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.They were gold in color with multiple lenses on one side, between which there appeared to be some kind of liquid.The contraption was also riddled with small knobs and dials.Professor Lyall propped the ridiculous things onto his nose and bent back over the vampire, twiddling at the dials expertly.“Goodness gracious me,” exclaimed Alexia, “what are you wearing? It looks like the unfortunate progeny of an illicit union between a pair of binoculars and some opera glasses.What on earth are they called, binocticals, spectoculars?”The earl snorted his amusement and then tried to pretend he hadn’t.“How about glassicals?” he suggested, apparently unable to resist a contribution.There was a twinkle in his eye as he said it that Alexia found rather unsettling.Professor Lyall looked up from his examination and glared at the both of them.His right eye was hideously magnified.It was quite gruesome and made Alexia start involuntarily.“These are my monocular cross-magnification lenses with spectra-modifier attachment, and they are invaluable.I will thank you not to mock them so openly.” He turned once more to the task at hand.“Oh.” Miss Tarabotti was suitably impressed.“How do they work?” she inquired.Professor Lyall looked back up at her, suddenly animated.“Well, you see, it is really quite interesting.By turning this little knob here, you can change the distance between the two panes of glass here, allowing the liquid to—”The earl’s groan interrupted him.“Don’t get him started, Miss Tarabotti, or we will be here all night.”Looking slightly crestfallen, Professor Lyall turned back to the dead vampire.“Now, what is this substance all over his clothing?”His boss, preferring the direct approach, resumed his frown and looked accusingly at Alexia.“What on God’s green earth is that muck?”Miss Tarabotti said, “Ah.Sadly, treacle tart.A tragic loss, I daresay.” Her stomach chose that moment to growl in agreement.She would have colored gracefully with embarrassment had she not possessed the complexion of one of those “heathen Italians,” as her mother said, who never colored, gracefully or otherwise.(Convincing her mother that Christianity had, to all intents and purposes, originated with the Italians, thus making them the exact opposite of heathen, was a waste of time and breath.) Alexia refused to apologize for the boisterousness of her stomach and favored Lord Maccon with a defiant glare.Her stomach was the reason she had sneaked away in the first place.Her mama had assured her there would be food at the ball.Yet all that appeared on offer when they arrived was a bowl of punch and some sadly wilted water-cress.Never one to let her stomach get the better of her, Alexia had ordered tea from the butler and retreated to the library.Since she normally spent any ball lurking on the outskirts of the dance floor trying to look as though she did not want to be asked to waltz, tea was a welcome alternative.It was rude to order refreshments from someone else’s staff, but when one was promised sandwiches and there was nothing but watercress, well, one must simply take matters into one’s own hands!Professor Lyall, kindhearted soul that he was, prattled on to no one in particular, pretending not to notice the rumbling of her stomach.Though of course he heard it.He had excellent hearing.They all did.He looked up from his examinations, his face all catawampus from the glassicals.“Starvation would explain why the vampire was desperate enough to try for Miss Tarabotti at a ball, rather than taking to the slums like the smart ones do when they get this bad.”Alexia grimaced.“No associated hive either.”Lord Maccon arched one black eyebrow, professing not to be impressed.“How could you possibly know that?”Professor Lyall explained for both of them.“No need to be so direct with the young lady.A hive queen would never have let one of her brood get into such a famished condition.We must have a rove on our hands, one completely without ties to the local hive.”Alexia stood up, revealing to Lord Maccon that she had arranged her faint to rest comfortably against a fallen settee pillow.He grinned and then quickly hid it behind a frown when she looked at him suspiciously.“I have a different theory.” She gestured to the vampire’s clothing [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]