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The Viscount at Midnight (Magic & Mystery #3)


Lady Antonia Kerrigan could speak to animals, and they could speak to her. But nothing could have surprised her more than when she met a very charming wolf, especially since they were believed to be extinct in England. All he asked was for a temporary spell, to make him human for a day. Antonia had not agreed, yet that did not stop her from reviewing her great-grandmother’s spell book to see if it was even possible. Unfortunately, she read the wrong spell, but at least nobody was around who could have been harmed. 

When Philip Cardwell, Viscount Chedworth saw Lady Antonia sneak off near midnight, he followed. He wasn’t certain what he’d find, but it wasn’t her sitting in the magical garden reading from a book. As he came from a family of witches, he knew better than to ask, so left her in peace. However, when strange things began happening to his body each midnight, she was the first person he confronted.

Antonia had not even completed the spell, so how could Chedworth be affected? Of course, none of that mattered because if she did not find a way to reverse it by the next full moon…well, she did not even want to contemplate the repercussions. But one thing was certain, no doubt Chedworth would hate her, especially if she did not free him, and he was the only man she had ever loved.



Chapter One

 

Nightshade Manor, Bocka Morrow, Cornwall ~ six months later

 

Philip Cardwell, Viscount Chedworth, leaned back in the leather chair beside the fireplace and lifted his glass of brandy. "We survived, gentlemen."


The comment was addressed to his good friends Reese Westcott, Viscount Amcaster and Comte de Rohan, Cassian Jourdain.


“We realized we had survived twelve days ago,” Amcaster reminded him.


“Yes, but today the last of the guests, at least those parents and their marriageable and magical daughters, departed. We could not afford to let down our guard while they were still about,” Philip reminded them.

“Though, why they remained for nearly a fortnight is beyond me.”


There was an unwritten rule for those of Drakos blood, which he was—that the males, who never received magical abilities, were to marry a witch. Only two had not, but Philip had accepted his duty as heir and child of a witch that he would wed as requested.


That was also one of the reasons his aunt, the Countess of Wharton, Lady Iris Drakos, had hosted a Witches’ Ball nearly a fortnight ago. Each guest had either been a witch or warlock, or came from a family of such, or knew of the existence of witches and was not disturbed but accepting. His aunt had hoped that many matches would be made, him included, but Philip had avoided being caught in matrimony and the reason he was now celebrating with his friends.


“I am still here,” Amcaster said.


“Ah, but you are my friend. It is different.”


“There are still two misses here,” Cassian reminded them.


“They are visiting with my cousins and will be until the end of the month,” Philip dismissed. “Besides, their mothers are not here, therefore, no need to fear matchmaking.”


“Who still remains?” Amcaster asked.


“Lady Antonia Kerrigan and Lady Samantha Ellis,” Cassian answered.


“Lady Antonia is still here?” Amcaster asked. His eyes focused on Philip as an eyebrow arched in speculation.


Amcaster had taken great pleasure in Philip often being abandoned before a waltz was fully completed, and the other difficulties he had suffered when trying to court the woman. “The two ladies are close friends of Petra and Maia, and they asked the two to stay. At least, that is what I have been told, nor does it matter.” 

Of all the women his cousins could have about, why did one have to be Lady Antonia? Philip had tried to forget her, put her from his mind, but he’d not been able to do so. It wasn’t that he was in love, it was because he had never figured her out.


After he left her in the gardens that last night, he had not seen her again. Not until she walked into the Witches’ Ball. He had assumed that she would not be in attendance because all the guests had arrived at least a day earlier, many of them days earlier.


But she had walked in just as the ball had begun and was even more beautiful than he remembered with her thick dark hair, light blue eyes, and full crimson lips.


He had not asked her to waltz because he knew how it would end. In fact, he’d spent the entire night and these past twelve days practically avoiding or ignoring her.


Oh, they had meals together, with everyone else who was residing at Nightshade Manor, and there had been polite conversation, but he did not go out of his way to find her, no matter how many times he wished to do so. 


Except, and he hated to admit this even to himself, now that most of the guests had departed, Philip hoped to spend time with her. Did he dare approach her again?


Philip had been smitten with her almost immediately. Lady Antonia had not been besotted with him. Therefore, he should just continue to keep his distance and eventually she would be gone.

Or he could return home.


Except he did not want to leave Nightshade Manor because Lady Antonia was here.


Blast!


He wanted to pursue her, but would it end as badly as it had in London?


He lifted his glass of brandy and took another drink.


“Perhaps I should take my leave,” Amcaster said, intruding on Philip’s thoughts.


“You can depart on a whim with barely a snap of your fingers. If they set their eyes on you, simply transport yourself home.” Especially if Lady Antonia suddenly became interested. “As for me and Cassian, we do not have such an easy escape as neither of us possess even a drop of magic.”


“There was never any fear that someone would expect me to wed.” Cassian laughed.


“Do not be so certain,” Philip warned. “My mother raised you from when you were only six. I have no doubt that she intends to find a suitable witch for you to wed as well.”


Cassian chuckled. “If my last name was Cardwell, I would be concerned. As it is not, I will not worry.”


“The gentleman that we should raise a glass to is our fallen friend, Harcourt,” Amcaster offered in a solemn tone.


Philip’s cousin, Pierce Drakos, Viscount Harcourt, had fallen in love in the days leading up to the Witches’ Ball. The bride was Amcaster’s sister, Clara.


“My mother had hoped that at least one of us would find a spouse at the ball.” Amcaster grinned. “I cannot express how happy I am that it was my sister who wed instead of me.”


Philip raised a glass to his fallen friend then took a deep drink of the brandy, enjoying the warmth that spread through his belly, then sighed.


“It is still a requirement that you wed,” Cassian reminded them. “You are both heirs and thus will need one of your own.”


“You are also an heir,” Amcaster reminded Cassian.


“Ah, but I have no land or wealth. My only possession is a French title that is worthless, unlike the two of you.” Cassian grinned.


“It is a shame none of us can see into the future,” Philip offered. “I would like to be warned before my time comes so that I can properly prepare and fully enjoy my last days of freedom.”


***


Lady Antonia Kerrigan had almost not attended The Witches’ Ball.


It was the ball that she had been dreading, not the visit to Nightshade Manor. With so many gathered in one place, even in the days leading up to the ball, she was not certain she could endure so much for so long.


However, she needed to attend because her dear friends, Lady Petra Drakos, Lady Maia Norcott, and Lady Samantha Ellis were going to help Antonia with a spell or potion.


She had also waited until the last moment to arrive, and trepidation had filled her being at seeing Lord Chedworth again. 


Antonia had been smitten with Chedworth last spring, and she had hoped that more could become of their relationship, and so had he, but being in London made it impossible. He had danced with her, and they had strolled in the park, but he hadn’t courted her. She also wasn’t surprised when he had walked away from her that last night.


If she were truly honest with herself, she had hoped that Chedworth would have had a change of heart and called on her family during this past summer, but she’d not seen him after she had left London. However, all concerns had been set aside and Antonia couldn’t help but smile when she remembered how when she had walked into the Witches’ Ball and Chedworth saw her that his aura shifted from orange and yellow to green and pink, but then returned to the colors she had always associated with him, as if he had reconsidered how he thought of her.


It had been a stab to her heart, but it also answered a lingering question. She now knew that there was no future, and he intended to have nothing further to do with her.


She was proven correct when he did not ask to waltz, nor had he come near her or sought her company these past twelve days, much to her disappointment. Then again, she’d made herself scarce and was usually with Petra, Maia and Samantha in the stillroom working on potions and spells. It was the safest place for her to be while guests still lingered at Nightshade Manor. But today, the last of the guests had gone, leaving her, Samantha, and Lord Amcaster as the only remaining non-family members.


Would Chedworth still avoid her? Had he simply been too busy with the guests?


Should she seek him out?


Antonia had foolishly hoped that in the country, where they could be away from others, Chedworth might reconsider a potential courtship, but he hadn’t.


Antonia tried not to think about it overmuch, but she was disappointed.


Except, Chedworth was not the reason she was at Nightshade Manor. And, if all went well, by the time she left, she’d have the spell or potion that she had so desperately needed since she was a child.


Antonia turned her face to the sunlight that dappled through the few leaves that remained upon the dark limbs and the ground crunched beneath her steps.


She loved being at Nightshade Manor.


It wasn’t the grand house or the gardens, but the seemingly endless forest filled with wildlife. When she had set out on a walk today, she was not certain what she would find as she’d not ventured so far before, but she had had the most amazing and delightful experience. She had encountered animals that she had never expected to see, let alone speak with, and she could not wait to share with her friends.


That was one of her gifts—the ability to talk to animals. Antonia could not start fires, change the weather, transport from one place to another, or even make a garden grow. She talked to and understood animals, reptiles and even fish, if she were to take a swim. She still wasn’t certain what purpose such a gift served, but she had no complaints that it was one she possessed.


Antonia would also much rather spend time with animals than with people anyway. Animals were easy to understand, as were their personalities. People were difficult, if not confusing, and the very reason she was glad the dozens of guests had left Nightshade Manor.


“Did you know that there are wolves in the forest?” Antonia announced to Petra, Maia and Samantha as she entered the parlor where they sat taking tea.


“The forest?” Maia asked in alarm. “You went to the forest? We are not allowed.”


“Your mother granted permission,” Antonia answered. She would have never gone further than the gardens or orchard without asking first because it would have been rude to do so.


“She has never allowed us to go there.” Maia frowned.


“You did say wolves?” Petra asked.


“A wolf, but he says there are others,” Antonia answered.


“Are they not extinct?” Maia asked.


“Everywhere in England except here.” Antonia grinned. She could not believe that she’d met an actual wolf. She’d seen drawings, but never thought to encounter one, especially since they had been hunted to extinction over a century ago.


“Where did they come from?” Petra asked.


Antonia settled on a stool. “Amarok, a grey wolf, greeted me in the forest with a growl. He feared me until we spoke.” She sighed. “He told me how several packs, though small in number because of the hunters, had fled the north, only to be stopped in Cornwall because of the sea.” She still got chills from the experience.

“A witch, who was married to a Drakos, had a gift similar to mine and when he explained their plight, she allowed them onto the estate where they would be protected. The Drakos husband purchased the neighboring estate, which is several acres, and let it fall to ruin so that the forest and flowers could reclaim it.” Oh, how she would like to venture further. “Amarok told me that no humans were supposed to visit the forest because it was a home for the animals, and they feared hunters.”


“That must be why we were never allowed to venture so far,” Petra offered. “I had assumed the rule was in place when we were children because our parents feared that we’d get lost. After I was older, I never thought much about going there.”


“Supposedly there is a large stone house, not that I saw it.” Though Antonia would have liked to. It would be a perfect place to live—alone in the forest.


“Sometimes I think you like animals more than people,” Samantha complained.


“I do,” Antonia answered honestly. “Though if Amarok was a man instead of a wolf, I could change my mind.” She laughed at the absurdity. The wolf had charmed her, but it was Chedworth that she wished would do the charming.


Her three friends frowned.


“His personality was kind, understanding and he didn’t treat me as an inferior. I had no fear of tripping over my words or embarrassing myself while we spoke. Such a gentleman does not exist in England. They are as extinct as wolves are in the rest of the country.”


“It is a shame that you could not turn him into a man then you’d have your perfect husband,” Maia laughed.


“He did ask me to do so,” Antonia said, even though she would never do such. “But only for a day so he could know what it was like to be human.”


“I wonder if there is a spell for such?” Petra asked. “To turn an animal into a human.”


“Then we could all find a perfect husband,” Samantha laughed. “There are certainly none in Society.”


“While all that sounds fun, it would likely not work out as we hoped.” Antonia sighed. “Besides, I have been warned against upsetting the balance of nature.” Nor would she ever consider changing man nor animal, just as she knew that her friends were not serious about the prospect either.


“Have you ever even tried?” Maia asked.


“No. Animals trust me, and I trust them. If I go about changing them, then the trust will be lost.”



“Is there even a spell?” Petra asked.


Antonia shrugged. “I have no idea, but even if there were, I would not cast such.”



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