Home > How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(15)

How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(15)
Author: Gail Carriger

She tried to explain her fascination. “Rocks represent so much time and space, so much history. Yet they’re so solid and unchanging themselves.”

“You are attracted to ancient things,” he concluded.

I’m attracted to hard and sharp and immovable objects with predictable characteristics, she thought.

He regarded her closely. His eyes traced the memory of freckles on her nose, when she’d spent too much time exploring under the hot sun. Faded now. “We are not all so static as that. Some of us are sitting in the wrong time and place, even though we appear to walk about in this one. And some of us like change too much. We revel in the mayflies of life, for all we are stuck with mere existence ourselves.”

He’s telling me that he is not that kind of immortal. He’s not a rock for me to collect. He’s not steady and he’ll not be constant.

She wondered why he was being so obvious in his interest if it wasn’t genuine. She wondered if his intentions were honest. Was he chasing her in order to catch her or merely to keep others away? If he caught her, would he keep her? And do I want that or am I also just enjoying the chase?

Mr Koverswill returned his attention to her then. “Oh, Miss Wigglesworth, are you a lover of history of the ancient world as well? I have recently returned from Rome.”

“Italy? Was it everything you hoped?” Faith knew well how to keep a gentleman engaged. The young man puffed up under her regard. She felt Channing, on her other side, relax back in his seat, watchful.

Mr Koverswill put down his soup spoon. “A strange place. No supernatural creatures at all. No offence, Major Channing.”

“None taken. You are wrong, of course.”

“Am I indeed?”

Faith could not help but be surprised. “He is? I thought Italy was confirmed anti-supernatural.”

“Merely because they do not like us does not mean we are not there. I visited recently myself.”

Mr Koverswill cocked an eyebrow. “Indeed, sir.”

Channing frowned; Faith wanted to reach out to smooth the lines off his forehead. “Perhaps not so recently – about twenty years ago.”

“Were you there as a tourist, too?” Mr Koverswill asked.

“No. I was there to kill someone.”

Mr Koverswill blanched.

Faith felt oddly proud. “What other reason could anyone have for visiting Italy?”

“And did you succeed?” Mr Koverswill asked, a tad injudiciously, Faith thought.

“Of course. Gave me terrible indigestion.”

Faith giggled. She couldn’t help it; poor Mr Koverswill’s face was priceless. “You can’t go around just eating Italians, Major. No matter what their belief system.”

“Can you think of a better reason?”

Faith couldn’t help it; she ought to focus again on Mr Koverswill, but ribbing Channing was so much fun. “Never say you’re an idealist, Major?”

“No, I simply don’t condone mandates demanding species extermination. Especially not if it is my species.”

“There, you see, Mr Koverswill?” said Faith in a desperate attempt not to keep ignoring the poor man. “It’s nothing personal. Major Channing is just grumpy about his politics.”

Channing laughed – a brief bark that was half surprise at his own amusement.

From across the table someone gasped, at which juncture Faith realized all attention was on them.

“Aren’t we all, Miss Wigglesworth?” The hostess wore a pleased smile, her eyes glittering with appraisal. “Aren’t we all?”

Miss Wigglesworth was described in the papers the next morning as remarkably poised for her age, mistress of witty repartee, and capable of amusing even werewolves on occasion.

Mr Koverswill sent ’round a beautiful bouquet of hothouse orchids.

“He has six thousand a year,” said Teddy.

“Major Channing has been to Italy,” said Faith, not really seeing the flowers.

Teddy, confused, agreed readily enough. “Yes, well, does that diminish his suit? He was in the army for a good long while, and Italy isn’t that bad. Is it?”

Faith could see Channing as a soldier. He commanded easily, and he was cold and tough. “He hasn’t sent me any flowers.” This was more annoying than it should be. But also, she knew Channing would never want to be one of many. So, why would he send flowers?

“Do you think that has something to do with Italy?”

Faith giggled. “Oh, never mind Italy.”

Teddy blinked at her. “I never have minded it. You’re the one who brought it up.”

“Where are we off to today?” Faith asked the most distracting thing she could think of.

“Oh! Well. There’s a picnic...” And Teddy was off.

There was a picnic. It was outside in the full sun, so Major Channing could not join them. No werewolf could.

Faith missed him. She missed his presence, his constant challenge, the way he sometimes affected her breathing, and how she sometimes caught him watching the pulse at her throat.

She dressed with care that evening. Even though it was a gown she’d worn before, he hadn’t yet seen her in it. She suspected he would be at the small private ball that night. Hostesses had started inviting him whenever they invited Faith. It was a kind of game amongst them.

The werewolf who’d once been nothing but absent from the social scene was becoming ubiquitous. But only if Miss Wigglesworth was also there. Now every hostess was eager to host the event at which the inevitable engagement was announced. It was true other men courted her, but her attention was nearly as marked as his.

Faith knew she ought to hide her regard. It was too bold. But the ton seemed disposed to humor her as confident as opposed to rash. And Faith had started to hope that Channing would not ruin her. That this werewolf could be trusted. That his intentions might even be honorable.

So, when he was at the ball that night and took the very first waltz, she let herself dream a little.

“Why will only a werewolf do?” he asked, as he twirled her expertly around the floor. “Are you frightened of true human affection, or is there something you find lacking in mortal men?”

It was a bold question, but Faith was tired of dissembling. She liked this too much. She liked him too much. “It is not something lacking in them so much as myself.” She leaned into his impossible strength as if he might lift her up and spin her into flight.

“You are either falsely modest or sinfully devalued,” he concluded.

I am exactly what I deserve to be, she thought. And I will make the best of it.

“My mother thinks a werewolf would be good for me.”

“And you always do what your mother wishes?”

“Almost never, actually. I’m trying to be biddable for a change.”

He chuckled and then sobered. “I don’t think I’d be very good for you.” He looked worn and sad.

“And why is that?” she wondered, no doubt surprising him with her American directness.

“Your eyes are so blue, my Lazuli,” he said, looking into them, avoiding the question.

His were cold chips of ice. She thought of glaciers and how they carved through rock, and how ice had remade North America to its preferences. She considered the flat, barren plains that glaciers left behind, the fine till and the soft clay, and the wide emptiness of their absence.

I should like to be happy but I will settle for content, she concluded, wondering if this man with his cold eyes could give her either of those things. Wanting him anyway.

Around them, matrons watched and approved – another werewolf settled could only improve London’s reputation. Mothers watched and regretted that they had not tried harder to secure Major Channing for their daughters, for who knew he could be such a gentleman? The occasional vampire shook his head at the state the country was coming to – really, an American? The occasional werewolf bit his lip and wondered, seeming afraid. Faith wasn’t sure whether they were afraid for Channing or for her, the girl who clung to him and leaned back, so very trusting, feeling free in his arms.

He sent around a note the next morning, saying a scientist friend of his would provide her a letter of introduction to The Royal Geographic Society.

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