Excerpt from Tempted Tigress

     
     The best thing about an opium high was that one could make the most mundane observation and think it an amazing stroke of brilliance. Right now, Anna Marie Thompson thought the following conclusion was the height of genius: Dying would be unfortunate. And poor Governor Wan was about to experience a very, very unfortunate death at the hands of the Imperial Enforcer.
     "Come away, Sister Marie. Do not look out the window. He will see you."
     Anna nodded, but she could not make her body move. She reclined on a silk couch right next to the window, and she really had no interest in budging. Especially as she had just come to another brilliant conclusion: Though dying would be unfortunate, the moments before death—the time when one knew one was about to die but couldn't do anything about it—those would be worse.
     They were obviously the worst for poor Governor Wan. He was kneeling in his luxurious garden—one filled with stunning ornamental plants and exotic flowers—and gibbering like an idiot. Spittle flew from his mouth in his passion. He alternated between pleading for his life and cursing the Imperial Enforcer's family. He begged, he screamed, he cried... and he completely failed to save his life. Nothing touched the emperor's assassin.
     Anna stared at the man who towered over the sobbing governor. Here was the man all drug-runners feared. He had many names among her set, but they all boiled down to one thing: he killed. Without mercy or any show of emotion, he systematically murdered the people who smuggled opium into China. The users might be shown mercy, but carriers were gutted like fish.
     The Enforcer couldn't be bribed or threatened. Those had been the first things Governor Wan had tried. And worst of all: the Enforcer always destroyed the merchandise.
     Crowding around Anna, the governor's wives moaned in horror as they watched the Enforcer pour kerosene on fourteen pounds of opium. He'd tossed it all into the fire pit, and now grabbed Wife Number Four's favorite lantern. With a flat expression on his dark face, he cast the lamp into the pit. The whoosh of fire sent the women recoiling in horror.
     Anna didn't move. That too was a benefit of an opium high. It allowed her to watch simply because she couldn't move away. And right now she stared fascinated as the blaze reflected off the chiseled features of the evil man's face.
     Surprisingly young, the Emperor's Enforcer had the typical features of a Chinese man in his prime: smooth skin, angular bones, and dark eyebrows like brushstrokes up the planes of his face. But his eyes were larger than normal, as if he could see farther and more clearly than anyone. Then he narrowed them, making them appear like his eyebrows: precise slashes made by the finest artist's brush.
     How odd that he didn't appear emotionless to her. That was his reputation, but what Anna saw was a deep-seated rage, as if the man saw everything and hated with a passion beyond anger, beyond fury; hated until it became a kind of madness.
     "Come away, Sister Marie," urged Madame Wan again. "We must hide you before the murderer comes here."
 

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