When Ash Falls

  When Ash Falls

  London Fairy Tales, Book 4

  by Rachel Van Dyken

  published by Blue Tulip Publishing

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.


  Copyright © 2014 RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  ISBN: 978-1-942246-10-7

  ISBN 10: 1942246102

  Cover Art by P.S. Cover Design

  To all of the people who waited so patiently for this book to release!

  Thank you for being so understanding!


  ASH DIDN’T WANT TO remember her this way. Her beautiful face, so often lit with a breathtaking smile, was now cold and dead.

  The first time he’d seen her, he had thought she was an angel, and he’d said that very thing under his breath when she had made her debut that season…

  “Beautiful,” he murmured as Lucy took a turn about the room, gaining introductions to all the available gentlemen who came her way. Taking an earth-shattering breath, the kind that every man took when he was about to approach a beautiful woman, he made his way over to her.

  Music faded into the background with each step. All Ash was aware of was the clicking of his boot against the floor as he progressed toward the beauty. One dance… if only she would give him one dance, he would secure her hand forever. He knew it in his heart, in his soul. She was meant to be his.

  Heart beating out of his chest, he could barely contain his excitement as she lifted her eyes and met his gaze. Blue eyes twinkled in his direction, and then she lifted her hand in a wave. A wave? Something was wrong. Ash paused and then glanced self-consciously over his shoulder. There was no one but him, and then he gazed back at her. She crooked her finger, beckoning him forward.

  Completely under her spell, he couldn’t deny her any more than he could cease from taking his next breath. Finally, he stood before her, at least a foot taller than she.

  “Where have you been, you rogue?” She swatted him on the arm and gave him a coy laugh. “I have been looking everywhere for you!”

  “For me?” Ash questioned. “Are you certain we have met?”

  “Must you always joke at such serious times?” The girl laughed again, and he was caught at the sight of her dimples as they danced along her cheeks. Carefree. She appeared so carefree, so perfect, un-weighted by the things of this world, by the responsibility and darkness, by disappointment. He tilted his head and then reached out to touch her — perhaps she truly was a dream. And then a voice broke out into the pounding in his ears.

  “Ah, sweetheart, you’ve met my brother.” Hunter stepped beside the girl and wrapped his arm around her.

  Ash stepped back, his heart sinking down to his feet. She hadn’t been looking for him at all, but his older brother, his twin, the duke. It was such a sad joke, a sad existence really. Would he ever be first in anything?

  Months had progressed into a year as he’d watched his brother and Lucy fall into such a deep love all he had been able to do was be happy for them and try to spend as much time away as possible. After all, it was not done to want your brother’s wife, to want to care for her and protect her. It was fate’s final, cruel trick to allow Ash to feel something for another and then have that person ripped away by his brother. Though he loved his brother more than his own life, it seemed Ash was always left with nothing while his brother was given everything.

  His name fit.

  For he was the ash after the fire of Hunter burned out.

  He was nothing but soot, darkness, and sand. One day, his ashes would trickle away into the wind, never to be remembered and never mourned, but forgotten.

  “Ash! Do you hear me! I love you! I love you!” Hunter yelled at his brother as he shook his shoulders, and then his eyes widened with desperation as slapped him across the face.

  Ash stared at the blood staining his hands. He tried to wipe it off. Tried but failed as it continued to drip down his wrists into his jacket. “I’m so sorry,” he kept repeating over and over again, but it did not matter.

  The carriage had come too fast. Lucy had thought Ash was Hunter and had run to him right into the street.

  The fault was his.

  He knew it, Hunter knew it, and Lucy, beautiful Lucy, his brother’s innocent wife was dead, and it was all because he had lied about who he was, tried to be better than just the second son.

  He backed away, slowly at first, and then he ran.

  His feet ached, his stomach heaved, and finally he stopped in the middle of the street, hoping, praying that someone or something would hit him. Death, it seemed, was his only option; it was his wish, his choice. For how could he live with himself after what he had done?

  Hunter had loved Lucy, but so had Ash. She was his everything, his only relative other than Hunter, and although he had wanted her for himself, he had pushed those emotions so far beneath the surface of his heart that he hadn’t understood how far the love had run until now, until it was too late.

  On legs like lead, he walked until he reached the tombstone of his parents. Both taken from him too soon. What would they think of him now? He was the disappointment in the family, the second son by minutes. And now he was a murderer.

  Disgusted with himself, he sat down on the cold grass, leaned his head against the stone, and cursed. His brother — his only living relative — and he had ruined his life and ruined his parents’ memory in the process. All he had ever wanted as a boy was to please his father, yet all he’d received was disapproval. One time — just one time — he wanted to make someone proud, make himself proud.

  But it was impossible.

  He looked down at bloodstained hands.

  His future stared right back at him.

  Flee! He needed to flee, to get away. No, not just get away. He needed to die. A life for a life. So he set about doing exactly that. It was not fair that he was able to live, to survive, when the one woman who had done nothing but brought happiness to everyone she’d met, lay dead in the street.

  “Lucy,” he whispered as salty tears ran down his cheeks and across his lips. “I’m so sorry… but I will see you soon. I will see you soon.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the pistol. With shaking hands he lifted it to his chin and pulled the trigger.


  I have lost the war that wages between my mind and my soul. I have allowed myself to become swallowed up within the darkness and despair of the world I exist in. What cruel God would allow me to live when my greatest desire, was to follow her into the next world? —The Grimm Reaper

  ASH TRACED THE SCAR beneath his chin. Usually his cravat did the job of covering the monstrosity, but today, today of all days, he needed another reminder of who he was, of what he was.

  Thick and grotesque, the scar went from just above his throat across his neck and ended at the bottom of his ear. The carriage jolted, causing his hand to slip. He slowly lowered his chin and looked down at that hand, the same hand, the same fingers responsible for pulling the trigger.

  Ash closed his eyes and squeezed his hand tight until he felt the leather numb his fingers. Another reminder. They were everywhere. Since that day, he hadn’t been able to hold a pistol in his right hand; too many memories caused him to pause before he shot. In his certain business, pausing meant death. And though at one tim
e he had wished for it, he had found a greater purpose: killing those who deserved it more than he and watching the life drain from their bodies as he said a prayer for their damned souls.

  Exhaling, he slapped his glove, once, twice against his thigh and then put it back on his right hand. He squeezed into the smooth leather, relishing the way the tightness fit around his fingers. Every day he drew a breath was another day he was alive; every time he had a sensation of warmth or contentment, it was soon followed with guilt. Guilt that Lucy would never again experience any of those things, guilt that he was.

  “Are you certain you are up to it this time, Ash?”

  Ash’s head snapped to attention. He gritted his teeth as his nostrils flared in irritation. “Up to it? When have I ever given you reason to doubt my abilities?”

  “Never.” Pierce pulled out two of his pistols and laid them across the seat next to him. “But you’ve also never had to do a retrieval. I fear you’ll shoot every bloke within the woman’s vicinity before even asking the first and most important question.”

  “And what’s that?”

  “Pardon?” Pierce flicked the blade of his dagger.

  “The most important question.”

  “Oh, of course. That would be… if we are, in fact, in the right cottage. Wouldn’t do to rescue the wrong damsel and all that. Too messy. We’d have to kill her to silence her, and I do hate having such beautiful blood on my hands.”

  “Sentimental poet.” Ash smirked. “Fine. I promise not to shoot anyone or anything until we ask the question.”

  “And after?”

  Ash sighed. “I must be allowed to shoot something.” If he didn’t, the constraint might drive him mad. He’d been sitting in the same blasted carriage for days now. Who knew it took so long to escape to Scotland?

  “Shoot a tree.”

  “A tree? Be quick about reminding me why I brought you on this mission again.”

  Pierce shrugged. “Because you need someone who has the social skills of a gentleman.”

  “And what do I have?”

  “That of an ass,” Pierce said happily and then added, “The donkey, not an actual ass, you get my meaning.” He chuckled happily. “Now, is there anything else I need to know about this damsel? She’s Russian? Escaping her horrid family in hopes to marry into the peerage? What else?”

  Giving a shake of his head, Ash spread his hands. “I was told nothing more than to retrieve her and the guard and bring them into London.”


  “Yes, guard. As in, she has a Royal Guard who remains loyal. My guess is they will be extremely difficult.”

  “Lovely.” Pierce placed his dagger on the seat next to his pistols. “All accounted for. Now, let us be quick about this. I have a saucy wench waiting for me at The Beast’s Scottish estate.”

  “I doubt the Royal Prince of Maskylov would approve of your behavior under his roof.”

  “The Beast is currently rotting in London.” Pierce picked at a piece of lint on his trousers and shrugged. “Besides, I like to have my appetite sated before I travel for days on end with a beautiful woman.”

  Ash snapped to attention, bringing his head up almost painfully to regard the other man. “How do you know she’s beautiful?”

  Pierce shrugged and then grinned wickedly. “Damsels, my friend, are always beautiful.”

  Ash hoped not. The last thing he needed was a self-absorbed princess. He was no nursemaid, and he would rather gouge his own eyes out than cater to a simpering female.


  Hell is sweet deliverance. Heaven… well heaven only reminds me of her smile, and I would rather rot than remember the blood that dripped from her smile in those last moments. Death is what I deserve. What I crave. —The Grimm Reaper

  SOFIA SAT DEMURELY BY the window, hoping to draw less attention to the somber mood she was in.

  Ten days. It had been ten days since her cousin had sent word to her, and she hadn’t a day more to spare. For one thing, if one more of her Royal Guard asked her if she was feeling down, she was going to not only throttle him but pull out a pistol or perhaps a sword.

  She smiled. Yes, a sword sounded much more violent. It was the first smile that dared show itself across her face, and unfortunately, it had everything to do with a pointy metallic object and nothing to do with being actually happy.

  Licking her lips, she sunk lower into the comfort of the chair and sighed.

  “Princess!” Cornelius shouted loud enough to wake the Prince Regent. “Princess! Show yourself immediately!” Was that a stomp? Did the man now resort to stomping his expensive boots when he was put off by her behavior? With a snort, she sunk lower and closed her eyes. Yes, closing her eyes would do the trick. If she clenched them tight enough, perhaps her Royal Guard would disappear and—

  “There you are!” Cornelius shouted. “I have found her! I have found the missing princess!” And now everyone in Scotland was deaf. Lovely. Such a wonderful parting gift to bestow upon the good people.

  With a loud and very un-princess-like sigh, she rose from the chair and faced him. To be fair, there wasn’t anything disagreeable about the man. At one and twenty, he had been only too eager to escort her across the country to find an English groom. His black boots were polished to perfection, and his stance was so rigid she wagered she could but blow him a kiss, and he would fall over.

  He eyed her with enthusiasm as if he deserved his just reward for braving the halls of the small cottage and waving his pistol in the air. No doubt his arm was sore from having to carry the thing from one end of the room to the next.

  “Well done,” she said with a little too much sarcasm. “You have discovered me. Now what is it you need?”

  Cornelius smiled triumphantly. “We have visitors.”

  “Visitors?” she repeated as she self-consciously reached for the hair that had been shorn not but a few days ago after leaving Russia.

  Gone. Her waist–length, black-as-night hair was gone. And in its place, a short cut that, although she was convinced was the style, only came to just below her shoulders, making her feel absolutely naked.

  She hadn’t had the time nor the money to bring a lady’s maid. Her escape from her evil stepmother had been planned out within a twenty-four-hour period. The guard left with her were nothing but younger soldiers stupid enough to follow her into exile and strong enough to keep her protected. Though one retired general also traveled with them.

  Her hands fell back to her sides as she gave a slight nod to Cornelius. “Show them in.”


  “Now,” she snapped.

  Cornelius nodded and left the room. Within minutes, six of the guard barreled into the room, each of them taking a stance around her as they had been taught to do. Six lives were worth her one.

  It didn’t seem fair.

  A person’s life should not be defined by bloodlines, money, or beauty. Yet, her entire life was based off just those things. Sad. For the very thing that defined her ended up being the very thing that had put her life in jeopardy.

  For she had committed the ultimate sin.

  She had been born.

  Footsteps echoed in the distance. Closer they came. She shut her eyes and remembered her father’s face as tears had run down his weathered cheeks. “You must go,” he whispered into her ear as he took his last breath. “You must flee. I lo—”

  But he’d never finished saying the words she had longed to hear her entire life. He’d never spoken them aloud, and in his final moments, when she’d needed them the most, God had stolen his very life before he was able to utter them.

  The footsteps became louder and louder. The guard tensed around her, forming a tight circle, until finally two very large men entered the room.

  Her heart nearly slammed out of her chest for neither of the men were her cousin, which meant one thing and one thing only.

  She had been discovered.

  And she was going to die.


  I find myself getting more and more irritated with death. It promises to be swift, yet here I stand. It promises silence, yet all I hear is noise. And in the end, it promised me peace, yet all I feel is war. —The Grimm Reaper

  MISFITS. EVERY LAST ONE of them. Ash narrowed his eyes at the men forming a circle around who he hoped was said damsel.

  These were her royal protectors? Two minutes. He timed it in his head as he glanced at each one of the men. That was how long it would most likely take to render every last one of them unconscious. What the devil had this girl’s parents been thinking? Her fate was practically in the hands of children! Not counting the elderly man who stood directly in front of Ash, the rest of the men couldn’t be over the age of one and twenty!

  He cleared his throat.

  Seven pairs of eyes shifted to him uncomfortably, but nobody moved a muscle. At least they had that correct. Protect the woman at all costs.

  “Who did you say you were?” the elderly man asked.

  “I didn’t,” Ash said curtly. “And you need not know. I’m here for a Miss Sofia Snow. Kindly step away before I remove each and every one of you personally.”

  “I think he’s serious,” said the young guard standing closest to the elderly man, his eyes widening as if trying to take in Ash’s form.

  “He’s always serious,” Pierce said behind him.

  Ash rolled his eyes.

  Still nobody moved.

  “Ridiculous. It is as if you haven’t spoken at all,” Pierce commented with a chuckle. “Losing your touch, Ash? You know what that means.”

  “Pierce, I—”

  “Retirement. Find a willing woman, impregnate her as soon as possible, and flee to the country. You have officially been neutered.”

  “Don’t you mean neutralized?” one of the seven guards piped up.

  “Idiot, he means neutered, as in, he’s no longer a man,” a second guard scoffed, shaking his head.

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