The Dukes of Mayfair II: The Lion of Vane
Lily came to London with one goal, freeing Simon and proving him innocent of his murder conviction. She would plead her case to King George. She found herself in the dangerous and unlikely world of assignation minded French spies, and a demented shade. Would the Duke of Vane assist or inadvertently place her in the hands of madmen?
Lily Wentworth made a deal with the devil. The devil came in the form of a man disguised in a great coat, wide brimmed top hat, red muffler, and named himself Mr. Shipley. Mr. Shipley would see Simon Morgan freed from prison and cleared of murder charges. In turn, Lily would assist Mr. Shipley with stopping the assignation of King George by a demented Frenchman.
Lily Wentworth's situation takes a deadly twist when she catches the eye of Lord Marcus Garrick, Duke of Vane.
Marcus must marry and post haste and he's set his sights on Lily. He's determined she'll be his duchess at any cost, even if it means turning to his long dormant Fey powers.
Word Count: 171,866
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
“It does not work,” Renee joined Marcus at the bow of the Dark Wind.
Marcus leaned on the railing. He turned and cut his friend a sour look. “What?”
“You watch the waves break on the ship and will her faster. I have done such. It does not help. It is hours yet before we reach our destination. Did you sleep?”
“What do you think? Fuck me for a fool, Albany. How could I not sense the danger to Lily and Sebastian? I know it one half hour before Sebastian takes a fall. The child has yet to have a skinned knee.” Marcus raked his hair. “How did I not sense this coming?”
“You sensed nought at all?”
“Damn. Just a moment, when Winston entered my suite, I had a flicker of something not as it should be, but I ignored it. I walked away from Lily and the bastard smiled at me.”
Renee took out two cheroots and a tinderbox from his pocket, turning his back to the wind, lit them and handed one to Marcus.
“I would say from the thunderous glare, and rage that flows from you, you love your Lily?”
Marcus gave Renee a tight-lipped grinned. “From the moment I found her in a chocolate shop.”
“Chocolate shop? The sweetest aphrodisiac. I found Esme up a tree. I fell madly into lust and love in the few moments it took to bring her down from said tree.”
Marcus blinked. “Up a tree?”
“What was she doing up a tree?”
“Hiding. She had lost her memory and from then on, all was madness. We are retired rakes, non?”
“No other woman for me, Albany.”
“And it is the same for me with my purple eyed Esme. Did Luc tell you of our rather strange adventure last summer?”
“He mentioned you, dark magic, demons and he had in mind to write a book about you and your Duchess. You lead a strange life, my friend.”
Renee coughed out a breath. “He will write a book and I will cut off his balls for it. However, you are correct. I have known some strange times of late. I do believe you will soon to find your own strangeness. There must be some reason for the damnable blisters halfway down to my arse. Do you know, Vane, that you and I are related?”
Marcus nodded. “My mother mentioned it tonight. My grandmother was related to yours and I believe also, in some way, to Esme.”
“It is complicated but oui. You, Esme and I share the blood of the mighty Mage Moira Cavanaugh. Since Moira died and before Esme was born, there was no other Mage. The demon Luc mentioned was a Hellhound. Have you knowledge of them?”
Marcus shrugged. “They guard graveyards?”
“It is myth. Why would they do so? What is there to guard? One Hellhound had it in his small mind that my Esme was his life’s mate. He … it, and others, plotted to take her from me. I will introduce you to Fraser Jeffrey. He is Esme’s grandfather and was her guardian. He is Fey, Marcus, and a powerful, extraordinary man and trusted friend. He informed me the only way to kill a Hellhound was to enlist the assistance of another demon; a snake headed thing known as a Slither and the Slither existed under an ancient Scottish keep.” Renee paused and laughed at the look on his friend’s face.
“You are completely mad, Albany.”
“I and my mad crew sailed to Scotland, Esme with us. I left her with six of my men and each of them men I trust with my life. Still, the Hellhound took Esme. There was one moment, as I left with Luc and Fraser to fetch the Slither, when Esme looked down to me from a window and I felt that same sense that something was not as it should be, as you. But still, I left her and then traveled to hell and back to win her back to me.”
“You,” Marcus raised his brow, “killed the Hellhound?”
“Ah, we did but without the Slither, I do not know. It was up to me to travel dark and deep to locate her.“
“For God’s sake, Renee. Dark and deep?”
“To the dark side. It may be on you to do the same. You have traveled there before, I think.”
“Only in my nightmares.”
“Do you try to trick an old trickster?”
“Leave off. Do not push too far, Renee.”
Renee kicked a crate over to the railing, sat and stretched out his legs. “This is too important to leave off. How much do you recall of our last eve in Calais?”
“We were drunk. What do you think I recall? Other than the fact we spend the time making bloody fools of ourselves, not much.”
“Ah. But moi, I have a crystal clear memory. Not so much for my years sucking back the ‘devil’s juice’, but before and after I recall everything. We spent the eve at the brothel ‘The Kitten’s Tail.”
Marcus nodded. “You had a, what did you call it? Oh yes, ‘the lust undeniable for the sweet Isabelle’.”
Renee chuckled. “Isabelle. What talent! Cherished memories … until Esme came along and stole the shine of all my salacious memories. You chose a blond, then the redhead and to my astonishment the black Amazon. Ah, the energy of the man. I did look up to you, my friend and you named this energy the beast. So often I heard you mention this beast—“
“My nightmares and nought more.”
“As you said and until that eve I believed you. It was near to dawn before we left the brothel; two staggering drunks, moi with my flashy jewels, silks and lace and you dressed as the wealthy English nob. Were we not asking for it?”
Warming to the story and the vague memory, Marcus grinned. “We were followed by three thugs. Right?”
“Oui. A seedy lot. It was your idea to duck into a laneway, as we turned the corner and waited for them. The attack is wiser than the defense. We waited. They did not pass and then the odds changed.”
“Bloody buggers.” Marcus nodded. “There were eight of them, not three, as we thought. They spilt in two groups and entered the laneway from either end.”
“I have seen you fight. You are the devil incarnate when need be, Vane.”
“Thank you. I think.”
“And moi, I still breathe when many would have had it otherwise. The two of us, drunk or sober, would have taken down six, mayhaps … but eight? It was not so much certain. What do you recall of the fight?”
Marcus shook his head. “Getting the living hell pounded out of me.”
“Why? What is the point?”
“Humour your friend. Is it so difficult?”
“One of them called me an ‘English dog’. He slammed his boot into the back of my knee and I went down. Next thing I remember is waking up naked, in your bed and you sleeping in a nearby chair. How I came to be naked in your bed, I do not care to know.”
“But it is a miracle that we survived. We were far, far too drunk to fight. Non, I speak the lie. I was too drunk for a fight. You had your beast. Or will you still deny it to a man who has seen him?”
Marcus stayed silent and for a brief while, they locked eyes.
Marcus took his look back to the water. “What did you see?”
“I witnessed for the first time in my life, a shift. Man to beast. Not the usual shape shifter processes, not the gradual layer upon layer shift, but an instantaneous thing. I saw your clothes shred, fall away and the lion appear. No mere lion, Vane, but a monstrous thing and the size of a stallion. And in seconds, six men lay dead,” Renee lifted a shoulder, “and the other two ran away, screaming.”
“Christ.” Marcus muttered.
“Oui, He may have been there as well. And as fast as the lion came, he vanished and you lay, naked and unconscious on the ground. It was some way to our rooms and I was not about to carry a naked man through the morning streets of Calais so I gathered what clothing I could from the dead men and dressed you.” Renee smiled and shuddered. “And I pray to never have to dress a man again. It took some time but I was finally able to half carry, half drag you back to our lodgings. There, I dumped a basin of water on your head. You came around, cursing and growling and not your usual growl. The beast was still on guard, I think. So, wiser then than I was before, I stayed back and out of the way. You stripped off the stolen clothing and crawled into my bed. I slept in the chair. When we woke hours later, and to this day, never a word of the event passed between us. You may not recall those hours, my friend, but the lion is no stranger to you. You are a shape shifter, non?”
Marcus hauled a deep breath. “Yes, at times.”
“Merde.” Renee stood and clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Lucky bastard. What I could do with a lion inside of me.”
“He … it, is a pain in my arse.”
“He comes often or do you have control?”
“He shows up when you sex?” Renee raised a brow.
Despite his mood, Marcus had to laugh. “You always were a dirty old sod.”
“Oui. Answer my question.”
“We, the beast and I, are not two separate beings. We are one. Do you understand?”
“The beast is nought more than another side of my personality. I have known no other way of life so that is the best I can offer. Yes, Albany, this aspect of me does add to my sexuality. Unlike other men, or so I gather, I feel the passion of my partner along with my own. When she thrills, I do. And when she reaches climax…” Smiling, Marcus let his words trail away.
“Mother of God.” Renee snarled. “You are one lucky bastard.”
“How many know of this shifting?”
“You must be jesting. Other than the two you say escaped that day in Calais; Meggin, you, and me.”
“Your grandmere, she knew, she sensed?”
“She did and she taught me how to tame my beast.”
“And your son? Does Sebastian shift?”
Marcus cracked his jaw.
This possibility was never far from his thoughts.
“I am not sure. Like all children, Sebastian loves to draw. I once questioned him about the large bird found in many of his drawings. He told me it was a falcon, he and the falcon were friends and he was learning to fly.”
“Jesu! Falcon?” Renee rubbed his jaw. “Wings. Claws. Fast. Fierce. Not a poor choice.”
“It is more than likely childish daydreams.”
“Mayhaps. But your beast, I think he may be of use in what lays ahead.”
“Have no doubt, I will have Lily and my son back again and I will shred the bastard who took them.”
Renee inclined his head. “Rage eats at your sense and energy. And what will you accomplish and an exhausted man.”
“Fuck. I do not need another mother.”
“And I do not need to bring with me this night a distraught, distracted, useless bag of bones. Like me, you are Fey and not the usual man. And with it, you are flesh and blood. It is four in the afternoon. We will not see land for another six hours. Rest, my friend. You will be glad for it. We all will.”
Marcus tossed his cheroot into the waves. “You may have a point.”
“You know I do.”
Marcus walked away, disappearing below deck.
© Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, March 2014
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and are not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Renee names her ‘inamorata’.
His impatient mistress.
His angel of mercy.
And when the claws of the witch retreat, in the clear light of day or night, my brother names her otherwise.
His dank whore.
His pathetic hallucination.
I asked Renee of her appearance.
He answered that she flies to him on magnificent black, red tipped wings and the wings with an expanse of more than twenty feet. Until she lands and stands beside him, he cannot see her clearly for she is shrouded in a dense, acrid grey fog. And after she lands and until she stands over him, he sees her only as flashes of light and dark; a glimpse of alabaster flesh, shadowed recesses, the curve of her hip and the gentle swing of her breasts.
‘What happens to the fog after she landed,’ I asked?
He answered with a shrug, ‘Well, she opens her mouth and draws it inside her.’ Then, it seems, he sees her clearly. She is slender, tall, and muscular for a woman. She has long black hair, silver and slightly slanted eyes and the rosiest of lips…the face of every Goddess. Her breasts are, as my brother says, ‘ponderous and succulent’. She bears the tattoo of a snake; the tail of the snake coiled beneath her throat, the body wrapped once around each of those ponderous breasts, around her hips and the head, mouth open rests on the flesh of her sheath, the split tongue disappears into her glove. As to what they do together… Renee, sober and more dead than alive, names her dank whore for a sound reason.
‘Surely an evil thing then?’ I suggested.
What else would a man think, apart from the obvious?
In the true style of Renee, he threw back his head and laughed. ‘Evil? Of course! Shall I send her to visit you? Non? Croix de Dieu, you do not know what you miss! But shrug off those dark thoughts, Luc. It was pointless to ponder the impossible. What sort of fool does not savour all that is offered? Not his sort. Devil take it, for at least in this I am a lucky man.’
It has been six years since his first mention of the hallucination and a year since he last spoke of the thing. My sister and I hoped and prayed that he was free of her but we knew better on the cause of her; the opiate.
And so that was but a false hope.
This eve I saw Renee, a blanket and pillow under his arm, on his way up to the roof terrace. It was a cold night for May and threatened rain and so I asked him what he had in mind.
‘I have a hankering to spend my lust on the witch, Luc. Join me and I will share her.’
I fear for my brother.
I fear he will meet his death wish… and there is nought I can do to stop him.
Renee rested his head back on the wicker chair and, for a while, contemplated the sky. No moon, no stars but they did not often bless the London night. A light rain fell and in the distance thunder rolled. The perfect setting for his unholy alliance.
He’d prepared for her visit as usual. Not much was needed; a bed of sorts, a blanket tossed on the floor of the rooftop terrace, a few pillows for his head and two bottles; one of cognac and a smaller bottle but of equal importance, the opiate, the laudanum. He’d already stripped down to nothing but his silk breeches and opened the buttons of the placet. Nothing more to do but wait.
He took another long drink form the cognac bottle, a sip of the laudanum and reclined on the blanket. It must be a careful measure of each, too much cognac and he’d pass out, too much of the ‘devil’s juice’ and he’d sleep, or if the God’s finally noticed and took pity, mayhaps he would leave with her. Ah, but that was too much to hope for. He closed his eyes, waited and drifted.
The rain came in torrents. Thunder rolled and lightening split the sky. The cold spring rain pooled on his naked chest, ran in rivulets down his sides, saturated the thin silk of his breeches and like a million tiny fingers, played along the ridges of his engorged member. He lifted slightly, pushing down the sides of his breeches, ran his hand over the proof of his blind need.
Hungrier than he’d ever known, he waited.
Waited, drifted back, down and into the dream world of the opiate.
Free of memory.
Free of pain.
Waited and then grinned as a roll of thunder tapered off to the sound of wings.
It was dawn when Renee, head aching and teeth chattering with cold, stumbled into his bedchamber and it was no surprise to find his sister waiting for him.
“Renee. Tell me that you did not spend the night on the terrace. You will catch your death.”
“One can hope, Lily, one can hope. Laudanum,” he said dropping his sodden breeches to the floor and climbing into his bed. “Fetch me a new bottle.”
“You had the last bottle.”
“Then tell Chan to get another case. Now.”
“And if he refuses to aide you any longer?”
“I will fire him.”
Lilly moved to the bed and sat on the side. “If he had a penny for every time you said that ... ”
Renee threw the covers down. A black and purple bruise bloomed from the left side of his chest to his hip. “I am bleeding inside again, Lilly. In pain, darling. Have a heart, non?”
Lilly brought her hand to her mouth. She’d seen the bleeding before but never as bad as this. Gently pushing his long tangled hair from his face, she said, “Oh dear Lord, Renee. How long has it been this bad?”
He shook his head, leaning into her comforting touch. “I am dying.” Renee spoke quietly, pulling the cover back in place. “Bit by bit, a little more each day. What bloody difference does it make?”
Lilly pulled a bottle of laudanum from her pocket, uncorked it and handed it to Renee, watched closely as he took a swallow and then took the bottle from him. “Leave it with me.”
Lilly moved from the bed. “No. I will be back in a few hours and you can have more then.” She paused and added, “You ask what difference it makes? I think there is a big difference, Renee. It is the difference between dying with dignity and dying with pity.”
And with that Lily left the room.