Home > How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(2)

How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(2)
Author: Gail Carriger

They could see the Hyde Park embarkation green now, well lit to guide in the long-haul transports puffing in at night. She thought the park was probably pretty during the day, and much bigger than she’d anticipated.

Minnie glared at her mistress and not the view. “Will you be changing, miss?” Her tone suggested that Faith's outfit deserved nothing but censure.

Faith firmed her resolve. “I will not.”

“Oh, miss.” Minnie looked ill once more.

Their dirigible depuffed in stages. Minnie, while green, managed to maintain her dignity as the Flotty sunk with all dignified gravitas.

Once all the way down, the gangplank lowered, and porters swarmed up it. Minnie instantly commandeered one for their luggage. Faith trailed dutifully after.

Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings crossed his arms over his not-insignificant chest and growled. Since he was usually growling about something, most of his field agents ignored both noise and stance. Some of the newer ones moved a little faster about their assigned tasks, glancing at him sideways. He only sneered at them.

It wasn’t that they were being particularly incompetent. Nor that the mission was going any less slowly than expected. Just that Major Channing liked to growl. Being a werewolf, it was somewhat expected of him.

He was not excited about having to board and search this incoming dirigible. He wasn’t confident in their information, Americans were innately untrustworthy, and the airship was also American make, registry, and crew, so it wouldn’t be easy to investigate without giving offense.

But it must be done.

Reports indicated a shipment of Sundowner bullets was aboard, sent to arm the London Separatist movement and facilitate their anarchical agenda. Channing’s agents in America had tracked the bullets to Boston, but there the trail went cold. It was only supposition that they were headed to London. Certainly, the Bostonians could make good use of such an armament themselves, America being a generally hostile place where immortals were concerned.

In England, such bullets were controlled and licensed strictly to Sundowners – those few people authorized to kill vampires and werewolves. More importantly, they were extremely expensive to produce. Channing was motivated to find them. Firstly, to keep them out of enemy hands, and secondly, so that he might restock his own supplies.

As the head of BUR, Channing was a licensed Sundowner himself. The possibility of new bullets was extremely tempting. Channing liked killing things, even his fellow immortals. Especially them, more of a challenge. After all, everyone needs a hobby.

Unfortunately, in this instance Channing was anticipating failure. And no killing. He had a feeling the bullets weren’t on this dirigible, or if they were, they’d be too well hidden to discover without giving unpardonable offense to passengers through confiscation. This was one instance where even a werewolf’s nose could be fooled, and BUR had, of course, no idea what the enemy looked like.

Major Channing was always one to gather as much information as possible before codifying a mission; forewarned was forearmed, as the saying went. In this case there wasn’t enough to be going in with, and it was less four-armed than three-legged.

His men, three of them, all human, moved to stand next to the gangplank as the dirigible depuffed to ground. They looked with fierce assessing eyes at the debarking passengers. Transport vessel Floatsome Jetsome Comefloatington, or Flotty for short, was heavy with humans and baggage. The porters had their work cut out for them.

Come for the season, no doubt. Channing grimaced in disgust.

London had seen an influx recently of American upstarts on the British marriage mart, most of them interested in the cachet of a title. Brash young women desperate to find an Englishman with conservative political leanings to match their own upbringing. They saw it, in part, as missionary work. Americans supplied females full of wholesome ideals and strong anti-supernatural values (and, of course, money) to the upper crust of London’s high society. It was as if the colonies were returning home to save the British from themselves and the monsters they had become.

Channing’s lip curled despite his best efforts.

He couldn’t abide Americans.

Fritz-Lloyd Kerr, one of his newer agents, focused on a young lady, her maid, and their porter. The porter was struggling to load what looked to be a leather attaché case that had tumbled off the stacked baggage. The maid nipped in to rescue a wobbling sewing box while the porter hoisted the case back onto the pile. It was clearly much heavier than it ought to be.

Of course, one’s mind went instantly to bullets.

Mr Kerr approached. “Miss, pardon the intrusion, but we are investigating an issue of contraband. May I examine the contents of that case, please?”

His tone made it clear this was not a request but a demand.

The young lady, a pretty little blonde chit in something that looked more like a bicycling outfit than a traveling gown, bristled and blushed at the same time. “No, you can’t!”

Channing winced. That accent. So harsh. Pity, coming from such a prettily shaped mouth.

“I am afraid I must insist, miss.” Mr Kerr was firm. Channing approved.

“Under what authority?” The American female was firm right back.

Mr Kerr reached into his waistcoat pocket and produced his license. “BUR, miss. Name’s Kerr.”

“And what, Mr Kerr, is this BUR that you represent?”

“The Bureau of Unnatural Registry, miss.”

She jerked away at that, blue eyes wide in shock, glancing from Kerr to the other agents to Major Channing. Her maid gave a small gasp of horror.

Channing didn’t move under their panicked regard, arms crossed firmly, making it clear he was in charge.

“Supernaturals?” the American girl squeaked. “Are you…” She trailed off, clearly upset.

Now it was Kerr’s turn to blush. “No, miss.” But he did slide his eyes over to Channing.

Stupid man. He should control his reactions better than that! Channing frowned. Mr Kerr would have to go back in for more training. He clearly wasn’t yet ready for fieldwork when faced with an attractive blonde.

The young lady followed Kerr’s gaze and her eyes went, if possible, even wider. Her blush deepened in color. Flustered, she seemed so vulnerable, and as a result quite tasty, which only served to irritate Channing further. The wolf in him wanted to hunt.

He marched over. Without saying anything, he confiscated the leather case in contention. It was indeed suspiciously heavy.

The girl, as it transpired, was no milk-water miss. He should have known that by the fact that she was apparently attired in… Is that a split skirt or trousers? What are the young women wearing these days? Or perhaps it’s simply a plague of the colonies.

“Stop! That’s mine. Don’t you dare. Don’t touch it!” So much for her being flustered.

She followed her case, unafraid of Channing.

That is rather novel.

She smelled wonderful, he realized dispassionately. Like port and mincemeat pie, at once both sweet and richly intoxicating.

Channing ignored her, rested the leather case on a folding card table he’d set up expressly for this purpose. Then he popped the lid open.

Now, what is she so desperate to hide?

Faith could not deny that the offensive gentleman was ridiculously handsome. So much so, it hurt to look at him. But he clearly knew well how effective his looks were. This served to mitigate any possible appeal. There was also no doubt in Faith’s mind that he was a vampire. His slave (or drone, or whatever a servant was called) had indicated him as the immortal in charge of this harassment.

He wore no uniform, but he had the feel of arrogance and authority. Every line of his posture bespoke not only elevated breeding but military training. Instructions were barked at her in the manner of a militia captain or a French chef.

At the moment, he was silent and the muscles in his jaw rippled as he clenched his teeth.

Obviously a vampire. He had the pale skin she’d been told to expect. He was tall and lean and cut-glass pretty, blond and sharp-featured with too many teeth, like an ice sculpture wearing dentures.

He was also extraordinarily rude. To steal her specimen case without asking!

The first thing I do in a new country is subject myself to official humiliation. Oh, why did I insist on bringing my collection with me?

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