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Inessa’s father had told her that married life would afford her certain privileges. He had never named them. But she was sharp enough to find out for herself.

One of her discoveries was that servants no longer attempted to direct her. Baron Clief was a traditionalist. His wife ran his househood, and no servant would dare find fault with the young baroness. Quite a change from her father’s house. Almost worth the absence of her brothers.

She awoke from a nap in the baron’s library, curled up in the large red velvet chair like a child. Bedtime was another old evil that had gone.

Before she could decide whether to retire to her rooms for a proper sleep or to continue the reading that had relaxed her into a doze, she saw a shimmer of light.

It must have been moonlight reflecting off the leather binding, she told herself. Except that it looked more like a heat haze. She often saw air bend that way in front of the kitchen fires when she ordered the cook about.

The pages of her book fluttered, as though someone had walked by her. She watched the haze move to another shelf. Without moving from her napping position, Inessa scowled at the haze. Perhaps she had not yet woken. Dreams about waking always led to a very cross morning.

At least she could find out what this haze was. She stood slowly, drawing on all of her experience sneaking up on lazing servants, and stalked towards the shelf. Then, as it was only a dream, she leapt at it, hands outstretched like claws.

Someone, very close to her, screamed.


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