Maximus and Grandsons: A Pryor Cousins Prequel

England, 1803

Twenty-fifth birthdays had been pivotal in Maximus Pryor’s life. He couldn’t remember his mother’s twenty-fifth, when he’d become the Duke of Linwood, but he could remember his own twenty-fifth—the day he’d learned that he really did have a Faerie godmother—and he remembered each of his sons’ twenty-fifth birthdays, and their sons’ twenty-fifths.

The sense of expectancy and anticipation with which he’d awaited each birthday hadn’t faded as he’d aged, nor had the anxiety become any less, because while it was an undeniable fact that Faerie wishes were wonderful, it was an equally undeniable fact that they were dangerous.

After today, he’d only have one grandson who was yet to reach the milestone of his twenty-fifth birthday. One more day of stomach-twisting expectancy and suspense to look forward to. He’d be long buried by the time his great grandsons turned twenty-five—if he had any great grandsons—and perhaps it was melancholy to think of himself in his grave, but Maximus didn’t feel melancholy right now. He felt lucky. Lucky in his children. Lucky in his grandchildren. Lucky that he’d lived long enough to see so many sons and grandsons turn twenty-five.

But even though Maximus felt lucky, he did feel apprehensive, because his fourth grandson wasn’t the most sharp-witted of his progeny. He was the most reckless, though. The most impulsive and irresponsible. The most careless. The loudest and the clumsiest. The most likely to make people laugh—and the most likely to infuriate them.

The most likely to land in trouble.

The most likely to choose his wish poorly.

And so here Maximus sat, in a room filled with the people he loved most in the world—his wife and his sons, his daughters-in-law, his grandchildren—on the evening of his second-to-youngest grandson’s twenty-fifth birthday, while they waited in anticipation and excitement . . . and trepidation.

What would Nonus choose?

Maximus cast yet another glance at the clock on the mantelpiece. It was nearly ten o’clock.

Dimly, he heard the thunder of heavy footsteps on a staircase.

Conversations halted, card games halted, embroidery halted. Every head turned towards the door.

Maximus’s wife slipped her hand into his. Her touch was warm and familiar and comforting.

Maximus held on to her hand gratefully.

The thunderous footsteps drew closer.

“He sounds like a herd of elephants,” someone muttered. Someone else snorted a laugh.

Maximus’s wife squeezed his hand reassuringly.

The door burst open and Nonus charged into the room. He was grinning wildly, bright-eyed and exultant. He slammed the door behind him—because Nonus had never learned to do anything quietly—and advanced into the drawing room, making the floorboards creak.

“Well?” Maximus’s youngest grandson, Decimus, demanded. “What did you choose?”

Nonus bounced on his toes and grinned even more wildly. “Guess.”

Someone groaned. Someone else said, “Just tell us, you blockhead.”

Nonus shook his head and said stubbornly, “Guess.”

“Flying?” his father said.

“No.”

“Metamorphosis?” his mother said.

“No.”

“Translocation?” one of Nonus’s uncles said.

“No.”

“Superior strength?” another of his uncles said.

“No.”

“Being able to see in the dark?” said an aunt.

“No.” Nonus flung out his arms. “I chose invisibility!”

Nonus’s father winced. So did his mother. So did his older brother. Someone laughed. Someone else groaned.

“See!” Nonus said, and promptly became invisible. “You can’t tell where I am anymore.”

Floorboards creaked loudly as he moved. Heavy footsteps sounded out a path behind one of the sofas.

“We all know where you are,” Maximus’s third youngest grandson, Octavius, said.

“No, you don’t,” Nonus said, from exactly the spot where Maximus had guessed he’d be.

Nonus’s mother sighed. Nonus’s father shook his head. Nonus’s brother rolled his eyes.

Maximus couldn’t help himself; he began to laugh.

* * *

To find out about the first novel in this series, click here.