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 (5 page)

“Miss Shaw, may I call on you tomorrow evening?”

She smiled, a sweet, cheerful expression with no artifice at all. “I would like that. I think… you and I might get on very well, Mr. Murphy.”

THEY toasted him later, Murphy and Anne and Declan, who had miraculously appeared once Tom hadn’t bollixed the whole affair.

“To Tom!” Murphy crowed. “Who knew a charming gentleman lurked beneath that ugly exterior?”

“Fuck off.” Tom took a hearty drink of his ale and managed not to toss his sire into the wall.

Anne’s eyes were sparkling. “I liked her. Very much. She’s delightful, Tom. Pleasant, mature, and sensible.”

Tom would have listed “sensible” fairly far down on the list of Miss Shaw’s attributes. Anne’s recitation of her virtues made Josephine Shaw sound dull. And the woman was anything but dull. But then, Tom had seen Miss Shaw running around the garden in her nightclothes and Anne hadn’t. That probably influenced his impression of her.

Anne continued to rave. “She’s very intelligent. She seems a voracious reader, and she speaks six languages. Can you imagine? Six! English, Irish, French, Latin, Greek, and Italian. Her great-grandmother was Italian. I think her mother’s family were all quite artistic. What fun company she will be!”

Italian, eh? That might explain her fairy eyes. But good Lord, how could Tom possibly keep the interest of a woman who spoke six languages? He barely spoke one.

“You know,” Declan said, “if you wore that fancy getup out more, I think the ladies would be a bit keener on you, old man. Something about a rough-looking bloke in a suit.”

“Tom doesn’t need to worry about all the ladies,” Anne said. “Only one for right now. And Miss Shaw could barely keep her eyes off him.”

“Oh
 
really now?” Tom tried not to squirm. “Well, she seems a nice enough girl.”

“She’s
not
a girl,” Murphy said thoughtfully. “She’s a smart, intelligent woman. I think she’s appeasing her father with this whole business, because I felt no sense of the desperate spinster about her.”

Tom nodded. “Agreed. She is very independent.”

“She may like Tom,” Anne said. “But do you think she’d marry him? And if she doesn’t, will Shaw still follow through on the contract?”

“I think he’ll follow through, but it would leave room for his relations to challenge in the courts if we don’t have any family connection,” Declan said. “The nephew, Neville Burke, could be problematic.”

Murphy shrugged. “Does he have any influence? Any political allies we’re unaware of?”

“He has Beecham,” Declan muttered.

Tom sat up straight. “He has who?”

“Beecham.” Declan raised his hand when Murphy started to speak. “I know. I discovered they’ve developed an acquaintance only tonight.”

“Damn,” Anne said quietly. “So much for Beecham not noticing this deal.”

“There was never any real question of that,” Murphy said as he sat next to his mate. He took her hand, kissing it absently. “We knew he’d not be able to ignore me once I made my move with Shaw. Once I buy Shaw’s boat works, I’ll control more jobs on the waterfront than he does. A good third, even counting the humans. There was no way that crazy old bastard wouldn’t notice.”

Tom asked, “Dec, did he have any acquaintance with Neville Burke before now? Any history of business with the man?”

“Not that I could find. According to Burke’s driver, they’ve only been socializing for the past month or so.”

“But often?”

Declan nodded and Tom scowled. Suddenly, romancing Josephine Shaw had taken on an entirely new urgency. If Beecham was cultivating a friendship with the human, it could only be because he saw some vulnerability in Murphy and Shaw’s alliance.

An even more alarming thought struck him. “Murphy, do we have guards around the Shaws’ home?”

“No.” Murphy shook his head. “I didn’t think it was necessary.”

“It is.” Tom stood up and walked toward the door. “I’ll take care of it. Right now.”

All Tom could picture was Josephine dancing in the garden under the moonlight. She was as vulnerable as a babe. Anything could happen to her. Violence. Vampire influence. Hell, she’d been chatting with him in the shadows as if she hadn’t a care in the world only three nights before.

Well, Tom decided, proper lady or not, Josephine Shaw would be getting a few more guards, and they’d be the most vicious lads he could find. No one, save him, was touching her.

TOM spotted her assigned guards the next night when he called on Miss Shaw. The two humans nodded at him, then went back to chatting behind newspapers as they waited in the square. He knew two more guards would be concealed in the garden behind the house, including a young vampire from Cornwall who’d come under Murphy’s aegis only two years before.

She was a merciless little bit of an earth vampire whose lover was originally from Dublin. Kerra looked like a waif. If any of the humans spotted her, they’d likely try to feed her and give her a hand-me-down coat, not knowing she could tear their throat out before they’d have time to scream. She was the perfect guard for his woman.

He knocked on the door, a slim book he hoped Miss Shaw would like clasped in his hand, and the solemn butler ushered him into the gaslit entryway. He could hear voices coming from down the hall before he took off his hat.

“…know his supposed interest is only about your money, cousin.”

“And I’m sure your interest is purely familial.”

“I’m your cousin. I care about you.”

A wry laugh. “It’s almost as if you think I’ve forgotten all your slights over the years.”

“Josephine—”

“Don’t insult my intelligence, Neville. We both know you’re angry that you won’t inherit my money if I marry. Let me enlighten you: you wouldn’t have inherited anyway. My will is something I saw to years ago. So whatever happens between me and Mr. Thomas Murphy, you can be assured my fortune—and father’s—is well out of your reach.”

Tom put a hand on the butler’s arm, holding him back from announcing his presence. The butler, who was obviously not a fool, nodded silently. Tom waited outside the library, curious what Neville Burke’s response would be.

“You’re a foolish girl, Jo. And wills, especially those made by sick old spinsters, are always subject to interpretation. I have friends who can be very influential.”

Jo
. It was a darling nickname, but Tom didn’t like the cousin using it. Neville Burke should only call her Josephine, if he had to speak to her at all.

“I am not a girl. Nor am I foolish. But you
are
foolish if you think you’ve hired better attorneys than mine. Good-bye, Neville. I’m expecting company, and I don’t want you around. Is that plain enough language for you? And don’t bother my father again. Make no mistake: I run this household, and you are not welcome in it unless you have an invitation.”

Tom nodded at the butler, who knocked a second before he pushed the door open.

“Mr. Thomas Murphy, Miss Shaw. Here to see you.”

“Ah.” Josephine stood, and Tom would have missed the slight tremble in her hand if he hadn’t been looking for signs of her temper. “Thank you, Mr. Carver. Would you see Mr. Burke out, please? He was just leaving.”

“Of course.”

Neville glared, but he didn’t argue. He nodded toward his cousin. “Josephine, I wish you well.”

“Of course you do.”

Tom suppressed the smile at her sarcasm and held out a hand to the pale gentleman. “Mr. Neville Burke, I take it?”

The young Mr. Burke could hardly refuse his hand without it seeming awkward. He took it and Tom squeezed it firmly. Neville Burke looked like a man who’d spent his whole life in clubs and at dinner parties. His clothes were fashionable, his face soft. His pale blond excuse for a mustache hung limp beneath his narrow nose, as if it too had given up on any proper attempt at manliness.

Tom squeezed his hand a little harder to amuse himself.

“Mr. Thomas Murphy,” Neville said through clenched teeth. “Your reputation, sir, proceeds you.”

“I’m glad.” He let go of the human’s hand, resisting the urge to plant some mental manipulation that would banish him from Josephine’s house forever. No, as offensive as Burke was, they needed to use him to understand what Beecham was up to.

“I understand,” Tom said, “we have a mutual acquaintance. Mr. William Beecham.”

Neville’s face grew pale. “Ah. I mean yes, I am acquainted with the gentleman. You know Mr. Beecham?”

“Oh yes,” Tom said. “I know all about Mr. Beecham. My brothers and I have known him for years.”

“Is that so? How… remarkable.”

Tom heard the waver in Neville’s voice and noticed Josephine’s eyes darting between the two men. This was taking too long. And Josephine was too bright not to pick up on the innuendo. He liked her intelligence, but he had to admit it was inconvenient at the moment.

“Good evening to you.” He nodded to dismiss Neville Burke and turned his attention to Josephine. “Miss Shaw, I am honored to see your library.” He bent and kissed her knuckles as the butler saw her cousin to the door. “My sister-in-law led me to believe it was extensive, and it does not disappoint.”

“Thank you, Mr. Murphy!”

“It also gives me hope you will enjoy this gift.”

He held out the slim volume to her and watched as she unwrapped it, meanwhile nodding politely at Mrs. Porter, who was knitting in the corner, and listening intently to make sure Neville Burke left the house.

Tom forgot the cousin entirely when Josephine’s face lit. “
Ivanhoe
!”

“It is only the first volume, I’m afraid. I found it years ago at a bookshop in London. But the binding is good, and there’s an intriguing inscription in the front I thought you might enjoy.”

She held the book to her breast. “You brought me a book.”

“You seemed more the book sort than the flower sort. Though I’d be happy to get you those as well.”

“A book.” Her face was glowing. “You are quite adept at courting.”

“No, I’m afraid I’m rather inexperienced in it. That’s why I’m trying everything in the hope I’ll hit on something that strikes your fancy.”

She laughed then, and the butterflies took flight in her eyes. She opened the book and looked at the first page. “‘To my own Rebecca,’” she read on the frontispiece. “Yours always, T.” She looked up. “Your given name is Thomas.”

“Aye, but I’m afraid I did not write the verse. Only acquired it with the book.”

“Rebecca, not Rowena,” she murmured. Her fingers traced over the script.

“Well,” Tom said, “Rebecca was the more interesting of the two, wasn’t she?”

“Yet Ivanhoe married Rowena at the end,” Josephine said. “There’s a story in this inscription, I think.”

Tom shrugged. “Isn’t there always?”

She held the book as if she’d found a treasure. “You’re a
reader
, Mr. Murphy!”

If he could spend every night making her smile like that, proper manners and fancy dress might just be worth the trouble. “I am, Miss Shaw.”

She motioned to two chairs by the fire, and Tom moved his seat a fraction closer to hers as they sat down.

“I would not have guessed,” Josephine said. “Most of the gentlemen I’ve met since leaving school are not much for reading unless it is the newspapers.”

“I can’t claim to read philosophy or any kind of scholarly books. But I work nights mostly, so a good adventure story is always welcome to pass the time.
Ivanhoe
is one of my favorites.”

“You work mostly at night? That’s unusual, I think.”

“I oversee most of our warehouses on the waterfront. Ships come in all hours of the day. Deliveries happen very early in the morning.”
And the sun will burn me to a crisp.
“So yes, most of my hours are at night.” He paused because the question was important. “Would that bother you? Should we…?”

She shook her head. “Not at all. I’ve always been a night bird. I sleep most afternoons and blame it on feeling ill.” She glanced at Mrs. Porter, who only chuckled a little in the corner. “Mostly I just prefer the night. Sunlight can be quite harsh, don’t you think?”

“I quite agree.”

She started talking about books, a subject she was clearly passionate about. They talked about art and museums. About London and her favorite places and why she’d moved back to Dublin after school. Conversation didn’t stop for two hours straight, even when Mrs. Porter started snoring in the corner.

Tom couldn’t keep his eyes off her. She was delightful, as Anne had said. She was also intriguing, smart, and becoming more attractive every moment he spent in her presence. He was no longer merely resigned to marrying the woman; he was shocked to discover he truly desired it. And her.

“I wish you’d call me Tom,” he said quietly, hoping not to wake her chaperone. “I know that’s not very proper, is it?”

“Tom?” she asked, staring at him with wide eyes. “Only Tom? Not Thomas?”

“Just Tom.”

She looked down for a moment before she looked up and met his eyes. “If I do, will you call me Josephine?”

“I don’t think so.” His heart kicked in his chest. “But I might call you Josie.”

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