Oh, dear. I walk into Lady B’s Ballroom for an evening’s elegant chitchat, dancing, and champagne, and… Trouble.
Unbeknownst to me, dear Lady B has invited both the Knight brothers and the gentlemen (and I use that term loosely) of the Inferno Club
I consider rushing behind the nearest potted plant until I can figure out what to do. This has never happened before, crossing paths with my own characters. What is the proper protocol?? That is…Do they know they are fictional characters? Do they realize who I am? And if so, whom do I greet first? I mean, the Knight boys hold precedence as the firstborn, but I really need the Inferno lads to cooperate for the rest of the series. I dare not risk offending them or they’ll retaliate by giving me writer’s block. I wouldn’t put it past them.
For that matter, I am not even sure the entire Ballroom won’t explode in some catastrophic matter/anti-matter collision of alternate Regency realities. Should I summon the fire company? Shove Prinny out of here for the sake of national security? (His Royal Highness is sweating terribly in the crush as it is.)
Maybe I can just sneak past them all without being noticed . . .
As I spread my fan and hold it over my face, making a bee-line for Lady Sarah and Lady Katharine and the rest of my BallroomBlog friends, however, the canny Lord Lucien Knight spots me. Those keen silvery eyes narrow. Dash it! He always was the cleverest of the bunch. At once, he breaks away from his brothers and strides over to me.
“Pardon, ma’am.” He blocks my path. ”Don’t I know you?”
“Um, er–” Gulp. I fan myself faster, trying to avoid eye contact. “Oh, I don’t think so. If you’ll excuse me–”
“Wait! It IS you!” He gasps and suddenly flings himself onto his knees in front of me and throws his hands up in the air. “Oh, Goddess! Creator! Maker of this world, hear my prayer–”
“What?! Stop that! Get up! Honestly–” I haul him back up by his cravat, looking around nervously. “Don’t make a scene. You’re embarrassing me!”
“Well, you ARE our creator, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but I’m not divine! I’m just a human being, I assure you. With flaws. Just ask the reviewer at XXXX [REDACTED].”
Still unsure if I am deity or ordinary shlub, Lucien pokes me in the shoulder. “Hm. Flesh and blood. I’ll be demmed. Well, then! Right.” With a firm nod, he thankfully decides to let the whole existential question go. Smart chap. “That makes things easier. I have a request.”
I raise a skeptical eyebrow. “Yes? What can I do for you?”
He casts a covert glance around, then pins me with a shrewd stare. “I hear you’ve got another spy ring going.”
“How did you–”
“I have my ways, Gaelen. I was an agent for the Crown for most of my career, remember. The Inferno Club, right?” He leans closer. “I want in.”
“I want in on it! I have the skills, the experience. I’m sure they could use another agent–”
“No. It’s out of the question!”
“You’re from an entirely different series, Lucien!”
“So? Write me in.”
“It’s not that simple! I can’t just stick you in their world like a clove in a ham.”
“Your readers love me,” he says matter-of-factly, folding his arms across his chest.
“Now, now, don’t be immodest.”
“I’ve had marriage proposals. And one lady named her parrot after me.”
“Come on!” He’s looking rather desperate. “You don’t understand. I need another adventure.”
I try to reason with him: “Things are very dangerous for members of the Inferno Club right now. Besides, you can’t go risking your life against the horrid Prometheans with them when you’re supposed to be living your Happily Ever After in wedded bliss! How is Alice these days, anyway?” I ask, trying a change of subject.
He sees through it and snorts. “She’s fine. Of course, she still hasn’t forgiven you for getting the headcount of Knight children wrong in my brother Jack’s book.”
I wince. “Sorry about that. It wasn’t anything personal against your baby, I just forgot. How is your little daughter, anyway?”
He stares at me. “I have five now, Gaelen. Five. Five daughters and one wife. A large staff of nannies and nursery maids crowding the house. Even the family dog is a female. So, what do I have to do to join this Inferno Club of yours–”
“Is this man bothering you?” a deep, rumbling voice asks from right behind me. Uh-oh. I know that voice, with its rolling R’s from the West Country. It’s Rohan, Duke of Warrington, aka The Beast. Biggest badass of the Inferno Club.
I glance up over my shoulder and there he is, looming behind me. Max and Jordan right behind him.
My eyes widen as Colonel Lord Damien Knight now stalks over and makes a stand beside Lucien, his twin. “What seems to be the trouble here?”
The next thing I know, Robert, Alec, Devlin, Billy and Jack (yes, even Jack) are all gathering behind Lucien.
Beauchamp drags himself away from his harem and accrues to the Inferno side. I’m in the middle, squashed between two armies of bristling, competitive alpha males, while Lady B’s parrot Albert is circling overhead.
<Fight! Fight! Squawk! Get ready to rumble!>
“Gentlemen, please! Robert, do something!” I implore the Knights’ no-nonsense eldest brother…
But Robert isn’t listening. Instead, His Grace of Hawkscliffe is chiding Lucien. “What’s all this about you wanting to join their series?”
“What?” Damien echoes, turning and looking daggers at his twin. “Oh, this is so typical–!”
“Aye, why would you want to join their series?” Billy demands (well, he’s known as William now, but Billy was his gang name before his family found their missing heir). His rookery side always comes out when he’s insulted. “Ours is better.”
“No, it’s not!” Max, team leader of the Inferno Club retorts. “Ours is better!”
Jordan nods in agreement. “You Knight chaps are up to your eyeballs in angst. We’re more adventurous. And more fun.”
“Nobody’s more fun than me!” playboy Alec Knight retorts, lunging for him.
Jordan blocks and strikes back and all hell breaks loose.
<Squawk! Wagers! Lay your wagers here!! Squawk! Fiver on the big guy with the scar!>
“Stop it, you barbarians!” I shout, trying to hold them apart, my hands planted on two sets of (hmm) nice hard abs. But the brutes start shoving each other.
“No, we’re better!”
“ Behave yourselves! You’re acting like children! Stop it! I wrote you better than this!” I’m doing my best to keep them apart, but all of them are over 6 feet tall and I’m down here at 5’2″ and now they’re getting into it.
Devlin takes a swing at Max, then Rohan’s battling both Jack and Billy Blade. Jordan and Alec are trading blows, while the twins, Damien and Lucien are still yelling at each other nearby about Lucien wanting to join the other series.
Someone–probably Jack, that great pirate rudesby–accidentally bumps me and I go flying, landing in a heap on the floor. Creator, indeed! Ack! I’m about to be trampled!
Next thing I kbow, I’m on my hands and knees crawling out from under the knot of brawling lords and rakehells at top speed, mortified–not to mention mussing my beautiful ballgown.
They’re wrecking the whole ballroom! Lady B will never have me back. Egads, where are their wives? Sombody’s got to bring them under control!
“Paper and quill pen! Quickly!” I shout to the nearest footman, who is looking on, horrified. He dashes off to get it; he brings it back to me as one of the brawling pairs go rolling by, crashing into the potted plant.
Quickly, readers, help me!–I have to write my way out of this somehow! What should I have them do??? Please advise before someone draws blood!!