The Devil's Garden

The Devil's Garden by Jane Kindred

Book: The Devil's Garden by Jane Kindred Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Kindred
scent of Ume about it, an essence of amber resin and rosewater. A forgotten sound, glass wind chimes that had hung on Ume’s terrace over the Anamnesis, tinkled in his head as he breathed it in. Whoever had sent this, it was dangerous. He couldn’t keep it.
    As he started to wrap them back up, a pink shell box fell from the folds of the dress. Inside it was a pot of eye paint, a stick of kohl and a tiny brush. Beside them was a note. “It looked so lovely on you. I miss you, Ume. Please come. – Master Sylva”
    Tears threatened. He wasn’t Ume. Ume was dead.
    Cillian placed them back in the tissue. He should throw them away. He couldn’t keep them. He couldn’t see her. He was leaving In’La.
    He took the package to the wastebin and stood over it. The scent of amber resin and rosewater tugged at him. He slipped the barkeep a copper to use the privy.
    Standing naked in the cramped closet, he trembled with the silk pressed against his skin. Could he be Ume again? Did he dare?
    He pulled the dress over his head and let the cool fabric whisper down his torso, over his partial erection, over his legs. With the pearl buttoned at his throat, he ran his hands over the silk, smoothing the wrinkles. In the looking glass over the basin, faded, its silver paint peeling and stained, Ume stared back.
    Ume hired a carriage in the Garden to take her to Madame Fersi’s boardinghouse, clutching a drawstring purse that contained her savings. No one questioned her. The templars had not lost their appetite for courtesans with a change of name, and the Garden was as fruitful as ever. With the veil worn over her hair as a scarf, she was anonymous.
    When she opened the door, Madame Fersi shook her head in disapproval but called up for Cree after a sigh of resignation. Pulling the veil across her face, Ume tucked the beads together to hold it in place. Cree appeared on the landing.
    “Maiden Sky.” Her voice was husky with emotion. She came down to escort Ume and kissed her hand with a formal bow before leading her up the stairs. Cree’s hand was trembling.
    When they were alone, Ume let her slip the veil away. Cree searched her eyes, and Ume lowered them to display the eye paint to its best advantage. She had allowed herself a smudge of gold—no symbol of a sacred eye, but enough to feel like herself.
    “I didn’t think you’d come.”
    “Nor did I.” Ume’s lip quivered as she steeled herself to say what she’d come to say. “I don’t want to be him anymore, Cree. Not for you. Not for anyone. I don’t want to be Cillian.”
    “I know.”
    “I can’t.”
    “I know. That’s why I’ve spent the last four months buying back every bit of your wardrobe I could find in the market.”
    Ume’s eyes widened. “You did?”
    “I did.” Cree took her hand and kissed the palm, her lips lingering, warm and soft. The muscles in Ume’s abdomen tightened, and she breathed in sharply as Cree stepped in and drew her close.
    “I love you.” The words tumbled from her lips before she could stop them.
    Cree grinned. “I know.” She held Ume’s face between her hands and stroked her thumbs against her temples. “Thank you for coming back to me.” Her brown eyes darkened. “I missed you.” She whispered it almost angrily and prevented any reply by pulling Ume to her in a deep and hungry kiss. Ume surrendered, whimpering into her mouth, tears spilling over her cheeks, and Cree kissed her tears, following their path to her throat as she unfastened the pearl closure. She pressed her mouth to the hollow there before moving downward, kissing Ume through the silk and traveling lower as she dropped to her knees.
    Ume cried out as Cree closed her mouth over the fabric and enveloped the heat of her desire. Ume pressed into her, trapped by the silk, and couldn’t help gasping, “You’ll ruin the dress.”
    Cree’s laughter against her made her strain against the silk even harder. With a stroke of her hand that was nearly Ume’s

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