Belle & Starling

Artemis Greaves the heroine of Duke of Midnight is named for the Greek goddess of the hunt (called Diana by the Romans.)

Something moved in the trees up ahead. Artemis stilled, flattening herself to a broad trunk. It wasn’t that she was frightened of whoever it was, but she liked her solitude. Wanted to enjoy it a little longer.

She heard a panting and then all at once she was surrounded by dogs. Three dogs, to be specific: two greyhounds and a spaniel with a lovely plumed tail, wagging briskly. For a moment she and the dogs merely took stock of each other. She looked around, but no one else seemed to be in the woods, as if the dogs had gone for a jaunty ramble all on their own.

Artemis extended her fingers. “Are you three by your lonesome, then?”

At her voice the spaniel sniffed interestedly at her fingertips, his mouth hanging open as if he were grinning. She fondled his silky ears and then the greyhounds bounded forward to give their approval.

A corner of her mouth curved up and she stepped out, continuing her own walk. The dogs ranged in front of her and to the sides, loping ahead before circling back to snuffle her fingers or butt against her hand as if to receive permission before trotting off again.

Artemis meandered for a bit, not worrying about their destination,she and the dogs, and then, suddenly, the trees parted. Ahead was a pond, the morning sun shining off the dappled water. At the far side of the pond was a clever rustic bridge that led to a small, artfully tumbling tower at the other end.

The two greyhounds went immediately to the pond’s edge to drink while the spaniel decided simply to wade in until he could lap the water without bending his head.

Artemis stood at the tree line, watching the dogs, tilting her face to scent the woods.

A shrill whistle broke the tranquility.

All three dogs lifted their heads. The taller greyhound—a brindled brown-and-gold female—took off toward the bridge, the other greyhound—a red female—right behind. The spaniel bounded to shore in a shower of water, shaking vigorously before barking and following.

There was a figure on the other side of the bridge, drawing closer. A man in worn boots and an aged coat that once had been of exquisite cut. He was tall, with broad shoulders, and he moved like a great cat. A floppy hat covered his head, obscuring hisfeatures. For a moment Artemis inhaled in shocked recognition.

But then he stepped into the light and she saw that she’d been mistaken.

It was the Duke of Wakefield