“Doesn’t this seem rather odd?” Emma asked, frowning. Earthquake, fire, Cormac. Something wasn’t right. She worried at it like a loose tooth.
Gretchen snorted. “I’m holding a pink dog. Odd doesn’t quite cover it.”
“Daphne just fainted,” Penelope pointed out, crossing her arms so her dress wouldn’t cling to her figure. Her grandmother would never forgive her the impropriety. Her parents wouldn’t care, they rarely came out into society. The other fashionable girls in their thin white gowns were soaked through, corsets ribbons and legs outlined in great scandalous detail. A young lord tripped over his own foot when he turned and saw through Emma’s wet dress. Penelope shifted to cover her, glowering at him so fiercely he hid behind a tree.
Gretchen tilted her head as chaos continued to boil around them. “Daphne is playacting,” she said dismissively. “And not very well, I might add. Who faints in such a comfortable position? Not to mention she ought to have toppled right into those rosebushes if gravity was at all involved.” She sighed. “And that footman is barely strong enough to hold that kind of bucket. He’s doing it all wrong.” She thrust the wet dog at Penelope. “Here, take the teacake, would you?” She dashed away toward the struggling footman. “Lift with your knees, not your back, muttonhead!”
Emma watched her go, resigned. Gretchen would now classify this as the best ball they’d ever attended since she’d avoided the actual social gathering in favor of hauling buckets of water and battling a fire. In the rain, no less. Gretchen loved the rain. Emma was rather less enamoured of it. She pushed her soggy hair out of her face where it clung uncomfortably to her forehead. At least it would help stop the fire from spreading. Already it seemed less virulent, its burning jagged teeth easing from bite to nibble.
“I suppose we ought to help,” Penelope said dubiously. She spotted Mr. Cohen cowering under the cover of an elm tree. “That tears it,” she muttered. “Let’s, shall we?”
Emma followed her gaze. “I thought you liked him.”
Penelope glanced away, her cheeks red as berries. “Not anymore.”
She scowled. “What did he do?”
“Nothing. It’s not important.”
“Penelope. I’m wet and cold and perfectly willing to shove him into the shrubbery.”
“He called me fat.”
Emma hissed out a breath. “I beg your pardon.”
“It’s nothing, really.” She forced her voice not to wobble. “He embarrassed me, is all.”
“Think how embarrassed he’ll be when I wrap his smalls around his fat head.”
Penelope, feeling decidedly more cheerful, had to drag Emma toward the burning house, where they stood uncertainly at the edge of a line of shouting men. Someone broke the window from inside the ballroom, glass cracking into the hollyhocks. Smoldering drapes followed, coiling like a smoke-breathing serpent.
“Why does Emma look like she’s swallowed a bee?” Gretchen asked when her cousins pushed their way toward her.
“Mr. Cohen called Penelope fat and crazy,” Emma replied.
Gretchen’s smiled died. “Did he, now?”
Penelope now felt perfectly vindicated and couldn’t quite recall why she’d let Mr. Cohen hurt her feelings in the first place. “It’s nothing.”
“I hope he wakes up swollen like a balloon,” Gretchen muttered.
While her cousins stewed and plotted painful vengeance involving Mr. Cohen swelling to such proportions that all the buttons popped off his evening wear and he ended up naked in the ballroom, Penelope couldn’t help but admire the parade of half-dressed men under a flash of lightning. “Well, now,” she grinned appreciatively, wounded pride utterly erased. “There should be more fires, don’t you think?”
“What?” The sight of Cormac in his shirtsleeves, the wet fabric clinging to his muscles was particularly distracting. Emma felt compelled to stare, as if under some sort of spell. She blinked rain out of her eyelashes when Cormac went blurry. She had to remind herself that she’d sworn to hate him. She turned her attention back to the buckets sloshing from hand to hand, until her fingers cramped. Smoke stung her eyes and seared her throat.
“And I had no idea Tobias was so well-muscled, did you?” When the rain faded to a patter in the leaves, Penelope pouted. “Drat. What a shame. If we’re not all going to die horribly in flames, I’d rather like to see more shirtsleeves.”
Book #1 in the Lovegrove Legacy seriesIn 1814, three cousins—Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope—discover their unknown family lineage of witchcraft when their individual magical powers unexpectedly begin to manifest. Now, beyond the familiar manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, a dangerous, alluring underworld available only to those with power is now open to thecousins.But by claiming their power, the three cousins have accidentally opened the gates to the Underworld. Now ghouls, hellhounds—and most terrifying of all, the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters—are hunting and killing young witches for their powers. And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders … because she keeps finding the bodies. Can the cousins seal the gates before another witch is killed …or even worse, before their gifts are stripped away?
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