England, 1816 (Part one)

Leisha gave a discreet glance at the clock on the mantle. It was nearing midnight, and she would soon be giving her excuses to the Baron.

Looking up at him, she could see why Ptah had wanted her to investigate him. Baron Laurence Chadwick was indeed handsome, with aristocratic features, a thick head of dark hair and a tall frame. He also knew how to manipulate his way through social settings. Leisha had been sent to play the part of a rich widow and enter his circle to see if he would be a suitable recruit for the vampires. Leisha was relieved to discover that he was not. After one meeting with him and she could not stand being around him.

Trying to pretend interest in his courtship for the last month had left her feeling irritable. Luckily, Leisha had just discovered that the Baron was hiding a mountain of debt and would not be able to contribute financially to Ptah. This was the last night she had to endure the Baron’s presence, and then she would be free of his narcissistic companionship.

“Don’t you agree, my dear?”

Bringing herself back to the conversation, she blinked. “Sorry?”

Annoyance flashed in his brown eyes before it was quickly masked. “I was just listing off the ways in which you and I are compatible.” He walked over and sat next to her on the settee. “Shall I again compliment you on your many talents, your beauty?” He trailed fingers down her back. “Are you going to make me confess what you do to me… again?”

Stifling the urge to roll her eyes, she smiled coyly. “You flatter me Baron.”

His fingers settled over her lips. “I insist that you call me Laurie.” His smile was confident.

Pulling back, Leisha stood. “As I was saying, Baron, you flatter me. However, I have finally decided that I shall stay a widow and not remarry.”

The heat rising to his cheeks could have been embarrassment. After all, Leisha had been very direct, especially to an Englishman. However, she could tell by his pulse that he was angry. It looked as if he were trying to decide what to say, when he stopped and smiled sheepishly.

“Of course, darling. I cannot blame you for that.” He winked. “But you cannot blame me for trying to snag you either.” He made a perusal of her body in the finely tailored dress. “Any Englishman would want to try and get you into marriage.”

“You mean me or do you mean my ten thousand pounds a year?” She wanted to snicker when he clenched his jaw and gave her a false smile.

“Let us not discuss those dreary kind of things.” He stood and went to the decanter at the sideboard.

Watching him pour, she wondered why he didn’t ring for his butler to serve them. When she saw his hand shift lightly, she realized he was going to put something in her drink. A real smile crept on her lips for the first time that night. She would play his game, and give him the surprise of his life when she didn’t die.

Accepting the brandy from him, she took two large swallows.

The Baron’s smile was broad as he sipped at his own glass. “It is a shame you decided to deny me, dearest Felicity.” He walked closer until his face was directly in front of hers. “I have been lusting after your body almost as much as your fortune since we were introduced. For it to end tonight will be… tragic.”

Feeling free to deliver a scathing retort, she opened her mouth, only to gasp at a sudden pain the started in her chest and quickly traveled to her stomach. It was intense, like acid running through her system. Maybe that’s what he had given her. Shaking her head at the thought, she knew she would have tasted the acid as soon as it touched her lips. “What did you give me?” she mumbled.

He straitened with a look of satisfaction. “Quite simple, really. Glass crushed to a fine powder. The wench who sold it to me promised that it would work thoroughly on anyone.” He studied her. “I’m surprised it worked so quickly. I have to admit, I was planning for a bit more drama to ensue before we finished up.” He walked over to his desk and pulled a paper out of the top drawer. He held out the document for her to read. It was a marriage certificate, dated two days ago.

“Bastard,” was all she could get out before her body doubled over at the cramping coursing through her whole body. Leisha had never though t of ingesting glass. She wasn’t sure if her body could repair the damage quickly enough for her to not bleed to death.

“Genius, right?” He said pleasantly. “I have the document and three witnesses say that you and I married in secret just the other day. We have been so happy, but then tonight, you will disappear. I will wake in the morning to search for you, but to no avail. I will go to your solicitor to demand to know where you had your funds sent so that I can find you.” She felt his hand stroking her hair. “This will probably be one of my finest performances of all time.”

Violent shivering took her over and she couldn’t bring herself to speak, but she lifted her gaze to him and glared. Her eyes spoke of the murderous revenge she would have.

It seemed to affect him, because he paled slightly and licked his lips. “Well,” he whispered, “I was going to taste that body of yours, but you seem too put out. So I supposed I’ll have to save myself for a mistress to give me comfort, hm?” He bent and picked her up. He walked swiftly through the patio doors and into the gardens. It took no time to get to the spot he had previously arranged.

There was already an open grave at the base of an oak tree awaiting them. Unable to speak, Leisha screamed her fury and clawed his face. Just as blood sprang to the surface of his cheek, he dropped her with a girlish cry. She fell into the hole, driving the air from her lungs. Before she could recover, she felt pellets of dirt hitting her in the face.

“That will leave a scar, you bitch!” Laurence yelled.

Struggling past the dirt and pain, Leisha made herself stand. Laurence didn’t take well to that and swung his shovel at her head. Darkness engulfed her before she could even react…

Look for part two next Friday!