About the Book
Author: W.R. Gingell
Genre: New Adult Fantasy (Fairytale Retelling)
Beauty met the Beast, and there was . . . bloody murder?
It’s the Annual Ambassadorial Ball in Glause, and Lady Isabella Farrah, the daughter of New Civet’s Ambassador, is feeling pleasantly scintillated.
In the library is Lord Pecus, a charming gentleman whose double mask hides a beastly face, and who has decided that Isabella is the very person to break the Pecus curse.
In the ball-room is young Lord Topher, who is rapidly falling in love with an older woman.
And in the card-room, lying in a pool of his own blood, is the body of one of Isabella’s oldest friends: Raoul, Civet’s Head Guardsman. The papers sewn into his sash seem to suggest espionage gone wrong, but Isabella is not so certain.
Lord Pecus, as Commander of the Watch, is of the opinion that Isabella should keep out of the investigation and out of danger. Isabella is of the opinion that it is her murder to investigate, and that what a certain Beast-Lord doesn’t know won’t hurt him. . . .
Will Isabella find the murderer before Lord Pecus does, or will she end her investigation as a bloody spatter on the parlour floor?
W.R Gingell is a Tasmanian author who enjoys reading, bacon, and slouching in front of the fire to write. More titles in the Two Monarchies Sequence will be upcoming, and readers are encouraged to visit wrgingell.com or follow @WRGingell for the latest news and publication dates.
Other publications by W.R. Gingell include A Time-Traveller’s Best Friend: Volume One, andRuth and the Ghost.
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Amazon link: Amazon
B & N link: B&N
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24821881-masque
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7849833.W_R_Gingell
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wrgingell
Giveaway Win a paperback copy of “Masque”.
“I think I would like to see your face,” he said thoughtfully. “Would it stretch politeness too far to ask you to remove your mask?”
“After you, my lord.”
I thought he laughed at me, but again it was hard to tell. “I don’t think I understand you, my lady.”
I looked at him steadily for a moment, my chin propped up in my palm. “Forgive me if I seem rude, but I think you understand me very well.”
He sat forward again, leaning his forearms on his knees. His bulk was so considerable that this maneuver put his face only inches from mine, and I found his eyes uncomfortably piercing. “Very well, my lady. Remove your mask, and I will remove mine.”
I was burning with curiosity that was tempered by a touch of self-satisfaction that I was about to accomplish something that even Delysia had not been able to accomplish, but I untied my mask with fingers that were steady enough.
“Well, my lord?”
“Charming,” he said softly, deliberately misunderstanding. I found myself blushing for the first time in many years. It was annoying to know that he’d intended as much. “How old are you, Lady Farrah?”
“Very nearly thirty, my lord,” I told him composedly, ignoring the rudeness of the question. “And a confirmed old maid, so you’ve no need to waste your compliments on me.”
“What brings you to the Ambassadorial Ball?”
“The proposed militia merger, my lord; and I believe you’re stalling.”
He gave me a slow, considering smile, and I wondered if the face beneath the mask was smiling also. “Is that so? Are you sure you want to see my face?”
Courtesy compelled me to say, albeit with reluctance: “Not if you’re unwilling, my lord.”
Lord Pecus sat silent for a moment as if in thought, his mask unreadable.
“Hm. I don’t believe I am,” he said at last, as if he had surprised himself. “Try not to scream, my lady.”
If he had said it with the slightest theatricality, I would have laughed and gone back to the ballroom, content not to know what his face really looked like. But he said it unemotionally, a plain warning; and I had to take myself firmly to task for the quickly accelerating beat of my heart as he removed the charms that kept his mask in place. I settled my chin a little more firmly in my palm and waited, watching the process with some interest. I had not much talent for magic, and my knowledge was almost as slight: my training had mostly to do with international policy and diplomatic processes.
At last he seemed to be done. He raised both hands to remove the mask - beautiful hands, strong and bare of rings - and it came away cleanly. For a moment I thought he had yet another mask beneath: firelight played on tawny brown hair - no, fur!- in a face that looked like the worst parts of wolf and bear mixed. I blinked once, realising in that instant that it was his face, his real face, and no mask. His mask must be magic indeed to have hidden that snout under the pretence of a plain common-or-garden human nose.
“I see,” I said into the silent warmth of the room. I dropped my hand back to the arm of the chair and let a small sigh escape. “That explains a good deal.”
I took a step toward him, but a dirty hand caught my arm.
“Don’t touch him, my lady!”
It was the scrubbing girl, her hands still slick with suds that soaked quickly into my sleeve. Daubney sank to his knees, coughing, and I said crisply: “There’s a man just beyond the end of the street; fetch him now.”
She nodded, and jerked a thumb over her shoulder for the urchin’s benefit. He took off at a run, skinny legs almost blurring, and she knelt beside Daubney, who looked up at me with glazed horror in his brown eyes.
“My . . . lady . . . help!”
I dropped to my knees beside them both, and the girl said again, sharply: “Don’t touch him! Have you got wood, my lady?”
I snapped the beads from my reticule strings without a pang, and the girl made a quick motion with her hand that set them spinning in the air within a complicated web of blue glittery stuff. They revolved once, twice; and then exploded, stinging us with splinters.
The girl hissed between her teeth in surprise or fear, I wasn’t sure which, and spat: “Get away! Now!”
She was quicker to her feet than me, dashing up and away across the cobbles. I was still forcing myself up when Daubney’s eyes flooded red.
“Oh no!” I said, swallowing a horrible lump in my throat; because I knew what was coming. “Oh no, no, no!”
And then Daubney’s head exploded.
His voice was an unfamiliar tenor tone, with a light, lilting touch to it that sounded as if it could rise to the pitch of madness without much provocation. I heard him draw in a deep breath, very close behind me now, and came to the disturbing conclusion that he was smelling my hair.
“I believe you have the advantage of me,” I said quietly. Movement teased my periphery, but I looked steadfastly ahead, refusing to turn my head.
“Don’t you want to know who I am?”
Petulance. I said, hardly daring to breathe: “That would ruin the suspense.”
He laughed. “I knew I liked you! Why did they tie you up?”
“They didn’t want me to run away.”
Even a child of ten years would have protested that I hadn’t given a proper answer, but he didn’t. The cold feeling in my stomach spread in an icy rush to my outer extremities: I was at the mercy of a man whose homicidal mania was governed by a childlike whimsy.
The movement in my peripheral vision died away as he moved behind me again. “Did you know them?”
“Barely.” I had the distinct impression that this man would know if I lied to him, and so I told the exact truth. “A countryman of mine was killed a short while ago, and we had reason to believe that it was in connection with a leak in our covert affairs. Those two were encouraging me not to follow up the investigation.”
“Oh.” It sounded as though he was thinking. At length, he said: “I didn’t kill him for that. You’re playing with me, aren’t you? You know it was me.”
“As soon as I heard Claude die,” I said, nodding. “But I don’t know why you did it.”
He chuckled mischievously. “I’m not going to tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself.”
“How delightful!” I managed to say. My throat was becoming steadily drier, but I didn’t dare so much as lick my lips to moisten them. I knew instinctively that he would take it for a sign of weakness.
“Who’s that at the door?” There was a sudden scuffle of dust as he spun sharply to face the door. “Someone’s coming. A little girl.”
I closed my eyes. Vadim.
“It’s my maid,” I said. “I would prefer if you did not kill her.”