Demons walk among us...
Demons are infiltrating the London Court and cozying up to the Queen. Too late, Lily learns the price of throwing propriety to the wind when she must return to the influential circles of London and the stiff cuff of society.
But with the pious Queen Victoria on the throne, that won't be possible until she salvages her reputation with a marriage of convenience. Or, as Lily prefers to think of it, a temporary rearrangement of her personal situation.
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It might be high summer in the rest of Scotland and England, but one would never know it, Lily thought as she stared out the carriage window. A drizzly breeze swept in from the west of Glasgow and converged with the putrid smoke billowing from foundries and forges, creating a saturated, smoggy grey blanket that hung over the entire city. To her left, the River Clyde was a murky, unpleasant green that didn’t encourage close inspection.
Lily snapped her gaze from the dismal surroundings. Her small, involuntary shudder would have gone unnoticed by most, but nothing escaped Kelan McAllister. Earl of Perth and Chieftain of the powerful McAllister clan, Kelan seemed to possess a handful of extra senses and he’d been trained since the age of four to act upon them with lightning speed.
Sitting across from her on the padded velvet bunk, he glanced up from the leather-bound journal he’d been studying.
With that dark, dark blue gaze set on her, Lily felt the inclination to shudder for an altogether different reason.
Kelan McAllister was a man who filled a room with his mere presence, and that effect increased a hundred-fold in the cramped interior of the carriage. His charcoal suit was exquisitely tailored to fit his broad shoulders, impressive height and lean torso. His hair, black as a moonless night, scraped over the sharp angles of his jaw to nestle at the collar of his shirt.
In another lifetime, he might have been quite handsome. But this lifetime had carved a feral harshness into his features and hardened the hollows of his jaw with fierce shadows. He was a compelling force of nature with the attitude and bearing of an avenging angel.
“Did you see something more?” he asked.
By ‘see’, he meant inside her head. With the blood of a demon called Raimlas flowing through her veins, Lily was effectively the McAllister demon sniffer. Although not quite effective as she’d yet to exercise any measure of control over her ability.
She shook her head at him. “I’m completely useless.”
“We wouldn’t be here if not for your vision yesterday,” he reminded her in that refined drawl. Born and raised in Florence, there wasn’t a shred of Scottish burr in the Scotsman.
Which inversely turned her thoughts to Greyston, every inch a Scotsman down to his warm honey-rumbling-over-oats burr and unruly hair. She hadn’t heard from Greyston since he’d blazed a trail through the Aether six weeks ago. He was running from both the inner demons of his past and the demon blood mingled with his own. The same demon blood pumping through her heart with a visceral identity that set her hairs on end if she thought about it for too long.
Which she tried not to.
“It’s been six weeks,” she said, her voice tight with frustration. “And in all that time, I’ve had only this one vision.”
The demon had taken on the guise of such a nondescript man…middle-aged, of average height, blond hair and a plain, square face—not a single distinguishing feature or mannerism she could describe to Kelan for a positive identity. Which was why she’d had to leave the anonymity of Cragloden Castle to venture to Glasgow with him.
“I recognised the building you described.” Kelan leaned forward, planting his elbows on his knees. “That’s important information.”
“It is?” she chided. “I wouldn’t know, of course, because you never actually tell me a thing.”
His brow creased. “You’ve had a lot to deal with, Lily, and it wouldn’t do to overwhelm you.”
She rolled her eyes. “I want to be overwhelmed! Can you not understand? I want to learn and know everything at once.”
Perhaps it had been naïve of her to think she’d be back in London before the end of The Season, but at this rate, she’d die an old maid stuck away at Cragloden Castle. “I’ve had another letter from Evelyn and it would appear my aunt’s suspicions are roused. She’s demanding the address of the convent I’m not cloistered in, Kelan. I don’t know how much longer Evelyn can put her off and we’re no closer to learning how to focus my visions. ”
“Training you in defence techniques is my first concern.” He leaned back in his seat again. “Impatience, you know, rarely yields a good result.”
“You have no sense of urgency! Greyston warned me. The McAllisters strategise in terms of generations, not a single life-span.” She flung her arms across her chest and took a moment to regain her composure. “I have only this one life, and I don’t intend to give the whole of it to your demon cause.”
His gaze, already so intense, hardened. “I don’t recall casting you in chains.”
“Oh, for goodness sake!” She flicked aside the black gauze scratching her forehead. A little too vigorously, perhaps, because the entire veil ripped loose from her widow weeds disguise.
Thanks to her dear friend, Evelyn, London Society believed she’d been cloistered in a highland convent these last six weeks. Having been spotted on the 10:30 Perth-Glasgow Mainline would rather ruin that tale.
“I made my choice and I don’t intend to change my mind,” she said quietly. “I will not give up until the last demon has been banished and the Cairngorm Tear between our dimensions sealed.” She opened her eyes, peering at him from lowered lashes. “Is it so very selfish of me to want that sooner rather than later?”
He looked at her, a contemplative, brooding look that divulged naught of his thoughts on the matter, and then the carriage drew to a lurching halt alongside the curb and his attention turned outside.
Lily sighed. Conversations with Kelan McAllister were like tramping through a marsh bog. One could wade for hours with absolutely no progress.