This excerpt is out of my WIP, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” To view an earlier excerpt, click here.
“Ella Bandita’s thieving ways clearly did not affect your fortune,” he continued. “So I really don’t understand what this has been about.”
“Allow me to enlighten you,” Adrianna said. “You know that marvelous bounty you and the Shepherd sacrificed for the future of orphans?”
“Where do you think that bounty came from?”
“My grandfather told me a collective of wives and courtesans added to it every year,” the Wanderer said.
“That’s what I heard too.”
Adrianna stared at us without a word, leisurely finishing her soup and sipping from her wine.
“And who do you think started the collective?”
The Wanderer’s face cleared.
“That must have been you.”
“But why?” I asked.
“Lots of reasons. One of them was that she destroyed my favorite beau and I was outraged. His wife was angry too. I started the collective with her.”
“You did all that over one beau?” the Wanderer exclaimed and burst out laughing. “How long ago was this?”
“A little over twenty years ago.”
“And you’re still going to a lot of trouble,” I added. “What do you want?”
“I already told you what I want, Shepherd. I want your stories.”
“You would find my life very boring. Most of my time has been very solitary.”
“I want to know about the years you spent with Ella Bandita.”
“I already told you I never talk about her.”
“Maybe it’s time you did, Shepherd. How long have you been haunted by her memory?”
Something in Adrianna’s tone caught my attention. Her beautiful eyes were narrowed and her face was pale.
“How did you know her, Adrianna? Was she your protégée at one time?”
In response, Adrianna choked on her wine. Two maids hurried to her aid, until her coughing fit died down. I couldn’t imagine my fierce and stubborn Woman as a courtesan. But what she became shocked me so much that anything could have been possible. For how else did she have access to the most elite gentlemen in the country?
“That sounds like curiosity to me, Shepherd. I’ll trade you all of my stories for some of yours.”
I shook my head.
“I’ll even start with one of mine,” she pressed.
“You’re very determined. But you have nothing to persuade me.”
“Yes, I do. And I can prove it.”
The Wanderer chuckled.
“Good luck, Adrianna. I can see you’re used to having your way, but the Shepherd is one of the most resolute men I’ve ever known.”
“I used to be very ugly. Even uglier than Ella Bandita.”
The Wanderer’s jaw dropped and I thought I’d misheard her. Adrianna’s features glowed in the light of the fire. Her generous mouth curved in a smile. She was obviously pleased with the affect she had wrought. Adrianna was ravishing, even in old age. She raised her hands to frame her face.
“As you can see, the Sorcerer of the Caverns was very powerful.”