Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: Prizm (December 14, 2011)
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As the vain and self-absorbed poets continue their campaign of destruction via awful verse and catastrophic romantic advice in Dryden Abbey, tutor Garrick finds himself struggling in the classroom, with increasingly distracted and agitated pupils eroding all of his hard work and reducing him to using all things dead and decaying in order to keep Desmond and Lavinia's minds on their lessons. As if that isn't enough, his parents embark on a mad countryside ramble, their ultimate destination being Dryden Abbey and a face-to-face meeting with their son's unholy employers. Meanwhile, with Phillip Priestley's unexpected appearance, Desmond's world slowly unravels as infatuation, lust, confusion, and revulsion drive him into wilder mood swings and an overwhelming desire to play with his father's antique executioner's axe. Mr. Sherbourne's coldly distant yet attractive presence in Dryden Abbey further complicates things, prompting Desmond to do something he never thought he'll ever do: reach out to unlikely allies for help. In the midst of the wild goings on around them, Garrick and Desmond will realize that the chasm that separates them as distinct species will not only teach them important lessons on understanding and acceptance, but also forge a stronger bond of friendship than they expected.
The torture chamber felt icier than it normally did, and Garrick was obliged to tiptoe away from the iron maiden and free one of the lit torches off its holder and then tiptoe back to the weathered table on which he’d perched himself before. Sighing his relief, he held the torch as close to his body as he could without scorching his eyebrows or strands of his hair. The heat it gave off was simply heavenly.
“…and another thing, sir,” Mr. Hathaway continued, his voice slightly muffled as he continued his irate spluttering from inside the iron maiden. “You’ve been charged to look after my son, and by extension, you’re to be his protector. What the Devil’s reeking arse made you look the other way, when Desmond’s trust was being taken advantage of?”
Garrick grimaced at the gentleman’s language. Well, at least he knew where Desmond learned how to speak such filth when roused, unless, of course, it was deeply ingrained in vampire nature to be foul-mouthed and inclined to make vile references to Satan’s backside.
“Mr. Hathaway, it’s simply impossible to keep young gentlemen from exploring their feelings for other, uh, gentlemen without resorting to bloody measures,” Garrick replied. “And might I add that as a mere mortal, I’m at a great disadvantage here, for I’m not as great a savage hunter as vampires are – begging your pardon, sir – and wouldn’t be able to defend myself against young Master Desmond should he ultimately go mad from being thwarted too much.”
“I’ve two other sons who’ve explored their damned feelings when they were Desmond’s age, and look where their confounded experiments led them!” Mr. Hathaway retorted, and Garrick saw the iron maiden shake, its rusty hinges rattling. “I specifically wrote to you, Mr. Mortimer, to ensure that my youngest son doesn’t make the same blasted mistake as his brothers!”
“But, sir, surely you can’t expect a sixteen-year-old vampire boy to follow strict rules, whether or not he has a tutor or protector. Shouldn’t that be the age when – well – people start learning how to be adults?” Garrick shook his head. “Indeed, sir, I was learning how to be an adult when I was but ten!” He took care not to add that it was the occasional thrashing he got from his father that gave him a great deal of incentive to be a ten-year-old adult.
“It’s all so well for you to talk about exploring feelings and learning about adulthood at sixteen, Mr. Mortimer, with you being mortal and all. As a scientific sort of fellow, shouldn’t you understand the vast differences between our species?”
Garrick frowned as he held up a hand near the torch’s flame to warm it. “I’m quite aware of the vast differences between our species, sir, but this is really an issue about youth, not undead-ness.”
“Is it, by Hades?”
“Yes, it is. My dear Mr. Hathaway, young Master Desmond doesn’t behave any differently from mortal boys his age. I’ve been through school, as you know, and I can assure you that during, before, and after sixteen years of age, mortal boys are just as intractable as their vampire counterparts.” Garrick paused and considered. “Though perhaps less bloody and much less seductive to their peers. In fact, I find mortal boys to be dreadfully unattractive.”
He frowned again as his mind caught up with itself, and he was amazed at what he’d just said. Not only was he defending Desmond’s character and going contrary to his previous notions about vampire nature and its inferiority to a mortal’s, but he also realized that he truly, sincerely believed what he was saying.
“My son’s fallen in love with a blasted poet, Mr. Mortimer,” Mr. Hathaway said, his muffled voice turning into a pitiful howl, which could be a very common thing among undead fathers going through a crisis of sorts. “A poet, for the love of all things demonic!”
Garrick stared at the iron maiden now. Mr. Hathaway was upset at Desmond choosing a poet? That is, the gentleman wasn’t upset that Desmond had fallen in love with a man? “Yes, quite,” he muttered at length, his surprise and confusion now turning into a throbbing headache. “Vampires are born with exotic tastes. I must remember that.”
“Sir, I really do think that you shouldn’t let yourself get so upset,” he said more loudly even as he rubbed one temple with his free hand. “Master Desmond needs to be allowed freedom to navigate through these waters on his own. It’s all we can do to guide him if he asks.”
Lord, if his past self could hear his present self now, Garrick thought, grimacing.
“You sound more vampire than mortal, Mr. Mortimer,” Mr. Hathaway said after a moment’s pause, his voice now calmer and more even. “You do your profession great justice.”
“Thank you, sir.” Garrick didn’t know whether or not to panic.
A loud, tremulous sigh rattled the iron maiden. “Have you seen Mrs. Hathaway, by the bye?”
“Yes, sir. She and Miss Hathaway are currently taking turns hurling themselves off the northwestern tower.”
“What – they are?”
Garrick nodded despite the fact that Mr. Hathaway couldn’t see him. “I’m afraid I still haven’t developed the stomach to stop and admire their efforts at self-destruction, sir, so I can’t rightly say whether or not they self-toss with great skill. But from the looks of things, I gather that they’re both terribly upset over Desmond’s romantic entanglements.”
“Oh, hang their damned skill! They’ll be wearing out the stones at the base of the tower if they keep this up!” The iron maiden shook violently, and a string of curses filtered through. It was all Garrick could do to watch the instrument of torture rattle and teeter precariously on its rusty feet, his eyes glazing over. “For the love of Satan’s harem, Mr. Mortimer, help me get out of this confounded shell! I’m trapped!”