Phantoms In Philadelphia (Phantom Knights Book 1), p.1Amalie Vantana
Phantoms IN PHILADELPHIA
By Amalie Vantana
Copyright 2013 by Amalie Vantana
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
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the very best part of my heart
Table of Contents
Read on for a Sneak Peek at the next adventure in the Phantom Knights series
Author’s Historical Note
About the Author
20 May 1814
My father once said that to have a truly successful spy organization you must have the presence of mind always to be seven steps ahead of everyone else. My father’s seven steps had been between the ages of eight and seventeen. He claimed that no one would ever suspect children of being spies. He was right. I was twelve when four men, my father included, formed a secret spy ring—to protect the good on which this nation was founded. Five years later and I am wondering if there was more to it than that. When you live a life of secrets, you trust no one and question everything.
It was well past ten in the evening when I stepped away from the brick wall that I was leaning against. A dark haired man in a red regimental coat came striding toward me holding a lantern that illuminated the darkened alley. When he reached me, he set the lantern on the ground, then his arms wrapped around my waist. He pulled me against him, his wet lips smacking on my mouth. I hated when he did that.
I let him kiss me for a moment, then I pushed him back, casting down my eyes. “Willy, you are a rogue.”
He did not laugh as he usually did, and when I glanced up at him, his eyes were focused on mine, or rather my black mask.
“We have been meeting in secret for three months, Lucy. When will you cease to wear a mask?” His voice was cool, and I thought I detected a hint of suspicion.
I flashed him my most enticing smile and laid my hand against his cheek. “I thought you liked a mystery, Willy.”
His eyes hardened for an instant as his brows snapped together, but then his face cleared, and he laughed, unconvincingly. He was uncomfortable; something was not right.
“You know that I adore you, Lucy.” He kissed my neck, and I fought the urge to run him through with a small ornamental knife that was in my hair. He stepped around me laying his cool hands against the bare skin of my shoulders. One of his fingers stroked the black beaded necklace I was wearing. “It is only that they offered me more than you; you understand.”
At the entrance to the alley, three men appeared, and as they walked toward me, everything inside me went wild. My shaking hands twisted in the folds of my red dress. The men before me were wearing plain brown clothing, nothing remarkable, but it was the rings they all wore on their right hands that relayed their identities.
“At last we find you, Ma belle,” one of the men said in a thick accent.
“Willy?” I pressed against him, my voice sounding small, frightened.
His hands tightened on my shoulders for a moment before he released me, stepping toward the very men I had been hunting for two years ever since they murdered the man I was going to marry.
“My payment,” Willy demanded, holding his hand out to the evident leader of the men.
“Ah, yes, your payment, Lieutenant Standen.” The leader snapped his fingers, and the man to his right pulled a pistol so fast that Willy had no chance of escape. As he fired, I dropped down, covering my ears with my hands. Willy stumbled back clutching his chest before dropping like a fallen tree. Willy was a fool to believe that those men would be fair. I stayed cowering on the ground until the leader stomped toward me and grabbed my arm. My eyes rose to his. He smirked.
“You do not much resemble your mother, Ma belle,” the greasy-haired leader remarked.
“No, I take after my father,” I replied, keeping him talking as my hand slid beneath my skirts and gripped a handle strapped to my leg.
“Your father?” he asked sharply. When his eyes widened in recognition, I smiled. He turned his head to yell at his men, but I was upon him before the words passed his lips. My arm wrapped around his throat, and I placed the tip of my dagger against his skin beside his eye.
He called in his native tongue for his men to halt when they stepped forward.
“Now, you will tell me what you want with Ma belle, or I will stick you like a pincushion.”
The man choked out a laugh. “I remember you. You were there the night we killed that masked spy.”
Do it! End him! Every thought was screaming for me to have my vengeance, but the tighter I held him and thought about stabbing him with my dagger, the more I knew I could not. I was not a murderer.
The largest of the men pulled a pistol, and I released the leader, shoving him toward his men. I reached into my coiffure of hair and pulled out a small knife. I threw it with a strong flip of my wrist. It struck its target, lodging in the big man’s shoulder.
The second man, a wiry, foolish looking individual, charged me, knocking me to the ground. My breath left me in a rush, but I raised my hand with the dagger. He wrestled it away from me and stood, placing his boot against my stomach, pinning me to the ground. For someone appearing small, he sure held some force. The leader came up beside him.
“Tell me your name, little spy.”
“Spy is such an ugly word,” I retorted, the boot pushed harder against my stomach.
“What would you prefer?”
“Master investigator or skilled assassin, it makes no odds to me,” I replied in a breathy, strained voice.
He chuckled, then laughed loud clutching his middle. My mind was trying to work out a plan. There were only two of them, and if I could get his boot off me...
Explosions roared in the small alley. I threw my hands up to shield my face. There were at least four shots fired, and as the heavy boot on my stomach fell away, I sat up staring through the cloud of smoke to where four ma
She came over to help me up while the others checked the bodies. Willy and the two they had shot were dead, but the big man I had stabbed was alive. His eyes were closed; the fool was feigning death.
“That one is not dead,” I said, pointing to his still form.
He growled as his eyes opened, but Hades was there to restrain the man from standing.
Fenrir, the man in the wolf mask, came up to me. “We must make haste. Many will have heard our shots fired.”
I nodded, but went over to where the leader was sprawled on the ground. I pulled the ring from his finger. It was pure gold, forged to resemble a snake, its body wrapped around his finger twice. When I turned back toward my team, Fenrir handed me my dagger and my hair knife.
“Artemis and I will go to the tree. After you have disposed of the bodies, meet us there,” I said.
They agreed, and Artemis, whose name was given because of her adept ability with a bow and arrow, and I ran from the alley into the dark night. We knew our way around the city—how to stay to the shadows; how not to be seen.
The ‘tree’ was code for the house we lived in, a plain, unobtrusive building in a set of row houses. Our neighbors were merchants whose lives were too full to allow them to be inquisitive. By the time we went to work at night, they were abed for an early morning of work. When Artemis and I reached the house, we went in through the rear door. The night had not gone as planned, but we all were safe.
“Raven!” a sharp voice boomed from down the hall.
Standing at the door to the front parlor was a shorter man dressed in the blue regimentals of an American soldier—captain to be precise. A feat indeed for a young man of sixteen, but then, he was not like others his age. I walked toward him slowly as his eyes were piercing me with each step I took.
“How do you come to be here, Jack?” I asked as I reached him.
The top of his head came to my forehead, but he always appeared larger when in his uniform. At the moment, he was daunting with his light blue eyes narrowed and his angular jaw firm.
“What were you thinking? Keeping company with the enemy?” He bit out each word, over annunciating.
I pushed past him, walking into the parlor, tripping over the skirt of my red dress. The events of the night were weighing heavily on me; I had lost a valuable, yet unsuspecting, informant, and I was in no fit mood to listen to my little brother berate me. I pulled off my mask as I turned to face him.
“I was doing my job of extracting information, and before Willy betrayed me tonight, I compiled a list of names from him that will make Papa proud.”
Jack ran a hand through his short black hair, and I knew something was not right. He only did that when he was agitated. I walked toward him taking his hand. I was not only the elder by eleven months but also the taller between us by three inches, a sore spot with my little brother, and I was the calmer sibling.
“What is amiss, Jack? Why are you here?”
Jack pressed my hand for a moment, then pulled a note from his pocket. “I received this. I regret to have to tell you this, Bess, on your birthday of all days, but Father is dead.”
“No!” I took a step back, gripping my mask in my hand.
Jack unfolded the note, holding it out to me. I snatched it and read over the words, but did not believe it. My father had been found dead early this morning. I dropped the letter, sinking down onto the sofa.
“You understand what this means, Bess,” Jack said softly.
Squeezing my eyes shut for a moment as my heart and mind were begging him not to say it. Please do not say it. Please...
“You are the new leader of the Phantoms.”
Phantoms In Philadelphia (Phantom Knights Book 1) by Amalie Vantana / Actions & Adventure / History & Fiction have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on17 votes