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Tilly Wallace

Feint and Doublecross

Feint and Doublecross

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An unexpected move could place Sera in check…or will it be checkmate?

A strange beast stalks unfashionable Southbank, taking victims in a horrific fashion. Naturally the Mage Council sends Sera to track the supernatural killer, while pressuring her to marry one of their hand picked suitors. 

With few clues as to whether the man was targeted or if it were a random crime of opportunity, Sera casts a remembrance spell that brings to the surface a similar crime. Set on the trail of a decades old curse that may have resulted in fatal consequences, Sera stumbles upon a tingle of familiar magic. Finally, she unravels long buried secrets about her history. 

Then from the shadows, her opponent steps forward and makes a move. But with Sera distracted by revelations from her past, it could put her into a deadly checkmate…

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Read sample

Late Autumn, 1788
London, England

There cannot be another Nereus.
When Seraphina Winyard first read that warning on Lord Branvale’s ensorcelled paper, it made no sense. Nor could she see how it had any relevance to her. And yet men had used those words to wrap her magic in chains. Now, snippets of information gleaned over the preceding weeks had begun to snap together like a mosaic. The picture that time slowly revealed made her skin crawl with foreboding.
She plumped up a teal brocade cushion and lay back on the settee in her little parlour. Eyes half-closed, she stared at the night sky she had painted on the ceiling and tried to unravel a tangled history.
In mythology, Nereus was the child of Mother Earth and Old Man Sea. In the context of the secret message sent to Lord Branvale, she believed it referred to the child of two mages. Yes. Those words tasted true as she mouthed them. The warning implied that shadowy forces sought to ensure she never took a male mage to her bed and birthed such a Nereus.
A snort huffed through her. They could have simply sat her down and requested that she not conceive a child with one of their number. Although when she looked around the council table, they didn’t even have to ask such a thing. There were probably tens of thousands of men in England she’d prefer for the task before she became desperate enough to consider a fellow mage.
Should she even be inclined to procreate.
But why exactly did the council want to prevent such a pairing? Apart from the obvious, in her opinion. Of those who had reached adulthood, none of them even remotely appealed as a potential lover. Lord Pendlebury made a fine friend, but she had no desire to peer beneath his clothing. As for the others… a shudder ran through her body.
From talking to the Crows, she had learned that Mother Nature imposed a limit on their numbers, just as she did with her mages. Twelve mages. Three Crows. Neither could create greater numbers of their kind than that first spontaneous appearance. But the Crows were different in an important way—the women gifted their magic to the next generation when the girls were ready.
If what Sera had discovered held true, any child she conceived by a mage or an Unnatural would wield their own unique magic, rather than being a powerless second generation. Not to mention that child would be able to transfer their ability to one of their descendants when they were ready to give it up. The same cycle could occur over and over, throughout her line, with no waning of their magic.
Yet Mother Nature still maintained some control over such offspring. Sera couldn’t mother a dozen (nor did she want to!) and create her own powerful army. So why was such an outcome so feared that, for centuries, the council had stopped girl babes from drawing breath? Given the nature of society and the rules imposed on women, she suspected there was a darker truth behind their actions: Men baulked at the mere idea of powerful women controlling which of their blood descendants received magic.
A cold shudder worked down Sera’s spine. If two mages produced a gifted child of similar ability to its parents, then the bestowing of their power was no longer subject to the random whims of chance. Magic would pass from one generation to the next with absolute certainty. Families could build political power on such a base, knowing they would always have a mage among them. Would children of a given bloodline vie to be that chosen one? Would they kill for it?
She let out a slow breath and, across the plaster ceiling, games between descendants played out to find the most worthy to receive an ageing mage’s magic. Like the battles of ancient gladiators.
“I’m not sure that would be an improvement over the current situation,” Sera whispered. Perhaps Mother Nature really did know best by ensuring that mages appeared spontaneously and unpredictably.
Another thought crammed itself into her whirring mind. What of children with a mage father and an Unnatural mother? Such couplings must have occurred throughout their history. But how to find out? Lord Pendlebury might assist her in finding more. She would also study the old genealogies for clues. There was one name she was determined to find, to see how the magical book treated such a mage—Morag, mother of the Crows.
The modest blue enamelled mantel clock chimed the hour. Morning had slid past while she’d been engaged in her silent contemplations.
“Bother.” Yet again, she had too much to do and too little time. Instead of interfering in her life, mages should direct their energies toward the problem of cramming more hours into a day. Although which was worse—mages meddling in women’s affairs or having the ability to control time and alter past events?
“Elliot! I need a hackney!” With a brush of magic, she made her request echo throughout the house. There might yet be time for a quick trip to mage tower before she was expected at the Napier residence in Mayfair for her visit with Kitty.
Footsteps stomped up the stairs. Then the footman appeared in the doorway, still clutching a piece of toast. Apparently, she had disturbed his breakfast, which meant he must have risen late.
“I’m short on time. I’ll finish dressing and need a vehicle ready outside by the time I come down.” She rose and headed for the door. That morning, she had descended the stairs in a robe to take breakfast while sorting out her correspondence.
“Challenge accepted,” he murmured, after swallowing his mouthful. He rushed out the front door and down the steps.
By the time Sera had donned a gown appropriate both to visit her friend and to wander the dusty hidden library, and Vicky had pinned up her hair in a loose style, Elliot stood by the door once more with a grin on his face. Out in the street, a hackney waited to take her to the tower.

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Customer Reviews

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Eliza Hansen
Great Read, awaiting the next adventure!

I love this author and I love these stories. I stumbled across a collection via audible and needless to say I’m love her stories. I love the narrator in all her recorded books. I think Book Funnel was a fantastic app in which to indulge in her stories. I fully support giving the author the majority of the profits she rightfully deserves. That being said I love that I can buy all books straight from her website and download them to to handful of formats. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series and the new books awaiting publication.

J
Jennifer Stevenson
Great book, great series!

Great book, great series. Highly recommend to readers looking for an escape in colorful world of magic and mayhem!

C
Cheryl Johnston
Fantastic

I love the characters!!! I have read Manners and Monsters series so it is wonderful to get to know Sera and Hugh’s story. I can’t wait for the next book.

K
Kris Rudin
Lots of fun, as usual

A great addition to the series. Love seeing the romance between Sera and Hugh develop further!

K
Kk

I love this story and how the characters continue to develop. Total plot twist at the end! Cannot wait for the next book!