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The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk

Author:C. L. Polk [Polk, C. L.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fantasy
ISBN: 9781645660149
Publisher: Erewhon Books
Published: 2020-10-12T16:00:00+00:00


The ballroom smelled more like sweat than perfume, and Beatrice couldn’t find Ysbeta anywhere. She had danced with one partner after another for more than an hour. At least Danton never managed to become one of her partners, though she had to pretend to mis-hear him to accept someone else. But no more. Her feet ached. Her throat was dry. It was time to escape these sorceress hunters and find Ysbeta.

She had seen her friend once all night. Ysbeta had danced a pivot with Bard Sheldon, but when Beatrice tried to join her, she had been overtaken by the pack. She couldn’t even remember half their names. And all of them announced their intention to meet with her father, rather than asking her to join them for any games or outings as she had a right to expect. Why the hurry to close the bargain? They were only in the season’s second week—what was happening?

She fluttered her fan, moving a little of the too-warm air across her face, holding it before her mouth as a shield signaling that she was disinclined to socialize. She roamed through the fringes of the ballroom, ducking into the conservatory where Harriet played a sparkling bit of piano to accompany Julia Robicheaux’s command of the violon, her bow dancing over the half-dozen strings in sharp, precise movements.

Her pride of young ladies gathered around to listen and applaud. So did an astonishing automaton, which moved gracefully to its feet to lead the praise. Beatrice watched the masterwork raise its hands, nod its head, and then sit in a padded chair, lifting one hand to cup around its ear. Harriet laughed and surrendered her seat at the pianochord to another young lady, who began a brilliant solo. Julia took Harriet’s arm and led the way past this amusement to find another out in the torch-lit garden.

Harriet was in her element. Now experiencing the pages of one of her silk ruffle novels, she had found her place and reveled in it. Harriet deserved a bargaining season of her own, one where she would probably dance her suitors into the floor and dash about all day, attending this social or that tearoom visit, and keeping up with dozens of friends. Harriet would make an excellent partner for a man like Charles Cross or a trade baron who needed a lively, connected spouse to take on a whirling social calendar.

Beatrice couldn’t rob her sister of that. She would not. Somehow, she had to sail through this bargaining season without a single error, and then find a way to save Riverstone. She needed an opportunity. She needed impeccable timing.

She needed luck.

:Nadi,: Beatrice reached for the spirit inside her. :How do I win?:

:We do it together,: Nadi said. :Are we done dancing?:

:Yes. We need to find Ysbeta.:

:I see Ianthe,: Nadi said. :He’s hunted too.:

:What?:

But then she saw Ianthe, splendid and vibrant in a primrose pink dancing suit that matched his sister’s, doing his best to smile at half a dozen young women crowded all around him.



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