Sunday, November 3, 2013

Devil's Bargain: Excerpt from SCOUNDREL FOR HIRE by Adrienne deWolfe

"Devil’s Bargain”
Excerpt from
By Adrienne deWolfe

(Set-up:  Welcome back!  Raphael Jones is a Kentucky-born scoundrel, who has never played by the rules. When Colorado mining heiress, Silver Nichols, hires him to stop her precious daddy from marrying a gold-digger, Rafe sets out to seduce Silver and win her fortune.  In this excerpt, Silver and Rafe are hammering out the details of their conspiracy.)

Colorado, 1881

"You, of course, will pose as the Earl of Chumley when you reach Aspen,” Silver told Rafe briskly. “I am certain a handsome young man such as yourself, perpetuating the illusion of an English title and more wealth than he knows how to spend, will be just the sort of temptation to make Celestia show my father her true colors.

“I am prepared to draft a bank statement,” Silver continued crisply, “that will allow you to obtain suitable clothing and transportation, as well as two weeks of food and lodging. I should think fourteen days would be sufficient time for a man of your, uh, accomplishments to complete this mission."

Rafe smiled to himself. So Silver wanted to get rid of him in a hurry, did she?

"I'm humbled by your confidence in me, Miss Nichols," he said, sliding oh-so-casually closer. "But seduction does involve a certain degree of delicacy. And, of course, time."

She stiffened.

"If the lady in question is even the least bit unwilling, a great deal of expense must be incurred to woo her," he continued silkily. "She must have love trinkets and flowers, hats, jewels and gloves, lavish meals and entertainments, and, of course, one cannot overlook the importance of outfitting the assignation bower itself."
Silver cleared her throat. "Yes, well, I'm sure in Celestia's case, a bower won't be—"

"One should never underestimate the power of ambiance in achieving the desired effect," Rafe chided, letting his left hand drop between them. "Your father is successful, well-respected, and pleasantly aged. That makes him a worthy opponent, wouldn't you agree?"

Silver glanced warily at his fingers, hovering so innocently beside her thigh. "Yes, but—"

"And he'll be a persistent rival too, since his heart is engaged. We can't be at all certain he will quit the war in a mere two weeks' time. No, I should think he will lay siege to love's door, employing every weapon at his disposal. This battle of suitors could rage a good six months or more."

"Six months!"

"Or more," he drawled, relishing the utter outrage on her face. Moments like these made all the tedious plotting and practicing for cons worthwhile.

"Six months is out of the question,” she snapped. “In one month, my father will be marrying that witch and accompanying her on a wedding tour to Niagara Falls!"

Silver escaped to the center of the balcony.

Rafe hid his disappointment. Only one month to milk the golden cow, eh? He'd been hoping to stretch it to nine. He supposed he'd have to find some other scam to feed himself through the winter. Either that, or marry Silver.

He smiled at the notion. Now there was an amusing proposition: a wife with even fewer scruples than he had.

"I'm afraid your situation is more dire than I thought," he told her gravely. "We shall have to march into the fray with all our guns blazing, so to speak. In order to turn Celestia's head, I shall also need an allowance. Given our shortage of time, I'm afraid the amount will have to be significant. But your devotion to your father has touched me deeply. In consideration of your plight, I shall see how far I can stretch five hundred dollars per week."

"Per week?"

"You, yourself, have cast me in the role of aristocrat. One cannot play the part on a shovel stiff's wage."

Her hands flew to her hips. "Now see here, Jones, I'll allow you two hundred dollars, and you'll be happy to have it."

"Four hundred."

Their eyes locked.

"Two-fifty," she countered.

"Three-fifty plus a horse and buggy."

She looked like she'd relish the act of barbecuing him.

"Three hundred and the promise not to sic the sheriff on your sorry hide."

"Five hundred and the promise not to mail your father a most eye-opening letter." 

He smiled pleasantly.

"Y-you wouldn't dare!"

"Not for five hundred dollars," he lied soothingly. "After all, you did spare me from spending the night in jail."

"Your gratitude overwhelms me, Mr. Jones."

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