Winning Alexander

The Artist’s Song

Chapter 1

Easthaven, East Yorkshire, England, Winter 1810


A fist hammered against the painted wood of one 12 Park Row, Easthaven, punctuating the call. Alexander Fitz felt panic rise with the threat of bile as he beat harder on the doorway.

“Evan Huxley!”

 The door remained firmly closed. 

He reached for the bell pull and drew it four times. The chimes echoed from within the empty townhouse, and Alexander’s shoulders sank.

With both hands gripping his cane, the artist bowed forward, breathing heavily and fighting down tears. 

Damn it.

Alexander smacked his cane against the door. The blow landed hard enough for the recoil to send him stepping back onto his withered, right leg. 

A shock of pain ran up the limb like a hundred, small knives and dropped him hard on the pavement.

He was still on the stoop, rubbing the stabbing sensation from his leg when the door cracked open behind him. 

“You need to leave,” the woman said. 

She was older, with a pointed face and large, blue eyes like a doe. Her expression was not at all doe-like, however. She reminded him of an old barn cat. 

Not that he had ever met a feral cat as mean-natured as Evan Huxley’s housekeeper. 

She gripped the handle tighter, her knuckles turning white. “Now.”

The door began to close, and Alexander swept his cane back to wedge it into the opening. 

She nearly ripped the door from the hinges when she pulled it back harder to slam it.

A crack sounded from the cane. 

“Please,” Alexander said, his hand pressed against the wall of the house as he struggled to a stand. “Please, I need to talk to Evan Huxley. Please, where is he? May I leave a message? I can —”

“Master Huxley has left for business.”

“No, no, he can’t have left. He owes me — I have a sick child. Evan was to pay me for my work — for a doctor!”

“I don’t know anything about that. Master Huxley has left, and you’re trespassing. If you don’t move your cane, I’ll snap it and call the watch for my trouble.”

She kicked the cane out of her way, slamming the door with a resounding boom.

Alexander remained where he was, thumbing the damaged wood of his walking stick and trying to remain calm. Evan had either left, or he was hiding in the bloody house.

The painter’s hands shook.

Even if Evan was there, what could Alex do?


He could do nothing.

Dressed in a tattered tweed coat and ragged pants, Alexander Fitz looked all of the pauper that he was. Here, on the streets of Easthaven, he had the appearance of a stain on an otherwise quaint residential street. 

There would be no help for him here. No one to believe that Mr. Evan Huxley, nationally recognized artist, had once again stolen Alex’s paintings to display as his own.

Alexander should have known. It was the same now as it was when they were younger. Then, he had been willing to sacrifice his pride for the sake of a roof over his head and the illusion of a family.

But now he had Dudley.

Breathing in a shuddering inhale, the artist swept his hand through his dark curls and climbed slowly into an unsteady stand. 

It took a little over an hour for the man to make his way from the row of townhomes to the market street where he traded three pence for a loaf of bread, and back to the Rookery — the slums of Easthaven. 


Black grime greased the streets, and the odor of feces, piss, and tightly compacted bodies cloyed almost unbearably, but the artist was used to it. Alexander hobbled onward, carefully navigating through the blanket covered bodies of the city vagrants and between the sagging buildings, until he came upon a hinged basement hatch.

It might as well not have been there at all for the amount of holes in the wood and the ease with which Alexander and other squatters had broken into the abandoned building to claim a shelter. 

The crowds had begun to thin for the sickness that had claimed one of them. 

It was a wonder he and Dudley hadn’t been kicked out yet, but as Alex eased slowly down the creaking stairs, he could tell by the stares that their welcome was nearly worn out.

In silence, the man drifted toward the clump of blankets where Dudley laid, and spared a look into the rusted chamberpot that had been collecting vomit and bile. 

The contents were almost empty today.

“Hey, Duds,” Alex greeted, forcing the cheer into his voice despite the worry twisting at him. “I have some bread here, aye? Buttered and all. You going to eat it with me?” 

A sweat dampened matte of brown hair was the first thing to appear over the blanket, before hollowed, brown eyes peered incredulously up at Alexander through the darkness. Dudley, for all that he was near eleven, was small for his age and weak despite the spirit flashing in his eyes. 

“You’re a damn liar, Alex. You ain’t got nothin’ buttered.”

“Good to know your nose is working,” the artist said, and slowly lowered himself to a crouch, then sit, upon the blankets and papers that made up Dudley’s bed. He pulled the bread from his pocket, reaching for a nearby bucket of water to draw nearer. Water sloshed over the rim and onto the blankets.

He cracked the bread apart and dipped a hunk into the liquid to soak it before offering the piece to the boy. “You know you have to drink, Duds.”

Dudley’s nose wrinkled slightly before a thin arm emerged from beneath the blanket that covered him to drag across his nose with a sniff.

“Dunno why you’re worried. I’m not dyin’ or anythin.” A hint of the boy’s willful personality sparked, even as his voice cracked on the words. 

Alex patted a hand through the boy’s hair. “If you don’t eat or drink, you might.”

“Eatin’s wot got me in this bleedin’ way to begin with,” Dudley said balefully. 

“Come on Duds. Eat the bread.”

With a dramatic sigh, the boy reached for the painter’s offering in the gloom. His teeth flashed white and silence reigned for a few moments as he chewed. 

“Did you eat?” Dudley asked around a mouthful.

“Oh, aye. A pot roast, buttered potatoes, and greens. Some custard.”

“You’re a bastard. A lying bastard.”

Alex laughed and crossed his arms around his knee. “I ate on the way home. It’s a long enough walk without something to fill the time with.”

That was a lie too, but one that appeased the younger boy. They kept quiet company, and Alexander made sure Dudley drank two ladles of water — water that Dudley promptly tossed up, along with the bread, into the chamberpot.

Alex made him drink more and tucked him in despite Dudley’s protests. 

When the boy finally found a fitful rest, the painter settled in alongside him, wiping away the youth’s fevered sweat with a damp kerchief. 

Evan Huxley’s patronage had been Alexander’s last chance.

But it did not have to be Dudley’s — if he survived his illness.

With a sick feeling rising in the painter’s stomach, he nosed a kiss into Dudley’s hair and tried not to think of what that would mean for them both.

Chapter 2

Dudley never quite recovered. He kept food down and drank water, but he seemed tired and sickly — even after the fever broke.

Alexander had already decided what would have to be done. He scrounged up what coin he could by begging and hustling and bought himself an ill-fitting coat and a pair of trousers from a drunk lying in front of the Baron’s Arms. 

The clothes did not fit his long arms and legs, and though he looked like a harvestman attempting to impersonate a human, it suited his needs. 

He went door to door to the row houses in the northern part of Easthaven, and then to the manors that dotted the countryside to the east of town. He spoke as well as any of the gentry, presenting himself as a well-intentioned and eccentric collector of Evan Huxley’s works. 

Thievery could go both ways, and Evan owed far more than the use of his name. Even if the only things Alexander had to sell was a bundle of charcoal sketches and what remained of his color studies. 

It took days of knocking and smiling, feeling the hunger hollow out his stomach as he used the last of his money to bring dinner home to Dudley, before someone — some blond earl named Lord Redmond — felt the call to be charitable and offered ten pounds for his entire collection.

Alexander only noticed after he had been invited into the earl’s study for the man to count out the money that the blond earl had a particular, perfect beauty to him.

The beauty of an Immortal. 

A tick. 

The earl’s kind had long haunted the Rookery, making meals of the homeless. But for ten pounds, Alexander found himself willing to risk his neck — even if he found the intensity of the tick’s stare to be unnerving.

Unbitten and richer by the end of the transaction, the painter collected his bill of sale and money and hobbled out of the estate as quickly as he could manage.

Chapter 3

In the weeks that followed, Alexander and Dudley ate better.

As winter thawed into a wet spring, the boy regained some color in his cheeks, and the sprightliness returned to his step. Dudley was nearly himself again — if still easy to tire. 

It made it all the harder for Alexander to do what needed to be done.

When the day came that the two loaded onto a mail coach, the boy was perplexed and suspicious of Alexander’s evasiveness, but they had fun.

Fun playing cards. 

Fun reading the magazines and fliers they snuck out of mailbags.

Fun talking. 

Fun until Dudley had dozed off, and Alexander stared out the window until they trundled into the town of Hotham.

If it had been in his power to carry the sleeping boy, Alexander would not have woken him at all. 

It would have been easier.

As it was, he nudged Dudley awake, and together, they made their slow way into the town proper. Hotham was smaller than Easthaven by leagues, but prosperous, with a flourishing economy of craftsmen and retailers. They passed by storefronts, with Alexander asking what each sign said, and Dudley grumbling that he wasn’t awake enough for that shite.

They came upon the cordwain’s store, and the spirit fled the painter, despite the smile he kept in place. 

“And this one?” he asked cheerily.


“Good. That’s a shoemaker. Folks will always need shoes.

“You need ’em or somethin’?” Dudley’s eyebrows bunched together, before a slow knowing dawned on his expression. 

Alexander watched the tension make its way up the boy’s back and tried to smile. 

“I figured you might learn to make a pair or two. Keep us out of the poorhouse.”

Dudley kept a wary look leveled on the painter’s face. “Oh aye, you figured… same’s you’ve figured what trade you’ll be takin’ up here to help too, right?”

“It’s a nice town — small. Not so easy to get sick for being bunched together like we were in Easthaven.”

“So we’re stayin?”

“I haven’t got the money for us both, Duds —”

“I don’t care about no bleedin’ money, Alex. You’re not gon’ jus run off an’ leave me here’n this rubbish town! Sides, who’s gonna look after you when your leg hurts? I’m sorry I got sick, all right? I’ll watch better what I eat.”

Alexander stayed quiet, and he could not find it in himself to smile anymore. He wanted to reach out, to gather Dudley into a hug. He wanted to leave. Leave with the boy or without.


“Dudley,” the painter said, and spoke low like he did those times he had to act like a father, more than the brother he had become to the youth. Dudley hated it, but it did the trick for quieting him.

“Listen,” he continued, “I’m not blaming you for getting sick. I just… can’t lose you. You’re the most important person in the world to me. I won’t leave you here forever. This is a nice family. There’s a mum and a pa, and a girl a little older than you. But the pa wants a boy to teach, and he’ll feed you and keep a roof over your head.”

It was only a half-truth, and more of a lie than Alexander dared ever admit, even to himself. He’d secured Dudley a roof over his head, a family, and a trade, and the price had been the last five pounds he’d had leftover from his earnings and the promise of a monthly allowance for Dudley’s keep.

There would be no returning to collect him until the painter had the means to offer the same — and there was little hope for that. But the family was nice. Kind. The sort of family that Alexander had coveted, and the sort of providers he could never be.

Dudley’s lips parted as if he intended to speak again, and Alexander shook his head. 

“I said it won’t be forever. There was a fellow who paid me ten pounds for some sketches. It isn’t enough for a house or to last us forever, but I think if I can make some more, I can get us a place. Save up, and then I’ll be right back for you.” 

 “That’s about what me ma said. An’ see how that sorted itself,” Dudley said flatly, but the fight was gone from his voice. 

“Your ma passed, Duds. There isn’t anyone who could know you who’d want to leave you. I’m still living. I picked you for my family. This is just for a tick until we’re on our feet.”

Dudley swiped the back of his wrist across his nose and didn’t bother to hide the hard sniff that escaped. “G’on with you then, if you’re leavin.’”

Alexander reached out to hold Dudley in a tight, one-armed embrace. “I love you, Duds.”

“You sound like a Molly,” the boy said on a sniff. “You’re the best friend a fella could have, Alex — an’ I guess I love you too.”

“You’re the one crying,” Alexander teased; though he felt his throat tighten around the words. He would cry without a shred of shame to speak of if they remained much longer. “But that’s all right. It’s sad, and you can cry about it. I will tonight.”

“That’s just cause you’ve got a lot of feelin’s.”

“If I had as much money as I have feelings, we’d be kings.” 

The artist laughed, more for Dudley’s sake than his own, before he nudged his head toward the door. “I’m not just going to leave without meeting them face to face, aye? And maybe they’ll be nice enough to feed us both. C’mon. We’ll go in together.”

Chapter 4

Easthaven, May 1811

Two months spent alone had done little to bolster Alexander’s savings, but he had expected as much. He sent what money he could — always at least a pound — to the cordwain and his family. More often than the money, but less often than Alexander would have liked, he sent letters to Dudley on the backs of stolen fliers and newspapers.

There was always a stack of mail waiting at the Baron’s Arms pub from Dudley.

According to Dudley, he hated making shoes, but he had sent a parcel with a pair that he made for Alex. 

The painter knew the boy was proud.

Hungry and homeless, Alexander spent the warming days of spring in Easthaven’s gardens to sketch the scenery and portraits of the gentry folk kind enough to pay him. When he had the extra money, he crushed his own pigments and bought linseed oil to make paints.

He made his brushes from his hair and sticks and kept his scraps of canvases small, but the paintings always sold for decent coin. He could earn a crown on a good day, and where Alexander stood, scuffing paint onto his latest landscape in the afternoon sunshine, he suspected it would be a good day.

The weather was warm and well-dressed ladies and gentlemen crowded the gardens, pausing to admire his painting and sometimes leaving a few farthings in the cap on the ground alongside Alexander’s withered leg.

It was hard work to stand for as many hours as he did during the day, and by the time he had finished his landscape of the duck pond, he could feel his leg shaking. Still, he pulled out his papers and sketched with charcoal until the sun began to creep lower.

“You have a good deal of skill,” a man’s voice behind the artist said.

There was something familiar about it — familiar enough to prickle the hair on the back of Alexander’s neck.

The painter smiled all the same, speaking toward his sketches, “Yes, sir. It’s all practice. Everything you see is for sale, if you’re of a mind to take something home. I’ve a painting just here that I’ll sell you for a pound.”

“I’ve paid more for your sketches in the past.”

Alexander did not even look over his shoulder, despite the stiffness that overtook his back and the ache in his leg. It was not as if he could run.

The tick.

“You mean Mr. Evan Huxley’s sketches, m’lord,” the artist said, “and it was generous of you. Paid for a young lad to pick up a trade.”

A shadow fell over Alexander’s shoulder.

The painter was tall — almost awkwardly so — but then, the earl had been as well. 

Lord Redmond’s pale hand reached out, gathering the sketches from Alexander’s easel.

 “Yours,” the earl insisted and sounded amused. “Your brushes are made of sticks.”

“Aye, well, as I said, the money paid for a homeless lad to take up a trade. It was mighty charitable of you. I’m just keeping the roof over his head, m’lord, anything extra’s been keeping me from starving.”

“You have new shoes.”

Alexander was trying not to be disturbed that the tick remembered him so well. He could not fathom that in Lord Redmond’s wealth he was the sort of Immortal that prowled the Rookery at night. 

The ticks who haunted the slums usually dressed as poorly as their prey. 

“Another reason to be thankful to you, m’lord. Shoemaking is the trade the boy is into.”

“Are you well, Alexander?”

“I might be better if we’re to be on with our business, sir. Or if we aren’t, to get back to my work.”

The tick quieted at Alexander’s back for long enough that the painter turned a glance toward the earl.

He was as perfect in appearance as he had been the day he had met Alex, but the painter had learned a trick with the ticks and their ilk.

If one found a flaw, a freckle or a mole or a scar they sometimes had, their human face could be mapped out. Lord Redmond had a few barely there freckles, faded across the paleness of his nose, and Alexander traced a path to a wide, prominent brow near his eyes — an Irishman’s eyes.

Eyes that Alexander knew better than to meet. The moment a mortal did, the glamour fell over the ticks again, and they were as pretty and flawless as if you were taking in the entire picture at once. Even so, he found Lord Redmond beautiful and well-formed; the likes of which no Englishman of the age was. 

And staring at him again with that odd intensity that made a shiver run down Alexander’s back.

“If I can be of any help, m’lord,” the painter began warily. 

“Yes, in fact. My youngest son is in need of a brother —”

“I’m not interested in being a ti — an Immortal, m’lord. If you’ll pardon me.”

Lord Redmond fell quiet and solemn, and for a moment, Alexander prayed to God that if he needed to run, he could — just once. 

He’d never ask God to let him run again.

Then, to his surprise, the earl laughed. A hard laugh that sounded out of practice, but a laugh nonetheless.

“From the Rookery then?” The earl’s expression was lit with amusement.


“I do not take my meals from the Rookery — nor does my family.”

“Aye, you’re dressed on the nicer side for such fare as me.”

“Yes, and the Rookery belongs to a rival House. The sickness there is not good for our health.” Lord Redmond tilted his head, a slow study passing over Alexander before he met the painter’s eyes again. “Or for yours. Perhaps you are not interested in being Immortal, but I knew when I first saw you that I would offer you forever if we met again, Alexander.”

Alexander felt his heart hammering in his chest. This tick smelled of old parchment; a rarity among the Immortals the painter had seen in the Rookery. It meant he was old. Old and well-dressed, and rich enough to give him ten pounds for a few sketches.


“Forever, and a family, and all the comforts I can provide,” the earl continued. “A studio, if you wish. Paint brushes not made from sticks —” 

“An allowance. Sixty pounds a year and no less.”

The words were out of Alexander’s mouth before he could control them, and Lord Redmond was watching him with amusement once again; his lips curved in a smirk.

“Are you asking that I pay you for life everlasting?”

“I can get that at the cathedral for free, m’lord. If you want me for one of yours and a brother to your son, it’s sixty pounds.” 


It would mean never going back to collect the boy, but Alexander had known in his heart that would be the case. He would never have enough to make them a home.

Dudley was enjoying his new family, and with sixty pounds in hand, Alexander could send five pounds a month. It would make all the difference in the world to the cordwain. 

To Dudley.

The earl lifted his shoulders and breathed another laugh. “If it will cost me money, then the least we can do is to be sure your brother will get along with you. No doubt I can find cheaper.”

“No doubt,” Alexander murmured, but he did not feel as panicked as he thought he might. The hammering in his chest felt more like the thrum of excitement.

So long as he did not let himself linger on the thought that being tick meant drinking blood.

Fortunately, the earl was telling him to pack his belongings up, and speaking tenderly of the brother and family that awaited Alex, if he was up to par.

For Dudley’s sake, he rather hoped he was.

Chapter 5

The Earl of Rosse, Lord Lian Redmond, did not take Alexander back to the manor where they had first met. Instead, the Immortal’s well-lacquered carriage, with its smooth wheels and scent of parchment, took them to an estate that was nearer to Easthaven.

Alexander remembered this manor too. It was brick and bespoke a gothic style that was out of fashion, with the wildness of greenery covering its walls.

The butler who had answered the door for Alexander when the painter was trying to sell his sketches had not been interested in his offerings then.

He didn’t seem to recognize Alex at all when he opened the door this time, but the look he spared toward the cane seemed to be enough to jog his memory. 

Politely, the butler bowed and showed them into a sitting room. The curtains were drawn and the gold and green furnishings were so nice that Alexander hesitated to sit on them — until a woman’s voice bade him to do so.

Two ticks. Immortals. Two Immortals arrived, and in the gloom it was difficult to map out their faces. 

The darkness aided their glamours too. 

The woman, Lady Joanna Vaughn, was fair-skinned and fair-haired, spoke with a French accent, and sat farthest from the fireplace. Her husband, Lord Dorian Vaughn, was of a darker complexion and an affable smile that was an almost brilliant white in contrast to his olive-skin. He had an accent too, though Alexander could hardly place it, and it was only barely hanging onto the edges of the man’s speech.

Their host smelled of parchment too, so who could tell how old he actually was?

The Vaughns were pleasant company, and quick to laugh when Lord Redmond informed them of Alexander’s price. They were also interested in his sketches and listened with curious fascination as Alex told them of his trick for seeing past their glamour.

All before Lord Redmond told the artist that he would be staying with the pair during his transition. 

There was no wondering after that why they were so interested in becoming acquainted with a gangly vagrant in clothes that were too short to fit his limbs. 

The artist thumbed the hem of his sleeves, pulling at them; though no amount of effort would make his jacket fit.

“John is still sleeping a fair amount, then?” Lian Redmond said, glancing at the clock.

“A little less than he was,” Lord Dorian said.

“John has been up with the moonrise. He beds down when we do and sleeps through the day,” the lady added. “Most nights, he joins our hunts.”

The earl looked back at Alexander and patted him on the shoulder. “Then you’ve a few hours yet before your brother comes downstairs. William can show you to your room to rest. You will grow accustomed to a night schedule.”

It served for a dismissal, but Joanna promised to have supper sent up after him, and Alex was pleased to leave them to their own company after that.

Chapter 6

The butler, William, arrived sometime later with a roasted chicken sandwich between two thick slices of toasted bread and tea. The former smelled of butter, and despite the hunger that gnawed at him, Alexander nearly felt his appetite leave him.


He forced himself to settle in to wait until the sun set. The lady of the house came to fetch him, bringing drawing paper, a smile, and the assurance that John would be downstairs soon, if Alex wanted to wait in the sitting room. 

He did, and she walked with him.

The waif of a woman was the one to carry his bag and art supplies, and for the strength Alexander knew she had, he tried not to feel badly for her burden.

Once she saw him seated, Lady Joanna seemed pleased to leave Alexander to his own devices. He waited until he heard her steps disappear down the hall before rolling up the leg of his pants to massage the ache from his bowed and withered muscles. 

They twitched beneath his fingers, and with a wince, the painter straightened, and occupied himself with examining his surroundings. By the warmth of an oil lamp, he began a few idle sketches of books and knick knacks that sat on a nearby table with the charcoal left in his pocket. All the while, his foot bounced; sending tremors of pain up his withered leg. 

He did not know how long he was alone before he heard the heavier footsteps of another approaching. 

A giant. 

Alexander was tall. Lian Redmond was tall. John was tall and broad, taking up the space of two men in the doorway. His perfection was almost Fae-like in its beauty, to the point that Alexander could not trace his way beyond the glamour.

The light caught John’s eyes at some angles, changing gray to a briefly glowing silver. 

Alex made himself smile. 

“Good evening,” he said, and lifted a coal dusted hand in a wave.

“Evening,” John replied. He was Alexander’s age — or at least looked it.

 The artist shifted, feeling the throb in his leg again. His smile wavered only briefly, before he forced it into place. “I’ve stood a little more today than I make a habit of, if you’ll pardon me not standing again, m’lord. Or John. Whichever you prefer.”

The giant’s lips twitched before curving into a dry smile that set the painter at ease. 

“John’ll do, and I suppose I’ll manage not to feel badly that I’ve not got the looks of a Lord.” The man’s smile widened to a flash of white teeth that revealed a hint of fang.

“You look lordly enough from where I’m sitting,” Alex offered. “I’m Alexander Fitz — at your service.” He paused, then breathed a laugh. “I met your pa. I don’t know that he could decide whether to… ah… eat me or laugh when I knew what he was.”

“Lian’s not one for laughing much — so I reckon you got lucky on that one.” The giant’s smile ticked again. “John Lewis. Lieutenant, once.” A shadow flickered across the perfection of the soldier’s features. “In another life. Pleasure to meet you, Alex.” 

John’s gaze passed over the artist with a more studious observation before he crossed the room to lower himself into a nearby armchair with a creak of its joints. 

“So you’re volunteering for this then —” he said, and Alexander could hear the curiosity in his voice. “Mind if I ask why? Besides… your allowance, of course.”

They’d told him about that, then.

Alexander scuffed his fingers through his hair and laughed. The sound deflated before it could escape, and the artist shrugged. 

“No, just the allowance.” 

John barked a laugh of his own. “It’s not just the allowance — but we’ve all got our secrets here.”

The painter debated leaving it a secret, but… 

They were to be brothers. He’d only had one of those before, nearer to his age, and he would not have another like bloody Evan Huxley. 

If he was trading Dudley for John Lewis, then he would make the effort to start off on the right foot. 

Or the left, as it were.

“I’ve a boy I took care of who got sick this past winter,” Alex offered. “I found a place for him, but they need money for his keep.”

The sharpness of John’s natural expression gentled somewhat, and he nodded.

“Forever feels longer than I’d want to live with otherwise,” the painter concluded.

 “There are worse reasons to consign yourself to the devil, I suppose — I can’t claim anything nearly so honorable for my own cause.” The soldier’s lips twisted again.

“Everyone has a different definition of honor anyway, aye? So long as we’re living well and doing well… and I suppose we’ve forever for that.”

“Forever doesn’t feel quite real yet,” John admitted. “Not that vampires did a few weeks ago.”

Alex glanced down to his sketches. “You aren’t from Easthaven, are you? You have an accent.”

John leaned back in the seat and shook his head. “York. I suppose it’ll be easier for being unknown in these parts… all this.” A vague gesture indicated the gloom of the room, his current state and the future that loomed ahead of the artist.

“I’m from here. You heard of the London Rookery?”


“We’ve our own here. Utter shitehole and crammed with vampires. We call ‘em ticks or fleas there — but they’re Immortals. We always joked how stupid the gentry could be for having ticks running around at their parties, but… People don’t really notice as much as you’d think.”

“It helps,” Lord Redmond’s voice interrupted from the doorway, “when we can make mortals believe what we wish.” His blue eyes shifted to John and his expression grew tender.

John’s gaze was more silver than gray as he observed the Lord.

“You believe Alexander will suit?” The Immortal asked. “It is not too late to eat him instead.”

John smiled in answer to the jest, but it slipped away into the neutrality that seemed to be his more habitual expression. 

“Aye. We’ll suit… he’s got a heart worth an eternity — more than mine might be. I’d have him under my command — or for a brother, gladly.”

Lian Redmond smiled and there was the gentleness there again that Alexander could recognize for how he felt when he looked at Dudley. 

“I do not choose those I find unworthy,” the blond Lord said, and then glanced back at Alex with a firmer expression. “I am pleased you will get along. You will live here for a few months, yet. John will join Dorian and Joanna tonight, Alexander. We will begin your transition when they have left.”

“Thank… you, m’lord. And the allowance —”

“I give my children three hundred pounds a year. You will not be lacking in more than your skills of negotiation.”


“Indeed. When you are ready, Alexander.”

The artist spared a look John’s way, and the once-lieutenant offered a nod that was reassuring. It was enough for Alexander to make his way to his feet and follow after the earl.

Into Eternity.