Madame Lefoux shrugged. “I don’t know, but I shouldn’t think so. I can’t imagine it holds much appeal, now that the hive is located outside London. You know these society chits—only interested in the glamorous side of immortality. She may find herself another hive. Or a husband, of course.”
At which juncture Felicity returned to them, in clear defiance of her mother’s wishes. “Mr. Rabiffano, how is my dear sister? I can hardly believe how long it has been since I saw her last.”
“She is well,” replied Biffy, utterly passive.
“And that child of hers? My darling little niece?”
Her face sharpened when she was being nosy, noted Biffy, rather like that of an inquisitive trout. “She, too, is well.”
“And how is Lord Maccon? Still doting upon them both?”
“Still, as you say, doting.”
“Why, Mr. Rabiffano, you have grown so dreary and terse since your accident.”
With a twinkle to his eye, the dandy gestured at the little gold straw bonnet. “What do you think of this one, Miss Loontwill? It is very subtle and sophisticated.”
Felicity backed away hurriedly. “Oh, no, mine is too bold a beauty for anything so insipid.” She turned away. “Mama, Evy, have you seen anything to your taste?”
“Not tonight, my dear.”
“No, sister, although that green and red toque makes quite the statement.”
Felicity looked back at Madame Lefoux, on point. “How unfortunate that you are no longer in charge here, madame. I do believe that the quality may have fallen.”
Madame Lefoux said nothing and Biffy took the hit without flinching.
“Do, please, give my sister and her husband my best regards. I do hope they remain blissfully enamored of one another, although it is terribly embarrassing.” Felicity whirled to the French inventor. “And give the countess my compliments as well, of course.”
With that, the rose-scented blonde led her mother and her sister out into the night with nary a backward glance.
Biffy and Madame Lefoux exchanged looks.
“What was that about?” wondered the inventor.
“A warning of some kind.”
“Or an offer? I think I should return to Woolsey.”
“You are turning into a very good drone, aren’t you, Madame Lefoux?”
As she made her way out, the Frenchwoman gave him a look that suggested she preferred it if everyone thought that. Biffy hoarded away that bit of information. He had much to tell Lady Maccon when he saw her next.
Alexia and Conall arrived home from the theater prepared to go out immediately to call on the Woolsey Hive. One did not ignore an invitation from Countess Nadasdy, even if one was a peer of the realm. Alexia alighted from her gilded carriage in a flutter of taffeta and intrigue, marching into her town residence with strides of such vigor as to make the bustle of her dress sway alarmingly back and forth. Lord Maccon eyed this appreciatively. The tuck-in at his wife’s waist was particularly appealing, emphasizing an area ideally suited to a man’s hand, particularly if one had hands as large as his. Alexia turned in the doorway and gave him a look.
“Oh, do hurry.” They were still making a show of living in their own house and so had to move swiftly up the stairs and across the secret gangplank into Lord Akeldama’s residence in order to effect a change of attire.
Floote’s dapper head emerged from the back parlor as they did so. “Madam?”
“Not stopping, Floote. We have been summoned.”
“No, worse—a queen.”
“Will you go by rail or shall I have the groom switch to fresh horses?”
Alexia paused halfway up the grand staircase.
“Train, I think, please.”
“At once, madam.”
Prudence, much to everyone’s delight, was down for her nap, nested with her head atop Lord Akeldama’s cat and her feet tucked under the Viscount Trizdale’s lemon-satin-covered leg. The viscount was looking strained, obviously under orders not to move for fear of waking the child. Prudence was wearing an excessively frilly dress of cream and lavender plaid. Lord Akeldama had changed into an outfit of royal purple and champagne to complement it and was sitting nearby, a fond eye to his drone and adopted daughter. He appeared to be reading a suspiciously embossed novel, but Alexia could not quite countenance such an activity in Lord Akeldama. To her certain knowledge, he never read anything, except perhaps the society gossip columns. She was unsurprised when, upon catching sight of them lurking in the hallway, the vampire put his book down with alacrity and sprang to meet them.
Together they looked at the lemony drone, calico feline, and plaid pile of infant.
“Isn’t that just a picture?” Lord Akeldama was adrift on a sea of candy-colored domestic bliss.
“All is well?” Alexia spoke in hushed tones.
The vampire tucked a lock of silvery blond hair behind his ear in an oddly soft gesture. “Excessively. The puggle behaved herself after you departed, and as you can see, we had no further incidents of note.”
“I do hope she grows out of this dislike for soap suds.”
Lord Akeldama gave Lord Maccon a significant sort of once-over where he lurked behind his wife in the hallway. “My darling chamomile bud, we can but hope.”
Lord Maccon took mild offense and sniffed at himself subtly.
“Conall and I have been summoned to visit Woolsey. You will manage without us for the remainder of the night?”