Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Acknowledgements
? Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Berkley Prime Crime titles by Rhys Bowen Royal Spyness Mysteries
HER ROYAL SPYNESS
A ROYAL PAIN
ROYAL FLUSH ROYAL BLOOD
Constable Evans Mysteries
EVANS ABOVE EVAN HELP US EVANLY CHOIRS EVAN AND ELLE EVAN CAN WAIT EVANS TO BETSY EVAN ONLY KNOWS EVAN’S GATE EVAN BLESSED
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
eISBN : 978-1-101-46090-0
1. Vampires—Fiction. 2. Aristocracy (Social class)—Fiction. 3. Transylvania
4. Weddings—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6052.0848R679 2010 823’.914—dc22 2010008216
This book is dedicated to my sister-in-law Mary Vyvan,
who always makes us so welcome in her lovely Cornish manor house
where Lady Georgiana would feel completely at home.
Thanks as always to my brilliant team at Berkley: my editor, Jackie Cantor, and publicist,Megan Swartz; to my agents Meg Ruley and Christina Hogrebe and to my at-home advisors andeditors Clare, Jane and John.
Tuesday, November 8, 1932
Fog for days. Trapped alone in London house. Shall go mad
November in London is utterly bloody. Yes, I know a lady is not supposed to use such languagebut I can think of no other way to describe the damp, bone-chilling pea-souper fog that haddescended upon Belgrave Square for the past week. Our London home, Rannoch House, is notexactly warm and jolly at the best of times, but at least it’s bearable when the family is inresidence, servants abound, and fires are burning merrily in all the fireplaces. But with justme in the house and not a servant in sight, there was simply no way of keeping warm. I don’twant you to think that I am a weak and delicate sort of person who usually feels the cold. Infact at home at Castle Rannoch in Scotland I’m as hearty as the best of them. I go out forlong rides on frosty mornings; I am used to sleeping with the windows open at all times. Butthis London cold was different from anything I had experienced. It cut one to the very bone. Iwas tempted to stay in bed all day.
Not that there was much reason for me to get out of bed at the moment, and it was only Nanny’sstrict upbringing that did not allow bed rest for anything less than double pneumonia that mademe get up in the mornings, put on three layers of jumpers and rush down to the comparativewarmth of the kitchen.
This particular morning I was huddled in the kitchen, sipping a cup of tea, when I heard thesound of the morning post dropping onto the doormat in the upstairs hall. Since hardly anyoneknew I was in London, this was a big event. I raced upstairs and retrieved not one but twoletters from the front doormat. Two letters, how exciting, I thought, and then I recognized mysister-in-law’s spidery handwriting on one of them. Oh, crikey, what on earth did she want?Fig wasn’t the sort of person who wrote letters when not necessary. She begrudged wasting thepostage stamp.
The second letter made my heart lurch even more. It bore the royal coat of arms and came fromBuckingham Palace. I didn’t even wait to reach the warmth of the kitchen. I tore it openinstantly. It was from Her Majesty the queen’s personal secretary.
Dear Lady Georgiana,
Her Majesty Queen Mary asks me to convey her warmest wishes and hopes you might be free to joinher at the palace for luncheon on Thursday, November 8th. She requests that perhaps you couldcome a little early, say around eleven forty-five, as she has a matter of some importance shewishes to discuss with you.
“Oh, golly,” I muttered. I’d have to get out of the habit of such girlish expletives. Imight even have to acquire some four-letter words for strictly personal use. You’d think thatan invitation to Buckingham Palace for luncheon with the queen would be an honor. Actually ithappened all too frequently for my liking. You see, King George is my second cousin and sinceI’d been living in London Queen Mary had come up with a succession of little tasks for me.Well, not-so-little tasks, actually. Things like spying on the Prince of Wales’s new Americanlady friend. And a few months ago she foisted a visiting German princess and her retinue onme—rather awkward when I had no servants and no money for food. But of course one does not sayno to the queen.
You might also wonder why someone related to the royals came to be living alone with noservants and no money for food. The sad truth is that our branch of the family is quitepenniless. My father gambled away most of his fortune and lost the rest in the great crash of’29. My brother, Binky, the current duke, lives on the family estate in Scotland. I suppose Icould live with him, but his dear wife, Fig, had made it clear that I wasn’t really wantedthere.
I looked at Fig’s letter and sighed. What on earth could she want? It was too cold to stand inthe front hall any longer. I carried it down to the kitchen and took up my position near thestove before opening it.
I hope you are well and that the London weather is more clement than the current gales we areexperiencing. This is to advise you of our plans. We have decided to come down to the Londonhouse for the winter this year. Binky is still weak after being confined to bed for so longafter his accident, and Podge has had one nasty cold after another, so I think a little warmthand culture are in order. We plan to arrive at Rannoch House within the next week or so. Binky
has told me of your housekeeping prowess, so I see no need to pay for the additional expense of
sending servants on ahead when I know you’ll do a splendid job of getting the house ready for
us. I can count on you, Georgiana, can’t I? And when we arrive, Binky thinks we should hold a
couple of parties for you, even though I did remind him that considerable amounts were already
spent on your season. He is anxious to see you properly settled and I agree it would be one
less worry for the whole family at this trying time. I hope you will do your part, Georgiana,
and not snub the young men we produce for you as you did poor Prince Siegfried, who really
seemed a most well-mannered young man and may even inherit a kingdom someday. May I remind you
that you are not getting any younger. By the time a woman reaches twenty-four, which you are
approaching, she is considered to be on the shelf, remember. Her bloom has faded.So please have the place ready for us when we arrive. We shall only be bringing the minimumnumber of servants with us as travel is so expensive these days. Your brother asks me to conveyhis warmest sentiments.
Your devoted sister-in-law, Hilda Rannoch
I was surprised she hadn’t also put “(Duchess of ).” Yes, Hilda was her given name, althougheveryone else called her Fig. Frankly if I’d been called Hilda I’d have thought that even Figwas preferable. The image of Fig arriving in the near future galvanized me into action. I hadto find something to do with myself so that I would not be stuck in the house being lecturedabout what a burden I was to the family.
A job would be a terrific idea, but I had pretty much given up all hope of that. Some of thoseunemployed men standing on street corners held all kinds of degrees and qualifications. Myeducation at a frightfully posh finishing school in Switzerland had only equipped me to walkaround with a book on my head, speak good French and know where to seat a bishop at a dinnerparty. I had been trained for marriage, nothing else. Besides, most forms of employment wouldbe frowned upon for someone in my position. It would be letting down the family firm to be seenbehind the counter in Woolworths or pulling a pint at a local pub.
An invitation to somewhere far away—that’s what I needed. Preferably an invitation toTimbuktu or at least a villa on the Mediterranean. That would also get me out of any of thequeen’s little suggestions for me. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. I’d love to spy on Mrs. Simpsonfor you, but I’m expected in Monte Carlo at the end of the week.”
There was only one person in London I could run to in such dire circumstances—my old schoolchum Belinda Warburton-Stoke. Belinda is one of those people who always manage to fall on theirfeet—or rather flat on her back, in her case. She was always being invited to house partiesand to cruises on yachts—because she’s awfully naughty and sexy, you see, unlike me, who