The Duke of Snow and Apples

The Duke of Snow and Apples by Elizabeth Vail

Book: The Duke of Snow and Apples by Elizabeth Vail Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Vail
is your mind wandering? Some starstruck beau, perhaps?” Charlotte’s cheeks flamed, but before she could respond her great-aunt cut her off. “No, I shan’t pry. I shall only observe. Doubtless the answer will come in time.”
    I’ve no starstruck beau. I’ve a starstruck footman. An unearthly starstruck footman. The memory of that kiss alone made her lips burn. Surely no action could awaken sensations so powerful without leaving a mark of some kind, some indication of the illicit contact she’d shared with a man as far below her as to be unnoticeable.
    It was Frederick’s fault. After insulting her, he should have apologized and begged forgiveness out of fear for his position. He should at least have done something to remind her that he was a footman. Instead, he’d captured her mouth with such fierce wanting that she’d opened up to him, all obedience, utterly convinced he had every right to claim what was rightfully his.
    At least the kiss she could explain. Those eyes of his were a different matter. When lit up with that shocking brightness they’d cut through to her very soul, filling her with an aching pleasure so acute it splashed across her vision in whorls of light. Some bizarre, magical connection had exploded between the two of them in a rainbow of shared emotion.
    “Mr. Oswald, you study magic as your profession, do you not?” she asked suddenly.
    Lady Leighwood’s son finished his tea with a gulp. “Earth magic, yes.”
    “Does all magic require spells?”
    “All Allmarchian magic requires a language, if that’s what you mean,” Mr. Oswald replied. “The ancient tongues of Benine and Kelok. The Fey, before they died out, spoke those languages and could manipulate and transform the realities around them with a simple conversation or a written missive.”
    “Could someone, perhaps, cast magic with their mind?”
    “You mean heathen magic?” Lady Enshaw said. “Oh, that’s best left alone. If it doesn’t come from God through the Maiden’s hands, it’s safest not to cast it at all.”
    “I disagree,” said Mr. Oswald, warming to the subject. “No magics are inherently evil. The Holy Maiden rebuilt the world, not just the Allmarchian corner of it.”
    “But the Holy Maiden was Feyish,” Lady Enshaw insisted. She blinked. “I think.”
    “Half-Feyish,” said Mr. Oswald. “And perhaps she couldn’t cast any other sort. Maybe she never learned. She started out as mortal as any of us.”
    “The Fey haven’t walked among us for centuries. Old news is so tedious,” Aunt Hildy interrupted, perhaps in an attempt to cut the unsavory topic of religion out of the conversation.
    “But are there magics like that?” Charlotte asked.
    “I wish I could give you a straight answer,” Mr. Oswald said. “Magics proliferate everywhere. Fey magic is by far the most common, but the Elassines are said to practice a form of meditation that allows minds to communicate. The Cheloi used to work blood-magic. Magic is force . It can be ignored, but it can’t be destroyed or erased. Inexplicable forms of it could pop up anywhere. For instance, twenty years after the Blight devoured the islands of Selence, our highest magicians still cannot explain what happened. The warped magic there is so strong none but the bravest and most foolhardy of smugglers venture near it.”
    So Charlotte still had no solid explanation for Frederick’s bizarre power that spewed light from his eyes and stirred rising waves of inexplicable excitement within her. No reason she would behave so foolishly, so irrationally with a footman when she was supposed to be snaring a husband.
    “Speaking of servants, how are you faring with my footman, Charlotte?” asked Aunt Hildy. “If he’s allowed you to so much as fetch your own gloves, I’ll be monstrously disappointed. I do not tolerate exertion in my household, unless it is directed toward amusement.”
    Charlotte opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She couldn’t very

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