Chapter 1: Unholy Orders

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Author's Note: This novella takes place the December before the events of The Original Sinners: The White Years novels The Virgin and The Queen (available from Harlequin's Mira Books). However, it's recommended that you read through The Queen before reading The Scent of Winter, as there are spoilers.

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What was the point of cold weather without any snow?

Not that Kingsley minded the lack of snow in New Orleans during winter. There was something to be said for sitting on his back balcony in December and drinking wine with Juliette after putting Céleste to bed. But now that he'd been back in New York for two days, he found himself wishing for snow with the same fervor and longing he'd wished for it as a child, when a rare heavy snowfall meant maman might let him stay home from school. From the window in Griffin's dining room, Kingsley studied the sky and found it empty of snow clouds. The sun hung down from the ceiling of the overcast horizon like a sad, low-watt light bulb.

Winter in New York was a disappointment. The sooner he got back to New Orleans the better. Ah, well, it was a business trip anyway. Not in town for pleasure. Pleasure was back in New Orleans. Nothing in New York these days but paperwork.

"I promise Mick's not dead," Griffin said, interrupting Kingsley's melancholy reverie. Griffin brought two cups of coffee over to the dining room table where they'd been working. Kingsley had offered to sell his old townhouse to Griffin at below market value to use as a base of operations, but Griffin hadn't wanted to leave the apartment he'd shared with Michael for almost four years. He liked the privacy of it, which Kingsley could appreciate. In the old days, people were always tramping in and out of Kingsley's townhouse on Riverside Drive for a dinner party or a music recital, an auction or an orgy.

"Sick?" Kingsley hadn't seen Michael all morning. And not once yesterday either.

"Worn out from finals. He always sleeps for about three straight days when the semester's over. But he'll be up eventually."

"Let him sleep. He's earned it," Kingsley said, taking the coffee cup Griffin offered. "What are your Christmas plans?"

"The whole family's at the ski lodge again this year. Mick's mom is coming, too."

Kingsley raised his eyebrow. "This is the same mother who is now dating your oldest half-brother?"

"Yeah." Griffin winced as he scratched his fingers through his dark brown hair, which was still a little wild from sleep. "If she and Aiden get married, I'll be Mick's step-uncle. That's weird, right? It feels weird."

Kingsley only shrugged. "La Maîtresse will probably write a book about it, knowing her."

Griffin rolled his eyes, threw his feet up on the table, and sat back in the chair.

"She would, wouldn't she?"

Kingsley poured over the last of Griffin's books, leisurely sipping his coffee.

"Well?" Griffin asked. He was nervous, which Kingsley found endearing. Even if Griffin was the new King of the Underground, he still wanted to impress the old King of the Underground. "What's the verdict?"

"I don't see anything of concern. But where are the other books?"

Griffin's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

"Jules and I kept two sets of books. The ones the IRS saw, and the ones the IRS didn't."

"King, my father is the former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange."

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