Blood Feud Page 2

Another sentence she had no reply for. The woman seemed genuine, though, and she smel ed like peppermint oil. Her satin gloves were trimmed with red bows when she patted Isabeau’s hand. “My nephew is around here somewhere, I’m certain he would love to partner you in a dance.”

“Merci, madame.” She had every intention of hiding behind one of the giant evergreen displays before succumbing to any such fate.

The drawing room was even more beautiful than Isabeau could have imagined. She had helped set out the bowls of gilded pine cones and hol y leaves dusted with silver and tied the ribbons around the pine boughs fastened to every window.

But at night, with dozens of beeswax candles burning and the frigid winter wind pushing at the glass, it was magical. And just as stuffy as she had feared, thanks to the hot air laced with cloying perfumes and floral hair oils fil ing every corner of the room. She edged toward the doors leading out to the gardens.

The rosebushes and yew hedges were edged with a delicate frost, as if lace had been tossed everywhere. The moon was a soft glow behind thick clouds. She shivered a little when snow began to fal gently, but didn’t go back inside. She could hear icy carriage wheels creaking from the road and the sounds of music from the room behind her. The snow made everything pale as a pearl. She smiled.

“With a smile like that, I forbid you ever to frown again.” She whirled at the voice, shoulders tensing. She’d only been living in the pampered townhouse for a little while and already she was losing her edge. She ought to have heard his footsteps, or at least the door opening.

“Forgive my intrusion,” he said smoothly, bowing. “And my impertinence, seeing as we have yet to be properly introduced.

But you could only be the mysterious Isabel St. Cross.”

“Isabeau,” she corrected him softly. She’d never known a man like him. He only looked to be in his twenties, but he carried himself with an elegance and a confidence of one much older.

His eyes were gray, nearly colorless in the winter garden.

“Philip Marshal , Earl of Greyhaven, at your service.” When he kissed the back of her hand, his touch was cool, as if he’d been standing in the snow too long. She was suddenly nervous and felt inexplicably trapped, like the time she’d been caught behind a fire set in the streets to keep the city guards at bay.

“I should return,” she murmured. She was only eighteen years old, after al , and the only reason she’d been permitted to attend the bal was because it was Christmastime. It was probably unseemly for her to be outside unchaperoned, even if he was an earl. She couldn’t remember. Her aunt had listed off so many rules, they were bleeding together. She’d known them al before the Revolution. Now she only knew she felt an odd desire to stand closer to him, and not just because she had forgotten her wrap inside.

He released her hand, arched an eyebrow. The faint light from the parlor glinted on the silver buttons of his brocade coat.

“Surely a girl who survived the French mobs isn’t afraid of me?” She lifted her chin defensively.

“Mais non, monsieur. Je n’ai pas peur.” She had to concentrate to speak English; temper or distraction always slipped her back into French. “Pardon. ” She shook her head, annoyed with her lapse. “I am not afraid.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” he approved. “Wine?” He handed her a glass she hadn’t realized he was holding. Hadn’t Benoit been pushing her to dance and flirt? Normal girls her age would be thril ed to be standing here with a handsome earl. She should drink and eat candied violets and dance until her satin slippers wore thin. She accepted the cup.

“Merci, monsieur.” The mul ed wine was warm and laced with cinnamon and some other indefinable taste, like copper or liquorice. Or blood. She frowned inwardly. She was letting her misgivings make her sil y.

“You are lovely,” he said. “And I am so tired of these English roses, too meek to enjoy anything but the quadril e and weak lemonade. You are a welcome change, Miss Cross. A welcome change indeed.”

She blushed. The wine was making her feel warm, befuddled.

It was nice. Snowflakes landed on her eyelashes, dissolved instantly. They landed on her lips and she licked at them as if they were sugar. His silvery eyes glinted like animal eyes, like a fox in a henhouse.

“If this were a gothic novel,” he drawled, “there would be ghosts and vampires, and you would be afraid.” She thought of the books she read late at night in the library, sensationalist novels like Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho and Burger’s Lenore, al fraught with vil ains and undead creatures who roamed the nights with insatiable appetites.

“Don’t be sil y.” She laughed. “I don’t believe in vampires.”

CHAPTER 1

LOGAN

It had been a hel of a week.

Cleaning up after a psychotic vampire queen wasn’t easy at the best of times. It was much worse when your mother was the one who’d dispatched the old queen, you and your brothers were suddenly princes, and your baby sister was being stalked by a centuries-old homicidal vampire.

Like I said, hel of a week.

At least we’d al survived, even Aunt Hyacinth, whose face was now so scarred she wouldn’t lift the veil off her Victorian hat or leave her room. Helios-Ra vampire hunters did that to her

—right before one of their new agents started dating my baby sister.

That’s just weird.

Stil , he saved her life less than two weeks ago, so we’re wil ing to overlook a little making out.

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