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Authors: Sharon Lee,Steve Miller

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Eidolon

BOOK: Eidolon
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EIDOLON

Adventures in the Liaden Universe®

Number Fourteen

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

 

Pinbeam Books

http://www.pinbeambooks.com

 

This is a work of fiction. All the characters
and events portrayed in this novel are fiction or are used
fictitiously.

 

 

EIDOLON

Copyright © 2008, 2011
by
Sharon Lee
and
Steve Miller
. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author.
Please remember that distributing an author's work without
permission or payment is theft; and that the authors whose works
sell best are those most likely to let us publish more of their
works.

First published in November 2008 by SRM,
Publisher.

 

ISBN:

Kindle: 978-1-935224-45-7

Epub: 978-1-935224-46-4

PDF: 978-1-935224-47-1

 

Published April 2011 by

Pinbeam Books

PO Box 707

Waterville ME 04903

email [email protected]

 

Cover Copyright © 2008

Cover design by Richard Horn

from image supplied by Jupiter Media

 

EIDOLON

Smashwords
Edition

Discover other titles by Sharon Lee, Steve
Miller, and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller at Smashwords

 

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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other people. If you would like to share this book with another
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and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author

 

 

Dedicated to

Chack

 

 

 

 

SHADOW PARTNER

 

It had been apparent to Ceola for some days
that Min was growing bored with her newest beau. She was hardly
surprised; she had never understood why her sister had encouraged
the young man's attentions in the first place. Oh, he was pretty
enough, though tall, but Min preferred dash, daring, and drama.
Shadow was quiet, mannerly, and respectful; so unlike any of Min's
previous lovers as to stand in a class of his own.

Perhaps it had been the novelty of a lover
who failed of making unreasonable demands upon her time and person.
Or perhaps she had felt sorry for him, sitting one among a
half-dozen Scouts, all senior to him, and the object of a series of
increasingly ribald pleasantries. Min did have moments of
soft-heartedness, though they usually passed more quickly than the
affair of pleasure with Shadow had done.

Whatever her reasons for attaching him, and
then keeping him on her string, the signs soon became clear to
Ceola's experienced eye: Min had grown tired of Shadow as he was
and wished either for him to become someone else and enact her a
drama, or that he would take himself off.

Of course, she might send him off herself,
but it was not Min's way, though, to put a thing out of one hand
until she had something else clasped firmly in the other.

"Elby and I will be going to the new casino
this evening." Min was perched on a stool, her elbows folded atop
the counter as she watched Ceola do set-up. "You'll be able to
handle it alone."

Well, Ceola thought irritably, she had
certainly handled the evening shift alone before. Min's lovers were
fond of showing their passion by snatching her away to accompany
them to shows, openings, and dinners during the hours when she was
scheduled to be on the bar, managing what was left of the family's
fortune. Except for quiet, ardent Shadow, who appeared perfectly
happy to sit at the bar or at a side table, sometimes in company
with another Scout, sometimes with a handheld or a book--and wait
until Min's shift was done before whisking her off for pleasure or
bed-sport.

Which wistful thought reminded Ceola of a
thing she had overheard, just a few nights past. She looked over
her shoulder at her sister.

"I thought you and Shadow had fixed to go to
Noneen's this evening after your shift was done."

Min sniffed. "He may go without me, if he
cares for such thin stuff. I have company for this evening. Indeed,
Shadow need no longer trouble himself to ask after me. You may tell
him so, if he comes in tonight."

If
he came! Ceola thought, angrily. As if he were ever other than
faithful in keeping his assignations! There had been one instance
when duty had dictated otherwise, but he had sent 'round a very
pretty note and a flower, which really was--Ceola gasped, Min's
latest dart at last piercing her understanding, and spun to
stare.

"
I
to tell Shadow?"

Her elder lifted bored brown eyes.

"As you will be here, and I will not--who
better?"

"Why not she who led him along, and now
finds it mete to throw over a kind, quiet lad for a loud
popinjay--and break her word, besides!"

"Popinjay!" Min laughed. "Won't Elby like
that!"

She looked at Ceola, suddenly
calculating.

"It seems to me," she said,
"that you might add Shadow to
your
string, sister, if you value him so
high!"

Her
string! Ceola drew a hard breath. As if anyone noticed the
plain-faced younger sister in the blare and brilliance of the
elder's beauty. She might as well, Ceola thought, be a shadow
herself.

Another breath, this one deliberate and
calm, reminding herself what Grandmother had often said of
Min--that she wasn't intentionally cruel, but heedless and caught
up in the pursuit of her own pleasure. Indeed, with a little
patience, she could often be brought 'round to proper conduct,
which surely proved that she wished, in her heart, to behave
well.

"Only think how it must wound Shadow, to
have such a message from me, rather than yourself," Ceola said,
keeping her voice moderate. "I think that--I think that he must
truly care for you, sister. Would it not--"

"Shadow care for me! What
an idea! Why, when I said I could not accompany him to dinner
Finyal-last, after he had waited all evening--did he act as if that
mattered to him, or behave in the least bit put out?" She tossed
her hair." A cool bow and a chaste good-night,
that
was how much Shadow cared to
lose my company! You might term him kind, sister, but Shadow cares
for nothing save his own scheming. He deserves neither courtesy nor
gentleness from me!"

Ceola stared. Had Min not
seen the slight droop of those level shoulders; the frown that had
tightened the corners of the generous mouth? Of
course
he had been
disappointed--deeply so, as Ceola had read it, though too gentle to
rebuke one for whom he surely harbored the tenderest of feelings.
Only someone whose heart was engaged, Ceola thought, with a sad
lack of sisterly kindness, would tolerate the abuses Min had heaped
upon him.

Min slid off the stool, and shook back her
plentiful black hair.

"Do what you like with Shadow. You've been
wanting a tutor in bed-skills."Ceola's cheeks heated. Min laughed,
sweetly malicious.

"I must prepare for Elby," she said,
strolling toward the back stair that led to their apartment. "Good
evening, sister."

Custom was brisk at the start; when it
slowed, near mid-Night-Port, she looked around the room and
discovered him sitting quietly at a side table. His companion this
evening was the handheld, and he was wholly concentrated on it.
Ceola paused for a moment at the edge of the bar, considering the
clean lines of his face, and the errant lock of dark hair that fell
across his forehead. Even as she watched, he raised a long-fingered
hand and stroked the silky strands away from his eyes, his
attention never leaving the screen.

The street door opened and Ceola turned,
only to see the potential customer step back, his voice sharp, then
muffled as he spoke to a companion outside.

"Not here. Let's try across--"

The door closed. Ceola sighed and walked
over to Shadow's table.

He looked up at her approach and tendered a
grave smile.

Ceola felt her cheeks heat,
and silently damned Min's taunting. What was she to say to the
man:
My sister is a beautiful fool, but I,
the plain and practical, find you fair
?
Chilly comfort there.

She made shift, then, to answer his smile
and stepped nearer, her hands tucked tightly into the pockets of
her apron.

"The usual this evening, Scout?"she asked,
because that was commonplace and comforting and gave her a moment
to tidy her disorderly thoughts.

The usual was the red wine, which their
mother had kept on inventory to please her old and very great
friend, Scout Lieutenant tel'Juna.

In the way of such things, Lieutenant
tel'Juna had brought his Scout friends to drink with him, and they,
too, enjoyed the red. As they had good custom from the Scouts, so
they stocked more of the red, until it came to a solid quarter of
their sales.

"I think perhaps," Shadow
said in his soft voice, "that it may
not
be a usual evening." He tipped
his head. "I hope your sister enjoys her usual robust
health?"

Ceola's cheeks warmed further. "I--yes,"she
stammered, looking down at the worn tabletop. "She is quite well,
thank you."

"I'm glad," he answered. "I had feared the
worst, with you so troubled."

She looked up at him. "Are all Scouts mind
readers?"

He grinned. "Muscle readers, say; and most
have a happy ability to guess well."

"Happy,"Ceola repeated and forced herself to
meet bright green eyes.

"Min left a message, Shadow. I--" She
gulped.

She heard him sigh, very softly. "Did she?
Then I propose that we will all be served best by a speedy
delivery."

Ceola sighed then, more deeply than he, and
kept her eyes on his face. "Perhaps that's so,"she said, unhappily.
"I-- that is, Min wished you to know that she has . . . chosen to
terminate the alliance between you."

There
, she thought,
it was said, as
quickly and as fairly as one might
. For his
part, Shadow neither flinched nor wept, though one well-marked brow
slid slightly upward.

"I see,"he said; "and has she left you to
mind the house by yourself?"

Ceola blinked at him. "Well . . . yes. But
that doesn't signify! I often run singleton."

"Do you?" He frowned, more, Ceola thought,
like an elder brother annoyed with a flutterheaded youngling than a
shattered lover. "I hadn't . . . observed that."

"Oh!" She moved a hand. "That was because
you waited for her to finish here before--before . . . " She
cleared her throat and added, somewhat inadequately, "Others are
not so patient."

Both eyebrows were high now, and Ceola began
to worry that she had not acquitted herself as well as she might
have done on her sister's business.

"I-- Min is heedless, sometimes, Shadow.
But, truly--"

"If you would have me understand that her
heart is good, I will undertake it, for your peace," he
interrupted. The street door opened, admitting a group of three,
talking loudly, and more coming in behind them.

"It would seem that the next wave is upon
us," Shadow said lightly. He thumbed off his handheld and slid away
it into some inner pocket of his jacket, rising as he did so.

"Come, I shall stand your second."

She gaped up at him. "You, wait bar?"

One eyebrow rose, whimsical. "I know the
difference between wine and ale," he said mildly.

"But--you're a Scout!" she protested.

He looked suddenly forlorn,
shoulders drooping and fingers limp. Green eyes sought hers from
beneath absurdly long lashes. "I had made sure that
you
would not care about
that, Ceola!"

In spite of herself, she laughed. "Scouts
are welcome here, sir, and well you know it!"

"Barkeep!" Someone called from the counter
and Ceola turned, measuring the room with a practiced eye.
Half-full already, and still more coming in the door. It was a tall
crew-- taller, even, than lanky Shadow. A Terran freighter just in,
then. It would hardly be the first time Terrans had drunk at The
Friendly Glass. Situated as they were on the tenuous border between
Mid-Port and Low, they were grateful for what custom they got,
rough as it ofttimes was.

BOOK: Eidolon
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