Happy weekend! I’m in the midst of the fun craziness of the Merola Opera Program. There I I am above with Mélanie, off to an event tonight. But in an around I’m still finding time to write – both the new novella and new novel are moving forwards in some interesting directions.
Someone asked me recently if I end up cutting a lot from my books, and I don’t actually. I edit and prune, but it’s a bit surprising how most scenes end up staying in the book. But there are some that fall by the wayside here and there. I cut one scene from London Gambit, a not-quite-finished scene in which Suzanne goes to visit Sancho, a former comrade and fellow spy, about the Phoenix plot. In the end, Sancho is only alluded to in the book. I like him as a character and may return to him in a later book, but the scene itself didn’t do enough to drive the story forwards. Still, it’s fun to have a glimpse of Suzanne with one of her associates.
“Being an Englishwoman agrees with you.”
“I’ll never be an Englishwoman, though I am married to a British man.”
“You always played the great lady well.”
“Who is she?” the dark-haired woman demanded.
“Mélanie Lescaut. Juana Murez. The Marchese Monreal. And now Mrs. Something or other Rannoch. One of the best agents it’s ever been my privilege to work with.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, Sancho.”
The dark-haired woman was staring at Suzanne. “You’re an agent who married an English lord?”
“He doesn’t have a title and he’s actually Scots, but yes.”
“Didn’t think it would last when you married him,” Sancho said.
“Nor did I.”
“What the bloody hell are you doing in Seven Dials?” the dark-haired woman asked.
“Calling on an old friend.”
The dark-haired woman shot a look at Sancho. “You knew her well.”
“Oh, yes.” Sancho grinned. Then, when the dark-haired woman’s eyes narrowed, he took pit on her. “It’s all right, she wasn’t mine, she was O’Roarke’s.”
“I wasn’t any man’s,” Suzanne said. “But I was Raoul’s lover. Now I have a husband.”
“Just a husband?” Sancho raised his brows. “Sounds a bit dull,”
“You wouldn’t say so if you’d met Malcolm.”
Sancho inclined his head towards the dark-haired woman. “Meg Simpkins. She’s been very helpful to me in learning the lay of the land.”
“I’m glad you’ve landed on your feet.”
He shrugged. “We make do. I could say the same to you.”
Suzanne’s fingers tightened on the steel chain on her reticule. Even dressed in her plainest clothes, she was out of place in Seven Dials. “I’ve been more fortunate than most.”
“No sense in feeling guilty about it. Given the risks you’ve run I’d say you deserve it.” Sancho turned to Meg. “I need to talk to Mélanie in private for a bit, love.”
Meg opened her mouth to protest.
“Work, Meggie. You’re best out of it.”
“I don’t want to be out of it.”
“That I know full well. But some things need to remain secret.”
Meg flounced off, with a look over her shoulder at Suzanne.
“Minx,” Sancho muttered.
“I understand,” Suzanne said. “She only half believed your denials about our relationship, and now you’ve given her ammunition.”
“Can’t be helped. For her own sake the less she knows about it the better.”
“You remind me of my husband. It doesn’t go over at all well when he tries to protect me from things,”
“And does he know you’re here?”
“A palpable hit.”
“Meg’s got a kid. Four-year-old girl. Trying to keep her out of the business as much as possible.” Sancho pulled a chair over for Suzanne and regarded her for a moment. “Since you’ve taken the risk of coming here, I suspect you’ve seen Manon. Or someone else?”
“Manon. After an émigré agent who was shot on his way of France muttered something in delirium about the Phoenix.”
Sancho hook his foot round a stool to pull it closer and dropped down on it. “I read about you in the papers. O’Roarke says you’re happy. You look happy. You don’t want to be anywhere near this.”
“I don’t think I have much choice.”
Sancho grimaced. “One gets used to things. Not dodging sniper fire all the time. The demand was higher in the Peninsula. Easier to do business. But I confess there’s a lot in London I’ve come to quite like.”