Today's Reading

Having a house to himself, turning that house into a home, would be deeply satisfying. His father had sent him to school, then hadn't cared when Gabriel wanted to continue his studies. Gabriel had lived in rented rooms near the British Museum in London, poring over ancient texts as he worked to create a more lively, more modern version of a slew of Greek myths.

He saw the promise of the house, of what it had been when Mr. Holton's wife had been alive and their two daughters had lived there as well.

Her father had staked his oldest daughter in a wager against Gabriel's father, and lost. Ivy, the oldest, had then had the audacity to challenge Mr. Fallon to a wager, using her younger sister as a stake.

Gabriel's father had wanted the sister Octavia to marry Gabriel, even though nobody had consulted either one of them. Why his father had wanted him to marry the younger Holton girl was a mystery, but then again, most of what his father had done was a mystery to Gabriel.

Thank God Ivy had won.

And promptly left that very night for London, taking her younger sister with her.

"Enough of that, though," Gabriel said to Nyx as he strode from the kitchen back to the main entrance. He undid the buttons of his shirt as he walked outside into the early evening air, yanking it up and over his head.

The day had been warm, and he hadn't been able to resist moving a few pieces of furniture, making him sweat.

He'd spied a small pond in the back of the house when he'd looked out a smoke-smeared window.

"We're going for a swim, girl," he told Nyx as he circled around to the back. He dropped to the grass, slid his boots and socks off, then stood back up to remove his trousers and his smallclothes.

Nobody was here, nobody would come here, and he'd be damned if he'd walk around in damp underclothes.

He plunged into the water, a blessedly cool relief on his heated skin. Nyx followed, her little head bobbing up and down in the water as she paddled.

It was peaceful. He was alone, which he relished. He had a purpose, which he craved. And he now had plenty of time, funds, and a house, all of which would further his work.

He wanted and needed nothing else. He wanted and needed nobody else.

He floated on his back, stretching his arms out to his sides, when he heard an enormous splash. He lifted his head to see a gigantic black dog barreling into the water, and a woman running behind, yelling at the dog to come back.

"Cerberus!" she shouted, her attention focused on her dog. Gabriel jerked upright and grabbed Nyx, holding the tiny dog to his side as the other dog—Cerberus—continued his quest toward them. He instinctively thrust Nyx nearly behind him, protecting her.

And then the woman saw him.

Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, and she yelped, making an eep! sound. As though he was the interloper, and not she.

Gabriel gritted his teeth, keeping a wary eye on her enormous dog, who could have swallowed Nyx as a snack.

"I don't know who the hell you are," he said in a fierce tone, "or what you are doing here, but you need to control your dog."

Her eyes narrowed. "Cerberus wouldn't want to have anything to do with your dog. Would you, Cerberus?" she said to her dog, who was steadfastly ignoring her. He'd emerged from the water, and was now sniffing at its edge, thankfully far away from Nyx.

She turned her gaze back to Gabriel. "You are the trespasser," she said in a firm, righteous tone. "What are you doing here?" she demanded. "And who are you?"

"I could ask the very same of you," Gabriel replied. "Since you are on my property."

"Your property!" she echoed. "It is most certainly not." She raised her chin. "This is my house."


CHAPTER TWO

The carriage deposited Octavia and Cerberus at the front gates, then quickly departed, leaving Octavia feeling—for nearly the first time in her life—almost unsure.

Likely that was because she had been in the carriage for six hours, and had forgotten to do more than snatch a stale roll before she left. She was probably just hungry.

And why hadn't she brought food?

Because I acted on impulse. As usual. Trusting that things would be all right if she just continued on her own course.
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