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A Box of Tittle-Tattle

Tin Box1914. The date, printed on a tin box got our attention. One supposes it could be an error of some sort, the date being one-hundred years in the future, but given the odd goings on at Vauxhall last week and at the Marquess of Dansbury’s estate—blue lights and claims of travel to distant times—your Teatime Tattler staff believes the date is correct. Besides, it purports to hold tobacco from “Princess Mary’s Christmas Fund,” and who, pray tell, is Princess Mary?

What was inside, once we pried it open, however, was not tobacco. A folded sheet of paper, oddly yellowed, lay in it. When unfolded (carefully so as not to damage the brittle pages) the text turned out to be in French. Luckily, the Tattler staff was up to the task of translating.

Amiens, Christmas 1916

Dear Aunt Lumina,
The family sends greetings of the holy season along with our hope that those of you in Marseilles, far from the pounding of the guns, fare well and have plenty to eat.

We eke by here in Picardy, with fighting all around. In spite of it all the Christmas market went on in front of the Cathedral as it has in the past. If the booths held fewer goods, the cheer made up for it. The people of the city hold on to hope and (with a few exceptions) good morale.

Tin Box

Rosemarie Legrand

I regret to tell you that one exception is your niece by marriage Sabine Legrand. Even you must know she has ever been a bitter woman and the war has not softened her. I often thought the Good Lord chose to withhold the blessing of motherhood from her lest she inflict her misery on a child. Her jealousy of her poor sister in law Rosemarie—obvious for years—became a river of bile after the birth of little Marcel.

As you know Raoul Legrand died at the hands of the Germans last year, leaving Rosemarie in poverty and at the mercy of his sister. She was forced to move to her father’s cabin in the Floating Islands. Sabine would have us believe that that Rosemarie collaborated with German soldiers, selling her body for food and money. I could almost forgive a mother desperate to feed her son for doing something of that sort, but I find it difficult to believe Sabine. Bernard says Raoul made similar accusations in the taverns during his last leave. He told anyone who would listen that the German boy found dead among the Islands was Rosemarie’s lover. I don’t know what to believe.

Harry Wheatly, her Canadian soldier

Since the Christmas Market Sabine has taken up a different story. We all saw Rosemarie and Marcel walking about with a Canadian soldier who bought sweet cakes for the boy and his mother. Rosemarie certainly couldn’t afford them herself. Sabine tries to make this something dirty and scandalous. I refuse to listen to her.

The British, Canadian, and Australian troops stationed along the Somme have been kind in our dealings with them. One of them gave my Papa the enclosed box still half full of tobacco after commandeering use of his farm wagon to haul supplies. Papa as you know does not use tobacco. He asked me to send it on to Uncle Herbert.

Pray for us in Picardy, particularly for poor mothers such as Rosemarie Legrand struggling to survive long enough to see this war end. I hope she finds joy with her Canadian soldier, if only to spite Sabine. She deserves a crumb of happiness.

My love to the rest of the family,

We at the Tattler hope so too.



About Never Too Late

Eight authors and eight different takes on four dramatic elements selected by our readers—an older heroine, a wise man, a Bible, and a compromising situation that isn’t. Set in a variety of locations around the world over eight centuries, welcome to the romance of the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Holiday and More Anthology.
It’s Never Too Late to find love!

Click here for a list of retailers and to find out about each story.

Click here to climb into the Bluestocking Belle’s Time Machine and hop through time with the Bluestocking Belles.

Caroline Warfield’s contribution, “Roses in Picardy” takes place in 1916

tin box

About the Author

 Caroline Warfield has been many things. Now retired to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, she divides her time between writing and seeking adventures with her grandbuddy and the prince among men she married. Her new series sends the children of the heroes of her earlier books to seek their own happiness in the far-flung corners of the British Empire


Titillating Truths Revealed Over Tea…

On Tuesday, the newly wed Lady Theodora Stonemere and I had the occasion to take tea. It was quite the visit as I have learned so many tidbits about some of my favorite former patrons.

You see, I am the former Madame of The Market. But, since I married my long lost sweetheart, I have become Lady Hartfield.  And now I sip tea with those ladies daring enough to associate with me and I occasionally offer a smidgen of guidance here or there.

On Tuesday, Theo, Lady Stonemere, came to tell me how she and her rather highhanded husband are doing. Lord Stonemere is struggling with his wife’s rebellious nature, and she is finding it difficult to stay out of trouble.

But she tells me that despite their issues, marital relations are going along smashingly! I knew that visit to The Market I arranged for her would turn the trick.

Of course, we are both worried about poor Lord Brougham. He is Stonemere’s best friend, the two were inseparable before Stone married, but Brougham appears to still be very much a bachelor.

Theo is worried that the man will meet a woman who steals his heart but won’t surrender hers. He’s broken the hearts of so many ladies over the years, it seems he might be due for a taste of his own medicine.

Well, I say. Would you look at the time? I’m due at Madam La Fleur’s for a fitting within the hour. I hope to have more news on Lord Brougham for my next visit! Until then, here is an excerpt from His Hand-Me-Down Countess (Lustful Lords, Book 1)

Since the recitation of their vows that morning, Stone had barely spoken to Theo. Nerves stirred again as he glanced at the brave face she had pasted on upon their arrival at the wedding breakfast her parents were hosting. Despite the tension around her eyes, he assumed most of their guests wouldn’t notice it, or would chalk it up to bridal nerves as she smiled and welcomed all their well-wishers.

Concern filtered past his walls until he asked, “How are you holding up, Lady Stonemere?”

Her cheeks flushed an enticing shade of pink. “I am fine, Lord Stonemere.”

“Good. I believe these are the last of our guests and we may take our seats soon.” He nodded at the group of arrivals just entering her parents’ foyer.

Stone watched his bride beam at each guest and wondered how much longer they would be required to indulge their company. The last group filed past until they stood alone in the dark-paneled entry hall. The impulse to take her there and then, feed off her vitality, soak up her liveliness, and mark her as his lanced through him. He burned to stretch her out across his bed, bind her to it, and make her scream her pleasure. Yet he knew to use her thusly would at best shock her and at worst send her screaming from their breakfast.

Without any indication of his filthy thoughts, he tucked her delicate hand into the crook of his arm and led her into the dining room to their table. What kind of man desired to use his wife in such a coarse manner? Did his need to command her body and soul stem from some cancerous mass that tainted his own soul?

“Regrets so soon, my lord?” She watched him warily as she sipped champagne from a delicately etched crystal flute.

“Regrets? No.” He frowned, confused by her query.

“Then you may wish to consider schooling your features when you look at me, or our guests may be led to believe that you intend to whisk me away and thrash me as opposed to ravish me like a dutiful bridegroom.” She set her glass down and smiled sweetly at him.

Chagrined at being caught out by his bride, he dug deep to smooth his features and shut down his lecherous line of thought. Casting his most devastating smile in her direction, he took her hand and carried it to his lips. Skin against…moleskin. A strong reminder that his wife was a lady, not a prostitute, or even a widow. And yet his desire refused to abate.

His gaze lingered on the swath of skin exposed above her neckline. It pleased him to see the gooseflesh his touch raised. And the soft sigh that escaped her kissable lips teased his inner beast, made him desperate to elicit more such sounds from her.

She softly cleared her throat and lifted one silky eyebrow. His lips curved up at her less-than-subtle reminder. “I suppose I should have gathered from our previous conversations that you have a tendency to say unexpected things in the most inappropriate of places.”

“If by unexpected you mean true, then I suppose you should.” The little minx agreed so effortlessly with his observation that he couldn’t resist smiling.

“Quite so. I see you shall keep me on my toes. Be warned, madam. You will find me equal to your challenge.” A strange sense of contentment chased away his consternation and left little room for his previous inner debate. As long as his wife continued to engage him in conversation, he had no time to worry about things he could not change.

His Hand-Me-Down Countess (Lustful Lords, Book 1)

His brother’s untimely death leaves him with an Earldom and a fiancée. Too bad he wants neither of them…

Theodora Lawton has no need of a husband. As an independent woman, she wants to own property, make investments and be the master of her destiny.

Unfortunately, her father signed her life away in a marriage contract to the future Earl of Stonemere. But then the cad upped and died, leaving her fate in the hands of his brother, one of the renowned Lustful Lords.

Achilles Denton, the Earl of Stonemere, is far more prepared to be a soldier than a peer. Deeply scarred by his last tour of duty, he knows he will never be a proper, upstanding pillar of the empire. Balanced on the edge of madness, he finds respite by keeping a tight rein on his life, both in and out of the bedroom. His brother’s death has left him with responsibilities he never wanted and isn’t prepared to handle in the respectable manner expected of a peer.

Further complicating his new life is an unwanted fiancée who comes with his equally unwanted title. Saddled with a hand-me-down countess, he soon discovers the woman is a force unto herself. As he grapples with the burden of his new responsibilities, he discovers someone wants him dead. The question is, can he stay alive long enough to figure out who’s trying to kill him while he tries to tame his headstrong wife?

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About the Author

Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.

She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!

Mistletoe never tells tales

It was a good costume; I’ll give her that. Her story was nonsense, of course. But she certainly looked the part she insisted on playing.

I picked straight away that she was dressed as a tree spirit. And not just any tree, but one eminently suited to the season that had ended the night before. The slenderness was natural, of course. The draperies, a nicely measured compromise between Greek drapery and the current fashion (which called itself Greek but was far fussier), still gave the impression of leaves and a hint of branches in its golden-green overlaid on a golden underskirt. The hair confirmed my instant conclusion; she’d managed to achieve a golden-green colour in her tresses the exact shade of mistletoe leaves, and if that were not clue enough, the beads threaded through her hair were actual mistletoe berries.

A courtesan, I guessed, and one with a generous protector by the jewelry that caressed her slender neck, arms, and ankle, and dangled from her ears. More mistletoe leaves and berries, this time fashioned with gold and opals.

No virtuous woman would be in a coffee house at any time of the day, and certainly not at seven in the morning. Was she heading home, like me? She did look tired, sitting there alone in a booth near the rear of the coffee bar, nursing a cup and staring into space, a small smile on her face as if what she saw in her imagination pleased her.

I had been planning to ask for a pot of coffee to take up to the rooms I kept just down the street. Feast day or no feast day, I had a story to write on the Twelfth Night bacchanal I’d attended at the Duke of Richport’s, and the editor of the Teatime Tattler would expect it on his desk when he returned from taking Epiphany Day gifts to his nieces and nephews.

Even on a good day, when I was neither tired nor busy, I lacked the means to attract such a lovely — and clearly expensive — lady of negotiable virtue.

But something drew me to the tree spirit, and I found myself sitting at the table across from her, waiting for her to notice my presence.

Close up, she was even more beautiful than I thought: an other-worldly beauty enhanced by the colour of her hair, and in no way impaired by the startling eyes she turned towards me, her smile still curling her lips.

They were white, dear reader. I kid you not. Not a pale grey or a blue, as I’ve seen before, but as white as the berries that wreathed her head.

She tipped her head to one side and examined me carefully. “You wish to join me?” She sounded not quite English: the low musical voice pronouncing each word in an exact educated accent, but with a hint of something else. Not French. Not Greek or Latin. Not Gaelic. Something Northern, I thought, and I have not yet studied the Northern languages.

“I do,” I replied, “if you permit. May I buy you another drink?”

She lifted the cup she cradled, and looked into it, a slightly perplexed expression crossing her face as if she wondered when she had emptied it. “It is a lemon-scented tea. It refreshes me.” A single brisk nod, as if she had decided something. “You may if you please, but I am not what you think.”

“You are a tree nymph, of course,” I agreed. “From a mistletoe tree.” I waved to the waiter, and turned back to her once I had her attention.

She nodded again. “Some call us parasites, but others see us as a great blessing.”

“I am Jack Parslow, at your service. I write articles for the Teatime Tattler.”

The lady, for the cultured tones confirmed that she had been born into the same class as myself, raised her brows at that. “Do you think to find a story? Here? With me?”

I told her what Sam Clemens always tell us. “Everyone has a story, miss…”

She extended her hand, palm down. “Gwynneth Santalacaea.” A mischievous smile lit her face when I raised my own brows. Don’t voice it around, because my colleagues at the Tattler would never let me hear the last of it, but as well as a gift for languages and a first in Greek at Oriel, I am a bit of a botanist. The Viscus Albans, the white-berried mistletoe she represented, is classified a member of the Santalacaea family, and Gwynneth is a Welsh name meaning White Lady.

Her smile grew more mocking and recalled me to my manners. I bent and kissed just above the hand, deciding then and there to play along with the identity she had assumed with her costume.

“A busy time of year for you, then, Miss Santalacaea, and I imagine you have many stories to tell.”

“Of those who kiss beneath my branches and take a toll of a berry a kiss?” She lifted to her eyes as if some vision of precious beauty danced just over my right shoulder. “I have seen much magic this holiday season, Mr Parslow. But we mistletoe never tell tales.”

On 15th December, I’m releasing the ecopy of If Mistletoe Could Tell Tales, a collection of six already published holiday stories. To celebrate, I’m giving the book away for the next couple of days,  until midnight GMT on 11 December. Pick up a copy on https://www.instafreebie.com/free/QD1m0, and Merry Christmas or happy whatever holiday you are celebrating.

I hope you enjoy the book, and would be delighted if you chose to leave an honest review to help me with book sales after release.

See my book page for more details about the six stories in the book, and for links to the eretailers where reviews can be left. The print copy is already available on Amazon, and reviews left against that will transfer to the ecopy when the ebook is published.

Oh, and if you have someone who’d love 320 pages of holiday magic for Christmas, consider buying them the print book. Only $12.50 USD, and it is a beautiful object (said proud Mama).


The Occult Eavesdropper

Greetings, readers of The Teatime Tattler. ’Tis I, Mr. Palmer, lifelong seeker of occult knowledge and experience. For those unacquainted with my talents, allow me to explain how I eavesdrop on history. To see and hear the echoes of a location, I need only stand in the space, close my eyes, and enter a trance which allows my soul to flee its mortal home and explore the boundless realm of the spiritual plane. Perhaps you read of my adventure at Ravenwood Keep in Northumberland. Shortly thereafter, I journeyed farther north to Nihtscua, a castle ruin whose name—meaning “Shadow of Night”—sparked my interest at once. I felt compelled to view its past, though I was unprepared for what awaited me.

occult          A word of warning. Many would deem the scene I witnessed to be of a delicate nature. Some might say scandalous. Keep your smelling salts close if you choose to read on.

A lord and his lady stood alone inside a well-appointed bedchamber. The woman motioned toward the blazing hearth, before which sat a round, wooden tub lined with white cloth.

“Your bath, my lord,” she said.

He turned to her. “Really.”

The hint of a smile touched her lips. “Really.”


“Because you need to relax. Go on. Disrobe and get in while the water is still warm.”

His eyes narrowed. “And where will you be?”

She shrugged, seemingly nonchalant, but her eyes twinkled. “Why, here, of course.”

He frowned. “Don’t you need to visit the garderobe or something?”

“Why so modest? You’re beautifully built.”

“Is that so?”

“Aye, and you know it. But if ’twill appease you, I’ll go to the garderobe.” She started toward the door, then paused and turned. “You’re not undressing.”

“You’re not leaving,” he countered.

She twisted her lips and exited the chamber. When she returned a short while later, the lord sat submerged from the ribs down in the water. She shut the door and leaned back against it. Motionless, she stared at him.


She blinked. “Aye?”

“Would you be so kind as to hand me the soap?”

“Oh. Of course.” She advanced toward him. “Would you like me to wash your hair?”

His chest muscles flexed. “Thank you, but I can manage.”

He scooped soft soap from the container she held out to him and worked it into his wet hair. Then he took another handful of soap and began to wash his body.

She moved to stand behind him. Studiously, he ignored her, even as he rinsed his hair.

Until she stepped into the tub with him.

She wore only her chemise, of which the bottom third became soaked. The cloth hugged her knees and shins as she sat on the opposite rim of the tub.

The lord frowned. “What are you doing?”

“I would’ve thought ’twould be obvious.”

His gaze was riveted on her legs. “Where are your garments?”

“I’m still wearing one.”

“But the others?”

“Beside yours, by the fire.”

He lifted his gaze to hers. “By all that’s holy, why did you remove—”

“Between the fire and the warm water, ’twas too hot.”

“Yet you put your feet into the water. Doesn’t that make you hotter?”

“Oh.” She bit her lower lip. “I’ve been standing all day, and my feet ache.” She squirmed on the edge of the tub. “My feet feel better, but now my backside is sore.”


“My backside, buttocks, derriere. Take your pick.”

A muscle worked in his jaw.


He cleared his throat. “Perhaps you should stand up.”

Again, she shifted her position. “I think I just need to…ah!” She pitched forward into the tub, and water splashed everywhere.

The shock of the moment wrenched me from the vision and sent me back to the castle’s present ruin. Yet the lady’s face stayed with me. Clearly, she endeavored to seduce her husband, while he seemed determined to resist her. What do you suppose happened next?

Excerpt from Soul of the Wolf by Judith Sterling

Occult  Wulfstan pushed open the bedchamber door but hesitated on the threshold. Pale and wide-eyed, Jocelyn stood motionless in front of the gaping window. She stared at him as though he were the Devil incarnate.

“Is it the wolf you fear?” he questioned. “Or is it me?”

Jocelyn lifted her chin. “That depends on how much the two of you have in common.”

Curbing a grin, he entered the chamber and shut the door. “We have more in common than you’d suspect.”

“Oh, I suspect quite a bit.”

“I suppose you would.”

She crossed her arms. “What do you mean?”

Careful. Tell her gently. He gestured to the hearth. “Come sit by the fire.”

“I’m warm enough, thank you.”

“Then sit on the bed.”

Her arms tightened against her torso. “I’d rather not.”

He sighed heavily. “I’ll keep my distance. You’ll be quite safe.”

Her eyes narrowed, but she lowered her arms. She marched to the bed, and as she sat, her tan tunic seemed to meld with the various shades of the pelts around her. Her long, elegant fingers raked the fur. “Happy?”

He swallowed hard. “Rapturous.”

His mutinous mind conjured an image of her lying beneath him on the soft fur, arching toward him with the same abandon she’d shown at Woden’s Circle. It stirred his blood, and his manhood. By law, her body was his to claim, his to devour at will.

Outside, the wolf howled a second time, prolonging the highest note with seeming ease. The sound shattered Wulfstan’s fantasy, reminding him of his mission and the discipline he dared not forsake. He took a deep breath and quelled his arousal.

“Well?” said Jocelyn.

He cocked an eyebrow. Had she intuited his dilemma?

“Your vision,” she prompted. “I’ve waited a lifetime to hear it.”

He gritted his teeth. ’Twas now or never. “I see my visions from the viewpoint of the person I’m touching.”

She gave him a nod. “In this case, from my point of view.”

“Exactly. I was in a large, ornate bedchamber, standing before a woman with brown hair and amber eyes…”

occultAbout the Book

A Norman loyalist, Lady Jocelyn bristles when ordered to marry Wulfstan, a Saxon sorcerer.  She nurses a painful secret and would rather bathe in a cesspit than be pawed by such a man…until her lifelong dream of motherhood rears its head.

A man of magic and mystery, Wulfstan has no time for wedded bliss.  He fears that consummating their marriage will bind their souls and wrench his focus from the ancient riddle his dying mother begged him to solve.  He’s a lone wolf, salving old wounds with endless work.  But Jocelyn stirs him as no woman ever has.

Their attraction is undeniable.  Their fates are intertwined.  Together, they must face their demons and bring light to a troubled land.

Buy it here:

Amazon https://amzn.com/B06WP4GSCR

Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/soul-of-the-wolf

The Wild Rose Press https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/soul-of-the-wolf

About the Author

Judith Sterling’s love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Flight of the Raven and Soul of the Wolf are part of her medieval romance series, The Novels of Ravenwood. The third in the series, Shadow of the Swan, will be released soon. The Cauldron Stirred is the first book in her young adult paranormal series, Guardians of Erin. Written under Judith Marshall, her nonfiction books—My Conversations with Angels and Past Lives, Present Stories—have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.

Website – https://judithmarshallauthor.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/judithsterlingfiction/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16291161.Judith_Sterling

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01MT3KB7L

The Wild Rose Press – https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/2212_judith-sterling


No such thing as vampires

Inside a Parisian tavern on July 13, 1789

Francesca sat at a table with her fellow conspirators. All night they sang songs to give them courage. People had been arrested and tossed into the Bastille for the slightest reason.

“It’s not right. We will free the prisoners. We want justice,” Armand shouted.

“We want food,” shouted several others.

The crowd went crazy with anger and too much drink.

“Are we really going to attack the Bastille tomorrow?” She whispered to Pierre besides her.

“If they don’t surrender the prisoners, we will. Come up to my room, and I will show you the plans.”

She pushed him away and got up. It was her shift for clearing the tables, not that she’d go anywhere with him. All the girls knew Pierre, so she didn’t have to.

As soon as she had a full tray of dishes and entered the kitchen, Chloe pulled her aside. “Did you see this in the newspaper, Francesca?”

“What does it say?”

“It says there are vampires in the city. The rumor is they are waiting for a war, so they can feed on the fallen in the open.”

Francesca put the dishes into the large sink. She separated out the empty pints. “Chloe, you are funny. There is no such thing as vampires.”

The girl crossed herself. “You don’t believe. Oh, Francesca, may God protect you.”

Francesca smiled while tying her kerchief on her head. “I’m done, and may God protect you, Chloe. I’m off to pray.” She walked out the back door into the dark on her way to Notre Dame.

As she hurried around the corner, she ran past a gentleman with a tall hat. He didn’t follow her, and she was relieved. Francesca didn’t want to admit it but the talk of vampires chilled her to the bone. She pulled her shawl closer about her shoulders and looked behind her. No one was there.

From Peasant to Vampire Princess (Secrets behind Vampire Princess of New York)

by Susan Hanniford Crowley

(Note: Francesca is Noblesse Vander Meer’s human name. Marie is Margot’s human name. Jacques is not Louis’s human father.)

They all laughed with the French vampires around the table, finishing a grand meal. As the Arnhem Knights retreated to the large meeting room on the main floor, the royal family moved to a parlor off the main bedroom.

Max and Evie took the love seat closest to the blazing fireplace. Jacques, Margot, and Louis took the sofa and Donovan and Noblesse the other chair. The seating was a loose half-circle around the fire.

“How did you become a vampire, Francesca?”

“We hadn’t heard from you, Mama. Then Grand-mère died. I had nothing. When I told the priest I was going to Paris to find you, he gave me some coins, and with Grand-mère’s last sweet bread wrapped in cloth, I started walking. Afraid, I went to Domrémy first to pray, to ask the aid of Sainte Jeanne D’Arc. Then I walked until it was dark.”

“You went alone?” Margot asked.

“I had no choice. There was no one to walk with me. The first night I was attacked by bandits. They took the little I had, tied me to a tree, and talked how they would use me. I was fortunate that they drank themselves into a stupor. It was my one chance to get away, but my bounds were too tight. Then I saw her.”

“Who?” Louis asked.

“The Maid herself in armor and sword. She cut my bounds and said one word, ‘Run.’ I ran until morning and found refuge for a few hours in a small church many villages away. I don’t know how many days or weeks I walked begging food and sleeping in churches.

“When I came to Paris looking for Marie Therese Aquilla, no one knew you. Unable to find you, I took cleaning jobs and fell into the spirit of the Revolution. I held a sword shouting protests to free the prisoners. Then we stormed the Bastille. I was shot and remember falling.”

Margot wept and leaned on Jacques.

“Max picked me up, carried me away, and made me a vampire.”

Max interrupted. “She was a magnificent warrior. Still is for that matter. I told her that she was the noblest of creatures. I named her Noblest.”

Noblesse smiled and added, “I named myself Noblesse, because I thought I was damned. It took me a long time to adjust to being a vampire. Max, being an excellent father, was very patient. He taught me how to be a civilized vampire, and how to run what would become an international business.”

Margot sighed and wiped her eyes. “You became a vampire because of me.”

“No, Mama. I believe that I’ve been watched over. I have not always believed I was fortunate, but now I know I am.” Noblesse kissed Donovan on the cheek. “I’m a very happy vampire. Don’t cry, Mama. How did you become a vampire?”

Margot smiled and held Jacques’s hand. “I was working in the kitchen of the palace, when Princess Sophie became ill. The queen heard I had experience as a healer and asked to see me. Only nobility could touch the royal children, so the queen had me finely dressed and called me ‘Lady Aquilla’. She told her ladies that I was robbed while traveling, and afterward mistaken for a commoner. She said that the name belonged to a noble family of Italy. I did not argue with the queen. The baby princess was gravely ill, and she asked me to help her care for the child.”

Louis looked straight into the fire, pain etched on his face.

“I tried everything I could think of for the little one, but she died. The queen did not blame me. Then I became ill, and she hired Jacques and his sister Gabrielle to care for me. She did not miss that I cared for Jacques, who did a variety of jobs at the palace.”

Jacques said, “When I knew your mother was dying, I changed her. The queen heard she had died and paid me to provide a proper burial for the ‘sweet lady’. I had to buy a casket and have a mass and burial. I purchased the plot in St. Marguerite’s. In the middle of the night, I dug her up so she would not awaken terrified of being buried alive.”

“What happened to your sister?” Noblesse asked.

“When she became ill, I tried to change her too. She did not survive. Gabrielle is buried in the grave at St. Marguerite’s.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you.”

“How did you become a vampire, Louis?” Max asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it. You may if you wish, Father.” Louis continued to stare into the fire.

“We smuggled Louis out of Temple Prison. He was only ten. We replaced him with another boy’s body already dead from disease,” Jacques said.

“Some of the books say that there were witnesses with him when he died.”

“Mesmerization is a wonderful tool.” Noblesse’s mother smiled and winked at Donovan.

“But there is DNA evidence from the Prince of France’s heart interred at St. Denis,” Noblesse said.

“Ever hear of tampering with evidence?” Jacques asked. “It was in Louis’s best interest that the world think him dead.”

“You aged him with Shuma Moot?” Max asked.

“Yes. We needed to age him fast, so we could leave Paris for a while,” Jacques said.

Louis looked angry and sad at the same time, but he didn’t add to the conversation on his life. Noblesse felt torment radiating from him. She reached into her pocket and took out the little book.

“We are family here, wouldn’t you agree, Louis, my brother?”


“A French writing desk that Donovan bought for me survived the explosion at the Arnhem Society, though it did break in half. In it we found the little book with the information about my mother and Jacques. It’s a dear book written by a mother, mostly about the love she had for her children.”

Noblesse stood up and walked over to Louis, who looked confused. “It has helped a great deal in my life. I give to you, because by rights it is yours.” She handed him the book, and he opened it.

“What is it, Francesca?” her mother asked.

“It is a diary of Queen Marie Antoinette, hidden for centuries.”

Louis’s expression melted into sorrow, as he read. A blood tear slipped down his cheek. “Thank you, my sister Francesca.”

Noblesse returned to snuggle with Donovan in the love seat. The family sat quietly together watching the fire for a long time.

Louis stood facing the fire, swinging his arm as if to throw, but in the last minute held the little book against his heart instead.


Noblesse is the daughter of the Vampire King of New York Maximillion Vander Meer. In his absence, she is the CEO of VMeer Industries and is an Arnhem Knight (a vampire warrior sworn to protect human life in New York and render aid to other supernaturals.)

But in the over two hundred years, she’s been a vampire, Noblesse has never found a true love or discovered what happened to her mother who disappeared just prior to the French Revolution.

Noblesse has to choose between two men. Both profess their love. Both are keeping a secret from her. One wants to destroy her, and one wants to love her forever. But which one?

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Meet Susan Hanniford Crowley

Susan has been writing since she was 8 years old. She started out writing animal stories as a child and grew into a science fiction and fantasy author. Her short stories appeared in anthologies edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Her novella Ladyknight published in the Spells of Wonder anthology went international. In 2006, a friend suggested paranormal romance and it’s been her passion ever since. Currently, she has two paranormal romance series, a mythology romance, and a steampunk romance. Susan specializes in vampires and rare supernaturals. She enjoys incorporating historical mysteries and places of interest into her novels, and does intense research.

Susan, the founder of the Nights of Passion blog, a member of RWA and SFWA,  speaks at scifi and romance conferences. In her day job, she is a webmaster. Married for 38 years, she is a mother and grandmother. Her goal is to give her readers as much fun as possible. Susan believes we all need more fun in our lives.

Website: www.susanhannifordcrowley.com

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Blog: http://nightsofpassion.wordpress.com

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