Jane and the Damned

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In this excerpt, Jane is initiated into the etiquette of dining.

She gazed at his neck, at the pale skin with a hint of stubble where his razor had missed a spot. She had never been so close to a gentleman before—but of course she had, when William had created her, although she remembered it only as a swirl of confusing, startling pleasure.

“Don’t be afraid,” Luke said. “You decide when you are to bite. Slowly. Allow your canines to sink in; it’s easier than a wrist, the skin is softer. Ah, very good.”

She whimpered as his blood flowed onto her tongue, a sweet flood of power, before pulling away. She breathed on his neck, licking the last drops. “I can’t drink any more from you.”

“What’s wrong?”

“You’re so sad.”

He grinned and wrapped an arm around her waist. “On the contrary, my dear, I am quite cheered at the moment.”

“Consider the gravitas of your position as my Bearleader, sir.”

“You are quite right. I am behaving disgracefully.” He released her, and pulled his shirt front straight.

“Not a drop spilled,” she said, cheered by her success.

“Excellent. Now remember that if the person is excited, which invariably he will be, the blood will pulse. Take care not to choke and pray he has not eaten onions recently.” He handed her her fan.

“How will I know when to stop?”

“You’ll know. If you seem a little too, ah, enthusiastic, I shall let you know. I shall be nearby.” He rose and, pulling his coat on, walked to the sideboard where a decanter of wine and wineglasses stood. “Some Madeira? Now, others will be dining when you enter the drawing room. Pray do not express too much interest; it will be considered excessively vulgar. In particular you must avoid meeting the eye of one who dines, for he or she will consider it a request to join. Since you are a fledgling it would be monstrously improper of you to solicit an invitation thus, and you should await for one senior to you to make a proper introduction—”

“Good heavens!” cried Jane, nearly choking on her wine. “It reminds me of a Basingstoke assembly!”

“As I was saying–if, on the other hand, another of us invites you to join, it is considered proper to accept, for it is a high honor. If you wish to decline, you may do so by bowing your head and dropping a curtsy.”

“And at what point should I remove my gloves?” Jane asked, struggling to keep a straight face.

Luke shot her a stern glance. “If one of the mortals requests you dine from him or her, you must be careful they do not ask to stir up trouble between us. Some of our group are jealous of mortals they consider their own.” He added, “Unless it is Ann, for she is with the household, although Clarissa tends to regard her as her property. Apparently Ann has a certain way of darning stockings that is most rare.”

“I see,” Jane said, again suppressing a smile. “But she does not darn stockings while one dines upon her, I think.”

Jane and the Damned

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