Excerpt from The Devil's West, Book Two
The Cold Eye
by Laura Anne Gilman
There was a well-ordered murmur to the saloon in Flood that evening, some combination of
chairs scraping and glassware clinking, laid against the flickerthwack of cards against felt, and the
self-assured calls of the dealers. Marie cast her gaze around her domain, confirming that all was well,
then moved through the crowd to stand behind the dealer at the main table.
"Gentleman in the far corner wishes to have a word with you when you're done dealing for the
She waited until the boss nodded, the barest hint of a chin drop, and moved along to the next
table, a smile on her lips, eyes bright and alert. The carmine she'd rubbed on her cheeks had been
replaced by the flush of warmth and hard work, the ache of ankle and hip joined by the soreness of
elbow and knee. It was entirely possible, Marie thought, that she was finally growing too old for this.
A dry snort behind her gave the boss's opinion of that, and her smile warmed for a heartbeat.
Still and all, there was no gainsaying she'd earned her aches. Five tables full, and Iktan busy at
the bar, her people coming and going in a well-choreographed dance. She should feel satisfied. She
did feel satisfied. It was near impossible for her not to take satisfaction, being who and what she was,
when things went well and needs were gratified.
But her ankle and hip ached, and her elbows and knees were sore, and she worked to keep her
smile in place as she nodded to strangers and placed warm hands on the shoulders of regulars. The
responsibilities of the Devil's Right Hand were hers: the gathering-in and the granting, ensuring that
all who came to him were noted and heard.
"We dance to his tune," she'd told Izzy. So you put your smile on and left the aches until later.