Beyond the Shadows excerpt

Chapter One

“Do you know what it is like to have your future uncertain? Your every move and opportunity at the mercy of a whimsical society? Oh la, I barely know which way to turn?”

The Earl of Brunswick, Sebastian Rolleston, pricked up his ears as the feminine voice twittered merrily on. No hint of desperation in the voice, which was giving what should have been a heart rendering appeal. Turning his head slightly, though he was currently in conversation with his cousin, Simon Belvedere, he glanced over to his left, to where the opera singer, Madame La Fayette was currently holding court in the depths of his club. A dark quiver of admirers were gathered around her.

For a moment, he watched the gentle flutter of her fan through the air, the delicate route of enticement it travelled.  Even dulled by oak-stained shadows, she glowed as bright and alluring as when he’d first laid eyes on her ten years ago. When their gazes meet, a quicksilver smile flashed between them. A barest indication of the intimacy they'd once shared. She indicated with a flicker of eyes who her latest choice of protector was; Edwards, an older, if his memory served him correctly and it usually did, widowed gentleman. They would be good for each other Sebastian thought. With a tilt of his head, he silently gave his acknowledgement of her choice and then refocused on his cousin whose voice had taken on a childish whine.

“You just don’t understand, Sebastian.” He paused allowing a space as if Sebastian should be grateful for the directives and enlightenment.  “Jeremy needs to have admittance to your club.”

Ever used to his cousin’s pleading Sebastian drew his watch from its pocket, consulted the slow shifting of hands, gave himself a moment to evaluate the merit of the request and then twitched it closed. Certainly, he could well understand that young Jeremy Huntington understood the benefits connections at the club could do for him. “No! Simon,” he said, frowning as his young cousin’s face mottled in annoyance. “The answer is no!”

Simon opened his mouth as if to continue arguing his case. Then snapped it closed as a hand slapped him on the back, causing him to shuffle  forward to regain his balance.  Sebastian stepped out of the way, allowing him all the ground he needed to flounder upright again.

“So young pup, what are you wanting this time?” Nathanial Dresden, Sebastian’s brother in all things but blood, held back nothing as he thumped Simon with great vigor again.

“Great to see you, Simon.” He took Simon’s chin between his thumb and finger and deftly turned Simon’s face, which was quickly turning a filthy puce colour, left then right.

“By God, I do believe there’s the barest hint of stubble showing.” With the mock sincerity, which only Nathanial could master, he turned to Sebastian, “And to think he’s out of leading strings now.”