YA Historical Dark Fantasy: COQUETTE Feb 4, 2017 9:42:25 GMT -5
Post by theanchoredgypsy on Feb 4, 2017 9:42:25 GMT -5
I stare down at my white knuckles, the same color as the creamy envelope they clutch. This letter holds the last bit of guidance my mother ever gave me. Once this move is made, the rest of her vengeance will be up to me. A vengeance I spent years preparing for.
My whole life has led to this.
“Focus, Em." Darcane's voice pulls me back to the carriage. "Remember why we’re here. This is the first step to taking back what’s yours.”
I laugh at his ridiculous bait. “Don’t you mean what was hers?”
“You are the heir to your mother’s fortune. Now it belongs to you.” Darcane’s words curl around the truth. When mother made me her beneficiary instead of her favored employee, as she promised, it was a blow to his pride. The bitterness dripping from his voice proves he’s still not over the shock of the will’s instruction.
His fury is too good not celebrate with a grin.
Darcane shifts forward, the glare from the window highlighting his unfortunately gorgeous grey stare. It digs into me, mapping my weakness, and his jaw dances as he presses his molars down on unspoken words.
"Don't be so quick to laugh, " he says. “You inherited everything, including the debts she never paid and the enemies she made. We both know how long that list was.”
Long enough to drive us from London.
My lips ache from their gritted smile. That coal-coated city never offered me much kindness, but it would’ve been nice to have a say in my address. Instead, Darcane and I fled as soon as he forged new identity papers. I don’t miss wondering if I’d be gutted by some Black Tips’ lackey or offed by some desperate soul indebted to my mother’s coffers, but the choice to stay is one more check mark on the list of things stolen from me.
A Skyrail engine sounds its horn from above, a lovely distraction. I slip a finger beneath the window curtain to peek at the street outside, craning my neck for a glimpse of their infamous speeding cars. All I see are the ornate store fronts Parise is so famous for. It is a beautiful city. I understand why mother loved it. She was happy here, once. Before the Count betrayed her.
I wonder if the Count knows how black he turned her soul.
I pull back from the sunlit window. Darcane’s gaze traces me, and my stomach coils. The months of me begging for his attention were darkened the day he taught me to count on only myself. Betrayal is a cruel teacher, but also an effective one.
Gritting my teeth to grind out the memories, I slide mother’s letter into my clutch. Parise is called the City of Art, but we aren’t here to sightsee. We’re to ruin the Count of Grosmith by stealing his business’ secrets and wringing his heart. Today is the first move. I need to persuade the Perfumist to make me a potion off the books. That isn’t a simple task. Darcane has a job to do too, and I’m nervous about his ability to pull it off. I don’t like being dependent on other people. But there are places I can’t go that Darcane can.
All because he’s a man. It’s ludicrous, especially considering I’m the daughter of the Lady of Night.
“Which gentlemen’s club are you going to?” I ask.
Darcane sighs, his breath fogging the glass. “One where they serve brandy, women, and scents laced with fun. There’ll be loose tongues. That’s all I need.”
“You should go to one close to the Count’s estate. To ensure they stock the Grosmith brand.”
“Everyone stocks the Grosmith brand.”
“Location is important. You want to find his friends. Maybe he’ll be there.”
“The Count is a recluse. He won’t be anywhere.”
“He must go somewhere, do something. He’s a millionaire for Queen’s sake.”
“Yes, and I’ll find out who he trusts, who he hates, where he goes for dinner, and what color nickers he slides into every Friday evening before bed. Worry about your business, and I’ll worry about mine. This isn’t my first job, little lovely.” He faces me, silver eyes glinting beneath amber lashes. “It’s yours.”
As his lips curl, the horses gait slows. My pulse speeds to make up the difference. I try to take a deep breath, but the tight cords of my corset hold me back. I can’t catch my breath but it doesn’t matter, I’m going through with this or passing out while trying. I’ll be damned if I fail.
Before I leave, Darcane’s cool hand slides over my shoulder.
“Wait, you’re too flushed.”
I laugh. “Doesn’t that increase my radiance?”
“Yes, but not in a controlled way. It makes you look easy to handle.” Darc scoots to the edge of his seat, too close for comfort. “Relax. You know what you’re doing. Any woman would want to befriend you. Any child would follow your bidding.” His hand slides across my cheek. “Any man would fall at your feet.”
I jerk away from his touch. “Any man but you. A fact I thank heaven for.”
The coach door opens. Sunshine slices between Darcane and I, accentuating the hard, cut angles of his face. He pulls his silver zippatomier out of his breast pocket and rolls up his shirt sleeve, exposing his wrist.
“You might want to get out, Em. The scent’s effects might carry in such a small space. Wouldn’t want to give you a contact high.” He sneers as he snaps open the zippa’s metal top.
My mouth clamps shut as I hold my breath, desperate to get away from the Active Scent’s enticing fumes. They aren’t as addictive if you’re not wearing them, but I’d rather be safe than a junkie. I slide across my leather seat, slip my hand into my coachman’s and out into the crisp, bright day.
Tandy, my coachman, gives my hand a small squeeze. “Remember what your mother taught ye. Stand tall, lass.”
I turn to Tandy, his lined face scrunched into a gentle smile. Loyal staff is important. All loyalty is bought by either gold or love. Tandy’s loyalty is double fold, even if his love was for mother. I nod in thanks and recall the words she would whisper, ingraining them into my existence. The Count of Grosmith must fall.
I face the lacquered doors of the perfumery.
A grated green storefront greets me, with the words “Perfume House of Grosmith”, fashionably scrawled in gold paint above glass and mahogany doors. It appears so dainty, unoriginal.
A lie. The world’s most sought after Active Scents are created behind those walls.
When I push through the heavy doors, a brass bell’s ting announces my entrance. The chime draws the eyes of the patrons, but the swish of my expensive silk skirt makes a much more alluring announcement than the ding. Men and women arch their brows, the same gesture for two likely reasons. The men want me closer, the women wish me away. One glowing smile is all it takes, and I am both loved and forgiven.
A young, clean-cut salesman stands behind a counter. His pomade slicked hair reflects the colors of the bottles glowing behind him. His eyes dart down, then up, then everywhere, wanting to gravitate towards unspoken places but horrified by his desire. He’ll be easy prey to practice on before I meet my true target.
“How may I help you, mademoiselle?” he asks. A ruddy blush betrays his smile.
I lay my purse on the sleek counter and open the clasp to retrieve a written note.
“Would you be so kind as to get the Perfumist? I’m hoping he can mix a scent like this.”
He glances at the parchment I’m holding, eyes full of regret.
“I am so sorry mademoiselle, but we only sell our own patents. The Grosmith Perfumery is a respected establishment. We take pride in our mixtures.”
“I understand, but I believe this blend is partially his own creation. Will you tell him Lady Lavogue’s daughter would like to speak with him about Coquette?”
He hesitates, desperately wanting to please but fearful of his employer’s displeasure. I must override his fear. Without the Perfumist’s help, I will be forced to face the Count empty handed, without the scent’s allure. I lean over the counter to sway the salesman’s indecision in my favor.
“I am sure he would see the daughter of an old friend. Mother always spoke quite highly of him.” Smiling, I keep my eyes soft. My lips full.
His pupils dilate as he stares at me.
Mother taught me beauty is a weapon. You can use it against them, or they will use it against you. I am quick to do the former and have become a master with my sword.