A brilliant new chapter in the Novels of the Golden City.
Even as the branches of peace are being offered, there are some who still believe those who are not human should be used as chattel. And they are willing to go to great lengths to retain their power.
Newlywed siren Oriana Paredes has been appointed Ambassador to her home islands now that communication between Northern Portugual and the magical races has been restored. But convincing her people that the new Portuguese Prince’s intentions are honorable after years of persecution is difficult. And her husband, Duilio, faces his own obstacles among the sirens where males are a rare and valuable commodity with few rights.
In addition to their diplomatic mission, the two hope to uncover the truth behind Oriana's mother's death. Evidence suggests that Spain—a country that has been known to enslave magical beings—may have infiltrated the siren authority. Unable to leave their post, Oriana and Duilio must call on Inspector Joaquim Tavares to root out the truth.
But even his seer’s gift cannot prepare him for what he will discover.
Release date: July 7, 2015
Print pages: 400
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The Shores of Spain
J. Kathleen Cheney
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF J. KATHLEEN CHENEY
BOOKS BY J. KATHLEEN CHENEY
WEDNESDAY, 15 APRIL 1903; THE GOLDEN CITY
Marina Arenias curled up in one of the upholstered chairs in the front sitting room of the Ferreira home, the room in the house with the best light even now, past sunset. She had no idea how long it would be before Joaquim returned to escort her back to her flat on Virtudes Street. After dinner, he’d retreated with her father to the Ferreira library, where they would probably debate history and philosophy long into the night. She hoped he didn’t forget about her.
The letter she held came from her sister, Oriana, the new Portuguese ambassador to the Ilhas das Sereias. Oriana and her husband had been there for almost three months now, and Marina missed her sister sorely. She wished she could go to Oriana for advice at times . . . although she would probably just ignore whatever Oriana recommended.
Smiling ruefully at that thought, Marina popped open the wax seal and settled her rump more firmly in the comfortable chair.
Dearest Marina, the letter began.
She imagined it in Oriana’s voice, which made her feel young and meek. Oriana had always been the bold one, always jumping to Marina’s defense. Marina had never had that sort of nerve.
Duilio and I will be leaving Quitos soon to visit Grandmother on Amado. I know you wish you could be here with us.
In some ways, Marina did wish she could be there. She’d spent her first twelve years in that house on the beach beyond the town of Porto Novo, and they’d been happy ones. Her mother, contrary to custom, had chosen to live with her mate’s family rather than the other way around. Her own family, the Paredes line, hadn’t approved of her choice of mate. Not only was Marina’s father educated, but he was also a practicing Christian, both qualities her mother’s traditional family deplored. It had been an unconventional relationship, yet her parents had seemed quite happy together.
Her mother died when Marina was eight, while away investigating something for the Ministry of Intelligence. The world had seemed bleak after that, but Marina had bounced back with the resilience of a child. She’d had her father and grandmother to console her, and Oriana looked out for her in their mother’s stead. Life went on. Marina hadn’t understood until years later what a toll the loss of their mother had taken on Oriana.
I will relay your affections to Grandmother, the letter continued, and will write once we’re there to tell you everything that’s changed. I’ll probably see some of your childhood friends while there, and will relay any messages they have for you.
Oriana didn’t mention her own childhood friends because she hadn’t had many. Not that she wasn’t friendly—she simply hadn’t had time for friends. After their mother’s death, Oriana had taken it on herself to make certain that Marina kept up with her schooling, even though Oriana had only been twelve. Because Marina was small and meek, other girls teased her, calling her webless and other names. Oriana had always come to her defense.
The true turning point in their lives had come when their mother’s eldest sister, Jovita Paredes, requested that the girls visit the main island of Quitos to get to know their mother’s family. Despite his misgivings, their father gave in, but once they were there, everything had gone wrong. Their father had been accused of sedition, jailed, and exiled without even a chance to speak with his daughters. Effectively orphaned, Marina and Oriana became wards of the state. They had to live with two of their aunts and their spoiled cousins, forbidden to return to their grandmother’s home on Amado.
Marina hated her life there. Her aunts found fault with everything she did. Worse, they forbade her to practice her religion; Christianity wasn’t allowed on Quitos. Oriana tried to protect her from her aunts’ venom and her cousins’ ridicule, but Oriana couldn’t always be there, particularly not after she took a job at a factory. She’d wanted to save money so that when Marina came of age they could move out of their aunts’ household, perhaps even back to Amado.
That was why Marina lived in Portugal now. By the time she was eighteen she’d grown so frustrated with her mother’s family that she decided to run away to find her exiled father. Marina had scraped together every last royal she had to cross to Amado on a ferry. She waited until Oriana was away, thinking her aunts wouldn’t hold Oriana at fault. Once on Amado she hadn’t contacted her grandmother for fear of getting her in trouble. Instead, Marina begged captains of the various human ships to take her to Portugal to find her father, offering to work for her passage. She hadn’t understood then what manner of trouble she could have found herself in. But God had been merciful, and an English captain felt moved by her obvious distress to let her work in his ship’s kitchen until the ship reached Portugal.
Marina sighed softly. The only daring thing I’ve ever done in my life.
It had all worked out for her. She liked Portugal. She fit in far better here than she ever had at home. Here she wasn’t expected to be a leader or politician or spy. She wasn’t sure what she did want to do with her life, but it wasn’t one of those professions—the careers considered acceptable for females from her family line. Here in Portugal she had choices.
Back on the islands she wouldn’t have been likely to attract a mate either. She didn’t have the money to support a male, nor did her lineage make a match advantageous for a male’s family. In Portugal, though, she’d found a male who very much suited her tastes—Joaquim Tavares. So no matter how much she’d missed her sister and grandmother, she was very happy to be in Portugal with her father.
She turned her eyes back to the letter. Oriana went on to tell an amusing story about visiting a street market in the capital city of Praia Norte with Duilio. Apparently the guards hadn’t noted the approach of an old woman who, curious about the human man in the marketplace, managed to snatch off his pareu, leaving Duilio wearing nothing more than a revolver strapped to his thigh.
Marina clapped her hand over her mouth to keep from giggling aloud.
She shouldn’t laugh. It would have been mortifying to Duilio, especially since etiquette forbade him to demand his garment back. Instead he’d had to wait for Oriana to retrieve the pareu from the old woman. The embassy guards should have prevented the incident, but they’d made the mistake of assuming a woman was harmless because she was elderly.
A soft cough sounded at the sitting room’s doorway, alerting Marina to Lady Ferreira’s return. The lady had gone down to the kitchens to discuss something with the cook—likely a flimsy excuse to allow Marina privacy to read her letter.
“Lady, did Oriana write to you about the . . . um . . . incident in the market?”
Lady Ferreira laughed merrily as she approached. “Certainly. An amusing tale, but not one that needs to be spread about here in the Golden City.”
The lady settled gracefully in the matching chair on the other side of the window, the deep brown fabric of her gown glistening in the lamplight. To ward off the chill coming off the window glass, she adjusted her ivory shawl around her shoulders. Marina reminded herself firmly not to covet the thing. It looked to be of silk and cashmere—or perhaps wool—with intricate embroidery all along the edges. It had likely cost more than all of Marina’s current garments combined. Marina’s father, with his successful business in the city, was well-to-do. Her father’s wife, Lady Alma Pereira de Santos, had managed to turn her own limited funds into a comfortable fortune. The Ferreiras were, by comparison, shockingly wealthy.
“Is your father still talking with Joaquim?” Lady Ferreira asked once she was comfortable.
“Yes, although I’ve no clue what they’re talking about,” Marina said, a hint of vexation creeping into her voice.
Lady Ferreira chuckled. “Perhaps they’re discussing you.”
Marina shook her head. “I’m sure it’s politics.”
Lady Ferreira gazed at her for a moment, her warm brown eyes sympathetic. “Young men have their passions,” she said.
Marina felt childish and petulant now. “I know. The referendum is very important to him, and I do understand why.”
Joaquim had a revolutionary streak. He believed in the equality of all peoples regardless of kind, religion, or birth. He regularly conferred with Prince Raimundo—they’d become unlikely friends over the past six months. Despite the prince’s station, Marina was sure that Joaquim treated him no differently than he would a fellow police officer, a beggar chance-met on the street, or a pagan sereia whose child had been murdered. That was one of the things she loved about him.
The upcoming referendum would determine whether the princedoms of Northern Portugal and Southern Portugal would once again be one country. Not only would reunification mean one monarchy, one government, and one military; it would also trigger the drafting of a new constitution, a chance for the new country to redefine itself, perhaps into a more republican mode. That was the outcome Joaquim prayed for. Unfortunately, Marina wouldn’t be voting in that referendum. No woman in the Portugals would.
As important as it was, Marina wanted Joaquim to spend less time worrying over the future of the government and more time thinking about their future. “I wish it was over so we could all move on with our lives.”
Lady Ferreira didn’t disagree with that. “Dear, Joaquim only acts when he is ready, you know. He was always the most stubborn of my boys.”
Marina blinked. Had she spoken her worries aloud? Too often they showed on her face, she knew. “But what about when I . . .”
She stopped herself. It was one of the truths of living in the human world, another thing that was different from her homeland. There, she would have been the one to court Joaquim. If she’d had her way, their courtship would have progressed much more quickly. Oriana had courted Duilio less than a week before taking him as her mate, while Joaquim had been courting Marina for six months now and had done nothing more forward than hold her hand. Engagements in Portugal sometimes lasted two or three years, she’d heard.
Lady Ferreira’s fingers touched her cheek. “Dear, give him time. Consider him a pearl of great value, one worth selling all you have to possess.”
What is wrong with wanting to possess the pearl now? Marina sighed. “I know, lady.”
Lady Ferreira waved one hand airily then. “He would be pleased that I even know that parable.”
Actually, Marina was a little surprised herself. Lady Ferreira’s adherence to the Church was nominal at best. Like Marina, the lady wasn’t human; she was a selkie. Unlike most of her kind, though, the lady had been raised among humans and must have been exposed to that parable in her childhood. She sometimes professed it a mystery how Joaquim had grown up so religious. Of all the boys from the Ferreira household, Joaquim was the only devout one.
Marina understood how different influences in life could affect one’s beliefs. Although her own grandmother and father were Christians, her older sister—Oriana—had chosen the religion of their mother. Since Oriana’s husband, Joaquim’s cousin Duilio, wasn’t terribly devout, he hadn’t minded taking a pagan to wife. Joaquim, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been able to accept that. Fortunately, Marina held to her father’s religion, despite pressure from her mother’s family to deny her chosen faith. She’d only learned later that the Christianity practiced on the islands was different than that of Portugal, shifted to better suit the culture of the sereia, with greater emphasis placed on the Virgin as the instrument of God and intercessor.
Marina folded up the letter. The rest of it could wait. “I will tell him we were discussing it,”
The lady turned in her chair to face Marina more directly then. “I confess I did come in here with an ulterior motive. I wanted to see whether you could influence Joaquim.”
Oh dear. “To what?” she asked cautiously.
“With Duilio and Oriana gone, when I marry, this house will stand empty. I would prefer that Joaquim move into the house, but I cannot get him to agree.”
“Will you and Joaquim’s father not move in here?” Marina had assumed that when Lady Ferreira married, she and Joaquim’s father would move into this house. The Tavares house was much smaller than the Ferreira one.
“He wants to stay closer to his business,” Lady Ferreira said, “and since I’ve never been particularly attached to this place, I don’t feel any need to stay. This was Alexandre’s house. Never mine.”
Alexandre Ferreira had been dead two years or so. Some members of society had been scandalized when Lady Ferreira suddenly dropped her mourning six months before. Still, it was considered appropriate for a woman to leave off her mourning if she intended to remarry. It hadn’t taken long before it became clear that Lady Ferreira planned to wed her first husband’s cousin—Joaquim’s father—who’d been a widower for decades.
Marina surveyed the elegant sitting room, its sofa and chairs in ivory and beige, the fine carpet under that, the silver-framed photographs on the mantel. “But you’ve worked so hard to make it beautiful.”
Lady Ferreira laughed shortly. “Things, dear. I purchased things. They are not my children.”
Marina licked her lips, trying to see this as Joaquim would. He might have lived in this house for eight years, but he was only a cousin of the Ferreira family. “I suspect Joaquim would feel like an interloper, like he has no business living here. The house should belong to Mr. Ferreira, shouldn’t it? Not a cousin.”
Lady Ferreira’s head tilted and she gazed inscrutably at Marina.
Marina swallowed, feeling as though she’d failed some test. She didn’t know what the lady had expected her to say, but her answer hadn’t been the correct one.
“Duilio will be away for a couple of years at a minimum. Joaquim could act as . . . a caretaker,” the lady suggested.
That was not what she’d originally meant, Marina was certain. Lady Ferreira had been saying that Joaquim should move into the house permanently. “I can talk to him, I suppose,” she said after a moment. “It would save him the cost of his rent if he did.”
She had only been to Joaquim’s flat once, in the company of Oriana and Duilio; Joaquim’s landlady would be scandalized if an unmarried woman went up there alone. It was a cozy place, nearly as shabby as her own, but full of Joaquim’s books and possessing a masculine feel she’d found quite charming. It was his place, and it would be difficult for Joaquim to give it up.
He doesn’t like change.
Masculine voices sounded in the hallway and, before Lady Ferreira could add more, Joaquim stood in the doorway, Marina’s father behind him.
Tall and lean, and with dark hair going gray at the temples, her father had a distinguished air. He looked very much the Portuguese gentleman in his elegant evening attire. Most people would never guess he wasn’t human. “Marina, darling,” he began, coming to kiss her cheek in farewell when she rose. “I’m sorry we didn’t get much of a chance to chat. Shall we talk in the morning?”
Since she worked for him in his office, it was a rhetorical question. “Yes, Father. Please tell your wife I hope she feels better in the morning.”
Lady Pereira de Santos had left the Ferreira house not long after dinner, claiming a need for rest. That had been a common occurrence lately; the lady was pregnant. It would be a strange thing to have a half brother or sister, particularly one so much younger than herself, but Marina enjoyed the prospect of watching her so-serious father chase after a toddler.
“I will do so,” her father promised, and then took his leave of Lady Ferreira before departing.
Joaquim came to Marina’s side then, holding out one arm for her to take. She’d thought him terribly handsome from the moment she met him. He was tall and strong, with straight dark hair and brown eyes that hinted at his mother’s Spanish blood, a square jaw that betokened firmness of purpose, and a wide brow that spoke of wisdom. Well, she hadn’t known all those things about him from her first glance, but it hadn’t taken long to learn his true character.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked. “Your father and I talked longer than I realized.”
A lock of Joaquim’s hair had fallen across his forehead, and Marina’s fingers itched to push it back into place. “No need to worry,” she assured him. “Lady Ferreira and I were chatting.”
Reminded of his foster mother’s presence in the room, Joaquim kissed the lady’s cheeks before bidding her good night, and Marina followed suit. Then they made their way out of the house, pausing at the entryway so Marina could wrap her plain black shawl about her shoulders to keep at bay the chill of the early spring evening.
“So, what were you discussing?” Joaquim asked once they were walking along the Street of Flowers. The traffic on the street slowed once the sun went down, so the walkways weren’t crowded, although the tram continued its circuit up toward the palace on its high hill.
Marina glanced at Joaquim’s face as they passed under one of the streetlights, trying to decide where to start with the issue of the house. “Pearls.”
She could use her call on him, her feeble version of sereia magic. Lady Ferreira knew that, and she wondered if that was what the lady expected—for Marina to convince Joaquim by influencing him magically. He would hate that I used my gift to sway him.
And he might never trust her again.
No, she decided. Joaquim would move into that house when he was ready. It would not be because Marina Arenias coerced him into it.
“Do you like pearls?” he asked as they paused at a corner to let a carriage rattle past.
So Marina walked on, one gloved hand on Joaquim’s dark sleeve, telling him all about her favorite pair of gold and pearl combs back on the islands, a pair her mother had once owned. She completely forgot to ask Joaquim about his conversation with her father.
THURSDAY, 16 APRIL 1903; ILHASDAS SEREIAS
The ferry belched out steam as it made its passage between the islands of Quitos and Amado. Judging by words stamped on the side of the hull, Duilio guessed it had come from England, brought here to the islands of the sereia through a series of arcane trades. Most of the newer machinery he’d seen on the islands was of English origin, where once it would have been predominantly Portuguese. Normally he would be the first one poking around and asking questions of the ship’s captain, but it wasn’t his place to do so. Not here.
Here it was the man’s place to be quiet. To be seen but not to do.
Oriana had warned him of that, as had her father, but Duilio hadn’t grasped how pervasive that attitude was until he’d been on the main island of Quitos for a couple of weeks. It was the most traditional of the islands of the sereia, and as a male he had almost no rights—a shocking change for a Portuguese gentleman of wealth and social standing.
They’d spent the last three months there, in the sereia capital of Praia Norte, persuading the local government to accept Oriana as the Portuguese ambassador. The islands hadn’t hosted an ambassador from either Northern or Southern Portugal for almost two decades, and most trade between the two peoples had died out. The embassy’s primary charge here was to resurrect that trade, a problematic mission given the lingering lack of trust between the two peoples.
Oriana currently stood with her back against the wall of the ferry’s cabin, the remainder of the ambassadorial entourage taking up the aft of the upper deck. She wore a pensive expression as she watched the island of Quitos grow more and more distant, her full lips pressed together and her arms folded over her chest. Her burgundy-highlighted hair had been pinned into a coronet of braids, but the two combs emerging from that crown were actually slender knives, a concession to the danger in which she’d stood since their arrival here. The tension in her shoulders had eased once they reached open waters, but hadn’t fled completely.
The four guards accompanying them kept anxious watch on the other travelers crowding the ferry’s upper deck, but the curious passengers seemed willing to keep their distance. Judging by their fine garb and glossy hair, Duilio guessed that most of the sereia he saw there traveled between the two largest islands for reasons of business. A few, like Oriana, wore a vest as well as the pareu, and one elderly woman had on a fine jacket with elaborate blue and yellow embroidery down the plackets. Even so, the majority of the passengers, all female save for a handful of children, only wore the pareu—little more than a length of fabric wrapped about their waists.
Fortunately, the embassy guards were well trained not to stare at the display of bared skin. Their Portuguese uniforms seemed extravagant by comparison to the local mode of dress. The brass-buttoned blue jackets with braid across the chest and lighter blue trousers with a red stripe down each side looked starchy and unapproachable—as did their rifles and sabers. But since they represented the governments of the two Portugals here, the standards of the army must be upheld, even when the locals dressed far less formally.
Duilio glanced down at his bare feet ruefully. His situation was different. He’d agreed to adopt native garb to show that the Portuguese took the customs of the sereia seriously. No one ever mistook him for a sereia male, of course. He lacked gill slits on his neck and webbing between his fingers, both traits that gave the sereia advantages in the water. And his feet were unmistakably human. The sereia had coloring on the lower halves of their bodies that mimicked the scales of a fish—a tuna, actually—so anyone looking downward would immediately know he wasn’t native to these islands.
He’d adapted quickly to wearing the pareu, though, a stark change for someone accustomed to the habitual multilayered dress of a Portuguese gentleman. Despite the afternoon sunshine, a chill came off the water today, so he also wore a black linen vest, the open front embroidered in gold along the edges. It covered most of the Paredes tattoo that ran from over his heart to his left shoulder, but enough of that could be seen to guarantee that any sereia would know he was claimed. Bangles clattered about his ankles, he wore bands of rose gold around his upper arms, and his hair hadn’t been properly cut in half a year now. It hung on his neck in curls. If his old valet, Marcellin, were here, the man would have had an apoplectic fit. It pleased Oriana, though, so Duilio put up with the peculiar attire and overlong hair.
Even so, there were times he honestly missed wearing trousers. He didn’t miss his valet frittering on about every wrinkle and speck of dust, but he missed trousers.
Oriana came around to the side of the ferry to join him. She touched his arm, her gold bangles clattering, and gestured toward the shores of Amado. “My grandmother’s house is on that beach.”
Duilio followed her finger. Amado was a volcanic island, reminding him greatly of Madeira, the only one of his people’s islands he’d visited. A ridge of mountains formed the island’s spine, covered in forest save for the jagged peaks. He could, however, see a narrow strip of sand where Oriana pointed, dotted with a handful of white-plastered houses. They didn’t look much different from houses on some of the beaches along the Portuguese coast.
Amado, the so-called Portuguese island, also offered him a respite from the social strains of living on Quitos. Of all the six islands of the sereia, Amado was the most liberal. On Amado males were allowed to be educated, speak out of turn on occasion, and even own property. He hoped their time here wouldn’t be as stressful as the last three months had been, either for him or their four remaining male guards.
Duilio shot a glance at Lieutenant Costa, who leaned against the ferry’s white-painted rail. He worried them the most. The young man removed his shako to run a hand through his short blond hair, but quickly replaced it, cheeks flushing, when he noted one of the ferry’s sailors looking his way with an appreciative smile. Costa was healthy and handsome and not terribly clever—the worst sort of guard for them to have brought to these islands. Here males were in short supply, and sereia females could use their call to seduce a human male they found interesting. Because of his selkie blood, Duilio had some immunity to that magic, but the young lieutenant didn’t. According to his captain, Costa hadn’t slept well for the last few weeks, besieged by dreams. Oriana feared that a sereia had gotten to him, although the young man denied it. Duilio only hoped they could get Costa back to human shores before he gave in to some unknown sereia’s seduction.
In truth, on Quitos they’d endured a constant barrage of calling, and not just attempts at seduction. It wasn’t unusual for a sereia to call in the course of the day, much as any human woman might sing to herself back in Portugal. Happiness, sorrow, and vexation all tore at the men’s senses, although usually with a touch light enough for them to recognize that the impulses weren’t their own. Most sereia strove for politeness near the grounds of the various embassies, strung together along one street. Even so, there were always those who didn’t care, or those who wanted to cause chaos.
But Amado was less populated, and that would minimize the calling to which the men were exposed. Duilio hoped the passengers of this ferry were representative of the population of the island. So far their fellow travelers had refrained from calling altogether, despite the novelty of having humans to practice on.
By that point the ferry had passed the small secluded beach and now headed for the island’s main harbor, where rough stone breakwaters limited the waves. They slid the last distance into the first pier and rocked against the wooden pilings. An intrepid young sailor in a white pareu and vest—the same one who’d been admiring Costa—jumped over the water to the planks and wrapped the mooring line around a bollard. Then she jogged back toward the aft of the ferry to catch a second line, her bangles jangling.
Oriana moved to the railing to peer along the wooden planks toward the beach. Duilio joined her, laying one hand on the back of her vest. “Do you see her?”
Oriana lifted her chin toward the shore. “Yes, she’s there with that open carriage.” She added the hand sign for relief, and turned to her guards. “We’ll debark last.”
By now the men knew not to look to Duilio to corroborate Oriana’s orders; he might be her deputy, but she was the ambassador. So they patiently watched until the last of the ferry’s passengers straggled off the gangplank and onto the pier. Then it was their turn, two guards going ahead and two behind. The guards’ presence was more than just posturing, for today they would enter the perilous phase of their tenure as ambassadors, taking on their secondary mission.
Today they began the hunt to learn who’d murdered Oriana’s mother.
Grandmother Monteiro waited for them at the head of the pier. It had been almost five years since Oriana had seen her, but she hadn’t
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