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Selkie Cove: Chapter Four

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With Selkie Cove coming out July 25th, I’ve decided to post a chapter a week until it comes out. That’s how excited I am for you to read it. I’m still copy-editing, so please pardon any typos. If you’re interested, you can pre-order it here.

Catch up on:


Chapter Four

Postmortem Examinations

The house stood dark when Immanuel arrived home. The only sounds were his grunts and strained breath as he struggled to push the creature in its glass coffin over the threshold. Kicking the door shut behind him, he straightened and wiped the hair and sweat from his forehead. For a moment, he merely listened for any sign of Adam, but all he could hear was the sound of blood rushing through his ears.

“Adam! Adam, if you’re home, I could really use your help for a minute.”

When no answer came, Immanuel sighed and pushed the veiled crate onto the carpet runner and shoved it with all of his strength. His ribs and back cried in protest while the box barely budged apart from the slosh of liquid within. It had been surprisingly easy to get Sir William to consent to letting him study it in the seclusion of his home, but it had taken several men and a cart to get it out of his office and into the backseat of a steamer cab. The driver had looked at him like he was a madman and nearly pulled away from the pavement upon seeing his cargo. It was only at the promise of a generous tip that the driver hopped out to help him. Immanuel hoped the specimen was a fake just so he wouldn’t have to take it back again; he didn’t know how many more times he could afford to pay for an expensive cab ride.

Once they hit the bare wood floor of the hallway, the coffin picked up speed and Immanuel pushed it the rest of the way to the workroom. Even though Hadley had been married months ago, remnants of her life at Baker Street remained in disarticulated automatons and boxes of spare parts stashed in the corner behind her battered work table and stool. Adam had told him to throw it all away, but having remnants of someone else’s life in the room made it feel less vacuous when he was still tentatively curating his new life. Immanuel shoved the creature all the way to the cast iron slop sink on the far wall. Leaning against the sink to catch his breath, Immanuel’s eyes trailed to the cloaked specimen.

What was he going to tell Sir William? If he told him that the beast was closer to human than he cared to admit, he would be laughed out of the zoology department even with the body as evidence. Pulling the gloves from his pocket, Immanuel carefully removed the box’s fragile lid and averted his gaze from the seal-like creature’s vacant eyes. At Oxford, he had been forced to debone a walrus and a Caspian seal for the university’s museum, and even when he was in better health and shape, the corpses had been impossibly heavy. He couldn’t imagine how bad it would be now with his misshapen ribs and miserable constitution. Immanuel reached into the shallow layer of alcohol and was about to slip his arms beneath her neck and tailfin when a shadow fell across the doorway.

The breath caught in Immanuel’s throat as he stood. Adam leaned against the door with his shirt open far enough to expose the henna hair dusting the firm planes of his torso. His carefully pomaded coiffure hung askew in a wayward wave that made him look like some debouched Brontëan rogue. Immanuel would have abandoned the creature in an instant if it hadn’t been for the glazed look in his lover’s eyes and the red flush that hid his faint freckles. It was only then that he spotted the glass in his hand and the clear liquid within.

“Bringing your work home with you again?” Adam asked, his voice uncharacteristically languid as he drew closer. Leaning in with his drink clutched close to his chest, he wrinkled his nose and tapped the box with the end of his boot. “What is that thing?”

“I’m not certain yet.”

Before Adam could straighten, Immanuel snatched the glass from his hand and dashed it into the sink. The sweet, acidic tang of gin burned his nose as it splashed up.

“Hey! Why did you do that?”

Immanuel’s body shook against his will. “Because you don’t need it. How much have you had?”

“What do you care?” Adam cried as he pulled the glass from Immanuel’s hand but refused to meet his gaze.

“Adam, just tell me.”

“I don’t need your permission to have a drink. I’m bloody old enough to make my own decisions. I did so for quite some time before you got here.”

As Adam turned to leave, Immanuel whipped off his gloves and cut in front of him. He blocked the door with his body, knowing his thin form would do nothing to stop Adam if he wanted to leave. “Is this what you have been doing all day? Drinking yourself into a stupor? I thought you were going to look for employment.”

For a long moment, Adam merely stared at him. His lips nearly disappeared into a tight line as he glowered at Immanuel with an intensity he had never seen. His blue eyes flared with fury, and for an instant, Immanuel feared Adam would shove him or strike him. His hands twitched at his side, but he quickly folded his arms over his chest and rested on his heels, waiting. Immanuel stepped out of the way to let Adam storm past him. The redhead clomped up the stairs with Immanuel a step behind him. When Adam reached their bedroom, Immanuel expected him to slam the door in his face, but instead, he walked over to his desk near the window and grabbed his journal. Flipping through the pages, he turned to the last one and shoved the it at Immanuel’s face. The page had begun with a list of law offices, accounting firms, and various banks before becoming jumbled with row upon row of numbers.

“This is what I’ve been doing all day,” Adam spat, shoving the book into Immanuel’s hand. “I have been all over town speaking to anyone I thought could help me. I went to a dozen places, and you know what I found? One position. One! And it was for a clerk, a clerk. I have been an accountant for four years. I can’t be a clerk again. I can’t afford to be a clerk.”

“But at least it would be money. We wouldn’t have to—”

“No.” Grabbing the open bottle of gin from his desk, Adam poured another glass to the brim. “Let me have some semblance of pride, Immanuel. I have worked far too hard to settle for a position I had when I was seventeen, but you wouldn’t understand, would you? Uncle Elijah handed you a lovely position at the museum the moment you were out of Oxford. Well, some of us aren’t Oxford boys with connections and cushy lives.”

Adam’s mouth hung open, as his hand came to his lips. Slowly, he raised his gaze to Immanuel’s face, which had blanched apart from his reddening eyes.

“Oh, Immanuel, I didn’t mean it. I…”

“You have had enough,” Immanuel rasped, his voice tight. Without waiting for a response, he took the glass and bottle from Adam’s hands and set them down on the dresser. “You’re done.”

Blinking, Adam stared at his feet and rubbed his wrist. He winced as his nail dug into the leaking wound that had grown to the size of a coat toggle. “It used to help. Before you— before Hadley found out, it worked.” He wanted to say something. Words should have been easier, as they had been a moment before, but they never were when he needed them. “Sorry.”

Secrets stayed secret when they could be drowned, but much like Immanuel, they always managed to rise and beg for life.

***

Hunched at the window, Adam seemed so small. Usually, he was larger than life, a handsome face in a suit made to draw the eye to the beauty of the fabric and flesh beneath, but as he stood staring ahead with his blue eyes dark, it dawned on Immanuel just how young they both were. After all they had been through, it felt as if years had passed, and while they had been together less than a year, Adam had been there for the entirety of his new life. Immanuel drew closer, gently stroking Adam’s flushed cheeks until the redheaded man slowly met his gaze.

“I love you, but gin won’t helping anything,” Immanuel whispered.

“It might make me forget. I don’t know what else to do to make it easier.”

The words died in Adam’s throat. He wanted to snatch the gin and down it until the tears looming behind his lids dried. Alcohol fed the fire, and as long as he kept it stoked, it was impossible to feel anything more. That was one of the things he admired about Immanuel, he faced his problems. He wasn’t a coward, like him.

“Let me make you some tea, and we can talk about it,” Immanuel said with a faint smile as he brushed the hair from Adam’s face. “How does that sound?”

 Crossing his arms, he nodded, refusing to meet his love’s gaze

Gently kissing Adam’s forehead, Immanuel snatched the leftover glass and gin. Halfway down the hall, he ducked into the bathroom and dumped the remaining liquor down the drain. In the kitchen, after setting up the kettle on the stove, he rooted through the cabinets until he found every bottle of champagne, sherry, and cognac he could lay his hands on. One by one he emptied them into the sink, listening for the satisfying glug as the last of it swept away. He loved Adam, but he didn’t need this. If Adam wanted to drink himself to death, he would have to leave the house to do so. Sinking into one of the kitchen chairs, Immanuel’s eyes trailed down the hall to where the light from the workroom spilled into the hall in a golden pool. As the kettle whistled and his mind trailed back to the creature in the tank, Immanuel wished he could hop into the nearest steamer and drive to Greenwich or Folkesbury or even back to his office at the museum. He would go anywhere if he thought he could have some semblance of peace for a while. After everything that had happened with Lady Rose and the late Lord Hale, getting entangled with the Interceptors once again, and Sir William had running him ragged, this was the last thing he needed.

With a pit growing in his gut, he loaded a tray with biscuits and tea and mounted the steps, but when he reached their room, his frustration quickly sank to guilt. Adam sat upright in bed with his head resting against the headboard and his face lax. Leaving the tray on the nightstand, Immanuel perched on the edge of the mattress and watched Adam’s chest rise and fall in a sleepy rhythm. He planted a kiss on his gin-tainted lips, but he never stirred. Careful not to disturb him, Immanuel padded across the room and shut off the light. Lingering at the threshold, he waited a moment to see if Adam would call out to him. When he didn’t stir, Immanuel snuck downstairs.

***

Dragging the stool to the workroom sink, Immanuel stared down at the creature—the woman—lying prone before him. Even though the visions had never occurred twice, Immanuel kept his gloves on as he hesitantly reached for the scalpel in his dissection kit. No matter how many times he had participated in autopsies and dissections, it never got easier. People like Dr. Hawthorne or his mentor at Oxford, Dr. Martin, were able to separate the body from the person, but once Immanuel saw their last moments, that became nearly impossible. As he pulled the stool closer with his foot, he heard the gentle tap of cat claws.

Percy bounded in, his bone tail swishing as he surveyed the room until his eyeless sockets fell upon Immanuel. A small smile crossed the scientist’s lips as the cat rubbed his nose and back against the hem of his trousers. With a twitch of his hips, he was in Immanuel’s lap with his feet resting on the lip of the sink.

“No. Not for you, you greedy bugger,” Immanuel said, watching Percy sniff the air. Holding him to his chest, Immanuel scratched Percy’s neck and gave him a kiss on the head before putting him outside the workroom door. “Go find Adam, Percy. Go ask him for pets.”

Shutting the door, Immanuel returned to the creature. How could he pretend she wasn’t a person? Perhaps he shouldn’t. “My apologies, he doesn’t know better. You aren’t food, and you certainly didn’t deserve this.” Immanuel paused, his chest tightening at the phantom sensation of drowning. “I don’t know what you are, but you didn’t deserve the agony you suffered.”

As expected, the woman never stirred.

“Unfortunately, I need to do worse than he did. Perhaps not worse, but I don’t like doing it.”

Immanuel carefully parted the fur near the creature’s armpit, and after a moment, he found what he was looking for: a gash that went down to the muscle and bone beneath. The wound was an inch long, and as expected, there was no healing or indication that she had been given aid. Immanuel drew back, biting his lip as he stared down at the lethal blow. It had taken so little to end her life. Raising the scalpel, Immanuel murmured an oath under his breath as he did before every dissection and carefully cut from neck to tail. He winced as the reek of alcohol, fish, and the coppery stench of cadaver wafted out with each inch he cut through her thick, blubbery hide. Immanuel glanced over his shoulder at the door and hoped Adam wouldn’t come down. There was nothing he wanted to do less than clean up gin-laced vomit. Making a cut across the midline, Immanuel grabbed a handful of pins to hold back the creature’s flesh and expose the organs.

The moment he pulled back the skin, the breath hitched in his throat. Shaking his head, he counted her limbs before turning his gaze back to the thoracic cavity where two elbows rested on either side of her ribcage. Immanuel grabbed the scissors from his kit and cut along the creature’s arms until he reached her shoulders. It was as if the outer seal-like hide had grown over a set of gracile human arms. Peeling back the skin of her tail, he found a pair of human legs, folded under her as if she had been kneeling in prayer.

Immanuel’s heart pounded in his throat as he pulled off his gloves and grabbed his sketchpad from the work table. With an artist’s skill and a scientist’s eye, Immanuel sketched every detail of her form, carefully labeling each bone and ligament he could identify. Most were clearly human and instantly recognizable, but as he delved into the layers of organs, it was clear the evolution had taken a strange turn back to the sea.


Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think, and if you’re interested, you can pre-order Selkie Cove on Amazon.

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Preview of Selkie Cove: Ch 1

Selkie Cove banner1

First off, yes, I know I have been incredibly negligent these past few months regarding this blog. I’m going to try to be better about that in the near future.

So I’m hitting that point in the novel writing/editing/marketing/creating journey where I get itchy feet about sharing things with you. Thus far, I’ve been good, but today, I must share an in-progress version of chapter one of Selkie Cove. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is the blurb:

Selkie Cove 2

Without further ado, here is the first chapter of Selkie Cove:


Chapter One

Confirmed Bachelors

 

Adam Fenice resisted the urge to turn around and check the clock ticking in the corner again for fear of drawing the attention of the other clerks and accountants. Keeping his back to them, he pulled out his pocket watch and took a quick glance. He bit down the earnest smile threatening to cross his lips. In a little over an hour, he and Immanuel would be having lunch together. No matter how often they saw each other, knowing that Immanuel waited for him sent a flutter through his breast. For weeks Immanuel had been busy running between the natural history museum and the British Museum. Between late nights, the impromptu meetings with the heads of the museums, and the nightmares and insomnia from the added stress, they had barely spent a peaceful day, or night, together. Today would be different. Immanuel said everything had been taken care of, and now things would go back to normal.

Adam scoffed at the thought. Normal. Nothing about his life was ever normal. Instead of dealing with Hadley’s toy business or his brother’s consumption, he had Immanuel’s magic to enliven his quiet life. His time spent at the office puzzling out sums and inconsistencies was a welcome relief from coming home to find Immanuel experimenting with new sigils that sent things crashing across the room or turned his tea to dingy brown ice. Between magic and Percy, their cat—if one could call him that when he was solely comprised of bones and mischief—Adam was happy to come to work and deal with facts and figures, where things that were certain no matter what happened outside.

“Fenice, can you come here a moment?” Mr. Bodkin called from his office.

Rising from his desk, Adam stretched and glanced at the clock one more time. He silently sighed, hoping this wouldn’t be an hour long conversation on Sarah Bernhardt’s latest exploit. He had promised Immanuel he would get to the museum promptly to prevent Sir William Henry Flower from commandeering him. If he played his cards right, he could distract Bodkin with a question or two and return to his work. As Adam pushed open the door to Horace Bodkin’s dim cubby of an office, he knew something was wrong. His supervisor sat with his hands folded on his blotter, his thumbs twitching in time with his beady eyes, which ran over everything but Adam’s face. Adam hesitantly sank into the chair before his desk, resisting the urge to scratch his wrist.

“Sir, is there anything—?”

“We have to let you go,” Bodkin blurted.

For a moment, Adam merely stared at him, unsure if his ears had played tricks on him, but when Bodkin’s eyes never wavered from him and his lips twitched into a regretful frown, he knew he had heard correctly. The saliva dried in his throat as he strained to speak.

“I beg your pardon, sir, but may I ask why? Have I made an error?” Adam asked, his mind flitting over the numbers he had tabulated and double-checked over the past few weeks.

“Oh, heavens, no. You’re one of my best workers.”

“Then why am I being let go?”

Mr. Bodkin released a tired breath, his sloped shoulders sighing in agreement. In the dim light with his face more pensive than he had ever seen, he seemed so much older. Adam had liked him best of all his employers. The man had given him his extra tickets to the theatre and chatted with him about novels and society page gossip, but as he tented his meaty, ringed hands and met Adam’s gaze, the fissure of rank widened into a chasm. It had been foolish to ever assume they were friends.

“You must understand, this isn’t my doing, Fenice,” Bodkin said, dropping his voice. “It was Mr. Ellis. His son is to marry soon, and he needs to secure a proper position for him.”

“I see,” he spat, his chest tight with a raw resentment he hadn’t felt since his older brother was alive. Adam’s jaw tightened as he pictured that miser Ellis’s lout of a son sitting at his desk. He eyed Bodkin. How long would it be before the boss’s son was out of his desk and in his supervisor’s chair? “And what about Penn or Weiland? They have been here less than a year. I’ve been here for four. This isn’t fair.”

“Trust me, I agree with you. You know you’re one of my favorites.” For a moment, he looked as if he might reach out and touch Adam’s arm, but upon seeing the blue fire in Adam’s eyes, he thought the better of it. “It’s just that— that— you aren’t the image Mr. Ellis wants for his business. You know, you go to the theatre, you’re an Aesthete who openly supports Wilde’s crowd, you dress flamboyantly—”

Adam glanced down at his silk paisley waistcoat as if seeing it for the first time before crossing his arms over it.

“And you’re a bachelor.”

A derisive laugh escaped his lips. “What does my marital status have to do with my work? If anything, I should have less distractions.”

Mr. Bodkin swallowed hard, his shiny black eyes darting for an answer. “Mr. Ellis likes to see people settled. A bachelor could pick up and leave at any moment, but a man with a wife and children has an anchor. You’re sharing your flat with another bachelor, aren’t you?”

Adam froze. Something lurked beneath the question, plunging his anger into something far colder. Bodkin of all people should have known the significance of Ellis’s decree. Then again, he had a ring on his finger and a brood at home.

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“I have no problems with it, but Mr. Ellis…”

“Penn shares a flat with another bookkeeper. Many young men have roommates.”

“Yes, I know, but do you perhaps have a lady friend you—?”

“No,” Adam replied, his voice sharper than he intended.

“I figured as much.” Pulling an envelope from his desk, Bodkin sighed and held it out for Adam to take. “I was able to convince him to give you an extra week’s wages for the inconvenience. I really am sorry about this, Fenice, but there was nothing I could do to change his mind.”

As he reached to take the money, Adam steadied his hand, biting back the urge to snatch it from him. It was Ellis’ fault, he reminded himself. Bodkin was merely a useless mole forced to do his bidding. A man who, like him, had kept his head down and tried not to make trouble for anyone. Only he had succeeded.

“Thank you for your generosity,” Adam murmured, his voice quavering against his will.

He didn’t try to suppress it. The rage would come out one way or another, and a little edge was much better than the venom creeping up his throat. Adam swallowed and dug his nail into his wrist as he turned, pushing in until he regained control. That was his whole life, wasn’t it? Maintaining an air of control. As he stood to leave, Bodkin’s eyes bore into his back, but before he could look away, Adam whipped around in time to see the man jump back.

A thrill of satisfaction rang through him as he slowly stuffed the envelope of money into his breast pocket. “I appreciate all you have done for me, Mr. Bodkin. I just hope Ellis can see past our shared faults when he inevitably turns his attention to promoting his son. Good day, sir.”

Without looking back, Adam marched into the office with his back rigid and his face a mask of hauteur. His heart pounded as the junior accountants and clerks raised their gazes from their papers in unison to watch him pass while the only other senior accountant kept his eyes buried in his work. Adam stared ahead as he silently walked to his desk near the window despite half a dozen pairs of eyes pressing into his back. How much had they heard? He couldn’t look at them. He didn’t want to know what they thought of his sudden fall. Pity? Scorn? Satisfaction? All he wanted was to get out as quickly as possible with some semblance of dignity.

His eyes traveled over the contents of his desk, lingering on ledgers he had been perusing for a suspected embezzlement case. The figures he had toiled over for days were meaningless now. Some other man would finish his work and take the credit for the case he had built. Adam drew in a constrained breath. Unlike the other men in the office, he had no pictures of his pretty wife or handsome children to show to clients or Mr. Ellis when they came to call. Sitting on a stack of papers closest to the window was an ammonite fossil Immanuel had given to him when they stayed at his brother-in-law’s estate in Dorset that summer. It was the only bit of his life he had allowed to bleed into his work. He could still remember the thrill of danger at having a token of Immanuel’s love in plain view. That was all he would take with him. Adam snatched the fossil, ignoring the slap of paper and the startled cries of his coworkers as the wind scattered the stack. As he slipped on his coat and top hat, he felt the weight of the ammonite in his hand and saw himself hurl it through the windowpane in his mind’s eye. Dropping it into his pocket, he kept his gaze forward, his mouth neutral, and passed down the familiar creaking steps to Lombard Street.

The bitter October cold pawed at his cheeks and tousled the edge of his pomaded henna hair as he slipped out the door. With his hand tightly around the ammonite in his pocket, Adam walked blindly and tried to keep his steps casual. His mind tallied up the rent, the cost to bring in a housekeeper, how much the washerwoman charged against Immanuel’s salary and what Adam remembered to be inscribed in his bankbook. How long would it last? He had only been out of work once during his career and money had been the least of his concerns then. Bodkin had refused his resignation and gave him time off to put his mind to rights, citing his brother’s recent passing. No one would come through for him now.

Men in dark wool coats and top hats pushed passed him on their way to banks and solicitors’ offices just like his. One man tipped his hat to Adam. Recognizing him from their business dealings only a month before, Adam gave him a nod but kept his eyes ahead. How long would it take for news of his departure to reach the other accountants or the clients he regularly worked for? He had spent his whole life avoiding becoming the subject of gossip, and now, it had been thrust upon him.

When Adam stopped moving long enough to surface from his thoughts, he stood at the iron staircase of the Metropolitan station that would take him home. Home. The word caught in Adam’s throat in a wet knot. He swallowed it down and hardened his jaw. He wouldn’t lose it. It had been his family’s home for as long as he had been alive and now it belonged to him and Immanuel. There was no way he would let someone like Ellis take that away from him, but the idea of sitting alone with his thoughts until Immanuel came home was more than he could bear. Without someone there to temper his emotions, he could only imagine the destruction he might cause, and that would be far worse than holding it in a while longer. That was simple. He had choked down the same bitter pill for nearly twenty years.

Glancing at his watch, Adam took the stairs into the labyrinth of brick and wood stretching beneath the city. The stench of urine and feculence burned his nose as he listened for the distant rumble of the electric train. He could take the train to Greenwich and vent to Hadley about what had happened. His sister would understand. She would rail against the injustice of it as only she could, but then, she would have solutions. Hadley would have half a dozen thought up in an instant, most of which would inevitably be tied to her husband, the Earl of Dorset. The thought sent a wave of nausea gurgling through Adam’s gut.

No, Immanuel was waiting for him at the museum to go out for lunch, and he couldn’t disappoint him twice in one day. Before he could change his mind, the train barreled into the station. Straightening, Adam slipped past the conductor and numbly settled in near the window. All he needed was to pretend everything was all right. If he simply didn’t acknowledge it, then perhaps he could never disappoint Immanuel with his failures. If it had worked for most of his life, surely it could work for another hour.


Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think of this excerpt, and I will update everyone as we move closer to publication.

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Want a glimpse of Dead Magic?

As promised on my Facebook page, here is a little unedited preview of Dead Magic. Coming this fall:

Immanuel looked over his shoulder and spotted a vase sitting in the center of the kitchen table, overflowing with ferns fronds, forget-me-notes, and periwinkle traveler’s joy. Adam had given them to him when he arrived, but now their edges were curled and turning brown while their heads dolefully flopped over the side. Immanuel set down his tea and picked up the vase. As he made for the sink, he turned, expecting to find Adam behind him but found nothing. He went to take a step forward but was knocked off kilter by something hitting his chest. Heat seared through his veins, snaking through his core until it hit his heart and shot through his body one beat at a time. Swallowing hard, he leaned against the counter, busying himself with the flowers to keep Adam from seeing the fear in his eyes. He took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes, hoping the stutter in his heart would stop.
“Immanuel? Immanuel, are you all right?”
Immanuel jerked back as water overflowed from the crystal vase and ran over his hands and cuffs. The creeping heat abated at the water’s touch until it only lingered as a tight ball lodged near his heart. Releasing a tight breath, he swallowed hard and carried the flowers back to the table without a word. As he raised his gaze to the dying flowers, his chest tightened. Before his eyes, the flowers’ heads uncurled and the bits of brown he had seen a moment earlier eating away at the edges of the petals dissolved. Across the table, Adam absently poked at a sugar cube bobbing in his cup, unaware of his partner’s sudden urge to pitch the plants out the backdoor. Immanuel averted his gaze, but when he looked back a moment later, the blues and purples of the forget-me-nots were more vibrant than the day he arrived.
Something was wrong with him. Something was very wrong.
“I— I think I’m going to lie down for a little while.”
Adam’s arm wrapped around his shoulders, pressing Immanuel’s back into his chest. “You look flushed. Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m fine,” he snapped but caught himself. “I’m just tired.”
“Well, I will come up with you.”
Immanuel crossed his arms. “I can get up the stairs by myself. I’m not feeble anymore.”
“I think you misunderstood me.” Adam slowly raised his gaze to Immanuel’s, locking eyes as he held his arms. “I want to come up.”
Immanuel’s mouth formed a soundless O, and before he could think about what Adam said, they were checking the locks on the doors and covering the windows. Darting up the stairs, Immanuel slipped off his jacket and tie and tossed them into his undisturbed bedroom as he passed. He waited at the threshold of Adam’s door, watching his companion carefully close the curtains to ensure no one could see inside. It had become a nightly ritual that Adam had started months before Immanuel moved in to help avoid suspicion from their neighbors. When the room was dark, Adam took his hand and led him to the bed where he snaked his hand under Immanuel’s shirt and ran along the flesh of his back. Even after a week together, Immanuel still hesitated, expecting someone to be just beyond the door. It seemed too good to be true to have such freedom.
“Mr. Winter,” Adam whispered into Immanuel’s skin as he planted a trail of hot, moist kisses down his neck, “I have been waiting for this all day.”
But why? He resisted the urge to ask a question that would only elicit a strange look from Adam and an equally awkward reply.
Before Immanuel could stop him, Adam’s fingers were flying over the buttons of his waistcoat and shirt. He resisted the urge to stiffen and cover his deformed chest with his arms, and instead he copied Adam. Beneath his bright dandy’s clothes, Immanuel was as solid and strong as Immanuel felt frail, all ribs and scars. Adam pushed Immanuel against the bedpost, catching his mouth. His pencil mustache scratched Immanuel’s lip as the redhead’s tongue plunged and grazed against his. The breath caught in Immanuel’s throat. Closing his eyes, he let his companion explore his mouth and his ever-changing body. Adam’s hands worked along his sides before sliding over the firm flesh of his buttock, eliciting a soft groan from his companion. Heat crept up Immanuel’s form, tensing every muscle in his abdomen and sending his heart out of rhythm. Immanuel blindingly undid the buckle of Adam’s belt and felt the slide of his fine wool trousers slipping down his legs. Reaching for his own, Immanuel kicked them off and pulled Adam toward the mattress.
The bed sighed under their weight as Adam climbed atop of him. His eyes drank in Immanuel’s form while his hands rested on his ribs. Adam caressed the dents where his ribs hadn’t properly knit together. Immanuel swallowed hard at the thought of being prone and unable to stop Adam’s mental dissection. He hoped it was too dark for Adam to see him, but his mind was silenced by a shiver rippling from his scalp to his curling toes. Immanuel raised his eyes to meet Adam’s gaze. A wordless conversation passed between them, and Adam’s lips curled into a knowing grin. Immanuel stiffened, his hips twitching, as Adam nipped at his collarbones and ran his tongue along his sternum and down the scant trail of hair leading to his flannel drawers. His fingers laced into Adam’s henna hair as a gasp escaped his lips at the rush of air and the goosebumps rising on the tops of his thighs as his drawers were pulled away.
“I want to make you feel better,” Adam murmured, his breath hot against his stomach.
Immanuel closed his eyes, fisting the sheets as Adam drew him in. He needed him, he needed this. He needed to be reminded that even after all that happened, there was still love in the world. More than anything, he needed Adam to make him forget.


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7 Days Until The Winter Garden Comes Out!

wg preorder banner 1The joy and fear that comes with a book release doesn’t decrease from book one to book two, and I am so glad it doesn’t.  Since there is only a week until The Winter Garden comes out, I wanted to post a small excerpt to give you another taste and teaser.  Here it is:

Miss Waters lingered in the stillness, listening to the wind lash against the windowpane. When she was certain she was the last one awake, she tiptoed to the dresser at the far end of the room and soundless slid open the bottom-most drawer. Shaking the lid off the box, she drew out its precious cargo of lace and silk. Her wedding dress had only arrived a few days before, but every time she was in the room, she found herself staring at it and lovingly stroking the fine fabric. Her mother would think her foolish for being so infatuated with something she wouldn’t wear for months, but she did love Alexander Rose. He would make her life better.

A steamer horn blared behind her, and she dropped the bridal gown as she flinched. Behind the bed curtains, the drapes danced in front of the open window. Katherine frowned as she tucked the dress back into its casket and crossed the vacant room. Staring out into the night, she saw nothing but the iron filigree of the decorative balcony rail just beyond her reach. She smiled to herself. Did she really expect to find a face glaring back at her? As she shut the window against the winter dampness, the murky tang of tobacco ash blew across her nose in a long puff. Her body froze before her eyes ever fell upon the massive figure obscured between the bed curtains and the window’s drapes. Katherine Waters hesitantly raised her gaze to meet the creature’s saffron eyes, which glowed in the shadows behind his molded leather mask.

Her throat tightened, refusing to form a sound, as she stepped back. The monster’s unnaturally long legs terminated in a metal, hoof-like pad, but as it stalked her, it moved with the controlled, rolling gait of a panther. The humanoid beast was nearly seven feet tall with elongated metal nails at the ends of its fingers, which caught the dying light of the fire as they flexed and reached as if to snatch her. His body was clothed in black but peeking from beneath his cloak were jutting brass ribs that covered empty yet opaline lungs. As her back collided with the oaken poster of her bed, Katherine stared into his face. While the mouth and chin were of a man, the top was that of a sharp-featured demon with curled horns. Had the devil finally come to collect her sullied soul?

“God, help me.”

“God has no business here, Kitty.”

If you have a Kindle, you can pre-order a copy for 99 cents here.  It will automatically be delivered to your Kindle on March 15th. If you prefer paperback, it will be out on the 15th for purchase.  I hope to make it available a day or two early, so it will ship closer to the release date.  Createspace really needs to make a pre-order feature for paperbacks.

If you are looking forward to The Winter Garden, I hope you will spread the word, and when you read it, please leave a review. Reviews are incredibly important to authors, not just for feedback but to show others that the book is worth reading, especially for an unknown like me.

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The Winter Garden Preview

WG preorder 99c

Leading up to The Winter Garden‘s release on March 31st, I will be posting a few excerpts from the story.  You can read an excerpt from chapter one here.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter Two: Alchemists and Pinnipeds:

Immanuel smiled to himself as he made his way across the lawns and between the medieval buildings, feeling the money from his professor jingle in his pocket. It was bittersweet to finish Otto’s skeleton since he enjoyed spending his afternoons with his mentor, but it would be nice to use the bit of money he earned to have a meal out or buy some new supplies. He wove between the throngs of students and strangers until he reached the massive entrance of the Bodleian Library with its gothic portal and school coats of arms. The warm smell of must and parchment engulfed him as he slipped inside. The cozy, cave-like atmosphere of the Bodleian calmed him on his worst day and had been his refuge since he arrived. The librarian barely looked up from his desk as the lanky, young German signed in and strolled toward a desk among the stacks. He wandered through the shelves searching for those who may be able to help him in his search. It had been weeks since the day at the Thames when the girl fell in and his heart stopped, but he couldn’t help but wonder what his alchemist ancestors created. Every spare moment was spent in the library researching what could have revived her. On a shelf of philosophers stood Magnus, Bacon, and Pseudo-Geber; all were men who sought to wholly understand life but, unlike him, took their studies toward the otherworldly. Immanuel hoped within their spines he would find the curious secret to what had been brewed and bottled in the necklace by his ancestors.

For hours he sat at the desk in solitude and silence with his hands covering his ears and cupping the sides of his face like blinders. Most of what he read made little sense, but as he reached the section on Albertus Magnus, his eyes lit up. Another German had made an elixir of life. He reread the words, but they refused to sink in. The lapis philosophorum had the power to grant life. Immanuel’s eyes passed over the page until they reached the part about how it looked. The immature stone was white but would transform to its most potent form, which was red, with the addition of a reagent. The vial had been a murky milk until it morphed into a sanguine solution upon the addition of his blood. Could his mother’s forbears have left the lapis philosophorum for him as his inheritance?

When Immanuel finally surfaced from the massive volume, his neck was stiff and his hand was cramped beyond cracking. He sat back, clenching his eyes shut, but upon opening them, he suddenly noticed how dark the library had become even with the electric sconces. As he gathered up his belongings, a door opened in the distance, and the lights were extinguished. Immanuel quickly threw on his satchel and grabbed the book by Albertus Magnus to return it to the shelf when their voices rang out in the darkness. He peered around the edge of the bookcase, ready to yell to the librarian that he was still inside when his eyes fell upon three men in the shadows.

“Are you certain he is in here, Higgins?” asked the man in the middle, his voice deep and urbane.

“Very, he is the only one who has not left.” The second intruder’s voice vacillated nervously. “I should know, I have been outside for four bloody hours.”

“Keep it down, or he will hear you. I do not want to have to chase him. Higgins, go toward the back. Thomas, go check the shelves.”

Immanuel carefully padded backwards, keeping an eye on the shrouded men at the other end of the library as he darted toward the Seldon End. His chest tightened as he spun around, hoping to find a place to hide, but all he found was a dead end. He could hide under the tables, but even with the scant amount of light coming in through the windows, he would cast a shadow. Two pairs of feet were rapidly approaching. One of the men called out that the stacks were empty. Immanuel’s heart pounded as his eyes fell on the catwalk above his head. Holding his breath, he inched toward the hall where the men were regrouping and noiselessly climbed the steps on the tips of his toes.

He flattened against the bookcase as the men came in and checked under the desks and near the shelves for any sign of him. What they could want from him, he couldn’t imagine, but he didn’t want to find out. From his hiding place, he watched the figures below move in the waning light. He didn’t recognize them as students or lecturers, and while they weren’t carrying cudgels or guns, it was clear they were hunting for someone. The two who were sent ahead stepped into the lantern light, revealing that they were both at least a dozen years older than he was and better dressed. The man who eagerly sought him under the long desks had a gaunt and haggard countenance with bulging eyes that darted nervously over every surface. The other was a stout man with spectacles, who appeared more fit for servitude or banking than crime.

As their leader emerged from the shadows of the hall, it became clear why they didn’t need to carry weapons. The robust man strode in like a Roman commander. He held his head high and marched past his inferiors. Immanuel swallowed hard as the man put his hands on his hips, causing his ribs to flare and push dangerously against the tailored fabric of his suit and waistcoat. As much as he wanted to monitor the men, he feared that if he looked at them directly, they would feel his gaze and discover him in his darkened corner.

“He isn’t here, sir.”

As the pudgy intruder spoke, Immanuel looked out over the railing toward the arched portal. If he could leap from the second floor and run toward the exit, he might just be able to outrun them, especially since he knew the terrain.

“The German couldn’t have gone far. Thomas, go up there and tell me if you can see him.”

His eyes widened in panic as the fatter man climbed the steps. Immanuel stared up at the inlaid ceiling, taking long, slow breaths to keep from hyperventilating. The fidgety man peered out the window for their prey while their leader lingered under the walkway on the opposite side of the room. The paunchy criminal looked out across the library, gripping the railing until his meaty knuckles turned white. With a final steadying breath, Immanuel knew what he had to do. He clutched The Theatrum Chemicum and began his silent shuffle toward the intruder. In the shadows, the man never noticed as he slunk behind him. Raising the tome high above his head, Immanuel brought it down so hard on the back of the heavy man’s skull that he crumpled against the rail. Immanuel dashed the book to the floor and jumped over the edge. His leg gave out under him as he stumbled forward, ignoring the pain radiating up from his ankle.

For a few fleeting seconds, he thought he would be able to escape until he heard the sound of a bench crashing to the floor and boots thundering behind him on the ancient planks. His satchel slapped against his thigh as the shelves blew past him on either side. Immanuel slammed his wobbly ankle down step after step despite the pain. The door was only feet beyond the deserted librarian’s desk, but as he rounded the corner, the footsteps finally caught up with him. They collided in a pile of wool and leather and fell to the ground with the brawny man easily pinning him. Immanuel flailed and thrashed wildly until he was able to work his arms free from under the man’s body. The bug-eyed Higgins soon joined the pile, but as he reached for Immanuel’s arms, the younger man sent his elbow into the criminal’s nose. When his attacker fell back onto their commander, Immanuel rolled onto his stomach and scrambled to his feet. A claw wrapped around his sore ankle and yanked him back down. Immanuel lay on the floor panting, the wind knocked out of him by the fall, as the man knelt on his back and tightly bound his hands with the strap from his satchel.

“I knew you were in there. Even if I could not see you, I could sense you,” their leader explained in a harsh whisper. His mouth was so close to Immanuel’s ear he could taste the puffs of hot tobacco-ridden breath with each syllable. “I did not expect such a fight from you.”

“The money is in my pocket. I swear, I have nothing else of value,” Immanuel cried with his face pressed into the floor from the man’s weight, but his hands worked frantically against their binds.

“Oh, you have something much more valuable than money that I want. Stop struggling, boy. We are just going to have a little talk.”

Before Immanuel could reply, a sharp pain followed by a flood of cold ran through his arm. Then, the world went black.


44 days until The Winter Garden comes out!  If you haven’t read the first book, I hope you will check out The Earl of Brass, and if you like what you read, you can pre-order The Winter Garden (IMD #2) here for 99 cents.  I cannot believe there are only 44 days left. As a bonus, here is a little Valentines Day fun from Adam and Immanuel.  You’ll meet them soon.

valentine__immanuel_and_adam_by_fi_di-d767gqs

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The Winter Garden: Blurb and Excerpt

Here is the blurb and excerpt for The Winter Garden, book 2 of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices.

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Blurb:

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.


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The Earl of Brass: Blurb and Excerpt

Here is the blurb and an excerpt for The Earl of Brass, book 1 of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices.

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Blurb:

Lord Sorrell wants freedom. With the responsibilities of an earldom and a dominating 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?

 


Excerpt:

With a lurch, Eilian awoke just in time to see his trunk rapidly approaching the end of his nose. He tumbled over his luggage and into the paneled wall, landing in the narrow space between them as the trunk slid back into his chest. Grabbing the armchair, he hoisted himself to his feet only to be hit with a wave of nausea. The world felt as if it had been turned on its side. He forced his door open and staggered into the hall, swallowing down the bile rising up his throat. His gold pocket watch slipped from his vest and hung at an angle as he hobbled toward the observation deck, but when he reached for the rail, the ship rolled to the right as if shot from a sling, slamming him into the unforgiving wood. Screams erupted from behind closed doors. The heavy furniture slid, trapping men and women under them as they were thrown from their beds. As the aristocrats began to filter from their rooms, he scrambled to his feet in stunned silence, rubbing the sore arm he knew would soon contain a bruise to match the one on his leg. His eyes trailed to the world just beyond the mullioned glass of the ship. Only a few hundred yards below, lightning cracks illuminated the miniature people standing in the village streets, gazing up at the lumbering giant. He could nearly make out their features in the glow of the streetlamps. How could they be so low if they weren’t landing?

The captain’s stridulant voice was ringing out, calling for order, but Lord Sorrell didn’t hear him as he noticed the people below shifting slightly. They tilted, and as they did, his feet began to slide across the Turkish carpet of the observation deck. His stomach somersaulted as he grasped the rail, hoping it would pass. The moment his other hand reached the brass railing, the airship plunged forward as it yanked everything toward its bow. Eilian’s hands slipped down the bar, but the sinews of his arms and legs held firm. Passengers screeched as they fell to the floor and tumbled into the legs of chairs and great skeins of drapery and carpet. The reminders of home entrapped them and smothered them beneath their silk and Berber folds. The pops of glass globes from the gas lamps reverberated through the dirigible as the bow shot back up and teetered unsteadily. Eilian froze with his trembling hands clutching the rail. His breaths came rapidly as he strained to stand up, his body weak from the shock of holding on during the deathly plummets. For a moment, there was silence as the others waited for something to happen. The chilled night air whistled in through the glass of the observation deck, which had been shattered by a dining chair impaled in the brass mullion.

At the port observation deck, the cries of men and women rose to a shrill din. A man called for the captain after a child had been jettisoned overboard. As the dirigible continued its dull tour, Eilian caught a glimpse of her shattered body leaking blood into the capillaries of the cobbles below. Something is very wrong, Lord Sorrell thought as he calculated the distance below to be only three hundred yards. Taking a calming breath, his mouth was filled with the sulphorous odor of methane as it wafted from the globe-less gas lamps. If they were to go down, they would surely incinerate when the fire of the engines met the hydrogen of the gasbag and the methane in the gondola. A wine bottle lazily rolled past Eilian’s feet toward the nose of the ship. The HMS Albert had begun its final dive.

The field and the hard cobbles were rapidly approaching as Eilian ran toward the aft of the ship. Maybe if he could make it to the farthest point in the gondola, he would have a chance. As he reached the hallway, pushing past men and woman in motley brocade and black dinner jackets as they began to slide past him, his feet slipped from the polished floor. The world erupted around him in a maelstrom of cacophonous voices and groaning wood and metal as they struck flesh and earth. Fire flooded the ship as Eilian collided with the boards.

 ***

 Eilian’s eyes fluttered open as he lifted his head from the raft of paneling that lay beneath his bruised and swelling cheek. The fractured wood scraped his knees and palms as he hoisted onto his trembling knees and stared into the hall as it lay on its side. Flames burned through the remaining walls as he stepped over doorways and bodies as they lay broken, crushed beneath pieces of beds or impaled by the broken ribs of the dying airship. The drone of men’s voices wisped across the wind, but as Eilian followed them, they were drowned in the crackling fires and moans of the ship. The smoke burned his eyes and prickled his throat as he waited in the abyss for a means of escape. His back and legs ached with each movement, but he pressed on as pieces of elephantine canvas fluttered down, incinerating before they ever reached the ground.

Staring back at him between spilled trunks and lumps of fabric was the prime minister’s brother. His dull eyes were fixed on him with his mouth poised to scream, but his body lay splayed like an abandoned doll with his neck contorted at an impossible angle. Flames licked at his temples, biting his hair and nibbling away at his flesh. Eilian had seen funeral pyres in India, but nothing had prepared him for the demented dead, forever in agony once their suffering had ended. Wrenching his eyes away, he stepped over a woman and her child as they held each other. The disembodied voices crept over the wind, putting him back on the path to safety. When he listened again, the ribs of the dying ship groaned in pain as they sagged under their load.

He threw his arm up to stop the impact, but the beam knocked him down, pinning him beneath its red-hot iron. Eilian Sorrell screamed as the metal seared through his clothes and into his flesh until he was certain his heart would stop from the pain. Like a wounded animal, he thrashed and writhed until he worked his legs and torso free, but his right arm remained lodged and continued to burn. Kicking off the beam, he hoped to free his numb limb, but on the third attempt, the sole of his shoe melted onto the metal. Finally, he twisted and pulled, hoping sheer force would free it, and with the sickening release of suction and the smell of burnt meat, his arm dislodged.

Eilian averted his gaze, hoping what he saw was a hallucination as he heedlessly rushed toward the voices on the wind. His heart pounded as he saw the moon between the naked ribs of the dirigible. Flames leapt and popped beside him. Sweat poured down his back and chest, stinging his open wounds. The searcher’s lights pierced the gnawed openings in the outer hull as he burst into the cool night air. His knees gave way, and he collapsed into the dewy grass. Pain flared from his right side, squeezing the cries from his throat. As voices called out around him and tried to lift him onto the stretcher, they hesitated at his right side. Suddenly, the pain subsided, and the world went black.

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