I’m introducing a new feature: Teaser Tuesdays. On Tuesdays, I’ll post a bit from the next book up or chat a bit about plans and characters for the upcoming books.
(If you have any questions about the upcoming books that you’d like to see answered in a Teaser Tuesday post, just post below or shoot me an email to let me know!)
For our very first Teaser Tuesday, here’s a bit from Chapter Two of the upcoming Orchid Affair….
The carriage rocked abruptly forward and then back as it came to a stop in front of the Prison de l’Abbaye. The stone bulk of the Abbaye squatted sullenly in front of the carriage, the towers set in each side jutting out like a pair of angry elbows. Torches illuminated the entrance, burning greasily against the early dark of a wet winter night.
“So kind of you to finally join us.” A small man in unrelieved black stepped out from under the lee of the portal.
“Us?” Andre said mildly, taking his time climbing down from the carriage. He’d be damned if he’d hurry for the likes of Gaston Delaroche. “I had no idea this was to be an ensemble event.”
Delaroche positioned himself so that the guttering torches on either side of the entrance cast an eerie glow over the polished silver of his coat buttons, bathing him in an unnatural and unholy light.
Bloody stagy, if you asked Andre’s opinion, which no one had.
Delaroche liked to claim he had once been the second most feared man in France. Andre would have put his position at fourth or fifth at best. Voicing that opinion had not endeared Andre to Delaroche.
“How very . . . unlike you to be tardy, Jaouen.” Delaroche bared a set of unnaturally yellowed teeth. Andre suspected him of buffing them with tobacco and a side of tea leaves. “It is, I suppose, no surprise that you would be distracted—now that your children are come from Nantes.”
There was no point in asking him how he knew. They were all in the business of knowledge. Any self-respecting senior official in the Ministry of Police employed his own private system of informers, above and apart from those sanctioned by the state. They spent as much time monitoring one another as they did the enemy.
Andre forced himself to shrug. “A nursery is a nursery, whether in Paris or Nantes. They provide no impediment to my duties.”
Delaroche’s eyes glinted red in the torchlight. “Paris is a far cry from Nantes, my friend. So much more . . . dangerous.”
Rain ran beneath Andre’s collar from the back of his hat, sending an icy sluice down his spine. Andre favored Delaroche with a hard stare. “Can any relation of Fouché, however young, be deemed to be in danger? They are not unprotected,” he added pointedly.
Delaroche shrugged, a shrug that made Andre want to take him by the shoulders and shake him like the little rat that he was. “Even so,” he said.
Even so? Even so? What in all the blazes was that supposed to mean?
Andre pictured his children, Gabrielle, with her snub nose, her plump child’s cheeks, her hair that was beginning to lose its baby curl and the eyes that looked so uncannily like his own; Pierre-Andre with Julie’s open, smiling countenance and hair like the gilded angels’ wings in a church fresco, trusting, open, laughing. He pictured them as he had seen them the night before, asleep in bed, their limbs so small beneath the blankets Jeannette had drawn up over them, their faces smooth and vulnerable in sleep. They were so small, his children, so vulnerable, such tempting hostages to fortune.
Why did Père Beniet have to die? And why did he have to die now?
Andre seethed with the same mingled grief and anger that had wrung through him since the news had arrived from Nantes. Grief at the loss of a man who had been more of a father than has his own father had ever been: old Monsieur M. Beniet, first his tutor, later his father-in-law. Anger at Père Beniet’s leaving them, and leaving them at so inopportune a moment. Not that mortality left any man much room for choice. Andre knew his anger was illogical, but that didn’t stop him from feeling it. How could his old tutor, who had always been so sage, have misjudged so radically at the last?
A chicken bone. Père Beniet had choked on a chicken bone. A great soul brought low by a fragment of fowl. There were times when the divinity had a positively mordant sense of humor. All his knowledge, all his experience, brought to nothing against a splinter of bone lurking between a dumpling and a cabbage leaf in an innocent-seeming bowl of stew.
If that chicken hadn’t been dead already, Andre could have cheerfully wrung its neck. Gabrielle and Pierre-Andre had been safe in Nantes, safe and well cared for, well away from the tangled intrigues of Paris. Well away from men like Gaston Delaroche.
Andre glanced at Delaroche, at Delaroche who resented his ascent, who wanted Fouché’s confidence for his own. There was no point in saying that Delaroche wouldn’t. Delaroche would. When it came to his position, there was nothing Gaston Delaroche wouldn’t do. Especially now.
“What are you doing here, Delaroche?” Andre asked flatly.
To read Chapter One, just click here….