Never Been Bit - By Lydia Dare

Chapter One

Castle Hythe, Kent

August 1817

Ever since Sorcha Ferguson had met her first Lycan, she’d been determined to have one for her very own. And her coven sister had promised there would be Lycans at the Duchess of Hythe’s house party. Since the day that glorious news had reached Sorcha’s ears, she’d planned her entire visit south around the idea of falling in love with a beast just like two of her very best friends had done. Yet she hadn’t seen even one Lycan since she’d been in Kent, and she’d already been at Castle Hythe for a sennight.

There was only one thing left to do. If they wouldn’t come to her, she would go to them. But first, she had to fix the shambles that was the Duchess of Hythe’s orangery.

Sorcha had been nearly overcome with sadness when she’d seen all the plants in such a sad state of neglect.

She scoffed. She was feeling very much like the plants these days. Every one of her friends had married within the last year or so, and she was the only witch in her coven left to find a husband. She snorted. She hadn’t even come close to finding one, and all because those promised Lycans had yet to make an appearance.

Sorcha walked from row to row in the orangery, laying her hands on the forsaken plants. The lilies could use a kind word to boost their spirits. Their stems sagged, and there was not a single bloom to be found. She blew a lock of hair from her eyes in distraction.

A piece of Irish ivy reached out to touch her ankle. The poor thing was yellowed and aching for attention. She smiled and touched her hands to the vine, watching it strengthen and fortify itself right before her eyes. “Ye’re welcome,” she murmured when the vine stroked across the toe of her shoe. She wiped her hands together. The duchess would be appalled if she saw the dirt beneath Sorcha’s fingernails.

“There you are,” Lady Madeline Hayburn called from the other side of the orangery. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

Sorcha bit her lip. She shouldn’t have stopped to tend the plants. But she couldn’t just allow them to suffer, could she?

“I was just thinkin’ of goin’ out for a bit,” she said evasively, avoiding the other girl’s gaze as she lifted herself up to sit on a low table.

Maddie’s face fell. “Oh,” she said with an understanding nod. But Sorcha could tell her friend was disappointed. And she’d be the worst sort of friend if she abandoned the young lady to go in search of a man. Or men. Or Lycans. Or her destiny.

Maddie wouldn’t have any idea how to go along without her. Sorcha patted a place beside herself. “I just thought I’d pay a visit ta Eynsford Park. The ride isna too far, from what yer grandmother said.”

Maddie smiled as she settled beside Sorcha, her blond curls bouncing about her shoulders. “I can’t believe how wonderful Grandmamma’s plants look. Just a fortnight ago, this place looked as though it had died a less than peaceful death. You are a miracle worker.”

Sorcha remembered. It had hurt her very heart to see the plants in such shape. “Oh, I just have a bit of a green thumb.”

“Something I clearly lack.” Maddie smoothed her skirts out in front of her. “What is so important at Eynsford Park?”

Only Sorcha’s future. “I just want ta visit my old friend.”

Maddie leaned in conspiratorially. “For years,” she whispered, “the villagers swore a monster resided at Eynsford Park. Did you know?”

Sorcha knew all about that particular monster. And she could hardly wait to lay eyes on his half brothers, especially as the monster, or Lycan, in question was married to her coven sister and dear friend.

“Monster?” she giggled, determined never to give the secret away. “Cait, I mean, Lady Eynsford, would no’ put up with a monster on her grounds.”

Maddie giggled then too. “I can’t imagine the marchioness scaring a monster away. She seems of the sweetest disposition.”

“Ye’ve never seen Cait in a temper.” Sorcha nudged her new friend’s shoulder with her own. “Ye can take my word for it, Maddie. A monster would no’ wish ta make her angry.” Cait in a temper was a force to be reckoned with.

Any self-respecting monster would steer clear of her wrath.

That was what her husband did, after all.

“She sounds like Grandmamma.”

The two were a bit alike with their commanding presence, now that Sorcha thought about it. “And would a monster