Now, to be fair, I’m a generally late person. I chalk this up to procrastination and bad luck with traffic (i.e., if someone is going to hit a red light or get stuck behind a fender bender, it’s going to be me), but tonight, I’m really late. Late enough that I’m beyond fashionably late and just plain…well, as Lauren would put it, “tacky.”
So, I’m headed around the back edge of Beaufetheringstone House, in the hopes of entering the ballroom from out of Lady B’s focus. The darkness in the Beaufetheringstone gardens is pretty standard, a few couples making out amongst the shrubbery, but I don’t really have time to linger, as my curiosity is dwarfed by well–fear. As you know, Lady B and I don’t always get along like proverbial houses. Sometimes, I think she thinks I’m a lumbering Amazon, clomping across her ballroom. So, she might be right on occasion. That’s not the point.
I’m stealthy tonight. That’s the point.
I’ve made my way through the gardens and up the stone steps to the glass doors leading into the ballroom, quite proud of myself, really, when I’m stopped.
“You can’t go in.”
I turn toward the words quiet and unmistakeable, spoken from a shadowy corner on one end of the stone balcony. “Excuse me?”
“You can’t go in.”
I shake my head. “I’m invited. I’m just late.”
“Then I suggest entering through the main door, with an invitation. You shan’t enter through this door.”
My eyebrows snap together. “Why not?”
“Because I said so.”
Because he said so? Who… what…?
“Who are you?”
“You should know the answer to that question,” he says, leaning forward, so the top half of his face is in the light. Dark skin. Black eyes.
I laugh. “Asriel!”
I know Asriel. We go way back. Way back to the first time I ever dreamed up the Rules of Scoundrels quartet and The Fallen Angel casino. Asriel is one of Temple’s men, one of the two door-men at the Fallen Angel. He’s massive, bigger than Temple, with biceps the size of a normal human thigh. If he were in 2012, he’s be wearing a black t-shirt, jeans and sunglasses, and he’d be terrifying. Instead, he’s wearing a black linen shirt, black jacket and black trousers. And he’s still terrifying.
But not really.
“Asriel…you’re so funny. Of course I’m going in.”
I make for the door and he rises to his feet, more than six and a half feet of feet. “No. You’re not.”
This sets me back. “I’m not?”
I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but I try a different tack. “Why not?”
“Cross is in there.”
Cross, the hero of my next book. Cross, a man who can absolutely, without a doubt, take care of himself, even at a Beaufetheringstone Ball. I shrug. “So?”
“With Lady Philippa.”
I shrug again. It’s not surprising. The two of them spend a great deal of time together recently. ”And this calls for a security detail? How much trouble do you expect the two of them get into?”
Asriel cuts me a look. One that says everything, making his words redundant. “How much trouble can they get into?”
I attempt calm. “Cross is easy.”
He raises a brow. “The lady is not.”
Dear God. That much is true. I sigh. “You have to let me in, Asriel. I have to stop them before they do something rash.”
“I’m afraid I can’t. I have express orders from Cross.”
I shake my head. “Whatever he said, he couldn’t have possibly meant me. He couldn’t have possibly meant for you to keep me from entering.”
One side of Asriel’s wide mouth lifts. “You’re exactly the person he wants kept out.”
I blink. “What?”
Asriel takes pity on me with a sigh. “I’m afraid all this…me…it’s to make sure you don’t do anything rash.”
“Me?! What would I do? He’s the one in there with an unmarried–betrothed (and not to him!)–lady!”
“Yes, but he would remind you that he didn’t ask for such a scenario. In fact, he never asked for the lady to begin with.”
“Precisely his point.”
I try to smile, to cajole Asriel into letting me in. Now, my lateness seems infinitely more important than before. Before, it had just been a ball inside. Now, it was a ball with characters running amok. Ok, that’s normal. But these are my characters. And Cross is, by far, the smartest hero I’ve ever met. “Asriel,” I try again,”Why won’t you let me in?”
He smiles. “The lady is getting that for which she asked.”
My mind goes blank, then fills like a movie screen with a two-story sized image of Pippa in the last chapter of A Rogue By Any Other Name, asking for…
Oh, my God.
My gaze narrows. “You have to let me in. They can’t do that here! Lady B will totally. Freak. Out.”
I’m about to defy security and do something expressly forbidden. After all, I can’t just let my characters behave badly without my permission! Have you ever broken the rules and done something you absolutely shouldn’t have? Was it worth it? Tell me about it in comments!