maureen hardegree



maureen hardegree's conjurer's mask

He walked back to her and stood far closer even than before, overwhelming her senses with his tall, strong presence that, she imagined, could be downright menacing if warranted. She tilted her head back to see his face.

"I doubt," he said, his gaze darting briefly to her lips that once more warmed at the attention, "you would spare me such kindness if you knew me better."

"I try to extend kindness to everyone, Dr. Chatham."

"It would appear so." His eyes glittered with an emotion she didn't recognize, and he trailed his thumb along her jaw, stopping at her chin. "Perhaps you could express it in another way."

"How?" she asked, eager to do something, anything to ease this man's load.

"You could tell me how a woman from New York would know anything about voodoo."

His suspicion crushed Elizabeth's hope like a bad dance partner stepping on her toes. Unable to meet his gaze, she glanced down at the hand that had just now caressed her far too familiarly for a stranger she'd only met a day ago. And she'd allowed it. "One can read a great many things in the New York Public Library."

"Really? How many books do they have pertaining to voodoo?"

Damnation. "N-Newspapers," she stammered. "It must have been a newspaper account."

"Of what?" He asked, nostrils flaring, gaze narrowing in the light from the parlor as he pinned her like a bug in an insect collection.

"St. John's Eve," Elizabeth spat out, regretting it the moment she said it.

"And what do you know of St. John's Eve, Miss Brion?" he asked, a bitter edge to his deep voice, making her wonder if the bad news the owl's hoot had alluded to was his suspicion.

maureen hardegree's conjurer's mask

Though her heart seized in fear, she shrugged, far too afraid to look him in the eye and have him see how close he was to the truth. "Not much."

A half-truth.

"I would suggest you keep it that way." He turned on his heel, and headed away from the gallery, his broad shoulders melting into the darkness.