“No,” replied Prudence.
Lord Akeldama backed away from her. “I’ll stay well out of range from here on, I assure you,” continued the vampire. “One brush with mortality a night is more than enough for me. It’s quite the discombobulating sensation, your daughter’s touch. Not at all like your own.”
Lord Maccon, who had been placed in a similar position on more than one occasion with regard to his daughter’s odd abilities, was uncharacteristically sympathetic to the vampire. He replied with a fervent, “I’ll say.” He also took the opportunity of Prudence being in her mother’s arms to ruffle his daughter’s hair affectionately.
“Dada! No wet?”
“Perhaps we could move bath night to tomorrow,” suggested Lord Maccon, succumbing to the plea in his daughter’s eyes.
Lord Akeldama brightened.
“Absolutely not,” replied Lady Maccon to both of them. “Backbone, gentlemen. We must stick to a routine. All the physicians say routine is vital to the well-being of the infant and her proper ethical indoctrination.”
The two immortals exchanged the looks of men who knew when they were beaten.
In order to forestall any further shilly-shallying, Alexia carried her struggling daughter over to the tub, which had been righted and refilled with warm water. Under ordinary circumstances, she would have plopped the child in herself, but worried over the dress, she passed Prudence off to Boots and stepped well out of harm’s way.
Under the watchful eye of her mother, the toddler acquiesced to full immersion, with only a nose wrinkle of disgust.
Alexia nodded. “Good girl. Now do behave for poor Dama. He puts up with an awful lot from you.”
“Dama!” replied the child, pointing at Lord Akeldama.
“Yes, very good.” Alexia turned back to her husband and the vampire in the doorway. “Do have a care, my lord.”
Lord Akeldama nodded. “Indeed. I must say I had not anticipated such a challenge when Professor Lyall first suggested the adoption.”
“Yes, it was foolish of all of us to think that Alexia here would produce a biddable child,” agreed the sire of said child, implying that any flaw was Alexia’s fault and that he would have produced nothing but the most mild-mannered and pliant of offspring.
“Or even one that a vampire could control.”
“Or a vampire and a pack of werewolves, for that matter.”
Alexia gave them both a look. “I hardly feel I can be entirely at fault. Are you claiming Sidheag is an aberration in the Maccon line?”
Lord Maccon tilted his head, thinking about his great-great-great-granddaughter, now Alpha werewolf of the Kingair Pack, a woman prone to wielding rifles and smoking small cigars. “Point taken.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a tremendous splash as Prudence managed to pull, even without supernatural strength, one of the drones partly into the bath with her. Several of the others rushed to his aid, cooing in equal distress over his predicament and the state of his cuffs.
Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama would have been difficult enough without her metanatural abilities. But having a precocious child who could take on immortality was overwhelming, even for two supernatural households. Prudence actually seemed to steal supernatural abilities, turning her victim mortal for the space of a night. If Alexia had not interfered, Lord Akeldama would have remained mortal, and Prudence a fanged toddler, until sunrise. Her mother, or presumably some other preternatural, was the only apparent antidote.
Lord Maccon had accustomed himself, with much grumbling, to touching his daughter only when she was already in contact with her mother or when it was daylight. He was a man who appreciated a good cuddle, so this was disappointing. But poor Lord Akeldama found the whole situation distasteful. He had officially adopted the chit, and as a result had taken on the lion’s share of her care, but he was never actually able to show her physical affection. When she was a small child, he’d managed with leather gloves and thick swaddling blankets, but even then accidents occurred. Now that Prudence was more mobile, the risk was simply too great. Naked touch guaranteed activation of her powers, but sometimes she could steal through clothing, too. When Prudence got older and more reasonable, Alexia intended to subject her daughter to some controlled analytical tests, but right now everyone in the household was simply trying to survive. The toddler couldn’t be less interested in the importance of scientific discoveries, for all her mother tried to explain them. It was, Alexia felt, a troubling character flaw.
With one last glare to ensure Prudence remained at least mostly submerged, Alexia made good her escape, dragging her husband behind her. Conall held his amusement in check until they were inside the carriage and on their way toward the West End. Then he let out the most tremendous guffaw.
Alexia couldn’t help it—she also started to chuckle. “Poor Lord Akeldama.”
Conall wiped his streaming eyes. “Oh, he loves it. Hasn’t had this much excitement in a hundred years or more.”
“Are you certain they will manage without me?”
“We will be back in only a few hours. How bad can it get?”
“Don’t tempt fate, my love.”
“Better worry about our own survival.”
“Why, what could you possibly mean?” Alexia straightened and looked out the carriage window suspiciously. True, it had been several years since someone tried to kill her in a conveyance, but it had happened with startling regularity for a period of time, and she had never gotten over her suspicion of carriages as a result.