We are all of us, thought Rue, not exactly meant to exist. It made her feel a kinship beyond blood with this acerbic Scotswoman.

“Let us be candid, auntie. Are you here to order us back to London?” demanded Sidheag.

That was when Rue realised that there was something more behind her parents’ refusal to host the Kingair Pack or visit Scotland. Something had gone wrong between them, something sinister, before Rue’s birth.

However, it didn’t stop her from ribbing her relation. “Order you to town, Lady Alpha? Why on earth would I do that? Everyone seems so eager to keep you out of London.” Rue could imagine the carnage should this pack and her father’s pack try to occupy the same city while at odds. London was big, but it wasn’t that big.

“But you are here at your father’s behest?”

“Which father?” Rue could play this game happily until the sun came up.

The Alpha werewolf lost a little of her aggressive posture. “I have always wondered which one would have the most influence. Well, if you aren’t here for us, why are you in Bombay, Prudence Maccon?”

“It’s Prudence Akeldama. And this is just a pleasure jaunt, esteemed niece. Dama gifted me with this lovely little airship and I thought I might see a bit of the world. I heard India was pleasant this time of year.”

Lady Kingair rolled her eyes. “Double-talk, nothing but double-talk. It’s like being back in finishing school.”

“If I may be of service, Alpha?” said a smooth voice. And out of the pack of large, kilted Scotsmen slid a slight Englishman as calm, quiet, and nondescript as any civil servant wandering the House of Commons. His urbane nature made him as incongruous and as appealing as cheese in a pickle shop.

Lady Kingair relaxed and glanced at the man almost affectionately. “Yes, you’re far better at arranging these kinds of things, aren’t you, Beta?”


Prim dismissed the man instantly as uninteresting and stepped forward to engage one of the largest and best-looking of the kilts in conversation, clearly having decided that Rue had this encounter well in hand. Quesnel stayed fixed at Rue’s elbow, although blessedly disinclined to open his mouth.

The unassuming Englishman gave Rue a little bow. He had sandy hair and pleasing if unmemorable features arranged under a small set of spectacles. His evening attire was perfectly appropriate to the place and venue but nothing more, with no hint of modishness. Everything about him was simple, unadulterated, and proper. Rue was not surprised that she hadn’t noticed him when the pack first entered the room. He hadn’t wanted her to.

“How do you do, Lady Akeldama?” said the man. “Professor Randolph Lyall, at your service.”

Rue had heard somewhat of Professor Lyall. She knew he had been her father’s Beta but left when she was too young to remember. He’d gone off to take up the mantle of Kingair Pack Beta, and Uncle Rabiffano, newly made werewolf at the time, had taken his place at Rue’s father’s side. Professor Lyall wasn’t spoken of often by the London Pack, but when they did it was with a respectful wistfulness. Even Uncle Channing, who didn’t really like anyone but himself, hadn’t a bad word to say about Professor Lyall.

Rue smiled at him. As with Lady Kingair she resisted the urge to give him a hug. For entirely different reasons. A hug would have unsettled her niece; Professor Lyall simply looked like he needed one. “Uncle Lyall, how nice to meet you at last. Please call me Rue.”

Professor Lyall blinked at this instant acceptance, mildly bemused.

Lady Kingair, on the other hand, seemed to take it amiss. “She is here for us. It must be time, Lyall.”

The Beta shook head. “Don’t be hasty, Alpha. I would have been warned.”

“Oh, are you still so well connected to London you can sense their mood from India?”

Professor Lyall gave his Alpha a level stare. “I know how to write letters and so do they.”

He turned his back on his Alpha, something only a very strong Beta could do and stay alive.

Lady Kingair, surprisingly, took the snub and shifted away, giving them a modicum of privacy.

Professor Lyall offered Rue his arm. “Would you care for a stroll about the garden, Miss Rue?”

“Oh dear, I’m afraid Prim’s reputation couldn’t stand any more garden strolling tonight.”


“Could I take Primrose along as escort? Miss Tunstell, I mean.”

“You trust her?”

“Of course.”

“She is not so silly as her mother?”

“Not at all.”

The sandy-haired werewolf nodded his approbation. “Remarkable.”

“Mr Lefoux, would you fetch Prim for me? She seems to have been kilted.”

Quesnel gave Rue a disgruntled look but made his way into the group of Scottish werewolves, who were getting a little rowdy, honing in on Primrose with consummate skill. He extracted her deftly and returned.

Rue said, “Professor Lyall would like the pleasure of my company for a stroll about the gardens. Would you kindly act as chaperone?”

“Oh, now you think about my reputation.”

Quesnel trailed along as well, although Rue would have preferred he didn’t.

Rue made quick introductions. “Primrose, this is Professor Lyall. Uncle, this is the Honourable Primrose Tunstell.”

Primrose said, “How do you do, professor? My mother speaks highly of you.”

The Beta’s eyebrows rose. “Does she, indeed? How kind. The respect of a vampire queen is no small thing.”

Most Popular