the hedges, I was terrified we had been found out. Even Gregory seemed flustered, as he let go of me so quickly I almost toppled over the seat. He stood up, straightened his jacket and breeches, and without even offering me his hand, strode hurriedly away. I regained my composure, and headed inside after him, but the look on Roderick’s face had me scared. It was immediately after that I noticed my first symptoms, and was confined to my quarters due to my illness.”
I was struck with a series of conflicting emotions. The prevalent one was jealousy. However uncalled for the feeling was, it still existed. I had no claim to this woman, and I had no knowledge of this Gregory, but it mattered not. Then there was anger at how callously her suitor had pushed her away. Did he still call for her? Did she still pine for him? Finally, as much as it embarrasses me to confess, there was excitement from her story. I had pictured every second of the embrace, only it had been my tongue exploring the inside of her sweet mouth, my hand on her breast, awakening her desire.
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About Morticia KnightErotic Romance author Morticia Knight enjoys a good saucy tale, whether it is contemporary, paranormal, historical, ménage, M/M or BDSM - she loves it all! One of her passions is bringing people's fantasies to life on the page, because life is too short for even one boring moment. Her stories are volcanic in heat, deep in emotion, and sprinkled with doses of humor.
When not indulging in her passion for books, she loves the outdoors, film and music. Once upon a time she was the singer in an indie rock band that toured the West Coast and charted on U.S. college radio. She currently resides on the northern coast of Oregon, where the constant rain and fog remind her of visits to her family in England and Scotland when she was a child.
For 2014, Morticia has additional installments in the historical M/M romance series, Gin & Jazz, as well as her best-selling Uniform Encounters series.
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Totally Bound Author Page: https://www.totallybound.com/index.php?route=product/author/info&author_id=229