Musketeer Space Part 35: Is It Love Or Just Paris?

snacksIt’s Musketeer Day and I have FINALLY seen the first episode of the new season of the BBC Musketeers!

I don’t know how to feel about a Rochefort without an eyepatch. But I did appreciate the boys all wearing pretendy hats as part of their disguises. Also, Constance as lady-in-waiting for the win! About time too. I’ll almost certainly be writing proper reviews later (much later) for a Musketeer Media month, but only after the series is done and people have had a chance to watch it because as you all know by now, I spoil EVERYTHING when I flail.

Meanwhile, for a change of pace, I give you Dana D’Artagnan texting boys, flirting with girls and going to parties. Don’t blame me, it’s all there in the original story!

OK maybe Dumas didn’t include the part about texting boys.

Happy birthday to my darling daughter. Raeli is 10 years old today and thus any future references to her rolling her eyes at my Musketeer obsession (she does this a lot) or squeeing about Robotech will refer to her as Ms10. MY GIRL SO GROWN UP OMG.

linebreak

Start reading Musketeer Space from Part 1
Missed the last installment? Track back to Part 34
Read “Seven Days of Joyeux,” a festive Musketeer Space prequel.
Main Page & Table of Contents

PREVIOUSLY IN MUSKETEER SPACE: Dana D’Artagnan and Milord De Winter have been circling each other for months now. She’s pretty sure Milord kidnapped that boy she likes, and she recently fought a duel with his protective sister-in-law. Also, he might be an agent working against the Crown. If only Dana was a real Musketeer, she could probably come up with a better plan to get Milord’s attention and find Conrad Su, but you work with the resources you have. As always, Dana’s best resources are her friends…

NOW READ ON!

musketeerspace_banner

This chapter is dedicated to new Patreon supporter Mihaela Marija Perkovic – thank you so much for your support!

Chapter 35: Is it Love or Just Paris?

“They grow up so fast,” sighed Aramis, looking at Dana’s reflection in the full-length mirror.

Despite the frock incident of the previous night, Dana had thrown herself on Aramis’ mercy on the grounds that if anyone knew how to dress for a seduction, it was her.

“Let me get this straight,” said Porthos, who was sprawled on Aramis’ couch with her feet securely on Athos’ lap. “You got in a fist fight with this Countess of Clarick yesterday, we fought a duel with she and her friends this morning, and now you have a hot date with her and her brother?”

“Brother-in-law,” Dana corrected, staring at her own image. Aramis had taken the ‘God, no more dresses’ plea to heart, and dressed Dana in a sweeping black tunic with a neckline that could only be described as ‘dramatic,’ and figure-hugging bronze trousers. She looked surprisingly glamorous, once she managed to relax her shoulders.

Since she wasn’t hiding her identity as such, she wore a metal tag with a fleur-de-lis stamped on it on a chain around her neck instead of any more pretty and society-styled jewellery. Treville had sent it around that morning – flying the Musketeer troop carrier, Dana was entitled to a tag and a blue flight uniform, though not the jacket yet.

So close to being a real Musketeer. She would take it. She would take whatever she could get.

“I’m impressed,” said Porthos, eyeing Dana’s appearance and handing over the appropriate shade of lipstick. “I was a Musketeer for at least two years before I started setting up my own honey traps.”

“It’s not a honey trap,” Dana said hotly.

“So you’re not planning to seduce this Milord to find out what he knows about the missing Conrad?”

Dana scowled. “It might be slightly a honey trap. Only, don’t call it that. Ever.”

“I disapprove,” Athos volunteered from his position on the couch.

“No one asked you,” said Aramis. She encircled Dana’s neck with a necklace of bronze spirals. “This looks amazing. He won’t be able to resist you.”

“Not sure you should be going in without backup, though,” Porthos said thoughtfully. “A fake date would make you look less eager, and could help with extraction if it all goes pear-shaped. You could take Athos.”

Dana and Athos exchanged appalled looks. “No,” they both decided in unison. “Just – no.”

“I’ll be fine,” Dana added. The thought of trying to flirt with Milord while any of her Musketeer friends were in earshot was basically horrible.

Athos pushed Porthos’ feet aside and came over to look at Dana. He folded his arms at her. “You’re sure this is a good idea, D’Artagnan?”

She lifted her chin defiantly at him. “Not all problems can be solved with wine and swords, you know.”

“That shows a distinct lack of imagination on your part,” he replied. “Is he pretty, this minister assassin kidnapper person?”

“A bit,” she admitted reluctantly.

“Pretty people are very untrustworthy. Just look at Aramis.”

“Hey!” Aramis protested.

“And pretty men who talk politics are the worst of all,” he went on. “I told you that story already and it didn’t end well for me.”

“You’re not actually trying to give me romantic advice, are you, Athos?” Dana asked in a very small voice.

There was that appalled expression again. “God, no. I’m going to stop talking now. Have a good night. Don’t do anything Porthos would do.”

“HEY!” Porthos protested, but then paused in reflection. “No, that’s fair enough, actually.”

linebreak

So this was awkward. The gathering to which Dana had been invited included not only Milord Vaniel De Winter, who had his nose in a tablet in a far corner of the room, but also that morning’s duellists: Lady Maure, the Earl of Doncaster, and a cranky, media-patched “Baron” Sheffield who remembered nothing about the duel at all but remained deeply unhappy about the whole thing.

In retrospect, Dana should have brought Porthos, if only because she and Doncaster had bonded over trying to wound each other in the most grandstanding way possible, and that could only translate to dinner party gold.

To Dana’s surprise, Bee and Vaniel were not staying in Paris Satellite accommodation at all, but in a dagger-class scout ship called the Matagot. It looked like a plain black raven ship from the outside – for security purposes, Bee claimed, but inside was as beautifully furnished as a royal apartment.

Dana was shown into a parlour – what kind of spaceship had a freaking parlour – by Miss Columbina (call me Kitty!), Milord’s very pretty personal assistant. She had hair that fell in soft purple curls around her round face, and wore a dress that consisted mostly of silk butterflies.

“How do you know the family?” she asked as she guided Dana through to the others.

“Oh, I met Vaniel on a train, and then this morning I fought a duel with Bee and three of her friends,” Dana said lightly, hoping to see Kitty’s eyes widen in surprise.

Instead, the other woman laughed. “I think that’s the tamest way they’ve ever befriended a new companion before. No bear-wrestling, or pirates? For shame.”

“I suppose you see a lot, with the De Winters as your employers,” said Dana, wondering if this girl might be a useful resource.

“You’re certainly going to have to try harder if you want to shock me,” said Kitty, and she gave Dana a look which suggested she rather wanted her to try. “Let me get you a glass of champagne, Captain D’Artagnan…”

“I’m not – “ Dana started to say, because she definitely wasn’t a captain, was going to be lucky to fly co-pilot when they shipped out on campaign, but Kitty had already flitted away towards the bar before Dana could wrap her mouth around the words ‘Arms-Sergeant’.

“Dana.” Bee greeted her warmly, with a hint of humour in her eyes. Dana had a suspicion that she was at least partly going along with this whole ‘set up Vaniel and Dana’ game out of mischief, rather than any genuine interest.

On the other hand, it wasn’t like Dana was in it for genuine reasons either.

As it turned out, flirting at this gathering was not the difficult part; any and all of the De Winters’ guests were more than happy to flirt with the mysterious Musketeer who was dressed to kill. But Vaniel De Winter was obviously participating in the evening under sufferance, and showed no specific interest in getting to know Dana better.

So much for a honey trap.

Half an hour in, and Dana had entirely failed to be alluring and intriguing and all those other things that had seemed like good ideas at the time. She had exchanged exactly three sentences with Milord, each polite and not especially interesting.

“You look you want to run out of here,” said a soft, amused voice near her ear.

Dana turned and saw Kitty the assistant, standing very close to her. She smiled in what she hoped was a welcoming way. “I don’t do well at these sorts of things,” she admitted.

The other girl smiled at her. She had glitter in her lipgloss, Dana noticed. “Want the grand tour?”

This, this could be useful. “Absolutely!” Dana said.

linebreak

There was no spaceship more alluring or attractive than a musket-class dart. Dana was steadfast and loyal about that sort of thing. Okay, so she had been slightly turned on by the Moth fighter, but she was only human. No one could be expected to kick a Moth fighter out of bed.

Matagot was a raven-class scout, and there was nothing remotely sexy about them, most of the time. Dana had hated the idea of flying one of these when she was considering (not really considering) possible job options outside the Royal Fleet.

But, she had to admit… this particular raven-class scout might be the exception to her rule. Never mind all the glamorous decor, and the gym that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Paris Satellite rec hub. It was the cockpit that interested her, and the engine itself.

Miss Kitty Columbina had to duck back to the party for a moment or two, to check that the champagne levels were still flowing, or whatever, and Dana dropped herself lightly into the flight seat at the helm. The entire console had been tricked out and customised, by the looks of it. No way the standard design for ravens involved this much chrome.

Something beeped.

Dana lifted her hands in the air quickly, hoping she hadn’t set off any security alarms. The beep sounded again, and then again.

She realised that it was coming from the beaded evening bag that Aramis had pressed on her, because apparently taking a military issue pack to a cocktail party was inappropriate.

There shouldn’t be much in the tiny bag – lipstick, basically, which Dana had only accepted under sufferance. But then she remembered the tiny ornamental clamshell that she had been carrying around with her since the Marquise de Wardes passed it to her in the Hotel Coquenard Bathroom.

She opened it slowly, checking that the camera setting was not on. It wasn’t an incoming call, but a text. The words Have you given any further thought to my suggestion? hung on the screen, waiting for her attention.

Dana froze for a moment. What did Milord think he was doing? Why ignore her at a party only to – oh. Except, of course, he didn’t know that she had the clamshell. He had given it to the Marquise.

As she stared at it, a second text came in.

I believe I can tempt you, if you let me.

Dana hesitated, then summoned up what she remembered of the way the Marquise spoke, to reply:

I think I would prefer it if you were after me for my looks. One gets so tired of being a political pin-up.

Who says I’m not interested in everything you have to offer?

Why, Milord De Winter. That was almost smooth. You’re losing your touch.

Perhaps you make me nervous in person.

I refuse to believe you’ve ever been nervous about anything in your life. That would require you to stop thinking about work for ten minutes, at least.

I’ll have you know I spent fifteen minutes yesterday ignoring work altogether. Of course, I was asleep at the time…

He sleeps. Not an android replica, then?

Sorry to disappoint.

Don’t mind crushing my dreams. I’ve always wanted to flirt with an android.

My sister-in-law is hosting a gathering on our ship tonight. I don’t suppose you’d care to run away from whatever boring occasion you are stuck at, and join us instead?

How do you know I’m stuck anywhere?

You’re finally talking to me.

I can’t get away.

But you’re tempted, perhaps?

I refuse to admit anything. Go back to your party guests, Milord. Find someone to flirt with in person. I hear that practise makes perfect.

If I do, will you be jealous?

Dana smiled to herself, and then typed in – Desperately.

There she was, then. Dana had successfully carried out a flirtation with Milord De Winter, under the wrong identity, and not face to face. It still counted as a win, right?

She had no idea whether this false correspondence would turn out to be remotely useful, but she had to hope it was a crack in Milord De Winter’s otherwise perfect armour.

Dana returned to the parlour where the party was going on, and caught sight of Kitty who waved apologetically to her from behind the world’s largest tray of hors d’oeuvres. Obviously she had been caught slacking and put to work.

“I’ve been neglecting you, Dana,” said a man behind her.

Dana’s body betrayed her with a hum of excitement in response to that voice. “Milord De Winter. You’re not neglecting me any more than the rest of us.” She smirked at him, thinking of his complaints to the imaginary Marquise. “On a scale of 1 to 10, exactly how much do you hate parties?”

He smiled at that, then rubbed slightly at his messy brown hair, looking just like the distracted political obsessive she had enjoyed speaking with on the train. “All the numbers,” he confessed.

She shouldn’t like him – shouldn’t enjoy this chance to make a connection with him all over again. He was the enemy. Wasn’t he? Dana was almost certain that he was the enemy. It really wasn’t fair for the enemy to be this adorable.

“You’re sharp,” he said, sounding surprised about it.

“I do my best. And I also – really hate parties,” she admitted.

“I’m sure Miss Alix Charlemagne simply adored parties.”

“Yes, but I didn’t convince as her for long, did I?” Dana said dryly.

There was interest in his eyes, though she wasn’t at all sure it was romantic interest. He kept looking at her like he wanted to see what was inside her brain, and it made her shiver in a not-entirely-good way.

“I’m not sure why I bother talking to you,” he said after a moment. “You’re far too young to have anything intelligent to say, and you don’t know anyone worthwhile.”

Dana blinked very slowly at him, and then smiled. “Must be my natural charm. Or you have a thing for sarcastic people.”

That made him laugh. It was a strangely bitter sound, his laugh. “Do you want to come to dinner with me one night soon?” he asked.

“Sooner rather than later,” she said. “I’m not sure when we’re shipping out, but it won’t be long.”
He raised his eyebrows. “The Siege of Truth?”

“I presume so, but I’m just driving the truck so I’ll probably be the last to know.” Dana pinched her lips together. “Why do you want us to have dinner? If it’s just to insult me some more, I already have friends who can do that.”

Milord gave her a wicked smile which didn’t fit his usual baffled political expert persona at all. “I want to make someone else jealous.”

Dana glared at him. “That is so unflattering I can’t even tell you.” Was he messing with her now? The sudden thought that he might want to make the Marquise jealous burst into her head and it was all she could do not to crack up laughing. “Yes, fine. I have no shame when it comes to someone else buying dinner.”

“Excellent,” Milord said, and leaned in to kiss her lightly on the cheek. “This is going to be interesting,” he promised.

This close to her, his presence was overwhelming, and how embarrassing was it that she was this attracted to someone who had probably kidnapped the man she kissed on a semi-regular basis?

The sooner Dana was sent off to war, the better. She shouldn’t be allowed out in public on her own.

musketeerspace_banner

You have been reading Musketeer Space, by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Tune in next week for another chapter! Please comment, share and link. Musketeer Space is free to read, but if you’d like to support the project for as little as $1 per month, please visit my Patreon page. Pledges can earn rewards such as ebooks, extra content, dedications and the naming of spaceships. Milestones already unlocked include the Musketeer Media Monday posts, the Robotech Rewatch posts, and “Seven Days of Joyeux,” a special Christmas prequel novella which was released in December 2015. My next funding milestone ($300 a month) will unlock GORGEOUS COVER ART.

Read Next Chapter

Patron button