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Tilly Wallace

Mistletoe and Mireworth

Mistletoe and Mireworth

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Will Mireworth yield her secrets to her new mistress…?

As the family gathers at Mireworth for their first Christmas, Hannah is determined to unravel the secrets within its walls. Why did Wycliff’s ancestor hide the tower from the world, and what grip did the long-ago shadow mage have upon his family? With Barnes as her assistant, Hannah sets out to discover the truth.

This is an epilogue novella to the Manners and Monsters series.

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Autumn ushered in the busiest months Hannah could ever remember, even though the social season had officially ended. Over a period of weeks, Hannah and Wycliff journeyed repeatedly to the Duat and searched for the trapped ka of the Afflicted. Word spread among the ton and at odd times (normally dusk or dawn) a quiet knock on the door would herald the arrival of a woman seeking a cure to the rot nibbling at her limbs. Hannah even received a gilt-edged invitation from a duchess, asking her to call upon them with her basket of coloured glass. That visit resulted in a daughter being restored to full life, and a heavy sapphire was added to Hannah’s hoard of the gemstones left behind when a soul was returned.
Through a process of trial and error, Hannah discovered that she needed a connection with an Afflicted in order to identify the missing spark of a soul now contained in the glass. They would chat of inconsequential things much like any normal social visit, as Hannah sorted through the shards, seeking the one that resonated with her visitor’s voice. A lump would form in her throat when a woman perched forward on the sofa with hands clasped and bright expectation on her face, only to meet with crushing disappointment.
“I’m sorry, it is not among these.” Hannah’s voice always caught on the words as she delivered the sad news.
One woman, the wife of an earl, became angry at being told her spark did not dwell within the basket.
“I shall take another. That red one is pretty and matches my gown. Give it to me at once,” she demanded, and gestured with a gloved hand.
Hannah tucked the basket closer to her body and glanced at her husband. “I cannot. It does not work like that. I will not place another woman’s soul in your body.”
Her incensed ladyship rose to her feet. “Do you know who I am? I demand you cure me of this dreadful curse.”
Wycliff pushed off from the window, where he had been a silent observer. “Do you know whom you are dealing with?” he asked in a quiet tone. His features shimmered as the hellhound dropped over him, and the large hound of Anubis sat in the middle of the parlour. The creature bared its long fangs and smoky, red-tipped fur drifted to a disturbance in the air.
The countess gasped and clutched the necklace at her throat, though whether to defend her jugular or the jewellery wasn’t entirely clear. Behind the thin mask concealing her rotting features, wide eyes stared at Hannah. “What is that thing?”
“That is the creature who enables me to hunt down and return the missing souls taken from the Afflicted. I am sure our next foray to the afterlife will reveal the shard needed to stop the decay spreading through your limbs.” Hannah kept a serious expression on her face. She suspected Wycliff relished the rumours that sprouted about him, and he secretly enjoyed shocking people when they glimpsed the hound. For a man who had once buried his secret deep, he now shared it freely.
Gossip had erupted in London that the viscount was a creature from Hell, and if society had been afraid of him before, it was nothing to how they felt now. Although it must be said that many people weren’t that surprised by the news, given his reputation. For the common people, it somewhat allayed their fears knowing that Black Shuck stalked London solely to find foul souls and drag them back to where they belonged, not to feed on any of their number out after nightfall.
Having made his point that they would not be intimidated or threatened, Wycliff shrugged off his underworld persona and walked to Hannah’s side. He took the basket from her and held it close to his chest.
“Now that I have made your acquaintance, it will be easier for me to find your missing spark. I am sure your next visit here will bring good news. Is a delay of a few days so terrible to bear, when it will result in immortality?” Hannah murmured as she stood next to her husband.
Hearing a person’s voice and being in their presence would help guide Hannah’s search on her next trip to the underworld. Rarely had she failed to find their spark after meeting with someone, and their second encounter was more joyous. A week later, even the rude countess was reunited with the missing piece of her soul. Not too surprisingly, she declined to have her heart weighed in the scales of Ma’at and chose to remain as one of the undead.
Life transformed in many ways for the unusual family in Westbourne Green. Joy flowed through Hannah that her body had thrown off the curse, and she could now dare to dream of what the future might hold for her and Wycliff. Her mother created an uproar by claiming a spot on the mage council, as England’s only shadow mage. Not to mention the very public walk she had taken through London to the palace for a tête-à-tête with Queen Charlotte. The newspapers were filled with tales of the cured Afflicted, and the fear that had once roared through the streets crept back into the shadows.
Even Unwin and Alder took the decline in their clientele with good grace, although Wycliff muttered they had probably already spotted a new market in the range of services they offered to Unnaturals. As more creatures stepped into the light, they had particular needs that required the discreet help of Unwin and Alder.
Lord Tomlin retreated from London to a remote estate near the Scottish border. He claimed he wished to immerse himself in scholarly pursuits. Seraphina chuckled, certain that his fear fuelled his desperate search for a way to escape death itself.
Hannah’s mother and husband conspired to find a way to navigate the dark path. One night, Wycliff’s hellhound walked through all of Tomlin’s protective wards and appeared at the foot of his bed. The hound reminded the mage that the jaws of Ammit, Devourer of the Dead, awaited him.

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E
Erika

It was a good ending to the series. I approve. ☺️

L
Liz

Nicely rounded off some of the story threads, but I’m not done with characters!