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Tilly Wallace

Vanity and Vampyres

Vanity and Vampyres

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Being a reveller is such a drain…

Someone is supping upon young noblemen and it’s up to Hannah and Wycliff to investigate. If only they could agree on how the men are being drained of their life’s blood. Is it a vampyre, known for their impeccable fashion sense, nocturnal roaming, and dislike of rain, who lurks in the shadows of London? Or is some more earthly method at play, like an attack of leeches?

With her best friend’s wedding imminent, Hannah is determined that the event be untouched by murder or mayhem. To ensure a magical fairytale event they must catch the murderer before the big day. Wycliff must seek the assistance of a man who raises his hackles and Hannah struggles with her growing feelings toward her guarded husband.

This pursuit will unearth long buried secrets that could have fatal consequences for those dearest to Hannah.

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Late May, 1816. Westbourne Green.

“I am married to a hellhound,” Hannah announced upon entering the library.
She strode across the Persian carpet and kissed her mother’s proffered linen-covered cheek, before claiming her customary spot on the window seat. Hannah and Wycliff had returned the previous evening from their rather eventful stay at the Pennicott estate in the country. Since her mother had been ensconced in her turret, Hannah had been unable to interrogate the mage and had to wait until morning.
“I am glad you have returned to us, safe and well. Now, did you uncover the information about your husband’s condition for yourself, or did Wycliff find a dollop of that common sense he so lauds and tell you?” Seraphina—Lady Miles—glanced up from her work. The desk’s large surface was covered in letters and small notes, as though she created a patchwork from the information they contained.
Hannah let loose a sigh. Of course he hadn’t told her. The man held his secrets tighter than an oyster hiding a pearl. “I pieced together the clues. Including scorched paw prints outside our window and the fact that my husband sprouts smoky fur when his hackles are up.” Hannah picked up a cushion and ran her fingers through the tassels. She recalled the tingling sensation when she’d stroked the phantom fur that had erupted along Wycliff’s bare spine.
“I did advise him that such secrets wouldn’t stay buried for ever, no matter how much he might wish it.” Seraphina set down her silver pen and the paper, and turned her bathchair.
Hannah continued to torment the fringe on the cushion, until Lady Miles waved a hand and it tugged itself free of her grip to settle on the other side of the window seat. Straightening her shoulders, she faced her mother. How she wished she could peer into her blue eyes instead of at the cream linen that concealed them. “Did you arrange the marriage between us because he is a hellhound, the legendary guardians of the dead?”
Seraphina wheeled herself forward and took Hannah’s hands between her cotton-covered ones. Today, Seraphina wore no outer ornamentation to relieve her linen covering, and resembled a marble bust placed in a niche. “No. I consented to the marriage because I know he is a good and loyal man, despite his prickly exterior. His being a hellhound is a potentially interesting development in our search for a cure for the Affliction. Since you are back, you need to tell me all about your stay with the Pennicotts and how you found Mage Tomlin.”
Hannah screwed up her face at the mention of the mage—the grandfather of their ward, Timothy. “I did not like him and he was horrid to Timmy. Although I grudgingly admit he had his use in subduing Miss Edith Stewart.” While she had only been away for ten days, there was much to tell her mother. Then Hannah’s story would need repeating for Lizzie, although her friend would be privy to a somewhat different version.
“And what of your husband? How do you find him upon closer inspection?” Seraphina shook Hannah’s hands as though her secrets were apples to be shaken free of their branches.
“I find he is quite good company and entirely tolerable when he stops frowning. Although I am not sure how to proceed.” Hannah would keep Wycliff’s kiss firmly to herself. The memory warmed her insides and it seemed too precious and delicate to share with anyone else. When she was ready, she might venture to ask Lizzie’s expert opinion on the subject. It certainly was not a topic she wished to discuss with her mother. Putting aside Wycliff’s kisses, that left his otherworldly nature to consider.
Even Wycliff seemed unsure how to act after their close time together. He had kept his nose in a book on the return journey and been polite, but distant, when they stopped at the inn for a night. When they returned to Westbourne Green, he had bidden her an awkward good-night (without any attempt at a chaste kiss on her cheek) and then crept to his suite of rooms. Hannah had yet to brave the breakfast room. Interrogating her mother seemed a far greater priority than a cup of hot chocolate and toast.
“I find that when one is on uncertain ground, one day at a time is the best way to proceed,” Seraphina said with a chuckle.
“Have you heard what will become of Miss Stewart?” Hannah pulled her thoughts away from the bare chest of Wycliff and to the visage of the lady’s companion at the recent house party they’d attended. The one who hid the unthinkable under her turban.
“She is to be interred at the Repository of Forgotten Things until they decide what to do with her. Poor thing. Such a terrible situation, but perhaps she might find some peace now.” Seraphina let go of Hannah’s hands.
The library door cracked open and little Sheba rushed in with Barnes clinging to her back. The disembodied hand rode the puppy like a monkey on a miniature pony. He leapt down as they crossed the rug and scuttled to the sofa, where he jumped up to perch on the back. Sheba launched herself at Hannah and she picked up the squirming puppy.
“Hello, girl. I did miss you.” Once the puppy had thoroughly licked her face and been cuddled, Hannah set her on her lap so that she might stroke the silken ears. Hannah pointed to Barnes. “I do hope you behaved yourself and didn’t terrorise Mary.”
“We only had one incident that saw Barnes incarcerated in a birdcage and left dangling from the ceiling for the day. Since then, he has been on his best behaviour. His reading is coming along rather well and he often sits with Timmy during the lad’s lessons.” Seraphina gathered together a stack of papers and moved them to a corner of her desk. Her actions revealed a portion of a map underneath.

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