V

enus 

I

nferno

Champagne Books | www.champagnebooks.com | Copyright © 2010 by David Boultbee | July 2010

Conspiracies and Love combine in the seething atmosphere of Venus!

 

One

An Unusual Introduction

 My head rocked from the slap and I stared at the woman who had just delivered it, wondering what the hell I had done to offend her. Come to think of it, how did she even know who I was? The holographic projector snugged around my neck was projecting the image of Frank Sinatra; an unexpectedly good choice given that it was provided by the host of the party.

“I beg your pardon, do I know you?” I asked politely as I toggled the holo off. Her eyes widened in shock as she stared at my face and she flushed a rather charming shade of red.

“Oh my God, I thought you were Baron Christianson.”

”Ah, well that it explains it. Not the most well liked individual it’s been my misfortune to know. Still, seeing as how I’ve taken it on the chin for him, literally, I’d be curious to know the specifics of what he’s done to incur your wrath.”

I could see her hesitate. “It’s funny, but faced with the prospect of explaining it, I just realized that it all sounds rather petty now,” she equivocated.

I arched an eyebrow at her and she flushed again.

 “All right, I owe you that much at least.” She sighed and gestured towards a quiet corner of the room with her chin. The attention of the crowd had dwindled considerably when nothing happened after she slapped me but we were still the focus of a few curious bystanders.

I indicated for her to proceed me and watched in admiration as she headed over to the corner. She obviously hadn’t known, or more likely hadn’t cared, that this was a ‘red carpet’ party. While most people were dressed up as classic pop culture stars from the 20 th century, she was wearing a simple yet elegant dark grey pant suit. The tailoring was excellent, though, indicating that she had come from money, or at least understood the need to project that kind of image. Despite the social faux-pas, or perhaps because of it, there was something about her that stirred my interest more than any of the half dressed women who filled the party with their empty chatter. Maybe it was the long blonde hair that spilled over her shoulders in a professional yet still elegant style.

There was a small table in the corner and I pulled out a chair for her and then slide it in gently as she sat down. Chivalry was starting to make a comeback, not that I cared. A gentleman simply was, regardless of the social mores that currently prevailed. I gestured for a waiter and liberated two glasses of champagne. Despite my dislike for our host, I had to admit that he knew how to throw a party.

 “To serendipity,” I said as I raised my glass in a toast. That elicited a small smile from her and she raised her own glass and gently clinked it against mine. We both took a small sip and I was surprised at the quality of the champagne. It seemed a touch extravagant, even for our host. My companion seemed to have an opposite opinion, however. She took one sip, a sour expression came over her face, and she put the glass down, far enough away from her that it was obvious she had no intention of drinking anymore of it. Even in expressing displeasure, her face was still quite attractive. Her skin was lightly tanned, a coloration I rather suspected was natural. Brown eyes flashed over an attractive, slightly aquiline, nose and full lips framed a rather striking mouth.

“Is there something wrong with your champagne?” I asked politely and she frowned at me.

“No, there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s quite excellent. That’s the problem.”

“Oh, I see,” I nodded and she glared at me.

“I doubt that,” she snapped and I just looked her.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized with another flush of color.

“I shouldn’t be taking my anger out on you but I question whether you do ‘see’.”