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October 2016 in Review

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Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

October was infinitely less chaotic than September, and now, that I’ve gotten into the groove of teaching, I look forward to what the spring semester holds.

What I accomplished in October:

  1. Worked out a system to stay on top of grading student papers/homework
  2. Read 4 books:
    1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (5 stars)
    2. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 2 by Kore Yamazaki (4 stars)
    3. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 3 by Kore Yamazaki (5 stars)
    4. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 4 by Kore Yamazaki (4 stars)
  3. Formatted the ebook and paperback of Dead Magic
  4. Prepared for Dead Magic‘s release by setting up promos
  5. Ended up scrapping a short story I had planned to write
  6. Bought a word processor to help me focus
  7. Started plotting Selkie Cove, which will be book 5 of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices

What I hope to achieve in November:

  1. Read 4 books
  2. Keep up with grading/feedback for my students
  3. Tweak the syllabus for my creative writing class
  4. Write 10,000 words of Selkie Cove
  5. Launch Dead Magic on November 10th

October has been a recover month for me. With all of the prep for Dead Magic coming out and the amount of grading I’ve been doing, I have been more than burnt out. Teaching is something I love doing, but I’m still not accustomed to it. Because I’m an introvert by nature, I often leave campus feeling high and fried at the same time. What I’m hoping is that by time I teach in the spring, I’ll be more acclimated to this sort of energy expulsion. As of right now, I’m also scheduled to teach less days next semester, which may help.

What else have I been up to? Well, I started writing a short story that I thought I would publish by Halloween, but it just wasn’t working out. Most of the time, I believe in pushing through and finishing what I start. This time, I knew it wasn’t working out. It took me days to type out a few thousand words that weren’t very good. I scrapped it for now. In the future, I’ll work on it again or incorporate the idea into a future book. It’s a doable storyline but now isn’t the right moment for it.

Most importantly, DEAD MAGIC IS COMING OUT IN A FEW DAYS!!! *screams internally* I’m so excited to share this book with everyone. I think it’s my favorite thus far, and I desperately want others to read it because I can’t really talk about it with anyone considering all of two people have read it. On top of launching Dead Magic, I’ve also begun working on the fifth book in the series, Selkie Cove, which I hope to finish by next spring. It feels great to be writing again and not editing. As much as I love editing, it’s much more draining than actually writing.

Remember to keep an eye out for Dead Magic, which is coming out this Thursday, November 10th in ebook and paperback.

 

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Chapter One of Dead Magic

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Since Dead Magic will be coming out in a little over a month, I thought I would share the first chapter here to wet your appetite for its release on November 10th. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing a few more of the opening chapters. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter One

 Flesh and Bone

On balmy summer nights, Highgate Cemetery lay as still and silent as its residents, but not on this night. Footfalls echoed through the rows of vine-covered graves, their names impossible to read in the scant moonlight. Crickets fell silent and the grasses on either side of the well-worn path rustled with life just beneath the surface as Cecil Hale passed. Reaching for the shuttered lantern at his side, the young man stopped and listened for any sign of his compatriots. He had been instructed not to open the lantern until he reached the Egyptian Avenue, but the graveyard was harder to navigate in the dark than he had imagined. The dizzying rows of cockeyed graves seemed to go on forever, all nearly identical to the next.

Closing his eyes, Cecil drew in a long breath and released a wave of energy that began at his russet hair and passed through his feet. In the darkness beyond the curve of trees, he felt a flash of power pulse back. So they had ventured into the vault without him after all. As he rounded the bend, his heart quickened at the sight of the obelisk and lotus-columned entrance to the Egyptian Avenue. Leafy boughs and Jurassic ferns spilled over the top of the mausoleum’s entrance, drowning out the tang of death with the scents of summer. He paused as the iron gate whined beneath his hand, waiting for the light of the night watchman he knew would not appear. A smirk crossed his lips. No one thought to worry about the dead.

Cecil’s gaze swept over the faceless row of doors on either side of him until it came to rest on the wavering radiance of an oil lamp shining from beneath the threshold. Pulling open the door, he shut his eyes against the harsh light of the lanterns within.

“Did they not teach you how to tell time at boarding school, Lord Hale?”

Cecil Hale stiffened. If it had been anyone else, he would have cut them down to size for not only insulting a viscount but for daring to question the standing of the youngest practioner initiated into the Eidolon Club, but when his hazel eyes adjusted, he found Lady Rose glaring at him.

“Do forgive my tardiness, Lady Rose, but it wasn’t easy to find my way here in the dark. Not all of us frequent graveyards,” he replied before he could stop himself.

A low chuckle emanated from where she stood, but Cecil swore he hadn’t seen her lips or chest move. Among the shadows of the mausoleum, her polished bronze hair and pale green eyes took on such an unnatural hue that he dared not question what he had heard. Of all the practitioners he knew, she was the only one he feared. If he stared too long, he could see the energy writhing and slithering around her, pulling at the flames positioned in a circle around the coffin at her feet. It was her power he felt when he cleared his mind’s eye.

As Cecil pulled the crypt door shut, a lanky, white-haired figure emerged from the neighboring chamber. Cecil was accustomed to seeing Lord Sumner in the Eidolon Club’s vast study, but seeing him standing in the mausoleum didn’t sit well. It felt wrong, like seeing one’s grandfather walk out of a Piccadilly brothel. He couldn’t imagine him with his carefully trimmed beard and Savile Row suit anywhere near a charnel house. The man had a lineage as distinguished as any king on the continent, so what could be so important that he would risk being found prowling around a graveyard with the likes of Lady Rose? Perhaps Cecil wasn’t the only one who didn’t trust her.

“Will it be only us this evening?” Cecil asked, his voice reverberating against the vaulted stone as he stared into the darkened chamber.

Without looking up from the coffin edge, Lady Rose replied, “If you’re worried about discovery, I hired a man to keep watch outside, but the ritual only needs one. His lordship is merely here to supervise.”

“Let’s hope the ritual won’t be necessary,” the elder noble murmured, averting his gaze from Lady Rose’s makeshift evocation circle.

“Oh? Are you having second thoughts, Lord Sumner?”

“I think all of us would prefer to avoid such vulgarity. We can only hope his family thought it best to bury the damned book with him.”

“So resurrectionists like us could find it? I doubt it,” she said, running her bare fingers over the lid as if feeling for something.

“Did anyone check his estate and town home?” Cecil asked.

Lady Rose and Lord Sumner exchanged an incredulous look before turning their attention back to the casket. Her fingers slid over the decorative molding and around the brass bars affixed to either side, probing every cranny for hidden springs.

Resting back on her heels, she motioned for Cecil to come to her side with a curl of her finger. “Cecil, would you do the honors?”

For a moment, he wished they had left the door open to the crypt. The stale air pressed in as he drew in a breath and held it. Cecil steeled himself, ready to avert his gaze when the lid cracked opened, but as he tried to yank it loose, a bolt of pain shot into his wrists and up his arms. Howling, he staggered back, nearly kicking over Sumner’s lamp.

“The bloody thing’s hexed!” he cried, rubbing his burning, twitching hands.

“The duke’s underlings were smarter than I thought,” Lord Sumner said under his breath.

Grabbing a handful of dust from the floor, Lady Rose cast it across the casket top. A series of rings, lines, and scribbles appeared through the detritus. Cecil leaned in to get a closer look. He had never seen a sigil that actually worked. The Eidolon Club didn’t endorse the use of such an out of fashion technique, so there had been no reason for him to bother learning about them. At the pulsing throb in his hand, he wished he had. Before he could finish tracing the twisting line with his gaze, Lady Rose pulled out a handkerchief from her Gladstone bag and scrubbed at the sigil. Cecil watched with wide eyes as she gritted her teeth and continued even as the arcane symbols crackled and arced with electricity beneath her palm.

She released a labored breath and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “Open it.”

Cautiously, Cecil reached for the lid, expecting to feel the bite of electricity once more. The lid groaned under his hand, but as he raised it, the bile crawled up his throat at the overwhelming stench of putrefaction. The smell of rotting meat mixed with the bite of acid and the coppery sweetness of blood was so strong that he dared not look down. He had hoped that in the few months since his death, the Duke of Dover’s body would have been reduced to nothing more than a skeleton in a suit. From the corner of his eye, he could make out an unnaturally blackened and melted face and a hint of bone peaking from the top of what he could only imagine had once been the duke’s hand. As he returned to his station near the door, Cecil covered his mouth with his handkerchief, hoping Lady Rose and Lord Sumner wouldn’t notice his sudden pallor, but she was already leaning into the coffin, her hands probing the body for the missing grimoire.

“Just as I suspected, it isn’t here,” she said, turning to Sumner.

“Then, what do you propose to do now?” he replied sharply, knowing the answer.

“The ritual. Unless you no longer want to acquire the book, but I highly doubt the Pinkertons or your investigators will be able to find it without hearing what the duke has to say.”

Lord Sumner’s lip curled in disgust as he locked eyes with the witch perched beside the coffin. She held his gaze, her green eyes at ease while the noblemen squinted at the pungency of the rotting corpse. With a final look at the duke’s bloated form, Lord Sumner retrieved his cloak and hat from an empty niche.

“Do what you will, but I will not be a part of it. Leave a message for me at the club if you find anything, but don’t taint me with your bone-conjuring.”

Storming out of the crypt, Lord Sumner slammed the door, leaving Cecil and Lady Rose in silence. She stared ahead, her face betraying nothing even as she sat back on the dusty floor. Cecil dared not ask if she was all right.

After a moment, she licked her lips and swept a stray bronze curl from her forehead. “Cecil, if you ever want to succeed, never let theory trump practical knowledge. Despite your position, you’re never too good to use what you have learned.”

“I don’t plan to rely on theory, Aunt Claudia.”

Satisfied with his answer, she asked flatly, “Did you make the tincture I asked for?”

Cecil nodded, reaching into his breast pocket for the flask. It had taken him most of the day to prepare it from the notes she had given him, but it was perfect. It had to be. He had been so careful to check the thermometer and even test some of the precipitate to ensure he had created the intended compound. What it did, he had no idea. Plucking it from his hand, she sniffed and swirled it before setting it aside.

“Very good. Do you intend to stay for the ritual or would you prefer to wait outside, Lord Hale?”

“If you would permit it, I should like to stay.”

“I see. Then, you must remain quiet and out of the way. You may be disturbed by what you see, but you must remain silent. Can you manage that?”

For a brief moment, Cecil considered slipping out the door of the crypt and getting into the first cab that would take him back to his flat, but he was an alchemist and to be taken seriously, he had to stay even when Lord Sumner would not. Sealing off his energy with a slow exhalation, Cecil stepped further into the shadows until his back rested against the damp stone. He watched as Lady Rose reached into the Gladstone bag at her side, pulling out a large, squat bowl, a bottle of what appeared to be water, a handful of narrow vials, and a rough obsidian blade. She emptied the bottle of water and three of the vials into the bowl. Placing it before her, she wafted the faint trail of smoke that rose from the liquid toward her. As she closed her eyes, her body rocked in time with the languid curve of her hand and a low chant resonated in her throat. Her free-hand skated through the dust at her side, scrawling tiny shapes he couldn’t make out before darting for another vial to add to the bowl.

The air grew thick with the stench of sulphurous smoke until Cecil feared he would be ill. Lady Rose’s lithe body writhed and snapped as her chant grew louder and more insistent. Sounds morphed into words he nearly recognized but were lost before his mind could retrieve their meaning. Drawing in a loud breath, the words ceased.

The obsidian knife flashed in the wavering candlelight. In one swift motion, Lady Rose ran it across the duke’s hand. A few drops of a thick black liquid seeped from the wound and across her open palm where a bloated finger lay neatly severed from its mooring. Cecil silenced a gag with a tight swallow as the stench of offal overpowered his senses. Whispers raced across Lady Rose’s lips as she raised the finger high before dropping it into the bowl. The smoke writhed and condensed, combining with the shadows lingering at the edge of the circle of candles. Monstrous faces flickered. They rose in open-mouthed grotesques only to be swallowed by another until finally the vague outline of a man solidified. His stern eyes and hollowed cheeks locked onto Cecil’s hazel gaze before turning to Lady Rose.

“Duke Dover, we—the blind living—humbly ask for your assistance. Your divine sight sees all: past, present, and future. Tell us, sir. Tell us where the Corpus Grimoire lies at this moment,” she pleaded, her voice level but tinged with yearning.

The duke’s face dissolved, drifting and roiling until a new scene appeared in the smoke. A paper package sat among stacks of crates and bags of letters stamped London, England. The faint hum of a dirigible reverberated through the tomb. It was on a mail ship.

Lady Rose’s eyes widened. “Duke Dover, who will receive the package? To whom is it going?”

Smoke twisted into a column before chipping away to reveal the soft curves of a woman. Her hair was fashionably curled into black coils that trailed down her neck and across the shoulders of her violet gown. Cecil leaned closer. Her rounded cheeks, the wide byzantine eyes, the tight set of her jaw in concentration. He knew her. During the season, he had sought her out at each dance, entranced by her wit and the warmth hidden behind her knowing looks and pointed remarks. Her figure fell in on itself before stretching higher into the form of a wiry young man. He would have been unremarkable, except for the long scar that cut through his left eye. How could they both have the grimoire?

A shadow stirred in the corner of the mausoleum. It climbed along the stone, straining and expanding until it nearly engulfed the entire wall. Cecil’s heart raced as the shade solidified into the shape of a man. It lashed out with an arm and wiped the flames from the tops of the candles. The tomb plunged into darkness, the only sound the swoosh of the shadow and the clatter of the bowl as it tipped. Groping for the lantern at his feet, Cecil felt for its radiant warmth and quickly opened the shutter.

Even before he was able to see, he knew the spirits had left the crypt. Despite the godawful smell of the corpse, he no longer felt as if he would smother. Stepping closer, he could make out a spreading stain where the bowl had fallen over and spilled the brew. Lady Rose stood behind it. She glared down at her ruined ritual before turning her hardened gaze to Lord Hale. He swallowed against the flare of power emanating from her body. Questions hung on his lips as she snatched the empty vials from the floor and threw them into her Gladstone.

“You aren’t going to try again?”

“There’s no point. The duke didn’t have much steam to begin with. He wouldn’t have lasted through another question, let alone being resummoned. We have enough information. The book is in transit, and it will fall to one of them.”

His mind trailed to the vision of the young woman with the dark hair and owl eyes. “How will you find them?”

“I have my ways,” she replied, pausing to lock eyes with something in the darkness. “If it’s in the city, one of us will feel it and find it.”

“The girl, I think I know her,” he said, not wanting to imagine what would happen if his aunt got to her first.

Lady Rose looked up from her bag, her eyes softened with interest. For the first time, her gaze was free of scorn as she searched his face. “Really? Can I trust you to keep an eye on her and report back to me? If she has the grimoire, it will be your responsibility to retrieve it.”

“But what if she won’t give it up?” Emmeline Jardine wasn’t a stupid girl who could be easily swayed with his noble charms and a bit of flattery. “She’s a true medium. I can sense her power at the Spiritualist Society. What if she wants to keep the book for herself?”

With a faint smile, she ran her handkerchief down the length of the obsidian knife. “Then, we will simply change our tactic.”

He swallowed hard. “And the other man?”

“Leave him to me.”


If you enjoyed what you read, you can pre-order Dead Magic here and have it delivered to your Kindle on November 10th. Paperbacks will also be available closer to the release date.

Stay tuned for more chapters and previews to come.

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Series Mega Sale

To celebrate Dead Magic coming out soon, I decided to put all three of the other books in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series on sale from Friday through Sunday!

Get The Earl of Brass for free, The Winter Garden for 99 cents, The Earl and the Artificer for 99 cents. You can also pre-order Dead Magic, which will be out November 10th!

earl of brass

Get the Earl of Brass for FREE.

Lord Sorrell wants freedom. With the responsibilities of an earldom and a domineering father awaiting him in London, he escapes to the East, but he fears he will be grounded forever when a freak accident results in the loss of his arm. Depressed and facing a restrictive life, Lord Sorrell seeks what will make him whole again: a new limb.
Fenice Brothers Prosthetics is in jeopardy. Hadley’s brother is dead, and the business has fallen on her shoulders. Clients begin to turn her away and she soon fears the business will fail until she disguises herself as a man. But one person sees through her. In exchange for a new arm, Lord Sorrell offers her a chance at independence in the deserts of Palestine.
What they uncover is more precious than potsherds or bones. The desert hides secrets worth their weight in gold. Will Hadley and Lord Sorrell make it out alive or will they, too, be entombed beneath the sands?

wintergarden

Get the Winter Garden for 99 cents.

Can death be conquered?
When Immanuel Winter set off to the banks of the Thames, he never thought his life would be changed forever. Emmeline Jardine, a young Spiritualist medium, drowns, but the potion given to Immanuel by his mother brings her back from the dead and irrevocably intertwines their souls.
But Emmeline and Immanuel aren’t the only ones aware of his ancestors’ legacy. Understanding the potential of such an elixir, the ruthlessly ambitious Alastair Rose knows securing the mysteries of death will get him everything he desires: power, a title, but more importantly, dominion over the dead and the living.
Unaware of what the dashing madman is capable of, Emmeline follows him deeper into a world of corrupt mediums, unscrupulous scientists, and murder. All that stands between Lord Rose and his prize is the boy who refuses to die, but both men know the key to stopping him lies within the girl who shares Immanuel’s soul.

eata-final-cover

Get The Earl and the Artificer for 99 cents.

What mysteries lay buried beneath weeds and dust?
Following their wedding, Eilian and Hadley Sorrell journey to Brasshurst Hall, his family’s abandoned ancestral home. As Eilian struggles to reconcile his new roles as husband and earl, he finds the house and the surrounding town of Folkesbury are not as they first appear.
Behind a mask of good manners and gentle breeding lurks a darker side of Folkesbury. As the Sorrells struggle to fit in with the village’s genteel society, they find their new friends are at the mercy of Randall Nash, a man who collects secrets.
Soon, Eilian and Hadley become entangled in a web of murder, theft, and intrigue that they may never escape, with the manor at the heart of it all. Something long thought lost and buried within Brasshurst’s history has been found—something worth killing for.

dead-magic-ebook-cover

Pre-order Dead Magic here.

Immanuel wants nothing more than a peaceful life as a scientist, but his happiness is short-lived when his past demons refuse to go quietly. As body-snatching spirits attack and creatures rise from the dead, he fears his sanity is slipping. Burdened with strange new powers, he struggles to hide them from his lover for fear of losing the only person he trusts.
But the woman who shares his soul has a secret of her own. Disillusioned with her life, Emmeline turns to a handsome suitor who offers her a world of limitless possibilities at an exclusive club. Rumors swirl of occult rituals and magic, and Emmeline soon fears he wants more than just her love.
Something wicked is heading for London that threatens to destroy everything Emmeline and Immanuel hold dear. And it wants more than secrets.

 

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Dead Magic Sniplet #2

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Dead Magic, the fourth book in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, won’t be out until the fall, so I thought I’d share another clip from my WIP with you. Miss Emmeline Jardine has pilfered a package from the Spiritualist Society.


The Dorothy Restaurant hummed with chatter only broken by the occasional sharp laugh. Emmeline resisted the urge to shift in her seat. She had been to the Dorothy several times with Cassandra Ashwood, but she never failed to feel odd there. There had never been a public place she frequented where men were not allowed. The room was overly bright even in the dreary weather with its cream and red walls and gaudy array of colorful Japanese fans and parasols artfully tacked to the walls and ceiling. Around them all manner of women ate the same meal at the same white tablecloth and vase of flowers. During previous visits they had spotted Constance Wilde and the Countess of Dorset not far from a table of shopgirls. In a space free of men, the women seemed to change before her eyes into some strange perversion of the womanhood she knew. Cigarettes were lit and overheard table conversation often involved politics, women’s rights, and even colonialism. Of course, there was gossip, but mixed in were stories of tête–à–têtes that bored on elicit. At the Dorothy, they all seemed so free, yet surrounded by a complete lack of restriction, Emmeline faltered.

“You’re very quiet today, Em,” Cassandra said, looking up from her roast chicken and potatoes.

Her eyes flickered over the window where rain pattered against the pane and through the drivel, she inadvertently caught the gaze of a man peeking inside. What he expected them to be doing, she couldn’t imagine, but gawkers, she was quickly learning, were common at the Dorothy.

“Ignore him.”

“Why are they always staring in? It’s rude. It’s a restaurant, not a sideshow.”

“They don’t like that we finally have some privacy. You know, you could have left your book in the coatroom. I’m pretty sure no one would steal it, especially when Miss Barker knows us.”

“That’s not what I was worried about.” She paused. What was she worried about? “I didn’t want anyone to see the title.”

Cassandra shook her head. “Maybe I don’t want to borrow it if you’re that nervous about other people seeing it.”

Emmeline gave her a weak smile. Her eyes traced the outline of the book beneath the crinkled paper. She had placed it on the table facedown with her reticule and gloves on top of it to keep Cassandra from turning it over. Her heart pulsed in her throat, ruining the taste of the meat in her mouth. She was itching to open it. Every time she looked away, she felt its glare upon her, as if the book was watching her—beckoning to her—the moment she turned her gaze. For a moment, she wondered if she should just confess to Cassandra what she had done and open the bloody book.

Before she could act on her thought, Cassandra straightened with a squeak. She wiped her mouth and took a long sip of tea before she asked, “Did I tell you about the gala?”

“What gala? The season is over.”

“Well, it isn’t a society party. It’s a gala to celebrate a new ancient botanical collection at the British Museum. I’m sure you heard.”

When Emmeline raised a dark brow, Cassandra continued, “Your aunt’s cousin, the Countess of Dorset, and her husband donated the main specimen, the silphium plant. Please tell me you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure your aunt mentioned it.”

Thinking back to dinner conversations, she could vaguely recall some mention of a party at the museum. She hadn’t paid much attention. “I don’t think I was invited, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to go.”

Cassandra’s chestnut eyes widened and sagged.

“You actually want to go? But why? It will be so boring. All those old stuffy scholars and their pinch-faced wives.”

“My friends will be there. I don’t think you have met her, but Judith Elliott is my best friend—”

Emmeline stiffened.

One of my best friends, and I’m certain you will love her as much as I do.”

“Of course,” she replied tartly as she stabbed a piece of boiled potato and brought it to her lips.

She could feel Cassandra’s gaze upon her, eyes torn between anger and guilt. Somehow, Emmeline had never imagined that she could have friends besides her, that she had a life outside the spiritualist society. That and the Dorothy was the only place she ever saw her, and she didn’t appear to have a beau or that she was even looking. Modern woman, Emmeline scoffed. No wonder Aunt Eliza loved when Miss Ashwood came for tea. Watching Cassandra go back to her meal, Emmeline’s stomach knotted. She knew so little about her even though they spent nearly every weekend together and most nights at the spiritualist society. She knew Cassandra worked as a secretary somewhere, though Emmeline couldn’t remember where, and that she lived in a flat not far from the society along with another woman.

From the edge of her vision, Emmeline studied Cassandra’s features. She envied her prominent cheekbones and her expressive lips. When she smiled, it made Emmeline’s face join in her joy, but it was her bearing that caught her attention when they first met. She had thought of quitting the spiritualist society for good until she spotted Cassandra waiting at the front door. She stood tall despite her short stature, with her walking suit smartly cut to accentuate her curves and the color rich enough to bring out the flecks of gold and green in her eyes. There was a self-assuredness about her that didn’t require words to enforce. Maybe that was what five years of relative independence did to a woman. Still, it was troubling to know she had no suitors to fall back on or tear her attention away from the gloom and tedium of the spiritualist society.

“I shouldn’t be telling you this since you have decided to be peevish, but Mr. Talbot’s cousin just walked in,” Cassandra whispered, her eyes darting toward the front door as a rush of warm, damp air washed in.

“How do you know who she is?”

“Because I just saw him drop her off.”

Whipping around, Emmeline turned in time to see a dark-haired woman enter and a charcoal grey steamer pull away from the curb. “I can’t believe I missed—”

The words died in her throat. Cassandra was holding the book, her book, regarding her with pursed lips. Emmeline reached to snatch it from her grasp but pulled back. It wouldn’t do to make a scene. Shaking her head, Cassandra handed the paper-wrapped book back to her.

“I knew something was wrong when you wouldn’t give it up. You never wait to open a book. Nostra is a fool, but this is hers. You can’t steal her property, Emmeline,” she replied in a harsh whisper.

Groaning, Emmeline placed the package in her lap and covered it with her napkin. “But she isn’t even the head of the society, not yet anyway. Besides, it probably isn’t even hers.”

“If it isn’t hers, then whose is it?”

Emmeline opened her mouth, but his name refused to leave her throat.

Sensing what she wouldn’t say, Cassandra shook her head. “But it’s been over five months. Do you really suspect it was meant for him?”

“I don’t know. I know taking it was wrong, but you didn’t know him, Cass. He was evil.”

“You think it’s something malicious?”

She shrugged. “It could be. Would you want Nostra getting a book on soul-stealing or God knows what?”

Cassandra sighed, her gaze traveling to the book in Emmeline’s lap before coming to rest on her concerned eyes and drawn mouth. “Maybe you should open it and see what it is. If it’s just a book, we could rewrap it and bring it back tomorrow, and if it’s something bad—”

“We can get figure out what to do once we know what it is. Good idea.”

Using her untouched bread knife, Emmeline carefully slipped it between the paper. With a crack, the must of centuries old paper and ink rushed out. Emmeline locked eyes with Cassandra as she tipped the package and let the book slide into her hand. Laying across the front cover was a letter. Setting the book and torn wrapper on the table, she turned her attention to the missive. The sole page was stained with ink and flecks of brown, but the lines of the long, looped writing had been written with such force that it had been incised into the page. As she lifted it closer, minute beams of light broke through the parchment.

 

September 14th, 1892

To the person the grimoire chooses,

I hope whoever is reading this letter can forgive that I know not to whom I am writing. I don’t have much time left. The duke is ailing and has entrusted the book to my care, but I fear my time will be as short as his. They have discovered me, and the grimoire is no longer safe in my care. This book has passed through many hands before reaching you. Others like us will have received this package, and in turn, sent it to another to keep the book out of the hands of those who would pervert the knowledge within. If you are reading this note, you are the end of the line. It is my hope that the book has fallen into worthy hands.

You must know dark forces are in Berlin and are moving north to London. They move against all of our kind. Those who would seek to keep the balance of death and life are being cut down by practioners wanting to tip the scale. They need what the grimoire possesses.

Protect it or send it to someone who can.

 

There was no signature. Flipping the paper over, she found the same note written in Latin. Emmeline’s heart thundered in her throat. Dark forces were coming to London. What had she taken?


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