The Assassin and the Libertine
Les Dames Dangereuses #1
The fate of France itself is at stake if these sworn enemies cannot change their ways—and their hearts.
Daphne de Duras is a proper French duchess by day and fledgling assassin by night. Her latest mission is to dispatch justice and protect the French aristocracy by executing Étienne de Noailles, disgraced former noble, legendary rake, and vampire emissary to the court of King Louis XV.
But Étienne’s alleged crime—the gruesome murder of Madame de Pompadour, the King’s mistress and Daphne’s friend—doesn’t quite fit the dashing vampire’s nature. With his immortal days suddenly numbered, Étienne needs to convince his would-be executioner not only of his innocence, but that they should hunt the real killer together—a challenge almost as difficult as convincing himself that he isn’t falling for her.
Daphne reluctantly agrees to a temporary partnership when Étienne persuades her that something more sinister is afoot. He can, after all, help her find answers in places she’s unable to go alone. And despite her deep loathing for any and all vampires, she can’t help but start thinking of a few other places she’d like to go with him.
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Review from Publisher’s Weekly:
Scandal, seduction, and supernatural secrets animate Riley’s deliciously decadent debut and Les Dames Dangereuses series launch. In 1765, a blood plague is spreading among the Parisian poor, turning them into vampires. For many, it’s a better fate than starvation as a human. As one of few courtiers infected, “legendary rake” Étienne de Noailles is appointed the vampire emissary to His Majesty. Though he tries to advocate for vampire rights, he’s treated as little more than a threat and a lust object at Versailles.
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I left the gilt opulence of the ballroom and made my way down a candlelit corridor, discreetly checking the rooms for errant partygoers and trysting courtiers. I required absolute solitude, and fortune appeared to be on my side tonight. The duke’s Parisian town house was impressive—if a little dated with all its baroque enthusiasm—and seldom in use. Like some members of court, he lived almost year-round at Versailles. Years before, King Louis XIV’s paranoia had set that precedent for the aristocracy. If you wish to feel the warmth of the Sun King, you must remain within his orbit.
How suffocating. I was almost glad my husband had fled to Italy in disgrace, despite him leaving me to the absent mercy of the wolves of Versailles. At least I was free to maintain my own residence—and more importantly, I was free of him. The thought of my vile, abusive husband soured my stomach.
It seemed that King Louis XV, the Beloved, had a more relaxed view of things. But for how long, I wondered. France was changing at the speed of infection. The king could not continue to ignore la peste du sang that was starting to seep through the streets of Paris. The blood plague was upon us, and I feared what was happening to the people of France.
Several doors down, I found what I was looking for—the duke’s empty study. A few candles flickered inside, casting dancing shadows upon the gold brocade of the walls. Hopefully, young Giles had accepted my invitation and I wouldn’t have to wait long.
I perched on the edge of the large desk, careful not to bend my panniers, and adjusted my navy skirts around me. The dark color was somewhat unfashionable this season, but I wasn’t at Versailles and tonight I favored a gown that was a touch more utilitarian. The pastel palette of the court was hellacious for us more active members of the nobility. The stains could be murder.
Movement outside caught my eye, and I went to the window to observe. Snow had started to fall in soft, downy clumps. I watched the flakes drift gently onto the balcony terrace and smiled to myself. I flung the doors open, letting in a flurry of frigid air.
I almost didn’t hear the soft click of the door closing behind me, but I’d been waiting.
Without turning, I spoke out to the snowy balcony.
“I’m so glad you came, darling Giles. I’ve been waiting all evening to get you alone.”
Strong arms circled my waist, turning me to him and pulling me back inside the study. His eyes glittered fiercely, hungrily.
Without a word, he crushed his mouth to mine. His hands roamed my body, seeking the softness of skin beneath the silken layers of my gown.
“I don’t have long,” he grunted. He pushed me roughly against the wall, attempting to lift my heavy skirts.
“Oui, I know, ma cher. Neither do I.” He’d found my legs beneath the copious underskirts and ran a cold hand up my thigh. I grabbed him by the shoulders and reversed our positions, pressing his body to the wall with my hips. He gasped in excitement and fumbled for the buttons of his breeches. I kissed him softly.
With him distracted, it was almost too easy for me to stab him through the heart.
He pushed me away—bewildered, pained—as smoke curled from the small wound in his chest. I slid the thin wooden stake out, wiped the blood on his livery, and tucked it back in my garter for my next assignment.
Only then did his fangs distend.
“Putain de salope,” he hissed. His skin turned a mottled gray, and he slumped to the floor.
I tsked. “Oh, Giles. How long did you think you could carry on like this—feeding your way through His Grace’s housemaids? Six young girls are dead already, Giles. Six! Did you think we wouldn’t notice a rotten little sanguisuge in our midst?”
He groaned in pain and glared at me. “You’re with them, then. The Order. Didn’t think they allowed women in.”
“Yes, well, what a lesson for you to learn today. We are everywhere. Too bad you won’t be able to share that news with your filthy parasite friends, eh?”
The dying footman rasped a laugh, coughing up a trickle of black blood that steamed in the cold room. “It won’t matter if you’re everywhere. It won’t matter how many you are, how much money the aristocracy has, or how good the Order’s spies are. None of it will save you from what’s coming.”
A chill went up my spine that had nothing to do with the snow blowing in through the open terrace doors.
“What’s coming?” I demanded, leaning in.
Her debut novel, The Assassin and the Libertine, publishing under the Mystic Owl imprint of City Owl Press, comes out October 14, 2021.
When Lily isn’t writing about dreamy supernatural beings in 18th century France, she enjoys sipping champagne, eating cake, and dancing naked by the light of the full moon.
Find more about her at her website: https://www.authorlilyriley.com/ or on social media.
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