The Prince and the Paladin

Chapter One

A picture that I took without adult supervision in Roundhay Park, October 2018

“Me and Mike broke up,” Kayley said, trying to stifle a yawn. The 6am weekly chats with her mother in Australia wore her down.

“Why?” her mother asked. “I thought he was a nice young man. Wasn’t he the one who worked in insurance?”

“That’s why we broke up, mum,” Kayley said. “He said he was insurance but he really worked in a garage that specialised in insurance claims.” She managed a sigh. “I wouldn’t have minded if he had just been honest.”

“I wouldn’t have accepted him before,” her mother said. “But you’re not getting any younger so I suppose I could have accepted a mechanic if you really liked him.”

“I just don’t seem to be lucky,” Kayley said.

“Get on that internet dating and fast!” her mother ordered. “Thank goodness Kieran here has found a nice girl. She works at a bank, you know. But that doesn’t let you off. I want grandchildren.” Her mother’s expression softened slightly. “And I don’t want to see you alone, my dear. I want to see you settled with a family for your sake.”

“It may never happen, but who knows?” Kayley said. “Listen, mum, I’ve got to get going or I’ll be late to work.”

“Your boss – is he single?” her mother asked.

Kayley rolled her eyes. “Mr Perrigo is single and about a hundred years old,” she said. “And he’s a good boss. The job is easy, the pay is good and there are plenty of perks. I’m not risking that for anything.”

“It’s worth asking,” her mother sniffed. “Just… just don’t end up alone.”

Kayley rang off and took a leisurely sip of her tea. She had plenty of time before she needed to be at work, but lateness was a good excuse to get her mother off the phone.

“If she didn’t want you to be alone she should have either taken you with her to Australia when she left England or not left at all,” Drake said.

Kayley smiled at the sound of her imaginary friend’s voice. “At least I can rely on you to be on my side,” she said.

Drake snorted. “I should hope so!” he said. “So what are we going with next?”

Kayley picked up the small paper notebook that charted her fake love life. “I can tick off Mike,” she said. “He didn’t last long. We could do with someone who will last a while and stop her nagging.”

“Nothing will stop your mum nagging,” Drake said. “It’s like one of Newton’s Laws. She’s as inevitable as gravity.”

Kayley could imagine him grinning. She looked over to the picture on her desk at home. It was AI generated and showed a blond man in his early thirties, his blue eyes crinkled as he smiled at the camera. She’d created it when she started imagining Drake. “I swear my father wears earplugs,” she said. “And I pity any woman who ends up with my brother.” She stood and stretched before carrying her cup over to the sink. “I suppose I’d better get ready for work. Let’s hope for a nice, quiet day.”

It was only a couple of miles between across Leeds between Kayley’s tiny flat and her work at her employer’s home in Roundhay, but those miles were congested and it took two buses. It wasn’t too bad as it gave her time to talk with Drake. “We need to work out some strategy with my dating,” she mentally told him. She could imagine him sitting next to her in the place of the harassed older woman, as he shone with mischief. “We need to make up some good stories to keep mum off my back.”

She could imagine Drake looking thoughtful. “We could string out something with someone that you like but who your mother thinks is unsuitable,” he said. “You know, someone who looks gorgeous but has a bad job.”

Kayley kept looking out the window at the cold November streets but mentally she smiled up at Drake. “You mean, like a janitor?”

Drake chuckled in her imagination. “Perhaps. Or someone who works at a chicken processing factory.”

“That would work!” Kayley sniggered at her imaginary friend as she shuffled off the bus, burrowing into her coat against the cold air. “She would be appalled!” She marched briskly along to the next bus stop. “We should make this into a novel – all the stories we tell my mother about my fake love life.”

She could feel Drake hesitate beside her as she imagined him striding with her along the pavement. “Perhaps you should date,” he said slowly. “I mean, for real.”

Kayley almost stumbled. “Why should I do that?” she mentally asked him, shocked. “Or are you listening to my mother?”

She could feel the discomfort in Drake. “It’s just that, well, you know that I love you…”

“You’re supposed to love me,” Kayley said quietly. “That’s what I dreamed up. I tried to imagine what a perfect boyfriend would be like.”

“And that means that I want the best for you,” Drake said. “You have so little going on in your life. If you tried dating then perhaps you’d find someone decent who would look after you. They could interrupt your mum for you and perhaps you’d even have a family.”

Kayley pushed back a stab of emotional pain. “Are you ditching me?”

“No!” Drake said. “But I worry about you sometimes.”

Kayley thought about it as she stood shivering in the bus queue. “But I’m happy,” she said. “The attempts that I’ve had at dating have been awful. A couple of those dates were downright scary. Right now I feel the happiest in years. My mother is on the other side of the world, I have an amazing job and I have you. I don’t want to change.”

Kayley could feel Drake standing thoughtfully beside her as the bus pulled up and she climbed on. She could almost feel a comforting arm around her shoulder. “Your job is pretty good,” Drake said. “I’d say it was perfect for you. Apart from anything else, you get to read the bodice rippers from Mr Perrigo before anyone else.”

Kayley mentally chuckled. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter,” she said. “Mr Perrigo has a spicy imagination, but he’s so sweet with me.”

“He’s probably up to something,” Drake said darkly. “Perhaps those herbal remedies that he sells on the internet are illegal drugs. That’s what he’s doing and the books that he’s writing are really money laundering fronts.”

“That’s outrageous!” Kayley giggled inside her head. “I can’t imagine Mr Perrigo doing anything like that at all! He even insists that I get ethically sourced coffee for him.”

“He’s paying you a fortune,” Drake said.

“He’s paying a good wage for the work,” Kayley said. “It’s not crazy money.”

“You’re getting well paid for easy work,” Drake said. “You’ve got the office stuff, so you send invoices, sort out letters and take in deliveries. You open the door three times a week for the courier to pick up and answer about three phone calls and two emails a week.”

“It really is an easy job,” Kayley agreed.

“And then you transcribe all of Mr Perrigo’s outrageous stories,” Drake said. “Last chapter was the innocent heroine being chased across nineteenth century Leeds by the villainous Mr Galway. It was shocking!” he teased.

“But she did manage a chaste kiss after chapel with the handsome Lord Allerton,” Kayley said.

“That was before she was thrown out from her position as governess by Lady Gimpton,” Drake pointed out. He frowned. “He’s another who doesn’t have much of a life. He makes his herbal remedies, writes his stories and that’s about it.”

“And cleans,” Kayley said. “I hope that I’d keep a good house, but Mr Perrigo’s house is immaculate.”

“We share chores, remember,” Drake said. “If one of us cooks, the other cleans the kitchen.”

Kayley almost found herself smiling. “But we don’t live together, so I don’t know if you’d stick to that. I know I couldn’t keep my home as clean as Mr Perrigo.”

“Here’s your stop,” Drake said. “I wonder what’s happening to the hapless Sabitha today.”

Kayley let herself into Mr Perrigo’s house. It was a comfortable rhythm. She would usually get to work around 8.30am and let herself into Mr Perrigo’s house. Her first jobs were to switch on the coffee maker and open all the downstairs curtains before settling down to a sparse to-do list in the office. There would be a small pile of paper covered with Mr Perrigo’s elegant copperplate for her to transcribe and then Mr Perrigo would usually emerge after lunch. There would be a brief chat about what was needed and then Mr Perrigo would disappear into the small workshop in the back garden and scents of lavender and ginger would waft across the immaculate lawn and fill the house. Kayley would finish at 5pm, leave the typed manuscript and any letters out neatly on her desk and lock the front door behind her as she left.

“It’s no wonder that you invented me,” Drake said as they walked down the hall. “You say about fourteen words a day to Mr Perrigo and the rest of the conversations are things like bus drivers or people at the checkout when you go shopping.” Kayley imagined his devilishly handsome smile. “And also because I’m amazing.”

Kayley didn’t get a chance to reply. Instead she opened the office door and stepped into what felt like a whirlwind.

“Good morning, Kayley,” Mr Perrigo said. His normally immaculate white hair was wildly dishevelled and his tie was askew. “I’m a little flustered this morning, and I’m afraid that I’m going to run you quite ragged.”

Kayley slid out of her coat and unwound her scarf. “Of course, whatever needs doing,” she said. “Is everything okay?”

Mr Perrigo wrung his hands. “You have been an excellent employee,” he said. “You’re so discreet.”

“He’s going to fire me!” Kayley whispered to Drake, panicked.

“Stay calm and listen,” Drake murmured reassuringly.

“I hope that you will continue in your role as things develop,” Mr Perrigo said. He started pacing around the office. “You are quite invaluable.” He took a deep breath. “But, well, that is…”

“Should I make you a nice cup of tea?” Kayley asked carefully. “I saw some camomile tea bags in the cupboard.”

“I never know quite what to say in these situations,” Mr Perrigo said. He visibly pulled himself together. “I have a list.”

“I’ve never seen him so rattled,” Kayley murmured to Drake. “I hope everything is alright.” She felt Drake’s hand on her shoulder. It may be imaginary but it was also comforting.

Mr Perrigo pulled a list from his jacket pocket. “Right, um, yes… First of all, there are quite a few pages of manuscript of The Lothario of Leeds to type up.” He smiled wanly. “I write more when I’m stressed as it helps me relax.”

Kayley looked dubiously at the stack of paper on her desk. This looked at least triple the normal amount. “He must be frantic,” Drake whispered to her.

“I’ve ordered a selection of sandwiches,” Mr Perrigo continued. “Oh, wait a moment, I’m out of order. That’s right – I’m expecting a few people for a meeting. I’ve put a list of names on the table and you can show them into the drawing room. I’ve already got it all set up. I’ve ordered a selection of sandwiches from the shop down the road, the one where you get your Friday treat from, and I would be grateful if you would take an early lunch and pick them up on your way back.”

“Of course,” Kayley said. “It won’t be any bother. I can get all the plates and cups ready beforehand as well, if you like.”

“No, that’s all in hand,” Mr Perrigo managed. He paced faster, wringing his hands. “I am aware that this may be an inappropriate question, and I’m sure that a pretty young thing such as yourself has a frantically busy social life, but I wondered if you were available tonight.”

“Is he trying to hit on you?” Drake murmured in Kayley’s ear.

“I’m not suggesting anything inappropriate,” Mr Perrigo said hastily. “However there will be a dinner party which will also be something of a symposium – a gathering of minds, if you will, and I would be grateful if you could stay and take notes. Food would be provided, of course, and I will compensate you fairly for the extra hours.” He came to a sudden stop in front of Kayley’s desk. “And I would like you to speak with the vicar this afternoon,” he said. “The vicar will explain everything.”

“Is it a real vicar?” Kayley asked before she could stop herself. She could hear Drake chuckling inside her head.

Mr Perrigo looked at her blankly. “Of course. He is a little younger than you may expect, and he’s not very vicar-like, but he’s a properly ordained minister of the Church of England.” He grimaced. “He’s not what you may expect as a vicar, but he’s very good. Will you be able to stay?”

“Of course,” Kayley said. “I’ll be happy to.”

“Are you sure?” Mr Perrigo said. “Let me know if you can’t reschedule any social engagements. And I’ll pay for a taxi home, of course.”

“I’m fine,” Kayley said. “Is it about your herbal remedies?”

“The vicar will explain everything,” Mr Perrigo said. “Excuse me.”

Kayley watched him dive out the door and then mentally turned to Drake. “What was all that about?”

Chapter Two

Image from Unsplash, taken by pietro de grandi

Kayley was glad to stretch her legs by the time her early lunch came around. “That novel is outrageous,” she told Drake as they walked briskly up to Roundhay Park. “Poor Sabitha! I wonder whether she’ll escape the sinister gang of navvies on Call Lane?”

“I’m sure that the handsome Lord Allerton will find her in time,” Drake grinned. “They’ll have a passionate kiss and then some dreadful accident will have her swept off to something dramatic – again!”

They found a bench and sat. “It’ll soon be too cold to eat lunch outdoors,” Kayley said. “Perhaps we can start having a brisk walk and eat at my desk.”

“I’m glad that I persuaded you to take exercise at lunchtime,” Drake said. “It’s put a spring in your step.”

Kayley smiled and pulled out her lunchbox. Mentally she handed over a second box to Drake. She always had extra rations for her imaginary friend. “It’s one of the perks of the job,” she said. “I get to walk in Roundhay Park every day.” She opened the box and took out a chicken wrap. “And I’m eating a little healthier.” She took a moment to enjoy the view across Waterloo Lake. “And it gives me more time to spend with you.”

“And to plot your imaginary love life,” Drake said. “Your mum is going to want an update next week.”

“I’m going to stall for a couple of weeks,” Kayley said. “Then I’ll come up with someone like the chicken factory worker. I can make him a philosophy graduate and watch her get conflicted.”

 She imagined Drake chuckling. Then he paused and Kayley could almost see him turning to look at her as if struck by inspiration.

“How about making me your boyfriend?” Drake asked. “Next time you speak to your mother, tell her about me. It would make perfect sense.”

Kayley thought for a moment. “My imaginary boyfriend but on another level.”

“There aren’t any pictures of me elsewhere to prove anything, are there?” Drake asked.

Internally Kayley shook her head as she finished up her wrap. “I used an AI programme,” she said. “But I saved all the details so I can create a variety of pictures of you.”

“And you already have a good idea about me,” Drake said. Kayley imagined him snapping the lid shut on his plain lunchbox and sliding it back to her. “You know my favourite foods, my favourite drinks, my favourite films and even my favourite aftershave.”

“Why did I choose something so expensive?” Kayley slid her own lunch box away, pulled out an apple and mentally handed another over to Drake. “But we never decided what you did for money.”

“I never felt comfortable with just being rich,” Drake said apologetically. “It seemed lacking in detail and would involve a lot of family that I don’t want to be bothered with.” He took a bite out of the apple.

“You have to be someone who is active,” Kayley thought as they stood to start their usual walk along the lake’s edge. “But I didn’t like police or soldier. You always felt too much of a free spirit.”

“I want to be someone with a little bit of culture,” Drake strolled next to Kayley. “But we decided against a professor. It wasn’t active enough.”

“I quite fancied you as an actor or rock star, but it seemed so hectic and you would always be away.” Kayley paused and nodded to the owner of Kif, her favourite large Alsatian mix, who was came up for a cuddle before wagging his tail at Drake and her and moving on.

“You ought to bring treats for Kif,” Drake observed.

“I’m not sure his owner would appreciate that. He might worry that I’m spoiling him or affecting his training,” Kayley said.

“What training?” Drake asked, reasonably, as they watched Kif suddenly race after a duck pursued by his hapless owner. “How about a writer? I could be an expert in nineteenth century Leeds. It’s how I met you. I was helping Mr Perrigo with research for his novels.” They turned up the path towards the main road, dodging the small kids and dogs as they headed for the gates.

“I thought we had tried writer but didn’t like it because it wasn’t active enough.” Kayley was distracted by a poster for a ghost hunting event. “Do you fancy going to that?”

Drake stopped suddenly and Kayley found herself almost stopping in reality. He grabbed her arm. “That’s it. I’m only pretending to be a writer. Obviously I specialise in nineteenth century Leeds, and I write some books, but I’m actually an occult investigator. I fight vampires and werewolves, protecting the ordinary people from the darkness that lurks around them.” Drake grinned. “I could have access to all sorts of books and have links across the country to other occult investigators. We could join against evil creatures of the night.”

Kayley tried not to giggle out loud, then thought for a moment. “Actually, that sounds interesting. I’d obviously keep that side of your character from mum, but it would explain your workouts at the gym.”

“And my martial arts training,” Drake added. “Did we decide what style of martial arts I would be doing?”

“I can’t tell the difference,” Kayley said honestly. She hesitated. “I’m not sure about werewolves and ghosts and that. It’s a step too far. An imaginary boyfriend is one thing, but at least boyfriends could be real. If I go insane and believe that you actually exist, that’s one thing, but I don’t want to be in a mental ward screaming about vampires. Or even worse – trying to stake someone.”

“Come on,” Drake coaxed. “It’s the best idea yet. It’s not as if you would be joining me.”

“As if I’m going to sit at home waiting for you to come back from secret labyrinths under the city?” Kayley crossed the road and headed towards the bakery. “Of course I would join you, or at least do the paperwork.”

“Do you live with me?” Drake said provocatively. “Would you be washing the blood stains out of my clothes as I recover from another night of fighting unholy terror.”

“I most certainly do not,” Kayley said primly. “We’ve not known each other that long and I’m not one to rush into that sort of commitment. Especially if you have money. It makes me look cheap.”

“I would have to have money.” Drake agreed. But we’ve been dating nearly eighteen months. I think the conversation ought to come up.”

“Okay,” Kayley thought as she pushed open the shop door. “Where do you live? And is there enough room?”

“I could live in one of the new flats in the city centre, with a startling view over the city,” Drake as they joined the lunch time queue.

“Would there be enough room for the occult books and anti-weird stuff?” Kayley whispered back sceptically. “I mean, you’d have to have silver bullets and fancy swords and, I don’t know, boxes of garlic and stuff. I think you’d need a big house.” She smiled at the assistant behind the counter. “I think Mr Perrigo left an order”

Surjit smiled. “I’ve got it ready,” she said. “There’s plenty of sandwiches, two quiches and an assortment of pasties. That Mr Perrigo. It’s all or nothing with him. And I’ve added some cakes as well.” She leaned forward, filled with curiosity. “It’s more than he usually orders. Is it a birthday or something?”

“I’ve no idea,” Kayley said. “But if there’s anything juicy then I’ll share.” She watched Surjit bustle into the back room to fetch the order. “Do you think I’d be spending a lot of nights with you?” she asked Drake, tentatively.

She could feel the spark in Drake’s eyes. “If I was your boyfriend in real life, I’d want to spend every minute with you, so I think that would be a yes. We would have got used to each other.” He tilted his head as he thought about it. “But there would be more of your stuff at my house than my stuff at your house because of my secret life. Those coconut jumbles look tasty.”

“I don’t like coconut much,” Kayley said. “I prefer chocolate or strawberry.”

“I like coconut, but I think I prefer it in a drink.” Drake leaned closer to the cabinet. Then he straightened and looked directly at Kayley. “I’m getting more independent. I don’t think that’s a good sign. I don’t think that’s a good sign at all.”

Chapter Three

They were quiet on the way back to Mr Perrigo’s house. Kayley lugged awkward boxes and felt Drake’s frustration wash over her in waves. “Okay, it’s scary, but I’m not giving up on you,” she said finally. “Let’s go back to who you are. You’re a vampire hunter, right? So where do you live?”

“In Roundhay, I think,” Drake said. “How about – I’ve inherited a house with an occult library from an uncle who was my last remaining relative.”

“It’s too cheesy,” Kayley said.

“It would only be cheesy if I wanted a mansion,” Drake shrugged. “I don’t think I should have a big family. It’s just that for one reason or another I have distant relatives, most of them abroad.”

“Not in Australia or New Zealand” Kayley said quickly. “My mother would want to meet them.”

“Good point.” Drake had his hands in his pockets and his shoulders. “I think they should be in Canada,” he said thoughtfully.

“And perhaps you bought a house in Roundhay because you had an opportunity for a fixer upper with a large garden and plenty of room for all the swords and silver bullets that you needed to fight against darkness.” Kayley nodded to herself.

“Fortunately, I am handy around the house and I’ve been doing a lot of the work myself,” Drake said smugly.

“I would help with the painting,” Kayley pointed out. “I like decorating.”

“That makes one of us,” Drake grumbled. “I would have been glad of your help.” He grinned wickedly at her. “And it’s convenient if you’re going to stay the night. You don’t have a long journey to work from my place so we can sleep in.”

Kayley found herself blushing. “I’m not sure that I’d stay overnight.”

“After a hard evening of staking vampires, you would be too tired to go home,” Drake said innocently. “Now that looks like a vampire hunter’s car. I have a car like that as well.”

“Enough of the vampires.” Kayley ran past the battered Range Rover which was now liberally spattered with mud and ducked into Mr Perrigo’s house. “I’ll take the food through to the dining room.”

Kayley set out the food on Mr Perrigo’s exquisite Victorian china, loaded them on to the hostess trolley and wheeled it down to the dining room.

“I can hear a lot of voices,” Drake said. “I wonder what’s going on.” Kayley could imagine him frowning. “I bet that the herbal teas are a front for drugs,” he said. “Or better – dark potions sold to vampires. It’s the vampire mafia meeting in the drawing room and I’m undercover to find out.”

“You’re outrageous!” Kayley thought at him. She arranged the food on platters at one end of a shining mahogany table. “But it must be serious. I wonder if he’s running out of money?”

“Are you kidding?” Drake said. “He’s raking it in with those herbal teas. I’ve seen the invoices and spreadsheets. Nope, it’s paranormal, I swear.”

“You’re going to be obsessed with this, aren’t you?” Kayley teased.

Drake grinned. “I’m having so much fun,” he said.

Kayley tapped on the drawing room door and went in. “I’ve put the food in the dining room, Mr Perrigo,” she said, trying not to stare. The collection of men sitting around in the prim drawing room was unexpected. Mr Perrigo bounded to his feet. “Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Miss Kayley Adams. Kayley, this is Lord Marius,” he gestured at the tall, slim, dark haired man who lounged like a cat in one of the overstuffed armchairs. “He’s an old friend of mine and very important to me.”

“You need to watch him,” Drake whispered. “He looks lethal.” Kayley agreed. There was an edge of darkness around the man.

“This is Rhys Davis,” Mr Perrigo said, indicating a tough, hard faced man standing near the window. “He’s an important man in the construction business.”

“I could take him,” Drake said. “As long as he wasn’t a vampire.” Kayley wasn’t so sure. Rhys looked strained but he looked strong and poised for action, out of place in the old-fashioned room.

“And this is Sir Dylan,” Mr Perrigo said. “He’s a very good man and happy to look after you.”

“That is not a sir,” Drake said, stunned. “What sort of ‘sir’ is called Dylan? And what sort of ‘sir’ has tattoos. And what does he mean – look after you? Hell, it’s human trafficking!”

“If it was that then I would have been trafficked ages ago,” Kayley said mentally as she smiled politely at Sir Dylan. He stood, looming over her.

“That guy is built like a bear, and not in a good way,” Drake hissed. “He looks like he could juggle washing machines. He has tattoos on his neck.”

“I’m very pleased to finally meet you,” Sir Dylan said, holding out a massive, meaty hand for Kayley to shake and giving Mr Perrigo a hard look. “Let me give you my number.”

Kayley limply shook his hand and took the business card. “Thank you,” she said.

“Is this some sort of dating thing?” Drake said. “Did Mr Perrigo set you up? He doesn’t seem the type but after reading The Lothario of Leeds I suppose anything could happen.”

“You may call me at any time,” Sir Dylan said, still looking hard at Mr Perrigo. “If anything bothers or concerns you in any way, don’t hesitate to call. It doesn’t matter how crazy or insignificant it feels.”

“It’s definitely a set up,” Drake said.

Kayley managed a non-committal smile before turning to Mr Perrigo. “Would you like me to set up tea and coffee?” she asked.

“No, not at all,” Mr Perrigo said. “It’s all in hand. Why don’t you take the rest of your lunchbreak and I’ll let you know when we need you to take notes.”

“And when you need to talk to the minister,” Sir Dylan added.

“It’s a cult,” Drake said. “It’s fake ministers who are going to take you away to a cult.”

“At least it’s not vampires,” Kayley thought back as she escaped from the drawing room and headed back towards the kitchen. “I need a cup of tea.” She opened the door into the kitchen and froze.

“There’s a naked man in the kitchen.” Drake sounded as shocked as Kayley felt.

“He’s wearing a towel,” Kayley answered. She couldn’t take her eyes off him as he pulled a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Those aren’t gym muscles,” Drake said quietly. “At least, those aren’t go to the gym to look good muscles. Those are go to the gym as part of practising to hurt people muscles.”

“He’s good looking,” Kayley murmured. “I mean, not like you, but perhaps it’s a careful workout.”

“You must be Kayley Adams.” The man looked impatiently past her. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Sir Dylan?”

Kayley swallowed. “He’s in the drawing room with Mr Perrigo,” she said.

The man ran a quick hand through his dark, wet hair. “He was supposed to be bringing my case from the hotel. Do you know where he put it?”

Kayley slowly shook her head. “I can go and ask him,” she said.

The man shook his head. “I’ll go see him in a minute,” he said. “I need to dry off a little first. I was pushed in the canal.” He gestured casually at the sound of a washing machine working quietly in the utility room. “Mr Perrigo was good enough to let me get a quick shower here where there would be less questions and…” He looked around at the sound of the door. “That will be him. Excuse me.” Kayley stood well back as the most handsome man she had ever met strode past her and down the hall.

Kayley made herself a cup of tea and went back to the office. A small stack of manuscript and some letters were sitting next to her computer along with an elegant note telling her not to worry about refreshments for her meeting with Reverend King as he had taken care of it. She could feel the tension in Drake.

“Everything’s going crazy. Ten minutes ago I would have never believed there would be a naked man in Mr Perrigo’s kitchen,” he said

“At least he was wearing a towel. I wonder if he’s a friend of Sir Dylan.” Kayley said carefully. “Or whether he’s an accomplice.”

“He’s got to be something to do with drugs,” Drake said. “Did you see those scars? He can’t be legal.”

“Perhaps he’s ex-military,” Kayley suggested, half-heartedly shuffling through the letters. “He had short hair.”

“He wasn’t shy.” Drake ran a comb through his own damp hair and checked his reflection in the window. “Perhaps he’s used to being naked around women. You need to watch yourself around him. I wish I could actually be there to keep an eye out for you,” he said uneasily. “Those scars looked nasty.”

“I’m sure Mr Perrigo knew what he was doing.” Kayley tried to convince herself. “I mean, he wouldn’t allow someone dangerous to just wander around his house, would he?”

“How could he stop him?” Drake paced up and down. “Unless he really is a vampire. I mean, that was someone who was dangerous. Perhaps he’s forcing Mr Perrigo to make drugs.” Drake paused. “He’s probably going to be at the dinner party tonight. You need to make sure you’ve got your mobile phone on you at all times and keep it charged.” He threw up his hands in frustration. “I wish I could really be there. It doesn’t feel safe.”