The Treasure Keeper
The Drákon Series, Book 4
ISBN-10: 0553591223 ISBN-13: 978-0553591224
candlelight lent a soft-shadowed clarity to the musicians
before him. He admired their satin jackets and their
old-fashioned rolled wigs, their hands moving over bows
and valves and strings in effortless harmony. Rhys didn’t
know the piece they were performing, but it illumed
his surroundings as much as the chandeliers did. It
was light and loud and complex and simple and...blissful.
He could lounge in the satinwood chair all night, hearing
wasn’t particularly bothersome that he seemed to be
the only member of the audience in attendance. He thought
that perhaps this might be a final rehearsal, something
of that sort. He was, after all, a lord; rules were
bent all the time for the ton. And it wasn’t
as if he didn’t appreciate the artistry, the splendor,
of their work.
leaned back, a half smile on his lips, tapping his fingers
against the arm of his chair. The music thrilled on
and on, and he thought he’d never been so content in
then a movement to his right caught his eye. Rhys glanced
over. A woman was taking her seat three chairs down,
skirts and petticoats rustling.
attention was fixed upon the musicians, just as his
had been. She was gentry at least, dressed in a frock
of rose damask and cream ruffles to match the hall,
a wrap of stiff white gauze framing her shoulders. Light
pooled around her; her ringletted hair was very pale,
her powdered skin was very pale; compared to the rest
of the chamber she was alabaster and shimmer, actually
a little too bright to behold. His eyes began to tear.
opened her fan; he was dazzled by the flash of pink
rubies on lace. She lifted it to her face and then turned
her head, meeting his gaze from beneath kohled lashes.
thought she might be beautiful. It was damned hard to
tell, what with all the candlelight, but of course she
was beautiful. On this stupendous night, in this soaringly
exquisite place, how could she be anything but?
murmured his name. He sat up straighter and offered
her civil nod. She was young, and she was fair, and
if she knew him the last thing he’d want to do was ignore
her, because who knew what the night would bring after
the music ended—
fan lowered. She studied him with eyes of velvety black.
not real,” she whispered. “You do know that. It’s not
real. None of it.”
mouth opened. He wanted to speak and could not; no sound
emerged. His hands gripped the chair but that was all
he could do. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe.
For one long, horrible moment the entire world went
dark. The music played on, but it was different now,
it was sly and terrible and crept in tendrils through
him, eating away at him like a cancer.
woman stood. She turned to face him; the wrap slipped
down her arms.
this the best of you, then?” she asked in her cultured
voice, cool and sensual, a blade of light surrounded
by that darkness. “Is this the best I can expect of
you? You lazy bastard. I’m not going to risk my neck
helping you if you don’t even try.”
bastard. Lazy bastard—
knew her. He realized it just then. Her name escaped
him—he’d loved her once, and he knew her—
did not wake up. He could not evade those tendrils even
now, not enough. He still couldn’t really move. He couldn’t
see, or Turn.
he did manage a single, heaving breath. And it didn’t
taste like Soho, or London, or anything civilized. It
tasted like cold, wormy dirt. It tasted like death.
that, Rhys realized, was real.
teeth were clenched. His jaw locked. His back and legs
and entire body were a frozen spasm of rigid agony,
and the symphony never ceased.
tried to shut it out. He reached for the first clear
image that flashed behind his lids—light; the bright
and unforgiving face of—
jolted awake in the night, instantly, awfully, her every
sense flooded with dread, her skin slick with cold sweat.
She did not gasp or twitch; she didn’t breathe at all.
She lay in the bed with her eyes wide open and knew
that whoever had crept into the suite with her would
see only a mattress and gems and strangely rumpled sheets.
wash of her Gift hummed across her body, disguising
her, an instinctive defense. The power of it chilled
her blood even as the man’s voice she’d heard echoed
back into nothing, a memory. A bad dream.
she lay there anyway a very long time, as motionless
as she could be. She listened to the sounds of the city
pushing over the treetops of the park, past her walls:
dogs barking. Horses sighing, plodding hooves, iron-wheeled
carts being pulled over cobblestones. Men and women
laughing, even at this hour, and tavern music, and the
very clouds above her dissolving, particle by particle,
drop by drop, with the slow building heat of the coming
morning. And no one spoke her name again.
dreamed it. That was all.
what a fright. It hadn’t felt like a dream; when she’d
opened her eyes she would have sworn there was a man
standing over her, shadowed and close. But there wasn’t.
There was no human smell anywhere nearby.
she sat up in the bed, rubbing her hands over her face,
the rings on her fingers warm and rigid against her
cheeks. With her head bowed she sucked in a lungful
of air, released it, and watched as the locks of her
hair became once again visible, phantom pale strands
shrouding her face and shoulders.
meaning to, she glanced at the mirror. It was exactly
where she had left it, propped against the wall. The
crack down the middle became a sharp silvery thunderbolt
in the dark, frozen forever against the blue.
ghosts shifted and sighed against it. They brightened
and faded, and tried so hard to speak.
slipped from the bed. She padded to the glass, her feet
chilled against the floor, and knelt before its wide,
clear expanse, the bangles at her wrists chiming softly
as she moved.
touched it lightly. It was cold, very cold, beneath
response. In the silence of the chamber, in this dark
small hour, even the beings that haunted her on the
other side seemed to have grown weak.
are you there? Was it you?”
did stir then. Something did change, a new shape forming
against the endless blue. It looked like the outline
of a man...perhaps a man, shaded and haloed with smoke...and
then nothing: the smoke and man curled up and away.
leaned forward, staring harder, but the light was too
murky, and whatever she’d seen did not appear again.
leaned back on her heels, the anklets stretched tight
against her skin, then gave it up and sank all the way
to the floor.
thought of her bed back in the cottage at home, the
plush feather mattress. Of the nightingales that would
rouse at dusk, serenading her as she’d sit and dream
by the parlor window. The silver-faced clock gently
ticking upon the mantel, a wedding gift to her great-grandparents.
The Wedgwood cream ware on the shelves in the kitchen,
the handsome rosewood chairs and table, the silk azure
curtains she’d help sew herself as a child.
dense eastern woods. The soft summer nights.
imagined a hundred different lives in that cottage.
She’d imagined being married in the vine-covered gazebo
in back, as Cerise had done, and cutting greens for
her husband’s salads from her little garden. She’d imagined
her own children growing up there, admiring the clock,
pouring the cream, stroking the curtains as they gazed
at the wild woods just beyond reach. Just as she had
or something else, the shade in the mirror did not reappear,
no matter how firmly she pressed her fingers to the
glass. So Zoe went back to bed.
Excerpted from THE TREASURE
KEEPER by Shana Abé. Copyright © 2009 by Shana
Abé. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, a division
of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of
this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.