The Smoke Thief
The Drákon Series, Book 1
ISBN-10: 0553588044 ISBN-13: 978-0553588040
I say, Mamá! Isn’t it grand?”
boy tugged at his mother’s hand in excitement, pointing
past the crowd to the pedestal holding the Langford
Diamond, a purple-prismed glimmer against pillows and
you are, little man. Up you go!” The boy’s father hoisted
him to his hip, earning the disgruntled looks of the
museum-goers around him.
Stewart had seldom experienced such a crush. News of
the Langford Diamond was enough to bring out London
in force: there were Cits and housemaids and gentry,
all shoulder to shoulder in the excitement to see the
stone. Much had been written of the unique colored diamond—larger
than the king’s scepter! heavy as cricket ball!—but
no one still alive outside the Marquess of Langford’s
family was known to have actually seen it. Until now.
museum curator stood by the pedestal with a look of
exulted horror on his face; he wrung his hands and begged
the mob to keep a civil distance.
hired guards were more effective, and far less polite.
They fondled their pistols and grinned evilly at anyone
who would meet their eyes. Even a pack of sailors edged
back from them.
watched the drama unfold from the heated expanse of
the atrium balcony, a stained glass dome above and a
sea of bobbing heads below. The Langford Diamond was
a winsome twinkle from here, but little else. It might
have been a fine work of paste, for all anyone this
high up could tell.
for her. She kept her breathing steady and her hands
on the rail in front of her, but the lure of the diamond
pulled at her. She felt it, in her blood, in
her pulse, as all of the tribe could. It was their nature
to connect to the stones. And this one—ninety eight
carats, shaped as a teardrop, recited her mind—had
been cherished by the drákon from the beginning
of their time. It even had a name: Herte. The
heart of the tribe.
they would be here with it. They would not be far.
was a trap, and a shrewd one. She’d always known they
would come for her sooner or later; she had been fervently
hoping for later.
Rue wasn’t taken yet.
of perspiration slipped down her neck, became a tickle
in the gauze handkerchief of her bodice. It was hotter
than July up here.
it all, I can’t see the thing,” muttered the man pressed
against her right, to his companion. “Bloody tourists.
inched closer to the railing as they departed, her feet
tucked between the engraved wooden posts, her sea-green
skirts flattened with their hoops into a silken train
behind her. From the main doors below came an updraft,
still warm but mercifully there. She took a deep breath
amid it, feeling the curls of her wig lift from her
magnificent,” remarked a woman coming to stand at her
elbow, fanning herself in leisurely strokes. “Quite
worth the price of the ticket. But there’s really no
market for such a thing.”
tilted her head in acknowledgment, not looking away
from the stone. She wasn’t surprised to encounter Mim
here; she had learned, over the past nine years, that
nothing brought out the underworld like a spectacle.
too singular,” Mim continued quietly, also facing ahead.
“A violet diamond. Even recut, it would draw attention.”
the museum is too well guarded. I’ve examined that for
fan slowed. “And there is the fact of the marquess,
of course. Is he here?”
fingers tightened over the railing; she forced herself
to let it go. “Heavens, how would I know?”
follow the trail of swooning women,” suggested Mim,
wry. “I saw him once at Drury Lane. The rumors are perfectly
correct, for once. A poet’s mane of windswept gold,
ice green eyes that jolt straight through you. I swear
every hair on my body stood on end when he strolled
by. He is glorious.”
ruthless,” said Rue, before she could stop herself.
was my other point. You would not wish to aggrieve someone
who has killed three men in duels and sent two others
to the gallows merely for attempting to lift a bit of
coin from his pocket.”
replied Rue. “Certainly not.”
fairest face, and the blackest heart.’ Who said that
of him, do you recall? It’s on the tip of my tongue...”
The fan grew slower still, then snapped closed. “Ah.
The Baroness von Zonnenburg, I believe. Just after he
broke it off with her.”
said nothing. Mim glanced at her at last.
wonder what you’re doing here, my friend.”
a pretty stone. That’s all.”
luv, if you decide to do more than just admire it, I
suggest you think twice. Ta.”
in her easy way, disappeared back into the crowd.
below, the little boy and his parents had been drawn
off from their coveted positions before the diamond.
For an instant a splinter of lavender light struck Rue’s
eye, blocked in a trice by someone new.
brought a hand to her face, rubbing away the light,
then lowered it again. She began once more to scan the
many, many people for the members of her tribe.
felt the presence of the thief like a rising charge
in the air, the distinct frisson of energy just before
lightning slivered the sky, white heat encompassing
everything and nothing at once.
recognized that same charge from the mansion four days
ago. It was a different sensation from any other drákon
he knew, stronger, more refined. The man must have amazing
powers; Kit had known the moment the runner had entered
problem, it seemed, was in pinpointing him.
had scattered his guard throughout the building, wandering
in pairs and alone. They squeezed by onlookers with
open eyes and canny senses, listening, waiting. Everyone
knew what was at stake. With their instincts rubbed
raw, they had felt the shiver of the thief too.
moved less effortlessly through the people, stopping
to greet those who recognized him, not bothering to
hide. He was known in these circles and would look a
fine fool incognito; let the others drift and watch.
George and Rufus and the entire council prowled the
floor. Kit himself was bait, just as the diamond was.
And as much as he enjoyed the hunt, he hoped, very much,
that his prey would strike soon.
looked forward to the fight.
the corner of his eye Christoff caught a flash of gloved
white, high above. A gentlewoman stood at the balcony
railing with a hand pressed over her face, scalloped
skirts the color of seafoam and a profusion of lace
cascading from her sleeve. He thought a moment she might
fall; she wavered there, and he was already moving to
the stairs—but she recovered. Her hand relaxed to her
wore a wide-brimmed hat with one long, plumed feather
that masked her eyes, curving down to brush her cheek.
He had a glimpse of her lips, dusky rose against very
pale skin, and her wig, artful curls. Her face was turned
everyone else around her, she wasn’t looking at the
diamond. She was, instead, watching the museum doors.
shot a look over his shoulder at the entrance. Sir George
loitered there, a fine country squire in his embroidered
coat and brass buttons that stretched tight at the seams.
He was fiddling with a ticket stub in his hands, but
broke it off as he noticed Kit’s gaze. He took a step
forward, a question in his glance.
looked back up at the woman. And now she was looking
dark eyes, delicate black brows, that complexion, those
lips. The snowy curve of the feather caressing her chin:
Aphrodite carved from alabaster and jet.
stared at each other and Christoff felt, astonishingly,
that frisson rise to pass through him once more.
air crackled between them.
Jesus. It was she.
runner was a woman.
as he thought it she turned away from the railing, unhurried,
slipping past one man and then another, a graceful figure
in sea green that vanished from view.
began to push through the crowd, his mind buzzing. A
woman, it was a woman—not the thief after all,
because a woman couldn’t Turn—but still one of the tribe,
a female here in London. How the hell could it have
happened? Why hadn’t the council known?
spoke to him, touched him on the shoulder, but he shrugged
them off and kept moving—polite, polite, don’t cause
a scene—looking back once to George, who was trying
stairs were easier to navigate; most of the onlookers
were crowded against the banister. He moved swiftly
up them, focusing on her energy again, searching—finding
She was heading toward the staff stairwell, the narrow
closed door by a Flemish tapestry he had made certain
was locked and bolted before the show.
thronged between them. He lost her, found her again.
the space between two red-coated ensigns he saw her
hand close over the latch.
were too many people up here. Kit began to shove his
way more roughly through the mob, keeping the teal-banded
crest of her hat in sight.
it’s you, Langford. Watch your step—”
What a rude man! Did you see, Winifred, he pushed right
had released the latch—still locked, thank God—and was
walking again, circling, looking for another way out.
There wouldn’t be one; Kit had the place memorized.
She had nowhere to go—
last group of women standing between them folded out
of his way. Kit was at the runner’s back, his blood
singing, his breath coming between his teeth. She began
to turn toward him.
reached out and grabbed her wrist.
He felt it as a shock, a snap of connection between
them, and if he had any doubts at all they scorched
away in that instant, with the fine bones of her wrist
in his hand and the full force of her power surging
twisted in his grasp—the sinewy strength of drákon—but
he didn’t let go; she stepped back, her arm stiff against
his, and looked up into his face.
of them. Of course she was one of them, more radiant,
more vital than mere mortal folk, with her velvet brown
eyes and flawless features. Dressed in silk and frothing
lace, she was as dainty a lady as could be—but she met
his gaze fearlessly, assessing, her expression cool
but her eyes alight with something like fury.
last of the air left his lungs. By God, she was beautiful.
was she? He’d met every member of the tribe, certainly
every female, but she...
noise of the museum, the heat, the stench of unwashed
bodies, all began to recede.
girl. A running child, alone in the trees.
face, pinched with fear.
river. A drowning.
Kit said, incredulous.
Her voice was theirs too, low and lovely, pitched to
serenade the stars.
found her name. “Clarissa.” And she sucked in
knocked into him from behind, apologized, but he barely
heard it. They stood there face to face, their arms
locked together, their chests almost touching, a lovers’
pose that was truly a silent war of pull and resistance.
Through it all she kept her chilly composure; only the
quick, hard pulse in her throat betrayed her. That,
and she was panting a little. The feather ruffled and
stirred at the corner of her lips.
was close enough now to catch the more human fragrance
adorning her, faint lilies, purely feminine. Arousing.
gaze flickered past him and she saw what he already
knew, that George the others were moving in. Her fingers
closed into a fist. She glanced again at the staff door.
try,” Kit murmured. “Please. I don’t want to hurt you.”
gave her hand a sudden jerk but he was ready for it,
using the recoil of her own force to pull her nearer,
his other arm wrapping around her waist. He turned his
head to hers and dropped his voice.
reasonable. You can’t escape.”
response was a whisper against his cheek. “Watch me.”
powdered curls of her wig tickled his jaw. Her skin
was warm, burning warm beneath her winter paleness,
and her waist was small and her skirts rustled against
his legs. Clouds and flowers and the charged hum of
lightning; Christoff felt her so keenly it was like
the blade of a knife scratched over his nerves, a sensation
at once both exquisite and terrifying. She was as fixed
as stone in his grip, wreathed in lace and lilies and
all he wanted to do was laugh in exhilaration.
a drákon who lived in the open—
ears caught the scant, tinkling sound of breaking glass.
A din roared up from below, yelling, shouts. The loose
clusters of people surrounding them began to surge forward
to the railing. He planted his feet and steadied them
both as the babble of nearly four hundred museum patrons
separated into words:
Stop him! He’s got the diamond—”
Stop! There, he went there—”
fired, women screamed, and all hell broke loose.
the split second before they were trampled, Kit looked
back at Clarissa Hawthorne. She was smiling up at him:
gorgeous, dazzling victory. Before he could move, she
Turned to smoke in his grasp.
was left standing at the brink of the bolting crowd,
holding up an empty gown.
from The Smoke Thief by Shana Abé. Copyright
© 2005 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.