Home > Heartless(12)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Mary Ann half curtsied again. ‘Of course, sir. You’re welcome to enjoy as much as you like. Is there anything else I can bring you?’

‘No.’ He claimed another truffle, and hardly seemed to chew before swallowing.

Hiding in his shadow, Lady Peter watched the truffle travel down her husband’s throat and turned green before casting hesitant eyes up at Mary Ann. ‘Might you’ – she stammered, her voice barely a whisper – ‘have any pumpkin pasties? We sold some pumpkins to the royal pastry chefs yestermorn and heard tell they would be making them for the ball, but I haven’t—’

‘You don’t be needing no more pumpkin!’ her husband barked, spittle flying from his mouth and landing on the tray of truffles. Cath and Mary Ann both grimaced. ‘You’ve had plenty enough already.’

Lady Peter shied away.

Clearing her throat, Cath edged in between Peter Peter and the truffles. ‘Mary Ann, why don’t you go see if the Knave would like to sample the caramels? He’s so fond of sweets.’

She felt Mary Ann’s sigh of relief before she retreated with the tray.

Catherine curtsied. ‘I am Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove. I’m told you were recently granted a knighthood?’

His eyes darkened beneath his prickly red eyebrows. ‘Suppose we were.’

‘And this must be your wife. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Peter.’

The woman’s shoulders hunched against her ears. Rather than curtsy or smile, she shrank away from the introduction and took to scanning the contents of the feasting table again, though Cath thought she saw her gag at the sight of all the food.

Catherine clung helplessly to her manners. ‘Are you well, Lady Peter? I’m afraid you’re looking a little pale, and it is so warm in here. Would you like to accompany me for a turn around the balcony?’

‘She’s well enough,’ Peter snapped. Catherine took half a step back, startled at his vehemence. ‘Just been eatin’ some bad pumpkin of late, like she don’t know better.’

‘I see,’ Catherine said, though she didn’t. ‘Congratulations on your win at the pumpkin-eating contest, Lady Peter. You must have eaten quite a lot. I’ve been longing to make a pumpkin pie lately, myself.’

Peter spent a moment picking at his teeth with his nail and Catherine backed away again, having the peculiar sensation that he was trying to figure out the best way to cook and eat her.

‘She eats ’em raw.’ He sounded proud of this fact. ‘You ever eaten raw pumpkin, Lady . . . Pinkerton?’

‘I can’t say that I have.’ She had made a few pumpkin pies and one pumpkin mousse in the past – the stringy pulp and slimy seeds that she’d had to scrape out before cooking the flesh had been less than appetizing. Glancing around Sir Peter, she asked his wife, ‘I can see how one might be feeling poorly after such a meal. It’s a shame you aren’t feeling well enough to partake in the King’s table.’

Lady Peter’s gaze flickered up and she whimpered before letting her head hang again. She looked moments away from being sick all over the astounding feast.

‘Are you sure you don’t want to sit down?’ Catherine asked.

Lady Peter responded meekly, ‘Are you sure there aren’t any pumpkin pasties lying about? I think I might feel a bit better, if only . . .’

‘See? No bother talking to her,’ said Peter. ‘Dumb as a pumpkin lantern she is.’

His wife tightened her arms around her waist.

Catherine’s anger burbled. For a moment she imagined him choking on one of those chocolate caramels, and how she and his wife would stand over him laughing, but her fantasy was interrupted by the Nine and Ten of Diamonds squeezing sideways in between them. ‘Do pardon me,’ the Nine said, reaching for a honey-drizzled fig.

Cath gladly took a step back.

‘These shindies always like this?’ Peter asked, snarling at the courtier’s back.

The Ten turned to him with a jovial smile and held up a glass of wine as if in salute. ‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘We used to keep standards.’

Cath blanched. The courtier was gone in an instant, leaving Peter with a flaming face and searing eyes. Cath forced a smile. ‘The courtiers can be a tad . . . uppity, sometimes. With strangers. I’m sure he meant no offence.’

‘I’m sure he did,’ said Peter, ‘and I’m sure he ain’t the only one.’ He stared at her for a long moment, before raising his hand and tipping his tattered hat. ‘Been a pleasure, milady.’

It was the first sign of manners he’d shown, and it was about as believable as the Duke of Tuskany claiming he could fly.

Sir Peter grabbed his wife by the elbow and pulled her away. Cath wasn’t sad to see them go.


CATHERINE ALLOWED HERSELF A HUFF. Sir Peter’s presence, combined with the strangling corset, had nearly suffocated her. ‘A right pleasure indeed.’

‘He’s a sore thumb, isn’t he?’

She turned and spotted a silver tray floating in the air above the table, overflowing with golden-crusted hand pies, neatly crimped on one edge.

‘Ah, hello again, Cheshire,’ said Catherine, filled with relief that she might have one encounter this evening that didn’t leave her weary and vexed. Though with Cheshire, it could go either way. ‘Are you supposed to be here?’

‘Not likely.’

The cat appeared with the tray resting on his tummy, his striped tail like a lounging chair beneath him. His head came last – ears, whiskers, nose, and finally his enormous toothy grin.

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