In Regency London all is not as it seems. Vampires live among humans, hiding their secret powers from their hosts in shadows.
Unbeknownst to Lady Sybil Lofstrom she is descended from a race of Fae who got caught in the middle of the Wars of the Races and were exterminated by all sides. Fearing she is losing her mind, she tells no one about the creatures of the night only she sees. Until one of them draws her into his Vampire world with his kisses.
The Vampire King’s Shadow Blade, Anton Count Grazki cannot believe there is a human woman, one he finds irresistible to his lonely heart, who can see through the vampire cloak of shadows. Her unique ability means her death unless he can find some way to keep her safe.
Award winning regency historical author, Ann Lethbridge puts a new twist on the old romance fantasy of a dark and dangerous lover in this first book of a new regency vampire series.
A Most Peculiar Season - A 5-Book, Multi-author Series
Regencies With a Difference!
The year is 1811 and the Prince of Wales has finally been declared Regent to rule in place of his incapacitated father. But that is not the most peculiar thing about this London Season…
An audacious thief is lifting jewels from under the very noses of their aristocratic owners. Some suspect The Mayfair Shadow may be a member of the ton! An infant is abandoned on the doorstep of three notorious rakes – but which one is the father? Are a series of gruesome murders at Vauxhall connected to the exiled royal house of Moldavia? A perfect young lady, betrothed to England’s most eligible earl, vanishes from a ball on the eve of her wedding. And what about rumors of a virile Viking warrior in the Prince Regent’s court?
Enjoy this entertaining Regency series created by a group of award-winning and bestselling historical romance authors!
An excerpt from Lady Sybil's Vampire:
June 19, 1811, Carlton House
Royalty, nobility, and England’s most powerful politicians dined cheek by jowl. King in all but name, the Regent gleefully presided over all, smiling and nodding with benevolent majesty at surrounding lesser mortals. Lady Sybil Lofstrom, seated with Lord Orrick and his daughter Caro at the far end of the immense table, scarcely warranted a glance.
And Sybil was content to have it so. The less she was noticed the better. She didn’t even use her title anymore.
The conservatory had been turned into a dining room for the event. Its glass roof and walls reflected light from a myriad of chandeliers and candelabra as did the jewels worn by the attendant ladies and gentlemen. The forty-foot dinner table with its replica of a stream meandering down the middle, amid banks of flowers, sparkled with gold and silver cutlery and epergnes bearing exotic fruit. In short the whole thing was blindingly brilliant and uncomfortably hot.
“Poor old chap is completely mad,” Lord Orrick, her charge’s father, said to his neighbour at the dinner table.
Sybil repressed a shiver. Mad. The word struck at her heart like a knife. Accusations of lunacy, fear of incarceration, were her constant companion. But Lord Orrick was not talking about her, he was talking about poor King George.
“Locked up tight,” Orrick said, nodding. He was a handsome man, an earl and a member of the Prince’s Carleton House set. He employed Sybil as a chaperon for his daughter. If he knew what Sybil saw, he’d be horrified. Likely he’d want her locked up tight too.
She closed her eyes briefly. Better not to think of it.
Say nothing. See nothing. It was her only option. Sybil pushed at the food on her golden plate with her golden fork. What would they say, if they knew what she saw, these lords and ladies up and down the long table? They would shun her, as they had shunned her mother. Shut her away.
“Oh, no, Sybby, do you see it?” Lady Caroline Orrick said over the babble around them.
Sybil’s heart lurched. Her stomach shifted queasily. “Do I see what, Caro?” she murmured quietly. A chaperon never drew attention to herself if she wanted to retain her position.
“Fish. Swimming.” Brown eyes wide, luxurious chestnut curls framing a pretty, heart-shaped face she leaned forward to peer into the water. “Ew. There’s a dead one.” Her charge made the sort of face only a schoolgirl would show to the world.
Fish. Sybil closed her eyes briefly, thankfully. Fish were normal everyday creatures. All she had ever wanted was to be ordinary. Unremarkable. “Keep your voice down,” Sybil whispered in her charge’s ear. Any breach of the young woman’s manners and Sybil would be blamed. Lord Orrick was a good and kind man, but he wanted a good marriage for his daughter and Sybil wanted to prove her worth in that regard. It would stand her in good stead when a new position was required.
Caroline blinked. “Sorry,” she whispered, so low Sybil could scarcely hear her.
Dash it, she’d spoken more sharply than she’d intended. Nerves. “Apology accepted. Remember a lady never squeals or shouts. Normal tones are quite acceptable.”
“It is disgusting to have dead fish in the middle of the table,” Caro said, at a sensible volume.
“Don’t let the Prince Regent hear you.” Lord Orrick muttered from the other side of his daughter. “He is a sensitive sort of chap. Might take a pet.”
Sybil flushed at the implied criticism of her charge’s manners, but Caro didn’t notice. She was too busy trying to catch the eye of the young man on the opposite side of the table. A handsome young fellow in naval uniform. He winked.
Sybil sighed and pretended not to see. A little flirtation for a debutante was harmless enough. As long as it stayed within reasonable bounds.
“Who is the man sitting beside King Louis,” Sybil asked Lord Orrick thinking to improve the tone of their conversation and perhaps distract Caro from the sailor. “The dark, handsome one with the blue sash covered in orders.”
Orrick’s lip curled in disapproval. “Another displaced royal we are supporting to keep safe from Bonaparte. Vlad, King of Mondavia. On his right is Prince David, a cousin or some such, and on his left, Viscompte Dryden, his Ambassador to the Court of King George.”
“Oh my!” Caro said staring. “Kings and Princes. Are we likely to meet them at parties, do you think?”
Orrick gave her a hard look. “Let us hope not. None of them have a feather to fly between them, and Dryden is an absolute disgrace. Not once have I seen him less than half seas over. Not even at the palace. If he is an example of Mondavian manhood, you will do well to avoid them all.”
The information about King Vlad had been in all the newspapers some years before. His father, the King of a small country in the Alps had been brutally murdered in a coup supported by Napoleon Bonaparte. Like the Bourbons from France, the son was exiled in Britain. His dark eyes were full of shadows, but his square jaw showed a determination beyond his youth. But it was not the King and his seated companions at table upon on whom Sybil’s gaze lingered, it was the man standing behind them who held her attention.
A member of the King’s personal guard, she assumed. A darkly handsome bleak-eyed man who seemed of an age with the King. He stood so still in the shadows, so unmoving, he could have been a statue, if it wasn’t for the flash of a diamond when he breathed. While his form seemed solid enough, tall and broad shouldered, the shadows around him shimmered strangely whenever her gaze drifted off him. A horribly familiar sort of shimmer. Surely he was not one of them? An Other.
While he was as darkly handsome as the King, his cheeks were lean to the point of gauntness, his nose an arrogant jut from a face so severe, with his straight black brows and dark eyes, as to make her wonder what troubles he had seen. Watchful eyes. From time to time they rested on her face as if he was aware of her scrutiny and she had the sense being fixed in the deadly gaze of a predator. She shivered.
She swallowed against the dryness in her throat. Surely the dazzle in the room played tricks with her vision.
She forced herself to look away. When she glanced back a few minutes later, the Prince Regent was rising from his seat, King Vlad, the Bourbans and other royalty following in his wake. The man she had noticed followed in a blur of movement that confirmed her fear. Her skin flushed hot then cold. What if she had asked about him too? Orrick would have thought she was losing her mind, just like they thought her mother had.
As her worst nightmare disappeared from view, she felt an odd sense of loss. As if their brief clash of eyes meant something important. Or as if she was some green girl falling for a man across a crowded room. Her heart gave a little thump. Oh, no, surely not.
“Come, Sybil,” Orrick said loudly.
She was surprised to see him already on his feet, his daughter’s hand tucked beneath his arm. They were both looking at her with puzzlement. As if they had been speaking to her and she’d failed to answer. Heat spread up from her neck to her face.
If she wasn’t very careful they would guess something was wrong with her. She saw people others could not.
Two nights after the farce of a fete given by the Regent, death, in the form of Anton Grazki, stalked Vauxhall’s Dark Walk. Destined to end another life. More cold to swell the space behind his ribs. A little more weight added to his shoulders. A little more of his soul destroyed.
The unpleasant duty was a fitting punishment for Anton’s crime, some would say. Others thought he had been let off too lightly.
He gazed deep into the shadows, scenting the air, listening for any out of place sound. If he had to do this, Vauxhall was as good a place as any other. Better than the filthy alleyways of St. Giles teaming with humans. Although another dead body there would hardly cause a remark.
There. A rustle in the bushes a few yards off. A gasp of shock. The scent of warm human blood.
He veered off the main walk and down a path twisting through the undergrowth. No pretty lanterns here to beat back the dark. Unnecessary for him. In starlight, he saw as clearly as if a thousand candles lit the way.
He found his quarry behind a clump of lilac, two bodies writhing on the ground engrossed in their lust. One stride and he jerked the young male to his feet. The black eyes slowly focussed, the dreamy expression on the immature face slowly registering fear.
“No,” he choked out. “I took but only a little blood. I did her no harm.”
Anton glanced down at the unconscious girl and back to the male’s face. A respectable lad, though not of noble blood, since Anton did not know him.
“Idiot,” he hissed. “She’s unconscious. Five more seconds and she would have died.” Vampires never killed humans and lived. It was within his rights, nay it was his duty, to call this male rogue and end his existence. Mercy was not his to give. He followed only the letter of the law. He was the King’s Blade.
Yet how would it help for this boy to die? Anton believed him when he said he intended no harm. Another son dead would not help Vlad’s cause with his people.
“Gods forgive me,” the young man said. He fell to his knees his face full of terror.
This was not one of those wreaking havoc among their people. Simply a foolish youth struggling with his baser urges. Anton knew well the kind of mistakes such a boy could make.
Distant sounds invaded his highly tuned senses. The scurry of footsteps almost drowned by the sounds of laughter in the distant. Humans. They also had little control of their appetites. He willed a shadow to blanket them from view and gripped the young male’s throat. “What is your name?”
“Micael Kessler,” the young man gasped. “Please, lord, grant me mercy for my mother’s sake.”
Anton glared at him, let the red in his eyes blaze. “It is for the King to have mercy.”
The lad shuddered, his shoulders slumping. “Tell my mother, I am sorry.”
Damn it all. “Get you gone.” He pushed him aside.
The lad staggered backwards, breathing hard, his eyes darting in terror. He wiped a hand across his lips, smearing a drop of blood. “I…Thank you.”
“Say one word to anyone and I will change my mind. And don’t let me catch you at such tricks again.”
Gods, he was losing his edge. Any more such gestures and he’d find himself facing the slow painful death ordered by the King several centuries ago. He glanced down at the woman on the ground. One of the prostitutes who haunted this place, from her dress. She lay as if boneless, the small wounds at her neck leaking blood onto the bodice of her gown. The rhythm of her beating heart thumped in his ears. Slowly her eyes fluttered opened and fixed on his face.
He crouched down by her side.
She opened her mouth to scream.
He bared his fangs and cupped her face in his hands.
Panicked, Sybil hurried along first one path then another, until she was no longer sure which way led back to the pavillion. But where oh where was Caroline? One moment she’d been dancing with an unexceptional young man, the next she’d disappeared. Sometimes she really was too much. Sybil’s heart faltered as she hurried along lesser used pathways. Shadows closed in. She glanced around, praying she would see nothing, yet she felt a strange prickling over her skin.
They were out there, those creatures. The Others.
She shuddered and forced her mind to focus on her task.
Caroline. She had to find the girl before she did something stupid. Like get herself ruined. It was too bad of Orrick to have agreed to this outing and then cry off in favour of meeting a friend at his club. Sometimes he was the only person able to make Caro see sense.
A voice. Off to her right, A man’s voice, deep and threatening. Silence.
Could Caro be in trouble. Sybil ran around a bend in the path. A man. Kneeling over something on the ground beside a shrub.
The man glanced over his shoulder at her approach.
She recognized him instantly. The man behind King Vlad at Carleton House. “You!”
His eyes widened. He shot to his feet looking decidedly startled and shocked. He bowed. “Madam,” he said. His voice was deeply resonant with the faint trace of a French accent.
At his feet she saw the lower limbs of a woman, her feet and calves, the hem of her red skirt. Not Caroline. Relief washed through her, then anger. “What are you doing?”
He stepped back, the air around him shifting and blurring his form for a brief moment. “She fainted, I think. I found her here. I thought she needed help.” His dark eyes narrowed as his gaze swept her person.
Sybil swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. How could she have been so stupid as to acknowledge his presence. But the girl— “Is she all right?”
“If you would care for her, while I fetch assistance…” His question tailed off, waiting for her assent.
He sounded so calm. So self assured. So dark and lean and….hungry. Instinct warned she should run.
The woman on the ground groaned.
An unmistakable cry for help. Sybil ran to her side and knelt. The girl put a hand to her head and gazed around her. “Lawks, miss, I dunno what came over me. Got dizzy all of a sudden.” She made as if to get up.
Sybil pressed her palm to the girl’s forehead. She felt a trifle warm. She caught the girl’s lax hand in hers and felt the pulse at the wrist. Steady enough.
Muffled sounds of a large party of revellers on the main walk grew louder. She glanced up at the man. “She needs a doctor. Do you think, sir, you could indeed find someone to give her aid?” Would he, given what he was?
He inclined his head, his black eyes fixed on her face. “A votre service, madame.” Instead of leaving, he stepped closer, staring into her eyes, she felt a faint waive of nausea.
The girl whimpered. “I think I’m going to cast up me accounts.”
“Sybil,” a voice called. A familiar voice. Thank the heavens. She stood up. “Caroline. I’m over here.”
The man was staring at her with a strange expression, his black brows drawn down in a frown. Not anger. Puzzlement. Her stomach gave a strange little flutter at the intensity of his gaze. “If you please, sir. This woman needs help.”
He bowed and strode away his black evening cloak swirling around him.
“Quickly,” Sybil called after him as the girl rolled over and began retching miserably.
“Here you are,” Caroline said, sounding cross. A group of her young friends stood behind her staring at Sybil. Looking at her as if she had lost her mind. “I have been searching all over for you,” Caroline said. “Don’t you know better than to wander about alone—” She frowned. “Who is that?”
“I don’t know. I found her instead of you.” She looked down at the girl and smiled encouragingly. “What is your name?”
The woman sat up and touched a hand to her temple with a frown. “Millie,” she gasped, as if the name had been hard to recall. “Me name’s Millie.”
“Do you think you can sit up, now, Millie?” When the girl nodded, she helped her to sit up straight.
“I say, Miss Lofstrom,” said Lord Bertram, one of the young men who had accompanied Caroline. “She is not the sort of female—”
Sybil’s temper flared. “She’s a person, isn’t she?”
The young man nodded vigorously. “Yes. A person. Yes.”
“Wot’s all this then?” A burly man in Vauxhall Gardens livery strolled into their midst. “Ladies, Gentlemen, Bert Puddle. Of the Watch.” He turned a gimlet eye on the girl on the ground and blew out a breath making his moustache puff away from his lips. “Ah, I see wot it is. Now then, Millie. Wot are you up to, disturbing these nice ladies and gentlemen. You’ll be in trouble, you will, if you’ve been a robbin’…”
“Millie was taken ill,” Sybil said.
The guard’s eyes narrowed. “Too much blue ruin is it, my lass?”
“Not ‘ad a drop all night, guv,” Millie grumbled.
“A likely story.” The guard took her by the arm and helped her to her feet. “Aye, right. I can smell it on you.”
And so could Sybil. Strange that she hadn’t noticed the smell before. Too busy admiring the stranger who’d been holding this woman in his arms. An Other who must have engaged in—. Oh she so did not want to think about such a thing. She brushed the dirt and twigs from her skirts. “Will you be all right now, Millie?”
“She will be,” the guard said. “I’ll see her off. Don’t you worry, miss.”
“Let us go,” Caroline said, peering around her with a shiver. “There’s something very unpleasant about this place.”
Books in this Series: