The Devil in Her Bed (Devil You Know #3) - Kerrigan Byrne


Mont Claire Estate, Hampshire, 1872

Pippa Hargrave was about to have her heart broken.

When she heard the Cavendish twins were turned out of the schoolroom so early on this particular afternoon, she tore through the Mont Claire estate knowing they’d spill out onto the lawn and head for their hedge maze.

Her father, Charles Hargrave, looked up from the counter where he stood and snacked on a repast of cold chicken and greens as she burst through the door to the kitchens.

“What ho, little’un?” His eyes wrinkled kindly at the edges, and he hinged at the hip to tweak her fondly on her nose with a gloved finger. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

An elegant Romani woman stood by her mother, Hattie, and added a few more herbs to the pot. “You were in a rush to come into this world, Pip.” Serana warmly used the household’s nickname for her, and it sounded strange in what Hattie said was her Carpathian accent. “It is no surprise you want to hasten your way through it.”

Pippa had been told that she owed her very existence to Serana, as her mama and papa had endeavored to conceive a child for decades to no avail. Serana had given Hattie a tonic, and she’d become pregnant with Pippa right away.

Pippa’s father, the butler of the Mont Claire estate and already eleven years Hattie’s senior, was the age of most children’s grandfathers. He treated his daughter with a kind of mystified but devoted indulgence.

“I’m going to find Declan Chandler.” Pippa squirmed to get outside.

“I think I saw him cleaning out the fountain as I came in,” Serana supplied helpfully with a little wink.

“Oh no, I must go help him,” Pip lamented dramatically. “He hates cleaning the fountain, it terrifies him. Though he’s too brave to say so.” She sighed for his courage, closing her eyes to properly give it the knightly due it deserved.

“My daughter’s besotted.” Hattie palmed Pippa’s cheek with a warm hand before passing an implement to Serana.

Pippa wrinkled her nose. Be-what?

“That Declan Chandler has the soul of a tiger,” Serana said. “And you, Pip, have that of a dragon.”

“Dragons aren’t real,” Pippa informed her with a giggle.

“Aren’t they?” Serana asked, winking cheerfully. “I’ve been many places where they would disagree with you.”

“Do you have any peppermints in your pockets?” Pippa turned to her father, already searching his coat. Peppermints were Declan’s favorite. She always found him pale after dredging the fountain, and a bit irate. Peppermints cheered him up and made him smile the smile that produced scores of rampant butterflies in her belly.

“Gads, I must do somewhere.” Charles slapped every pocket he could find more than once before producing a handful of treats for the children.

Pippa seized them, divvying them up. One each for Ferdinand, Francesca, and herself. She saved the remaining two for Declan. He deserved extra.

She kissed her father’s smooth cheek and leapt toward the door. Sprinting down the stretch of lawn lined with resplendent arborvitae, she ate up the distance between her and the boy who owned her heart.

Declan Chandler had once been short, like her, and devastatingly underweight when he’d landed on the steps of Mont Claire some years ago. He’d been grimy and freezing, starving half to death.

But his frame had stretched out over a long, thickening skeleton, and even though he ate enough to feed a horse, he remained curiously lean.

Lately, instead of focusing on the primers Francesca allowed her to study on her own, Pippa would make up ridiculous fancies about Declan Chandler. Today, for example, she spent a good deal of the early afternoon chomping on her pencil, leaving crunchy indentations as she pondered the perfection of the word thunderstruck.

After all this time wondering how to properly encompass the effect the houseboy had on her, Pippa could finally claim a description.

Once she’d scampered past the stately gardens dripping with an embarrassment of blossoms, she ran through the hedge maze she’d memorized with the loping speed of a fleet-footed bunny.

She broke into the clearing bedecked by the fountain just in time for her heart to break.

Declan stood to his knees in the fountain while droplets from the spray gathered on his skin and sluiced down the indentations of lean muscle that had never been there until recently.

He was like the progeny of the powerful-bodied ancient gods cast from marble behind him.

And Francesca Cavendish was slipping a peppermint past his lips.

The smile he bestowed upon her—the smile that should have been Pippa’s—nearly outshone the noonday