My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding

Or Forever Hold Your Peace
Saint Martin's Griffin (October 2006)
ISBN-13: 9780312343606  ♦ ISBN-10: 0312343604

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When a mysterious stranger halts the marriage of her friends Lord Edward Parish and Lady Emma Wakefield, Olivia Dowling — along with her shapeshifter companion, Kit Meredith — must find the source of the dark magic that might destroy not only the two innocent lovers, but also the kingdom of Albion itself…

This is the second Kit & Olivia adventure. The first, “Murder Entailed” appeared in the anthology Murder By Magic.

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Or Forever Hold Your Peace

“… Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his–”

“I have cause!”

The bishop’s mouth dropped open, showing a full set of crooked teeth. The congregation in the pews twisted around with like expressions of shock, and a deadly hush fell over St. Bertram’s-in-the-Fens.

The man who had spoken stood at the rear of the church, fists clenched in defiance. Though he wore respectable-enough clothing and his hair was neatly combed, his accent was that of the Eirish commons, and it was immediately clear to Lady Olivia Dowling that he did not belong in this exalted company of Albion’s most noble patricians. Lord Edward Parish, still kneeling at the altar, glared at the intruder with such ire that he seemed very apt to display his Luciferian powers and start a fire right then and there.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

The unwelcome guest faltered beneath several score hostile, unwavering stares and then gathered his courage. “My name does not matter,” he said, his voice booming up to the buttresses. He looked directly at Lady Emma, bride-to-be and daughter of the Earl of Wakefield. “If only you had told me the truth. I would have understood. I–-”

He broke off, his ruddy skin going pale. Olivia frowned and studied him more carefully, sinking deep into her Talent as an Anatomist. The man’s body betrayed him. His heart had begun to beat very fast, his palms to sweat, his eyes to widen with violent alarm. Olivia glanced again at Edward, who still stood at the altar. Lady Emma swayed, and Edward caught her against him.

The bishop finally found his voice. “Who are you?” he echoed. “You have interrupted a most solemn ceremony. What have you to say?” When it was over, Olivia could not have said precisely what she had felt before the man bolted. It was rather as if she heard something through his ears, an eerie wail that could not have come from a mortal throat. She knew that the stranger was consumed by such dreadful fear that it seemed that his heart must burst from his body.

He spun about, fell to one knee, scrambled to his feet and charged for the doors, keening in despair.

A woman screamed. Everyone rose in a rustle of long skirts and the shuffle of polished shoes, and a trio of guests at the rear of the nave pursued the intruder out into the watery London sunshine. Olivia heard a rough, masculine cry of sheer terror, and then silence. A moment later one of the guests returned, his expression set and grim. He started for the altar, where Lady Emma trembled in Edward’s arms.

“I beg your pardon,” Olivia said to her nearest neighbors as she squeezed past them out of the aisle. She looked about for Kit and, not seeing him, strode for the doors.

A flood of wedding guests poured out of the church, crowding about Olivia as she paused at the top of the steps. A woman at Olivia’s elbow gasped, and a gentleman cursed under his breath.

The stranger lay at the bottom of the steps, his body twisted, his head bent at an improbable angle. One of the guests crouched by his side. Christopher Meredith–-“Kit” to his dearest friends–was particularly handsome today in his wedding clothes, his unruly black hair tamed into a semblance of order and no whiff of the Black Dog about him, though he wore his smoke-lensed spectacles to hide the crimson glint in his eyes.

Olivia remembered the third guest who had followed the unfortunate stranger and searched the crowd of gawkers that had gathered in the square to point and gossip. She caught a glimpse of a gentleman’s well-cut suit, an impression of aristocratic features just before the man turned and vanished into the mob. Olivia lifted her skirts and rushed down the steps with indecorous haste. Kit looked up as she joined him.

“Lady Olivia,” he said, inclining his head with grave formality. “I’m afraid he has passed on.”

Olivia knelt beside him, calling upon her fickle, Residual gift and praying that this time it would obey her summons. In an instant she knew that Kit’s diagnosis was correct.

“He appears to have died of a broken neck,” she murmured. “What do you suppose he was running away from?”

“Probably thought better of his dashed interruption in a church filled to the rafters with Talent and a bridegroom capable of frying him in his boots.” Olivia clucked. “This is no time for levity, Kit. He was terrified before he fled the church, as if he’d seen a …”

A what? she asked herself. Unless one of the guests was a Illusionist or an extremely rare Conjuror, it was highly unlikely that the man could have seen an apparition invisible to the guests. And yet…

“There’s a stink of magic in the air,” Kit said more seriously, “but I can’t identify it. It isn’t human, that’s certain.”

Or Forever Hold Your Peace

 

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