“Well that tears it,” said Lieutenant Anais, throwing down his cards on the green baize-covered table. “My luck has been abominable tonight, and no mistake.” He sat back in his chair, and tried to re-light his cheroot with a damp match. Tesara took up one of Colonel Talios’s matches, struck it along the side of the table, and held the flame out to the lieutenant. He gave her a startled look, but leaned forward, and puffed.
“It is too bad, sir,” she said, shaking out the match and pulling her winnings forward. “I thought you had that last hand.”
She had been winning steadily, decent stakes too. It was awkward, to be sure, to be playing at her erstwhile fiance’s mistress’s casino, but there you go — a girl couldn’t have too many scruples. Besides, it was quite lovely to take down the cocky lieutenant, who had been flirting in a most annoying way with her. As if he expected her to be grateful for the attention, she thought. As a result, Tesara had been flirting like mad back, because it was going to be so satisfying to dash his hopes. “But you know what they say,” she added. “No luck for the wicked.”
The crowd of Mrs. Fayres’ friends, a melange of officers, actors, heiresses, and dock lovelies, laughed. The lieutenant grimaced at first, then obviously thought better of it.
“Perhaps you could transfer some of that luck to me, Miss Mederos?” he said, and he kissed his thin lips suggestively.
The crowd ooohed, while Tesara hid her revulsion behind a smile. “Oh, and ruin a perfectly lovely friendship, Lieutenant Anais? I believe in a more spiritual connection over that of the flesh.”
“And I believe five minutes in the garden with me will disabuse you of that quaint notion,” he retorted, his hostility ill-concealed.
“Here now,” Colonel Talios said, with an uneasy chuckle, as if remembering that at one time, he had been thinking of marrying Tesara and might still have an interest in that direction. The lieutenant ignored him.
Tesara felt the spark rise in her fingertips, and she concentrated on sorting her chips. When she had control over her dangerous emotions, she looked up at the lieutenant. She said nothing, merely gave him a level stare. He flushed, and got up with an oath, pushing his chair back so hard it fell over. He stood up, and his attitude was threatening. He reached over and yanked her to her feet, his hand so hard around her wrist that she knew it would leave a re mark until the next day.
“Come with me, girl,” he said, his voice slurred and guttural.
Everything happened at once. The drunken revelers were shocked and owl-eyed, blinking foolishly at the turn of events. Two burly gentlemen pushed their way through the crowd toward them. And Tesara gathered the electricity in her fingertips and pushed it out at the lieutenant. There was a fizz and a crack, the air smelled like a thunderstorm, and the lieutenant was suddenly sprawled on his behind, his mouth and eyes wide with shock and pain.
A woman screamed. Tesara put her hands to her mouth, feigning surprise. One day they will all believe what their eyes tell them, she thought. But tonight they are too drunk and too confused to question.