“Miss Edmonton: I don't even know where to start. It's too horrifying to even speak of.
Jenny: Nonsense. Let's start with the basics. What did your aunt tell you?
Miss Edmonton: My aunt said that my husband will come into my room and pull my skirt up. And then he'll put himself inside of me. She said it hurts. She suggested I hold my tongue and pretend I am somewhere else until he is done.
Jenny: Yes. I should think it would hurt if you did it that way. Good heavens.”
“Jenny: But surely Lord Blakely could not abandon his estates for so long.
Gareth: No. Lord Blakely could not. Not unless he had someone he could trust to run his estates in his absence. And Lord Blakely...Well, Lord Blakely did not trust anyone.
Jenny: Lord Blakely is talking about himself in the third person, past tense. Its disturbing.”
“Jenny: Ned, I am having difficulties forming the image of the woman you should marry in my mind. Tell me, how do you imagine your ideal woman?"
Ned: Oh, She's exactly like you. Except younger.
Jenny: Whatever do you mean? She's clever? Witty?
Ned: No. I mean she's dependable and honest.
The mysterious smile slipped from Jenny's lips for the barest instant, and she looked at him in appalled and flattered horror. If this was how Ned assessed character, he would end up married to a street thief in no time at all.
“The performance was exotic. It was short. And it wasn't much more dreadful than the Chinese opera that had been performed last year.
"Bravo!" Ned called. He applauded madly. Thankfully, everyone joined in.
Blakely bowed, rather stiffly, and picked his way through the rows toward his seat. He didn't even make eye contact with Ned, didn't acknowledge that Ned had just saved him.
Ha, Just because Blakely had no humility didn't mean Ned couldn't try to humiliate him further.
"Encore!" Ned shouted.
Blakely fixed Ned with a look that promised eventual dismemberment. Luckily for the future attachment of Ned's limbs, nobody else took up the cry.”
“See?” Jenny said. “That was good. A comforting gesture, and completely unprompted on my part. You’re a
quick study. Even you will have to admit that, despite your appeal to logic, touch works. All the cold in me flows to you.”
“Cold can’t flow,” he said, pulling her closer. “Only heat.
He looked down.
“Don’t ruin this.”
“What are you planning to do
with all my points?”
Points? It took Jenny a moment to remember what he was talking about. Points, when he smiled. She turned
around slowly and put her hands on her hips.
“Your points? Those are my points. I earned them. You can’t have them.”
Gareth scowled and shoved his hands into his pockets.
“Bollocks. I had to smile very hard for every single one of them. And if you don’t take this elephant and marry me, I
swear to God you’ll never get another point again.”
Jenny’s world froze. Outside, she could hear the clear voice of a blackbird singing. It was overwhelmed by the
ringing in her ears. She turned to Gareth slowly.
“What did you say?”
“I said, you’ll never earn another point again. I haven’t smiled since you left me, and I miss it.” He kicked at the ground, his eyes tracing the dust. “I miss you.”
“No, before that.”
“Take this elephant—”
He looked up. That feral light shone in his eyes again, but this time the wild look was a plea. A lion yearning to be
freed from its cage. “Take me.” His voice was thick and husky. “Please. Jenny. I’m begging you.”
She didn’t know what to say in answer. He’d shocked the words right out of her skin. She could only stare, as some frozen expanse inside her tingled to life. It hurt to want.”
“After Blakely delivered that infamous and muchrepeated set down, he transferred his gaze to the new
Marchioness of Blakely.
She shook her head, once. Firmly. “Gareth,” she said dryly. “It is your sister’s wedding day. Behave.”
Silence. He’d lifted his chin, in typical Blakely arrogance.
The crowd waited for the blast.
And then Lord Blakely shrugged and grinned helplessly.
Grinned. Helpless. A Blakely.
“Oh,” said his sister, from where she stood near him. “Is
that how it’s done? I’ll have to practice that.”
Like that, everything society knew about nine generations of Blakelys went up in smoke.
Since that day, there had been no question. Lady Blakely had been granted otherworldly powers at birth.
Every smile she coaxed from him, every laugh that she surprised from his lips, stood as testament to her arcane abilities.
And those that questioned her worth still had only to see the look in his eyes when he watched her to find all the
proof they required.”
“And that was how Jenny discovered the answer to her question. How could she remain Gareth’s lover without becoming his mistress?
The only question was whether this affair would end in three months or three days.”
“Jenny’s admonition had the desired effect. Ned drew a deep breath and thrust his arm gingerly into the bag, his mouth puckered in distaste. The expression on his face flickered from queasy horror to confusion. From there, it
flew headlong into outright bafflement. Shaking his head, he pulled his fist from the bag and turned his hand palm up.
For a long moment, the two men stared at the offending lump. It was brightly colored. It was round. It was—
“An orange?” Lord Blakely rubbed his forehead. “Not quite what I expected.” He scribbled another notation.
“We live in enlightened times,” Jenny murmured.”
“Now come,” he said. “Does your Alex love you back, or is he a hopeless idiot?”
“He loves me,” she said quietly. “But I’m afraid he’ll stop after we marry. He’ll change his mind. He’ll—”
“He’ll love you more. Trust me.”
“Really?” She was far too somber.
“Really.” He had no words to make her smile, and so Gareth tweaked her nose.
And she giggled.
It had been a long time since he’d laughed. But despite all those years, he still remembered how. What he’d
forgotten was the lightness of his soul when he did so. The moment was perfect.”
“Your boy here-" Ware jerked his head in angry indication "can't explain himself worth a damn."
That;s hardly news to me. Nonethelss," Gareth said, "I can't allow you to kill him. His death would be a terrible inconvenience for me."
Ware snorted. "If this is a same of his behavior, his death couldn't be so inconvenient as his life.”
“What do you see?” asked Ned, his voice hushed.
“I see…I see…an elephant.”
“Elephant,” Lord Blakely repeated, as he transcribed her
words. “I hope that isn’t the extent of your prediction.
Unless, Ned, you plan to marry into the genus Loxodonta.”
Ned blinked. “Loxo-wha?”
“Comprised, among others, of pachyderms.”
“The marquess held the weapon out, as formally as if he were passing a sword.
Soberly, Ned accepted it. He placed the sacrificial citrus on the table in front of him, and then with one careful
incision, eviscerated it. He speared deep into its heart, his
hands steady, and then cut it to pieces. Jenny allotted herself one short moment of wistful sorrow for her afterdinner treat gone awry as the juice ran everywhere.
“Enough.” She reached out and covered his hand midstab.
“It’s dead now,” she explained gravely.
He pulled his hand away and nodded. Lord Blakely took back his knife and cleaned it with a handkerchief.
Jenny studied the corpse. It was orange. It was pulpy. It
was going to be a mess to clean up. Most importantly, it gave her an excuse to sit and think of something mystical to say—the only reason for this exercise, really. Lord Blakely
demanded particulars. But in Jenny’s profession, specifics were the enemy.”
“Her fingers clenched against his shoulder blades. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”
“Do I not?” He threaded his hands gently around her neck. “I’m asking you to make love with me.”
That word again. She opened her eyes. “Gareth,” she whispered. “Please. Don’t. This is hard enough—”
She stopped speaking as his gaze pierced her.
Incredible. Last night had seemed so intimate. And yet it
had been so dark that she had not been able to see anything other than flashes of light, reflecting off the surface
of his skin. Now she could look into his eyes. They were golden-brown. They were not cutting or dismissive. And
even though she could see the desire smolder inside them, there was something else in them that turned her belly to liquid.”
“Idiotic Lord Blakley," she groused.
"And how many tmes have I said it?" said a voice. "It's 'idiotic Gareth' to you.”
“Ned: I figured it was time for a picnic by the menagerie.
Jenny: And you brought me? Why not take the woman you're marrying?
Ned: She's grown up with the Duke of Ware. Lions seem less ferocious.”
“An unreadable response was heaps better than an unprintable one.”
“Gareth. I see you've returned to town for my wedding. Thank you for your fine felicitations. Your manners, as always, are impeccable."
"Hang your wedding," Gareth said. "Hang Ware and his daughter and your mother. And hang you, for not answering my question.”
“Eddie had come to understand that what a man saw and what actually existed in the natural world often were contradictory. The human eye was not capable of true sight, for it was constrained by its own humanness, clouded by regret, and opinion, and faith. Whatever was witnessed in the real world was unknowable in real time. It was the eye of the camera that captured the world as it truly was.”
“...Once again confirms that there is no such thing as genetically pure classification into different races.”
“Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture. To acquire happiness you don't have to do anything, because happiness cannot be acquired. Does anybody know why? Because we have it already. How can you acquire what you already have? Then why don't you experience it? Because you've got to drop something. You've got to drop illusions. You don't have to add anything in order to be happy; you've got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It's only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings. Do you know where these things come from? From having identified with all kinds of labels!”
“Life goes on, regardless of the future, each day was precious all by itself.”
“You have everything," she said slowly, as if she were explaining the order of the world to a small child. "A family, a great job, a lot of people who look up to you. You've got a place to go home to." She smiled a little. "So go.”
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