+460 words and an odd impulse to write more once I can get out of this desire to make it better than it could possibly be on the first pass and to stop researching islands. Though, maybe that’s thematically appropriate.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe take a minute and drink some wine or some coffee or both or eat some cake or have a cry or read a book or think about Ireland or read your Tarot or lay very still and imagine laying outside in the snow, having it covering you but not chilling your skin at all.
Echoing through the foyer, she heard a warm voice rasp: “She’s returned! Let the games begin!”
The woman had arrived in London via Capri. A journey by boat and rail that left her comfortably swaying, her mind firmly settled in the Grotta Azzurra. She had been meaning to take a stop there and the opportunity finally arose when she completed her task in Rome. Her cargo was light, easily carried on her person and acquired with surprising ease. This meant she could spare a week to explore. The fourth of their four could still taste the limoncello, could still picture the water lapping against the row boat, the Sphinx of sorts that lined the villa of Dr. Axel Munthe.
She had returned, she reminded herself, almost entirely on time. If only to attend this dinner.
A maid gathered up her raspberry velvet cape and if she had any misgivings about where the final guest’s chaperone was located, she wisely held her tongue. She stopped the maid, and gathered from the silk-lined pocket the mail that had been delivered while she was away. This entailed a single letter addressed to her from her tormented prisoner on L’Epine, on L’Ile de Noirmoutier. She had yet to read it, but she knew what it said. Come home, come home, come home.
Pas maintenant, Maman! There is no home. But there is a world to see.
Passing through the foyer, the locked door was swung wide open to the drawing room. A fire was crackling to ease the soft rain that had, predictably, carried through the entire day. The room looked fit to suit the men within. Dark corners, dark furnishings, cigar smoke flowing through the air.
She was, as ever, an interloper. Surely, the gentlemen Carlisle, Smith and Shelburne, would rather their colleague take a more traditional aspect. But if this was a game, it was one that required far more than trousers to succeed at. Amelia picked up a glass of champagne from the table. Smith, full of vigor, had taken Shelburne aside, and appeared to be engaged in some sort of frantic pantomime.
“Giving instruction to the lad as to how to take a punch.”
“I don’t find myself in situations where pugilism might concern me.” Shelburne drew a shy smile and uncrossed his arms to pull a dark blade of hair back from his eyes. He was a few years younger than she, and could fall into giggles at the bare breasts of a Bernini. His calling as a treasure hunter as inexplicable as her own, at least on its face.
“You’re in this room, aren’t you?”
Amelia laughed to herself between sips.
“Now, the lady, she might be able to get away without carrying a weapon.” Smith glanced in her direction. “But when you’re going after something that maybe somebody gives a damn about, there might be a bit of maffickin’ required to get it out of there.”
“I wouldn’t make a plan that did not first include the likelihood of resistance and devise an alternative.”
“As if things don’t go wrong.”
Amelia called over her shoulder, now quite preoccupied by the scurrying bodies of maid, assistant, and honored host as the rushed about behind the east-facing door. “Why don’t you take him out and let him practice upon you, Mr. Smith? Might motivate the spirits before you’re overly motivated by spirits.”
“You have a dark mind, Miss Crevecoeur. Just like that father of yours.” Smith muttered to himself with good humor.
“At every turn, my good sirs, at every turn.”