Darker Than You Think (Fantasy Masterworks)
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Barbee turned to face her, breathless.
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He looked again into her gravely smiling eyes--they were really green. He searched her for the cause of that cold shudder of intuitive alarm, and became aware of an equally illogical attraction--life had turned Barbee a little cynical toward women, and he liked to consider himself totally immune. Her green gabardine business suit was modishly severe, plainly expensive, and cunningly chosen to accent the color of her eyes.
Against the windy chill of this overcast October afternoon, she wore a short coat of some heavy white fur that he decided must be Arctic wolf--bleached, perhaps, or albino. But the kitten was unusual. She carried a snakeskin novelty bag, with the double handle over her arm, like two thick coils of a diamondback. The bag was open, like a flattened basket, and the kitten peered contentedly out of it.
It was a perfectly darling little black kitten, less than half grown. It wore a wide red silk ribbon, neatly tied in a double bow. They made a striking picture, but the kitten, blinking peacefully at the lights coming on in the cloudy dusk, just didn't seem to fit.
The girl didn't look quite the type to shriek with delight over such a clever pet. And the slick chick she appeared to be, the chic young businesswoman, simply wouldn't include even the very cutest black kitten in her street ensemble. He tried to forget that odd little shiver of alarm, and wondered how she knew him. Clarendon was not a large city, and reporters get around. That red hair was something you wouldn't forget.
He looked again, to be sure her disturbing eyes were really fixed on him. They were. The soft, throaty vitality of it was as exciting, somehow, as her hair and her eyes. Her manner remained casually impersonal. Perhaps he hoped to discover the cause of his brief shiver.
He didn't want her to go away. He has just quit a cushy berth in the Washington bureaucracy and come home to run for the senate. But he won't have much to say for the papers. Not till he sees Preston Troy. The black kitten yawned at the lights flashing on, and the little crowd of waiting relatives and friends clustered along the steel-mesh barrier that kept the public off the field, and the white-clad attendants beyond, busy preparing to service the planes. But the girl's intense green eyes still watched his face, and her magical voice murmured softly: "Who is your other bird?
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Lamarck Mondrick. Kingpin of the Humane Research Foundation, out by the university. He's due here tonight, on a chartered plane from the West Coast, with his little expedition. They've been to the Gobi--but probably you know all about them? When the Japs surrendered, in '45, they cut all sorts of diplomatic red tape to get back again.
Sam Quain, who is Mondrick's right hand man, had served on some war mission to China, and he knew the ropes.
I don't know exactly what they went to look for, but it must be something special. They're supposed to be bringing home something that will rock the world of archeology. The black kitten blinked at him happily. Nothing about her explained that brief tingle of intuitive alarm. Her green-eyed smile seemed still aloofly impersonal, and he was afraid she would go away.
Gulping, he asked desperately: "Do I know you?
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But you aren't really on the Call? I only began Monday on the Call , and this is my first real assignment. I do want to turn in a good story on this Mondrick expedition. It all sounds so strange and thrilling, but I'm afraid I didn't learn many ologies in college. Would you mind, Barbee, if I ask you a few silly questions? They were even and strong and very white--the sort of teeth with which beautiful women in dentifrice advertisements gnawed bones.
It occurred to him that the spectacle of April Bell gnawing a red bone would be infinitely fascinating. He grinned at her, beginning to understand. She was a fresh cub, new to the newspaper game--but clever as Lilith.
The kitten was doubtless intended to complete a touching picture of helpless femininity, and annihilate any male resistance that her appealing eyes and devastating hair had failed to conquer. Her look of hurt reproach tugged at him, but he kept the gruff abruptness in his voice. Mondrick must be pretty important, if all the papers want a story on him?
Sam Quain has Chinese friends, and they must have helped. The deft smooth grace of her white hands, oddly, made him think of some wild creature, unfettered and shy. The Foundation man said they'd have a hot story--some big scientific announcement. He wanted photographers, and scientific staff writers, but the Star doesn't go in for heavy science. I'm supposed to cover Walraven and the expedition, too.
She had been fascinating--as lovely, no doubt, as April Bell. Roger Zelazny: The Chronicles of Amber. John Harrison: Viriconium. Robert E. Howard: The Conan Chronicles 1. Jonathan Carroll: The Land of Laughs. Hope Mirrlees: Lud-in-the-Mist. Gene Wolfe: Sword and Citadel. George R. Martin: Fevre Dream. Sheri S. Tepper: Beauty. Howard: The Conan Chronicles 2. Michael Moorcock: Elric. Patricia A. Jack Finney: Time and Again. Eddison: Mistress of Mistresses.
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Michael Moorcock: Gloriana. Jonathan Carroll: Voice of Our Shadow. Jack Vance: Suldrun's Garden. Gene Wolfe: Peace. John M. Ford: The Dragon Waiting. Michael Moorcock: The Chronicles of Corum. Poul Anderson: The Broken Sword. Tim Powers: The Drawing of the Dark. Michael Moorcock: The History of the Runestaff. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus.