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A Deal With the Devil
Mr. Jameson Loyle knew she wouldn’t accept straightaway. That fact was what made him grin so broadly as he greeted her with a gentle kiss on her gloved hand.
Mrs. Grey was no fool; as a philanthropist and history enthusiast, she had a good head on her shoulder. She would refuse at first.
He fully expected it, actually. If she didn’t, he would be sorely disappointed.
“Mrs. Grey, it’s an honor,” he bowed low, top hat hanging suspended between his thumb and index finger.
“Jameson, I expected you much sooner.” She bobbed her head in greeting, her blonde hair cascading over her shoulders like a waterfall, “what is this about? I was shocked to receive your letter. I’m hardly welcomed in society.”
“Men are fools,” he answered, standing straighter and handing his hat off to a servant, “and I’m the stupidest one yet.” His cat-like grin made the woman shift with unease.
“Yes. I saw as much in the papers, though people still respect you. A woman with ideas is not so lucky.” She shooed the servant aside, leading him into the house with a gentle swish of her ebony skirts.
She was still in mourning. Perfect.
“My condolences for your husband. I hear he was a great man.”
“Yes…” she paused, listening to some sort of phantom sound, “... my husband was a rare soul.”
“So I hear.”
She halted, the parlor only a few paces to her left, “Why are you here? When people are graced with your visit, they end up in ruins.”
He laughed cooly, adjusting the cuffs of his sleeves. His fingers were stained dark with ink; it had taken him hours to draw up such a contract. He felt drained but accomplished.
“Not today, Mrs. Grey. Not today.”
She studied him, her blue eyes flashing with intelligence. He was excited to outplay her; it would be a challenge. He relished in such things.
“To be perfectly honest, Mr. Jameson, I’m not too keen on you being here. I suggest you get it out with.”
He grinned again, canines flashing menacingly, while he swept his arms toward the parlor, “Shall we?”
“I shall remind you that this is my house, Mr. Jameson,” she said darkly as she crossed the threshold.
“Of course, of course.”
He followed after her.
“Now, tell me why you’ve come?” She sat down in a scarlet chair, her dark skirts pooling around it. “I don’t like to be kept waiting.”
Yes. It would be very fun to outsmart her.
“Well, I believe you are familiar with the legend of the Dark Ire?”
“Yes. I believe we all are,” she answered, “because it is just that; a legend.”
“So sure, are we?” He sat down across from her, looking very much like a cat about to pounce, “what if I told you it was real?”
Mrs. Grey scoffed, eyes void of humor, though, “You must be mad, Jameson.”
His face seemed to twist; he hated being laughed at, “But what if I’m not? You appreciate our history, Mrs. Grey, and the Dark Ire has floated throughout textbooks for years. The Greek sought after it, as did the Native Americans. For years, people have sought out its power.” His grin returned as he straightened his crimson tie, “and I know your husband was amongst them. He went to Greece after it, did he not?”
Mrs. Grey’s lips thinned into a pale line and she clasped her hands together in front of her, “My husband often went on wild goose chases. I never encouraged him.”
Jameson laughed, tilting his head back with a big guffaw, “Oh, Mrs. Grey,” he wiped away an imaginary tear. “You do tickle me pink!”
The woman stood suddenly, her back ramrod straight, “I think it is time you left, Jameson.”
He was about to protest, stuffing his hand inside his pocket to remove the contract, when a tinkle of a laugh made him stop mid-motion. He turned slightly to see a pretty brunette in a violet dress pass the door.
Jameson grinned, “I hear your daughter is more magnificent than Aphrodite herself.”
Mrs. Grey narrowed her honey eyes twinkling with calculation, “I said you should go.”
He waved her words aside and stepped closer, “Mrs. Grey, the artifact is priceless and I know your husband would take the chance in a heartbeat. You’re hesitating. But why?” He started circling her, making Mrs. Grey quaver slightly, “Mortimer, your husband, spent his dying breath telling you to find the Dark Ire. The relic that could grant unlimited wishes. I believe that would set you and your daughter up quite nicely. Especially now that he is gone.”
“Don’t speak of things you don’t understand!” She snapped, stepping out of his circle like a frightened mouse. “I don’t want your enchanted relics!”
“But I think you do,” he said calmly, “you just don’t want it from me. But, here’s the problem; only I can give it to you.”
Mrs. Grey chewed on her lower lip anxiously, torn, “And… I assume you want something in return?”
He shrugged, “You would be right. I have the contract here.”
“Ah,” she grinned widely, catching him in the act of trying to outsmart her, “I see, you want to trick me into making a deal with the Devil?”
“The Devil? No. A creature from his realm? Perhaps. I simply don’t want either party to find a way out of our agreement. A contract is binding, and I have been careful to remove this one of loopholes.” He took it out of his pocket and handed it to her as non threateningly as he could. “Feel free to go over it.”
She sat on the crimson chair, eyes roving over the contract with that hidden intelligence winking at him. After a few minutes, she looked back up at him with accusation in her face, “You want my daughter? Are you mad?!” She growled at him and thrust the contract away, “I would never sell her to the likes of you!”
He raised his hands in surrender, “Mrs. Grey, I assure you, I am not simply taking her. The contract states that if she does not wish to marry me, then you will get the Ire and I will leave without any further grievances.”
“And if she wishes to go with you?” Mrs. Grey twisted her hands around the contract again and studied him, “what then?”
“Then I get my prize and the Dark Ire stays with me.”
“What if my daughter, if she accepted your hand, wants to return to me?”
He tsked gently, “The contract also states that there can be no… what’s the word? Take backs. Once you sign, your signature binds you to the paper. You cannot get the Ire and then demand your daughter back, nor can you wish her to return or me to die. She stays with me no matter what.”
Mrs. Grey let her eyes roam over the contract once again, fingers sliding down the page, “And, it says here, that I may not ‘persuade nor demand the third party to cease contact with the first party’?”
“Ah, yes, that,” he stroked his chin and that cat smile returned. “You can’t insist your daughter not speak with me and can’t persuade her into anything underhanded. In turn, I may not tell her to stop speaking with you.”
“I can’t tell her about any of this, can I?”
“The contract remains secret. It’s all written plainly there,” he strode over to her and tapped the section rather haughtily.
“This sounds a lot like gambling, Jameson,” she rubbed her temple, mouth creasing with worry. “I don’t like that you want to include my daughter. Take a few of my husband’s relics in exchange.”
“But that stuff isn’t worth anything,” he raised his hand when she looked about to object, “it may be worth money, but it’s nothing to me. You may think me callous, but all I want is a wife.”
“I don’t believe the Dark Ire is worth it,” she thrust the contract at him and stood.
“It’s not giving away your daughter that is troubling you. Is it?” He stooped to snatch up the fluttering paper, dark eyes boring into hers, “it’s the supposed ‘curse’.”
“It’s time you took your leave,” she turned, but he caught her wrist tightly.
“Mrs. Grey,” he hissed, “I happen to know for a fact that your husband had a gambling problem and you're up to your ears in debt. You need these wishes. If not to help you, then to help your daughter in the future.” Seeing her death glare, Jameson released her and straightened his tie once again, “of course, if she became my wife, she wouldn’t need any wishes. I will treat her like a queen.”
“You make it sound like you’ve already won her, Jameson.”
Suddenly, she tore the contract from his hands and swished her skirts to the side so she could lean down near the coffee table and grab a pen. Pressing the yellowing paper flat, she signed, in sweeping cursive, her name; Emeline Agnes Grey.
Jameson grinned, and she moved aside for him to sign, the pen poised near him to take.
“It’s your turn, Jameson.”
He bared his teeth in excitement and signed next to her more delicate name; Henry Jameson Loyle.
Immediately, he felt something invisible tighten around his wrists, tethering him to the contract, “It is done, Emeline.”
“I can see that,” she whispered, curling her fists against her skirts, “I don’t know what to say. Or do.”
He rolled the contract up and tucked it into his sleeve, a grin plastered to his face, “Perhaps you should remind yourself of what you’ve just done.”
“And what is that? I’ve signed a contract. There’s no Dark Magic in play.”
His grin widened further as he turned to leave her, “Oh, Mrs. Grey, I believe you’re mistaken.”
The quiver in her voice delighted him, and he had no doubt she heard his last words even though he was already out of the parlor. “Dark Magic is always at play. Especially when dealing with the Devil.”
His dark laugh echoed back at Mrs. Grey, who was starting to feel the weight of what she had just done.