“Thank you for this dance,” I said, favoring Sarah, my latest dancing partner, with a deep bow.
“The pleasure was all mine,” she drawled. She was so good at innocent flirtation that I knew it was a skill honed of long practice.
I murmured an excuse about needing more punch, and found a reason to go the long way back to the sideboard. I passed within a few feet of the place where my magic had jolted me, slowing as much as I dared to get a look at its source.
The elderly gentleman had his back to me at first, but he turned as I walked past, and I wondered if he sensed something, too. He had a shock of untamed white hair over bushy eyebrows and a furrowed face. His hazel eyes had a wary glint, and his lips were pressed tightly together, jaw set. In his prime, he might have been a tall man, but age had hunched him. I shook my head to clear it. No, it wasn’t age that made his shoulders slump. In my mind’s eye, my magic eye, I saw him clutching a chest against him, hunched over it to protect it with his body, to hide it from view. His eyes met mine, and I got a very nasty frisson down my spine. I was pretty sure I’d found our necromancer, and at the moment, I’d bet that he was wondering whether my magic posed him any threat.
“Dante! There you are!” Ms. Hallingsworth’s greeting was music to my ears. Our hostess took my elbow and steered me away from the old man whose gaze, I was sure, followed me as I headed in the opposite direction. “I’d like you to meet my niece.”
“I’m embarrassed to ask,” I said, doing my best to look chagrined, “but I couldn’t place the older gentleman in the other corner. Should I know him?”
Mrs. Hallingsworth chuckled. “I should say not—unless you’re a pirate! That’s Judge Heinrich Von Dersch. He served as the king’s highest magistrate in Bermuda before he moved to South Carolina on the eve of the war, and he’s been an absolute bulwark against piracy on the high seas. He’ll tell you that he’s hanged over three hundred pirates himself, and I believe him.” She cast a backwards glance. “He’s a stern fellow, but then, who wouldn’t be in his position?”
My hostesses’ words were gracious, but I could feel a tinge of fear. My good Mrs. Hallingsworth had a generous dollop of magic in the form of charisma, though she probably didn’t know it and would be horrified to find out that her ‘charm’ was indeed charmed. I was willing to bet that the tingle of fear she felt came from the feel of Judge Von Dersch’s magic: dark, grasping, and vengeful.