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 (9 page)

“But the tenor—” Anne was laughing. “I think he might have been a she. I’ve never heard a man sing that high.”

“It was extraordinary. Pity he was the only talented one among— Oh! Hello, Tom. What are you doing home?”

Tom was sitting near the fireplace… glowering.

Yes, she did believe that was the appropriate verb. To glower. Her normally composed husband was glowering.

Unsurprisingly, this did not make him any less attractive to her. Josie had become quite his sycophant, though she’d never tell him. In the three months they’d been married, her feelings had deepened to far more than mere affection for her rough-mannered, taciturn husband. She was, quite simply, besotted. And glowering did nothing to quash that.

“What are you doing back from the warehouse?” she asked, frowning.

Anne asked, “Is everything all right? I know there was supposed to be a meeting with Beecham tonight.”

“And I forgot one of my reports. Realized I’d left it in Josie’s sitting room last night, so I went looking for it.” He held up an envelope. “What is this?”

“As I’m rather far away at the moment, I cannot tell you.” Josie stepped forward with her hand out. “Give it here, Tom.”

He flipped it away from her fingers.

“Tom!” She heard Anne slip from the room. “What on earth—”

“Who is Joseph Doyle?”

Her mouth dropped open. Her heart sped. “It isn’t… I mean—”

“I can hear your heart racing from here. Tell me.”

Josie frowned. “That’s impossible. There’s no way for you to hear—”

“Who is he, Josephine? Why is someone sending letters to a Joseph Doyle care of you at your father’s house? Who is he? Is that why you’ve been spending your days over there?”

“You’re mad.” She’d raced past embarrassed and straight into furious. “I’m at my father’s house every day because my father is
dying
and you’re locked in your rooms working all the time! So don’t question my—”

“Who is he?”

“He’s me!” Angry tears pricked her eyes. She didn’t know how to fight with Tom. He’d always been too kind. He was gentle with her, sometimes to frustration. A model of quiet humor and utter patience, even when she was at her most distracted. He’d never once raised his voice.

Glowering had turned to confusion. “What do you mean, he’s you?” He frowned at the letter again. “Did someone mistake your—”

“Joseph Doyle is… a writer of… of Gothic stories and mysteries. He… That is, he writes for several of the more… popular papers in… in London. And he is… me.” Her face was burning. She stared at the red and blue whorls of the rug at her feet. “Joseph Doyle is one of my
 
noms de plume.” She finally tipped her chin up. “I am sorry I concealed this from you, but I am not sorry I write such stories, nor do I have any plans to stop.”

He was frowning at the letter, flipping it over in his hands. He stared at it, then cocked his head. Then looked up, a grin slashed across his scarred face. “Are you saying you write penny dreadfuls?”

She put her hands on her hips. “There are many fine writers in the Gothic genre who write for papers that—”

He cut her off with a clap of his hand on his thigh. “That’s why you write so many letters. They’re not letters; they’re stories.” He stood and started pacing. “Joseph Doyle sounds—” He snapped his fingers. “Did you write the one about the doctor who was murdering the old women?”

Josie stood frozen, blinking her eyes rapidly as Tom walked to her. “Did I write the… The one with the scalpel or the one who used poison?”

“Scalpel.”

“No, I wrote the poisoner. Only it wasn’t the doctor in the end. He was framed. It was—”

“The kitchen maid!”

Josie slapped a hand over her mouth.

Tom burst into laughter. “There’s a lad on the docks who brings them from London every month. You have the most horrid imagination! The way you described those murders had my stomach churning, Josie. The jerking and frothing at the mouth—”

“And you
read
it?”

He was still laughing. He pulled her hand away from her flushed face and put the letter in it. “One of your noms de plume? Do you have more names I don’t know about?”

“Viviana Dioli,” she murmured. Surely she would wake up any moment to find that Tom disapproved of his wife pursuing such… unladylike hobbies. Not that she would stop, but she’d been braced for disapproval. Had her arguments planned in advance. But he—

“Viviana Dioli?” he asked. “Something tells me she doesn’t write horror stories.”

“Gothic tales of a more romantic nature.”

His grin turned wicked. “I bet those stories have been getting a bit more detailed over the past few months, eh?”

Her face burned. Well, obviously.

“Any others I need to know about, Josie?”

“No, just… Are you telling me you don’t mind that I write scandalous stories for London newspapers?”

He leaned closer. “Is it more fun if I disapprove?” He reached back and pinched the back of her thigh. “I knew that naughty imagination couldn’t be just from reading books.”

“No, it’s been years of wicked mental cultivation.” She batted his hand away. “Are you laughing at me?”

“No.” He smacked a kiss on her lips. “I’m relieved.”

A spark of anger flared to life. “Did you really think I was having some kind of affair?”

“No!” He paused. “Perhaps. There’s no way to answer that question correctly. To be fair, you were hiding things from me.”

“I was hiding my hobby! Not a lover. And are you implying you don’t have any secrets?
You
?”

He grew instantly silent. “Josie—”

“No.” She turned toward the fire. “I’m still angry. Glad, yes, that you’re not bothered by my writing, but also angry you assumed I’d do something so horrible. I would never be unfaithful to you, Tom.”

She could feel him at her back. He carefully put his arms around her and rested his chin on top of her head.

“Forgive me, sweet girl? Jealousy isn’t something I’m used to.”

“I was a spinster for twenty-eight years. I hardly think—”

“You’re clever and funny,” he said, cutting her off. “You’re generous and kind and beautiful.”

“You’re the only one who’s ever thought so.”

His arms tightened around her, and she ignored the tickle in her chest. Pushed back the threat of a cough.

“‘Girls are caterpillars,’” he whispered, “‘when they live in the world, to be finally butterflies when the summer comes.’”

She tried to turn, but he had her locked in place. “Where did you—”

“I see the butterfly you’ve become. And so do others. I don’t like having to share you with the world.”

Had he read
Carmilla
too? Or…

I saw no folly tonight. Only perhaps a bit of fancy.

That low voice in the garden months ago was utterly familiar now that she’d heard it in the bedroom.

“It was you,” she said. “In the garden that night. You were the one I talked to.”

“You were beautiful in the moonlight. Are you angry with me?”

“You saw me in my dressing gown.”

The arms around her shoulders tightened, and she felt the laughter in his chest.

“I suppose… I’m not angry,” she said. “Not about that. I wasn’t angry when I thought it was one of our neighbor’s servants, so why should I be angry it was you? Why did you—?”

“I was curious about you. I certainly never expected you’d be out in the garden in the middle of the night. I just wanted to see your home. And then I saw you, and I thought you looked like a fairy queen. In your white gown with your hair falling down your back. You had no fear.”

“Oh no,” Josie said. She managed to turn in his arms and lay her head on his chest. “I was wrapped in fear. I still am some nights.”

Tom kissed the top of her head. “I don’t ever want you to fear again. And don’t hide anything from me. I want all of you.”

“Then you can have it.”
For as long as we have.

AFTER they returned from Bray, Josie and Tom never spoke of her illness. While Tom had never shied from it before their marriage, something about them had shifted after those quiet, gentle nights of lovemaking by the seaside. Perhaps they were both living in a state of denial. Her breathing had been marginally better since their return to town, and she avoided any situation or event that could trigger an episode. She spent most nights writing or making love to Tom, who seemed to have an endless, fervent hunger for her.

He was her favorite form of madness.

They explored everything. After her initial nerves had been conquered, she found in her new husband an eager teacher. No question was unanswered. Often, demonstrations were required. They laughed when they loved, and Josie knew she’d fallen in love with Tom quite thoroughly, though she hesitated to say it.

There was a restlessness in her husband, and she knew, however he might accuse her of keeping secrets from him, his own secrets were a weight between them. There was a darkness in him. Too often, a sense of foreboding enveloped her. And her thoughts were… muddled. There was something she knew she wasn’t seeing. She sensed he was a breath away from confessing something too many times to count. But the confession never came, and she didn’t want to press him.

She didn’t want to know.

She wanted to love. To revel in him. To gorge herself on life for as long as she had.

The heaviness in her lungs told her she didn’t have long.

TOM and Murphy had announced the dinner party three nights before, and Josie had found herself curious to meet some of Tom’s business associates. The name of William Beecham was certainly one she’d heard in passing between Tom, Murphy, and their younger brother, Declan, but not with any great humor. She was surprised to find him invited to dinner. Even more surprised her cousin, Neville, would also be present.

“Has Neville tried to call on your father again?” Tom asked, straightening his suit in the mirror in his room before they descended to the drawing room. Because he worked mostly at night, he insisted on keeping separate bedrooms. If she were healthier, Josie would have objected, for she hated waking in the mornings without him. But for their situation, it made sense.

“Not that anyone has said. The servants would have told me.”

“Any change today?”

She shook her head.
 

Tom feathered a caress across her cheek before he bent to kiss it. “He had a good life, sweet girl. And he’s not in any pain.”

“I know.” She blinked back tears. “It doesn’t make it any easier.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

He turned to her with his cravat in hand and waited for her to tie it for him. It was a task she enjoyed and one he loathed.

“You know,” she said as she tied the simple knot he preferred, “I never thought I’d do this.”

“Tie a cravat? I agree. Wouldn’t suit you.”

“You know what I mean.” Josie smoothed a hand down the front of his crisp white shirt. “I enjoy these wifely things. They’re like… little gifts I never expected.”

Tom caught her hand and held it silently. He opened his mouth, then closed it. He pressed a kiss to her knuckles and held her hand there.

“Tom?”

“I don’t suppose those fantastic creatures you write of are real, are they?”

Josie laughed. “Vampires and demons and monsters in the night? Thank God, no. We’d all be doomed, wouldn’t we?”

“Aye, but it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to live forever,” he said, almost silently, “if you could hold on to the people you loved. It wouldn’t be so bad then, would it?”

It was as close as he’d come to speaking of her failing health since they’d been married.

“Was I unfair to you?” she asked. “Should I have refused this?”

“Never.” He tipped her face up to his, and she could see the odd redness in his eyes again. Or perhaps it was only the light. “I’d not trade a moment of our time together, Josephine Shaw.”

“Even when I’m acting like a madwoman when a story strikes me?”

“Especially then.”

She choked back the lump in her throat and patted his chest. “You are the most patient of husbands, Thomas Murphy. We should go down before our guests arrive.”

“Hang our guests. Murphy’s the one who invited them.”

“But I should not neglect my cousin. Even if I do find him somewhat loathsome.”

Tom grunted and held the door for her. “Why did we agree to host this?”

“Because Neville technically belongs to me. And our cook is better than your brother’s.”

“Don’t say that. I might fire her if her food invites company.” He kissed her neck. “Shall we?”

Though they were separate houses, Tom and Murphy’s town houses near Mountjoy Square were adjoining and even connected through the lower floors. It was, in essence, one very large household, which suited Josie to the ground and allowed her and Anne to share much of the domestic burden.

Josie had been tickled to learn her night-loving tendencies were entirely indulged in Tom’s household. Indeed, as her sister-in-law was usually busy during the days, Josie spent most of her time writing, which left the evenings free for family.

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