The man whirled, his hands still gripping the animal's skin, his face perfectly illuminated by the fire. He was half in shadow, and the shadow revealed him slowly. His left eye was covered by a black leather patch, and thin white scar raked his brow and the cheekbone below. The carried on, down the length of his neck, into the thick black beard, twisting under his collarbone and around his torso. They marred only the skin, I noted, for the muscles beneath were whole and strong, and the entire impression was one of great vitality and energy, strength unbridled. He looked nothing so much as a fallen god working at a trade. "Hephaestus at the forge, " I murmured, recalling my mythology...
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I stepped closer still. He closed his eyes again and covered my hand with his own. 'You smell of violets. You always smell of violets, ' he said. 'You've no idea how many times I have walked these moors and smelled them and thought you were near. On and on I walked, following the scent of you, and you were never there. When I saw you in the hall tonight, I thought I had finally gone mad.
He had strong, steady hands, and I could tell from looking at them there was little he couldn't do. Mossy always said you could tell everything you needed to know about a man from his hands. Some hands, she told me, were leaving hands. They were the wandering sort that slipped into places they shouldn't, and they would wander right off again because those hands just couldn't stay still. Some hands were worthless hands, fit only to hold a drink or flick ash from a cigar, and some were punishing hands that hit hard and didn't leave a mark and those were the ones you never stayed to see twice. But the best hands were knowing hands, Mossy told me with a slow smile. Knowing hands were capable; they could soothe a horse or woman. They could take things apart - including your heart - and put them back together better than before. Knowing hands were rare, but if you found them, they were worth holding, at least for a little while.
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From the first note I knew it was different from anything I had ever heard... It began simply, but with an arresting phrase, so simple, but eloquent as a human voice. It spoke, beckoning gently as it unwound, rising and tensing. It spiraled upward, the tension growing with each repeat of the phrasing, and yet somehow it grew more abandoned, wilder with each note. His eyes remained closed as his fingers flew over the strings, spilling forth surely more notes than were possible from a single violin. For one mad moment I actually thought there were more of them, an entire orchestra of violins spilling out of this one instrument. I had never heard anything like it-it was poetry and seduction and light and shadow and every other contradiction I could think of. It seemed impossible to breathe while listening to that music, and yet all I was doing was breathing, quite heavily. The music itself had become as palpable a presence in that room as another person would have been-and its presence was something out of myth.
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He considered that a moment, rolling the sweet over his tongue. "There are times when it is entirely safe to show one's vulnerability, to roll over and reveal the soft underbelly beneath. But there are other times when pain must be borne without a murmur, when the pain is so consuming that if you give in to it, even in the slightest, you have lost everything.
I matched my heated tone with one of pure ice. "I believe I did attempt to relate to you the facts of my calls and you interrupted me with a rather magnificent display of temper much as you are doing now. If you do not have all the facts of the case perhaps you have no one but yourself to blame." Brisbane opened his mouth and shut it with a snap. His mouth remained closed but I could hear him muttering under his breath. "What are you saying?" "I am counting. To one hundred. In Cantonese.
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When the wind is right and the cloud is gone, you can see down this road as far as Darjeeling," I told her. "But it is a long and difficult road, full of perils, and if a traveller on foot were to look at the length of it, his spirit would be overcome and he would sit down and refuse to go any further. You must not look to the end of the road, Portia. Look only to the step in front of you. That you can do. Just one step. And you will not make the journey alone.
I will make arrangements for you and Portia to return to London the following day. I will be closing up the house. I am leaving England for a while." "For how long?" I asked him, determined to keep my composure. "Until I am quite recovered from you," he said evenly. "When will you return?" "Never.
Eva Stachniak has given readers a thrilling glimpse into the scandals and secrets at the heart of the Russian Imperial court. With deft prose and exquisite detail, Stachniak has resurrected one of the most compelling ages in history. Turn off the phones and lock the doors""you will not put it down.
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Among my favorite half-dozen topics is the field of Victorian female explorers, the intrepid women who packed up their parasols and petticoats and roamed the world in search of adventure. Some were scientists, some artists, some unabashed curiosity-seekers who simply went out to see what they could see.
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