The Moonstone

Chapter 3 -  Portents

 

@copyright Jean G. Hontz 2010

The light was fading as Adrian Blakesley left Vyse’s townhouse. There were no more strolling couples, and only a few carriages hurried past. Storm clouds, dark as sin, were shooting across the sky as if they were forming ranks for a set piece battle above Bath. They fit his mood. And his unease after what he’d just heard.

He looked up at those clouds in time to see a bolt of brilliant sulphury-colored lightning blaze behind one glowering cloud. He shivered. The smell of ozone and rain tinged the air and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. There was more to this storm than just Nature summoning in Autumn rains. It had a slight taint of magic to it.

He’d begun walking toward the Abbey in hopes of finding a hansom, preferably before the rain began. He’d turned off the Grand Parade and was entering a narrow, far darker and ancient lane, a short cut to the Abbey. The buildings looming on either side seemed to lean inward toward him, and an unexpected crack of thunder startled him. Then he felt it. The smell of magic, akin to what he’d felt earlier. Not the storm at all. Something else then. Something near. Something unknown.

Blakesley looked round and spied a slight movement in the darkest part of the lane, an emptiness in the black shadows, a hole through which came something he really didn't want to meet. He knew the moment it focused its gaze and its attention on him. It was like a hammerblow to his brain, and he was nearly driven to his knees by the power of that gliding touch. He smashed his mental shields into place, and the pressure and pain eased abruptly. Not his shields, he thought. It had realized it had nearly killed him. Blakesley drew a shaky breath, trying to gather power himself, but he was too late. The adept was gone. Whatever it was had found him of no particular interest and, probably, of no particular threat. The shadows ahead of him seemed soft and gentle now.

So, Vyse had indeed been right. Blakesley had never felt anything quite like its presence and was at a loss as to what to name it. It was also clear it must be watching Vyse. Why else wait in this narrow, unimportant alley? But what did it want? It wasn't interested in killing them. He’d have been crushed if that presence had remained in his mind for much longer, shields or no.

Blakesley abruptly abandoned his plans to find a hansom. Instead he closed his eyes and used his remaining strength to zap himself out of the alley near Vyse’s house and reappear near the obelisk in the Royal Victoria Park across from the Royal Crescent. Once there he closed his eyes and sent a mental request. He waited a moment or two, and receiving an affirmative answer he set off across the park. He was fortunate to reach No. 20 just before the rain began. The door opened for him before he could ring.

“Come in,” she said, a smile on her lips, an invitation in her eyes. He met her eyes, smiled, and stepped into the foyer.

----

Afterwards, when she lay nestled against him, her head resting on his chest, the both of them sated and content, he let his mind drift back over what he’d sensed in the lane near Vyse’s townhouse. But no matter how he looked at it, how he attempted to make sense of it, it simply did not fit with anything he knew about magic. It had been magic, hadn’t it? And, he admitted to himself, it had frightened him.

A sigh from his lover brought his mind back to the present. She was staring at his face, watching the frown that had appeared there. She used a finger to trace the crease that always formed between his eyes when he was troubled. “I do wish I could give you respite that would last an entire evening,” she said, with a slight shake of her head.

Blakesley smiled at her, and reached out to grasp a handful of her soft dark curls. They felt like silk in his hand. She was lovely. But her hair reminded him far too much of his wife who’d died a few short years ago giving birth to Adele. “I’m sorry, Grace. It’s merely that..”

Grace traced her finger down his nose to come to a stop over his lips. “Hush. No need to apologize, Ian. Truly. Why don't you tell me what’s troubling you.”

Blakesley took a moment to gather his thoughts - and drive back his grief.

Grace Whitby was magical. Not particularly stong in it, but she had the correct grounding to understand how unusual what he'd experienced was. Still, he wasn't sure he was ready to speak of it head on. Instead he replied, “There’s a man who’s come back to Bath. Julian Vyse.”

Grace drew in a breath.

Blakesley looked over at her, not putting the question in words, just waiting.

She smiled at him, then laughed. She had a deep rich sensuous laugh. “It’s just that gossip in this town is very efficient. I heard about him this morning, and he’s not even got his house in order yet. His name is being bandied around in the most interesting places. Artsy drawing rooms, and in more than a few titled ones. I gather he’s a patron of our more colorful artists and personally is rather, how shall I say, free-spirited?”

“That’s one way to put it,” Blakesley replied.

Grace giggled then sobered when she saw Ian’s expression. “And what is he to you?”

“An old ... Acquaintance. A sometime enemy. A sometime friend. One is never certain with him.”

“I see,” she replied thoughtfully. “And you want me to let you know what he's up to?”

He shuddered. “No. Really I’d rather not know. Unless he blows up half of Bath again.”

“He what?” she asked.

“Joking, my dear. Only joking.”

When he left her just before dawn, Grace had agreed to keep an ear out for him to alert him of any magical activity of an unexpected nature in or around Bath. He hadn’t mentioned the odd presence he’d felt. He'd wanted to see if she sensed it at all herself, and if so what she might make of it.

He shook his head in wonder. He had absolutely no doubt that Grace would manage an introduction to Julian Vyse before the day was out. And, he had no doubt at all, that Vyse was perverse enough to find enjoyment in discovering Grace was his lover. Such was life.

 

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