Prudence’s little head poked out from the drawing room. Tizzy stood behind her, looking apologetic. “I am sorry, my lord. She heard your voices.”
“Not to worry, my ducky darling. I know how she gets.”
Prudence seemed to take that as an invitation and padded down the hallway on her little stubby legs. “Mama! Dada!”
Lady Kingair, momentarily forgotten, was intrigued. “This must be my new great-great-great-aunt?”
Alexia’s forehead creased. “Is that correct? Shouldn’t it be great-great-great-great-half sister?” She looked at her husband for support. “Immortality makes for some pretty peculiar genealogy, I must say.” No wonder the vampires refuse to metamorphose those with children. Very tidy of them. Vampires preferred to have everything in the universe neat. In that, Alexia sympathized with their struggles.
Lord Maccon frowned. “No, I believe it must be something more along the lines of—”
He never finished his sentence. Prudence, seeing that there was a stranger among her favorite people, and assuming that all who came into her presence would instantly adore her, charged Lady Kingair.
“Oh, no, wait!” said Tizzy.
Too late, Alexia dove to pick up her daughter.
Prudence dodged through the legs of the adults and latched on to Lady Kingair’s leg, which was quite naked under the velvet cloak. In the space of a heartbeat, the infant changed into a small wolf cub, muslin dress ripped to tatters in the process. The cub, far faster than a toddler, went barreling off down the street, tail waving madly.
“So that’s what flayer means,” said Sidheag, pursing her lips and arching her eyebrows. Her unnatural pallor was gone and the lines in her face were more pronounced—mortality had returned.
Without even a pause, Lord Maccon stripped smoothly out of his full evening dress in a manner that suggested he had been practicing of late. Alexia blushed.
“Well, welcome to London Town, indeed!” exclaimed Lord Akeldama, whipping out a large feather fan and fluttering it vigorously in front of his face.
“Oh, Conall, really, in full view!” was Alexia’s response, but her husband was already changing midstride from human to wolf. It was done with a good deal of finesse. Even if it was done right there for all the world to see. Sometimes being married to a werewolf was almost too much for a lady of breeding. Alexia contemplated divesting Lord Akeldama of his fan—her face was quite hot, and he no longer possessed the ability to blush. As if reading her mind, he angled about so that he could fan them both.
“That is a lovely fan,” said Alexia under her breath.
“Isn’t it marvelous? From a little shop I discovered off Bond Street. Shall I order one for you as well?”
“Of course, my blushing pumpkin.”
“I do apologize for my husband’s behavior.”
“Werewolves will happen, my pickled gherkin. One has to merely keep a stiff upper lip.”
“My dear Lord A, you keep stiff whatever you wish—you always do.”
“Doesn’t it hurt her?” Lady Kingair asked rather wistfully as Alexia exited the vampire’s house down the front stoop to stand next to her, watching as the massive wolf chased the tiny cub.
“Not that we can tell.”
“And how long will this last?” Sidheag made a gesture up and down her own body, indicating her altered state.
“Until sunrise. Unless I intervene.”
Sidheag held a naked arm out at Lady Maccon hopefully.
“Oh, no, not you. The preternatural touch has no effect on you anymore. You’re mortal. No, I have to touch my daughter. Then immortality, sort of, well, reverberates back to you. Difficult to explain. I wish we understood more.”
Professor Lyall stood off to one side, a tiny smile on his face, watching the chaos in the street.
Prudence tried to hide behind a pile of delivery crates stacked on one side of the road. Lord Maccon went after her, knocking the crates to the ground with a tremendous clatter. The wolf cub went for the steam-powered monowheel propped against the stone wall of the Colindrikal-Bumbcruncher’s front yard. Mr. Colindrikal-Bumbcruncher was particularly fond of his monowheel. He had it specially commissioned from Germany at prodigious expense.
Prudence took refuge behind the spokes of the center area. Lord Maccon was having none of it. He wiggled one mighty paw through to get at her. The spokes bent slightly, Lord Maccon got stuck, and Prudence dodged out, pelting once more down the street. Her tail wagged even more enthusiastically at the delightful game.
Lord Maccon extracted himself from the monowheel, shaking loose and causing the beautiful contraption to crash over with an ominous crunch. Lady Maccon made a mental note to send a card of apology around to their neighbors as soon as possible. The unfortunate Colindrikal-Bumbcrunchers had suffered great travails over the past two years. The town house had been in Mr. Colindrikal-Bumbcruncher’s family for generations. Its proximity to a rove vampire was well known and tolerated, if not exactly accepted. Just as all the best castles had poltergeists, so all the best neighborhoods had vampires. But the addition of werewolves to their quiet corner of London was outside of enough. Mrs. Colindrikal-Bumbcruncher had recently snubbed Lady Maccon in the park, and frankly, Alexia couldn’t fault her for it.
She squinted at the Colindrikal-Bumbcruncher house, trying to see if an inquisitive face at a window might have observed Conall’s transformation in Lord Akeldama’s hallway. That would require an even more profound apology, and a gift. Fruitcake, perhaps. Then again, perhaps the sight of Lord Maccon’s backside might warrant less of an apology, depending on Mrs. Colindrikal-Bumbcruncher’s preferences. Lady Maccon was distracted from this line of thinking by Professor Lyall’s shout of amazement.