Elisa d’Abella

Elisa d’Abella, desperately in search of emotional equilibrium after the disappearance of her mother the deaths of her husband, son, and brother, and the murder of her father, must find a way to adapt to life 600 years in the past.

Excerpt from The Luck of Two Magpies, copyright 2012, all rights reserved.
No distribution or reproduction without the author’s express permission

She inhaled the sweet aroma of fresh-mown hay. The kaleidoscopic colors of dahlias, fuschias and purple salvia bordering the walk helped to relax her further. She was safe here, safe from everything except her nightmares. Even Lex Gerada posed no threat here. About a year ago, the police had alerted her that he had come through customs at Gatwick, but that was the last she’d heard of him. He hadn’t found her, and he wasn’t likely to. Not here. Cameras pried into the farthest corners of the estate. Paparazzi were not tolerated by Sir Paul Griffin. He ran a tight ship.

“Sir Paul awaits you in the dining room,” Mack said at length. He tended toward the laconic. So did his employer.

##

“It’s a gamble I’m willing to take so long as my men and you are safe.” Paul stared at a cabinet filled with crystal, hiding the thought she could almost see forming behind his eyes. “A year of kindness and care.” The smile he offered was optimistic. “I suppose it can’t make up for God knows what kind of treatment.” His Armani-clad shoulders whispered as he shrugged. “And a year can’t make up for whatever you’re running from.” He reached for her hand.

She slid it out of reach. “You have your background check.”

There was no discomfort in his stare, no pique at her tart response. Instead, he nodded, features a mask of blandness. “You’re thirty. Born and raised inNew York. You’ve money of your own. Came into a million dollars a year ago, a half million six years earlier, a million the year before that, another quarter when you were eighteen.” That would interest a man of wealth. “Majored in languages in college. Upon graduation took a job as an editor. Then married. Your husband’s—”

“That’s enough.” She didn’t need this recap of her life. She lived the misery every day. She didn’t need his pitying smile either, damn him.

“I’d only hoped that staying here might cure you of whatever you’re running from.”

“I’m not running.” Not really. Just delaying. When she could trap Lex Gerada and avenge her father’s murder, maybe her other nightmare would go away. The dream had returned with a vengeance this last year, shortly after the police had warned her of Gerada’s appearance. Lately, it was robbing her of sleep, affecting her judgment. Before long, fear of the dream would keep her entirely from sleep. Lack of sleep would make her restless, careless. She needed her wits about her.

“I’ll be here awhile.”

“Good. There’s a partnership I’d like to discuss with you.” He ambled around the table and sat beside her, his half-smile becoming light frown, and finally, outright stare. “D’you know you’ve lovely eyes? Bedroom eyes, they call ‘em… Hazel… Or are they green?” He laughed, a private sound that filled her with squeamish uneasiness. “I’ve enjoyed these months more than any for a long while, Elisa.”

What an odd thing to say.

“In fact, I’ve rarely enjoyed a woman’s company more. To be honest, the women I meet, they’re too… too….” He frowned. “Manipulative beneath their sleekness.”

That wasn’t surprising. He’d make some catch with his money and knighthood. All of his dates made the tabloids. The women who graced his arm were as lean and toned as the polo ponies he bred. No doubt any of them would love to lasso him.

He eyed her from beneath a lowered forehead, looking nearly as embarrassed as he made her feel. “Never much cared for the model type… as tall as I am, all angles and hard points and knee joints as big as my own. But you, you’re charming and intelligent.”

And short and dumpy.

“And funny, and though I doubt you’re aware of it, quite coy. Oh, you can be brash, all right, but you’re politic as well.” His fingertips flicked a lock of her hair back.

She froze rather than bolting from her chair, stunned by the turn his monologue had taken.

Paul drained his coffee cup, then squinted into her face. “Green. Definitely green.” He glanced from one to the other of her eyes, his mouth turning up. “They change colors when you become emotional. I’ve watched them, you know. When you’re angered, or disappointed, or excited.”

Or scared stiff, she thought as he caressed her jaw.

“They turn the most marvelous shade of green…”

That Rex Harrison squint bored into her eyes. “Unnatural color, really. A dark green reminiscent of rose leaves, or good emeralds.”

Jake was the only one who’d ever noticed that.

Paul’s thumb stroked her lower lip.

She pulled back, teeth scoring the tingle away. “You were saying? Something about a partnership?”

He cocked his head, blue eyes laughing at her. “I thought I’d made my intention plain.”

It was too hard to think. She looked past him. Sunlight sparkled off the well-ordered banks of crystal in the curio cabinet. Their prismatic colors sang like wind-chimes in a breeze. Colors. Light. Sound. They made her dizzy.

“Let me make it plainer.” He leaned closer, his familiar cologne conning her into relaxing her guard until he shocked her with a kiss.

What was he thinking? She didn’t want him. She didn’t want any man. “You-you can’t be serious,” stuttered from her throat. She cleared it. “You don’t want me.”

The muscles in his face grew taut. “I won’t push you, Elisa. But I want you to think about it.”

There was nothing to think about. She never wanted to feel such pain again.

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