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The year is 1853, and the streets of London will not be safe for long. Sixteen-year-old Charlemagne Westridge, the son of a prestigious noble family, is perfect in every way: he has money, beauty, and prestige. However, after making a contract with the devil, Charlemagne escapes death from yellow fever, but at a high price: every night, for the rest of his life, he will have to take the life of one other person. Masked by his new identity, the Ravensbourne Murderer sets out murdering prostitutes in an effort to ...
The year is 1853, and the streets of London will not be safe for long. Sixteen-year-old Charlemagne Westridge, the son of a prestigious noble family, is perfect in every way: he has money, beauty, and prestige. However, after making a contract with the devil, Charlemagne escapes death from yellow fever, but at a high price: every night, for the rest of his life, he will have to take the life of one other person. Masked by his new identity, the Ravensbourne Murderer sets out murdering prostitutes in an effort to “cleanse the sullied streets of London,” but deep down Charlemagne knows he must find a way to break free of his contract before he loses himself to darkness.
Charlemagne Westridge stood silently on the polished wood floor of the music room. In one outstretched arm he cradled a violin, and the long, delicate fingers of his other hand were perched gracefully and lightly atop the instrument’s bow. Before him sat a number of middle-aged women, his mother among them; surrounded by yards of shining, shimmering, expensive fabrics, silks, and tulle. Charlemagne’s mother, of course, was the most extravagantly dressed of all – her brown hair had been teased into curls, and large jewels adorned her fingers and earlobes, and hung from her throat. Smiling, she brought her hands together in a single gesture of approval, and praised her boy. “Wonderful, dear, simply wonderful.”
“Thank you, mother,” came his quick, automatic reply. Charlemagne had been trained early on, and the prompt, polite responses had long since become habit. Charlemagne was always polite and courteous, but never more so than when his mother was entertaining her guests, which she did often. She quite enjoyed parading about her perfectly trained son, and showing others what they had not. As an organ grinder’s monkey is trained to tip his hat and smile for small bits of change, Charlemagne Westridge had been trained in many disciplines in order to grant his mother small words of praise from her peers. The boy could speak French, could read and translate Latin, and could play a number of instruments, including the piano, harp, flute, and violin. He was excellent at horsemanship, foxhunting, ballroom dance, and fencing, but was also a wonderful academic, and studied sciences, arithmetic, and read avidly. The boy was not only academically pleasing and polite, but he was also quite handsome.
The boy’s skin was smooth and pale as porcelain, showing none of the lines that typically mar the face of the academic, and his emerald eyes sparkled with some semblance of deeper knowledge. His deep caramel coloured hair was brushed across his forehead in a sweeping fashion, and his bangs sometimes fell down before his eyes and enhanced his boyish look. He was built tall and thin; lithe and graceful; and had the fluidity of water in his every movement. His very being seemed to glow and exude an aura of perfection. It was thoroughly impossible, upon even the slightest glance, to resist the temptation of falling in love with this boy. His smile alone could soften even the hardest, coldest of hearts, and his laughter could practically make birds sing in response. He was as La Belle au bois dormant; gifted with beauty, wit, and talent. Like The Beauty in the Sleeping Woods, Charlemagne Westridge lived a perfect, joyous life. Like The Beauty in the Sleeping Woods, Charlemagne Westridge lived unknowing of the curse that would plague the rest of his days.
“Now, off to your studies,” Charlemagne’s mother directed once he had finished his piece.
“Yes, mother.” Charlemagne retreated to his room.
Shortly after he had sat down at his desk and taken off his suit jacket to hang on the back of his chair, one of his family's butlers rapped on the door. "Master Charlemagne, I have your tea."
"Bring it in, Klyde," Charlemagne ordered, and the butler stepped quietly into the room, setting a tray with a cup of tea, a small pot of hot water, and a plate of tea cookies on the desk, before picking up Charlemagne's jacket and returning it to his closet.
"What kind of tea is it, Klyde?" he asked, but when the butler opened his mouth to reply, Charley interrupted him. "Wait, let me guess." He picked up the cup and breathed in deeply. "Chai. From India." he took a sip of the hot tea, and set the cup back down on the table. "Correct?"
"Very perceptive, young master." Klyde smiled as he tidied the books on Charlemagne's shelves. Charley untied the ribbon tied around his neck, letting it hang loose, and leaned back in his chair.
"What do I have lined up for today, Klyde?"
“Today you have a French lesson, and then you will be practicing ballroom dancing.”
“Wonderful, Klyde,” Charlemagne beamed.
“Comment ça va cette aprés midi, Madame?” Charlemagne smiled warmly to his teacher – a young woman with mousy brown hair. “How are you this afternoon, ma’am?”
“Je suis trés bien, monsieur Charlemagne,” “I’m well, Charlemagne, and you?”
“Trés magnifique, Merci,” “Quite wonderful,” he smiled his winning smile - the one that could win the heart of anybody at once. They continued on in French.
“Have you been doing your assigned work?”
“Of course, ma’am,” Charlemagne held out a stack of pages. “An essay on Candide, written entirely in French.”
“Did you find it a challenging read?”
“Not really,” he smiled.
“Well, I’m sure your essay will meet my expectations then, if the book was such an easy read,”
Charlemagne stepped into the manor’s ballroom to meet his ballroom dancing teacher; an older woman with gray hair and a forgetful manner that was, to Charlemagne, mildly comical.
“Have you been practicing, Charlemagne?”
“Of course,” he smiled.
“Then prove it to me” she held out her hand, and Charlemagne gently took it. Behind them, his music instructor began to play the ballroom piano. He danced with his teacher gracefully, gliding across the ballroom with flawless steps. When the song had ended, Charlemagne bowed deeply, and his teacher smiled.
“Wonderful, my boy, absolutely wonderful. You must be a pleasure at balls,” Charlemagne flashed his winning smile.
“That’s my goal, ma’am,”
After taking dinner in his bedroom – his mother had guests over and he didn’t want to disturb them – Charlemagne Westridge went to sleep early. He knew he would rise early the next morning for more lessons, and he knew that the next day would go as perfectly as this one. He was sure of it. His lessons were always perfect – he was the perfect child. The perfect, angelic child. Everyone loved Charlemagne Westridge. Upon first sight, when they first saw his golden smile and his angelic features, everyone instantly fell in love.
Excerpted from Perfection by Dayna Bailey Copyright © 2013 by Dayna Bailey. Excerpted by permission.
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