Knight of Swords

Victorian London, 1893. Lady Juliet Gaudain is turning eighteen and is to inherit a vast fortune and shipping line from her deceased parents. But that is not all she will inherit. She quickly learns her father was a warrior from an ancient race of Britons with supernatural powers who were cursed by the Druids to become vampires. Forced to hide within normal society through the ages, they mated with humans and created a hybrid race. Juliet must now complete her transformation in to a vampire and ascend her throne to become the powerful Queen of the Taleians. She must unite her people scattered across the world with the aid of a mate, fate has provided for her as protector. Wickedly handsome rich Lord Nathan Valancourt is more than eager to accept his new role and title of Knight of Swords as the beautiful Taleian Queen’s, ruling loving mate, protector, advisor and leader of her Army. But first he must fight a series of dangerous sword duels with other nobleman vampires who have been given the right to challenge his claim to the Queen and take her from him and force her to join with them. Nathan must defeat the devious challengers determined to take Juliet from him and protect his Queen from the cruel vampire who will stop at nothing to possess her power. Only then will he be able to consummate his blood relationship with Juliet destined to last for eternity.

This is a publishing partner title, published by Wild Girl Publishing.

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

October, London, 1893.

Lord & Lady Huntley’s Ball

 

I first saw the young woman I was destined to be with for eternity as a vampire the night of Lord and Lady Huntley’s Ball in their London home in Mayfair.  It was a dark inhospitable heavy fogged night in London close to Halloween and Lady Huntley promised a séance for those interested around midnight.  I had never believed in such things.  I always believed it nonsense and initially had no plans to take part in the parlour game but as the night progressed my mind would be changed.

After several dances with many of the ladies desperate for me to take them for a wife, I grew tired and decided to test my powers of seduction and attempt to seduce Lady Huntley herself.  My friends Ross and Alastair gambled that I would not be able to manage the feat.  So many suitors had tried in vain to gain her affection and the promise of future wealth as her spouse when her ailing husband finally breathed his last. By the recent look of the man and his great age, it could be any time soon.  I did not care for her wealth.  My fortune was far superior.  Her older beauty was tolerable, above average and her figure shapely so, I was not adverse to the idea.  However, persuading the future widow to engage in a dalliance in one of the rooms whilst her husband frequented his bed was another matter.  Lady Huntley was fabled for her devotion, adoration and love of her husband and so far, every man had failed to woo her.  I was not deterred.  Perhaps it is arrogant but I hadn’t yet met a woman who hadn’t fallen for my charms or my money.  I confess it was starting to become tiresome.  I coveted a challenge.

The first part of my plan was to request the pleasure of a dance with Lady Huntley.  My manners and polite decorum were courteous.  I made sure I engaged the lady in a discussion about her favourite subjects, in particular her work as a philanthropist and my own projects.  I dabbled a little in charity work with my Uncle and previous guardian, Lord Leggatt and this appeared to enthral the woman.  Comments about her beauty and the ball followed next.  I smiled gently when the lady blushed and viewed me coyly as I swept her around the dance floor of the huge hall amongst the other guests as the orchestra played the waltz.  I was growing confident I would be successful when I saw her.

It was the flash of red gold hair that first caught my attention.  I always admired this shade on a woman even though many others stayed clear believing it denoted the fiery temper of the lady.  I allowed no such nonsense to bar me from making her acquaintance but I also fancied she would prove tempestuous and create the ambience of fire and passion in our relationship.  I turned my head in an attempt to see her face deliberately sweeping Lady Huntley around and closer to the delectable petite figure in a cream and gold taffeta ball gown.  I had never seen such beauty in a woman before.  Her soft pale complexion was radiant crowned by her beautiful hair and sparking emerald eyes.  There was an ethereal quality to her that captivated my gaze and held me spellbound like no other woman had before.

She was dancing with an older gentleman who I believed to be her father.  My attempt to catch the lady’s attention with a simple smile was in vain.  She would not look in my direction appearing to be in animated conversation with her father as they danced.  I turned back to Lady Huntley who looked a little discouraged by my inattention to her.  I beamed a smile and pulled her even closer so much so the lady gave a small gasp.  I looked down at her, casting my gaze appreciatively over the agitated rise and fall of her ample cleavage just visible above the line of her dress.  Her delicate cheeks warmed as Ross past by with his own partner.  I was winning the battle.  Seducing the lady was a lot easier than I had believed it would be.  But who was this new woman who had entered London’s elite social set.  I had never seen her before.  I had been away at University in Oxford for the last three years and just returned but I had not seen her father before either.  I made sure I did not look at her again but instead decided to do some detective work to uncover the woman’s identity.  I had to have her for myself.

“Lady Huntley…” I began.

“Please call me Hortensia.”

I smiled.  It was not the most flattering of names yet when I spoke it I made sure it was with delicacy and reverence.

“Hortensia.”

Lady Huntley fluttered her eyelashes and lowered her head in a blush at the mention of her name on my lips.  When we had first began our conversation during the dance she had talked about her husband ill in bed upstairs.  It felt as though an age had passed before she would talk of something else.  But now I had her full attention and there were no other distractions except the young lady who had caught my eye.

“Who is the lady in the cream and gold gown and the gentleman dancing with her?  I have not seen them before.”

Hortensia glanced to her side at them both.  My eyes remained on her.

“That is Lord Cameron, the shipping tycoon and his niece, Lady Constance Gaudain.  He is quite the recluse since his health has begun to fail him.  She was taken in by him as a child when her parents were killed.  He is her guardian.  He dotes on the child much to the annoyance of his second wife and the family she brought into the marriage with her, two sons and a daughter.  Unlike Constance who adores him, they have no care or love for their stepfather, only his money something his new wife clearly had prominently on her mind when she married him.  Lord Cameron’s relationship with them all has been fraught with disappointment.  His adopted sons are both gamblers and violent.  He has had to repay many debts on their behalf numerous times.  His stepdaughter’s temper with the men who have tried to court her and his staff is legendary.  She will never make a suitable match.  Look, they are over there talking to Lord Garland.”

I discreetly glanced over at two surly bad tempered looking young men scowling at the dance floor and at those around them.  One of them was throwing back his drink whilst the young woman at their side gave everyone a superior haughty look as Lady Cameron conversed with the man beside her.

“That girl is not fit for polite society nor are her brothers.  Lord Cameron has always been an amiable, kind, caring man and I believe this new family has contributed to his ailing health.  He has not been seen in London for a long time.  I was pleased when he accepted my invitation.  He is contributing to the orphanage I am setting up in Marylebone.”

“Yes, a worthy cause, Lady Huntley.  I am sorry.  Forgive me, Hortensia.  And which of his adopted sons will inherit his fortune?”  My game was to make conversation as I spun Lady Huntley around so I could watch the beautiful Constance dance.  Finally, my scrutiny was to be rewarded.  The Lady was to look my way.  She frowned as I continued to gaze upon her.  I allowed my mouth to widen into a smile and she softened for a moment returning it with a gentle nod of her head and a delicate curl of her perfect lips.

“It is a shame such wealth must be put in the hands of brutes,” Lady Huntley continued.  “The fortune which is made of his own and Lord Gaudain’s estate and equal only to your own, Lord Valancourt will be squandered by William, the eldest.  The one you see who cannot tolerate his drink.”

“It is a pity.  Perhaps, the lady would prove a more worthy heir to his legacy.”

“I agree but it is never the way of such things.”

The music ended and we all stood clapping.  I cast my eyes around the dance floor hoping to catch another glimpse of Lady Gaudain but she was nowhere to be seen.  Ross and Alastair nodded to me.  They had given me only an hour to satisfy the bet and my time was running out.  I wanted to release myself from the gamble eager to pursue the beauty but a bet is a bet.  Perhaps, I would be able to pursue her at leisure after I had bedded Lady Huntley before this dreadful tiresome séance was to take place.

I took hold of Lady Huntley’s white-gloved hand and brushed my lips against it.  I continued to hold it.

“I do not wish to part company with you, Hortensia or release you to another partner.  Come take a walk with me to somewhere more private so we can talk some more.”

Her mouth widened into a smile.

“Surely you do not wish to spend all of your time with an older married woman like myself.”

I grinned.  I usually preferred to make love to older women.  They were sophisticated, elegant and their beauty was alluring.  That was why it surprised me I was so attracted to the younger Constance Gaudain.  I gave a gentle but firm tug on Lady Huntley’s hand to pull her closer so that I could whisper in her ear.  She gasped again.

“On the contrary, Madam.  I find many of the younger women vapid and without intelligent eloquent conversation.  I fear I shall fret and pine if you leave me to them.”

Lady Huntley giggled and I could see by the agitated rise and fall of her cleavage she was becoming excited and perhaps even aroused by my attention.

“You are wicked, Lord Valancourt.  But I will indulge you just this once.  Lord Huntley is ill and asleep more and more frequently these days.  I have been quite alone for such a long time.  I love and adore him dearly.”  Her voice had turned soft and tears gathered in her eyes for a brief moment before tightening with a determined resolve.  “Truly I do love him.”

“I have no doubt of it.”

“But a woman needs companionship and love.  I have been without it for over a year and I feel I will go quite mad if I do not have it.  I don’t think a woman should be alone on these cold autumn nights.  Do you, Lord Valancourt?”

She looked up at me with the innocence of a child as I led her from the dance floor, the music taking up again.

“No, I most certainly do not, Lady Huntley.  Perhaps, we can remedy the situation immediately.”

I discreetly manoeuvred Lady Huntley out of the ballroom to the library.  As I did so, I heard the distinct rustle of taffeta.  Glancing backwards, I saw Lady Constance Gaudain walking back to the ballroom past some other guests in the hallway.  Her eyes lingered on me for a while and I witnessed disapproval in her eyes.  Rather than feeling affront, I felt amusement.  I looked at her darkly, marking her as mine with my possessive eyes and her own widened in surprise.  A gentle blush covered her features inducing me to suppress a small laugh before turning back to Lady Huntley and ushering her into the library.

I locked the door behind us and sat her down in front of the blazing fire on the red chesterfield, thankful we were alone.  Tucking my fingers underneath her chin I brushed my lips against hers and closed my eyes.  I was surprised to find myself imagining I was kissing Lady Gaudain.  I did not even know the woman yet she was already having a powerful effect on me.  I had never found myself lusting for a woman when making love to another.  I always respectfully gave that lady my full attention yet Constance Gaudain was invading my mind.  Lady Huntley was heartily responsive to my lovemaking.  A short while later I dressed and left the room alone having fulfilled the bet and having brought a modicum of happiness to Lady Huntley’s unhappy lonely life.

I met with Ross and Alastair who had viewed me taking Lady Huntley to the library.

“I never thought even you would be successful,” Ross grinned at me as I took a glass of champagne from the waiter.  He slapped my back hard making me lurch forward and nearly choke on my champagne.  He laughed out loud.  “But I can see I underestimated you.  You have never failed yet.  It will be a pleasure to pay up.”

I took some more champagne.

“I have no want of your money.  I rather you commit to a forfeit.”

“That sounds like fun,” Alastair laughed.

“And what would you have me do, Lord Valancourt?”

I put my glass to my lips and directed my eyes towards Lily Croft sitting alone pushing her spectacles up her nose frowning at the dancing and all those around her.

“You cannot be serious, Nathan.  Lily Croft.  That blue stocking.  I think not.  She wouldn’t even entertain me in conversation.  She has a sharp vicious tongue.”

“Yes.  She makes an interesting challenge.  I have always believed there is a hidden passion in her depths that simply requires the right man to bring it out.”

Ross twisted his handsome features with disgust and disdain.

“But she is so boring and plain.”

“Perhaps you will be able to transform the ugly duckling into a swan.”

Alastair and I laughed.

“Have you no shame, Sir,” a soft indignant female voice spoke loudly.  “Or a heart?”

I turned to my side to see Lady Gaudain.  I opened my mouth to speak and defend myself but she rebuked me again clearly determined to have the last word on the matter.

“Are women and their feelings merely sport for you, Sir?”

Her beautiful eyes twinkled like fiery emerald jewels with anger holding my gaze captive.

“No, on the contrary, Lady Gaudain, I adore women.  Too much for my own good I fear.  I apologise for what you heard.  What can I do to make amends for my offence?”

I heard Ross and Alaistair chuckle behind me.

“You can start by reforming your character, Sir and having care for the women you seduce into your arms especially our host, Lady Huntley.”

“Perhaps you could give me some instruction on how I might reform my behaviour whilst we dance.”

I was pushing my luck but there hadn’t been a woman I hadn’t been able to soften in an argument yet the lady was to surprise me.

“I think not, Lord Valancourt.  I have been warned of your reputation and I do not wish to consort with a man of your calibre and loose morals.  Good evening, Sir,” she finished, dismissing me with a small curtsey.  Shocked at her words I gave a respectful bow and watched her walk away to introduce herself to Lily Croft and engage her in conversation as though to protect her from us.

Ross and Alastair found our short conversation greatly amusing.  My feelings were vexed.  I wanted what I could not have all the more and I would not be defeated so easily.

Midnight approached and Lady Huntley gathered together all of those who wished to take place in the séance.  It was to be led by a renowned German psychic Madame Rassmussen.  I had planned to watch the proceedings in the periphery of the room like many others and ignore Lady Huntley’s pleas for me to join her but my mind was changed when I learnt Lady Gaudain was to take part.

The eight of us were shown into the square softly lit Egyptian room and asked to sit around an oval table with lit candelabra. Constance did her best to keep away from me but I was to put a stop to her avoidance in thwarting the plan of a gentleman I had seen her dancing with earlier to sit next to her.  She gave me a pouting frown when I sat down next to her leaving her partner forced to retreat to the opposite side.  With Lord Cameron on her right side and lady Huntley on my left, Madame Rassmussen asked us to place our hands flat on the table with the sides touching each other’s.

Lady Gaudain refused to look at me as our skin touched.  I smiled amused by her coyness as Madame Rassmussen began to call upon the spirits.

It was an effort to keep my composure and amusement firmly in check.

“Is there anyone there?” Madame Rassmussen called out in a heavy accented voice after instructing us to quieten our minds and release our energy for her own manipulation to gather forth those from beyond the grave.  We all sat in silence, patiently waiting for an answer.  When none was forthcoming the Psychic Medium became a little testy and shouted, “I command the spirits to come forward and communicate with us.”

All of a sudden, a fierce gust of chilly air blew around the room making the candles on the table flicker.  Everyone murmured and some of the ladies gasped.  I glanced at Constance who graced me with an unchecked fearful look to which I returned a reassuring one.  Then she narrowed her eyes at me appearing cross with herself.  No matter.  I would take care of her whether she wished me to or not.

I raised an eyebrow when Madame Rassmussen gave a loud piercing shriek and fell back in her chair seemingly unconscious.  More shocked gasps and murmurings echoed around the whole room as the candles and the lamps around us flickered once more.  However, no one made a move to assist Madame Rassmussen and with good reason I may add.  Less than a moment later she sat bolt upright in her chair apparently in a trance and began to speak and chant in a language I had never heard before.  It sounded ancient.  Maybe Sumerian.

She spoke it fast and although it appeared to be her voice, on closer inspection I did not believe it so.  There was a deepness to it I had previously not detected.  Perhaps a spirit was speaking through her.  Usually, I would have presumed this séance to be a clever act but as the voice changed and became even more distinctly masculine in nature, I began to doubt my assertion.

Hearing anxious panting breaths coming from Lady Gaudain, I turned my head to look in her direction to see her countenance flushed.  She looked ready to faint.  As the chanting grew louder and the room darker, I was surprised when she suddenly took hold of my hand and Lord Cameron’s and gripped tight.  She looked at me with terror in her eyes.

“Do not let go.  I beg of you,” she demanded of me.  “He is coming.”

I opened my mouth to ask whom she was talking of when a black mist formed above our heads.  It thickened until it became a black liquid rippling overhead. Madame Rassmussen gave a loud eerie male laugh and then fell forwards so that her head came to rest on the table with an almighty thud.  Everyone jumped but did not dare to leave and break the circle.

Everyone’s attention turned to the strange liquid cloud formed above us as it parted in the middle and a fierce wind blew around the Egyptian room blowing out the candles in front of us.  Lady Gaudain’s hand gripped tighter and I made sure my own larger one engulfed it, providing her with the reassurance and protection she requested of me.  Madame Rassmussen suddenly sat up again and spoke as herself, apparently released from the spirits who had briefly inhabited her.

“Do not break the circle.  We have made contact with a murderer who still lives and stalks London this very night looking for prey.”

“The Vampire killer,” I murmured along with everyone else, shocked that such a feat was manageable.  Lord Cameron spoke next above the wind growing to the point that I feared we would all be blown back from the table.

“But how can we make contact with a living spirit, Madame Rassmussen?”

“I do not know.  This has never happened before.  I believe he is both dead and living.”

“A true vampire?  Is that possible?”

“He comes.  Do not break the circle or his spirit will roam free amongst us.  It is too dangerous.  We must not let this happen.  We must listen to him and allow the fates to help us.”  She looked directly at Lady Gaudain.  “He comes for you.”

“I will not let him harm you,” the words slipped from my mouth with powerful determination.  I could play the attentive protective lover with ease but this was more.  This beautiful fragile woman was provoking a fierce protective need in me.  I did not understand why she executed such a powerful reaction in my heart.

The black liquid cloud above us thickened and descended.  It separated in two to swirl and hover like small whirl winds over the table before moving at speed towards both Lady Gaudain and myself.  It was instinct to reel back as it approached but there was no escape.  The thick black substance dived inside my body and Lady Gaudain’s just below our chests.  Darkness engulfed me and I felt myself falling.  To my surprise I landed in a London backstreet covered in thick fog and I was not alone.

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