Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)


“This was not part of the wedding plan,” she said in annoyance. “Biffy, what is happening here?” she yelled.

From the sidelines, Biffy shrugged and shook his head.

The clavigers were causing the disturbance. They had arranged themselves in a large circle about Lord Maccon and Alexia and were slowly pushing everyone else away. Alexia noticed that Ivy, little traitor, was helping them.

Lord Maccon slapped his forehead with his hand. “God's truth, they aren't really? That old tradition?” He trailed off as the howling began. “Aye, they are. Well, my dear, best get used to this kind of thing.”

The wolves burst into the open circle like a river of fur. Under the quarter moon, there was no anger or bloodlust in their movements. Instead it was like a dance, liquid and beautiful. The fuzzy throng was comprised of not just the Woolsey Pack but also all the visiting werewolves. Almost thirty of them jumped and pranced and yipped as they coiled around the newly married couple.

Alexia held very still and relaxed into the dizzying movement. The wolves circled closer and closer until they pressed against her skirts, all hot predator breath and soft fur. Then one wolf stopped directly next to Lord Maccon—a thin, sandy, vulpinelike creature—Professor Lyall.

With a wink at Alexia, the Beta threw his head back and barked, once, sharply.

The wolves stopped stock-still and then did the most organized, politely amusing thing. They lined up in a neat circle all about and one by one came forward. As each wolf stood before the newly married pair, he lowered his head between his forelegs, showing the back of his neck in a funny little bow.

“Are they paying homage to you?” Alexia asked her husband.

He laughed. “Lord, no. Why would they bother with me?”

“Oh,” replied Alexia, realizing it was meant to honor her. “Should I do something?”

Conall kissed her cheek. “You are wonderful as you are.”

The last to come forward was Lyall. His bow was somehow more elegant and more restrained than anyone else's.

Once completed, he barked again, and they all leaped into action: running three times around the couple and dashing off into the night.

After that, everything else was anticlimactic, and as soon as civility allowed, Alexia's new husband hustled her into the waiting carriage and on the road out of London toward Woolsey Castle.

A few of the werewolves returned then, still in wolf form, to run alongside the carriage.

Just outside of town, Lord Maccon stuck his head out the coach window and told them unceremoniously to “shove off.”

“I gave the pack the evening out,” he informed Alexia, retracting his head and closing the window. His wife issued him an arch look.

“Oh, very well. I told them if they showed their furry faces round Woolsey Castle for the next three days, I would personally eviscerate them.”

Alexia smiled. “Good gracious, where will they all stay?”

“Lyall muttered something about invading Lord Akeldama's town house.” Conall looked smugly amused.

Alexia laughed. “Would I were a fly on that wall!”

Her husband turned about and without further ado began unclasping the brooch that held the neck of her beautiful gown together.

“Intriguing design, this dress,” he commented without real interest.

“Rather say, necessary design,” replied his lady as the neck fell away to show a neat pattern of tiny love bites all about her throat. Lord Maccon traced them with proprietary pride.

“What are you up to?” Alexia asked as he gently kissed the tiny bruises. She was distracted by the delicious tingly sensation this caused, but not enough to forgo noticing his hands were round the back of the bodice of her dress, sliding open the row of buttons there.

“I should think that would be obvious by now,” he replied with a grin. He pushed back the top of her dress and became intent on undoing her corset. His lips moved down from her neck to delve into the region of her décolletage.

“Conall,” Alexia murmured hazily, almost losing her objections as new and delicious sensation extended from nipples turned strangely tight and hard. “We are in a moving carriage. Why this constant preference for inappropriate locations for amorous activities?”

“Mmm, not to worry,” he purposefully misconstrued her protestations. “I gave the coachman instructions to take the long way round.” He helped her to stand and shucked her out of her dress, skirts, and corset with consummate rapidity.

Alexia, in only a shift, stockings, and shoes, crossed her arms over her breasts self-consciously.

Her new husband ran large calloused hands around the hem of her chemise, stroking at the soft skin of her upper thighs. Then he lifted the material up to cup her buttocks before raising that last bastion of her admittedly deteriorated dignity over her head and discarding it.

Until that moment, Alexia realized she had never before seen real hunger in his eyes. They were in physical contact, supernatural and preternatural, but nevertheless, his eyes had turned to pure wolf yellow. He looked at her, clad in nothing but stockings and ivory button boots, as though he wanted to eat her alive.

“You are trying to get back at me, are you?” she said accusingly, trying to calm him a little. The intensity was scaring her. She was, after all, relatively new to this kind of activity.

He paused and looked at her, yellow fading in genuine surprise. “For what?”

“Back at the Hypocras Club, when you were naked and I was not.”

He pulled her toward him. She had no idea how he managed to attend to himself as well as her, but somehow he had opened the flap at the front of his breeches. Everything else remained covered. “I'll admit the thought had crossed my mind. Now sit.”

“What, there?”

“Aye, there.”

Alexia looked dubious. However, there were destined to be some arguments in their relationship she could not hope to win. This was one of them. The carriage, rather too conveniently, pitched slightly to one side, and she stumbled forward. Conall caught her and guided her into his lap in one smooth movement.

He did not do anything else with that particular proximity for a moment; instead he turned his attention to her generous breasts, first kissing, then nibbling, then biting, a progression that had Alexia squirming in such a way as to force the very tip of him inside her whether she willed it or no.

“Really,” she insisted, panting, “this is a most unseemly location for such activities.”

Just then, the carriage lurched over a rut in the road and silenced all further objections. The movement brought her flush on top of him, naked thighs pressed against the material of his breeches. Lord Maccon groaned, a rapt expression on his face.

Alexia gasped and winced. “Ouch!” She leaned forward against her husband and bit his shoulder hard in revenge. Hard enough to draw blood. “That hurt.”

He took the bite without complaint and looked worried. “Does it still?”

The carriage bumped again. This time Alexia sighed. Something extremely odd and tingly was beginning to occur in her nether regions.

“I shall take that as a no,” said her husband, and began to move, rocking with the motion of the carriage.

What happened after that was all sweat, and moans, and pulsing sensation to which Alexia decided, after about one second of deep deliberation, she was not averse. It culminated in the most intriguing second heartbeat emerging right around the area where he had impaled himself. Shortly thereafter, her husband gave a long low groan and collapsed back on the carriage cushions, cradling her against him.

“Ooo,” said Alexia, fascinated, “it shrinks back down again. The books didn't detail that occurrence.”

The earl laughed. “You must show me these books of yours.”

She folded forward on top of him and nuzzled down into his cravat, pleased to be with a man who was strong enough to be untroubled at having her draped atop him. “Books of my father's,” she corrected.

“I hear he had an interesting reputation.”

“Mmmm, so his library would suggest.” She closed her eyes, relaxing against her husband. Then she thought of something, reared back, and whacked him on the waistcoat with one balled-up fist.

“Ouch,” said her long-suffering husband. “Now what are you upset about?”

“Isn't that just like you!” she said.


“You took it as a challenge, didn't you? My stopping you from seducing me back at the Hypocras Club.”

Lord Maccon grinned wolfishly, though his eyes had gone back to their human tawny brown color. “Naturally.”

She frowned, considering how best to handle this situation. Then she shifted back toward him and began busily untying his cravat and divesting him of coat, waistcoat, and shirt.

“Well, then,” she said.


“I am still holding that the carriage is an entirely inappropriate place for conjugal activities. Would you like to prove me wrong a second time?”

“Are you challenging me, Lady Maccon?” asked Lord Maccon in mock annoyance. But he was already lifting himself up to facilitate her removal of his clothing.

Alexia smiled down at his bare chest and then looked once more into his eyes. The yellow was back. “All the time.”