My guardian had always thought me ignorant of the goings on in his house.
A vapid girl, alone in the world, who never noticed the dark robed men arriving in the dead of night. Or one who never wondered at the hints of sage and frankincense that drifted through the passages of his London town house in the early mornings. I knew, had known for quite some years that Henry Bellasis, Viscount Fauconberg was a warlock. And that he now planned to draw me into his world by offering my virginity to a stranger.
I wrapped my fingers around the great brass key, the pitted metal warming against my skin as I stood in the shadowed passage that led to the cellar door. The place where my guardian had bound his great secret.
Rumours from the footmen over the past week had run that Henry kept a dragon in the arched rooms that also housed his collection of metal automata. A great beast that steamed and groaned and licked fire into cook’s little parlour when the wind blew north.
The maids shared darker stories as they made the beds or took a pan and brush to the ashes in the hearths. The dragon bound in the cellar did more than steam and groan. One maid had blushed scarlet and admitted in a rushed whisper that her dreams were full of a great, dark beast. A wicked beast…with a wicked mouth.
Not that I believed their tales. My guardian set himself as a collector, an inventor, or that was the face he liked to present to the Fellows of the Royal Society. Those in his inner circle knew better. I knew better. There was no dragon in the cellar. There was something…darker.