Hey, everyone! I have been holding off for quite a while now with posting a teaser from The Earl and the Artificer, aka book 3. I wanted to get closer to completion before putting anything online because I feared I would post half the book in my excitement. The book is still being written and edited, but I couldn’t wait any longer and had to give you a little glimpse.
In book 3, Eilian and Hadley journey to Brasshurst Hall, the ancestral home of the Earls of Dorset. Below you will find there is an uninvited guest at Brasshurst.
She put a finger to her lips and backed away from the window, her eyes locked on the head swaying above the chair’s back. As Eilian crossed the room and grasped the rough fireplace poker, he frowned at the hearth. The ash had been swept from the firebox and the mantle cleaned of debris and cobwebs recently enough that dust hadn’t settled over them again. Inching toward the double doors at the far end of the library, Eilian listened to the chug of an engine on the other side. Hadley followed close behind, fishing through her clutch. When had she started carrying that instead of her carpet bag? Her face brightened as she pulled out a snub-nosed gun the length of her palm.
“You brought your derringer?”
“It’s been useful thus far.” She checked the chambers before snapping it shut. “You didn’t think I would let you go in there alone, did you?”
Holding Hadley’s gaze, he counted off with his fingers. He drew in a deep breath and threw open the door to the orangery. A puff of hot breath hit them as they stepped into the artificial jungle. Massive palms and bushy camphor trees blocked the sun, casting the greenhouse in a balmy haze. The stench of fetid water was overwhelmed by the scent of plants. Everywhere was the smell of earth and the things that belonged to it, concentrated and bottled under the glass dome.
Eilian pushed back a Jurassic fern and followed the cobbled path toward the pool. Sweat collected under the leather brace around his upper arm, but he ignored the urge to wipe it and swept his eyes through the brush. With firecracker flowers and orchids of every shade and strange conformation crowding the path, he expected to hear the caw or flutter of a parrot, but the air was quiet, rolling and bubbling with the river and fog. As they rounded the corner, the man in the armchair came into sight. The hammer of Hadley’s derringer clicked in Eilian’s ear. He tightened his grip on the poker and watched the man turn. His sharp eyes never left his assailants as he stood and stepped around the chair. His dark suit was impeccably pressed and the fabric even from a distance was fine, better than Eilian’s. Something in his aquiline features was strangely familiar.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Eilian called, feeling Hadley tense beside him.
“Is that any way to greet your cousin, Lord Dorset?”
“Put down the gun, Lady Dorset, before you hurt yourself.”
Hadley’s jaw clenched as she kept the muzzle pointed at the grey-haired man at the edge of the pool. Catching her eye, Eilian nodded, and she exhaled, dropping her arm but keeping the gun at her side. Eilian lowered the poker as the man approached with measured steps.
The man’s lined, silver eyes fell on Hadley’s simple coiffure before lingering on her breasts and waist a moment too long. The new dress, while of good quality, was already dirty and the corset too loose, and though her features were pleasing, she was far from beautiful. The garter gun hung looped in her stained fingers. Where Lord Dorset had found such a creature, he could hazard a guess, but why would he marry it?
“I’m surprised your father never spoke of me.”
“We didn’t speak very often.”
“Apparently. Lord Dorset, the real Lord Dorset—Harland Sorrell—and I were cousins. We were raised in this house.”
When the man’s cutting gaze reached Eilian’s mechanical hand, the younger man tucked it out of sight. “How did you get in here? Did the maids let you in?”
His eyes narrowed as he straightened and cocked his head with a scoff. “I have a key, and even if I didn’t, I know this house better than my own body.”
“You still haven’t told us who you are,” Hadley said, resisting the urge to train the gun on him. There was something in his manner, the way all of his movement seemed to be in his eyes, that set her on edge. She had seen men like that in London— men who kept you busy with their eyes when you should have been watching their hands.
“Randall Nash, and you are Hadley Fenice, the illustrious toy heiress who has risen to countess.”
Hadley winced. The embellished wedding announcement had not been her idea. Her future mother-in-law had taken it upon herself to soften the blow of an inter-class marriage with money. Heiress had a better ring than craftswoman, even if it was false. At least the announcement brought in as many orders as their Christmas advertisement.
“Are you insinuating something, Mr. Nash?” Eilian asked, but before the man could reply, the butler’s harried voice rang through the walls. His voice grew fainter as he retreated through the gallery. “In the greenhouse, Pat!”
A crash resounded behind them, and when Eilian and Hadley turned back, Randall Nash was gone. Using the end of the poker, Eilian pushed back the plants around the edge of the pool but could find no trace of him. He stared down at the empty armchair. From the humidity of the orangery, the fabric had rippled and dampened, raising the varnish on the arms and legs. Beside it sat an open bottle of champagne, a chipped glass, and a book.
I hope you all enjoyed this little sneak peek of The Earl and the Artificer. There isn’t any pre-order info yet, but stay tuned! Also, if you join my newsletter, in a few weeks you will be getting another exclusive sneak peek of chapter one.