PBW Stories

Paperback Writer's Fiction Blog

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Excerpt from [Untitled]
A NaNoWriMo Novel
by Lynn Viehl

Before I could reach the thoroughfare and hail a cab, a large, gleaming carriage drawn by four magnificent grays cut me off. I would have gone around it, but for the silver fist-and-pike crest on the door.

Of course, it would be him.

Shadows shrouded the inside of the carriage and the man who said, “Get in.”

The driver and the footman didn’t move from their positions; I wasn’t worth the trouble. So I unlatched the door and boosted myself up inside.

The interior was, like the carriage and the horses and the servant’s livery, a dismal gray. I perched on the rear-facing bench, taking the time to arrange my shirts and satchel before I looked out the window.

“Trolling on the Hill now, are we?” I asked the scenery. “What’s the matter, didn’t your last spell for the governor provide the promised amount of dazzle?”

No answer came, not that I expected one from Dredmore.

No, Lucien Dredmore, the former Lord Travellian, mentalist, shadowmage and current acknowledged Grand Master of the Dark Arts in the whole of Toriana, simply scratched a match and lit a thin black cigar clamped between his strong white teeth. The flame briefly illuminated his craggy features but failed to find a reflection in his black eyes. Then he shook out the match and blew smoke in my face.

I coughed and banged my fist against the panel under the driver’s ass. “Getting out,” I called.

The carriage didn’t even slow.

Lucien puffed a few more times before he examined the tip of his cigar. “What were you doing at Farber’s, Charmaine?”

“Dusting the furniture.” I could be as obtuse as him. “Haven’t you heard? All the maids have gone on strike. Why, is Farber someone you haven’t yet fleeced?”

“Nolan Farber is a member of a very powerful financial consortium,” he advised me. “He does the fleecing.”

“Oh, so he’s your friend.” I sat back. “I think it’s fabulous that you still have one.”

“Nolan wouldn’t hire the likes of you,” he said, as if I weren’t there. “It would have been the daughter. Or the new wife.”

“I don’t discuss my business with thieves and liars,” I told him sweetly. “But I’d happily tell them all about it before I’d confide in scum like you.”

Accustomed as he was to my insults, Dredmore didn’t even bat an eyelash. “There’s a dark, dire force moving through the city, Charmaine. You’d be smart to stay clear of it.”

“A dark, dire force.” I laughed. “That’s good, Lucien, that’s very good. I will say one thing for you, your showmanship never disappoints.” I gave the panel one last thump. “Stop this rubbish cart now, or I’ll scream murder.”

He regarded me through the cloud of smoke between us. “You’d rather tromp all the way back to that hovel of yours than accept my assistance? Why get in, then?”

“The last time I didn’t,” I reminded him, “you had one of your thugs grab me and toss me in.” He’d gagged me that time, too, something I still wanted to stab him in the heart for.

He leaned forward. “Come to supper tonight.”

“No.” Short, unadorned, straight to the point – that was the only way to refuse Dredmore. That and the visible brandishment of one or more sharp weapons. I knew I shouldn’t have left my dagger at home.

“I felt something today,” he told me. “A disturbance. Old magic.” He stared at my lips. “It tasted of you.”

Now I was going to be sick, hopefully all over on his spotless trousers and gleaming boots. “There is no such thing as magic.”

“Then why do you rabbit about disenchanting things?” he countered.

“I investigate real crimes, and whenever possible, I expose the frauds involved in dressing them up as magic.” I waited a beat. “You know, leeches like you.”

“I will find out what you were doing at Farber’s.” He sat back. “Then you and I will have a very long discussion about the consequences for young females who are too headstrong and foolish to stay in their proper place.”

“Where’s that? Under a man? Under you?” I curled my upper lip. “You're pathetic.”

He reached out and clamped a black-gloved hand over my wrist. “You will come to me, Charmaine. Perhaps not now, but soon. The portents are never wrong.”

He did have the deepest, most commanding voice of any man I’d known. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat, hearing the last echo of it humming my ears. If anyone could ever bespell me, it would be Lucien Dredmore.

No. I'd entertain a diseased copperhead first.

He dodged my fist and thrust me back, calling out, “Here, Connell.”

The carriage came to a swift stop.

I glanced out and saw I was back in town. “Thank you for the ride, Dredmore. Very decent of you.”

“Charmaine.” He watched me climb out.


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