Authors: Marissa Day
Heat titles by Marissa Day
THE SEDUCTION OF MIRANDA PROSPER
THE SURRENDER OF LADY JANE
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Copyright © 2012 by Sarah Zettel.
The Surrender of Lady Jane
by Marissa Day copyright © 2011 by Sarah Zettel.
Cover photograph © Allan Jenkins / Arcangel Images.
Cover design by Annette Fiore DeFex.
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Heat trade paperback edition / June 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Fascinated / Marissa Day.
1. Magicians—Fiction. 2. London (England)—18th century—Fiction. I. Title.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This book is dedicated
to my husband, Tim,
as are all my happily ever afters.
ell, speak of the devil and he appears.”
Edward Randall, Baron Carstairs, entered the Club’s common room and was greeted by a series of upraised glasses and upturned faces. The men occupying the dark-paneled and comfortably furnished chamber were an unusual cross section of London’s population. Not only were gentlemen and the nobility represented, but with them sat tradesmen, clerks and even a pair of brothers in the stout boots and corduroy trousers of the laboring class.
This remarkably egalitarian gathering was known only as “the Club.” Like many another gentlemen’s association, it provided bedchambers for members in need of temporary quarters, a common room, a library and space reserved for private meetings. It even had its own betting book for members with the urge for a little sport. But the Club had no brass plaque on the door; neither did those gathered there carry cards with its address engraved on them. Members needed no name for the organization, and those
who were not members did not need hints or mysteries they might be tempted to puzzle out.
Each and every man in that room, whatever his rank or class, was a servant of the Crown. Each and every one was also a magic worker. Together they represented a thin line of defense for the Isle of Britain against the otherworldly Fae, a powerful and deadly enemy determined to conquer and rule the land. This house was one of the few places the secret defenders of the realm could let their guard down and relax for a few hours among trusted compatriots.
“Hullo, Rathe.” Carstairs settled himself into an unoccupied chair by the window and sent the waiter off for a whiskey. “Which devil are we speaking of this time?”
“You, of course.” Corwin Rathe was a tall, black-haired man with excellent taste in clothing and a deceptively amiable manner. One might easily take him for a bit of a fool, but he was among the most dangerous men in this battle-hardened company.
“Rathe was surprised you agreed to a party to celebrate your engagement,” said Marcus Addington from his post at the sideboard. He wore a simple black coat that could have marked him as anything from a vicar to a bank clerk. Addington was a powerful Sorcerer, but his acid-edged tongue had more than once gotten him into trouble.
“Her family insisted on a rout.” Carstairs shrugged. “Said it was expected. Myself, I did not see the need.”
“No need?” Rathe’s eyebrows went up. “No need to celebrate your impending marriage?” Like Addington, Rathe was a Sorcerer; one who could take the aetheric energies commonly known as “magic” and, via force of will, shape them into active enchantment. But to accomplish this, a Sorcerer needed a source of power.
That was the role of those like Carstairs. Carstairs was a Catalyst. He was possessed of the ability to draw up the magic of the natural world and channel it to a Sorcerer. Most of the Club’s men were either Sorcerers or Catalysts. There were women with both gifts, of course, but society at large would frown on a social club, however anonymous, that admitted both men and women. So, a second, equally comfortable and discreet house, was kept a few streets away.
“All proprieties attendant the marriage will be observed,” said Edward as he sipped the smoky Scotch whiskey. “The contracts are being drawn up by serious and sober solicitors as we speak. In three weeks, the church will pray over them, a very large dinner will be consumed, I will see my wife comfortably installed in the house and we will both get on with the business of living.”
“That’s awfully callous, even for you,” rumbled Darius Marlowe. The large, leonine man leaned against the mantel, watching the whole room with his hard blue eyes. Even in this place, where every soul was a comrade in arms, Darius seemed incapable of relaxation.
“What, Marlowe?” Carstairs arched his brows. “You don’t imagine I’ll be cruel to her? Have I ever given a woman anything to complain of?” There were knowing chuckles all around the room. “Well, I shan’t start with my wife. She will have plenty of pin money and I’ve no need to fuss about the bills. There will be heirs to keep the estate and title intact, and we can call that a successful marriage.”
“What of love?” asked Rathe.
So that was it. Rathe was hoping to draw him out on the subject. Carstairs shrugged again. “Not all of us are as fortunate as you,”
You, and Marlowe, and your Miranda,
he amended, but
only silently. Carstairs had attended the very private ceremony where both men had pledged themselves to Miranda as her husbands, never mind what it said on the official marriage license. Still, even among friends this was not something to be spoken of lightly. “Marriage may have been instituted by God in the time of man’s infancy, but since then man has had his way with it,” Carstairs went on. “He’s made of it a way to determine who should get the money and the property and who shouldn’t. For most of us, anything beyond that is a matter of luck, and goodwill.” And love; love was a most dangerous thing for any man, but most especially for their kind. Their enemies worked upon love and the fascination of sex. He wondered if Rathe knew just how lucky he was to have found himself and Darius a woman who had already been tested against the enemy.
“And is your wife-to-be of your opinion?” inquired Addington, sipping his port judiciously.
“My soon-to-be-wife is practical,” Carstairs replied casually. “It’s the first thing I looked for.”
“Yes, but Alicia Hartwell?” cut in Roman Peale, a hatchet-faced man with the elaborately tied neck cloth and starched shirt points of a member of the dandy set. “If you must choose a wife for reasons other than the modern romantic sentiments, why not something the likes of Luella Sanderson? Fresh on the market and quite the stunner. You could have had her with a wink and a nod.”
“And what good does a seventeen-year-old beauty do me? I need someone to run the house credibly, raise the children and keep herself well.”
And from whom a man’s mind can keep its distance.
Edward considered the amber dregs of his glass. “Parents have no business thrusting such young things into marriage.
They don’t know who they are yet, let alone what they want from life.”
“You were the one who just said marriage is nothing but a set of legal obligations,” Rathe reminded him.
“So it is, and before you enter into it, you should understand what those obligations are and how to carry them out. How the hell is anyone supposed to know that at seventeen?”
“So it’s the Honorable Miss Alicia Hartwell at twenty-five.” Peale folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. “Solid, practical and not inclined to raise a fuss at anything you do because she knows damn good and well you’ve rescued her from spinsterhood?”
“And so cold she’ll probably freeze your prick off,” muttered Addington.
Carstairs set his whiskey glass down with a click that was suddenly the loudest sound in the room. “Marcus, I don’t think I heard that properly. Would you care to repeat it?”
“Oh, it was nothing, old man,” Addington said quickly as he took in the expression on Carstairs’s face. He took a much larger swallow of port this time. “Nothing at all.”
“Good,” replied Carstairs. “Because despite the fact that I refuse to be a second Byron over the thought of marriage, the lady in question is my fiancée, and under my protection. I would very much hate to discover anyone had abused her name or character in any setting. Do I make myself clear?”
Some of the color left Addington’s cheeks. “Perfectly.”
“Good.” Carstairs got to his feet. “Well, I am off. Rathe, Marlowe, we’ll be seeing you tonight?”
Both men agreed they would be looking forward to it and Carstairs left the room amid a ragged chorus of good nights and
good wishes. He collected his stick and hat from the footman and stepped out into the clear June evening.
Whatever Rathe and Marlowe might feel about it, Carstairs himself was not particularly looking forward to the party. Society gatherings had never been much to his taste. The Hartwell family was fastidious about appearances, but not possessed of naturally festive natures. Indeed, they were a universally dull and staid lot. As a result, the party would be beautiful, but hardly stimulating. Still, they were right in that it was expected. Perhaps he could take this as an opportunity to steal a few minutes alone with his fiancée. As practical as she appeared, it would not hurt to give her a private assurance or two that he meant to treat her kindly and see her comfortable.