Genre: Fiction, Romance,
Historical, Alternative History
Release Date: March 13, 2014
Digital ISBN 10: 1631120093 ISBN-13:978-1-63112-009-1
Print ISBN 10:1631120107 ISBN-13:978-1-63112-010-7
The Copper Witch:
“Ambition or Love”
Adela Tilden has always been more ambitious than her station
in life might allow. A minor nobleman’s daughter on a failing barony, Adela’s
prospects seem dire outside of marrying well-off. When Adela catches the eye of
the crown prince, Edward, however, well-off doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Thrown into a world of politics and intrigue, Adela might have found all the
excitement she ever wanted—if she can manage to leave her past behind.
About Jessica Dall:
Jessica Dall finished her first novel at age 15 and been writing ever sense. She is the author of such novels as Grey Areas
and The Bleeding Crowd
and a number of short stories which have appeared in both literary magazines and anthologies. When not writing, she works as a freelance editor and creative writing teacher in Washington, DC.
How to find Jessica Dall:
Excerpt of The Copper Witch:
Adela Tilden held as still as she could force herself to be, her eyes sliding over every now and again to study the man sitting in front of her.
Antony looked up from the easel and released a breath through his nose. “Hold still.”
“I am,” she said, barely moving her mouth.
He gave her a dark look.
Adela exaggerated a sigh, dropping her eyes again to the side, staring at the same patch of grey stone as she had been for what felt like years. “I want to see what you’re doing.”
“You’ll see when I’m done.”
She fidgeted, glancing at her dress. “Can’t we make the neckline just a little lower?”
“Your grandmother doesn’t like it as it is,” Antony droned, the same answer yet again.
“Well, of course she doesn’t,” Adela said, barely refraining from rolling her eyes and getting yelled at again.
“Drop your shoulder a little,” he directed, “and hold still.”
So she’d get yelled at either way, it seemed. Adela shifted, still attempted to freeze.
Antony shook his head, running a frustrated hand through his brown hair. “No, drop…not… You know what?” He moved to her.
Adela watched him carefully, making no effort to help as he straightened the line of the dress where it stopped around her shoulders. If a little too thin to be called well built, she had to admit Antony was an attractive man with his dark eyes and square jaw. It was a shame he had staged her looking away. She wouldn’t have minded the excuse to spend
her time studying him right back. He pressed her shoulder down lightly with the end of his paintbrush. “Can you hold that now?”
Her eyes remained on his face. “It’s hardly acrobatics.”
Antony’s eyes flicked up as he offered a weak smile, sliding away just as quickly as he adjusted the oblong pearl in the headpiece Adela’s grandmother had pulled out just for the occasion. He paused, finally moved a strand of the hair that had been left out of the braids at her crown and placed it over her shoulder. He stepped back, looking at her just a
little bit too long, starting when he met her eyes. “There. Much better.”
The way he backed away, almost making it look like a retreat, made Adela smile. She watched Antony settle himself before tilting her head back the way it had been. “I don’t understand why Grandmamma wants a portrait of me anyway. It’s not as if anyone is going to see it. No one ever comes out here, you know. I’m surprised you’re here and you’re paid to be.”
“She’s trying to make sure that no one gets any funny ideas about your financial situation, I believe, Miss Tilden.” Antony didn’t look away from the easel.
“Even if they’re completely correct.” Adela heaved a sigh.
She couldn’t help glancing again, looking away when he glared. “How old are you, Antony?”
He paused momentarily. “Does that matter?”
“I was just curious,” she said. “You’re much younger than the painters we used to have come here.”
“I’m not as well-seasoned as them, I would think,” he said. “And I imagine I’m quite a bit cheaper.”
“Oh.” She fought away a smile. “So I shouldn’t be surprised when my nose comprises the better part of my face, then?”
“I think I’m skilled enough to keep that from happening,” Antony answered, continuing under his breath, “Anyway, if I were going to make a feature too large it would much more likely be your eyes.”
Her eyes slid over to him again.
He met them for a second before looking away sharply. “Stay still.”
“You just started painting, then?” She looked down and away again.
“I’ve been painting my entire life,” he said, seeming relieved. “Just finished my apprenticeship a year or so ago.”
“So you’re what then?” Adela did the math in her head. “Twenty? Twenty-One?”
“Something like that.”
She smiled. “You don’t know which one?”
“Relax your face.”
She took a breath, forced off the smile. “Is it a secret?”
Exasperation leeched into his voice. “Is what?”
He released a breath. “I just don’t see how it’s relevant.”
“I asked,” she said. “That doesn’t make it relevant enough?”
“I don’t believe that’s the way it works, Miss Tilden.”
She shifted. “Can I please move? I’m going to freeze in this position if
I have to keep it up much longer.”
Antony set down his brush, holding his hands up, motioning his surrender. “We can take a break.”
Adela rolled her shoulders, standing quickly to stretch her legs. She turned. “Can I see now?”
He looked up from straightening his paints.
“I’d like to see how you’re painting me,” she continued at his silence.
Antony hesitated. “I prefer people not to see what I’m painting until I’m done.”
She moved closer. “I’m paying for it. I’d think you’d want to know if I’m unsatisfied in any way.”
He opened his mouth, cleared his throat before starting. “Your grandmother’s paying for it, Miss Tilden. Maybe I should show her.”
Adela pouted. “Please?”
He looked at her for another moment. Finally, sighing, he backed up for her to take a look. Adela moved quickly, her soft slippers barely making a sound on the stone floor. And the painting slid into view.
Unlike the other china-doll portraits in the manor—with every inch of the women
in them softened, pale—the picture in front of her looked as though he had
taken her reflection and pressed it onto the canvas. She studied herself, fascinated for a moment before collecting herself. She pulled herself straight. “You’re using a lot of
red in my hair.”
His eyes lifted to her scalp. “Well, there is a lot of red in your hair, Miss Tilden.”
She twirled a strand absentmindedly around her finger, and didn’t dispute it.
“Satisfied?” he finally asked.
“You are quite talented,” she said, looked from the painting to him. “I don’t think you have my lips quite right, though.”
She picked up the mirror on the mantel, studying her face before looking back at him. “Don’t you think? My bottom lip is fuller.”
He looked at her lips for a moment, slid his eyes away, nodding. “I’ll fix it when you sit back down.”
She looked at her reflection for another moment before tilting the mirror down to fix the neckline of her dress. “This was the dress I wore to my mother’s funeral, you know.”
Antony started, mouth working as he searched for something to say. “Oh.”
“It’s been altered, of course.” She played with the gold thread that had been used to embroider the swirling pattern along the bodice. “But Grandmamma insisted that black was the proper color for a portrait, and I doubt we would have been able to get new silk, so she recycled this one.”
“Oh,” Antony repeated.
“I have to say, I like it better this way.” She leaned back against the wall sliding her hands down the skirt.
Antony coughed, looked at the windows. “We’re not going to have the light much longer. As soon as the sun…we’ll have to stop for the night.”
Adela sighed dramatically, looking at the high windows around the gaping hall. “How much longer do you think it’s going to be?”
“Not long. I’m almost done with what I need you for. I can do the background alone.”
She nodded slowly, studying him.
He met her eyes before once again looking away. “What?”
“Where did you learn to paint?”
He shook his head. “I told you, I’ve always painted.”
“Was your father a painter?”
Antony pressed his lips together. “Soldier, actually.”
“Ah,” Adela said. “Second son?” Antony shrugged. “What’s your last name?”
“I don’t think I was hired to help you figure out my life story, Miss Tilden.” Antony finally looked back at her.
“I’m just curious.” Adela shrugged innocently. “If you were able to apprentice as a painter obviously you aren’t from a farming family.”
He shook his head, straightening his brushes awkwardly. “Fletcher.”
Adela tilted her head. “Any relation to Thurston Fletcher?”
“None,” he said, voice curt. “Think you’ve stretched out enough to let me finish?”
She smiled at the joke he didn’t seem to catch. “Maybe.”
He motioned to the stool. “Whenever you’re ready, Miss Tilden.”
All business once again, Adela’s smile dropped as she settled on her stool. “You could call me Adela, you realize. No need for all the formality.”
“I’m more comfortable with ‘Miss Tilden’ if it’s all the same to you,” he said, jaw tight. “I wouldn’t presume the familiarity.”
“You wouldn’t be presuming anything. I said you could,” she said. “I call you Antony. I didn’t even know your last name until a few moments ago.”
“Your family is quite a bit more important than mine, Miss Tilden.” He took his seat. “There’s no reason for you to know my family.”
She scoffed. “I’m living in the middle of nowhere, alone, save my grandmother who hasn’t been further than our front gates since my mother passed.” Adela looked up at the ceiling. “God rest her soul. I’m surprised anyone remembers us at all.”
“You do own Penrith,” he said.
“Also known as the entirety of three-dozen people and five-thousand sheep.” She let out an exasperated sigh when he didn’t answer. “Am I sitting properly?”
“Turn a little towards me,” he directed, finally looking up. “Relax your hand.”
He nodded. “Head down. Right there. You can hold that?”
She rolled her eyes. “I have been for two days.”
He didn’t answer, returning to the painting.
“Whom have you painted before?” she asked.
“Mostly models,” Antony said.
“Were they pretty?” Adela asked.
Antony’s cheek twitched. “If you want me to get your mouth right you’re going to have to stop moving it, Miss Tilden.”
She released a breath, froze, staying still as long as she could stand the silence. Her eyes flicked toward him. “Well, were they?”
“Miss Tilden,” he snapped.
“It’s just a question, Antony.”
He groaned, the sound coming from the back of his throat before he finally answered in a more civilized, if still strained, tone, “Were they what?”
“Pretty,” she said. “The models.”
He painted a few more strokes. “I suppose. Some of them.”
“Only some?” she asked.
“Well, we need to know how to paint non-pretty people too.”
“That can’t be fun.” Her nose crinkled. “Staring at ugly people for days on end.”
She sighed, complying for barely a second before continuing, “Do you think I’m
He frowned. “I hardly think I’m qualified to judge, Miss Tilden.”
“You’ve seen plenty of both, I’m sure,” she said. “Am I closer to the pretty models or the ugly ones?”
He released a slow breath. “You are attractive, in my opinion, Miss Tilden.”
“Miss Tilden,” he snapped.
The smile dropped without having to be told. She tapped her foot under her dress for a moment. “What’s it like having a job, Antony?”
He let out a loud, exasperated sigh, resting his pallet in his lap. “What?”
“I’ve never worked,” she said.
“You’re young.” He waited, only continuing when she didn’t speak again. “And I doubt you need to.”
“It probably wouldn’t hurt around here.” She puffed out her cheeks, stopping before he could snap again. “Though my grandmother would rather die in the poorhouse than let me work, I’m sure.”
He hummed, eyes back on the painting.
“And I’m not that young,” she added.
“Young enough,” he said.
She studied him out of the corner of her eyes, glancing away each time he looked up. The brush moved quickly, Antony barely seeming to think before he made the next line. She half wanted to be on the other side of the easel watching how he painted rather than stuck on her stool across the room. The silence stretched on, every movement of the brush seeming amplified as he refused to speak. “You’re rather boring, you know
“I’m not paid to be entertaining,” Antony answered quickly.
The silence returned, long enough this time Adela began to doubt he would answer at all, then the sound of brushes being set on his small table. Adela turned her head to look at him.
He didn’t look back. “I think I have what I need.”
She frowned. “You’re sure?”
She stood, looking at him for a long moment. “Do I make you uncomfortable, Antony?”
He glanced up, then away. “No. Why?”
“You never look me in the eyes.”
“That’s a sign of respect, isn’t it?”
“Maybe a hundred years ago.” She scoffed. “Seems dishonest to me.”
He looked at her, straight on, nearly seeming to squirm. “You have very…interesting eyes, Miss Tilden.”
She smiled. “Runs in my family, don’t you know? My mother’s side.”
“I know, in…” he led off.
“You can say it,” she said. “Just because we’re far enough removed that they forget about us doesn’t mean we don’t talk about our dear royal family.”
“Your mother,” he said. “From a long line of mothers.”
“Yes, it’s all very maternal,” Adela droned. “And why I’m out here on a small tract of nothing rather than in Carby.”
“You’re still nobility,” Antony said quietly.
“But not noble enough to even be called ‘Lady’.” Adela pouted. “I’m just ‘The Honorable Miss Tilden’.”
“Most people would be thrilled at being able to put ‘honorable’ in front of their name,” Antony said.
“In all due respect Antony.” She crossed her arms. “I’m not most people.”
He looked at her, finally managing to hold her eyes with some degree of fortitude. “So what’s your plan then, Miss Tilden? Find yourself a prince to marry?”
Her smile returned. “I’d be happy with a marquess. Maybe an earl in a pinch. No need for a prince.”
“Well, you have that royal blood. You have that going for you.” He looked at the portrait.
“True.” She looked at her wrists, studying the blue veins just under the skin. “Just not nearly enough of it to be of any use to me.”
Antony tilted his head to the side, looking at the painting from another angle before looking back up at her. “I mean no offense, Miss Tilden, but I don’t think I’m the one to whom you should be complaining about your family.”
“You could always claim you’re related to Thurston Fletcher,” Adela said. “He was knighted recently.”
“I’m sure he’d love that.”
“Or you could make friends with someone important and see if they could get you
knighted,” she suggested.
“I have no desire to be Sir Antony Fletcher, Miss Tilden” Antony said. “I’ll leave such ambitions to you.”
“I don’t want to be a knight.” Adela smirked. “That would be a step down.”
He frowned. “You know what I meant, Miss Tilden.”
She still smirked, looking him over. “You have no ambition then, Antony?”
He shook his head, wiping off one of his brushes.
“I’m quite content as I am, Miss Tilden.”
“Would you turn it down if someone offered it?”
“There are already two Sir Fletchers in my family.” He gave a tight smile. “I believe my father and brother have that title more than covered.”
“You can’t seriously tell me you would turn down the chance for the title,”
“You don’t need to sit around here, Miss Tilden.” He went to straightening his paints, not looking at her. “I can finish this simply enough.”
“I don’t have anywhere better to go,” Adela said. “Sadly you’re some of the most interesting human interaction to be had around here.”
“Lucky me,” he said, sarcasm breaking through. He quickly reined himself back in. “You really don’t have anything better to do?”
“I’d just be in my room, reading or sewing more than likely.” Adela picked at a piece of lint on her hip. “And as much as I do love Lettice, there’s only so long one can talk to the same person before everything becomes a chore.”
“Lettice?” he asked
“My chambermaid,” she said. “Though these days she’s somewhere between a lady’s maid and chambermaid. She’s the one who did my hair.”
Antony nodded, silent.