Home > Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1)(8)

Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1)(8)
Author: Gail Carriger

Winkle was relatively new to Dama’s household and had not yet determined the intricacies of the relationship between Lord and Lady Maccon, their daughter, Lord Akeldama, Baroness Tunstell, and her daughter. As far as he could gather, politics dictated that Lady Prudence be adopted by a rove vampire to keep her safe from the hive vampires’ fear of metanaturals, hence Lord Akeldama’s bringing her up rather than her blood parents. Lady Maccon and Baroness Tunstell had been friends since childhood, as incomprehensible as such a relationship might seem, hence Miss Primrose’s companionship of Lady Prudence. But why some of them didn’t get along, and others avoided all contact, remained a mystery. So he said tentatively, “Your mother prefers her child visit werewolves over a rove?”

Prim shrugged. “Odd vampire to have any children at all, you might say.”

What Winkle didn’t know was that Ivy Tunstell’s metamorphosis to vampire queen had been unplanned, unexpected, unprecedented, and highly unlikely. The entirety of London had yet to recover from the decades-old shock. The fashion for overly decorated hats was only the latest marker of Baroness Tunstell’s sudden – by vampire standards – presence in supernatural high society. The fact that as a newly made queen she’d arrived with a complete hive of four male vampires – all of them quite old, quite rich, and quite powerful – and six foreign drones was beyond the limits of acceptability. The fact that all were Egyptian was beneath contempt. The consequences of such horrendous behaviour was as expected – Queen Victoria gave Mrs Tunstell a baronetcy. What else could the aristocracy do with such a travesty in its midst but absorb it entirely? The baroness had been declared an original and integrated into the ton. Her family’s connection to trade and her actor husband were quietly forgotten, the skin colour of her hive members was blatantly ignored, and she was invited to dine at all the best houses. Not that she could leave her hive as a tethered queen, but invitations were sent. Her ridiculous hats were accepted by ladies of standing and ill repute with equal alacrity. Even the Parisian designers were producing the occasional platter-shaped monstrosity replete with entire scenes of crocheted sheepdog herding. Within a year of contact with the Wimbledon Egyptians, as the hive was sometimes called, the more daring London dandies had taken to coloured shirts, sashes about the waist, and the odd gold bracelet or two. Dama had needed to be very firm indeed with his more modish drones. Mr Rabiffano, as the world’s only fashionable werewolf, had remained amused and aloof from it all.

Baroness Tunstell, though a vampire queen, never lost her suspicion of other vampires. Her close friendship with Rue’s soulless mother and werewolf Paw left her pro-werewolf in a way that had not been seen in a vampire for centuries. Thus Baroness Tunstell was considered by the supernatural set to be quite modern. Countess Nadasdy, queen of the nearby Woolsey Hive had been heard to call her, on more than one occasion, both fast and forward. In vampires, that was almost a sign of respect.

But for Primrose, who’d gone up against the Baroness of Wimbledon’s overprotective nature since she was born, and for Rue, who’d often been included in the smothering, Aunt Ivy was a problem. Being a vampire queen in control of a twitchy transplanted hive full of foreigners only exacerbated a temperament ill-suited to either command or parenting. It was just like Aunt Ivy to send one of her vampires after her daughter when there was no sign of danger. And even more like her not to acknowledge what a tremendous social faux pas this was.

Primrose was mortified. “Oh, Lord Akeldama, I do apologise! How horribly rude. I am abjectly sorry.”

The blond vampire relaxed, but only slightly. A hive-bound vampire simply did not visit the house of a rove without sending a card first! Such matters of etiquette existed for very good reasons.

Rue was annoyed on Dama’s behalf and amused by her friend’s discomfort. Prim was usually so poised. “Really, Prim, doesn’t your mother ever learn?”

Prim hurried to gather up her wrap and reticule. “Sadly, no. I apologise again, Lord Akeldama. Please excuse me. Rue, I’ll call tomorrow. Just after sunset?” She bobbed a curtsey and blew them both a quick kiss before hurrying to intercept her mother’s vampire before he actually caused an incident by trying to enter Dama’s home, without invitation.

Rue watched her friend depart. “Why must we be cursed with such troublesome parents?”

“My dear Puggle,” objected her Dama in mock injury, “what could you possibly be implying?”

Rue shifted next to him and carefully rested her head on his well-padded shoulder. “Oh, not you, of course, Dama. Never you.”

“That’s my girl.”

CHAPTER TWO

FOR QUEEN AND CUSTARD

Rue watched her mother’s face for signs of distress.

The aristocratic features remained inscrutable except for a slight flare of the nostrils. Rue touched her own nose, checking for signs of expansion. It was a characteristic mannerism adopted whenever she was in Mother’s company. She’d developed it as a child, worried that her nose might suddenly, out of envy, begin to grow into a similar beak. It hadn’t yet but it still might.

Rue’s mother wrinkled said protuberance and swished the tea carefully about her mouth as though she were a French wine expert in imminent danger of expectorating. Except, of course, that Mother never expectorated. Apart from the indecorous idea of an aristocrat spitting, she would abhor the waste of tea.

Rue had never entirely forgiven her mother for naming her Prudence. Despite a shared and inexplicable love for treacle tart, their relationship was contentious at best and combative the rest of the time.

   
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