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Authors: Kathryn Smith

Let the Night Begin

BOOK: Let the Night Begin
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Kathryn Smith
Let the Night Begin

Brotherhood of the Blood

This book is dedicated to my sister, Lynda, who says
I'm one of her favorite authors—despite being her
baby sister. And who insisted that she should have a
vampire for her own. Love you, Lynnie.
Also, to Jenna Petersen, my cosmic twin, who was
kind enough to read this book in its infancy and still
be my friend when she was done.
And finally to Steve, who may be mentioned last, but
always ranks 1st with me.

Contents

Chapter 1
Olivia Gavin was a bit of a curiosity to the…

Chapter 2
Olivia couldn't speak. Damn him for looking marvelous. Damn herself…

Chapter 3
God help her, she was playing a dangerous game.

Chapter 4
“Do you think he'll be all right?” Olivia asked as…

Chapter 5
Reginald Dashbrooke turned away from the sun-dappled view of his…

Chapter 6
For what might be the second time in the entirety…

Chapter 7
“Why can't I dangle him over the balcony by his…

Chapter 8
The Wolf, Ram and Hart Inn was located in the…

Chapter 9
What the hell was he doing?

Chapter 10
She hadn't told him what they demanded for ransom.

Chapter 11
William Dashbrooke was not stupid. He knew better than to…

Chapter 12
It was the vampire's curse to be shunned by daylight.

Chapter 13
George Haversham's head snapped back as pain exploded through his…

Chapter 14
“Is Clarke coming with us?” Olivia asked her husband as…

Chapter 15
The last thing on Reign's mind when he left the…

Chapter 16
“Obviously we overestimated your aunt's attachment to you, James.”

Chapter 17
They sent the “ransom” note to George Haversham at Reggie's…

Chapter 18
“What in the name of God is that?” Olivia demanded…

Chapter 19
There was nothing she could do for him.

England, 1899

O
livia Gavin was a bit of a curiosity to the people of Clovelly.

She lived in a whitewashed cottage high up the cliff, overlooking the harbor.
Alone
. She had servants of course, and everyone knew that servants didn't count as family, or even friends. For such a comely woman, her face unaffected by the sometimes cruel wind that blew across the water, she had decidedly little male company. In fact, she had little company at all.

She was obviously a woman of some means because she did not have to resort to any kind of labor, although she would sometimes make jewelry and small trinkets, which were sold in Henrietta Jewel's little dress shop. She was very generous with loosening her pocketbook strings whenever funds were being raised, or help was needed. Despite this, she had very few servants—a housekeeper, a maid, and a man of all work.
This struck most of the townsfolk as being far too practical for someone of the upper class, so they assumed that Mrs. Gavin was most likely a wealthy tradesman's widow.

People about town liked her, though they rarely saw her. Rumor was that she kept city hours, staying up most of the night working on her baubles and gewgaws and sleeping away the day. There were those that scoffed at such fancy habits. There were also those who distrusted a woman who hid her face from the bright light of day. To support this theory, they argued that Olivia Gavin never went to church on Sunday morning.

If Vicar Hathaway were within earshot of these busybodies, he informed them straight away that, “Mrs. Gavin is no stranger to God's house.” And with that question answered for the time being, the speculation then fell upon
Mr
. Gavin. There were some who thought he didn't exist, and others who thought maybe his lovely wife had put him to rest in an early grave. Some made her the heroine of a gothic novel, the victim of a twisted and abusive marriage that she had fled in the dark of night, and Clovelly was her refuge. Most rejected these theories, and said that gossip was the Devil's fishing net—nothing it dredged up could ever come to any good.

And of course, there were those who wished the private Mrs. Gavin would give them something more to gossip about.

But despite her strange hours and seemingly obsessive desire for privacy, no one in Clovelly had a bad word to say about Olivia Gavin. And on those infrequent occasions when a young man from the village would wake up in someone's stables or in the back room of the Horse and Hare Tavern, pale and claiming to have no idea of how he got there, no one ever suspected that Mrs. Gavin might know the answer. And a good thing that was as well.

Because Olivia tried very hard to conceal the fact that she was a vampire from her fellow townsfolk.

That was one lesson Reign had taught her that she actually appreciated. Never reveal what you are—unless you have to. Of course, he hadn't told her just how difficult it would be to conceal what she was on occasion. To be fair, she supposed she hadn't given him time to teach her much else, and if he had tried she certainly would not have listened.

People tended to notice when a woman only went out at night, or if she was unnaturally strong, Olivia reflected as she tossed a bale of hay that weighed roughly the same as she did into the loft high above her head. It was an effortless task for her, and it saved Charles, her man of all work, from having to do it. Of course, she lied to him and told him she hired a couple of boys from the village to do it.

Charles knew what she was, but that didn't stop him from thinking ladies shouldn't toss hay—vampires or not. “It just ain't right,” he argued, and then he would watch with a grimace as Olivia did the work he would have done were he thirty years younger—work he wished he could still do.

Wiping her hands on the thighs of her split skirt, Olivia took the lantern from its hook, patted each of her horses on the muzzle as she passed, and left the barn. It was after midnight and she was hungry.

The lantern lit the path a few feet ahead of her—not that she needed the light to see. Her feet were sure and steady as she made her way along the worn, broken stones, but anyone stumbling upon her would expect her to have a lantern—anyone human would, on a night this dark. And since she was seen as a bit of a mystery by the townsfolk, it wasn't unusual for a small group of boys, made brave by their determination to not be seen as cowards, to try peeking in her windows for a glimpse of something scandalous.

The moon might be absent, but the tar-black of the sky was littered with stars, glinting like diamonds carelessly tossed on black velvet. A warm wind rolled off the turbulent tide, pushing at her clothing and bringing the scent of salt, sea, and fish to her sensitive nostrils. The tide was turning, and unless she was mistaken, it was going to
bring a storm back with it. Those boats listing like bored schoolboys would soon each be lifted and tossed about like a rag doll caught between snarling dogs.

Olivia sniffed the air. The scent of rain hung heavy on that increasing wind. It was going to be a beautiful stormy night that she could enjoy from the balcony of her bedroom, and then escape to the warm haven of her bed just as dawn broke the horizon.

Hers was a good life.

She hadn't always felt that way, and sometimes she still cursed the immortality that kept her unchanging—kept her moving from one town to another before people realized she hadn't aged. Mostly, when she felt that way, she cursed the man who had made her this way.

Reign.

She hadn't thought of him in quite some time. The spaces of quiet were growing longer for her now, but every once in a while the memory of him snuck up on her and ravaged her for days. Were it not for him she would look like a woman of sixty now—her true age—perhaps with grandchildren and a plump lap to sit them on. Her face would be lined, and not just with the faint cobwebs that hovered perpetually around her eyes. She might even have gray hair. And a sweet husband with gray hair as well—a husband who thought she was beautiful no matter what her age.

Instead she was a woman of sixty who, despite all that she had seen and experienced, still looked like a woman of thirty, and she always would. There would be no fat lap, no bouncing grandchildren. Perhaps if she had stayed, she might have had a husband to tell her she was beautiful, but he would not be sweet. Never sweet.

“There's a messenger here for you, ma'am,” Agnes, her housekeeper, informed her from the door of the cottage when Olivia reached the house. She'd been so preoccupied with her own thoughts she hadn't heard the door open. But if she couldn't let down her guard on her own property, where could she?

A messenger? For her? How positively antiquated. So many people used the telephone these days—or the older telegraph system. But to send a messenger? Well, that notion was older than she was. Antique that she was, even she had a telephone at her cottage, just in case her nephew James needed to get in touch with her while he caroused in London with his mates.

On the cottage's front step Olivia removed the boots she wore to do her chores and slid her feet into her slippers. As she crossed the threshold into her snug little home, it occurred to her that it was a very strange time for a messenger to come banging on the door. It was the equivalent of midday for her, but for most humans it was the middle of the night. A messenger by those standards usually meant bad news.

Or the message was from someone who knew she would be up.

She pushed that suspicion away as she passed quickly through the warm, lemon-and-beeswax-scented foyer into the little parlor on the right. She hadn't always had a suspicious nature, but her husband had changed all that. The thought of him brought a frown to her brow. There was something niggling in the back of her mind. Something she should remember but couldn't quite wrap her head around.

She was still frowning when she entered the parlor, and the young man sitting on the little peach sofa looked at her with some concern as he rose to his feet.

“Mrs. Gavin?” he asked, fiddling with the battered leather hat he held in his hands.

Why had she never changed her name? To be sure it was convenient to be thought a widow, but for thirty years she'd been reminded of her husband—her second one; she scarcely thought, when formally addressed, of the first anymore.

“Yes. And you are?”

“Hillyard, ma'am.” He held out an envelope to her. “My commission is to see this delivered into your hands.”

Brow knitting, Olivia took it. She didn't recognize the seal on the back—a simple chalice in bright red wax.

“Now that I've done my duty, I'll be off.”

She lifted her head—quicker than she ought, for she startled the young man with the movement. “You're not to wait for a reply?”

He watched her carefully, like a cat watches a dog, ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble. “No, ma'am. I was told to deliver the letter and that was it.”

Curious. “Then I won't keep you.” She gave him what she hoped was a serene smile. “See the housekeeper, she'll give you a little something for your trouble.” Whoever had sent the missive had no doubt already paid—that was the way things were done these days, but Olivia was from an era when post was paid for by the receiver, and some habits were harder to break than others.

Plus, it was good form to offer a gratuity. The messenger would be less likely to remember that she had spooked him if she gave him a generous bonus.

“Thank you, Mrs. Gavin.” He gave her a short bow, then placed the worn hat upon his russet curls and took his leave. Olivia waited until she heard him speaking to Agnes before popping the seal on the envelope. The note inside had been written on a typewriting machine.

To one Olivia Winscott Gavin:

Olivia frowned. How could they know her maiden name? Only a handful of people knew her maiden name, and none would refer to her as such so formally.

It is not without some regret that I inform you that your nephew, Mr. James Burnley has been taken into my custody. The reasons for his abduction—

Abduction! Olivia's heart clenched tight in her chest. Why would anyone abduct James? The answer seemed fairly obvious. Because she was James's guardian, and whoever had him knew that she would move heaven and earth to see him safe. Perhaps given the status of some of James's friends, they might think him from a wealthier family than he was. Any money he had came from a trust set up by his grandfather, not from Olivia.

They might even know what she was, as difficult as that was to entertain.

—may seem obvious to you, but I urge you not to jump to any hasty conclusions. There are two people who can see that James is safely returned to you, Mrs. Gavin. One of those people is you. I know it could not have been easy for you, playing mother to the boy given your…proclivities—
Oh God, they did know what she was—
but you have raised him well. Now it is time for you to do one last thing for him. All I ask is that you bring your husband—the second person to whom young James will owe his freedom—to Scotland and deliver him into my keeping. I will leave instructions for you at the Wolf, Ram and Hart Inn in Edinburgh one week from the day you receive this letter. Do this and James will go free.
Fail to acquiesce and the next time you see your nephew will be to bury him. Do not disappoint me, Olivia.

It was unsigned. The coward hadn't the courage to give her his name so she would know whom to kill. Instead, she was at his mercy.

Or perhaps not.

She didn't bother with shoes or a wrap. Her only thought was James—the young man who was more her son than nephew. She hadn't been able to save James's mother, her sister Rosemary, but she'd be damned if she let anyone take James from her.

And she'd be damned if she'd go within ten miles of her husband.

The door banged against the side of the house as she threw it open. Two running strides were all she took before vaulting herself into the night sky. There was only one road leading to and away from her home and she could see a good distance in either direction from above the trees.

The messenger was heading east, as she expected. That was the road that led toward London, where James had been when last they spoke. Now he was in Scotland? Held against his will, and for what? Why would they want her husband in exchange? If they knew what she was, they had to know what he was—and he was infinitely more dangerous than she. Who in their right minds would tangle with that kind of power? Only someone stupid or more powerful.

Sweet God, the idea of James being held by such people…

From high above, Olivia flew over the messenger, her acute vision trained on him as the moonlight lit his path. She passed him and then swooped downward, the wind rushing through her hair, pulling it from its pins as she rushed toward the ground. Pivoting her body, she landed on her feet in the middle of the smoothly packed road, the ground cool beneath her stocking feet. She stood there, shoulders back and heaving with barely restrained rage, the crumpled letter in her fist, waiting for the messenger to appear.

She saw him before he saw her. His mount saw her before he did as well, and the gelding sensed her aggression. Glossy chestnut forelegs glinted as they pawed the air. A high-pitched whinny cut through the stillness of the night. The messenger struggled to maintain his seat.

And Olivia approached.

Reaching up, she caught the bridle in her fingers, guiding the horse's front half downward. She gave the beast a gentle pat, letting it know that she meant it no harm.

The messenger stared at her, the whites of his eyes full and bright. “Mrs. Gavin.”

Olivia's other hand seized the boy by his belt. One yank had him on his arse on the ground, gaping at her with a mixture of confusion and horror. His horse sidestepped, and Olivia let it go.

“Who sent you?” she demanded, holding up the fist that held the ransom note. “Give me a name.”

BOOK: Let the Night Begin
8.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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