DABWAHA voting for True Pretenses is open NOW! (Until midnight Eastern time.)
It is neck and neck! I am TWO VOTES ahead right now. We could really do this!
Please vote! Please get your friends and housemates and family members and coworkers to vote!
Vote here: http://dabwaha.com/
Remember, if I get through this round, I will post the first two chapters of my upcoming novella All or Nothing, in which shy architect Simon Radcliffe-Gould asks irrepressible gambling den hostess Maggie da Silva to pose as his mistress so he can actually get some work done during his ex-boyfriend’s scandalous house party.
To motivate you, here are the first 500 words:
London, June 1819
Simon Radcliffe-Gould didn’t even know why he kept coming back to this gaming hell.
He hadn’t the stomach for gambling, not really, and in consequence was very bad at it. He always gave up when he shouldn’t and then, inexplicably, dug in his heels when he ought to give up. So he didn’t know why, at least once a week, he found himself in this dingy, loud, overdecorated flat in the very northwest corner of London, nearly to Lord’s Cricket Ground, losing at cards to men he hadn’t even liked much at school.
Well, he did know, actually. It was because of Magdalena da Silva. Definitely the most beautiful woman in London. Probably the most beautiful woman in England. He wouldn’t be much surprised if she turned out to be the most beautiful woman in the world. There she was now, laughing at some jest of Meyer Henney’s, her obnoxious lover and host of the establishment.
Her laughter lit up the dim room like sunlight, purifying the London soot and dust into country air. Her skin was golden in the candlelight, her brown hair piled on her head, mostly dark and plain but gleaming here and there like honey. Delight suffused her face so utterly that Simon’s chest hurt, a sharp pain like envy or grief or a knife in his heart. She whispered in Henney’s ear, and Simon would have sworn that for just a moment her eyes rested on him. A fever of hot and cold pinpricks swept over him.
She and Henney both affected the showy fashions of twenty and thirty years ago, the deep-gaming powder-and-patch days of the ancien regime. In Miss da Silva’s case, this meant sometimes a great bell of petticoats and sometimes—like tonight—none at all. Even in the candlelight Simon could see the faint outline of her legs.
“My trick.” Fletcher swept Simon’s five guineas into his pocket. Simon sighed. He should be at home working, not nursing an infatuation with a gambling-den hostess like a student.
If it were his student days and he were here with Clement, Clement would know what to say to her. He would have already made her laugh, bribed her, and dropped her in Simon’s lap like a gift. Maybe he would have leaned in and whispered in Simon’s ear, We’ll share her.
Simon burned at the thought, and it was only about a third lust and a third resentment and inadequacy. The last third was a longing still violent enough to feel like homesickness, even now after three years apart. He felt in his pocket for Clement’s letter.
I want you to design a folly for Throckmorton, to celebrate my accession. Something cheerful to mark a sad occasion. Can you come next week? I’m having a small house party, but I promise we won’t bother you.
Unfortunately, Simon knew what that promise was worth. Absolutely nothing.