Home > Changeless (Parasol Protectorate #2)

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate #2)
Author: Gail Carriger

CHAPTER ONE

Wherein Things Disappear,

Alexia Gets Testy Over Tents,

and Ivy Has an Announcement

They are what?”

Lord Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey, was yelling. Loudly. This was to be expected from Lord Maccon, who was generally a loud sort of gentleman—the ear-bleeding combination of lung capacity and a large barrel chest.

Alexia Maccon, Lady Woolsey, muhjah to the queen, Britain’s secret preternatural weapon extraordinaire, blinked awake from a deep and delicious sleep.

“Wasn’t me,” she immediately said, without having the barest hint of an idea as to what her husband was carrying on about. Of course, it usually was her, but it would not do to fess up right away, regardless of whatever it was that had his britches in a bunch this time. Alexia screwed her eyes shut and squirmed farther into the warmth of down-stuffed blankets. Couldn’t they argue about it later?

“What do you mean gone?” The bed shook slightly with the sheer volume behind Lord Maccon’s yell. The amazing thing was that he wasn’t nearly as loud as he could be when he really put his lungs into it.

“Well, I certainly did not tell them to go,” denied Alexia into her pillow. She wondered who “they” were. Then she came about to the realization, taking a fluffy-cottony sort of pathway to get there, that he wasn’t yelling at her but at someone else. In their bedroom.

Oh dear.

Unless he was yelling at himself.

Oh dear.

“What, all of them?”

Alexia’s scientific side wondered idly at the power of sound waves—hadn’t she heard of a recent Royal Society pamphlet on the subject?

“All at once?”

Lady Maccon sighed, rolled toward the hollering, and cracked one eyelid. Her husband’s large naked back filled her field of vision. To see any more, she’d have to lever herself upright. Since that would probably expose her to more cold air, she declined to lever. She did, however, observe that the sun was barely down. What was Conall doing awake and aloud so freakishly early? For, while her husband roaring was not uncommon, its occurrence in the wee hours of late afternoon was. Inhuman decency dictated that even Woolsey Castle’s Alpha werewolf remain quiet at this time of day.

“How wide of a radius, exactly? It canna have extended this far.”

Oh dear, his Scottish accent had put in an appearance. That never bode well for anyone.

“All over London? No? Just the entire Thames embankment and city center. That is simply not possible.”

This time Lady Maccon managed to discern a mild murmuring response to her husband’s latest holler. Well, she consoled herself, at least he hadn’t gone entirely potty. But who would dare attempt to rustle up Lord Maccon in his private quarters at such an abysmal hour? She tried once more to see over his back. Why did he have to be so substantial?

She levered.

Alexia Maccon was known as a lady of regal bearing and not much more. Society generally considered her looks too swarthy to give much credence despite her rank. Alexia, herself, had always believed good posture was her last best hope and was proud to have acquired the “regal bearing” epithet. This morning, however, blankets and pillows thwarted her; she could only flounder gracelessly up to her elbows, her backbone as limp as a noodle.

All that her Herculean effort revealed was a hint of wispy silver and a vaguely human form: Formerly Merriway.

“Mummer murmur,” said Formerly Merriway, straining for full apparition in the not-quite darkness. She was a polite ghost, relatively young and well preserved, and still entirely sane.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake.” Lord Maccon seemed to be getting only more irritated. Lady Maccon knew that particular tone of voice well—it was usually directed at her. “But there is nothing on this Earth that can do that.”

Formerly Merriway said something else.

“Well, have they consulted all the daylight agents?”

Alexia strained to hear. Already gifted with a low, sweet voice, the ghost was difficult to understand when she intentionally dampened her tone. Formerly Merriway might have said, “Yes, and they have no idea either.”

The ghost seemed frightened, which caused Alexia more concern than Lord Maccon’s irritation (which was sadly frequent). Little could frighten the already dead, with the possible exception of a preternatural. And even Alexia, soulless, was only dangerous under very specific circumstances.

“What, no idea at all? Right.” The earl tossed his blankets aside and climbed out of bed.

Formerly Merriway gasped and shimmered about, presenting her transparent back to the completely naked man.

Alexia appreciated the courtesy, even if Lord Maccon did not. Polite to the core was poor little Merriway. Or what was left of her core. Lady Maccon, on the other hand, was not so reticent. Her husband had a decidedly fine backside, if she did say so herself. And she had said so, to her scandalized friend Miss Ivy Hisselpenny, on more than one occasion. It may be far too early to be awake, but it was never too early to admire something of that caliber. The artistically pleasing body part drifted out of view as her husband strode toward his dressing chamber.

“Where is Lyall?” he barked.

Lady Maccon tried to go back to sleep.

“What! Lyall’s gone too? Is everyone going to disappear on me? No, I did not send him….” A pause. “Oh yes, you are perfectly correct, I did. The pack was”—blub blub blub—“coming in at”—blub, blub—“station.” Splash. “Shouldn’t he have returned by now?”

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