Главная АвторыЖанрыО проекте
 
 

«Wicked Gentlemen», Ginn Hale

Найти другие книги автора/авторов: ,
Найти другие книги в жанре: История, Фэнтези (Все жанры)

This book is dedicated to Victor Trevor, because something ought to be.

 

BOOK ONE

Chapter One

Night

The night hung in tatters. Gas streetlamps chewed at the darkness. Candles cast dull halos through the dirty windows of the tenements across the street. Heavy purple clouds pumped up from smoke stacks and patterned the sky like ugly patches on a black velvet curtain. A few fireflies blinked from what corners of blackness remained.

A pair of them invaded the darkness of my rooms. I watched them flicker, darting through their insectile courtship. They swooped past my face, circled, and then alighted inside the fold of my shirtsleeve.

They crept close to one another, brilliant desire flashing through their tiny bodies. Their antennae touched and quivered. The female firefly reached out and stroked the male. He rushed into her embrace. Holding him close, she crushed her powerful mandibles through his head. Their flickering bodies blinked in perfect unison as she devoured him.

Some romances end more badly than others.

I had to admire the firefly for her neatness. She ate every scrap of evidence and then lounged on my sleeve with an innocent ease that could have fooled an Inquisitor. At last, I flicked her off my arm and rolled up my sleeve. I had my own ruinous affair to cultivate.

Hundreds of small scars cut across the thin muscles of my bare arm. They wound up from my wrists, marking inch after inch of my body with mechanical precision. The scar tissue was as pale as the rest of my skin, but shinier and slightly sunken, like delicate embossing. The scars had faded enough over the years that, given enough darkness or drink, a man might not notice the holy verses carved into my body.

Only the flesh on the inside of my elbow stood out. The white skin and underlying blue veins were buried under a patchwork of bruises and red needle marks. The deep shadows of night could not disguise my ugliness, but beauty was hardly the point. I wanted to be undone, swallowed whole and dissipated into a thoughtless existence. I did not long to be lost in God or Glory; I just wished to be lost.

It hurt when I pushed the needle in through a half-healed scab. But the pain was momentary and it hurt less than going without the ophorium. A feeling like warmth and honey gushed through me. It spilled through my veins, flooded the black chambers of my heart, and slowly burned me away from the inside out. My arms drooped down against the armrests of my chair. The syringe and needle fell to the floor, and I closed my eyes.

For a moment I felt so warm and sweet that I could have been a different person.

I opened my eyes and watched the sky swirling outside my window. Violet ribbons and indigo wind tinted the darkness. Tiny bats swept between black chimneys. Heavy odors of magnolia and rose mingled with the scent of raw sausages. The smell reminded me of the Gold Street whores and those thick perfumes they poured over their sour bodies.

I waited to see what this summer night would bring me.

More often than not, I waited in vain. Still, there were those rare evenings when men came to me. Each had his own kind of desperation. Each had a reason for wanting to draw close to a devil from Hells Below. Some were sweet and sincere; others just couldn't do any worse. It made no difference to me, so long as they could pay.

I wasn't surprised when there was a knock at my door. I drifted from my chair and walked through the room as if I were wading through deep water. A second, far sharper knock followed the first. I didn't hurry. I took in a deep breath, drawing in the scent of my visitor. The smells of birch soap, leather, embalming fluid, and gun oil rushed into my mouth. I paused at the door. The scents entwined but never resolved into a single perfume. After the third knock, I opened the door. Bright light poured in from the hall. I stepped back to evade the sudden illumination. Two men stood in the doorway.

The Inquisition captain caught my attention at once. Just his uniform sent a skittering rush of panic through my languid muscles. A deep desire to slam the door and bolt it shut swept through me. But even when I was drugged to a stupor, my contrary nature arose. I looked the captain over as if he were a mere curiosity. He was a lean man. His black uniform made him seem even more compressed and hard. He wore gloves, as if he did not wish to leave even a fingerprint to attest to where he might have been. His hair was hidden under his cap.

Two silver eyes stared forward from either side of his high black collar, silver emblems of the House of Inquisition. Their harsh metallic gaze burned with reflected light.

The captain's companion was also dressed in the color of his occupation. He wore a white physician's robe and looked nervous. His bare hands clenched together as if offering each other protection from my presence. A gold band gleamed from around one of his fingers—a wedding ring. There was something almost charming about the physician's discomfort. He had the perfect features and strong body of a man who was born with natural beauty. His nervousness made him seem easier to approach; easier to entrap. It made me feel suddenly stronger. If this man had some reason to fear me, then I still had some power, regardless of the Inquisition captain's presence.


Еще несколько книг в жанре «Фэнтези»

Танки ленд-лиза в бою, Михаил Барятинский Читать →