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Between his bullying father and dissolute brother, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough problematic family members to deal with. So when his sister returns to Widdershins asking for help solving the mystery of a derelict ship, Whyborne is reluctant to get involved. Until, that is, a brutal murderer strikes, leaving Whyborne and his lover Griffin no choice but to take the case.
The investigation leads them deep into a conspiracy of blackmail, murder, and darkest sorcery. But worst of all are the secrets held within the family itself, one of which will destroy everything Whyborne believed to be true, not only about his family, but about himself.
A part of me hoped the door would be locked. But the knob turned easily under my hand, and I flung it open.
“Here,” I said, not bothering to hide my resignation from him.
He stepped just inside, found the light, then waited for me to join him. I brushed past him with a sigh. The air held a certain musty smell, but the servants cleaned often enough it wasn’t overwhelming.
“Father chose the decorations,” I said, gesturing to the bloody hunt scenes depicted on the tapestries, the battles woven into the rugs, the swords carved into the mantelpiece. “That’s my paternal grandfather,” I added, indicating the massive portrait facing the bed. As a youth, I’d drawn the bed curtains against the censure of his gaze, while I laid hand to my length at the thought of handsome men.
At least until Leander had died. The boy I’d loved as a youth myself; the guilt of having survived when he died convinced me desire was poison. After, this bed had truly been a prison, a struggle between grief and horror and guilt and longing.
“Not many good memories then?” Griffin asked quietly from behind me.
“No,” I said, grateful not to have to explain. He understood me so well.
The lock on the door clicked sharply.
I turned. He leaned back against the door, a knowing smile on his face. “Then perhaps we should make a better one.”
My heart beat faster. But… “This is my parents’ house!”
He stalked toward me. “It is.”
I swallowed. “Th-there are people here. Downstairs. I mean…”
He reached me and pressed close, so his breath stirred the small hairs beside my ear—and stirred something else, as well. “Yes. The elite of Widdershins, who won’t have the slightest idea I’m sucking you just two floors above their heads.”
Clearly, everything I found to be an objection, he considered a benefit. Desire fogged my thoughts. “A-all right.”
He mouth turned up into a triumphant grin, green eyes flashing at me from under his lashes. “Lie down on the bed.”
My clothes would be in danger of becoming creased—but to the devil with it. We’d sneak down the back stair and leave that way if we ended looking too disreputable. I tugged off my gloves and shed my tailed coat to keep it in decent form, and he did the same.
I pulled him close, kissing him. He tasted of champagne and chocolate cake, mingled with warm male. Griffin returned the kiss, plundering my mouth with his tongue even as he gripped my hips and pulled me tight against him.
“Father thinks you’d be perfectly happy if I were to marry some heiress,” I mumbled against his lips.
Griffin snorted. “Then your father doesn’t know either of us very well, does he?”
Griffin had been with women in the past. Mainly men, but he was not entirely unmoved by the feminine form. I lacked even an aesthetic appreciation, a fact on which my dear friend Christine occasionally teased me.
“No, but I thought he’d entirely washed his hands of me.” And his talk about how sorcery might assist Whyborne Railroad and Industries…what the devil was the man about?
Griffin caught my chin gently in his fingers. “Shh. Quiet your busy mind, Ival.”
The pet name always brought warmth to my chest. “Perhaps you’d best offer it a distraction.”