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Professor Lyall frowned. “This shifts England’s vampire power structures significantly.”
Alexia grinned. “Lord Akeldama thought he’d have London under his purview. I am merely balancing the scales. Now my pack will be living in his territory full-time, and Countess Nadasdy has Madame Lefoux working for her.”
Professor Lyall stood, still looking a little sad. “You are a very good muhjah, aren’t you, Lady Maccon?”
“I like to be tidy about it. While we are on the subject, Madame Lefoux, when you have cleared out your contrivance chamber, I thought that might be a good space for us to build the pack a London dungeon.”
Lord Maccon grinned. “It’s big enough, and underground, and easy to secure. An excellent idea, my love.”
Madame Lefoux looked resigned. “And the hat shop?” Even though the shop had been a front to cover over her more nefarious dealings, she’d always had an affection for the establishment.
Alexia cocked her head. “I thought Biffy might do. You remember, my dear, we discussed that he was in great need of useful employment, and such a venture might suit him better than a position at BUR.”
This time it was Professor Lyall who smiled in approval. “Wonderful notion, Lady Maccon.”
“My darling wife,” said Lord Maccon, “you think of everything.”
Alexia blushed at the compliment. “I try.”
So it was that the werewolf pack formerly of Woolsey Castle became the first ever to claim an urban hunting ground. In the late summer of 1874, they officially changed their name to the London Pack and took up residence next door to the rove vampire and potentate, Lord Akeldama. Where they kept their full-moon dungeon no one knew, but it was noted with interest that the new pack seemed to have developed a keen interest in lady’s headgear.
It was a landmark summer so far as the tattle-mongers were concerned. Even the most conservative of the daylight folk took interest in the doings of the supernatural set, for the werewolf relocation was but the half of it. The Westminster Hive, having swarmed for the only time in recorded history, relocated to the countryside and changed its name to Woolsey. No one dared comment on the unfashionable choice. It was immediately suggested the government build a train track between the hive’s new location and London. Even though Countess Nadasdy herself could not live at the heart of style, at least style could visit the countess. Protective measures were put into place and the vampires seemed to feel that isolation balanced out a known location.
The scandal rags were delighted by the entire ruckus, including the carnage caused throughout the city on that full-moon night by what was reputed to be a massive mechanical octopus. The hive house destroyed! The Pantechnicon burned to the ground! Indeed, there was so much of interest to report that a few key elements escaped the press. The fact that Chapeau de Poupe changed proprietors went unremarked upon except by such true hat aficionados as Mrs. Ivy Tunstell. The fact that the Woolsey Hive gained a very prestigious and highly valuable new drone escaped all but the scientific community’s notice.
“Very, very nicely played, my little plum pudding,” was Lord Akeldama’s comment to Lady Maccon a few evenings later. He was carrying a paper in one hand and his monocle in the other.
Alexia looked up from where she sat in her bed. “You didn’t think I would let you get away with everything, did you?”
He was visiting her in his third best closet. Lady Maccon preferred to remain in bed for the time being. She was feeling a good deal recovered from her ordeal, but she felt she ought to lie low for a while. If people knew she was back in form, she might have to attend a meeting of the Shadow Council, and the queen was reputed to be not amused by all the kerfuffle. Also there was Felicity to consider.
“And where is my lovely Biffy?” wondered the vampire.
Alexia clucked at her baby and jiggled the girl up and down a bit. Prudence gurgled good-naturedly and then spit up. “Ah, he has taken charge of Madame Lefoux’s hat shop. He always did have a remarkably good eye. “
Lord Akeldama looked wistful. “Trade? Indeed?”
“Yes, it’s proving to be a mellowing influence. And an excellent distraction.” By the time Alexia had wiped the baby’s chin with a handkerchief, the infant was fast asleep.
“Ah.” The monocle twirled, wrapping itself around Lord Akeldama’s finger until the chain was too short, at which point it began swinging in the opposite direction.
“You didn’t actually want him to pine away and die, did you?”
“Oh, you are impossible. Come over here and hold your adopted daughter.”
Lord Akeldama grinned and minced over to the side of the bed to scoop up the slumbering baby. So far Prudence was proving to be an unexpectedly docile child.
The vampire cooed over her in quite an excessive way, telling her how beautiful she was and what fun they were going to have shopping together, until he interrupted his own litany of italicized praise with an exclamation of discovery.
“Would you look at that!”
“What? What is it now?” Alexia leaned up in bed on one elbow.
Lord Akeldama tilted the child in her direction. Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama had developed porcelain-white skin and a perfect set of tiny little fangs.