Novel Excerpt out of my work-in-progress, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” For a previous excerpt, go here.
“You must have done something supernatural to be here, Wanderer. None of Ella Bandita’s conquests have ever been redeemed.”
Adrianna moved fast, reaching down to take the Wanderer’s hand in hers before he could react.
“Did you get your heart back as well?”
Adrianna paused as she pressed her fingers into the side of his wrist.
“Well, well. I feel a pulse.”
“As I said,” the Wanderer murmured. “I was lucky.”
“That was more than luck,” she retorted. “She must be dead for you to get that crystal stargaze, and get your heart back. How did you kill her?”
“You can hardly expect a confession,” I interrupted. “We would hang.”
“For destroying a monster? I don’t think so, Shepherd. You and the Wanderer are our most cherished heroes. Legends will be told about you long after you are gone.”
Adrianna glanced to Celia who stood two paces behind the Wanderer, and then to Astrid who must have stood about the same distance from me. She nodded appreciatively to both of them.
“Well done tonight, girls. You may go and finish supper in the Joy Parlor.”
Astrid touched my shoulder with a soft hand.
“It really was an honor to meet you, Shepherd. I enjoyed our talk.”
I nodded, surprised that my feeling towards Astrid was one of neutral benevolence.
Celia threw her arms around the Wanderer’s neck and kissed his cheek.
“Thank you for leaving your fortune to the orphans,” she said. “It means more to me than I can ever tell you.”
“Okay,” the Wanderer said. “But it was nothing, really.”
He was obviously confused, not having heard that the woman he had made love to twice had grown up in the orphanage. Once the young courtesans followed a steward and maid back into the Casa, the Wanderer focused on Adrianna and whistled appreciatively.
“Your girls are good,” he said.
“Of course, they are. I trained them. So tell me how you got your heart back, Wanderer.”
“Let’s just say I had exquisite timing.”
“I’m sure it’s quite a story.”
“I would love to hear it.”
The Wanderer smiled at Adrianna and shook his head. Reaching for the leftover wild duck croquettes, he ate what was left, his deep black eyes peering steadily at his wily hostess.
Adrianna smiled and backed off. She took her seat in the chair Astrid had left vacant. Nodding to her servants, the stewards brought us each the fourth course, steaming bowls of pureed chestnut soup, while the maids poured red wine in ample goblets, and handed them to all three of us. Adrianna leaned back and took a sip.
“I must say, Wanderer, the years you lived as a Wolf have served you beautifully. I’ve always found rugged men most attractive. We don’t get much chance of meeting those in our civilized Capital City.”
“You flatter me, Madame.”
Adrianna smiled graciously.
“I told the Shepherd, and now I’ll tell you to call me Adrianna.”
“Your praise is generous, Adrianna. But I’ve never been one to be swayed by compliments.”
They smiled at each other in understanding. But Adrianna was far from done. She turned back to me and peered at me intently, her lovely golden eyes sparkling in the light.
“One thing I’ll say for my nemesis, Shepherd, she certainly had exquisite taste.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You are the man who loved Ella Bandita. The only man whose heart she didn’t steal.”