Lady of the Flames
by Barbara Monajem
Series: A Most Peculiar Season
Genre: Regency Historical Paranormal Romance
Release Date: March 23, 2015
Magic is fraught with peril—but so is love.
Lord Fenimore Trent’s uncanny affinity for knives and other sharp blades led to knife fights, duels, and murderous brawls. Five years ago, he faced a choice: marry Andromeda Gibbons, the woman he loved, or find a safe, peaceful use for his blades by opening a furniture shop—an unacceptable occupation for a man of noble birth. The choice made itself when Andromeda turned to another man. The furniture shop prospered, but now Fen’s partner has been accused of treason. In order to root out the real traitor, he may face another unpalatable choice—to resort to the violent use of his blades once again.
Once upon a time, Andromeda Gibbons believed in magic. That belief faded after her mother’s death and vanished completely when Lord Fenimore, the man she loved, spurned her. Five years later, Andromeda has molded herself into a perfect—and perfectly unhappy—lady. When she overhears her haughty betrothed, the Earl of Slough, plotting treason, she flees into the London night—to Fen, the one man she knows she can trust. But taking refuge with Fen proves to mean far more than getting help—it means learning to believe in love, magic, and the real Andromeda once again.
Setup: After learning of a treasonous plot, Andromeda fled into the London night to find Lord Fenimore, a man she can trust.
There was a woman outside his window, and as Fen pushed it full open, he realized who she was. “What the devil are you doing here?” he said.
Andromeda burst into tears. Oh, hell. Fen climbed out onto the roof.
Diggs, the beggar who habitually slept in the yard, called from below. “You want I should fetch the Watch, my lord?”
“Unnecessary.” Fen pulled the sobbing Andromeda to her feet. She gasped as if in pain, and tears streamed down her face. Her hair lay in a tangle on her shoulders, and her slippers were torn to ribbons. Had she walked all the way here in footwear suited only for dancing at a ball? What in hell was going on?
His mind raced through the possibilities of what her arrival just before dawn, exhausted and distraught, might mean. She wasn't wearing the same gown as before--probably because she’d spilled her wine on it.
A knife on the roof beside her was making its presence known. Be still, he told it. Was that blood on the blade? “Damn.” Confound it, he’d cursed again, but he couldn't afford to have a woman on the premises. It just wouldn't do, and especially not this woman, and especially not now.
“Don’t usually see visitors of the female persuasion here, my lord.” Diggs sounded amused. Everyone knew about Fen’s past reputation, even though he’d been discreet for five years.
“That’s not about to change. She’s just a friend who’s gotten herself into a spot of trouble.”
Diggs snorted, and Andromeda gaped at Fen with wide, tear-drenched eyes. What if she really were with child? He hoped she wasn't such a fool, but he didn't intend to let it become his problem.
He pushed her gently toward the window. “Go inside and wait for me. I’ll take you straight home.”
“No!” squeaked Andromeda. “Please, you mustn't. It’s—it’s life or death, Fen.”
“Go inside,” Fen said through gritted teeth. “Now.”
Andromeda hiccupped on a sob and got a hold of herself. She hiked her skirts, hobbled to the window, and hitched one leg over the sill. Her gown rode up, revealing shapely legs. She sagged inward, raised the other leg, and would have toppled inside if Fen hadn't grabbed her by the arm and bum and let her down slowly.
He made a point of not noticing the soft plumpness of that bum.
He padded across the roof of the bump-out, got down on his haunches, and spoke quietly to Diggs. “Go back to sleep, and keep your mouth shut about this. There’ll be a shilling for you in the morning.”
“Right you are, my lord.”
Fen watched the beggar amble back to his pile of rags. What had happened to Andromeda between an hour ago and now? Why had she come to him? Why didn't she want to go home? And what the devil was he going to do with her?
He pulled himself together; he would get the story from her soon enough.
The knife came eagerly to his reaching hand. He climbed in the window, shut it, and closed the curtains. Andromeda was huddled on the hearthrug, eyes closed, her knees drawn up to her chest, racked by great, convulsive shudders.
He set the knife on the dressing table, examining in the candlelight the dark stains on the blade. He put one fingertip to the sticky blade, then sniffed it. Blood indeed.
Something terrible must have happened to drive Andromeda here, and she was clearly in a state of shock. He knew an urge to take her in his arms, to hold and comfort her, but dismissed that as insanity. He had almost ruined his life once for Andromeda; never again.
He lit the branch of candles on the dresser. “I’ll start a fire, shall I?” he said briskly. “Get you warmed up.”
She opened her eyes and stared at him, teeth chattering. “Y-y-you’re stark naked, Fen.”