How to Catch a Wild Viscount

By: Tessa Dare

A Note to Readers




This novella was my very first published work, and I’m delighted to make it available again for any readers who might have missed it.

The story was originally published in May 2009 under the title The Legend of the Werestag. I know, I know. It’s the weirdest title ever! At the time, I was a new author and hoped to catch attention through the sheer strangeness of it. But this is not, and never has been, a paranormal romance—just a light-hearted, sexy Regency romance with a few twists on gothic novels. The new title, How to Catch a Wild Viscount, better captures that spirit.

Even years and years after writing their story, I have such fondness in my heart for Luke and Cecily. I hope you enjoy their romance. As always, thanks for reading.

Tessa





Chapter One





Autumn, 1815

When they’d entered Swinford Woods, laughing and making merry, passing around a flask of spirits “for warmth”, Denny had offered a forfeit to the first hunter to spot the beast. His last bottle of apple brandy from the pressing two years past.

Well, it would appear Cecily had won. It seemed doubtful, however, that she would survive to claim her prize.

Peering through the darkness, she studied her quarry. Dark, beady eyes regarded her around an elongated nose. The curved, lethal tip of a horn glittered in the moonlight. The creature’s rank, gamy odor assaulted her, even from several paces away.

The animal impatiently pawed the leaf-strewn forest floor, fixing her all the while with an offended glare. Good heavens, it was enormous. It must outweigh her by ten stone, at least.

She didn’t know what to do. Should she run? Climb a tree? Feign death and hope it lost interest and went away? She’d become separated from the others some ways back—stupid, stupid. Would they even hear her, if she called?

“Denny?” she ventured. The animal cocked its head, and Cecily cleared her throat to try again. “Portia? Mr. Brooke?”

The beast shuffled toward her, great slabs of muscle flexing beneath its hoary coat.

“Not you,” she told it, taking a quick step back. “Shoo. Go home.”

It bristled and snarled, revealing a narrow row of jagged teeth. Moonlight pooled like liquid around its massive jaw. Good Lord, the thing was drooling.

Truly panicked now, she drew a deep breath and called as loud as she could. “Denny! Help!”

No answer.

Oh, Lord. She was going to be slaughtered, right here in the forest. Miss Cecily Hale, a lady of perfectly good breeding and respectable fortune, not to mention oft-complimented eyes, would die unmarried and childless because she’d wasted her youth pining for a man who didn’t love her. She would perish here in Swinford Woods, alone and heartbroken, having received only two kisses in the entirety of her three-and-twenty years. The second of which she could still taste on her lips, if she pressed them together tightly enough.

It tasted bitter.

Luke, you unforgivable cad. This is all your fault. If only you hadn’t—

A savage grunt snapped her back into the present. Cecily looked on in horror as the vile creature lowered its head, stamped the ground—

And began to charge.

God, she truly was going to die. Whose brilliant idea had it been, to go hunting a legendary beast in a cursed forest, by the light of a few meager torches and a three-quarters moon?

Oh, yes. Hers.


Three hours earlier

“Menacing clouds obscured the moon’s silvered radiance.” Portia flattened one palm against a low-slung, imaginary sky. Her voice portentous, she continued to read from the notebook. “With a mighty crack of thunder, the heavens rent. Rain lashed the crumbling abbey in unremitting torrents, and a crystalline gale blasted like the very breath of Hell.”

From her chair near the hearth, Cecily checked a smile. This performance was pure Portia, right down to the dramatic toss of her unbound, jet-black mane.

“Rain filled the gargoyles’ straining mouths, sluicing down to their craven talons and pooling in the Byzantine crevasses, viscous and obsidian.” Portia dropped the notebook to her lap and closed her eyes, as though to savor the suspense. Then her eyes snapped open, and she tore the page from her notebook and crumpled it savagely before casting it into the fire. “Rubbish. Utter rubbish.”

“It isn’t rubbish,” Cecily protested dutifully. Friends, after all, were supposed to support one another, and if Portia wanted to write gothic novels, Cecily would encourage her. It was gratifying to see her friend excited about something—anything—now that she’d emerged from her year of mourning. “It’s a fine beginning,” she said. “Dramatic and chilling. Truly, it gave me a little shiver.”

“Perhaps there’s a draft,” Mr. Brooke remarked.

Portia ignored him. “Do you really think it will do?” She chewed her lip and fished a pencil from the folds of her skirt. “Maybe I should write it down again.”

“You should. You most certainly should. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a group of sentences so . . . so very . . .”

“Wet?” The suggestion came from a shadowed corner of the drawing room.

Cecily recognized the deep, wry voice, but she refused to acknowledge the speaker. Why should she? Luke had spent the past week at Swinford ruthlessly ignoring her. Four years ago, during a ball at this very house, they’d been interrupted in the midst of a most intimate conversation. He’d left to join his regiment before dawn, and Cecily had spent four long years—the best years of her youth—waiting for him to return, praying God would one day give them a chance to resume that discussion.

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