Haven’t gotten back to recording my next book, “Foes & Rivals,” for two reasons: one, until I get my first completely passed by ACX, I’m a bit reluctant to get too far into another, in case I am doing something egregiously wrong which will force me to start from scratch, and, two, I STILL – after two weeks – have not completely shaken this seasonal flu; I awake each morning with a mild fever and chills and, worse, still have shortness of breath and an occasional cough, something not well suited for voice acting.
In the meantime, I keep working on that new novel about Empress Faustina’s eldest three sons. I was so tickled to meet Prince Edward’s human cousin (no blood relation), Livia Rupert, that I’ve included their meeting in Austin, Republic of Texas, below the fold. What is up with those two! I’ve also seen a little of the “reels” of Robert’s mission to the border marches of Kentuckiana as well as what might be a life-threatening problem for Laszlo. Honestly, I would be surprised if everyone made it out of this book alive.
Considering that this is about the top three heirs to the empress, I considered giving it the working title of “Lioness in Winter.” But that doesn’t work, compared to the movie – the best I’ve ever seen, btw – as there is no ruling monarch playing a central role. I hope to have something by my next update.
Just before passing under the bridge, there was a semicircle of a small observation platform built out over the water. There were five people there: two businessmen talking low, a couple laughing together, and a girl.
She wore a red sweater with the arms pushed up against the warmth, above a pleated black skirt. Dark gray tights rose from her walking shoes to halfway up her thighs. Her long hair, as nearly black as his, dropped well past her shoulders, although accented by two twin-tails, high on each side of her head, in black bows edged in silver.
She looked out at the river flowing past, from her right to left. Her back was straight and her hands rested lightly on the metal rail. Edward walked until he was a few paces behind her.
“Hello, cousin Livia,” he said softly. A human would not have seen her tiny start of surprise before she turned about. Her small, neat features on the pale skin of her face didn’t move as she took in the speaker through her cool black eyes. He was pleased to see the front of her sweater had a white Crusader Cross across her chest.
“It has been some years,” he continued. “It’s me, Edward.”
It was, he thought, a credit of her intelligence that she spared a glance to the four others so close by before deciding how to address him.
“Cousin Ed,” her voice was richer than he remembered and he liked the sound. “What a pleasant surprise.”
With another glance, she waved left, at where the river path crossed under the bridge and no others were right now. Edward took a step back and indicated for her to fall in at his left. They were just out of earshot from those behind them –
“So what do you freaks want with us now?” Livia demanded.
“Just the usual. Here to toy with you humans,” he said while flipping her skirt up. She only hesitated half a step before she kept on.
“I was unaware it was imperial policy to molest seventeen-year-old girls!” she spat quietly.
“And I was unaware that the daughter of a naval captain and granddaughter of an army general would walk about her Capitol without wearing panties,” he replied easily, listening to MacDougal fail at suppressing his laugh. “Perhaps you heard I was on my way and in your eagerness – ”
“State your business!” she barked, finally turning to face him as the crossed out under the bridge. “I have to get back to work!”
“That’s right,” Edward said, looking over her head out at the river, “you’re a clerk or something in the Department of War. Which relative got you that job?”
“I,” he heard her teeth grind together and kept the grin from his face, “am an analyst! And I got my job through my merits! Not from an accident of birth or by being a freak!”
“I know.” Now he smiled. “I’m off to State this afternoon; their Board of Trade to be precise. I’ll be at War, tomorrow. After that, if there’s time, I’m having dinner at the Rigó’s place. You free?”
He enjoyed the complex flicker of emotions across her face.
“I’ll… I’ll check my schedule when I’m back in my office.” Livia took a deep breath. “It is good to see you again, Cousin Edward.”
With a nod, she stepped quickly up the stone steps to Capital Avenue, above them.
“Careful, there, Liv!” Edward called. “If there’s a gust of wind I’ll see your butt again!”
With a “hmph!” he watched her right hand first jerk back to hold the back of her skirt down, then let go and ball into a fist as she made to street-level and turn north without a look back.
“Prince?” MacDougal asked. “Is you’uns whole family, even humans, weird?”
“That’s the safest way to bet, John. Let’s be on our way, as well.”