Muriel

So as I’m writing Retribution or whatever I end up calling the final version of the second installment of Betrayal, I finally have the opportunity to introduce y’all to Muriel!  You have no idea how excited I am!  She was mentioned, of course, as Aidan’s pretense of a “girlfriend” at court when he was working behind everyone’s back (*sniff*) when Aimee thought he was in love with her instead.  However…y’all never got to meet her! Because I know you were just dying to. Not.

I actually knew better what she looked like than most of my main characters, partially because I pictured as I did the venomous gal by the same name in The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson (one of my all-time favorite books).  From the moment I named her she was there in my head, formed from head to toe; even the way she talks.  And that’s, I suppose, because she isn’t really original.  Muriel is, y another name, basically a copy of Dagmara Dominczy, who I know from The Count of Monte Cristo as Mercedes.  (Do I need to stop drawing inspiration from that movie for my characters?  Probably.)  Anywho, I think she’s gorgeous, and she really IS Muriel.  So when I finally get around to finishing Retribution, perhaps I’ll post a bit.  She’s already in the fourth chapter, and boy, do I have a plot for her. 🙂

      

On a similar note, her uncle, my villain, looks like this:

So she was bound to be a looker, right? 😉

I suppose I can share a bit of what I’m working on with her, though it’s bound to be a bit choppy as it’s first draft and I haven’t worked on my poor hero’s story in far too long.

***

I turn back the way I came, away from the royal apartments, deciding to return to Patrick and request some back-up.  If we kill them all hastily it will be relatively quiet, but that’s only possible with more than one man.  At least it will be quick.  Before anyone can fetch help, we’ll have Brother in our custody.

I hear soft footfalls behind me and, expecting that the ever-silent Aidan has met with similar difficulties to mine, I turn.  It isn’t Aidan though.  The figure that approaches me, silhouetted in the moonlight that comes through the hall’s window, is that of a girl, slight of build and clad loosely in a dressing gown.

There is no need for any of the nobles to sense that something might be going on, Patrick told us.  “I’m sorry if I disturbed you, my lady,” I say casually, “I hope I wasn’t too loud; Brother has some business I need to attend to.”

“Raoul?”  I know that voice…  The girl steps forward, out of the blurry moonlight, staring at me.  Her hair is different than I remember, long and loose instead of the tightly pinned curls I’m used to, but I recognize her immediately.

I exhale nervously.  “Muriel.”

 

Long ago I made it my goal in life never to be nervous around women.  I’ve managed pretty well, too-treating them gallantly or even sarcastically sometimes, taking on the joviality that my father always wore in public.  I hold onto a hope that it’s the only thing I’ve taken from him.  This practice has always served me well, until recently when I started fumbling more often, usually when something involved Aimee.  But with Muriel it has always been the same: I always stutter, bumble, and feel intensely awkward around her.  First it was because she was absolutely perfect: flawlessly beautiful, with hair that might very well have been spun from a midnight sky, eyes like the stars that fill it and a complexion like cream.  She’s impossible to find fault with.

More recently, however, my discomfort has come from the knowledge that Aidan was using her as his ticket into fashionable society as his lady.  Now, faced with her here, both reasons roll together into one to make me sweat.  My collar is suddenly too tight as well.

“What are you doing here, Raoul?  I heard- I heard that you’re with the loyalists.”

I don’t know how to respond.  If I say yes, will she scream for the guards?  If no, will she believe that I’m working as a spy, or whatever story I end up telling her?  Should I tell her I was coming back to find something in my rooms?  I must stand there looking like an idiot for a long time, because finally she says, softly so that I hardly hear, the last thing I’d expect.

“Don’t go back to Ishmael, Raoul.”  I look up sharply at her.

“He’s your uncle…”

“I don’t care.  Tell me if you can find a wickeder man.  Do what I’m not able to, fight for the Alloy, and the real queen.  Don’t make a mistake.”

I’m too stunned to speak for another couple of seconds, no doubt adding to my idiot act.  Then I manage to blurt out, “You could join us?”

But she shakes her head slowly, eyes on her feet.  “I can’t.  They’d never accept me, and I wouldn’t blame them.  Why should they do otherwise?  I’m in direct relation to their enemy.  You don’t understand, Raoul.  Not everyone would be eager to invite me into their company, no matter where my heart lies.  I suppose it’s better this way since it means you’re all on your feet.”  She shrugs, and although my palms are clammy in my usual nervousness, I see her as small and imperfect for the first time.  She’s just a prisoner, as Ariel was, only in a different way.

Am I being too trusting?  Is this an act?  I try to be suspicious of her, but it’s difficult.  She doesn’t pull tears, doesn’t flirt with me.  Nothing to infer she’s begging for my sympathy and trust.  Then she shrugs again and turns to go.  “Don’t go back,” she whispers once more, and is gone.