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The Vanishing Viscount ~ The Witches' Ball multi-author series ~ Book 1


Lady Clara Westcott fell in love with Pierce Drakos, Viscount Harcourt, at the age of fifteen. That is also when everything went wrong—at least magically. When she encounters him again in London, Clara quickly realizes that she might very well be a danger to Harcourt and vows to keep her distance.


Pierce had considered Lady Clara sweet and pretty at fifteen but by eighteen, she had matured in a most delectable manner. However, every time he wished to draw near, she disappeared. Now that she would be visiting his family’s estate and attending his mother’s Witches’ Ball, he vowed to learn why she avoided him. What he hadn’t counted on was him being the one who now vanished.





Chapter One


Blackthorn Park, Surrey, England ~ October, 1814


Lady Clara Westcott fell in love with Pierce Drakos, Viscount Harcourt, at the age of fifteen. He was five years older and barely noticed her.

Complicating matters further, he was a close friend to her brother, Reese. Harcourt and his cousin, Viscount Chedworth, also present, were among the few friends that were allowed to visit for any extended period. The reason—each member of Clara’s family was a witch. Neither Harcourt nor Chedworth were. However, the females in their families were witches, therefore, if anything magical were to happen in their presence, they would not be alarmed. The same could not be said for the rest of Society or most of the friends the three gentlemen had made while attending school.

That first sennight of their visit was quite pleasant as she had been able to quietly observe Harcourt, listen to him speak, and enjoy his laughter. He was very handsome with warm brown eyes and dark hair, and each time he was near, her heart gave a little skip and butterflies took flight in her stomach. Not that he noticed her as Clara was too timid to speak in his presence, but she had certainly noticed him.

That summer of 1807 had been so lovely—until it wasn't.

Clara still wasn't certain how everything had gone wrong on that July day, but it had.

It had been uncommonly warm, and she had been strolling around the lake on her way to the gazebo. It had been her intention to read within as it was sheltered under a canopy of trees, shielded from the sun, and always offered a slight breeze. She was just nearing the footbridge over the narrowest part of the water when she noted a pile of clothing. It took only a moment to realize that they belonged to gentlemen and quickly assumed that her brother, Harcourt, and Chedworth had decided to take a swim. She would have loved to slip into the cool water as well, but that would have been improper. Her brother, however, had no difficulty stripping down in the middle of the day where anyone could come upon him.

That was when she saw Harcourt break the surface after being under the water. His black, wet hair dripped onto his naked shoulders.

Clara sucked in a breath as a wave of warmth rushed over her body that had nothing to do with the heat of the day.

Goodness, she should not be looking, but Clara could not tear her eyes away.

He then lifted his arms over his head, flattened his palms together, then dove under the water and offered her the quickest glimpse of his pale backside. She’d not expected it to be so firm, nearly sculpted.

Clara had quickly looked away out of fear that she might witness Chedworth, or worse, her brother, in a similar state of undress and that was something she never wanted to see. However, viewing Harcourt was not at all disturbing. If she could be assured that she’d not be caught, Clara would have kept watching.

Didn’t they realize that anyone could come across them? Female servants passed this way several times a day.

“They should not be here,” she whispered.

In a blink, the clothing was gone.

“Oh, dear!” She should have been more specific. Clara meant that her brother and his friends should not be where anyone could see, not the clothing, and she certainly didn’t mean for anything to disappear. But seeing Harcourt’s bare backside and naked shoulders had the oddest effect on her person, leaving her a little more flustered than usual.

“Bring them back.”

The clothing did not reappear.

Her heart started to pound, and she quickly glanced to the water in time to see Harcourt once again emerge. This time she got a lovely glimpse of his chest before he turned away. Thankfully he did not notice Clara because she didn’t know what she’d do if he saw her.

“Bring them back,” she said with a little more force.

Her hands shook and her pulse raced. Clara closed her eyes and took a deep breath trying to calm herself. She knew better than anyone that the more flustered she became, the less predictable her magic. Though mistakes such as this had not happened for nearly three years.

She blew out a long steadying breath. “Bring them back.”

Nothing! When her brother called to Harcourt that they should go for a ride, Clara thought her heart was going to leap out of her chest.

“Bring them back.”

Nothing.

Harcourt was now swimming toward her. Her brother then swam out from under the branches of a willow tree and there was nothing she could do.

Concentrating on her words and to whom her magic was directed, she said, “Send them to their chambers.” An instant later both Harcourt and her brother were gone.

When she heard laughter, Clara slowly turned, afraid of what she might find and was only somewhat relieved that it was only Chedworth who stood fully clothed on the narrow bridge.

The heat of embarrassment swept through her body again and Clara wished the ground would just swallow her whole.

Chedworth was still chuckling as he crossed the remainder of the footbridge and approached.

“How much did you see?” she asked hesitantly, afraid of his answer.

“That it is likely you saw my cousin’s backside, then your magic did not go as you planned.”

She should just make herself disappear and not return until their guests were gone.

“Where are they now?” he asked.

“If I did not err, they are now in their chambers.”

He nodded and chuckled again.

“Please, do not say anything.”

“I am certain that the two noticed that they were swimming one moment and in the next standing quite naked in their chamber.”

Yes, well, that could not be helped, and it wasn’t what she meant. “Do not let on that I may have seen something that I should not have.” She would simply die if Harcourt ever learned that she had briefly glimpsed his bum. Though, it was his fault for being naked in the lake in the first place.

“I promise that I will hold your confidence.”

Clara had wanted to trust that Chedworth would do just that, but at the time she had not known him all that well. He had laughed at her and there was a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. Her brother often had the same look when he teased her and Clara feared that when next alone with his friends, Chedworth would tell them everything that had happened today.

If that had been the only incident during Harcourt’s visit perhaps all would have been forgotten, but it wasn’t. Because she had feared that Chedworth would not keep his promise, Clara had been so nervous and afraid of making another magical mistake in Harcourt’s presence, it seemed that was all she did. There was the incident of the bridge disappearing just as he was crossing it. She’d been on a stroll when she noted recently pulled weeds littering the ground beside a flower bed and no gardener in sight. As she muttered, “That must go,” she unfortunately glanced over to the bridge, and her heart skipped at seeing Harcourt crossing it. Harcourt didn’t disappear, but the bridge did, and he ended up in the pond again—sadly fully clothed. The weeds remained where they were.

Then she accidentally made the table disappear as they were taking tea and an entire plate of frosted cakes ended up in his lap, ruining his trousers.

Later, while enjoying the evening after a filling meal, she asked if drinking enough brandy could help a person, meaning Harcourt, forget unpleasant inconveniences. This resulted in his glass overflowing and ruining his Hessian boots.

Only Chedworth seemed to delight when these mishaps occurred.

There were more instances during their visit she wished that she could forget and was just as certain that Harcourt had not.

Harcourt never did visit their home again, and Clara suspected that he was probably too afraid of her, not that she could blame him.

Three years later she saw him once again—at the beginning of her very first Season, and in the absolute worst place—while waiting to be presented to the queen.

Clara had been waiting with her parents and Reese when Lady Petra Drakos entered along with her parents. She had met Petra previously as their mothers were friends, and the two were becoming close.

Then Harcourt joined his family. Clara’s heart gave a little skip and butterflies erupted in her belly. He’d matured in the three years since she’d seen him, and her infatuation had not dimmed.

As he was standing in front of her, and because Clara could not help herself, she glanced at his bum, recalling how it had appeared in the lake. Then the most improper thought had filled her head, that if only his breeches would tear, she might have a chance to glimpse his chiseled backside again.

She truly hadn’t meant for anything to happen, but when Harcourt leaned over to speak to Reese, they all heard the unmistakable tearing of a seam.

Her face heated, but she held her tongue as Harcourt quietly excused himself.

She never, ever told anyone that her improper thought was the reason for his departure. That incident had also been the first time her magic had misfired since he had visited her home. Clara tried to convince herself that it was simply a coincidence. However, in the weeks that followed, it became apparent that when Harcourt was near, mistakes occurred, such as that blasted cat that had hissed, the cravat that would not remain tied…there were so many occurrences that had not been intentional. Further, they only affected Harcourt and never anyone else.

For those reasons, Clara did everything she could to avoid being near Harcourt for the next four years out of fear of what might happen and wishing that her heart would stop doing that little skip and that the butterflies in her belly would remain cocooned whenever she saw him.

Now, her mother had received an invitation to a ball being held at Nightshade Manor. It wasn’t that Clara was opposed to attending, but the hosts were Harcourt’s parents and no doubt he would be present.

If Clara could decline, she would, but her mother forbade her from doing so. Therefore, she must do her best to avoid him whenever possible, as she had done in London.


Available for Preorder and out on 8/22/23

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