“Great ghosts, would you look at that?”
Alexia could not recall Professor Lyall ever raising his voice. She whirled about and looked.
Prudence had reached a good distance away, near to the end of the street, where an orange-tinted lamp cast a weak glow on the corner. There she had turned abruptly back into a squalling, naked infant. It was very embarrassing for all concerned. Particularly, if her screams of outrage were to be believed, Prudence.
“Well, my goodness,” said Alexia. “That’s never happened before.”
Professor Lyall became quite professorial. “Has she ever gotten that far away from one of her victims before?”
Lady Maccon was slightly offended. “Must we use that word? Victim?”
Professor Lyall gave her an expressive look.
She acquiesced. “Quite right, it is unfortunately apt. Not that I know of.” She turned to look at Lord Akeldama. “My lord?”
“My darling sweet pea, had I known that if we simply let her run a little distance she would work herself out, I would have let her gallivant about at will.”
Lord Maccon, still in wolf form, trotted over to pick up his human daughter. Possibly by the scruff of her neck.
“Oh, Conall, wait!” said Lady Maccon.
The moment he touched her, Prudence turned once more into a wolf cub, this time stealing her father’s skin, and he was left to stand in the middle of the street, starkers. Prudence tore off back toward the house. Lord Maccon made to follow, this time in his lumbering mortal form.
Alexia, forgetting the delicacy of the Colindrikal-Bumbcrunchers’ finer feelings, was seized with the spirit of scientific inquiry. “No, Conall, wait, stay there.”
Lord Maccon might have disregarded his wife, particularly if he had any thought of his own shame or the dignity of the neighborhood, but he was not that kind of husband. He had learned all of Alexia’s cadences and tones, and that one meant she was on to something interesting. Best to do as she asked. So he stood, watching with interest, as his little daughter dashed back the way they had come and then past the house in the opposite direction.
Just as before, at a distance from her victim, she turned back into a toddler. This time Lady Maccon went to retrieve her. What must the surrounding households think of us? Screaming baby, wolf cub, werewolves. Really, she would never put up with it herself were she not married into the madness. As she hoisted Prudence, she looked up to see Mr. and Mrs. Colindrikal-Bumbcruncher and their butler glaring daggers at her from their open front door.
Conall, with a little start, turned back into a wolf before heads turned in his direction and someone would be forced to faint. Knowing the Colindrikal-Bumbcrunchers, that someone would probably be the butler.
Sidheag Maccon began to laugh. Lord Akeldama hustled her swiftly inside, fanning himself with the feather fan.
Lord Maccon, once more a wolf, was in the door next. Alexia and her troublesome offspring followed, but not before she heard the Colindrikal-Bumbcrunchers’ door close with a definite click of censure.
“Oh, dear,” said Lady Maccon upon attaining the relative safety of Lord Akeldama’s drawing room. “I do believe we have become those neighbors.”
In Which Lord Maccon Wears a Pink Brocade Shawl
I don’t have much time,” said Alexia, sitting down with Prudence cuddled in her lap. After her exhausting shape-changing laps up and down the street, the infant had done the most practical thing and fallen asleep, leaving her parents to handle the consequences.
“That was a remarkable display of whatnot,” remarked Lady Kingair, settling herself gingerly into one of Lord Akeldama’s highest and stiffest-looking wingback chairs. She drew her shabby velvet cloak closely about her and tossed her long plait behind her shoulder.
“And an interesting newfound aspect of your daughter’s abilities.” Professor Lyall looked as though he might like a notepad and a stylus of some kind to make a note for BUR’s records.
“Or failing.” Lady Maccon was not so certain she liked the idea of her invincible little daughter having this weakness. Given Alexia’s own experience, it was more likely than not that someone, more probably several someones, would try to kill Prudence over the course of her lifetime. It was far less comfortable knowing that all they would have to do was determine the limits of her abilities.
“That’s what it is, isn’t it?” Alexia looked to Professor Lyall, the only one who might qualify as an expert so far as these things went. “It’s a tether, much like a ghost’s to her corpse.”
“Or a queen’s to her hive,” added Lord Akeldama.
“Or a werewolf’s to his pack,” added Lord Maccon.
Lady Maccon pursed her lips and looked down at her daughter. The poor thing had inherited her mother’s complexion and curly hair. Alexia hoped the nose would not follow. She brushed back some of that dark hair. “Why should she be any different, I suppose?”
Lord Maccon came over to his wife and placed his hand on the back of her neck, caressing the nape with his calloused fingers. “Even you have limits, my dear wife? Who would have thought?”
That wrested Alexia out of her maudlin humors. “Yes, thank you, darling. We must press on. Woolsey is calling. So, if Lady Kingair would like to inform us as to the nature of her visit?”
Lady Kingair, it seemed, was a tad reluctant to do so in Lord Akeldama’s well-appointed drawing room surrounded by the expectant faces of not only her great-great-great-grandfather, but also his wife, his Beta, a very eccentric sort of vampire, that vampire’s lemon-colored drone, a sleeping child, and a fat calico cat. It was more audience than any lady of quality should have to endure when paying a social call on family.