Read Beneath a Waning Moon: A Duo of Gothic Romances Online

Authors: Elizabeth Hunter,Grace Draven

Tags: #Gothic romance

Beneath a Waning Moon: A Duo of Gothic Romances (11 page)

The water in the air drew to his skin as he walked, attracted by the rush of his anger and pain.

She couldn’t die. If his sire refused to change her, then they would leave Dublin. Once her father was gone, he could convince her. He could go to Mary Hamilton in the north. He knew Anne wasn’t unsympathetic. She loved Josie too. Tom thought Hamilton might turn her if Tom pledged himself to her service. She’d love to steal one of Murphy’s top men.

Loyalty between his sire and the woman he loved tore him in two, but he could finally admit the truth.

Tom no longer wanted to live an eternity without Josie at his side.

“MR. MURPHY?”

Tom tried not to cringe at the name. Much of his household didn’t know his real name. His own wife didn’t even know it. And the way he was feeling toward his sire at the moment, the last thing he needed was a reminder his life was not his own.

He turned and met Josie’s companion in the hall. “Yes, Mrs. Porter?”

“She’s not been feeling well today. Are you home for the evening, sir?”

“I am.”

“She might enjoy the company. She can’t seem to focus on her writing. I think she may be running a slight fever.”

“I’ll find a book to read to her then. Is she in bed?”

Mrs. Porter shook her head. “She didn’t want the bed. I’ve settled her on the chaise in her room. Make sure she stays propped up. It’s easing her breathing.”

“Any news on Mr. Shaw?”

Mrs. Porter smiled sadly. “Mr. Carver did send word this morning that he thought it would be a matter of days, if that. Mrs. Murphy was planning on spending the night there, but I held her off until tomorrow. I thought she could use another night of rest.”

“I’ll try to get her to sleep.”

“Thank you, sir. She’s had a poultice tonight, so her breathing is easier.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Porter.”

Mrs. Porter started down the hallway, then paused. Turning to him, she said, “No, sir, thank you. She’s had more joy and life in the past six months than the whole of the past six years, I think. I know your family is… different, sir. I wouldn’t say anything more. But thank you. Thank you for caring for her as you do.”

She swept down the hall before he could respond. And Tom turned to his wife’s bedroom with a heavier heart and a renewed sense of purpose.

Six months of living was not enough. Not for Josie. Not for him.

He stopped by the library to grab a copy of Verne’s
Around the World in Eighty Days
, which they’d been reading on nights she couldn’t seem to focus on her writing. Not even the new adventure story she’d started seemed to be able to hold her attention for long. And if she was feverish, her mind would wander.

“Josie?” he said, peeking into the room to see if she’d fallen asleep.

Her eyes blinked open. “Hello, darling. How are Patrick and Declan tonight? Everything all right with work? You’re home early. Anne was by earlier. Did you know she has a sister in Belfast? Isn’t that interesting?”

Tom wondered if Anne’s thoughts were running parallel to his. “I did. She and Murphy don’t get along well.”

“So I heard. What a drama.” Josie smiled wanly. “Perhaps I should write it into a story.”

Tom saw the unhealthy flush on her cheeks. “I brought a book to read. I thought we’d get back to old Phileas, if you like.”

She held up her old copy of
In a Glass Darkly
. “I’ve been getting lost in this old favorite again. Read for me?”

“Vampires again?”

Did she know on some level? She’d never questioned his odd schedule, though Tom continued to use a nudge of amnis sometimes when she started to question why they spent every night together and yet he was always gone in the daylight. He hated it. Hated the deception. But if she discovered it on her own…

“I keep coming back to it,” she murmured. “Something… I don’t know. Familiar stories are like old friends, aren’t they? They’re comforting.” She held out the book. “Please? We’ll come back to Phileas another night.”

And so Tom sat at the foot of the chaise lounge and put Josie’s slender legs on his lap, stroking her ankles as he read from the tale of the mysterious vampire girl and the proper young lady she seduced.

“Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die—die, sweetly die—into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit.”

He watched her as she dozed and he read the familiar words. Abruptly, she sat up.

“Josie?”

“I’d love for it to be real,” she rasped. “Wouldn’t it be grand, Tom? Do you think it could be real?”

“What’s real, love?”

“The vampires, of course. Carmilla and Laura.”

He choked on his desire to reveal himself to her, and she continued, the fever now burning in her eyes.

“There is so much more to this life than we know, isn’t there? It could be real. It could be. Fairies and shape-shifters. Airships and demon lovers. Why couldn’t they be real, Tom? Why would we dream of them if they weren’t real?”

She’d started to cry, and he put the book away, pulling her to his lap so that he could hold her. He put his cheek against her burning forehead.

‘“You will think me cruel, very selfish, but love is always selfish…’ Oh, Tom! She was right. I’m sorry. It’s horrible, isn’t it? This love. To love someone and know they cannot be yours. We only borrow each other for a time, don’t we? I’m too cruel to you, darling. Please don’t hate me. I couldn’t bear it if you hated me.”

He rocked her back and forth. “Josie, please—”

“He was Irish. Did you know he was Irish? Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. What a wonderful name. Not like Josephine. Who wants to read a story from a Josephine?”

“I do. I love reading stories by Josephine.” Her skin was burning.

“Why aren’t there more vampire stories? I wish there were. I wish I could have known him. My mother met him. They were… friends. Perhaps it wasn’t the footman after all. He only liked Poe. But who doesn’t like Poe, after all?”

She was rambling, her fever overtaking her reason. Tom stood and walked to the bed, stripping her out of her robe and ringing for the maid to bring some ice. Murphy kept a basement of it for blood stores, and Tom was tempted to take her down and hold her in the frigid walls of the cool room. He knew it wouldn’t help.

“Josie,” he said again. “Please, love. Take a deep breath. Try to calm down.”

The breath she took rattled in her chest and made Tom want to rip the sheets and punch his fist through the wall. He put more pillows behind her and stripped the heavy, feather-filled blanket that only seemed to make her cough worse. The maid came, along with Mrs. Porter, and they began to see to his wife.

His wife. The love of his life. Tom could smell it in the breath she coughed out.

His Josie was dying.

Tom turned away before the women could see the bloody tears that filled his eyes.

TOM received word the next evening that John Shaw had passed away in his sleep, but Josie wouldn’t hear it. Her eyes were half-open, and her breathing labored. She hadn’t woken since her rambles the night before. Tom had been forced to his day rest, raging in fear that his wife would slip away while he was dead to the world.

Her breathing seemed a little better when he woke, but her fever had not lessened. Mrs. Porter and Josie’s day maid had banished the doctor after it was clear there was nothing he could do.

Tom sat in despair, knowing she would never be well enough to travel to Belfast. He would lose her. But then he could end things. After all, he’d lived over seventy-five years, mortal and immortal life combined. That was a good run, he thought.

And Murphy?

Murphy could go to hell.

Tom lay next to Josie in bed, dabbing at her mouth with blood-stained cloths when she coughed. He paid no attention when he heard the door open or when Mrs. Porter announced Murphy and Anne’s presence. He refused to look at his sire. These hours were not for him. He would hold his woman as long as he could. And when the end came, he would follow. Loyalty to his sire be damned. After all his years of service, what had Murphy done but let the woman Tom loved die a painful death?

“Tom,” Anne called him. “Tom Dargin, look at me.”

He didn’t.

“Go away.” Tom didn’t want to leave her side, even to throw them both out. “Her father’s dead. She’s dying. Leave me alone. You won’t have to bother with me much longer.”

Murphy’s voice was stiff. “Tom, stop this madness.”

“Go fuck yourself.” He brushed her cheek. “Sorry, sweet girl. I know you don’t like rough language.”

Anne was there, clutching his shoulder. “Tom, please.”

“Won’t be the same. Nothing was the same from the night I met her. My butterfly girl. Only woman as ever saw the whole of me. Loved me, she did. It’ll be fine, Annie. No need to ask your sister for that favor. I’ll stay with my girl until she goes.”

“Tom, you can’t be serious.” Murphy banged his cane on the ground. “I sent Mrs. Porter away so we could speak freely. Stop this. This isn’t you.”

Anne was crying. “Tommy, please. We can’t do without you.”

“And I can’t do without her!” He pushed Anne away, baring his teeth at Murphy as he roared, “Get the fuck away from us, both of you!”

Josie started to cough, sitting up on her own, her eyes open and glassy with fever.

“Tom?” she gasped. “Tom, who’s yelling? What’s wrong?”

He turned, ignoring his irate sire. “It’s fine. It’s fine. Here, love.” He tried to get her to drink something, but the water only sprayed over the bed when she coughed again.

Murphy said, “She’s mortal. You knew this when you married her.”

“She’s my mate,” he said, not caring if Josie questioned him. She was already falling back into delirium. “Anne, get him away before I kill him myself. He don’t belong here. Leave me be.”

“You cannot mean to meet the sun,” Murphy said, stubbornly standing at the foot of her bed. “Tom, your life is more valuable—”

“My life is not my own,” he growled. “And hasn’t been since I agreed to join you in this one. I cannot save her without driving both of us mad, and you’ve made your choice. But I tell you, I can join her when she goes. That is
my
choice. And you don’t have any say in that.”

“I’ll lock you up.”

“You plan on doing that forever?”

That shut him up, and Tom was able to concentrate on Josie again. His poor girl. She sounded like half of what she was breathing was water, but it was the fever that scared him.

“You’re determined to die with her?”

Tom stroked her damp hair off her forehead. “I’ll be dead already when she’s gone.”

He paid no attention to whatever silent arguments his sire was having with Anne. He watched Josie, watched the rise and fall of her labored breathing. Watched the fine skin of her neck where her pulse beat faintly. She’d be admitted to heaven without a doubt. He wondered if he was clever enough to talk himself in.

“Love you,” he whispered. “I didn’t tell you when you could hear me because I’m a fool. Thanks for loving me so well, sweet girl. You were the best part of this life.”

“And who will take responsibility if she’s uncontrollable?” Murphy said behind him. “Tom? He’d never be able to do it. So I’d have to, and we’d kill each other.”

“It may not be necessary. She’s never been a cruel person.”

“She’s dying and feverish. You know why there are rules against—”

“I’ll do it,” Anne whispered. “I love her too, Patrick. Do this, and if she is mad—if she cannot be trusted—I will take responsibility for her. You know I can.”

Silence fell. Then Tom felt the touch of Anne’s hand on his shoulder.

“Tom?”

“Go away.”

“Tom, step away from her. Let Murphy do what he needs to. You don’t need to be here for this.”

He lifted his head. “What are you talking about?”

“You’re sure she would want this?” Murphy asked him, tearing off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves. “She never knew the truth of who you were. You’re
sure
, Tom?”

He blinked, in a daze, unsure of what he was seeing. “Positive. What are you doing?”

“What do you bloody think I’m doing?”

Anne pulled him away from Josie’s bedside, and Murphy sat on the edge, brushing the hair from Josie’s neck.

“Anne, find something to tie her hair back.”

Tom stood gaping. “But Beecham—”

“I’m not losing my own bloody child because Beecham wants the Shaw family dead. Hang Beecham. We’ll do this, and soon I’ll be the lord of Dublin, but only if you’re at my side. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, boss.”

“She’s dead to the world. Do you understand? She’s not in society, mortal or immortal. She died this night. And she’ll stay dead until everyone who remembers her in this life is gone. Can you live with that? Can she?”

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