WHAT THE CARDS FORETELL MAY BE REAL, AFTER ALL
1793: Having escaped the Reign of Terror, Emilie Maigny took refuge in England, trying to come to grips with the life and loss she left behind. When her brother, Sinjon, returns, a terrifying evil swoops down upon her. Nightmares plague her now, providing strange clues … but to what?
Scottish-born Linton Morrison spent his entire life in luxury, whiling away the hours in intense study of the tarot and the cards’ hidden meanings, but until he met the lovely Emilie Maigny, he would never have guessed how important his study might be–to his life and Emilie’s survival when terrible evil strikes.
A Cypher is all Emilie needs, but what is it? Is Linton the key? He may charm her heart–and he may be her only salvation.
Targeted Age Group:: 17+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book was inspired by readings I was doing at the time about the French Revolution, so I created a family who had to flee the terror, mixed in with some of the fantasy elements of the fiction I was reading.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The brother (the tarot expert) was the first character to come to me, dealing with his escape and the fall in with an odd band of characters, along the way, he hinted he had a sister, and that's how Lady of the Tarot came to be.
Torchlight glowed against the tarp-grey dusk. A rock struck the ornate railing of her balcony. Outside, people ran through the streets, shouting and shoving. Since morning, the atmosphere around the neighborhood had grown ever-more tense. Now Emilie was afraid even to peek out her windows.
“Charles, see the gate’s locked!” Uncle Richard shouted for his servant, one of only two left to them now, “and then I need to see you in—”
Her uncle’s deep voice died away and Emilie opened her bedroom door, hoping to hear better.
Sinjon followed in their uncle’s wake, his stylish, navy blue jacket caught sideways as if he’d thrown it on in a rush. “What can I do, Oncle?”
“Nothing.” Uncle Richard stalked in a circle, to the staircase and back. “Stay out of the way.”
Sinjon tugged on his watch chain and met her gaze.
Poor Sinjon. Emilie wished him strength to get through the night.
“Do whatever you wish,” Uncle Richard said. He stepped forward, and back again. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t’ve said that, fils. On second thought, take a rig and get to—your mother’s friends.”
He bowed and pushed past their uncle. Pain flickered across his dark eyes. Sinjon paused briefly as he rushed by and gave her a tight smile. “Don’t worry, ma soeur. Everything will be fine.”
Did he speak the truth? The noise outside did nothing to make her believe.
Uncle Richard turned on his heel and shouted for his valet. Emilie frowned as she watched them go and returned to her own rooms, taking in her vanity, her bed with a doll propped against a frilly pillow. Her mirror showed off her blue eyes and her long chestnut hair half-braided and pulled to the top of her head, but for a tendril tickling her thin cheekbone. Similar to her brother’s features yet he was darker than she. I wish Oncle Richard were kinder to poor Sinjon.
The old worry furrowed her smooth brow. She knew their father had hated Sinjon, but never expected it to bleed over to her uncle. Did his nerves affect his disposition? Understandable. Life today indeed was not normal.
Yes, her uncle insisted life go on as usual, but if the papers were to be believed, how could it? With the king dead, the queen imprisoned, and the common folk crying daily for justice, life changed rapidly. Emilie knew her parents had already escaped—or hoped they had. She prayed that everything would work out well.
Peeking out the window into the Paris night, she saw the whole world shifting. How can life return to normal from this?
Her chamber door flew open.
Her aunt Collette appeared on her bedroom threshold in a flurry of pink silk. “Emilie, come.”
“What’s happening, Tante?”
“It’s decided,” she said. “We’re leaving.”
As she stepped from her perch, her aunt tugged open her wardrobe. “Because of—” Emilie pointed to the window. “—that?”
Her aunt glanced in the direction she pointed. “Don’t worry about that, my pet. Your oncle will take care of it.” She tugged two dresses, pink and green—neither one Emilie’s favorite—from the wardrobe and tossed them into a maid’s hands. “We’re off to see your grand-mère.”
Emilie spared another glance to the windows. The moon rose higher in the night sky. “Now?”
“Now,” her aunt insisted. “And you’ll need to make a change in your ensemble.” Behind her, a maid followed, carrying dresses, one a green with hues of yellow in its undertones, one a grayish-blue, and a pair of shoes in her arms.
“Madame, two dresses is all I can spare,” the maid said.
“That will do. Merci.” Tante Collette spoke no more to the maid. She swept the top dress from her arms and held it out.
Emilie eyed the green homespun wool suspiciously. To dress in her maid’s clothing? “Are you sure?”
“Oui,” Tante Collette said. “Hurry, now.”
Perhaps she was right. A flurry of packing commenced as she dressed. The maid’s offered dress fit loosely on her frame, big at the waist and sleeves.
“That will have to do,” Tante Collette said, hesitating over the jewels to glance at her.
Emilie snatched her mother’s watery blue chalcedony pendant from the jewelry box and clasped it around her neck. The pendant was a rather inexpensive trinket, but held memories of her mother and happier times. Times long before Mother had bestowed it upon her. If they must depart, she wouldn’t leave it behind. “This is hardly the time for a vacation,” Emilie said.
Her aunt placed a hand on her back and the shoes in her hands. “Stop dillydallying, chérie.”
Emilie picked up Thomas Paine’s Essays. Tante Collette snatched it from her and tossed the book into the bag. “Come Emilie, do as I say. We must leave at once!”
The black leather shoes fit too snug, and she’d barely finished buckling them before her uncle stepped into the room. He handed something into her aunt’s trembling fingers: passports, Emilie saw as she approached. “Oh, pet,” he said, touching her cheek.
“Has Sinjon gone, at least?”
“Sinjon!” Uncle Richard sniffed. His lip curled as if he’d swallowed something vile. “Aye, for what good he is.”
Her aunt frowned hard. “Richard—”
“Yes. Now is not the time to argue, ma chère. He’ll meet you soon.” Uncle Richard let a blasting breath go. “I wish I had another choice. If I could but send you to your cousin in Philadelphia, I’d rest easier.”
Shouts filled the air. Emilie glanced to the window. “Quickly now, ma chère,” Uncle Richard said. “You must leave. Your grand-mère will meet you at the docks in Dover. Don’t worry. We’ve friends who will help you get there.”
“I don’t understand,” she said. “Uncle, what’s happened?”
“There’s no time to explain,” he said, his dark eyes searching hers.
He kissed her. She snatched up some novels and stuffed them into her trunk before the maid shut it. Her uncle took her arm and led her downstairs, past his scurrying valet, and onto their porch. “I won’t hear another word.”
Emilie saw men outside the gates surrounding their townhouse. Strangers gripped the gates in angry fists, shaking it as if to knock it down. A rock that pinged off the carriage made her cringe.
Her uncle shielded her head and for a moment, she saw nothing but his strong chest. He soon turned her to face the open curricle door. “In you go, my pet.”
She caught a glimpse of the driver checking a gun at his waist. He tried to hide it behind tending to the horses, but failed. “But—”
The question remained unanswered even as her aunt ordered, “Settle down. We won’t be much longer.” Tante Collette turned away. “Oh, Richard!” she wailed. “If only we might stay.”
“I won’t have you harmed,” he said. “Go now.”
He kissed her and yet Emilie saw anguish twisting her aunt’s face as she climbed into the curricle.
Uncle Richard slammed the curricle door shut.
A clap rang out like a gunshot.
“Sinjon!” her uncle yelled. “Where are you?”
The driver’s call “Ya!” drowned out his words.
The horses jolted the curricle into motion and Emilie toppled back in her seat.
The whole world seemed out of sorts tonight. “Tante, what’s happened?” she asked.
Fire exploded outside her window. She gasped.
Her aunt patted her hand. “We’ll be fine, ma chère.”
Men shouted as they raced past.
Rocks hit their windows.
The horses screamed and screeched as they sped through the streets.
“Why are we leaving? What’s happened?” Emilie asked.
More shouting sounded from outside. “Your uncle fears for our future safety,” her aunt said. “That’s why we’re leaving. He only looks out for us.”
Emilie peered through the window. Men threw rocks, and some carried torches as they ran in the streets beyond. “Safety from what? What’s happened?”
Her aunt looked to the small window as she spoke. “This revolution is out of control.”
The curricle rushed down a country lane but the driver pulled their horses to a sudden stop. Emilie’s nerves accelerated. Would she ever stop shaking? Her fear made her borrowed wool dress itch even more.
Her aunt clutched her hand. “Courage, ma chère.”
“Tante, what’s happening?”
The carriage driver spoke to someone and Emilie peeked out the window, wondering with whom he conversed. A man approached in dark cape and hat. Handsome, but a stranger, and Emilie wasn’t sure she trusted strangers anymore.
“Tante, who’s he?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
He opened the door and Emilie cowered in the corner. Did she detect a hint of gunpowder in the air?
“Come on now,” the stranger said. She didn’t recognize his accent. “We haven’t got all night.”
“Who…who are you?”
The carriage driver appeared behind him and Emilie’s heart slipped back where it belonged.
“Captain Bartram,” the carriage driver said. “He’s going to take you to safety, Mademoiselle. Monsieur Richard arranged it.”
Wary, she hesitated.
“Do I have to carry you over my shoulder, Miss?” Captain Bartram said. His gaze flitted over her. “I don’t think many would believe you a sack of potatoes, but all right.”
Emilie held out her hand in a halting gesture. “Prove to me who you are.”
His eyes darkened. “Your father and I are well acquainted.”
How horrid could he be if he was one of Père’s colleagues?
“All right,” she said and stepped down, then coaxed her aunt to follow. He hustled them to a waiting cart, and when Tante Collette settled, he helped Emilie up. However, he didn’t make a further move, but stood at the foot of the cart, studying her.
Fear gripped her throat. “Is something wrong, monsieur?”
“I don’t believe,” the man said, “we ever discussed payment.”
“What the devil?” her aunt said. “My husband said you agreed to take us. He never discussed payment, monsieur.”
He smiled at her. “Perhaps so, but I won’t go anywhere, unless—”
Tante’s eyes grew wide and she pulled up her skirt, ripped the hem, and offered him a gemstone bracelet she’d earlier sewn inside. “Take it and be damned!”
“No, that won’t do.” The man laughed a little. “I prefer the little miss give me a kiss.”
Was he serious?
“Now see here!” Tante raged.
Emilie blinked. Kiss him? He was handsome with strangely beautiful dark eyes, pristinely dressed, and debonair. Surely, a gentleman and yet…
Perhaps if they’d met at a dance back home, and after attending a dance or two together, she might—might— consider it. But here? Now? She didn’t know him!
He shrugged and turned his back. “Suit yourself. Good luck, mes dames.”
If the choices stood between sitting here and facing who knew what horror, and a kiss? Emilie took a deep breath. “Agreed,” she said.
She leaned off the end of the cart and gave him the kiss he asked for, quick and demure, on a cheek that hadn’t seen a razor in at least two days.
“Can we go now?” she asked.
His dark eyes studied hers and something smoldered there she didn’t know how to name. Or maybe, right now, she didn’t want to know its name. A smile dawned across his face.
“That will have to do,” he said. He held up a length of tarp piled on the cart’s floor. “Get under here and try not to squirm. Give or take a stop, we should reach the coast with no trouble.”
Emilie pulled the tarp up, and folded her aunt’s hand in hers. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll be all right.”
“How can you be sure? How can you trust his word?”
Emilie peeked over, watching him take the carriage driver’s place and send him in an opposite direction. “I don’t know, but who else can we trust?”
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