Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Excerpt from The Wager

Damian stepped back, shocked by the intrusive thrust of Maddie’s words and the implications they inspired if she had seen the list of names.

With his hand on his hip, he looked away. Then he turned to Maddie, smoothing his frock coat and picking at imaginary flecks of dirt. "I don’t understand. I’m not about anything." With a huge yawn, he looked away. "I am what you see." He held his arms out for the insightful lady to inspect him, praying all the while she would not be able to see inside his heart--praying she would not see behind the powdered wig and the ostentatious bow in his hair.

Maddie approached him, finger stabbing his chest, her expression too determined to give him peace of mind.

"Do not lie to me, young man. I’ve seen you sneaking about in the dead of the night, and I’ve listened to what you and your young friends have to say to each other."

"Maddie," he said, this time his hands raised defensively into the air. "Maddie, Maddie."

"Don’t you Maddie me. I’m not talking about you shamelessly cavorting with Lord Dickens and Rathen. I’m talking about that man you call Ryder and the other one, Aric. Those fellows are different--dangerous. They are more like you. And the three of you are about something. I won‘t let you embroil my young charges in your mischief. I will have the truth."

Damian stepped back, his heart in his throat. "You mistake me for someone else." He spoke softly. "I suggest you watch them more closely. The girls have far too much time on their hands. They do as they please. I would put an end to that." Damian pulled out a lace handkerchief and delicately touched the corners of his mouth. Now, if you will be so good as to excuse me. And--"he said pointedly--"you should see to your impressionable young charges."

"This is no longer your choice. If I could discover your secrets, anyone could," she told him, bringing her hands to her ample hips, her eyes narrowing to stare accusingly upon him.

"I am exactly what you see," Damian said. "An admitted wastrel. You are a shrewd woman and it seems a determined one, yet you are wrong in this matter."

"Nay, I am not. If you want to see Amorica again--" she began.

He cut her off with a wave of the hand. "Do not think to blackmail me." He grew agitated with Maddie. "It will not go well for you if you try. I have ways to make your life miserable." He could not stop the low growl in the back of his throat.

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