Authors: Susan Sizemore
Table of Contents
A Victorian Historical Romance
* * * * *
Once they lived and loved in the dark.
* * * * *
Copyright 2012 Susan Sizemore
Editor: Marguerite Krause
Cover Art: Romancenovels.com
* * * * *
The moon was full, as of course is should be for this sort of thing. Grace McCoy watched the sky out the coach window as the woods went by, sometimes obscuring the moon, sometimes showing it in all its silvery glory. The road was ancient and rutted, but the fancy coach was well-sprung, far more luxurious than anything she was used to. Her clothes were very fine as well, her dress deep red velvet trimmed in lace and ribbons. She wore a hat with a fluffy white egret feather trimming the band. She looked like a lady, which was certainly something she never wanted to be.
She was a witch. A Traveler witch at that. Proud of it. All this falderal was meant to attract a man. It was mating plumage.
Not even a man, really. A mortal man could not bring her people what they needed, what she had been assigned to bring them.
Grace sighed. Was she nervous? Not really. Afraid? Most definitely.
She looked around the dark interior of the coach. Although she was alone, she said aloud, “Something isn’t right.”
She decided to trust her instincts rather than passively go on with the plan. Grace pounded on the roof of the coach and shouted for the driver to stop. The coachman was her uncle Mungo. He stopped the horses and jumped down from the box as Grace opened the door.
“What are you doing, child?”
Grace looked around. She saw the glint of a small stream. A stone bridge took the road over the water. She walked toward the woods and the water.
“Grace McCoy, what are you doing?”
“Making a choice,” she called back.
“We are on a schedule.”
“Ladies are always fashionably late,” she answered. She stepped from the road onto the faintest of fern-lined paths down by the water.
“Don’t ruin that dress!” Mungo shouted.
The plan was to sell the contents of Grace’s trunk full of brand new clothes once its purpose was served.
Once her purpose was served. Blast Granny McCoy and her plan.
Grace walked away, walked until Uncle Mungo’s complaints were only a faint background mutter. She was looking for something she’d know when she found it.
When she came to the pool reflecting the full moon, she knew she’d found the perfect spot for scrying. She wanted to kneel over the water and looked deeply into its depths, but she respected the value of the velvet and lace encasing her body and simply looked down. She stared at the moon and cleared her mind, knowing there was something she was meant to see. The itch in her mind told her this was important.
Grace took a deep breath. Then another. She made her mind go blank. She had the sight somewhere deep inside her soul. It was hard for her to bring up the talent, but she knew it was there. She prayed to the moon and the moon answered.
The silver circle reflected in the pool became a mirror. Grace looked into the mirror, and vision came.
* * *
“I dislike this so-called assignment of being the honey trap to catch a spy, Beverly,” Julien Weaver said to the man posing as his valet. Julien was a spy, but Beverly was the spy master. Julien took his orders from the mortal. Up to a point.
“What don’t you like, my lord?” came the bland reply. “Lord McHeath’s house party is the event of the season—for a certain sort of high flyer. You are in fine company. The gambling is of the highest stakes. The shooting parties are promised huge coveys of birds. The wine is the finest in Europe. The women the most beautiful. Some of them are even ladies.”
“It is the ladies that I dislike,” Julien answered. “You have brought me here to whore for my Family and country. And, yes, I put my loyalty to my Matri before my loyalty to the Queen,” he added at Beverly’s faint aura of disapproval. He was loyal to the country where his Family had settled, but mortals could never be completely trusted. He spoke honestly to Beverly now because he knew when this assignment was over Beverly would only remember Julien as his best operative, the one with an uncanny ability to read people and get them to tell him things. This had happened before. Sometimes it was simply more efficient for Beverly to know exactly who Julien was for a time.
The mortal was very good at hiding his feelings from other mortals, but his blank expression was no barrier to a vampire Prime’s psychic senses.
“I do not understand your objection to making love to beautiful, willing women. One of whom is a Russian spy.”
Julien’s laugh was bitter. His voice was hard. “I will not be making love to anyone. I may have sex, but no gentle, emotional word can be applied to what I perform with these pampered, proud, spoiled nobles. I want nothing to do with that sort when it comes to making
“As long as you get the job done, it doesn’t matter how you do it or what you call it.”
Of course it doesn’t matter
, Julien thought.
Except possibly to me.
* * *
“What are you doing, you blasted fool girl?”
Grace gasped, shocked out of the vision at the interruption, instantly dispelling many details. She looked toward the sound, and eventually Uncle Mungo came into focus. His freckled features replaced the sharp ones she’d watched in the vision.
Some things she remembered.
That mouth! How could any lips be so cruel and sensual at once? Her whole body tingled at the thought of that mouth.
Would she really have to accept that hard body on hers, those strong hands caressing and possessing her? That mouth covering hers? Demanding….
Of course she would. If this spell was to work at all.
She did wish now that she’d followed more of Granny McCoy’s advice than just looking through a book with pictures of naked people doing naughty things. Maybe she should have taken a lover to prepare herself for having sex. But she feared that would interfere with the spell. Besides, it meant something to her to give this—man, she had to keep thinking of him as a man if she was to go through with it—her virginity. The laws of magic as well as simple ethical behavior dictated that if you took something from someone you should give something of equal value in return.
At least it was valuable to her. To a rake, and a monster, at that, who could say?
“Grace,” Mungo said again. “Come along. The night’s wasting.”
“It is,” she agreed. “And so far, it’s all been a waste.”
“What do you mean?” he asked as she walked past him.
When she reached the coach she went around to the back and began unfastening the straps holding her trunk onto it. “Help me with this,” she said as her uncle came up beside her.
“What are you doing?”
“Changing clothes. You can take the coach back to London stable after you drop me off at the gates of the manor. It will save on the rental. I’m glad I didn’t bring a maid.”
“You should have. No proper lady travels without a maid. Wait a moment— Why change your clothes? Why return the coach?”
“Because Granny McCoy was wrong. This must be done a different way.” Grace stood back and crossed her arms, not caring that her uncle loomed over her, seething with indignation. “From the moment she chose me, this Working became my responsibility. I am doing it the way my instincts show.”
“It’s your pride showing you things. Now get back in the—”
“No. This will be done my way or not at all.” She gazed up at the moon riding higher and higher in the sky. She pressed a hand against her flat abdomen. “Now. Time is flying.”
It wasn’t only that the dining room was hot, stuffy, and too full of people, it also smelled. It smelled of gaslight and candle smoke. It smelled of wilting flowers in the huge silver vases lining the table. It smelled of a mixture of perfumes. It smelled of the sweat the perfume was meant to cover. It smelled of the fish course, which was currently being served by a parade of maids and footmen circling the long table. Why, oh, why, did mortals believe keeping the windows closed on a perfectly lovely summer night was the proper thing to do?
Propriety was the thing, not whether or not something was right or sensible.
Julien Weaver sat among the mortals, pretended to be one of them, seemingly basked in the admiration turned his way by the ladies, but wondered if he would ever understand them. Possibly this was an odd thing for a person with his psychic abilities to think. But going any deeper than the surface area of a person’s mind was too intimate a connection to have with anyone but a bondmate.
This was hardly the place to go looking for a life-long, soul-deep lover. Julien gazed politely to his left. The lady beside him had her attention on the man to her left. Good. He wouldn’t have to make conversation with Lady Tatania Bascomb for the moment. She was a stunningly beautiful woman. Her green gown bared her shoulders and showed off her lovely pale bosom. She was a Russian countess by birth, married to a much older man, and well known for her promiscuity. None of this automatically made her the spy he was here to expose.
A delicate touch on the back of his right hand caused Julien to look to his right. Or, he started to. His attention was caught by the maid serving the man across the table from him. She was dressed in the same anonymous black dress, white apron, and cap as all the other maid servants in the room. She was not there to be noticed. She was plain as a crow among this cage full of exotic birds. Not so plain if you took the time to actually look at her. She had copper-colored hair beneath the white cap, pulled back into a tight bun. He suspected it would come down in soft curls around her face. Her cheeks were fresh and pink, dusted faintly with freckles. She had a sharp, stubborn chin, softened by a bit of a cleft. Her eyes were blue as the midnight sky, dark and deep, and amused. Her mouth was amazing, wide and full lipped and kissable. She was trying hard to hide a smile. There was nothing respectful in her attitude toward her betters, though her gaze was modestly concentrated on her work. The way the maid wrinkled her nose as she placed a plate of fish before the diner told Julien she wasn’t happy with the aromas around them either. She must have felt his attention on her, because her gaze flicked up for a moment, met his, then natural mental barriers came up as she quickly looked away.
Lightning sizzled over Julien’s skin, deep into his body and through his soul.
Had the girl even consciously noticed? He couldn’t breathe while he watched her move to the next place at the table, neatly balancing her laden platter. And then the next. She moved toward the dining room door without a glance back. He would have stood to follow her, but fingertips tapped the back of his hand, a delicate but demanding touch. He was brought back to himself, his duty. He turned his head, hating the woman who’d brought him back from acting on his deepest instinct.
“I must say it is very hard to attract your attention this evening, Julien,” Lady Emmaline Merritt said.
She tried to look amused, but annoyance was beneath her smiling expression. She was obvious, unlike the red-haired maid. How could he not find such a source of mystery attractive?
“Forgive me, dear Emmaline.”
“Always.” She continued to trace a finger over the back of his hand. When he moved it beneath the table, her fingers followed to grasp his. This was not what he’d intended.
She had been his mistress not so long ago. The liaison had been for enjoyment rather than business. He had pleasured her and fed his own desires for a few winter nights together. They had not seen each other since, but here they were near enough to touch once more. She was a beautiful woman, but not even the hot blood beneath her soft skin attracted him at the moment.
He pulled his hand from Emmaline’s.
The other gentleman beside you craves your attention,
Julien put the thought in her head. She immediately focused her attention elsewhere. Julien hid a smile. He also suggested to the gentleman that Emmaline was a fascinating woman, which she was.
There were some vampires who claimed it was wrong to influence the minds of mortals, even in the smallest of things. These were vampires who rarely had to interact with mortals, of course. Yet how would Julien make mortals think they saw him outdoors in the daylight or involved in a dozen other activities that were normal for them but dangerous for him without using telepathy?