Calypso magic, p.1
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       Calypso Magic, p.1

         Part #2 of Magic Trilogy series by Catherine Coulter
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Calypso Magic


  Calypso Magic—Catherine Coulter

  London, England,

  1813

  Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?

  —ROWLAND HILL

  Prologue

  Haversham House,

  Richmond, England

  March 1813

  Where the devil was Charlotte?

  Lyonel Ashton, Sixth Earl of Saint Leven, strode through the wildly bedraggled Haversham garden.

  Charlotte wasn't there, only one servant bent on finding enough presentable early-spring flowers for a bouquet. He silently wished her luck.

  Lucia, his great-aunt, had suggested the stables. He sighed. Lucia didn't like Charlotte and barely hid her animosity toward Lord Haversham, whom she considered an ill-bred lout. She treated the entire Haversham family, he thought, with awful civility. He wondered why she'd insisted upon coming today. Her bland reason of the fine weather rang as false as the hairpiece she was wearing. He finally turned and walked past the drive toward the stables. Lord Haversham, as well as Charlotte, was hunting-mad and slate-roofed stables were in better condition than the house.

  Lyon looked first at the pristine paddock. It seemed like all the stable hands and grooms were there, but not Charlotte.

  He finally entered the cool stable. All of the horses were out being exercised. There was no one about. He frowned, but walked to the tack room. He paused a moment outside the closed door.

  Charlotte was inside, he heard her voice. A smile on his face, he reached toward the doorknob, then abruptly drew back his hand. He also heard a man's voice, low, deepcaressing. Then Charlotte, a high cry.

  Lyon felt the blood pound in his head.

  As if he were another man in a dream, he watched his hand reach out for the door handle and slowly press down on it. The door swung open slowly, soundlessly.

  Charlotte was on her back, her head resting on a Spanish saddle, Dancy Moressey, Lord Danvers, his buckskins pulled down to his knees, was between her widespread legs, pumping into her.

  Lyon walked into the room. He very slowly picked up a riding crop. Charlotte saw him in that moment, and screamed.

  He brought the crop down on Moressey's white buttocks. Dancy roared, jerking out of Charlotte, his face a study in horrified surprise and pain. Lyon brought the crop down again, then he threw it aside. He grabbed Moressey, pulling him upright, and slammed his fist into his erstwhile friend’s face. Then again. Moressey struggled, but it was no use. Lyon hit him again and heard bone cracking.

  "Stop! Lyonel, stop! You’re killing him!" Charlotte jerked down her skirts and dived for him. She pulled at his arm, shaking him, screaming.

  The dream came to an abrupt halt. Lyon stared into Moressey's battered face. He was unconscious. Slowly, deliberately, he released him and watched him crumble to the floor, his pants about his knees. Dancy could boast no rutting desire now, but his shrunken member was wet and glistening.

  Lyon was aware of the smells of the tack room: linseed, leather, and sex. He turned to his betrothed.

  He said in an unnaturally calm voice, "I trust that you will retract our engagement in the newspapers. When Lord Danvers comes to his senses, tell him that my second will be calling on him."

  "Lyonel," Charlotte said, reaching her hand toward him. "Please, it’s not what ---"

  "You may keep the engagement ring. Since it's new and not a Saint Leven heirloom, I will have no use for it." He watched tears pool in her beautiful eyes. "Perhaps," he said in that same calm voice, "you'd best see to your lover. I do believe I broke his nose." He turned on his heel and walked from the tack room.

  "Lyonel! Damn you, come back here!"

  He turned, his expression cold and forbidding. "I trust, my dear Charlotte, that you intend to marry Lord Danvers? He will need you, I fancy, to attend him after I put a bullet through his arm. A pity, really, I rather thought of Dancy as a friend. As for you, well, there is really nothing more to say."

  His only clear thought as he walked back toward the house was, My God, what if we'd been married and I'd found her with another man?

  He wasn't really surprised to find his Aunt Lucia standing by the carriage.

  He looked at her.

  "I'm sorry, my boy," she said, lightly touching his sleeve with her fingertips.

  "This was the reason for our surprise visit?"

  "Yes."

  "The weather is very fine, as you said."

  "I will not lie to you, Lyon. I am relieved that you have discovered the truth before it is too late."

  "How did you know? You did know that she was playing me false with Moressey?"

  "Come into the carriage. I will tell you on the way back to London."

  He followed her, his face without expression. The carriage bowled down the wide drive.

  Lyonel didn't look back.

  1

  There’s a skirmish of wit between them.

  —SHAKESPEARE

  Cranston House,

  London, England

  May 1813

  Diana Savarol hated London. It was May, and she was shivering, always shivering. She wanted to go home, back to Savarol Island in the West Indies, where it was always warm, the sky always filled with bright sunlight. She looked at Lucia, Lady Cranston, that old tartar whose tongue was as sharp as a snake's, and her mouth thinned. She wasn't at all certain as yet that she liked her. Even though she was small, she looked regal as a queen with her snow-white hair piled high on her head and her sharp chin always raised just a bit higher than ordinary mortals. "Call me Aunt Lucia," the imperious old woman had told her when she'd arrived. "I'm not exactly your aunt, not even your great-aunt, but it will do." And Diana had complied. Who wouldn't with those sharp pale-blue eyes staring at one with such command?

  "I should like to have the fire lit," Diana said now, looking with undisguised longing at the empty grate.

  "Really, my dear? I don't think so. Why don't you wear a warmer shawl?"

  "I don't have a warmer shawl."

  "Then you will have to accustom yourself. You've been here but a week, child." Lucia returned to her novel, a hair-raising gothic that was most improbable and excessively titillating. Diana had remarked on it, her eyes wide, and Lucia had said, "Well, I'm not dead yet, my dear child. I enjoy being wafted away from my fifty-six years, however temporarily. The heroine is such a wilting goose. Most enjoyable --- yes, indeed."

  "Has the heroine fainted yet in this chapter, Aunt?"

  "Twice," said Lucia. "Once with the villain and once with the hero. She is quite accomplished at it. I fear it is her only accomplishment, unless one considers her eyes, which are described as blue as a cerulean sky --- most improbable, I daresay --- and large as fine China saucers. Wedgwood, I wonder? Oh, my dear Diana, we will attend a ball at Lady Bellermain's this evening. You will wear your new blue silk. It will make you look less tanned."

  Diana liked the blue silk, but not because it made her complexion look fairer. It made her look as tall and narrow as a healthy sapling. A ball! She felt as if a thunderbolt had struck her. What would happen to her there, in front of a roomful of strangers, when it became obvious that she couldn't"Aunt," she said somewhat desperately, "I must tell you that I cannot ---"

  Didier, Lucia's butler, whom she fondly called "that old monk," entered the drawing room, bowed slightly, and said in his deep voice, "Lord Saint Leven is here, my lady. As you instructed."

  "Ah, Lyonel! Don't stand there like a block, Didier, show my nephew in." Lucia tucked the novel away under the seat of her chair, then gave Diana a look that she accurately translated as Mind your tongue or I'll skin you.

  Who was this Lyonel person? A real nephew of Lucia's? Of course she would be polite to him. Why ever would Lucia believe she wouldn't? Diana could
have easily answered her own query. She hadn't particularly pushed herself to be polite to anyone. She didn't want to be here, after all. I will hold my tongue, at least for the moment, she thought, and grinned at the thought of stuffing her hand into her mouth and wrapping her fingers about her tongue.

  Lyonel hadn't wanted to see Lucia, at least not just yet, but he'd just returned from his estate near York. He'd spent most of his time with Frances and Hawk at their racing stud, Desborough. But he'd never in his life ignored a summons from Lucia, and besides, he rationalized to himself, he loved the old bird. She had, after all, saved him from a marriage that would never have seen the light of heaven. He thought briefly of Dancy Moressey, now Charlotte's poor fool of a husband. He'd shot him through the arm, and somehow, no one had found out about it. The good Lord knew that someone should have heard of it, for Charlotte had screeched like a banshee.

  He strode into the drawing room and drew up short. There was a girl standing there, her shoulders hunched, shivering, in the middle of the room. She obviously wasn't a servant, for she was looking at him with rather arrogant curiosity, but her gray gown was not at all in fashion and was too small. Her breasts, he couldn't help noticing, were pressed so tightly against the bodice that he wondered that a seam didn’t burst. She was well-enough-looking, he supposed without much interest, tall and slender, save for those breasts. Her hair was thick and a blond color mixed with various shades of brown and gold, and her eyes from this distance appeared an interesting greenish gray. He sent a look toward Lucia, a brow arched in question.

  "Come in, come in, my boy," Lucia called. "I want you to meet your cousin, Diana Savarol. Diana, my dear, this is your cousin, Lyonel Ashton, Earl of Saint Leven."

  "Cousin?" he said slowly, eyeing the shivering girl. "Do you have the ague?"

  "No," Diana said sharply. "I'm bloody cold."

  "Well, that at least shouldn't be catching. Cousin, you say? I didn't know I had a Diana Savarol for a cousin."

  "A cousin somewhat removed," said Lucia.

  "I didn't know I had a Lyon for a cousin either," Diana said.

  "All right," said Lucia. "Many times removed. Your grandmothers were first cousins, I think. Make your curtsy, Diana."

  Diana gave a ghost of a curtsy.

  Lyonel gave a mockery of a bow.

  "Sit down, my boy. Didier, bring in the tea tray."

  "As I recall from Father's family tree," Lyonel said, looking at Lucia, "my grandmother married a fellow from some ungodly place and left England."

  "The West Indies are hardly ungodly," said Diana. "Well, not too much, not anymore. The pirates are long gone, but then again, so are the Quakers."

  "Your great-uncle, Oliver Mendenhall, accompanied her, Lyonel, your grandmother, that is. He did well there. You are his heir, if you weren't aware of it."

  "I fear to expire of excitement on the spot."

  "So you are that Ashton whelp," Diana said.

  "I beg your pardon?"

  "Mr. Mendenhall refers to you as the Ashton whelp." Diana raised her chin when he put his monocle to his eye.

  Lucia hadn't known what to expect, but her precious Lyonel, this Ashton whelp, was behaving most peculiarly, and all because of that wretched Charlotte Haversham. He was --- rather used to be --- urbane, exquisitely polite, particularly to females, and blessed with a wry wit that wasn't at all malicious. This new Lyonel was regarding Diana as if she were the possessor of three eyes and spots on her face.

  "That," said Diana under her breath, but not under enough, "might be interesting to watch." So he was the man that Old Oliver was being forced to leave all his earthly goods to.

  "What might be interesting to watch?"

  "Why, your expiring on the spot."

  "Ah," said Lucia, "our tea. Diana, my dear, would you please pour?" Damn the two of them anyway. She'd decided after three days that Diana was the girl for Lyonel. She'd really had no intention of ever agreeing with Oliver, who'd slyly suggested in his last letter that Diana and his heir could make a match of it. She remembered Oliver as a feckless lad with a big nose, a spotty complexion, and a receding chin. Not only had he written to her, but Diana's father as well. And now here they were sparring like two ill-bred prizefighters. Both of them must have peasant stock from somewhere. Not from her side of the family, of course.

  Diana poured the tea with little grace. "I suppose you like to kill your tea with milk?"

  Since she hadn't looked up as she'd spoken, Lyonel said, "Who is the subject of your sentence?"

  "Aunt Lucia doesn't kill her tea with anything. You, my lord?"

  "By all means, kill it," said Lyonel, who'd never had milk in his tea in his twenty-seven years. He watched her shiver, this time in distaste, and smiled. He rose and walked over to the sideboard. He poured himself a brandy.

  "I changed my mind," he said, and gave a brief salute to Diana. "What are you doing here?"

  "I live here for the moment. It's Aunt Lucia's sacred goal to polish me up and bring me out."

  "You don't appear to be exactly first-season material," he said, and sipped at his brandy. It was good. Lucia had the best cellars in London.

  Diana's teacup rattled. What was this awful man's problem? She wondered. He'd taken one look at her and turned nasty. Well, she wasn't one to lie down like a rug and be tread upon. She said only, "Just as well. I don't look good in white."

  "No, you wouldn't," Lyonel said in bland agreement. "You'd look too sallow."

  "I believe," said Lucia, eyeing first one, then the other, "that I shall send both of you back to the nursery to learn some manners. Come, my boy, it's been two months since that ghastly debacle."

  Lyonel stiffened. Lord, he should have known that Lucia wouldn't keep her blasted mouth shut.

  "What debacle?" Diana asked as if on cue. Had he fought a duel and killed somebody? Had he lost all his money in a gambling hell? Perhaps he'd been ill, perhaps

  "None of your business," Lyonel said. "Now, Aunt, why did you summon me here this fine day? I'm very busy, you know."

  "At least you've come out of hiding," said Lucia. "How are Frances and Hawk? I assume you licked your wounds at Desborough Hall?"

  "Aunt," Lyonel said very quietly, "tell me what you wish or I will leave. Now."

  Lucia knew when to retreat and when to attack. Now it was time for middle-ground cajoling. "My boy, I do have a problem. Abercrombie let me down. I need you to escort Diana and myself to the Bellermains' ball this evening."

  He groaned, loudly. "I don't think so, Aunt."

  "If you're afraid that Charlotte and Dancy will be there" She let her voice trail off.

  "I don't give a damn where Charlotte is or isn't!"

  "Your language isn't proper," said Diana, sticking her oar in. Who was this Charlotte? Was she the debacle?

  "As for you," Lyonel said, unable to resist her salvo, "why don't you go back to where you came from? Hopefully sallow women are more prevalent there and you wouldn't stick out so much."

  "I am not sallow! I am tanned. Unlike youdandies, I enjoy the sun on my face. Of course, here, in this ungodly country, you haven't the privilege of much sun, do you? You, for instance, look pale and unhealthy."

  "Aunt, good-bye. Miss Savarol, do as you please."

  "Lyon! I will cut you up in small pieces if you take one step!"

  Lyonel wanted to spit he was so angry. Then, to his utter chagrin, Aunt Lucia burst into loud and rending tears, replete with low, guttural sobs. He cursed under his breath.

  He saw Diana rush to Lucia and flutter about the old lady.

  "Oh, for God's sake," he said, striding back, "let me give her a brandy. And stop acting like a hen."

  Lucia peeked through her fingers at that comment. Diana was alarmingly stiff, staring at Lyonel, while he was calmly fetching a brandy.

  "Here," he said, thrusting the snifter toward her.

  Lucia drank just a bit, gave another mighty sob, then tried to produce some tears to wipe away. Wisely, she daubed h
er eyes with her handkerchief. "Diana, my dear," she said, her voice moderately shaky, "won't you please go to Grumber and ask her for my hartshorn?"

  "Diana wasn't a fool. Auntie was up to something, if she didn't miss her guess. And Auntie wanted her out of the way. So be it. She escaped the drawing room with alacrity. Maybe, Diana thought, Lucia would turn her blistering tongue on this rude far-removed cousin. That was her hope, in any case.

  "Fine act, Lucia," Lyonel said, regarding her with his arms folded over his chest, his look ironic.

  "Thank you, my boy. Now, tell me why you don't like your cousin."

  "I don't even know my cousin, or whatever she is. What is she doing here, anyway?"

  "If you will sit down, I will tell you."

  Lyonel sat.

  "Her father, Lucien Savarol, begged me to take her under my wing for one Season. I didn't at first wonder why the just one-Season stipulation, but I discovered the reason quickly enough. Diana refuses to stay here longer. I fear I won't find a husband for her. She's very prickly, you see, very proud, and at the moment she hates it here." She gave him one of her patented looks. "Then you come in and act like a fool. It is too bad of you, Lyonel. I had hoped that you would take the girl under your wing and sprinkle some of your consequence over her."

  "She is ill-mannered," he said.

  "Not until you baited her."

  "Her looks are dreadful."

  "Idiot! That blond hair of hers is incredible! And those high cheekbones? She's the picture of her mama, who, I am told, was a renowned beauty. As for her clothes, we've been shopping and her gown for this evening is most fashionable and lovely."

  "Lucia, aren't there sufficient gentlemen in the West Indies? She is most certainly out of her ken here. Surely you don't really expect to find her a husband here in London?"

  "She's also an heiress," said Lucia.

 

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