Blameless

Contents

By Gail Carriger

Copyright

Acknowledgments

1. Wherein the Misses Loontwill Cope with Scandal in Their Midst

2. In Which Lord Maccon Is Likened to a Small Cucumber

3. Alexia Engages in Entomology

4. Tea and Insults

5. In Which Ivy Hisselpenny and Professor Lyall Are Given Too Much Responsibility

6. Under the Name Tarabotti

7. The Trouble with Vampires

8. Trial by Snuff, Kumquat, and Exorcism

9. How Not to Cross an Alpine Pass

10. In Which Alexia Meddles with Silent Italians

11. Wherein Alexia Encounters Both Pesto and a Mysterious Jar

12. The Great Scotch Egg Under the Thames

13. Picnicking with Templars

14. In Which the Infant-Inconvenience Becomes Considerably More Inconvenient

15. Ladybugs to the Rescue

16. On a Bridge over the Arno and Other Romantic Misnomers

Extras

Meet the Author

A Preview of Tempest Rising

Acknowledgments

This book really wouldn’t have happened without Kristin, Devi, and Francesca. No, really, you’d be reading a big fat collection of blank pages right now. Thanks, ladies, I owe you all wine and cheese! Lots of cheese. And a million hugs to J. Daniel Sawyer, who was more helpful, more often, than he realized.

CHAPTER ONE

Wherein the Misses Loontwill Cope with Scandal in Their Midst

How much longer, Mama, must we tolerate this gross humiliation?”

Lady Alexia Maccon paused before entering the breakfast room. Cutting through the comfortable sounds of chinking teacups and scrunching toast shrilled her sister’s less-than-dulcet tones. In an unsurprising morning duet of well-practiced whining, Felicity’s voice was soon followed by Evylin’s.

“Yes, Mumsy darling, such a scandal under our roof. We really shouldn’t be expected to put up with it any longer.”

Felicity championed the cause once more. “This is ruining our chances”—crunch, crunch—“beyond all recuperation. It isn’t to be borne. It really isn’t.”

Alexia made a show of checking her appearance in the hall mirror, hoping to overhear more. Much to her consternation, the Loontwill’s new butler, Swilkins, came through with a tray of kippers. He gave her a disapproving glare that said much on his opinion of a young lady caught eavesdropping on her own family. Eavesdropping was, by rights, a butler’s proprietary art form.

“Good morning, Lady Maccon,” he said loudly enough for the family to hear even through their chatting and clattering, “you received several messages yesterday.” He handed Alexia two folded and sealed letters and then waited pointedly for her to precede him into the breakfast room.

“Yesterday! Yesterday! And why, pray tell, did you not give them to me yesterday?”

Swilkins did not reply.

Nasty bit of bother, this new butler. Alexia was finding that little was worse in life than existing in a state of hostility with one’s domestic staff.

Entering the breakfast room, Alexia actually flounced slightly in her annoyance and turned her ire upon those seated before her. “Good morning, dearest family.”

As she made her way to the only empty chair, four pairs of blue eyes watched her progress with an air of condemnation. Well, three pairs—the Right Honorable Squire Loontwill was entirely taken with the correct cracking of his soft-boiled egg. This involved the application of an ingenious little device, rather like a handheld sideways guillotine, that nipped the tip off the egg in perfect, chipless circularity. Thus happily engrossed, he did not bother to attend to the arrival of his stepdaughter.

Alexia poured herself a glass of barley water and took a piece of toast from the rack, no butter, trying to ignore the smoky smell of breakfast. It had once been her favorite meal; now it invariably curdled her stomach. So far, the infant-inconvenience—as she’d taken to thinking of it—was proving itself far more tiresome than one would have thought possible, considering it was years away from either speech or action.

Mrs. Loontwill looked with manifest approval at her daughter’s meager selection.