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    Her husband was obviously washing, as periodically his bellowing was interrupted by soggy noises. Alexia strained to hear Tunstell’s voice. Without his valet, her louder half was bound to look quite disastrously disheveled. It was never a good idea to let the earl dress unsupervised.

    “Right, well, send a claviger for him posthaste.”

    At which point, Formerly Merriway’s spectral form vanished from view.

    Conall reappeared in Alexia’s line of sight and gathered up his gold pocket watch from the bedside table. “Of course, they will take it as an insult, but nothing to be done about it.”

    Ha, she had been right. He was, in fact, not dressed at all but was wearing only a cloak. No Tunstell then.

    The earl seemed to remember his wife for the first time.

    Alexia counterfeited sleep.

    Conall shook Alexia gently, admiring both the tousled mound of inky hair and the artfully feigned disinterest. When his shaking became insistent, she blinked long lashes at him.

    “Ah, good evening, my dear.”

    Alexia glared at her husband out of slightly red-rimmed brown eyes. This early evening tomfoolery wouldn’t be so horrible if he had not kept her up half the day. Not that those particular exertions had been unpleasant, simply exuberant and lengthy.

    “What are you about, husband?” she inquired, her voice laced buttery-smooth with suspicion.

    “All apologies, my dear.”

    Lady Maccon absolutely hated it when her husband called her his “dear.” It meant he was up to something but was not going to tell her about it.

    “I must run off to the office early tonight. Some important BUR business has cropped up.” From the cloak and the fact that his canines were showing, Alexia surmised that he literally meant run, in wolf form. Whatever was going on must need urgent attention, indeed. Lord Maccon usually preferred to arrive at BUR in carriage, comfort, and style, not fur.

    “Has it?” muttered Alexia.

    The earl began to tuck the blankets about his wife. His large hands were unexpectedly gentle. Touching his preternatural spouse, his canines disappeared. In that brief moment, he was mortal.

    “Are you meeting with the Shadow Council tonight?” he asked.

    Alexia considered. Was it Thursday? “Yes.”

    “You are in for an interesting conference,” advised the earl, goading her.

    Alexia sat up, undoing all of his nice tucking. “What? Why?” The blankets fell, revealing that Lady Maccon’s endowments were considerable and not fabricated through fashionable artifice such as stuffed corset or too-tight stays. Despite nightly familiarity with this fact, Lord Maccon was prone to dragging her onto secluded balconies at balls in order to check and “make certain” this remained the case.

    “I am sorry for waking you so early, my dear.” There was that dreaded phrase again. “I promise I shall make it up to you in the morning.” He waggled his eyebrows at her lasciviously and leaned down for a long and thorough kiss.

    Lady Maccon sputtered and pushed at his large chest ineffectually.

    “Conall, what is going on?”

    But her irritating werewolf of a husband was already away and out of the room.

    “Pack!” His holler resounded through the hallway. At least this time he had made a pretense of seeing to her comfort by shutting the door first.

    Alexia and Conall Maccon’s bedroom took up the whole of one of the highest towers Woolsey had to offer, which, admittedly, was more of a dignified pimple off the top of one wall. Despite this comparative isolation, the earl’s bellow could be heard throughout most of the massive building, even down to the back parlor, where his clavigers were taking their tea.

    The Woolsey clavigers worked hard about their various duties during the day, looking after slumbering werewolf charges and taking care of daylight pack business. For most, tea was a brief and necessary respite before they were called to their other nonpack work. As packs tended to favor boldly creative companions, and Woolsey was close to London, more than a few of its clavigers were actively engaged in West End theatricals. Despite the lure of Aldershot pudding, Madeira cake, and gunpowder black tea, their lord’s yodel had them up and moving as fast as could be desired.

    The entire house suddenly became a hubbub of activity: carriages and men on horseback came and went, clattering on the stone cobbles of the forecourt; doors slammed; voices called back and forth. It sounded like the dirigible disembarkation green in Hyde Park.

    Emitting that heaviest of sighs that denotes the gravely put-upon, Alexia Maccon rolled herself out of bed and picked up her nightgown from where it lay, a puddle of frills and lace, on the stone floor. It was one of her husband’s wedding gifts to her. Or more probably gifts to him, as it was made of a soft French silk and had scandalously few pleats. It was quite fashion-forward and daringly French, and Alexia rather liked it. Conall rather liked taking it off her. Which was how it had ended up on the floor. They had negotiated a temporal relationship with the nightgown; most of the time, she was able to wear it only out of the bed. He could be very persuasive when he put his mind, and other parts of his anatomy, to it. Lady Maccon figured she would have to get used to sleeping in the altogether. Although there was that niggling worry that the house might catch fire and cause her to dash about starkers in full view of all. The worry was receding slowly, for she lived with a pack of werewolves and was acclimatizing to their constant nudity—by necessity if not preference. There was, currently, far more hairy masculinity in her life than any Englishwoman should really have to put up with on a monthly basis. That said, half the pack was away fighting in northern India; someday there would be even more full-moon maleness. She thought of her husband; him she had to deal with on a daily basis.

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