Category Archives: Shadow of the Swan

Finish one project, move on to the next

So Shadow of the Swan is out there on all online markets, earning money and reviews, and I’m happy with that (as of this moment I’ve sold 143 copies on Amazon). I’ve even uploaded a free short story titled “A Gentle Fall of Show” about Henry and Louisa’s first Christmas at Bookfunnel (all subscribers to my newsletter got the link; if you want to subscribe, click here, enter your email address, and you can download “Snow” in MOBI, EPUB, or PDF format).

So what’s next, Nic? I’m glad you asked.

Since it looks like we’re going to be stuck in COVIDland for the foreseeable future, I am setting up some structure for myself for the rest of the year. And I know I’ve said that before, but this time I’m doing it partially for income and partially because I really need it to stay sane.

So — today, I am wrapping up the re-edit of Deep Water and uploading it to Amazon, B&N, et al. Tomorrow I go back to work on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) with a goal of finishing it by Monday, October 5. If I do 3,265 words a day, I’ll make that easily. Moreover, I KNOW I can write that many words a day easily (I knew it before, but 2019 kinda shook my faith in myself). Even better, now that I’ve been testing my lavaliere mike, Scrivener’s dictation function, and Otter.ai (oh, Holy God, dictation is a fricking godsend to anyone who needs to write fast and can handle saying stuff out loud), I should be able to crank out that amount within two hours, then spend another couple of hours editing it into shape. The rest of the work hours will be taken up with promo, cover design, et al, and outlining the rest of the books I’ll be writing this year.

On October 6, I pivot from King and let it cool for a week while I fire up Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4). People have been waiting VERY patiently for this book for about five years, so now that I have the rights back for all of the Olympic Cove books I want to reward them for their patience. The goal is to finish Current on November 2. On October 12, in parallel with my work on Cross Current, I will start editing King with a goal of getting it out to my editor and the betas by October 16. After I incorporate their changes and do the final polishing stages, I’ll publish King on Tuesday, October 27.

On November 3 I let the completed Cross Current rest for a week while I go back to work on Uncertainty Principle (and by then I’ll actually have an outline, please God — this book has been frustrating me for the better part of two years) with a goal of finishing it on December 4. Once again, I’ll edit Cross Current in parallel with writing Uncertainty, with a goal of publishing Cross Current on November 24. Uncertainty Principle will be published on December 22, and I am taking the rest of December off to let my brain cool down and get in some well-deserved relaxation by that point.

IF I HAVE TIME AND INTESTINAL FORTITUDE, I will work on The Crimson and the Black in December once Uncertainty Principle is finished. I am not going to promise anything at this point because, quite frankly, I may need to collapse at that point. Much will hinge on how well the dictation goes, how quickly I can edit, and whether or not I still have extra processor cycles available. If I decide to put it off until 2021, it will be the first book of that year.

I’m not going to post my planned schedule for 2021 yet because it’s still kind of soft and I want to get some details firmed up. But my goal is to release at least four full-length books that year (I’m telling you right off the bat, two of them will be the final books in the Olympic Cove series), along with a handful of novellas and free short stories.

And yeah, I know it looks like I’ve bitten off far more than I can chew, but King, Current, and Uncertainty are all partials so it’s not like I’m starting from square one on any of them. If I can get all of them done and out the door, I will have cleared my backlog and can start 2021 with a clean conscience. Let’s see if I can get this done.

*lifts storm shelter door, peers out*

So, the last time I spoke with y’all, it was August 18th and I thought I was on the downhill slope for Shadow of the Swan. The book was supposed to be 80,000 words or so, and I had just crossed the 60K line so I figured (quite logically at the time) that if I spent the next five days doing 4-5,000 words a day I could be done and dusted by 8/23/20. That would give me a few days to get it cleaned up before I sent it off to my editor and betas. Since I didn’t have to have the final version uploaded to Amazon until 9/4/20, I had plenty of time.

Ha. Ha ha ha. Hahahahahahahahahahaha*SOB*

Yeah, no. For one thing, I felt like absolute crap on the 19th and 20th, so no wordage was achieved. By the time Friday the 21st rolled around, I knew I had lost valuable time and had to make it up with minimum 5K days. But Friday through Monday would do it, right?

Well, it would have if the book had stayed 80,000 words long. But as I got stuck in, I quickly realized two things:

One, my word count included chapter synopses that I stuck in months ago to tell myself what was supposed to happen in each chapter. As I deleted these and replaced them with actual story, I wound up losing anywhere from 500 to 1,500 words. So even though I physically wrote 5,000 words a day, I only wound up with 3,500 – 4,500 words in the end, which meant that I had to write even more to hit my 5K word quota.

Two, this book was not going to be 80K long. When I hit the 80K mark on Monday, August 24th, I still had the climax of Act II to write and all of Act III. Many, many bad words were said at that point.

So I kept on keeping on. Wrote 5K+ day after day, and watched in helpless terror as my characters got themselves into deeper and more complex trouble, and wondered how the actual fuck I was going to resolve all this. By Friday, August 28th, I still had three chapters to go and less than a week now before I had to upload the final version.

I don’t remember much of Saturday, August 29th. I do know that it was a personal best when it came to output because I wrote 8,672 words that day. (And in case anyone is wondering, yes, I got up to take regular walking breaks on the treadmill, stayed hydrated, and did everything I could to keep moving and avoid deep vein thrombosis. I was frantic, not foolish.) I wrote until 5 AM, when I finally added Louisa’s last words in the last chapter, then I checked my total word count.

106,620 words. I wrote 40,839 words over eight days. The old fashioned way, with my fingers on a keyboard. I was honestly shocked that my brain wasn’t leaking out my ears by that point.

I slept until noon, got up and frantically edited, then sent it out that evening to my editor and betas with abject apologies that they were getting, in effect, version 1.5. I immediately turned around and went back to work on a full edit. Is this recommended? No. Is this something I could handle? Yes.

In the end (and I attribute this to experience gained over twenty-five years of professional writing along with a healthy dollop of naked, abject fear) I had somehow managed to write a fairly clean, coherent draft that only needed tweaks here and there to fill the occasional plot hole. I still don’t know how I managed that. My editor, bless her angelic heart, sent me changes live as she went through the book, which helped immensely. My betas both turned it around in record time and got me their lists of grammar, spelling, and punctuation goofs. A very kind reviewer friend who got an ARC sent me a handful of missed goofs and a couple of plot points that needed a bit more work, so I was able to get those incorporated, as well.

By 9/2/20, I had a reader-ready edition. I spent Thursday formatting it, giving it one last review and polish, then uploaded it and the cover to Amazon for release on 9/8/20. So here it is, the day before release (and Labor Day as well), and my stomach is in knots because this is my first new release since November 2018 and I just want people to like it.

So, that’s where Shadow of the Swan currently stands. I now need to finish re-editing and formatting Deep Water and get that out, then go back to work on King of Blades. Because the best thing you can do when you finish a book is start writing the next one.

Although I may indulge in a rum and coke. I think I earned it.

At the top of the hill, heading down

So this is deadline week where I want to get the book finished by Saturday, which will require 5K days from today through Friday. Mind you, I can DO that. It’s not pleasant, but it’s doable.

It helps that as of last night I cracked 60K, which means I have about 20K left to go. This is all the exciting stuff in the story, which will make the 5K/day slog a little easier. I’ve had Louisa meet the Swan King (and he’s as creepy as advertised), she and Henry have had an argument, Henry’s off to play supernatural squash with his partner in order to blow off some steam, and Louisa, the housekeeper, her female lover (and one of the most powerful sorceresses in London) and Henry’s Maker Fyodora are about to settle in for a Victorian version of a Girl’s Night In. Yes, I know women from different classes wouldn’t usually mingle like this, but 1) this is a very special situation, 2) Louisa really needs some expert female advice right now, and 3) it’s a fantasy so my world, my rules.

Now if Jeremy would just stop whining and wandering around the house looking for a sister to harass, that would make things absolutely perfect.

Speeding along nicely, thank you

Sorry for the extended radio silence but I have been flying, people. I’m currently at 53,380 words on Shadow of the Swan and intend to top that off at 54,000 by the time I’m finished today, leaving 26,000 to go. Easy peasy.

The goal right now is as follows:

  • Have the first draft done and dusted by 8/21.
  • A quick edit done over the weekend to fix things I know need to be fixed but don’t want to spend time on right now.
  • Off to the betas and editor on 8/24 while I dive in for a deeper edit. I rely on the betas to find any grammar/punctuation/spelling errors, plus anything that doesn’t make sense to them, and the editor does a high-level pass to make sure the story flows well from beginning to end.
  • Ideally I’ll get all of their edits back in 8/28. While I’m waiting on that I’ll do a weasel word pass, a grammar/spelling/punctuation pass, and a fine polish.
  • When all the edits arrive, I’ll get everything incorporated, polished to a shine, and formatted into ebook form by 9/2.
  • 9/3 I read it through as a reader would, catch any last infelicities and fix them.
  • 9/4, I upload to Amazon for the 9/8 release.

I genuinely can’t wait for all of you to read this — I’ve been describing it as the Brendan Frasier-era The Mummy meets Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a touch of Carnival Row, and it’s an absolutely wonderful romp. I so very much enjoy writing in this world, and if people like it and buy enough books I may even get to write another book set in it. Let’s hope!

In other news, I got the rights back for Deep Water so that will be edited over the weekend, formatted, and released as soon as the Evernight ebooks are down from all online retailers. I’ll probably work on the print book after I send Swan off to the betas and editor on the 24th.

Even better, this means that I can finally start releasing the new books in the Olympic Cove series so you can expect to see Cross Current (Book 4) out in December, and the remaining two books sometime in 2021. Yay!

Day Drinking Is Starting To Look More Attractive

So, I reached the mid-point in Shadow of the Swan. Huzzah, I’m happy, it’s all down hill from here, right?

And then I sat down to write the sales copy for the book, with a goal of releasing it on September 8. In doing so, I realized I had screwed up oh so majorly by adding a character who wasn’t necessary at all. In fact, this character actively annoyed me, which explained why my output had slowed down over June and July. Really, I should have been zipping along in the story, but knowing that I had to deal with this character was like a sea anchor that just draaaaaaaaaaaagged everything down.

(The character? The nice but slightly dim nobleman that Louisa is supposed to marry by order of Queen Victoria. I really didn’t like him, poor soul.)

And that’s when it dawned on me — Louisa is in mortal danger of being grabbed and taken off to Faerie by a deadly Fae king. Her uncle knows damn well that his niece isn’t interesting in marrying and popping out ANYONE’S kids, much less a deadly Fae king’s, but the only way to save her from this fate, ironically, is to marry her off to someone else first. The logical solution to this problem would be for her to marry someone 1) who also works for the Ministry and understands the situation, 2) is a powerful entity himself, 3) doesn’t want children, and 4) will disappear from public view fairly soon, leaving Louisa a respectable “widow” who can marry again should she choose to do so.

1+2+3+4 = Henry Carstairs, gentleman vampire. Which means I am now going through the chapters in Act I and retrofitting them to this new storyline. It also allows me to introduce another, very necessary, character earlier, which is good for the plot. All of this rewriting will result in a much better story, but this is also the third time I’ve frogged Act I of this book and restarted it. Here’s hoping the damn thing runs on rails now.

Wait, where did July go?

Man, this month flew by. I don’t know if it’s the quarantine messing with my time sense or what, but in some ways this year is going faster than usual, and in others it’s dragging.

I didn’t work on Swan for the last three days because, well, Tuesday was my birthday, I spent most of Wednesday having a health televisit and working on a massive triple lemon layer cake as a belated birthday cake for Ramón and myself (and oh, it was lush — homemade lemon curd filling, lemon Genoise sponge, and lemon buttercream icing. My sponges rose! Since this is the first time I ever made a Genoise sponge, I lay all thanks at the feet of GBBO for teaching me the secrets of how to make one properly), and yesterday … hell, I don’t know what happened yesterday. I had to go out and hit multiple stores, and by the time I got back and disinfected everything I was tired and still had to make dinner.

But today, I have visited the vampires for my mid-year oil change, and as soon as Ramón finishes his lunch and heads back upstairs (he’s watching anime right now, which means I have my headphones on with Florence + the Machine) I’m opening the WIP and getting down to work. Knowing that I’m halfway through the book is a great feeling because everything’s pretty much downhill from here. Once that’s done, I return to King of Blades and get THAT puppy done, tra la.

Another Snippet from SHADOW OF THE SWAN

Phoo. Hit 3,000 words today and celebrated with a lovely swim. In celebration of both events, I thought I’d post this bit from Shadow of the Swan.


The evening air was warm on Louisa’s skin as she stepped barefoot through the garden, masses of jasmine and roses giving their perfume to a gentle breeze. Underneath her feet, the paving stones retained enough of the heat of the day to feel pleasant against her soles, the slight roughness of the ancient stones giving her a sense of security. She walked between two vine-entwined stelae and into a large courtyard with a similarly-sized pool at its center. The water was dark, reflecting the first stars that had already come out, and enticed her with its promise of cool relief.
She walked to the edge of the pool and stepped in. It was only ankle-deep at that part, but quickly grew deeper as the bottom descended away from her in a steep decline. Soon she was floating, her nightgown slowly rising around her like a cotton halo.

Its weight was distracting, so she slipped the garment over her head and threw it to one side. Unencumbered, she moved into the center of the pool, letting the water buoy her as she swam slowly. Oh, how she’d dreamed of doing just this, going out to the pool in the night when everything was peaceful and swimming back and forth, letting the water wash away the cares of the day. And now she could do it, because…

…because…

Of course. She was promised to someone, the hero she had always yearned for, who would fulfill all of her dreams, even the ones she couldn’t admit to herself. And now she was waiting for him to come and claim her as he’d promised.

No.

Yes, it was so simple. He would come to the pool’s edge and hold out his arms, and she would rise from the water’s embrace to one even more wonderful. She could see him standing between the stelae now, a dark shape against the darker greenery of the garden. My king, my promised one. Take me.

No, Louisa.

She shook her head against the whisper, different from the waiting form but just as attractive, as luring. “I have to. He’s waiting for me.”

As am I. Another form appeared, shadowed against the deep violet of the sky as it stood at the end of the pool where she had entered. A pale shirt flashed like a ghost as it was stripped off and tossed to the side, just as she had discarded her nightgown. The form bent, and she knew he was removing his boots and trousers, depositing them next to the shirt.

She couldn’t see details, much to her disappointment, but knew he was now nude as he stepped into the pool, swimming towards her once he was deep enough with a steady stroke. When he was close enough to touch, a hand cupped her cheek, shockingly cool against the soft heat of the water and the air.

“Louisa.” It was half whisper, half prayer. The hair at the nape of her neck rose up, and her breasts began to ache in the strangest way, even as muscles lower down tightened of their own accord. She sank slightly in the water, her breath trickling out in a shuddered sigh.

When those cool arms slid around her, she raised her face for his kiss. His lips were a balm against the warm air, softening under the bristle of a short mustache as they settled on her own. She had kissed a few young men before, Jayan among them, but none of those brief, messy encounters were like this. It was a new language, a sweet, hungry poetry that spoke to her heart as their lips met, clung, and danced with each other.

He pulled away before she was ready, allowing her to take in a necessary breath, then returned to claim what was already his. This time the very tip of his tongue teased along the seam of her mouth, tickling a bit but also causing those lower muscles to contract again.

It seemed only right to open her mouth. With exquisite delicacy he licked the inside flesh of her upper lip. It was as if a firework had gone off inside her, the feeling was so shockingly good. She pressed against him, searching for more of it. He indulged her, his tongue playing against hers in a kind of dance that made her yearn for more of something she couldn’t name.

His arms were reassuringly strong, and pressed her closely against him now. She could feel the lazy kicking of his legs as he kept both of their heads above water, and the flat, muscular pads of his chest boasted a now-damp fur that tickled her skin deliciously. One of his hands dropped lower, coming to rest on her bottom. He squeezed.

She gasped and giggled at the same time, forcing their lips to part. “What are you doing?”

“Fondling you.” Another squeeze, not hard but as if he appreciated the roundness of her bottom. “What luscious curves you have, my dear.” He let go, his hand reversing course and easing up between their bodies until the curve of his thumb and forefinger came to rest against the underside of her breast. “A beautiful woman in every way.”

The words sent a small, secret thrill through her. She had grown so used to thinking of herself as a spinster academic, valued more for her brain and her neat hand than her looks, that being called beautiful was intoxicating.

“Kiss me again.”

“With pleasure.”

Friday in the Life of a Writer

Just in case you think my life is all eating bon-bons while I lounge around on my chaise, tapping out deliciously hot romances while Ramón massages my feet…

Yeah, no.

I didn’t get to bed until 2 AM last night so I woke up at 10 AM. After taking a bio-break, I scrubbed the upstairs toilet, scooped the litter box in there and swept up stray litter, took my supplements, and did other grooming things to make myself presentable.

Came downstairs to make sure that Cheetolini didn’t try to sell Florida or hawk drinkable bleach while I was asleep, then got started on Week Three of a Indie Publishing 101 course I’m taking to improve my publishing game. This required watching about 20 minutes of video, then completing an assignment (taking pictures of a title page, chapter header, and body page) that I liked, inserting them into a Word document, and sending it off to the instructor.

That done, I got up and swept the kitchen, dining room, and library (Ramón empties the litter boxes down here but litter gets everywhere), then scrubbed the downstairs toilet and swept the bathroom. At that point I remembered that I needed to send a chapter of Shadow of the Swan in to my writers group for critique as promised, so I spent about a half hour cleaning that up, popping it into a Word document and sending it off.

Immediately after that, the 18-year-old cat demanded a cuddle so I provided one, stroking his head and telling him he was a good boy (he’s now at the point where I will drop what I’m doing and cuddle him when he asks for it, since I don’t know for how much longer I’ll have him). After he got tired of being cuddled and wandered off to his spot, Ramón came down with his passport and asked me to take a picture of it so that he would have a record of it before he sends it back to England for renewal.

You may notice in all of this that the consumption of food has not been mentioned once. I realized after taking the picture that, hmm, food might be a good idea, so I put together a plate of leftover green beans and sweet potato fries, slices of smoked kielbasa and cheddar cheese, and a dollop of mayo for flavor. Scarfed that, drank a glass of Metamucil (because being regular is important), then loaded and started the dishwasher.

Which brings me to 3:10 PM, when I’m actually about to get started on writing. I’ve gotten to the first love scene of the book, FINALLY, and I can only hope that the cats leave me alone long enough to finish this with at least a dollop of sensuality and erotic tension.

Running around like the proverbial decapitated avian

Sorry about not posting anything entertaining and/or useful yesterday, but I have been one very, very busy writer for the last day and a half. Unfortunately, my busyness has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with paying bills, filing all my receipts and paid bills (I know how anal that sounds, but it helps when I have to prep the tax paperwork for the accountant), packaging stuff up and mailing it out to people, doing a big food stock-up for humans and J Crew which requires hitting three different stores, attending my writers’ group meeting over Zoom last night and critiquing some chapters from a member, plus all of the usual cooking/cleaning/household chores on top of that.

Phoo. I’m tired just reading that.

And yes, I know, minions would help. One time someone very kindly offered to act as my PA and I had to pass on it because I simply couldn’t afford them. Well, also because the actual writing business doesn’t take up a huge chunk of my time just yet — it’s everything else that has me running around and swearing under my breath. I swear, if the cats had opposable thumbs they would be VERY surprised at the chores they’d be assigned (I already know damn well that they understand English to a certain degree).

Speaking of the little darlings, Ramón and I have agreed that it’s time to address the weight problem that Jessie (above) and Jemma (at left) (and to a lesser degree Jeremy) are having. The two ladies are now 9 and 8 years old, respectively, and they’re putting weight on to the point where Jessie lumbers down the stairs (although she was still able to jump up to the stove top, then to the top of the refrigerator, and onto the top of the cabinets a couple of days ago) and Jemma, bless her heart, looks like a brown bowling ball. Our problem is our 18-year-old gentleman who wants to nibble constantly (and needs to, to be honest) and yowls at a genuinely shocking volume if he can see the bottom of a food bowl. We need to keep him fed and his weight up, but that turns into a buffet for the other cats and isn’t good for them. So we’re addressing this with weight management kibble and additional playtime for the younger cats (I wish I could get Jemma and Jasmine to eat wet food, but they simply won’t do it. Jems will sometimes eat tuna, but Jaz won’t touch anything but kibble). I’ll keep feeding JJ extra food and treats as necessary, but I’ll have to do it where the other cats can’t see.

And with that, it’s now time to get back to work on Shadow of the Swan, tra la.

Oh, boy. That was an adventure

FB just reminded me of what I was doing on this day in 2014, so I thought I’d share it with you:

“Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tonight’s contestant is Nicola Cameron from Plano, Texas — let’s give her a big hand!

“Now, Ms. Cameron has spent the last two days removing old cement, mastic, and epoxy from her hot tub rim in preparation for re-cementing and mortaring the missing coping stones back into place, and a bunch of the debris has fallen into her pool as a result. Let’s see how she’s going to get it out.

“Ooh, she’s starting by trying to scoop up the biggest chunks with her skimmer. It’s not quite working as she’d hoped, I’m afraid — too bad, it was a good idea. She’s changing out the skimmer head for a brush head and brushing it all into a large pile — smart move! Now she’s getting out her vortex vacuum head and attaching it and the garden hose to suck that debris right up.

“Oh, no! The vortex caused by the hose isn’t quite enough to pick up the larger pieces. I haven’t heard cursing like that since I was in the Marines!

“On to Round Two — she’s brushing all the pieces into the shallow end and — wow, she’s getting her wet-dry shop vac out and sucking them up! Great move, Ms. Cameron!

“Wait a minute — the shop vac move worked with the small pieces, but the vac is too efficient and is filling almost immediately and there are still large shards at the bottom of her pool. Is she going to throw herself on the mercy of her pool cleaning service for help?

“NO! I cannot believe this, people — she is taking off her glasses, and — YES, yes, she is jumping fully clothed into the pool in her best impersonation of a pearl diver and collecting the shards manually. This woman is determined! Wait, I’m hearing her mutter something about shark week, prehensile toes and ‘See, Mom, I TOLD you they’d come in handy.’ And she’s gotten all of the debris out of the pool! Well done, Ms. Cameron!

“Well, this has been an amazing episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tune in tomorrow when Ms. Cameron is going to don protective gear and use dilute muriatic acid to remove the mortar haze from her flagstones. Good night, everyone!”

In even more entertaining news, here’s another snippet from Shadow of the Swan:


Henry regretted the words the moment they left his mouth. Miss Wallingford recoiled as if slapped, and even Mwanda shifted against the door as if uncomfortable. “Really, Harry,” she muttered.

He cursed his own lack of tact. He could still taste Louisa Wallingford’s blood, its complex flavor lingering on his palate like the finest of wines, and it had the same effect as wine on a human. The bottled stuff couldn’t wash it away, much as he wished it would. Drinking directly from a human was a different matter entirely than drinking stored blood. He would now be able to sense Louisa Wallingford no matter where she was, divine her moods, even anticipate her actions once he got to know her better.

He had been able to ignore the humans he had drunk from in the past, block them from his awareness. But combined with his assignment, it would be impossible to ignore this bright, beautiful, and exasperating young woman. Even now he could feel her fear, combined with a half-angry curiosity as she digested the news he had dumped so gracelessly in her lap.

With care, he replaced the half-full bottle of blood on the table and leaned forward. “Miss Wallingford, you are a sensible young woman. It is not my intention to frighten you unnecessarily, but I would be remiss if I didn’t impress upon you the gravity of your situation. Your uncle has recruited not only the entirety of the ministry but her majesty the queen in order to protect you from this Fae noble. The best solution we have found is your marriage to Robert Bainbridge, which must take place as quickly as possible. Once you are married, you are no longer bound by the terms of this Fae contract and will be safe. That is why everything is happening at such an unusual pace.”

He wasn’t surprised when the young woman drained her glass of wine at a gulp. “What’s the name of my erstwhile suitor?”

He remembered she was an academic like her uncle. Information was what she needed at this moment to stay in control. “Avery, of House Eala. He rules over his own court within Faerie, and his formal title is the Swan King. If you want to know more about him, I would suggest asking your uncle when we return. He knows far more about the contract with your family than I do.”

“Listen to him, girl.” Mwanda came forward, silk swishing with the movement. The mocking expression was gone, replaced by grim seriousness. “The Fae are far more powerful than even the ministry likes to admit, and you don’t want to be in one’s power. If marrying this Bainbridge is the only way of getting away from them, do it tomorrow. Hire a carriage and take him up to Gretna Green, then tumble him immediately afterwards.”

The thought of Louisa Wallingford in bed with another man sent a unexpected surge of rage through him, and he had to will himself to stay calm. You’re blood-struck, that’s all. It’ll fade in time. “Mwanda,” he growled.

“This isn’t the time for prudery, Harry,” she shot back. “The girl needs to protect herself, and if some words before a priest and a bedding will do it, then that’s what she needs to do.”

“Enough.” Louisa held up a hand that only showed the faintest of tremors. “Please. Mr. Carstairs, may we return home? I need to speak with my uncle.”

He glanced at Mwanda, who shrugged. “The carriage should be here soon. I’ll see if Remy has that shirt for you yet.”