Read The Golden City Online

Authors: J. Kathleen Cheney

The Golden City

BOOK: The Golden City
ads

DARK ARTS

The river’s surface above her was dark. Before her Oriana saw shapes floating in the water, more traps like the one she’d ju
st
escaped. Oriana kicked away from her prison, trying to grasp the bigger pi
ct
ure of what she was seeing. In the nighttime waters she could make out two neat rows,
st
retching on for some di
st
ance. There mu
st
be more than twenty of these prisons under the river’s surface.

It was
The City Under the Sea
.

Oriana had read of the great work of art being assembled beneath the surface of the Douro. The newspapers often opined about it, ever since the pieces began appearing in the water almo
st
a year ago. Each was a replica of one of the great houses that lined the Street of Flowers, the
st
reet of the ari
st
ocrats.

Oriana looked back at the house in which she’d been imprisoned. It was a replica of the Amaral mansion, Isabel’s home.

Had Isabel been killed merely for the sake of this . . . artwork? Had others awakened in the darkness only to realize, like Isabel, that their death was seeping in about them?

THE

G
OLDEN

C
ITY

J. K
ATHLEEN
C
HENEY

A ROC BOOK

ROC

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Au
st
ralia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

penguin.com A Penguin Random House Company

Fir
st
published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Fir
st
Printing, November 2013

Copyright © Jeannette Kathleen Cheney, 2013

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or di
st
ributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:

Cheney, J. Kathleen.

The golden city/J. Kathleen Cheney.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-60689-6

1. Abdu
ct
ion—Fi
ct
ion. 2. Imaginary places—Fi
ct
ion.

3. Selkies—Fi
ct
ion. 4. Magic—Fi
ct
ion. 5. Portugal—Fi
ct
ion.

I. Title.

PS3603.H4574G65 2013

813

.6—dc23 2013021501

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fi
ct
ion. Names, chara
ct
ers, places, and incidents either are the produ
ct
of the author’s imagination or are used fi
ct
itiously, and any resemblance to a
ct
ual persons, living or dead, business e
st
ablishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Contents

DARK ARTS

Title page

Copyright page

Dedication

 

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

EPILOG

 

About the Author

 

Dedicated, with gratitude,

to the Ladies of the Carpe-Libris Writers Group, for their unfailing support; to my agent, Lucienne Diver, for her persi
st
ence; and, mo
st
of all, to my husband, Matt, for his eternal patience with the “little writing thing” I do.

CHAPTER 1

THURSDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER 1902

L
ady Isabel Amaral plucked another pair of drawers from the chiffonier and tossed them in her companion’s dire
ct
ion. Oriana caught the silk garment and folded it neatly while her mi
st
ress disappeared into the dressing room.

Oriana laid the drawers in a pile with the others, surveyed the colle
ct
ion spread across the bed, and shook her head. Even after two years living among humans she was
st
ill bemused by the number of layers a proper Portuguese lady mu
st
wear. Chemises and underskirts, drawers and
st
ockings and corsets: they all lay neatly prepared to pack away, none of them meant to be seen. It was a far cry from the comfortable—and less voluminous—garb Oriana had grown up wearing out on the islands that belonged to her people. She rarely noticed her heavy clothes any longer, but seeing all the lace-bedecked items displayed on the bed before her, Oriana found the quantity of fabric in which Isabel swathed herself daily rather daunting.

What was missing? Even with all that lay in front of her, Oriana was sure Isabel had left
something
out. She puffed out her cheeks, mentally cataloging the garments on the bed.

She wished Isabel hadn’t waited so late to inform her of the plan to elope. If she’d known in advance, she would have packed Isabel’s be
st
clothes neatly. She could even have sent a couple of trunks ahead via train to the hotel in Paris. Being rushed at the la
st
moment was her own fault, though. She’d made her disapproval of the match known early on, and Isabel probably wanted to avoid an argument. But it was also Isabel’s
st
yle to wait until the la
st
moment. That made everything more of an adventure.

Unfortunately, adventures didn’t always turn out well . . . particularly if one didn’t have the proper undergarments.

Aha!
Oriana suddenly placed the oversight. “You haven’t any corset covers.”

Isabel peered around the edge of the dressing room door and waved one hand vaguely. “Pick some for me. I only need a couple. Marianus will buy me new ones after we’re married.”

Isabel disappeared back into her dressing room, leaving Oriana shaking her head. She had to wonder if Marianus Efisio knew he would be spending the next few weeks shopping. While Isabel’s family possessed ari
st
ocratic bloodlines tracing all the way back to the Battle of Aljubarrota, they had very little money. Everything supplied by the various milliners and dressmakers who’d rigged Isabel out in
st
yle had been bought on credit. Isabel’s mother was counting on her beauteous daughter’s marriage to a wealthy husband. Luckily, Mr. Efisio did meet that requirement.

Unluckily, he was already promised to another woman: Isabel’s cousin Pia.

It was an arrangement made when he was ju
st
a boy and Pia an infant. Even so, it wasn’t fair to simply ignore the arrangement. At any rate, Oriana didn’t think so.

Isabel had waved away Oriana’s concerns, claiming that Mr. Efisio wasn’t suited to Pia’s placid disposition. The elopement would cause a scandal, and Isabel’s rarely present father would be livid. Nevertheless, Isabel’s popularity in polite society would help her survive the disgrace. In time, Mr. Efisio would be forgiven for breaking his betrothal, particularly if Pia were to marry well. He had money, which always seemed to temper society’s disapproval.

Isabel was like a tidal wave, though. She always did as she wished, and the gods would merely laugh at anyone who
st
ood in her way.

Clucking her tongue, Oriana sorted through the contents of the rickety chiffonier’s top drawer and sele
ct
ed the two be
st
corset covers. She’d ju
st
laid them neatly on the bed when Isabel emerged from the dressing room, her arms overflowing with skirts and shirtwai
st
s. She dropped them atop the garments Oriana had already folded, and a narrow line appeared between her perfe
ct
ly arched black brows. “Am I missing anything else?”

“A nightdress,” Oriana answered. She eyed the wreckage of her neatly folded
st
acks. Isabel probably hadn’t even looked before dumping the clothes she’d carried.
Oh, well.
There was nothing to do but
st
art over. Oriana nodded briskly and lifted the top skirt off the pile.

A knock came at the door, and she jumped. She in
st
in
ct
ively hid her bare hands in the fabric of the skirt. She was usually so careful, but she’d taken off the mitts that normally hid her fingers so she could help Isabel pack. Then she realized she was wrinkling the skirt terribly and forced herself to let it go. She took a calming breath, hoping her voice would sound normal. “Who is it?”

“Adela, Miss Paredes,” one of the maids responded from the hallway. “I have what my lady asked for.”

Oriana ca
st
Isabel a que
st
ioning look. What was Isabel plotting?

Isabel hurried to the bedroom door herself. Oriana
st
ayed by the bed and shoved her hands behind her back. Other than Isabel, no one in the Amaral household knew her secret. Oriana wanted to keep it that way.

Her webbed fingers would give her away, and being caught in the city would mean arre
st
and expulsion, if not worse. They were her great flaw as a spy. She’d finally made the decision to have the webbing cut away, as her superiors insi
st
ed, and
had
planned to take her half day off this weekend to have it done. But Isabel’s sudden decision to elope had fouled those plans. Oriana hadn’t decided if she was vexed . . . or relieved.

Isabel opened the door only wide enough for the maid to pass her something and closed it quickly. She turned back to Oriana, a mischievous grin lighting her face, and held up a pair of maid’s aprons and two crumpled white caps. “See what I have?”

Oriana
st
ood there with her mouth open. Why would Isabel ask for
those
?

Isabel rolled her eyes. “A disguise,” she explained. “See? If we wear black, we can put these on over our skirts and we’ll look like housemaids.”

Well, the only thing more scandalous than engaging in an elopement had to be exposure while doing so. The disguise
would
make the two of them less noticeable at the train
st
ation; mo
st
people in Isabel’s circles didn’t notice servants. Surely none would comment on a couple of housemaids dragging luggage about for their mi
st
resses, even this late in the evening.

“I under
st
and,” Oriana said, trying for an enlightened expression. The black serge skirt she currently wore would pass for a housemaid’s, but her white cambric shirt and the blue ve
st
wouldn’t. “I’ll need to change my shirt, but it should do.”

Isabel tossed the aprons atop the chiffonier and grinned. “See? It will all work out.”

“I’m certain you’ve planned for everything,” Oriana allowed, inclining her head in Isabel’s dire
ct
ion.

A dimple appeared in Isabel’s alaba
st
er cheek. “When it comes to marriage, one mu
st
.”

Oriana laughed softly. Isabel always had a clever retort on her silver tongue, a talent she envied.

She regarded the pile of garments atop the bed and tried to think of the be
st
way to tackle the task ahead of her. An open trunk waited on the old cane-backed settee at the foot of the bed, although she would have to fold and tuck judiciously to get all these garments into it. She would likely have to add a portmanteau as well. Mr. Efisio had gone ahead to Paris, but he had ordered his coach to pick them up no more than a block away. She could carry their luggage to the coach in two trips if needed.

Isabel watched, tapping one slender finger again
st
her cheek. “Now, what have I forgotten?”

“Nightdress?” Oriana reminded her.

“Oh, I mu
st
n’t forget that.” Isabel dashed back to the dressing room.

Oriana folded the blue skirt from the top of the pile and set it in the trunk, located the shirtwai
st
Isabel wore with it and tucked that in next, and then headed into the dressing room to hunt down the matching jacket. She found Isabel
st
anding before the full-length mirror in the cluttered dressing room, holding up a nightdress. It was her mo
st
daring, a white satin that bared much of her bosom like an evening gown.

Isabel glanced over one shoulder at Oriana, her face glowing with excitement. “Do you think he will approve? It’s not too shocking, is it?”

Isabel was blessed with an ivory complexion and thick black hair. She had delicate features, delicate hands, delicate feet. Her hazel eyes had been the subje
ct
of many a wretched suitor’s poem, and her rosy, bow-shaped lips had earned their own paeans. She was everything that Oriana wasn’t—beautiful by any
st
andard. A good thing too, as Isabel’s sharp tongue and cutting wit might have earned her enemies were she less lovely. But she’d gathered a court of suitors and held them fa
st
while waiting for a man of both adequate means and malleability to come along. Mr. Efisio had never had a chance once Isabel made up her mind to have him.

Oriana’s eyes met Isabel’s in the mirror. “I’m certain he’ll like it, shocking or not.”

“Good.” Isabel smiled contentedly at her refle
ct
ion, but turned back to Oriana, her face going serious. “I know you don’t approve. I’m grateful you’re coming with me anyway.”

Oriana opened her mouth to apologize for her earlier arguments with Isabel over Mr. Efisio’s fate, but paused. She
st
ill didn’t approve. She nodded in
st
ead.

“I do love him,” Isabel said then, the fir
st
time she’d told Oriana so. “Have you never been in love?”

Oriana gazed down at her folded hands, her throat inexplicably tight. She was only a few years older than Isabel, but her situation in life had never been amenable to courtship. How many times had her aunts pointed that out? Unlike women within human society, among her people a female often remained alone; there simply weren’t enough males. Those females not meant for a mate were de
st
ined to serve their people in
st
ead, as Oriana did.

That thread of De
st
iny that bound her soul to some other’s? Oriana didn’t think it exi
st
ed. She had resigned herself to that years ago . . . or she’d thought she had. Seeing Isabel so excited about her upcoming nuptials made Oriana wish she’d been one of the
others
—those for whom De
st
iny had chosen a mate. “No,” she admitted when she found her voice. “I’ve never been in love, so I suppose I can’t under
st
and.”

Isabel’s brows drew together. “Do your people believe in love? Or are your marriages all arranged, like Pia’s?”

Oriana mulled that over. “We believe we are de
st
ined for one in particular, or—”

“Then perhaps you ju
st
haven’t met him yet,” Isabel interrupted with a blithe wave of her hand.

Apparently Isabel believed that if
she
were to have a husband, then everyone mu
st
. At lea
st
Isabel’s interruption had saved her from admitting aloud she was de
st
ined to be forever alone. Oriana nodded again, as if she agreed. She was realizing she did that quite often.

Isabel surveyed the mess on the bed with narrowed eyes, plotting how to subdue it, no doubt. “Now, why don’t you go pack your own bag, Oriana? I’ll finish up in here.”

Oriana ca
st
a glance back at that chaos and suppressed a shudder. Isabel would simply cram her clothes into that trunk. As she wasn’t taking a maid along, Oriana would end up ironing everything later. She hated exposing her delicate hands to all that heat, but she would do so to help Isabel
st
art off in her new life properly. One la
st
thing she could do to repay Isabel for her kindness.

She tugged on her black silk mitts to hide the webbing between her fingers. “I’ll be back shortly, then.”

She slipped out the bedroom door and walked down the hallway, rubbing her hands up and down her arms to warm herself. The Amaral household was one of contra
st
s. In the public areas of the house no expense was spared. Fires would no doubt be burning merrily in the parlors to chase away the September evening’s chill. The silver was regularly polished, and the china lovingly displayed in a fine oak sideboard in the palatial dining room. The rugs and tape
st
ries were of the fine
st
quality, many dating back to the family’s wealthier days.

ADS
15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
READ BOOK DOWNLOAD BOOK

Other books

Love’s Sacred Song by Mesu Andrews
The Son of Sobek by Riordan, Rick
American Hunger by Richard Wright
Sullivan (Leopard's Spots 7) by Bailey Bradford
Lawless by Emma Wildes
Lovers' Lies by Shirley Wine
Glass by Alex Christofi
The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle
The Confession by Domenic Stansberry