Kerri Maniscalco · 326 pages
Rating: (18.2K votes)
“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”
“I was determined to be both pretty and fierce, as Mother had said I could be. Just because I was interested in a man’s job didn’t mean I had to give up being girly. Who defined those roles anyhow?”
“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.”
“There’s nothing better than a little danger dashed with some romance.”
“Wield your assets like a blade, Cousin. No man has invented a corset for our brains. Let them think they rule the world. It’s a queen who sits on that throne. Never forget that.”
“If you’re not careful,” I said, brushing imaginary wrinkles off the front of my riding habit and breeches, hoping the flush in my cheeks would come across as anger and not embarrassment, “you’ll be the one dragged here in bits and pieces.”
Thomas tilted my chin up with a finger, his intent gaze setting my skin aflame. “I do love it when you speak so maliciously, Wadsworth. Gives my heart a bit of a rush.”
“I promise. I’ll be as silent as the dead.”
“Ah,” Uncle said, putting a hat on and tugging it low, “the dead speak to those who listen. Be quieter than even them.”
“You look quite lovely today, Audrey Rose.” He stepped forward, staring down at me, and I fought to keep my eyes from fluttering shut. Thomas drew closer until I was convinced my blood would explode from my body like fireworks splattering across the night sky. “Perhaps you should comment on the excellent cut of my suit. I look rather handsome today as well. Don’t you think?”
“Hurry along, then,” I said, grabbing my orchid and securing it safely in my journal. “I want to sit by the window.”
“What now?” I asked, losing patience.
“I usually sit by the window. You may have to sit in my lap.”
“Pretend I am as capable as a man? Please, sir, do not value me so little!”
“Those who deserve respect are given it freely. If one must demand such a thing, he’ll never truly command it. I am your daughter, not your horse, sir.”
I stepped closer, enjoying the way Father leaned away from me as if he were just now discovering that a cat, while precious and cute, also had sharp claws. “I’d rather be a lowly wretch on the streets than live in a house full of cages. Do not lecture me on propriety when it’s a virtue you so grossly lack.”
“Thomas smiled at my eye roll, puffing his chest up and standing with one foot proudly resting on a chair as if posing for a portrait. “I don’t blame you, I am rather attractive. The tall, dark hero of your dreams, swooping in to save you with my vast intellect. You should accept my hand at once.”
“If I don’t murder you this afternoon, it’ll be a gift sent directly from God Himself, and I vow to attend services again,” I said, holding a hand against my heart.
“I knew I’d get you to church eventually.”
“Without lifting his head from his own journal, he said, “Not having any luck figuring me out, then? Don’t worry, you’ll get better with practice. And, yes”—he grinned wickedly, eyes fixed on his paper—“you’ll still fancy me tomorrow no matter how much you wish otherwise. I’m unpredictable, and you adore it. Just as I cannot wrap my massive brain around the equation of you and yet adore it.”
“Death was not prejudiced by mortal things such as station or gender. It came for kings and queens and prostitutes alike, often leaving the living with regrets.”
“Someone screamed; perhaps it was me. Though it would have made me happier if it were Thomas Blasted Cresswell.”
“I glared so hard I feared my face would get stuck that way. “If you ever try anything like that again, I will stab you in the foot, Thomas Cresswell.”
“Ah. There’s something about you saying my name that sounds like a blessed curse,” he said. “If you can work up a good hand gesture to go along with it, that’d be exceptional.”
“I’d like to see you carry on with a corset digging its bones into your rib cage,” I said, returning the favor and eyeing his clothing. “And manage a skirt still covering most of your breeches and whipping around your thighs in this wind.”
“If you’d like to see me out of my breeches, simply ask, Wadsworth. I’m more than happy to accommodate you on that front.”
“You don’t say,” he said. “Personally, I’d rather stay in, reading.”
“His eyes are golden brown when he’s intrigued by something. He’s regal-looking and handsome, but he’s more interested in formulas and solving crimes than he is in me or poetry. He acts devilishly warm one moment, then frigid the next,” I said. “So there will be no children or any beautiful paradise in our future. Most of the time I cannot even tolerate his presence. His arrogance is… I don’t know. Annoying.”
“Oh, how I despised remaining silent under such awful judgment. I’d like to remind each man who held such poor opinions of a woman that their beloved mothers were, in fact, women.
I didn’t see any men running about, birthing the world’s population then going on to make supper and tend to the house. Most of them buckled to their knees when the slightest sniffle attacked them.”
“He was in love. How exceptionally wonderful for him. I wished them both a lifetime of misery with ill-mannered children. I swallowed my annoyance down and plastered on a smile. “I hope you’ll both be very happy together.”
“He reminded me of the caterpillar from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sitting upon his giant mushroom, lazing about without a care in the world. If only he were small enough to squish beneath my boots.
“That’s a disgusting habit.”
“So is dissecting the dead prior to breakfast. But I don’t scorn you for that unseemly habit. In fact”—he leaned closer, dropping his voice into a conspiratorial whisper—“it’s rather endearing seeing you up to your elbows in viscera each morning. Also, you’re quite welcome for the flower. Do place it on your nightstand and think of me while dressing for bed.”
“Dear Wadsworth. Your association with me is growing more beneficial by the hour. Your intelligence is quite… attractive,” Thomas said, raising his brows suggestively and taking in my newly plaited hair. “Let’s have some wine and dance inappropriately. You’ve already dressed the part for me—let’s take advantage.”
“Monsters were supposed to be scary and ugly. They weren’t supposed to hide behind friendly smiles and well-trimmed hair. Goodness, twisted as it might be, was not meant to be locked away in an icy heart and anxious exterior.”
“I rolled my eyes. Leave it to Uncle Jonathan to worry about prostitution being too much for my feminine persuasion, yet think nothing of me seeing a body spliced open before I’d even had my luncheon.”
“Wield your assets like a blade, Cousin. No man has invented a corset for our brains. Let them think they rule the world. It’s a queen who sits on that throne. Never forget that. There’s no reason you can’t wear a simple frock to work, then don the finest gown and dance the night away. But only if it pleases you.”
“You simply need to hone your powers of deduction, Wadsworth. Look at the obvious and go from there. Most people ignore what’s right before their eyes. They believe they see, but oftentimes only view what they want.”
“My heart raced. Part of me wanted to draw him into a hug and heal his wounds, and part of me wished to ferret out all his secrets and piece the puzzle of him together this instant.”
“Monsters were supposed to be scary and ugly. They weren't supposed to hide behind friendly smiles and well-trimmed hair.”
“So I found myself telling my own stories. It was strange: as I did it I realised how much we get shaped by our stories. It's like the stories of our lives make us the people we are. If someone had no stories, they wouldn't be human, wouldn't exist. And if my stories had been different I wouldn't be the person I am.”
“But why do we say nothing?" Ujunwa asked. She raised her voice and looked at the others. "Why do we always say nothing?”
“No matter how foreign and lonely the world outside, the books always reminded me of home.”
“Never have a felt so keenly the danger of new religious movements and the damage that is done to people who are lured into such groups, not out of weakness in character but through their desire to do good and live meaningful lives.”
“Julia edged closer, wondering what kind of vocabulary dogs understood. Frederico Fellini, her cat, was an intellectual and she could talk about books and films to him, as long as it was after he'd been fed, and fed well. She had the vague notion that dogs preferred football and politics.”
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