Well, this is something that I've been working on for years. It's been written and rewritten countless times. I'm trying to take a new tack on it, and part of that is endeavoring to polish my writing style by 1. showing rather than telling and 2. eliminating -ly adverbs to the best of my ability. Let me know what you think, and if it catches your attention or not.
“Even if I did know something, you know I'd never tell you for free.” Denbow leaned back in his chair, tracing the rim of his glass with his tawny forefinger. The slight rubbing sound blended into the light clinking of dishes, the soft murmer of hushed conversations, and the muted din of carriages rattling past the Margravine Inn. "So what are you offering in return, Baronness?"
Caienna smirked. “I might be able to tell you something about your Gem-stealer.”
He looked over at the table next to theirs, where a duke was cavorting with a woman beneath his class. The duke made eye contact with Denbow, and straightened, his smile fading and his face taking on a red tint. Denbow affected a yawn and looked back at Caienna. “My what?”
“They say the mind is a gem, Denbow. So who pulled off the heist?”
His finger stopped. “I don’t understand you.”
“Well, I suppose that’s natural,” Caienna replied, smoothing her dark blue dress. “Whenever someone steals something of incredible value, the person robbed either spends everything he owns to get it back, or tries to forget that he ever had anything so valuable.”
Denbow’s finger resumed its path. “I don’t know what you think you know about me, but it’s not true. I’ve lost nothing,” he replied with an all-too-sincere smile.
Caienna’s smirk expanded into a smug grin. “Then you can’t be human. But, to your misfortune, I think you are quite human at the moment.” She leaned forward, resting her chin on the palm of her hand. “If I decided I wanted to make this classy establishment somewhat less attractive to its noble clientele, what could you do to stop me?”
Denbow’s warm, dark eyes twinkled with playfulness. “I can squeal very much like a pig.”
“Don’t mock me for that. A pig can squeal loudly enough to damage your hearing for life.”
She rolled her eyes. “Denbow, when will you…” She paused, and straightened in her chair. “Wait, is that true?”
“My friend Lorne is a pig farmer. You really can’t have a normal conversation with the fellow anymore.”
She chuckled. “That’s why I come to you, Denbow. You’re a veritable fountain of information, useful and otherwise.”
“You’re not getting anything today unless you offer me more than just the possibility of information about someone I may not even care about.”
“I thought you might say that. What say we forget the information, and I give you sixty pieces instead?”
“Fifty pieces, and the information, and we’ll call it a deal.”
“I thought you said you didn’t care about it.”
“I said I may not care about it. But I think I’ll decide that after I have the information. After all, you’re the one who brought it up, and I’ve noticed that you never do anything without a cold, calculated, soulless reason behind it.”
“We’ve only been partners three months, and already you know me so well,” she smiled, stroking one of the black curls that tumbled over her shoulder.
He leaned forward, clamping his hand down on his glass. “Baronness Tiuren, whatever we are, we are not partners. I collect information about the happenings of this city, and you pay me. Anything beyond that is your imagination.” His hand relaxed. “And honestly, why you want to know about a simple country girl like Laedra is a mystery to me. The only interesting thing about her is that she actually managed to drag herself away from that boring little village.”
Caienna’s blue eyes narrowed. “So she is here?”
Denbow leaned back and put his hands behind his head. “Payment before service, Baronness.”
She pulled a small velvet pouch from the folds of her skirt and placed it in the middle of the table. “Now… where is Laedra?”
Denbow glanced at the red bag. “You’re not going to count out the pieces?”
“There’s fifty in there.”
Caienna’s reply was a sly smile. Denbow took the pouch and peeked inside, his jaw working. “Three months, and already you know me so well.” He tucked the pouch into the satchel hanging on the back of his chair. “Laedra is staying at the Lover’s Luck Inn.”
Her left eyebrow raised. “Such an upscale establishment. Is she alone?”
“She’s with her brother Jona and the village healer, Riniel Temm.”
“A Healer?” Caienna began tapping her finger on the table, and stared out the window. “Can she call forth?”
“I can’t be sure, but it’s probably best not to take any chances.”
“How long will they stay in town?”
“At least until winter is over. Their only options are to go back the way they came, or to travel through the mountains on the road to Avyrs. At this time of year, the mountains are impassable.”
“What makes you think they won’t go back the way they came?”
“I don’t know Laedra well, but what little I observed of her tells me that only an intense need would drive her from her father’s dingy little inn. When I met her yesterday, she was unforthcoming, but seemed resigned to life away from Hadden.”
“Is your sense about people really that reliable?”
“From the moment I met you, I’ve thought you were dangerous and untrustworthy.” He flashed a charming smile.
She giggled. “I knew you weren’t a waste of money.” A hint of a grimace danced across Denbow’s face.
“What was it you wanted to tell me about my… what did you call it? Gem-stealer?”
“Ah, yes. I almost forgot.”
“Who is he?”
“My information isn’t quite so useful as that.” She waved her pale hand, the diamond ring on her forefinger glittering. “All I know is that another man fell ill, this time in the north part of the city, in the Estates quarter.”
She nodded. “The Marquis Trevain. They say he was raving about birds.”
“And why would this have anything to do with me?”
“You and I both know what you used to be.”
He stood and took his satchel, slinging it over his shoulder. “Well, if that’s all you know…”
“As always, it’s been a pleasure, Baroness,” he said, bowing.
“No need to lie out of politeness, Denbow.”
“I didn’t say you were a pleasure; I was referring to the intrigue.” He stepped toward the cloakroom and stopped. “One last question, Baronness… why are you so interested in knowing about Laedra?”
She stood, taking her parasol in hand and rearranging her skirts. “That’s neither important, nor is it part of our arrangement.”
“I hope you’re not going to hurt her. She’s a sweet little thing. I’d hate to see anything happen to her because of me.”
She shot him a disparaging glance. “Don’t agonize over the people I pay you to tell me about. It’s unsightly.” With that, she glided from the dining room. Denbow seemed to hesitate, looking out the window. A moment later, she passed by, heading south, toward the poorer areas of the city of Cordin, rather than north, which would have taken her back to her estate. It took Denbow less than a second to decide to follow her.