Home > How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(9)

How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(9)
Author: Gail Carriger

“Beautifully,” agreed Biffy.

Faith caught his mischievousness. “Have you any other gentleman’s hats that might suit a lady?”

“That’s the spirit!” Biffy rubbed his hands together gleefully. “Let me ascertain. Of course, I am concerned by the size, but with hairstyles these days tending towards the poufy, and with a hat pin, I do not think it will be too much of an issue.”

Teddy was gaping at her. “Oh, Faith, how wonderful. He intends to turn you into an original! This is most exciting.”

Some twenty minutes later saw Faith at the counter with her apple-green perch and three additional hats, all originally intended for gentlemen. She had the lovely plain boater, a derby in pearl grey, and a riding hat of black silk. These last she would leave with Biffy, who said he would trim them slightly to make them a touch more feminine. Not too much, of course.

Faith was, however, still wearing the boater as she paid. She thought it looked remarkably well on her, and never before had she had such affection for a hat. She did not want to take it off until she must.

A familiar voice disturbed her transaction.

She whirled to find Major Channing standing behind her, a blank expression on his handsome face.

“Major Channing, what are you doing in a lady’s hat shop?” Faith demanded before she could stop herself.

“Miss Lazuli? What are you doing in a gentleman’s hat?” His cool blue eyes swept critically over her new acquisition.

It did not worry Faith; he was the type to be critical. If her new hat truly did offend, he would say something more pointed. “Mr Rabiffano will be trimming it for me. He wants me to start a new trend.”

“He would.”

A small silence ensued.

Finally, Faith broke it. “Now is the point where you explain your presence here, sir.”

“I don’t have to explain. We own the bally place.”

“What on earth do you mean?”

“My pack owns this hat shop.”

“You’re telling me werewolves are the primary investors in a lady’s hat concern? Don’t you find this weird?”

“You have met my Alpha. I should think that explained everything.”

Biffy wandered up at that juncture. “Miss Wigglesworth, you’re acquainted with Major Channing? How droll.”

“Only in passing. He insulted my rocks.”

Biffy raised both eyebrows and gave her figure a slightly scandalous once-over. “Did he indeed? That doesn’t sound like Major Channing at all.”

Faith giggled and took off the boater, handing it back to him. “This is charming. I can’t wait to see it when you’re done with it.”

Channing watched their friendly exchange with narrowed eyes. “So, you are properly called Miss Wigglesworth, are you? I think I prefer Lazuli.”

Biffy hid a smile. “Major Channing, how unlike you to have an opinion. Why Lazuli?”

“Have you noticed the color of her eyes?” The man positively grumbled.

Biffy’s eyebrows went up. “Indeed I have. What is interesting is that apparently, so have you.”

Channing seemed to recollect himself. He straightened his spine. “Miss Wigglesworth, allow me to present you to Mr Rabiffano—”

“We’ve met. As you can see, he’s been helping me with hats.”

Channing soldiered on. “Who is also Lord Falmouth, who is also Alpha of the London Pack. My Alpha.”

Faith blinked at Biffy. As strange as it was to imagine Major Channing as a werewolf, it was even stranger to imagine nice Mr Rabiffano as one.

“You’re joking.”

Biffy laughed and adjusted a lock of her hair that had been disturbed by the hats. She enjoyed the attention. Behind her, Channing made a funny growling noise.

Biffy said, “He’s quite serious. Channing never jests, but it is sweet of you to think so.”

“It is?”

“Yes, darling girl.”

Faith frowned. “I’m beginning to doubt everything I thought I knew about werewolves.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time America got it wrong,” grumbled Major Channing.

Biffy spoke as though he hadn’t. “Now, I shall send the finished hats ’round no later than tomorrow midnight. You will need them right away, I suspect. And be sure to pick your gowns with care. Keep the masculine silhouette in mind. I believe it will continue to do you proud. No so far as to affect full masculine dress, mind you. I don’t think you run with that particular pack.” He gave a funny glance between her and Major Channing, which Faith chose to ignore.

The blond werewolf shifted to stand close. Faith felt his presence prickle the hairs at the back of her neck.

Faith concentrated on paying attention to Biffy’s recommendations. “I shall do everything you suggest, Alpha Rabiffano.” He’s abnormally creative for a supernatural. Faith wondered if it would be rude to ask how that happened.

“No, dear, let’s stay with simply Biffy, please. With you, I genuinely prefer it.”

“I’m honored, my lord.”

“And will you be attending Lady Papworth-Walmsley’s ball on Saturday?” Biffy bustled behind the counter for a moment, making a note on her hats and what needed to be done to them. It was bizarre to see an Alpha werewolf behave in such a manner. Or perhaps it wasn’t bizarre, and those few werewolves Faith had met before had been the aberrations. Which meant all her family’s rules and warnings were mere hyperbole.

Faith blushed to realize she was staring. She was aware that Channing had shifted even closer. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes. He was still glowering, mostly at Biffy.

She remembered she’d been asked a question about a ball. “I’m sorry, I don’t know. I’m at my cousin’s disposal.”

“Mrs Iftercast?”

Faith nodded.

Biffy smiled. “I shall strongly hint that you and your cousins be invited. If you aren’t already, of course. I wish to see what you dare in the manner of ball gowns, Miss Wigglesworth. And Major Channing is looking forward to the event, aren’t you, Channing?”

Major Channing’s lip curled.

Biffy gave his pack-mate a small, indulgent smile. “There will be dancing. I do love to dance, although I am no longer quite so good as I once was. Do you enjoy dancing, Miss Wigglesworth?”

“Faith,” said Faith, since he had gifted her with his preferred name. After all, she had nothing to lose at this juncture. She was about to wear gentlemen’s hats in public; why stand on ceremony with an Alpha werewolf?

“Faith? What a pretty name.”

“I prefer Lazuli,” muttered Major Channing.

Faith and Biffy ignored him.

“And yes” – Faith lowered her eyes – “I love dancing.”

Biffy nodded. “Of course you do. And you will not lack for partners, I’ll warrant.”

Major Channing managed to look both disgruntled and uncomfortable.

“Then I look forward to seeing you there, my lord Biffy.” Faith made good her escape.

Teddy and her mother were standing near the door, clutching their packages and watching the whole exchange with avid eyes.

“Oh,” said Biffy as he bowed them out of the shop, “I have absolutely no doubt you will see both of us.”

STEP FOUR

Take Every Opportunity To Dance

“What are you about, Alpha?” asked Channing ten minutes later, after they’d taken the ascension chamber down from the hidden door at the back of the hat shop.

Biffy was all innocence as they walked the underground passage to their full-moon dungeon. “Oh, dear me, Channing, did you not want to go to the Papworth-Walmsley ball?”

“I never want to go to balls.”

“But you’ll go to this one.”

“You practically promised the chit that I would.”

“And that’s the only reason? I never knew you to have such a care for my good word. How very noble and pack-minded of you all of a sudden.”

Silence.

“She’s a pretty thing, isn’t she?” Biffy pressed his advantage.

“For an American.” Channing squinted at his Alpha, curious despite himself. “Why such marked attention? People will think you are interested in courting her.”

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