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“Minnie and Hal”


Note that this excerpt (aka "Daily Lines") contains SPOILERS…

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"Ma chère, I could smell a man on you a mile away. And even when I’m not here… I’m here.” He lifted the other eyebrow and stared at her. She sniffed, drained her glass and poured another.

Was he? She sat back and examined him, her own face carefully bland. True, he had informants everywhere; after listening to him do business all day behind the Chinese screen, she dreamt of spiders all night, busy in their webs. Spinning, climbing, hunting along the sleek secret paths that ran hidden through the sticky silk. And sometimes just hanging there, round as marbles in the air, motionless. Watching with their thousands of eyes.

But the spiders had their own concerns, and for the most part, she wasn’t one of them. She smiled suddenly at her father, dimpling, and was pleased to see a flicker of unease in his eyes. She lowered her lashes and buried the smile in her wine.

He coughed.

"So," he said, sitting up straight. "How would you like to visit London, my darling?"

She tilted her head from side to side, considering.

"The food’s terrible, but the beer’s not bad. Still, it rains all the time."

"You could have a new dress."

That was interesting—not a book-buying excursion, then—but she feigned indifference.

"Only one?"

"That depends somewhat on your success. You might need—something special."

That made the skin twitch behind her ears.

"Why do you bother with this nonsense?" she demanded, putting her glass down with a thump. "You know you can’t cozen me into things any more. Just tell me what you have in mind, and we’ll discuss it. Like rational beings."

That made him laugh, but not unkindly.

"You do know that women aren’t rational, don’t you?"

"I do. Neither are men."

"Well, you have a point," he admitted, patting a dribble of wine off his chin with a napkin. "But they do have patterns. And women’s patterns are—" he paused, squinting over the gold rims of his spectacles, in search of the word.

"More complex?" she suggested, but he shook his head.

"No, no—superficially, they seem chaotic, but in fact women’s patterns are brutally simple."

"If you mean the influence of the moon, I might point out that every lunatic I’ve met has been a man."

His eyebrows rose. They were beginning to thicken and gray, to grow unruly; she saw of a sudden that he would be elderly someday, and her heart gave a small lurch at the thought.

He didn’t ask how many lunatics she’d met—in the book business, such people were a weekly occurrence—but shook his head.

"No, no, such things are mere physical calendar-keeping. I mean the patterns that cause women to do what they do. And those all come down to survival."


Return to this novella’s webpage…


This excerpt was also posted on my Facebook page in December, 2015.

This page was last updated on Monday, December 28, 2015 at 12:07 a.m. (PT).