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A Torrid Tarot Novel — The Page of Wands
London, 1897. A world that embraces both the logic of science and the ghostly explorations of spiritualism, a time period where one need only scratch at the surface of staunch morality to find outlets for the most carnal of sexual appetites.
Dr. Vincent Devonald, the third Baron Rashleigh has become known among occult circles for exposing the trickery behind spiritualist phenomena. He has plenty of reasons to distrust the renowned medium Serafina Grovenor, the most important being that her charismatic magician father Samael was behind the disappearance of his daughter Melissa ten years before. He doesn’t believe for a second that Serafina can communicate with spirits and he’s determined to expose her ability to create fire for the theatrical sham that it is. But he can’t deny the powerful effect that the mysterious young woman has on his mind and body as she draws him into her circle of intrigue.
Serafina lives in a world of manipulation and fear. She’ll do anything to keep her younger sister safe…including putting her total trust in the one man who had the ability to tame her potentially lethal fiery nature and show her the true meaning of passion.
Read an Excerpt
The lights dimmed in the crowded parlor.
“I can’t say I’m sorry that you made the request,” Austin whispered with his typical good-natured enthusiasm. “If one tenth of what I hear about this young woman is true we’re in for a treat indeed.”
“If one tenth of what they say about this young woman is true then we’re about to witness a miracle of the same magnitude as the Second Coming,” Vincent growled.
A woman in front of them wearing a hat with large ostrich plumes turned and scowled indignantly at them, feathers quivering. Austin smiled charmingly in return. Vincent was too preoccupied to even notice.
Meanwhile Lady Fordham dramatically introduced, “The renowned American medium, Miss Serafina Grovenor and her equally gifted mesmerist father, Mr. Samael Grovenor.”
Vincent barely registered Lady Fordham’s trembling voice or the applause that followed. The tall, dashing man who led the veiled young woman up the stairs onto the platform was most definitely Richard Grovenor, the very same man that Vincent firmly believed was responsible for the death of his wife Susan and the disappearance of his daughter Melissa. Not that he’d ever been able to entirely convince Scotland Yard of that.
His gray eyes narrowed hungrily on the back of the slender figure of Serafina Grovenor. If Melissa was still alive she would be thirteen years old next month.
“Would you take a look at that,” Phillip Crakall breathed out in stunned lust a few seconds later.
Vincent’s legs tensed in preparation to stand up and clobber the lascivious, drunken rotter when what Crakall referred to finally penetrated his brain.
The female that Richard Grovenor had just seated on the platform was no twelve-year-old child. She was a woman. Young, perhaps, and tender.
But a full-grown woman nonetheless.
“She’s lovely, isn’t she?” Austin whispered, his eyes never leaving the vision on the stage.
Vincent frowned and responded succinctly through clenched jaws.
“Pure of spirit my ass.”
Granted, Miss Grovenor wore a black veil that obscured all of her face upward from the bottom of her nose. And her black wool jersey dress was more modest than most Vincent had seen on young women of a similar age. But Richard was up to his old tricks to be sure because Vincent had never known that such a small amount of exposed skin could be so thoroughly captivating. The color of that radiant skin was a uniform ivory with the faintest tint of peach. Her red, full lips created a shocking contrast to it.
But the most obvious reason for both Phillip Crakall’s and his own terse exclamations was the young woman’s bosom. Her dress hugged the fullness of her breasts enticingly and the merest hint of creamy, firm flesh swelled over the curved neckline.
The girl must have been a natural actress because the modest strand of pearls that surrounded her slender neck was a stroke of genius. Perhaps they suggested “purity” to some but to Vincent they hinted at a vulnerability that conveyed a potent, almost electrical jolt of sexual excitement.
Or at least that was the way it felt to his unprepared loins.
It irritated him that he and Phillip Crakall agreed on any topic, let alone this one.
He watched tensely as Lady Fordham conferred with Richard Grovenor while Serafina sat still as a statue. Lady Fordham nodded toward the front row of seats, which were occupied by four individuals. One of them, a balding man who Vincent recognized as being a member of the Society for Psychical Research and a regular attendee at other séances that he and Austin had investigated, waved to Grovenor in silent acknowledgement.
Samael Grovenor began to address the room full of people in a deep, compelling voice.
“I bid you all a good evening. We human beings typically consist of a mass of undisciplined emotions and random thoughts which take the center stage at any given time only to be swept away in the next moment by a selfish desire or a carnal impulse. It is only the rarest type of person that God makes worthy of being a true vessel for the most wise and pure of entities upon the spirit plane. You see here before you—this young woman—such an individual.”
“As many of you already have learned from our previous demonstrations, an impartial committee will presently choose a random topic for Triumphe, the control that directs my daughter’s spirit channels, to expand and lecture upon in great detail. I must make it abundantly clear to those of you who are novices to these miraculous displays that the only education that Serafina has ever received was that taught to her by the crudest of country schools and her humble mother until she began to show the extraordinary gift of being able to channel the wisdom of spirits at the age of thirteen.”
“Nevertheless, as you will soon see Serafina will expound in breathtaking detail on the most complex of technical, scientific and philosophical topics, showing more breadth and depth of knowledge than even the most learned experts in these fields, something that has repeatedly been affirmed even by those same expert scholars. This in and of itself would be miraculous enough but Serafina, through the grace of the divine spirits and God himself, is able to do the same on any topic presented for her discourse. This will be made obvious by the use of an impartial committee that will choose the topic among themselves presently, with no prior discussion.”
Samael Grovenor paused dramatically, his near-black eyes wandering slowly across the spellbound faces in the room. “And as you will soon see, the spirits have singled out this young woman in yet another miraculous manner.”
“Is your panel ready to choose a topic, Mr. Bowen?” Samael asked imperiously.
“We will confer,” Mr. Bowen declared with a bow from the front row.
Samael nodded once and turned toward Serafina. He paused when a commanding voice called out to him from the audience.
“If your panel was truly impartial, Samael, wouldn’t it be comprised of at least one individual who was not a fervent adherent to spiritualism but instead a healthy skeptic?”
The crowd rustled as it turned to locate the one responsible for such rudeness. Most of the occupants of the room didn’t seem pleased when they saw the tall, imposing figure of Baron Rashleigh standing in the next to the last row but they certainly didn’t seem surprised.