Full of suspense and drama . . .
A wonderfully original read.”
Two murderers stalk their prey throughout England—from the glittering ballrooms of London to the loneliest country lanes—and two romances blossom in their dark shadows . . .
Three years ago Miles Loredan believed he had killed the bloodthirsty fiend known as the Vampire of London. When a/b>
TWO SENSATIONAL NOVELS FOR ONE GREAT PRICE!
Two murderers stalk their prey throughout England—from the glittering ballrooms of London to the loneliest country lanes—and two romances blossom in their dark shadows . . .
Three years ago Miles Loredan believed he had killed the bloodthirsty fiend known as the Vampire of London. When a beautiful sleuth named Clio Thornton stumbles upon what can only be the Vampire’s latest victim, Miles is drawn into a terrifying race against the clock. Captivated at once by intelligent, lovely Clio, his first impulse is to protect her. Because every clue points to the Vampire’s next victim: Clio.
Lady Tuesday Arlington seeks refuge from the horrible nightmares that invade her sleep by doing what she does best—she paints them. But when her husband is found dead in a setting identical to one she has painted, she becomes the prime suspect. Lawrence Pickering, special investigator to Her Majesty, the Queen, takes over the inquiry and cannot help but fall for the beautiful and talented Tuesday. But a cruelly sinister presence waits to turn their picture-perfect love into a masterpiece of murder.
London: Tuesday, June 19, 1590
She lies in the field of tall grass, her arms and legs stretched out as far as they will go, breathing in the smell of summer dirt and heat and Mr. Eliot’s trimming in the garden. The dragonflies loop over her, their blue-green wings gleaming like the lids of Chinese boxes.
She thinks of that time when she was younger and she climbed the yew tree and the branch fell off and made a crack like a lightning bolt in the garden wall that cost thirty-one pounds to fix. She had lost her allowance as a result, but she can’t remember if it had been repaired. It is so pleasant here, with the sun and the dragonflies and the grass tickling and —
The ground beneath her vibrates with the angry pound-ing of his boots as he comes toward her, for her. He is nearly on top of her before she realizes it, bearing down, fast. She lies there, completely still, her fingers digging into the dirt, paralyzed with fear. Thinking, not again, please not again. Thinking, don’t let him see me, don’t let him find me, oh god —
“You can’t hide from me you stupid bitch! Show yourself now.”
She gets up and runs for her life.
The Lion examined his reflection in the mirror scrupulously, running a hand through his hair.
Who is the most dangerous man? The brave man? The wise man? The rich man?
None of these, sir. It is the mediocre man.
Because he is invisible.
No one would remember anything special about him, the Lion decided. Nothing he didn’t want them to, anyway. Done up like this, he would look just how he was supposed to look for where he was going.
When he was not on a job, the Lion was a snappy dresser. He spent a lot of money on his clothes, but he felt it was worth it. He didn’t talk much so he let clothes show what kind of a man he was. They drew attention to him, made people remember him, hid his other identity. And he liked to look good, liked the way women eyed him, then blushed. He liked it a lot; it gave him satisfaction.
Not like this, though. Not like the satisfaction of being the Lion.
The Lion was, in his own opinion, the best killer in England.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Sunlight slants at crazy angles between the boughs of the trees, making a corridor of irregular golden beams. They dance over her arms and hands like fairies as she flees through them, running as hard as she can, biting her lip to keep from screaming.
“I see you!” he calls from behind her, not sounding winded. Heavy footsteps follow hers, filling the air with crunching and the smell of decaying leaves.
“When I get my hands on you I’ll flay you alive.”
She can hear him thrashing through the branches behind her. She has the advantage, being smaller, but not for long. He is gaining on her. She can feel his fingertips inching closer to her, smell his sweat now, oh god he’s —
She trips on a rock hidden beneath the leaves and falls, headlong. She scrambles to her feet, gets caught up in the hem of her gown for a moment, then keeps running. She wills herself not to look behind her.
“You idiot,” he says, and she can feel his fingers first graze, then grab her shoulders. He drags her, her feet leaving long brown lines in the dirt as he says, “There is no escaping from me. Don’t you know that by now?”
The Lion had read everything he could get his hands on about every other killer and he knew that none of them even came close to him. Only one man had ever even approached his numbers, and he’d been caught three years earlier. Besides, he wasn’t impressed. That man had only killed girls.
The Lion killed men. Lots of men. And no one ever caught him. He was sure he’d done more kills than anyone else he could think of, maybe even more than anyone in Europe. And nobody knew who he was.
The people who saw him every day — men like Joey Blacktooth and “Can Can Kyle” the barman who kept the tankards full at the Dancing Fawn — didn’t think much of him. They’d call him the Loin or sometimes even the Groin after the way he looked at the ladies, but only behind his back. Truth was, they were a little scared of him. The man — more like a boy really — was strange. He came in at night and sat alone at the table in the back, pulling scraps of paper out of his doublet and studying them. They elbowed each other in the ribs and laughed at him and pointed him out to strangers as a curiosity, but only when he wasn’t looking. If they had been more forward or if a single one of them could read, they would have died. As it was, they were no threat to him and the Lion was content to let them stare.
It’s not what you are, it’s what you seem to be that matters.
Right now, the Lion seemed just like anyone else. But soon. Soon would be different.
When goddamit? I have waited —
What is the true knight’s most important ally? Is it his master?
Is it his weapon?
What is it? Answer me!
It is patience.
I am so tired of being patient.
Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! he cries when the heel of her boot lands in his groin.
His fingers lose their grip on her as he reaches between his thighs, moaning, staggering sideways.
She throws herself forward, away from him. The woods thin and she is in a garden, in view of the house. If she could only get there, only get in, she thinks, she could be safe. Late blooming roses flash by her in blurs of red and yellow as she runs across the paths, weaving drunkenly as her feet touch the uneven stones. Gravel sprays up behind her as she runs like loud rain, pat pat pat pat patpatpatpatpat, and over this she hears the sound of his moans.
Then she hears his footsteps.
“You’ll never get away, you two-faced whore,” he calls. Calls, not yells. Calm. Not running, walking. Too calm.
Ha ha ha he laughs. Then he says, “No way you’ll get over the wall, is there? And I’ve locked the gate. May as well stop and get ready for what’s coming. You’ll need all your strength to pray for mercy, you heartless bitch.”
The Lion came up with that name for himself late one night when he was lying in a noisy room with one of the beauties from Fleet Street. She’d traced the scar on the inside of his forearm with her finger and said, “Where’d you get this, love?”
“Nowhere,” he’d replied gruffly, pushing her hand away. There was one thing whores were good for, and it wasn’t talking. Plus, he didn’t want to think about his past that night. It was his future that was preoccupying him. He’d been working in the same way for a while now, and he saw that it was time to change, move on. He needed something bigger, more taxing. There had to be better challenges for a man of his talents.
“Looks like a sun,” the whore had said then, stupid bitch, not getting that he didn’t want to discuss it with her. “Or like a lion’s head.”
The fact that it was a whore who gave him the idea for his name made him a little queasy, so he never told anyone. And because he didn’t like to owe anyone anything, he saw to it that she couldn’t ever tell either. He could have hurt her, but as a favor, sort of a thank you present, he made it painless.
Still, he didn’t like thinking about it, thinking about her. Especially — well, especially now.
It’s just a coincidence, he told himself.
There is no such thing as coincidence.
The Lion swatted the memory away and turned to the table behind him. There were a variety of weapons on it, mostly knives. He had found that a knife worked best for almost every job. They were more elegant, more gentlemanly than any other weapon. And he was, of course, a gentleman.
Plus, he liked to see his victims’ blood close up, liked to sample their last breaths. Liked to savor the taste of death from their lips. There was nothing else like it.
She is a caged animal she thinks, she is doomed, she is going to die at his hands, and then she sees that he lied. The gate is not locked, the gate is open, the gate is her escape and she runs through it.
She does not stop to think how he could have made such a mistake but turns to the left, toward the kitchen yard, hoping he will think she went into the stables in front of her. She can barely smell the roses anymore — where is everyone? — her legs are burning, her chest aches, her mouth stings with dryness.
“Stop where you are, you stupid bitch!” he orders, not far behind her, not fooled.
She is not running now, she is stumbling, swerving crazily, slipping on the mud of the yard. She plunges toward the door, blinded by the dimness inside.
With unsteady hands she gropes along the wall until she finds —
“Where the hell are you?”
— a door. It opens, she falls through it, stumbling over boxes, falls to her knees, to the floor.
She can’t run anymore.
What is the loudest sound?
What is the most powerful weapon?
What is the path to control?
Very good. I think you are ready.
“I think so, too, master,” the Lion said to his reflection in the mirror. He pronounced the last word with amusement. It was part of the game he played, the mask he wore. But just as he had no peer, he had no master. He was his own man. He patted down his hair one last time and smiled at himself. He liked what he saw.
He was the best.
Not long now, everyone would know it.
“Where are you bitch?”
She knows not to answer, not to say where she is. If she is quiet he won’t find her.
“Come here right now, Tuesday!” He is standing just outside the door; she can hear his boots crackle under his weight. The wall shudders when he pounds his fist on it. “I know you are here,” he calls, almost coaxing now. “If you come out I won’t hurt you.”
He is lying, Tuesday knows.
“Get out here you stupid whore bitch and show yourself.”
A door opens somewhere, diverting his attention, and she hears his footsteps disappearing down the hall.
Now! She moves on tiptoe to the door and pushes it open. Her arms are trembling. The corridor is empty and not empty. His anger fills the air still. From behind other doors voices whisper. Tuesday thinks someone is watching her, a dozen someones, eyes pressed to the cracks beneath the hinges, but she doesn’t care.
She slides into the corridor. Everything is eerily precise, her vision extraordinary. She sees a crack in the wall, a place where the iron nail was not set flush with the wood, the dark red lines on the petals of the roses that he crushed under his boots, dark red like trails of blood. She notices everything, yet she is running, fast, running hard down the corridor, watched by the unseen eyes. She looks behind her to make sure he is not there. She cannot hear his footsteps anymore, she can only hear her breathing, short gasps that sound almost like laughter, ha ha ha.
Ha ha ha she breathes hard, running, turning corners, left, then right. But the corridor never seems to change; it just goes on, more doors, more crushed roses that look like they are bleeding. Ha ha ha. Run, she tells herself. Keep running. You can escape. You can —
“I told you I would get you, whore,” he says, thundering up behind her.
It had been a trap. Tuesday pushes desperately against the nearest door and then another, but they won’t budge, the weight of too many eyes holding them up. Ha ha ha laugh the people with the eyes. Now we’ll get a good show.
Tuesday keeps running but he is behind her now, bearing down, she can smell him on the air moving toward her. She can’t turn around, won’t turn around to see him, but she can see his shadow looming up against her. She is stuck. The corridor ends. His shadow crawls up the wall, bent by the corner, leisurely now.
Ha ha ha. Her breathing. His laughter.
The shadow grows an arm, the arm a hand, the hand a knife.
“You are mine now, Tuesday. Mine. I warned you. You just keep your whore mouth shut or I’ll do the same to you as I did to him. Do you understand, bitch? Answer me!”
Tuesday woke up gasping for air. She was curled in the bottom corner of her mattress, trembling. Her night dress, soaked through with sweat, was clinging to her skin but she had goosebumps on her arms. The room was dark, it was nothing like the dream, and she was alone. Outside, at the level of her two windows, the street was empty. In the distance she could hear the shout of the night watchman saying that it was three in the morning.
She unfolded herself, put on the old silk dressing gown lying on the floor next to her bed, and moved toward her easel. She knew what she had to do, that there was only one way she would ever get back to sleep that night. She used the blank side of the preparatory sketch of the countess of Launton — mouth 22, nose 34, forehead 12, eyes, uneven, 33 — and began to paint. She did not bother with undersketches, but divided the thick paper in half, drawing a line down the center to represent the corner across which the shadow had spread. Bold strokes of dirty gold for the oak-paneled walls of the hallway, fast lines barely suggesting the doors, a huge knot in the wood at the end that looked like a death’s head.
This painting was different from her by-the-numbers portraits, ironic since they were similarly born of desperation, but she liked it. There was something more interesting in its bold lines than in the staid renderings of highly preserved aristocrats with failing marriages and mercenary young lovers, which paid her. The greatest challenge she faced in those portraits was to avoid painting the weariness that suffused even the set of her subject’s shoulders, the weight of the lies they told themselves to keep going.
The watchman, closer now, was calling half five when she began to clean up. She could still get three more hours of sleep before she had to take her father his breakfast. Maybe today she should tell him. It had been weeks and weeks, more than two months. Of course, since it had already been that long, maybe it could wait until tomorrow.
“Blast,” she murmured as her wrist cramped and the brush she had been drying skidded out of her hand. It slipped across her palette and stopped at her easel, leaving a rust-colored splatter down one side of the painting. Fixing the mess would take another hour. She felt tears prick the back of her eyes, not because of the ruined painting — no one was ever going to see it, so it hardly mattered — but at this further proof of what she already knew: she always ruined everything. It had been like that from the day she was born — on a Monday, instead of on a Tuesday like every other woman in her mother’s family since the time of William the Conqueror — and continued on with no appearance of abatement.
They had given her the maternal family name, Tuesday, despite her lapse of breeding, and she bore the paternal surname, Worthington, but she wore them like ill-affixed labels. She did not fit in with her family, did not look like any of them, could not sing or play the lute or do embroidery like them. Six generations of Worthingtons had been ladies in waiting to the queens of England by merit of their extraordinary skills as needle-women. But everything Tuesday touched just unraveled.
Like her marriage to Curtis. It was her fault, she knew, that Curtis was not happy. She had been lucky to have Curtis, beyond lucky, and she had not tried hard enough to meet his needs. Even as her heart broke, she could not blame him for leaving. She could not give him what he wanted. What he deserved.
With him gone, she could add “wife” to the list of Ws she had failed at being: Worthington, woman, wonderful, wanted —
Taking up his position to watch her as she put away the last of her brushes and slid back into the bed, the Lion would have disagreed completely. He wanted her. He needed her. And he knew everything about her.
He knew that it was her aunt’s dressing gown she wore, he knew the old trunk in the corner of the studio was her mother’s, he knew that all her garters were light purple, that her father was an invalid living on the second floor, that there were only three servants left in the house, knew where they slept, how deeply, and how long. He knew how to get in and out through the loose door in the cellar without anyone being the wiser, knew when Tuesday was most likely to be alone, what she looked like close up while she was sleeping, and when she was awake. And although Tuesday would speak of it to no one but her maid, CeCe, he knew all about the dream. And about her late night painting. Oh yes, he knew all about that.
Reluctantly, the Lion made ready to leave. But he would be back. Back to watch, and wait, and dream his own dreams. Dream of the day when he would be who he deserved to be. Have what he deserved to have.
He gave the woman and the painting one last glance.
A day very soon.
Michele Jaffe holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature of the Renaissance from Harvard University. She is the author of The Water Nymph and The Stargazer. She lives is Las Vegas, Nevada.
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