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Authors: Donna Lea Simpson

Awaiting the Moon

BOOK: Awaiting the Moon
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Danger from the Woods

Count von Wolfram trudged into the great hall, the sound of his hobnailed boots echoing off the vaulted ceiling. Spotting Adele in the gallery, he called, “Something terrible has happened.

Young Magda Brandt, Wilhelm Brandt’s daughter… they found her on the edge of von Wolfram property, attacked by wolves… they don’t know if she will live.”

He heard a gasp, but it was not from his imperturbable sister. A figure moved from behind Adele, and he saw Elizabeth Stanwycke appear at the high carved railing.

“A wolf attack?” she said. “How terrible!”

Her face in the gloom of the gallery was pallid, her expression concerned, but she didn’t swoon, or in any way demand attention for her own shocked sensibilities. He headed for the stairs and strode up them two at a time, forgetting his weariness.

“I am so sorry, Miss Stanwycke,” he said. “I should not have spoken so abruptly, but I thought Adele was alone, and—”

“No need for an explanation, Count,” she said, the whole line of her body stiffening. “I was shocked but I will not wilt, I promise you.”

They stared at each other for a moment, and he remembered coming upon her in the night in the library, where she had no right to be. The proud tilt of her chin was familiar to him already from the encounter, and the determined set of her lips. He supposed he should be happy she was no swooning lily, but he was not sure so much strength and resolution was best suited to his own purposes, or whether a more timid sort who would stay in her room and hide would have been better. Too late now, anyway. They would have to see.



A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author PRINTING HISTORY Berkley Sensation edition / February 2006

Copyright © 2006 by Donna Lea Simpson.

Cover art by Vittorio Dangelico.

Cover design by George Long.

Interior text design by Stacy Irwin.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy or copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York. New York 10014.

ISBN: 0-425-20849-4


Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

BERKLEY SENSATION is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


10 98765432 1

For my mom, who made sure I learned to read early and
always had books.

For Michael, whose steadfast encouragement carried me
through many doubts.

For Cindy, whose enthusiasm is inspiring.

For my friends

you know who you are
who were there
for me always.

But most of all, this is for Mick, who believed in me before there was any reason to, and who
gave me the courage to dream, when the world says dreams are for fools. I don’t know what I
would have done without so much faith and support in good times, but more importantly, in
difficult times, when having someone to lean on is all that kept me from losing hope.

Chapter 1

“I’VE HEARD that werewolves roam the woods of Germany,” Elizabeth Stanwycke said, peering out of the carriage window into the dark wintry woods, the snow on the ground gleaming in the moonlight.

The swift intake of a breath was her companion’s only response, and she glanced over at Frau Katrina Liebner. The elderly woman glared at Elizabeth and let out that breath; it crystallized in the air, as frigid as the woman’s expression.

“You will please not say such foolish things when we arrive at Wolfram Castle,” she said, her tone gruff and her lightly accented voice holding anger. “Ever!” She huddled in her black cloak and frowned over at Elizabeth in the dim light cast by a carriage lamp, her dark eyes snapping with annoyance.

“I… I was speaking in jest,” Elizabeth said, weakly. She shoved her gloved hands together deep in her muff to warm them—with no success—as she tried to decide in this instance if silence or an explanation would be better. As kind as Frau Liebner usually was, her occasional descents into anger mystified Elizabeth. “All thinking people,” she said, carefully, steadying herself as best she could against the jolting of the carriage along the deeply rutted road, “know that werewolves do not exist. Those tales are merely folklore, bedtime stories told to frighten little children.” When she received no response, she continued, “We are in the year 1795, not 1595!”

“The year does not matter,” the woman replied. “Do you think because we live in this modern time that the eternal has ceased to exist? That is blasphemy. There are in this world, Elizabeth, phenomena that we do not understand, and more that we will never comprehend. Their invisibility to our mortal selves does not negate their existence, and they are not a matter for jest.”

Elizabeth sighed. She sat back in a shadowed corner of the carriage, out of the pale yellow gleam of the lamplight. “I was not denying the presence of the deity, Frau Liebner, nor was I postulating a worldly view denying all that is preternatural. All those old horror tales, though

—ghosts and witches and werewolves—those are just myths.”

But the woman had turned her face away, effectively ending the conversation, so Elizabeth was left to direct her thoughts elsewhere, to her destination, Wolfram Castle, and her new position as tutor to Charlotte von Wolfram. It was a wrenching and difficult decision she had had to make, to leave England and travel all the way to Germany, but the opportunity had presented itself just when life in England had become insupportable for her. If not for the friendship of Frau Liebner and her miraculous offer of such a valuable position, Elizabeth didn’t know what she would have done. Her reputation in tatters, her life turned upside down and with nowhere else to go, it had been a godsend.

But she rejected such morose reflections on past mistakes and past pain as a shivering excitement rose in her. They were close, Frau Liebner had told her an hour or so ago, as the sun began to descend and the moon to rise; though it was only late afternoon, the sun set early in January. If not for the full moon they would have had to stop for the night, but the shimmering orb made travel possible, so they had continued the last several miles toward Wolfram Castle.

The woods had closed in on either side of them a half hour ago as they moved past a village and toward the castle, and though it would seem to be monotonous, miles of unbroken forest on either side of them, Elizabeth found the mysterious timberland strangely compelling. It was so very different from what she was accustomed to, and what she had grown up with.

Her home in Dover, the misty seaside, the fishing boats… all had receded into the hazy past and lived only in her memory now. She might not return for years, or even decades. Or ever.

That part of her life was over, and she must be brave in her new adventure.

Though she felt that she should be composing her thoughts for the evening ahead when she would meet her employer, Frau Liebner’s nephew-by-marriage Graf Nikolas von Wolfram, the scene outside the carriage window tugged her attention away from those serious thoughts.

Optimistic by nature, she hoped this journey would take her to a better life, and she was determined to achieve peace, at the very least, and respect if she could earn it.

And yet since they had started on this lonely highway a few hours before, she had been feeling, along with the increasing excitement, uneasy. Perhaps it was just how towering the pine trees were, how deep the glittering snow, how bright the full moon. That luminous disk, following them with a wise gaze, was behind her sudden unfortunate mention of werewolves, for every bit of folklore she had ever read had mentioned the full of the moon as the time humans transformed into the beasts and roamed, looking for prey.

Ridiculous, she supposed, but still there was some vestigial fear that haunted even the most pragmatic of people. Who in their life had not experienced the fear of the unknown?

In her case her whole future life was unknown to her at that moment, and she was poised on the lip of a precipice, the yawning chasm before her, black and unexplored. But fear would not defeat her. Friendship was proven in moments of great need, and Frau Liebner, for all her idiosyncrasies, had been a fast friend. This position was a boon, a treasure; it was the promise of a new life far away from those who had hurt her. As they crossed the channel and began their land journey at Ostend in Belgium, she and Frau Liebner had often spoken of that immediate past and the deception she had suffered, but in recent days the subject had paled in comparison to the future, and that was how it should be. The journey—difficult and dangerous as it was at times—had become a symbol to her as she turned away from old torment and betrayal toward her new life.

“I still don’t think I understand everything about the household yet,” she said, breaking the enveloping silence. “Your nephew, Graf Nikolas von Wolfram… should I address him as ‘my lord,’ or ‘Graf,’ or… ?” Elizabeth trailed off.

Frau Liebner shrugged her heavy shoulders and huddled back into her cape. “In my brother-in-law’s time, the head of the household was addressed by the English who visited as Graf von Wolfram, but Nikolas… he has been educated in many other places—Italy, France, Greece—and so has other ideas. His title is ‘count’ in your language, you know, and so I presume he will be known to you, but I have no doubt Adele will tell you how to address them, for she is very correct.”

“Adele…” Elizabeth searched her memory, for she and Frau Liebner had spoken about the entire household on the journey, though not in depth. “That is Graf von Wolfram’s eldest sister, Gräfin Adele von Wolfram. I suppose I would call her ‘countess’ in English, though I think I will stay with German titles until I am told otherwise.”

“She is the keeper of the house, also. She was accounted the beauty, you know, of the sisters, but it was her younger sister Gerta who married.”

“Gerta… uh… von Holtzen? Am I right? That is her married name.” Frau Liebner nodded and Elizabeth continued. “She lives at Wolfram Castle, too, and… has two children.”

Frau Liebner was silent for a long moment, and Elizabeth thought perhaps she had drifted to sleep, but then she spoke again. “Eva and Jakob are her children, twins, you know, but they are at school, and have been so for some time. Nikolas is their guardian, as well as of Charlotte, your charge. Christoph—Charlotte’s brother—has reached his adulthood, though I would say he acts still the boy in his refusal of any career. And yes, Gerta is a widow now; her husband has been gone fifteen years, almost. Very fragile, she is, frail.” Her tone was full of sadness.

“How did her husband die?”

“It was a very bad time. We do not speak of such things,” the woman said, harshly, biting off each word.

Silence reverberated in the dim carriage. It was not the first time Frau Liebner had roughly ended a conversation by simply saying, “We don’t speak of such things,” and Elizabeth wondered if she would be continually putting her foot wrong in conversation at Wolfram Castle. She would try to be retiring, though it was not in her nature, as it was vital to her comfort not to offend in her new position. Natural curiosity, a good imagination, and enthusiasm, all traits she had thought worth cultivating, were her enemies in this instance.

They were not suitable qualities for a tutor, nor for a governess, as she had discovered in her last position.

“This road is getting worse,” Elizabeth said to change the subject, having to toss her muff aside and hold on as the carriage bumped and jostled.

“Yes, it is this weather. It has likely thawed and now the road has frozen again into these ruts.” Frau Liebner was holding on grimly, too, but then her expression softened, her wrinkled face in the lamplight wreathed in a broad smile. “When the snow is new we use a sleigh. I remember Viktor, when we were young and first married; how proud he was of his new sleigh! It was painted red and was very beautiful, with brass lanterns and silver fittings on the horses. He would take me driving for hours with the fur robes piled high in the sleigh, and then we would come back and he would warm me in front of the fire.”

Elizabeth was silent, for Frau Liebner rarely spoke of her husband, now gone for many years.

But as always the woman didn’t say any more, lapsing into abstracted silence.

They went on for another ten minutes, and then the carriage slowed and the incline became more pronounced. It was the signal Frau Liebner had said would mean they were approaching Wolfram Castle.

“We must be getting close,” Elizabeth said, as the carriage jolted and jounced.

BOOK: Awaiting the Moon
10.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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