May 01, 1859
“So three months and no word from that Duke bloke?”
Annealicia puffed her pipe on the portico of Rosemarie’s stately abode. As always, Annie had propped her feet anywhere that wasn’t ground – in this case, the porch’s stone rail. She tipped back in her chair to catch the spring sun on her face.
“What duke, who now?” Rosemarie sat properly at the table nibbling a cucumber sandwich. “Oh! The wolfman! Do tell!”
“Marked. And no.” I grumbled into my books and notes, snatching a page the breeze tried to steal. I shoved it under my Compendium of London Othernaturals.
Annie snorted. “What does that even mean, Marked? Have they inked their skin or some such? Because werewolf is really much more descriptive.”
“I’ve researched more since the clan repossessed Patricia Dalton’s journal.” I marked my place and looked up. “Most of the clan are kin, not werewolves. Keepers are special kin, assigned to help their charges with control. The ‘Marked’ are so called because they carry some sign of their otherly nature in their human form.”
“Like what?” Rosie put her teacup down and leaned in to skim my notes. “Oh my goodness, what a hirsute gentlemen. Is that a proper sketch of someone in particular?”
“Yes. This man’s mark is his abundance of bodily hair, even as a human.”
“Huh.” Annealicia puffed on her pipe and sipped her brandy. Never tea for Annie. “And your Duke looked like he was wearing badgers all over?”
“He’s not my Duke. No, marks vary from wolf to wolf. Not all of them are visible. For instance, I’m sincerely hoping Duke’s is his sense of smell. If they’re all that sensitive, I fear my indecent desires are on olfactory display for complete strangers.”
We sat in silence for a moment, enjoying the long-awaited fine spring day. A small hare hopped across the lawn from the rose bushes to the reflecting pool.
“Don’t you think it’s odd that Mrs. Dalton wrote such intimate details in her Keeper’s journal?” Rosemarie mused into the calm afternoon. “She had to know it would go into the clan library as all others have. Surely they aren’t all expected to document such titillating confidences.”
“If they are, I’ll bite my arm off to sneak into that restricted section myself, M.” Annealicia tipped up the last of her brandy.
“Cool your valves, strumpet.” I shared a commiserating glance with Rosemarie. “Mrs. Dalton was thorough with her journal because bonds were her area of interest. Keeper/Marked bonds and mate bonds.” I smirked. “And apparently her commitment to research overcame any concept of personal privacy.”
“Too bad you couldn’t hold onto that thing.” Annie sighed her regret.
“Duke?” Rosemarie asked pertly over the rim of her cup.
“I’m just glad I’ve been left to my own since the clan recovered the volume.”
“Surely you are.” Annie scoffed while Rosemarie hooted with laughter. “I don’t need othernatural olfactory skills to smell that lie.”