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Hunter's Song [A Ghastly Affair Novel]
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Hunter's Song [A Ghastly Affair Novel]

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"Do not think of him as the man you remember, for that person is already dead. He is no longer your betrothed. He is no longer human, but a monster in human guise."

Georgian London, the late eighteenth century: a time of social decadence and political upheaval.

Lila Davenport was born a noble heiress, but when tragedy strikes she is outcast from her inheritance. Now a hunter of the demonic forces which stalk the shadows, Lila finds herself the target of a supernatural enemy more terrible and cruel than she could have imagined.

But how will she prevail when even those closest to her are not what they seem? Her journey will take her across a Europe torn by revolution, and down into the darkest depths of her own heart...

An all-original novel from the acclaimed world of GHASTLY AFFAIR, the Gothic Game of Romantic Horror.

Note: This digital edition includes the PDF, EPUB and MOBI (Kindle) versions of the book.



CHAPTER ONE

London, 1786

LILA WAS AFRAID.

She stood on the bare wooden floorboards in her rain-wet shoes, making a show of looking around the small room; inspecting the lodgings though there was very little to inspect. A single narrow bed topped with a thin straw-stuffed mattress, a battered chest of drawers with a chipped basin of water perched on top, and a chair missing one leg. The tiny grime-smeared window looked out onto a dank alleyway and the crumbling brick wall of the neighboring building; the fetid gutter stench drifted from below. Only a few months ago the very notion of her being in such a place as this would have seemed an unthinkable horror. Yet here she was, and her fear was a cold clenching weight in the pit of her stomach—fear of the great and terrible thing she must do here this night. I must not falter now.

Lila turned to the landlady who stood framed in the doorway of the room, watching her with eyes narrowed and arms folded. Mrs. Jennings was a heavyset, gap-toothed woman with her head covered by a ragged shawl even indoors; middle-aged yet already old beyond her years, as life in the city had a way of inflicting. Lila—who had lived most of her twenty-two years thus far on a sprawling, wealthy country estate—wondered how long her own youth would last now that she, too, had become one of London's crowded thousands of ordinary denizens.

This will be acceptable,” Lila said, attempting a smile of reassurance, whether for herself or for the landlady she couldn't be sure.

Mrs. Jennings grunted. “It's a shilling a night, meals extra, no visitors after dark. Certainly no gentleman visitors,” she added with a lascivious twinkling of her eyes and a gummy grin.

Lila ignored the sardonic comment and paid a full fortnight's rent and board in advance. Mrs. Jennings bit the gold guinea and sniffed at it suspiciously. Then, appearing grudgingly satisfied, she made the coin disappear up her sleeve. The landlady hesitated; Lila could see a list of questions forming in her openly curious gaze. What was an unaccompanied young woman doing seeking lodgings in such an establishment on a rainy October evening? Particularly one whose dress, accent and ready payment spoke of certain means.

If you will please excuse me I must prepare for an appointment,” Lila said firmly, forestalling any inquiries.

Mrs. Jennings sniffed. Though plainly unhappy at the lack of gossip material, she nodded then backed out of the doorway with a thwarted grimace. “As you wish, young miss.” The landlady stomped off along the hallway.

Lila closed the door of her new accommodation and sat down on the edge of the bed with a heaving sigh, her legs suddenly weak. She closed her eyes, tired following the long journey across the city. It was never easy. Not anymore. Not since her family had disowned her after—but she didn't want to think about that now. No doubt the memories would haunt her enough later on in the lonely dark, as they did every night. She opened her eyes and her gaze settled upon a cheap wooden cross hanging on the wall above the bed. A sign of protection, for some. But for her?

Lila shook her head and got to her feet, forcing herself to focus upon the task at hand. I must not falter now. She splashed her face with water from the basin and did her best to clean herself of the city's grime, despite knowing she would inevitably become dirty again soon enough. Her single case of luggage contained only a few items of clothing and scarcely any cosmetic with which to make herself more than presentable—or attractive to a man, as her task demanded. She adjusted her petticoat and the flared skirt of her gown, and used pieces of wicker to pile her hair as best she could. With the fashion for powdered faces and copious decoration in full vogue she would simply have to get used to no longer being in fashion. It was a small sacrifice to make, considering.

Taking her umbrella and pulling on a pair of satin gloves, Lila left the room and headed downstairs. Passing the open kitchen doorway she caught a glimpse of a sour-faced Mrs. Jennings watching her go.

On the street outside the Soho lodging house, the rain was still coming down in a cold drizzle and the early evening sky was a dull gray slate hanging over the dark spires of London. Carriages clattered forlornly over the wet cobbles among sedan chairs, wagons and horses, while pedestrians huddled in their heavy coats, hurrying by. Lila set off walking briskly since her destination was not too far away, which was one reason why she had chosen these particular lodgings. The other reason being anonymity amid the usual types of patrons such places housed: immigrants; artists; libertines; prostitutes.

As she passed along the teeming thoroughfares of the city's west, she heard music spilling from the recessed doorway of a public house and paused to listen. A woman was singing sweetly in melancholy French, to the accompaniment of a solo violin's high mournful strains; a new song Lila had not heard before. Having been tutored in several languages, the lyrics took her but a moment to translate. Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment; chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie. The pleasure of love lasts only a moment; the grief of love lasts a lifetime.

Pierced, Lila shivered and hurried on by.


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Product Information
Author(s)
Pages
221
ISBN
9781537837710
File Size:
3.03 MB
Format
Original electronic
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File Last Updated:
September 27, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on September 27, 2017.
Publisher Info
William Rutter