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Fortune's Wheel -- enter Victor

As I work on the revisions to Fortune's Wheel over the next few weeks, I thought I'd share with you the introduction of each of the main characters. I've already introduced Elza, our narrator, and Fortune's Wheel is her story as courtesan, soldier, oracle and companion.

This, then, is the introduction of Victor Moreau, toward the beginning of the book. They are both guests at a house party, and Elza feels that perhaps his intentions toward her young cousin are salacious. She's wrong. About eight hundred words, just to give you a little taste!

I've always imagined Victor played by Ian McKellen when he was about thirty five, though I suppose since that's impossible one could use Jonathon Young as well. Yeah. That sort of look!



The party was ending. A few gentlemen lingered. Jan had General Pichegru in a corner and was wearing his ear out. Our hostess was nowhere to be seen. Or our host.

Moreau was pouring another glass of Madeira at the sideboard. I walked in directly, my draped skirts whispering over the parquet floors. He looked up, a little startled. “Madame Ringeling? Would you like a glass of this excellent Madeira?”

“I would,” I said. “And a word with you in private, General.”

His mouth quirked and he made a half bow. “It would be my greatest pleasure. I believe the terrace is unoccupied?”

We stepped out through the French doors. The night was cool and moonlit, but not so chilly that I wished for a wrap. The moon was at first quarter and rising clean above the fields. I took a long drink of the Madeira.

“You had something to say to me?” he asked, waiting in his plain black evening dress.

“I want to know the nature of your feelings for my cousin,” I said. “Maria is fifteen, and you have quite turned her head.”

“Ah.” Moreau cradled his glass in his hands. “You are concerned for your cousin’s reputation. An admirable sentiment.”

“It would be more admirable if you answered a direct question,” I said. “Do you intend to marry her?”

“I wondered why you had enquired of my wife’s health with the entire French delegation,” he said, “since there is no such lady. I see that this was by way of intelligence gathering.”

“Are you planning to marry my cousin, or am I going to speak with her father?” I asked. “There are two possible answers, and I will have one or the other.”

Moreau looked down at his glass and smiled in amusement. “Touché, Madame. I have no desire to marry at this point in my life. Your cousin is charming, but I have little patience for matrimony as a state. I fear that she has read far too much into some commonplace pleasantries that I produced for the sake of gallantry. And I see that I have no chance at even such innocent pastimes with a Gorgon guarding her.”

“Men like to term fierce women such monsters,” I said. “But better a Gorgon than a fool, general. Leave my cousin alone, or I will see that her father makes it an affair of honor.”

Moreau did not seem upset. “I will comply with your ultimatum, Madame. I seem to have little choice.”

I nodded. “That is true. And while Maria will be angry now, it is better than that she should do something she would regret for the rest of her life.”

“Does it occur to you that Maria is in every way inferior to you? And that perhaps my ulterior motive in joining you for a ride had nothing to do with the desire to be alone with Maria?”

I looked away and took another drink. “My dear general,” I said calmly, “what flattering sentiments! But as you know, I am a married woman and no fool.”

“Merely married to one,” he said.

I glared at him. Moreau spread his hands. “Madame, do you think I cannot see what a fatuous social climber your husband is? That beneath all his fine talk of democracy and liberty is nothing more than the enhancement of his own career? His affection for you is a sham, and his principles are the fashion of the day. He is hardly your match in any sense.”

“Jan is a gentleman,” I said. “I do not think that you….”

Moreau took a step closer, his eyes on a level with mine. He was taller than I by a fingers breadth, and in the still night air I caught a faint hint of shaving soap, sandalwood and oranges. “You cannot tell me that you love him,” he said. “You cannot tell me that he satisfies you in any way.”

“And you could?” I raised my fan between us, causing him to step back. “You think very well of yourself, general.”

“Victor,” he said.

“If you think that I will address you familiarly, you are mistaken,” I said. “I am not interested in being your lover. Or anything at all to you.”

“Can you tell me honestly that you are a faithful wife?” he asked.

“I do not owe an accounting to you,” I said, turning away and taking another drink of my Madeira. Through the French doors I could see Jan still talking with Pichegru. If he looked up he could see me.

I half expected Moreau to press, even in full sight of my husband, but he did not. Instead, he carefully balanced his glass beside mine on the railing. “My offer stands,” he said. “Should you tire of him, I am willing to provide other options, options perhaps more appealing to a woman of your wit and taste for danger. And obvious sensuality.”

I flipped my fan open and looked at him over the bars of it. “I can’t imagine where you would get such vulgar ideas.”

Moreau laughed. “As I said, my offer stands. But now…goodnight, Madame.” He strolled off across the terrace and through the French doors.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
heatherlayne_n
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:57 am (UTC)
Eeeee! Not sure why, but the bits with the fan made me happy.
jo_graham
Aug. 18th, 2011 11:56 am (UTC)
Heh! Fans are fun!
linneasr
Aug. 18th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
Heh. This is going to be wonderful, all that wit and French style, with the Numinous World underneath.
jo_graham
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's definitely an interesting ride for everyone!
m_nivalis
Aug. 18th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
Ian McKellen all the way! Thanks for posting the excerpt.
jo_graham
Aug. 18th, 2011 01:17 pm (UTC)
I love Ian McKellen! In any role.
jansma
Aug. 18th, 2011 08:44 am (UTC)
Nice, and I can see why you would want Young to play him. He has that edge, so very similar to Tesla. Not so certain about McKellan, though he is also an edgy actor if you see him away from the roles of Gandalf and Magneto.

I was lucky enough to see Sir Ian play Lear in London. He was mignificent!
jo_graham
Aug. 18th, 2011 02:43 pm (UTC)
He does have that edge. Moreau is very hot, and also very bad and dangerous. Not a nice guy at all!

Oh lucky you seeing Sir Ian in Lear! My partner also saw him. *sigh*
shezan
Aug. 18th, 2011 10:23 am (UTC)
Moreau SO is Ian McKellen at the time he was doing Plenty!!!!!!
jo_graham
Aug. 18th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
He really is! And I love Ian McKellen in basically anything!
chiliarch
Aug. 19th, 2011 10:14 am (UTC)
What a nice treat! However am I going to wait until the book comes out next year? I do love these glimpses of the characters and the settings.

You are right, both actors would do just fine for Moreau.

Now, bring him on!!!!
jo_graham
Aug. 19th, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like it. I've always imagined Ian McKellen, but Jonathon Young could do it, I think.

I'm immersed in Fortune's Wheel again as I work on the revisions -- so strange to be back again on a book I began in 1992!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )