Lord Weston, Vampire Slayer
Mouse over the cover to see the hero,
In His Control
Cajun Hot Press
Sometimes it takes a vampire…
Viscount Weston is supposed to announce his betrothal at tonight’s ball. Always skeptical of love, he is even more wary when his intended fiancée allows herself to be seduced by another man…who turns out to be a vampire. The fashionable vamp has infiltrated the home of the highly secret Order of the Cadre in order to steal the Demon Stone, an ancient black diamond with special demonic powers.
To show you who you really love…
Unfortunately for the vampire, he runs into the formidable Lady Phillipa, who foils his plans…as well as Lord Weston’s.
If you love the Dark Enchantments series, you’ll want to read this fast-paced prequel that takes place during Regency times!
St. Yve Manor, England
“I’m telling you, he’s trying to seduce her away from me.”
Lord Sander Maybank, Viscount Weston and future Sixth Earl of St. Yve, stalked out of the crowded ballroom and headed for the manor library. He needed a damn drink. And not that insipid French stuff being served at the ball.
His best friend, Lord James Tennyson, kept pace at his side. “Calm down, San,” he drawled. “Your reaction might give your guests the wrong impression.”
The air in the private hallway was suddenly filled with otherworldly presence. House demons swirled like vapor about them, sensing San’s agitation.
“And what impression might that be?” he demanded, ignoring them. St. Yve was overflowing with otherworldly entities, some benevolent, some frightening, but none would hurt any member of the family or their allies.
“That you are actually in love with your fiancée,” James declared.
At the word “love” the faint perfume of old roses wafted through the fragrance of the beeswax candles burning in the wall sconces.
Despite the thick Persian carpets, San’s bootsteps echoed down the cavernous hallway…along with his derisive snort. “Bite your tongue, man. The day I fall in love is the day pigs fly.”
“Then why are you so damn angry about Count d’Bronski?”
San brushed aside a sleepy threshold gargoyle, whipped open the library door, and marched inside. “D’Bronski’s behavior toward Lady Anne tonight has been beyond the pale—openly flirting with her all evening, dancing with her three times. Three times!”
James went straight to the drinks table and poured two snifters of brandy. Crystal glasses clinked and clanked on the tray as a ghostly mist threaded through the delicate stems. “Well, admittedly, that isn’t the done thing.”
San took the proffered snifter and downed the contents in one gulp. “No. And she’s just as guilty. She should have said no the second time, let alone the third. I’m seriously considering calling off announcing our engagement tonight.”
Somewhere close by, a book thudded to the floor.
James gave him a penetrating look. “Everyone’s expecting it. Your father will not be happy if you beg off this marriage. He’s counting on her father’s patronage for the Department.”
San ground his teeth. As if he needed reminding. The Department of Anachronistic Research was London University’s most obscure, mysterious, and archaic department. Its faculty specialized in all manner of paranormal studies—clairvoyance, out-of-body, mediums, déjà vu, that sort of thing. The Department was, of course, a false front. Its true function was to pinpoint and recruit new initiates for the highly secret Order of the Cadre.
Two hundred years ago, the very first Earl of St. Yve had founded both the Department and the Cadre to help mortals study and fight against evil otherworldly entities—one organization with science, the other with…more inventive countermeasures. Over the generations since then, each Earl of St. Yve in turn had taken his place at their helms.
Soon enough, it would be San’s turn.
And he knew they desperately needed the funds his contracted marriage would bring to the table. Demons and Darks were sighted more frequently every year. If something wasn’t done, the Mortal Realm would be overrun with malevolent entities spreading their evil.
“I understand this marriage is a business arrangement,” San said and handed the empty snifter back to James. “But must I sacrifice my domestic happiness for the sake of a financial boon? Being shackled for a lifetime to a woman who thinks nothing of cuckolding me within sight of my family and friends, even before taking her vows…well, it’s not an appealing prospect.”
James refilled the snifter and handed it back with a slight smile. “So, you are looking for a love match,” he said wryly.
“No!” San boomed, flexing his fingers to keep from breaking the fragile glass he held. “Love turns a man into a fool.”
“Ah. Well, then. What, exactly, do you want in a wife?” James asked, tilting his head in curiosity.
It was a fair question. One San had not put a lot of thought into, because he’d always assumed he’d have little say in the matter. A future earl’s life was pretty much laid out from birth, with precious little deviation allowed by either parents or society. Which had never bothered him overly much.
Until tonight, when the unpleasant reality of his prospective nuptials had hit him full force.
There was something distinctly…unsavory…about Count d’Bronski. Watching him ooze his reptilian charms over Lady Anne all evening had turned San’s stomach. But the fact that she’d actually seemed to encourage the man’s attentions was the final straw that had broken San’s compliant attitude toward this betrothal.
But…what did he want?
Around them, the library walls seemed to close in, as though straining to hear his answer.
He gazed contemplatively at the priceless Saxon Crown glittering in its place of honor on the bookshelf behind the polished wooden desk. “Is it too much to ask for a semblance of respect, or even friendship, in one’s spouse?” he muttered. “Someone who actually likes me? A woman who is not afraid to read books, and has interests other than the latest fashions and gossip? One who knows about the Dark Realm, and is willing to share my life’s work would be a bonus.”
James made a horrified face. “Reads books? Good God.” He gave a mock shudder. “Perhaps you should marry my sister. Can’t get her nose out of a damn book. And trust me, the very last thing she’s concerned with is a fashionable wardrobe.”
San choked out a laugh and tore his gaze from the Saxon Crown. “Pippa? Don’t be daft. She’s just a girl, you old lecher!”
James grinned. “Actually, she turned eighteen last spring. But I was kidding, of course. As much as I adore her, and would cherish having you as a brother-in-law, I wouldn’t wish that spoiled, stubborn bluestocking on any man.”
San stared at his friend in surprise, still stuck back at her age. “Eighteen? Really?” How the hell had she grown up so quickly? Surely, he hadn’t gotten so old…
He tried to recall the last time he’d seen Pippa, but couldn’t. As children, he and James used to hare around St. Yve estate like two little hellions, getting into heaps of trouble, making their mothers crazed with worry that they’d end up demon bait of some sort. Thankfully, they had absorbed their Cadre lessons well enough to know not to leave the property, so they’d always been protected by the house guardian demons. Which was good, because more often than not Pippa, who was seven years younger, would trail after them, determined to share in the fun. And, naturally, they’d do everything they could to lose her in the enchanted wood surrounding the manor. It was a bloody miracle nothing had ever happened to the little girl.
That they knew of…
“Indeed, she’s out of the schoolroom, and annoying as ever,” James said with a long-suffering sigh.
San could swear one of the fireplace gargoyles gave a soft snort at that.
And he grinned to himself, suddenly flooded with memories of the spritely little imp he’d always adored like a— Well, not exactly like a sister… Truth be told, he’d always carried a bit of a tendre for sweet, precocious, pretty Pippa. She’d been a constant ray of sunshine in his responsibility-filled youth.
But he’d never even considered pursuing it. She was his best friend’s baby sister. What if things between them ended badly? Or his parents didn’t approve of the match? No. He could never do anything to risk his close friendship with James. Often, that brotherly support was the only thing keeping him sane in this crazy world of theirs. So, when he and James went off to school, San had put his affection for her firmly on the shelf and turned his attention to other females.
A good thing. Because unbeknownst to him at the time, his parents had already selected his future wife. And his own feelings didn’t enter into the picture.
“Anyway,” he said with a frown, “I was thoroughly shocked by Lady Anne’s unbecoming behavior tonight. She’s never acted the wanton before. I can’t imagine what’s gotten into her.”
“Can’t you?” James drawled.
San threw him a grimace. “Thank you for that image, sir. Tell me, is Count d’Bronski so much more attractive than I, that a woman would choose him over a future earl?”
“Hard to believe.”
“Then why is Lady Anne throwing away our betrothal?” San demanded in frustration. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think the man has somehow bespelled her.”
Obviously, that had been his first thought. But tonight’s guests had all been carefully vetted by the Cadre and their hearts weighed by the threshold demons. There were several Darks and a few who practiced magic in attendance, but all of those had worked for or been involved with the Cadre at one point or another, or proven themselves to be firmly on the side of good, as opposed to evil. No demon of vengeance, dread demon, or seditious Black Court faerie was among the three hundred invited guests.
James shrugged. “D’Bronski is rich, handsome, and mysterious. Many females would need no more reason than that. Women are shallow creatures, easily glamoured by shiny lures.”
Another book hit the floor with a loud bang, startling them both.
“That’s it,” came a supremely irritated female declaration from the other side of a huge plush armchair tucked in the far corner of the library. “I did my best to keep silent, but I simply cannot listen to another word of your drivel.”
The walls sucked back into place with a snap.
James whirled toward the voice. “Pippa? What on earth are you doing here, sneaking around like a wraith?”
“One might believe,” she continued as if her brother hadn’t spoken, “the pair of you to be rank novices, not Cadre adepts with years of training.”
San drew himself up at the insult. “I say. That was uncalled for.”
“On the contrary. It was very much called for,” she refuted, rising from the chair so at last she was visible.
Though it had been a few years, San instantly knew the soft gold of her hair, the elegant curve of her throat, and the determined set of her shoulders. With a rustle of silk, she turned to face them, and his body filled with the warmth of familiar recognition. A second later, he was blindsided by an unexpected thrill of…very male attraction.
He swallowed heavily.
“What are you on about?” James asked her in annoyance.
“Perhaps it takes a shallow, easily glamoured woman to see the obvious,” she said sardonically, and slowly walked toward them.
For San, the only thing obvious was that Pippa was no longer the awkward little sprite of his childhood. If she had, indeed, grown into a bookworm bluestocking, one would never know it. Her ball gown was most certainly of the very latest fashion—high-waisted, puffy sleeved, breathtakingly low neckline—and it flattered her very feminine curves to the fullest.
Lady Phillipa Tennyson had grown into an utterly stunning young woman.
San was speechless.
Luckily, James was not. “And what, pray tell, is so damned obvious?” he asked her.
She smiled, and San’s pulse did a little jig.
“Your Count d’Bronski,” she said smugly. “Clearly, the man is a vampire.”