Mid Week Tease: Lady of Thorns #MidWeekTease #MWTease
Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with another snippet from the third book in my Two Thrones series, Lady of Thorns. Please note that this story will NOT be about Danaë and Matthias (their parallel adventure will be in Book 4), but it does feature Lady Amelie le Clerq, the young, prickly Terra magistra and heiress to the Lady of Lierdhe, and the eminently sneaky Counselor Alain LaPorte from Palace of Scoundrels. The best way I can describe it is, imagine Lady Mary Crawley from Season 1 Downton Abbey and Alan Shore from Boston Legal going head to head.
So to speak. Ahem. And while I know I promised some hanky panky this week, I thought I’d give you a peek at the other half of the romantic equation. Next week, naughty business for sure!
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
Alain LaPorte studied the business contract, lips pursed in thought. “You were right to bring this to me,” he said to the man seated on the other side of the desk. “It’s a sweet bit of legal chicanery.”
“I was afraid of that,” Ser Olaoye Jogimo said. The glassblower was known throughout Mons for his elegant work, particularly in mirrors, and supposedly had the ear of the king himself. “The terms were just this side of too reasonable, and Ser Rorche made it clear that he wanted it signed as soon as possible before he left on a trip to one of his lavender fields. He’s too good a businessman to offer a contract like this so quickly unless it benefits himself, but I couldn’t see where the trap was.”
“Unsurprising.” Alain tapped the offending clause. “He’s using a very old business law called familia onus, where a failure on an artisan’s part to fulfill a contract could be passed on as a debt to a family member, if that family member was wealthier than the artisan. Enough well-to-do businessmen and noblemen alike were stung by it that they reached a rare agreement and had the law changed so that none of them could be held to account for the poor business decisions of their relatives.”
The glassblower’s eyes narrowed. “There’s a but in that statement.”
Alain nodded. “The revised law only applies to guild members and businessmen. Ser Rorche, however, must believe that you have a relative who is quite wealthy in his own right but is not a nobleman nor a guild member. If you have any issues fulfilling this contract, Ser Rorche could have demanded restitution from that relative.”
Jogimo let out a slow, hissing breath through his nose. “That would have been extremely foolish on his part.”
“Mm. I assume that you do have a rich relative?”
“You could say that. My mother is an Aqua mage, and she’s done quite well for herself over the years.”
Alain winced. “Oh, dear. Yes, she would definitely be affected by the familia onus rule. And of course Ser Rorche could elect to have the debt discharged in non-financial ways.” Meaning Ser Jogimo’s magistra mother could be required to work magic, most likely expensive magic, at Rorche’s request. As Jogimo had already pointed out, that would have been foolish in the extreme, but most businessmen didn’t know the many ways a mage could make their irritation known.
Alain, on the other hand, did. He still remembered the former client who had tried to legally force an Aqua mage into creating a freshwater spring for him on his estate. The mage had finally acquiesced, and the client triumphantly took the first drink of water from the spring. And the last. Alain wondered if the man was still celibate due to the now-unfortunate color and consistency of his semen.
“However, we’re assuming that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the contract,” Jogimo continued. “I’m confident that I can produce the number of jars Ser Rorche needs.” He toyed with a silvered glass pendant hanging around his neck. “The thing is, counselor, I’m in the middle of expanding my shop. This particular deal would help fund that greatly. I don’t want to pass it up if I don’t have to.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t. Rorche is a well-respected perfumier and purveyor of fine toiletries. He was just trying to be clever, as any self-respecting businessman would. You can be clever right back at him.” Alain plucked a sharpened quill from a cup and dipped it in ink, then struck out the offending clause in the contract, writing something in the margin. “This removes the familia onus clause and offers a cash guarantee of 25 per cent of the full amount of the contract in case you cannot supply enough jars for Rorche’s creams and unguents. That being said, don’t offer this unless you’re sure you can produce the goods or the cash guarantee.”
Jogimo’s mouth curled in a thin, determined smile. “I can do both. Any other traps I should be aware of?”
“Not that I can see.”
“Good. Then I’ll have this rewritten by my clerk and sent back.” The glassblower got to his feet, straightening his elegant Ghobian robes. “As for your fee, counselor.”
He pulled a small wash leather bag from an inner pocket and handed it over. Alain noted the bag’s weight and peered inside to confirm his suspicions. “That’s more than half again of what I charge for this type of consultation, Ser Jogimo,” he said mildly.
There was a hint of amusement in Jogimo’s expression. “Consider the extra a retainer fee. I suspect I’ll be returning to you for more consultations, if you find that acceptable.”
“I do.” Alain stood and gave the glassblower his hand. “In which case, consider me at your service.”
Another of those thin smiles, and Jogimo left with his revised contract and an idea of what he could expect from his new business partner. Alain took his seat again in satisfaction, opening a drawer in his desk and dropping the clinking wash bag into it. Behind him, he could hear the clock tower that stood at the center of the Law Court striking the hour. Just enough time to get back to his rooms, have a wash, change into clean clothes, and meet Lauranne for dinner at her townhouse. If business kept up like this, he would have to think about buying something nice for her, assuming he could find something that her husband wouldn’t notice—
A knock at the door sounded, and a weathered face topped with a mop of greying hair peered around the edge. Under normal circumstances Petyr Colombe had the sangfroid of a professional gambler, but today the law clerk’s eyes seemed a bit wild. “My apologies, counselor, but you have a visitor,” he said, his customary rumble low and whispered.
Frowning, Alain checked the ledger that served as his desk calendar. Jogimo had been the last scheduled client of the day. “If it’s a new client, ask him to come back tomorrow.”
Colombe shook his head as minutely as possible. “It’s the king, counselor.”
“Oh.” Alain tugged his robe straight. Lauranne would simply have to wait. “By all means, show him in.”
Colombe nodded and disappeared. A moment later the door swung open and King Matthias IV of Ypres entered. Alain got to his feet, giving the monarch a respectful bow. “Your majesty.”
The king held up a hand. “I apologize for showing up unannounced, counselor. I had planned on coming earlier but the day got away from me.”
Everyone in Mons knew that the king was preparing for his annual visit to Hellas to see his wife Queen Danaë. Now that the queen was six months’ gone with child, it was no surprise that the king’s thoughts were focused on crossing the Apennines and reuniting with his wife and incipient heir. “I’m at your service, sire,” Alain said gallantly. “Before we get down to business, however, let me take this opportunity to congratulate both you and the queen on your happy news.”
The king’s expression changed, becoming ever so slightly awed. “Thank you, LaPorte. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it myself. I’m not sure what I’ll do with a brace of babes. Dandle one on each knee, I suppose.”
Alain’s attention perked at that. City gossip had it that Queen Danäe was expecting two babies. “So the queen is having twins, then?”
“Oh, yes, and a most active pair they are, as well,” King Matthias said, then coughed. “At least, that’s what I understand from the queen’s reports. I’m looking forward to seeing her in person.”
Alain tried to imagine the tall, slender queen of Hellas with a belly full of twins. The image was unnerving. “Completely understandable, sire. Now, as to the purpose of your visit?”
“Yes. I was wondering when you planned on heading to Lierdhe?”
Oho. Alain suspected he knew where this was going. “I was leaving tomorrow, sire.”
“I see. And how long do you think it’ll take for you to finish negotiations on the countess’s new irrigation system?”
Of course the king knew about the plans in Lierdhe. “I shouldn’t think more than a week, with a few days travel time on either side.” In truth Alain hoped to cut it down to five days, but even his brief contact with the Lady of Lierdhe was enough to illustrate the force of her will. If she came to loggerheads with the Earl of Bertram on any point, the negotiations would almost undoubtedly run long.
King Matthias nodded. “And you will keep me apprised of your progress, of course.”
And there was the crux of the matter. Lierdhe, the most prosperous farming province in Ypres, had been used by the countess as a bargaining chip to settle her debts. If things had gone according to plan, the province would have become part of the Earl of Leuven’s holdings, making him an extremely powerful man and a possible threat to the throne. Clearly the king didn’t want to risk something similar happening again. “I would be happy to keep the palace updated on my progress, sire. But I thought you yourself started out for Hellas tomorrow.”
The king allowed himself a small smile. “I do, but the prime minister has ways of getting in contact with me. If anything strikes you as odd, send a bird to him immediately.”
Alain bowed. “Of course, sire.”
“Good. I’ll leave you to your preparations. I have my own to complete. Save travels.”
“And to you as well, sire.”
With a brisk nod, the king left. Alain silently counted to ten. Before he reached the final number Colombe slid into the room, closing the door behind him. “I’ve never seen his majesty that close up before,” the clerk said, sounding moderately impressed. “He’s a tall man, isn’t he?”
“Quite tall.” Alain picked up a sheaf of papers and slid them into his satchel. “And he’s made a specific request of me. Once we reach Ardenhaal, you’ll need to find a public bird cote. I may need to send word back to Mons quickly.”
Bushy brows rose at that, but his law clerk was, as always, discreet. “As you wish, counselor.”
The college tower struck the quarter hour. “And on that note, I’d best leave before I have more any last minute visitors,” Alain said, grabbing his black velvet beret and donning it. “I’ll meet you at the gates of the college at first light.”
“Aye.” Colombe threw him a vague salute. “Tomorrow at first light.”
Satisfied, Alain strode out of his office. He still had to pack a few odds and ends, but first he had an appointment to keep at Lauranne’s townhouse.
The beautiful blonde next to him in bed stretched lazily, looking like a cat who’d just had an excellent saucer of cream and was now preening in a patch of sunlight. “That was lovely, darling,” she said throatily.
“That was rather good, wasn’t it?” Alain said, only slightly breathless as he rolled onto his back and tucked his hands behind his head. “You quite outdid yourself, my dear.”
“Yes, well.” She flipped over, her pert bottom pale and enticing in the candlelight as she traced his lips with an elegant finger. “I wanted our last hurrah in bed to be a memorable one.”
His mind thew off the post-coital fog, clicking back into its usual speed. “Last hurrah?” He kissed the tip of her finger. “I’ll only be gone for two weeks or so. Surely you can wait that long for me?”
“I would, but I’m afraid it’s not up to me.” She pulled away, sitting up and reaching for a filmy robe. “Bernard has finally been reposted to Mons, and he’s quite insistent on starting a family. And frankly, I’m not getting any younger. I’ll be stopping my childbane as soon as he gets back, and I’m afraid that continuing our little dalliance might confuse the issue.”
Alain watched her lush curves disappear under pale peach silk with a mild sense of regret. “Ah. I see.” And if he was ruthlessly honest with himself, he did. Lauranne Fontaine was the wife of a Ypresian cavalry colonel, a wealthy heiress in her own right, and one of the brightest lights of the capital’s social scene. Theirs had been a most enjoyable affair, but he knew it came with an expiration date. “The queen’s fecundity seems to be creating quite the fashion among the nobility.”
“You wouldn’t be wrong.” Lauranne finished tying the robe’s belt, toying with one end of the delicate silk. “At least six other noblewomen I know are all pregnant or trying to fall pregnant. Their majesties’ offspring will have quite the age cohort to choose from when it comes time for a betrothal.”
He imagined all those clever Ypresian noblewomen jockeying for a chance to get their children on the throne. It would be a scrum for the ages. “If she’s even half as lovely and talented as her mother, I’m sure your child will have the best chance at a royal wedding,” he said gallantly.
Lauranne gave him a flirtatious look from under her thick lashes. “You do have the most marvelous way with words, counselor,” she purred, reaching over and stroking his shoulder. “I truly am sorry about this, you know. If there was any way around it, you know I’d much rather stay with you.”
He captured her hand and kissed it. “I know. But as you said, our affair would risk confusing the issue. Best to make a clean break of it and give your husband’s seed a clear field of battle.”
She made a face. “That’s an unfortunately accurate comparison. Bernard makes love like he wages war—all sound and fury, with him as the winner in the end. Perhaps once I have the child and get my figure back, we can pick up where we left off?”
It was never wise to burn a bridge if it wasn’t necessary. He let a polite leer cross his face. “You know where to find me.”
“Indeed I do.” She dropped the tie end and considered him. “We do have time for another glass of wine before you go, if you like. Bernard won’t be arriving until the morning.”
Her sultry meaning was clear. His penis felt enthusiastic about the idea, but his brain reminded him of all the things he still had to pack. In the end, practicality won out. “I would, but tomorrow’s journey will be long and tiring,” he said, rolling out of bed and locating his scattered clothes. “And I probably should get at least an hour or two of sleep. I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait until you’ve produced the newest blossom on the Fontaine family tree.”
She pouted endearingly, but he continued to dress. Ten minutes later he kissed her goodbye and rode back to the law college and his rooms, mind already on the trip to Lierdhe. He would miss Lauranne’s wit and sensuality, but living in the capital of Ypres meant that there were always more rich, charming women who appreciated a man of his skill and discretion.
He decided to send Lauranne a silver teething ring when the time came. We may well take up where we left off, after all. And in the meantime, I’ll just have to find some way to entertain myself…
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Posted on August 2, 2017, in Belaurient Publishing, Lady of Thorns, Mid Week Tease and tagged fantasy romance, Lady of Thorns, Mid Week Tease, nicola cameron, two thrones. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.