I thought this week I would show a little preview of The Reanimator’s Soul to whet your appetite, even though we’re still quite a few months away from release (October 24th). As a reminder, The Reanimator’s Soul is the sequel to The Reanimator’s Heart. If it seems interesting to you, you can preorder The Reanimator’s Soul or you can buy book one here. (Also, please pardon any typos as it hasn’t been proofread yet)
Omnia Mors Aequat
Few things pleased Felipe more than seeing Oliver getting along with his family. Since Teresa came home for the summer two weeks earlier, they had spent a lot of time together. At first, Teresa seemed confused to see Oliver at Felipe’s side every time they came to visit. She was accustomed to her mothers being a couple, but her papa had never brought someone home to meet her. He told himself that it would just take time for her to get used to it. Where Teresa seemed perplexed, Oliver was so anxious about saying the wrong thing or making things awkward between Felipe and his daughter that he spent much of their time together in silence. During the first few days, Felipe feared the summer would be filled with his two favorite people dancing around each other. It wasn’t until they went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Felipe caught Teresa and Oliver hovering over a display case discussing which organs went in each canopic jar that he knew they would be all right. Right now though, Oliver looked like he regretted ever agreeing to this visit.
Raising the practice foil again, Oliver grimaced beneath his fencing mask and braced for impact as Teresa came at him. He deflected the first blow with a grunt only to get poked in the chest when she easily twisted away and hit him on his unprotected side. Felipe smiled to himself. He had trained her well. From the time she could walk, he had taught her all he knew about fighting. She had inherited generations of techniques that had been passed down the Galvan line along with those he had learned during his years at Colonel Monstery’s dueling academy. Knowing how to protect herself was a useful skill for a young woman growing up in the city, even if she didn’t plan on becoming an investigator like him. More often than not, the most dangerous monsters wore human faces.
Unlike Louisa or Oliver, she took to it like a duck. “Teresa, go even slower. He’s still a beginner, and, Oliver, loosen your stance a little and don’t be afraid to use force against her. You’re six inches taller and quite a bit heavier than her. Use that to your advantage,” Felipe called from the sidelines.
Before Oliver could finish the sentence, Teresa feinted to the side and kicked the foil’s guard, sending the sword flying with a clang. It was a cheap and unsportsmanlike trick, but it got the point across. Oliver stared at his empty hand with a curious frown as Teresa laughed and went to fetch his sword. She was enjoying herself far too much.
“Let’s take a short break.”
“Thank god. My arms are starting to shake,” Oliver said as he pulled off his mask and wiped his face against his shoulder.
Despite Oliver being sweaty and red-cheeked, Felipe found himself very tempted to kiss the damp, inky curls clinging to his forehead. Oliver looked quite dashing in his fencing whites with the color rising in his usually pale cheeks, but what Felipe truly appreciated was that no matter how many times Teresa outfenced him or Felipe corrected him, he just took the criticism and kept trying. A grown man not throwing a tantrum after being repeatedly bested by a nineteen year old was a good sign.
When Teresa offered Oliver his sword, he took it with a weary smile. “You are an impressive fighter. You could be the next Jaguarina with skills like those.”
“If only the name hadn’t been taken when I started doing competitions.” Pulling off her helmet, Teresa winced as her thick, brown hair caught on the inside. “I think it suits me much better.”
“Don’t compliment her too much, Oliver, or she won’t be able to get her helmet back on,” Felipe said with a laugh.
Her hazel eyes brightened with mischief as she gave Oliver a theatrical bow and returned to her place. Felipe knew he should correct her for that cheap shot she used on Oliver to prove her point, but he couldn’t help but smile to himself. Even though she was nearly as tall as he was now, seeing his little girl fight still filled him with pride. At her age, he had just joined the Paranormal Society and was already throwing himself headlong into danger. She, at least, got the opportunity to live a peaceful life with parents who loved her and let her become the person she wanted to be without too much interference. Any fighting she did now was because she wanted to and chose to.
“Should we try parrying again?” Teresa asked. “I promise I won’t play dirty this time if you promise not to go easy on me.”
“For god sakes, Teresa, let the poor man catch his breath!” Louisa called from the backdoor as she carried out a tray laden with food and cutlery. She let Oliver take it from her and set it on the garden table as she shook her head at Felipe and Teresa. “I leave for an hour, and you two turn the yard into a paste.”
“Piste,” the other Galvans answered in unison.
“Whatever. The dogs need to go out, so there will be no fighting until they’re done. Come and sit. Agatha made lemonade and bienenstich.” Turning back to Oliver, she said, “Do you see how he’s turned our daughter into a common street brawler?”
“Mama, I might be a street brawler, but I am anything but common.”
Felipe bit back a laugh at the long-suffering look that crossed Louisa’s features. As she opened her mouth to speak, Agatha swept into the yard with Kuchen and Pastel in tow. Pastel darted off to yap at a squirrel while Kuchen sidled over to Oliver and eyed the cake. Planting a kiss on Teresa’s temple, Agatha pulled her close even as their daughter wrinkled her nose but leaned into her Ma Ma’s affection.
“Did my little Liebling tell you about how she nearly got kicked out of grammar school for teaching the other girls to fistfight?”
Teresa rolled her eyes. “No, Ma Ma, we’ve been too busy trying to teach Dr. Barlow the basics of sparring.”
“I would love to hear about it later,” Oliver replied as he cut each of them a piece of the creamy layer cake. “You and your papa have been very patient teachers. I didn’t realize I wasn’t your first pupil.”
“Oh, yes, she helped pay her exhibition fees by teaching the younger girls at her fencing club. We’re quite proud of how far she’s come, but Felipe can’t claim all the credit for her talent. Two of my brothers were quite accomplished fencers in their younger days. I never took to it, but it must have skipped a generation.”
Taking his plate, Felipe settled beside Oliver on the hip-high wall surrounding the patio while the ladies took the chairs at the ironwork table. A bee bumped against his hand as if drawn to the honeyed almonds on the cake. Between refreshing bites of cream, Felipe watched the others. Sitting between her mothers, the resemblance was obvious. Teresa had Agatha’s hazel eyes, though hers were more to the brown, and Louisa’s wide mouth and dark hair, but the rest of her ended up somewhere in between. Her skin was slightly browner than Felipe’s, and the combination of Louisa’s compact muscle and Agatha’s added height gave her long, strong limbs and a hearty disposition. Even if they shared no blood, her coloring and personality ended up close enough to Felipe’s that no one noticed she looked nothing like him. As Agatha said, people saw what they wanted to see.
How had nineteen years gone so quickly? He could still remember carrying her on his shoulders during parades and trips to the shore. The squeal of her voice when she won her first competition. How close yet so far away those days seemed. At the gentle pressure of Oliver’s hand on his arm, Felipe gave him a tight smile and tried not to think of the hundreds of little regrets he had in regards to his daughter. The sheer volume of things he had missed due to work was shameful, but no more. He had a second chance to do things right, and he would be there for her while she was home no matter what.
“So, Oliver, how are you settling back in at work?” Louisa asked, topping off their drinks.
“Well, actually.” Moving his plate to let Kuchen sit in his lap, Oliver held the dog close. “It feels like I never left, and now that I’m off light duty, things finally feel back to normal.”
“And you, Felipe? How is partial retirement going?”
Flashing him a sharp smile over the back of her chair, Teresa added, “Yes, Papa, do tell. How does it feel to finally stay put?”
“It’s been an adjustment but a good one. As I’ve said, I’m hoping we can spend lots of time together while you’re home. It should be easier now.”
Neither Felipe nor Oliver brought up the adjustments they were dealing with in the lab, though Felipe felt Oliver’s eyes on him. That month of light duty where they were stuck in the lab together all day had been rough. While Felipe was accustomed to handing off corpses to Oliver for a closer examination or stumbling upon them in the heat of an investigation, he was not accustomed to how they looked and smelled up close. Or how long that smell lingered on everything in warmer weather. He had vomited during a particularly messy case while Oliver bit back a barely suppressed withering look. For a man who could smell traces of magic like a bloodhound, he certainly didn’t seem fazed by decomposition. He made more of a fuss about the chemicals he used to clean the lab than anything else as they gave him a headache. The past few weeks where Oliver had free reign in the lab and Felipe could go to the archives to focus on the cold cases he was slowly picking apart and researching had been nice, but he was itching to go out on an investigation.
“Well, I, for one, am very glad you’re actually done galivanting all over the country. I was half-convinced that the moment Oliver fully recovered, you would be on the first train out of the city,” Louisa said pointedly between bites of cake.
Felipe stared into his drink. He wasn’t dying to leave New York because he had died and been reanimated. And he still hadn’t told his family about what happened that January or how he was now tethered to Oliver, so there was no way for him to leave the Paranormal Society, let alone the city, unless he took Oliver with him. Felipe swallowed against the knot in his throat. They were all together; now would be the perfect time to tell them everything. With four pairs of expectant eyes upon him, his resolve faltered.
“What can I say, Oliver has been a good influence,” Felipe replied blithely with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Teresa’s gaze shifted to Oliver, her brows furrowing and a look passing across her features so fast that Felipe wasn’t sure if he had imagined it as she turned back to the table.
“What do you all think of going to see The Circus Girl? I know it’s not the kind of thing we would usually go to, but it sounds like good fun and the staging is supposed to be superb.”
“Sure,” Felipe replied without thinking.
Oliver’s grey eyes bore him as he hissed, “But what if we have a case come up?”
At Oliver’s pointed, wide-eyed look, Felipe silently sighed and nodded. “Yes, that could be a problem. Let me know when the performances are, Agatha. I’m sure we can figure out a time that works.”
“And if you do, can we go to Siegel-Cooper and pick out new outfits?” Teresa added brightly. “I have so missed our shopping trips, Papa.”
Felipe smiled and tried to ignore the look of horror on Oliver’s face warring with the happiness of his daughter. They would discuss it later. Poking at what remained of his cake, Felipe found he no longer had an appetite.
Once the conversation moved on to Agatha and Louisa’s latest gallery finds, the knot in Felipe’s chest loosened. Before long, the dessert, drinks, and dogs had been brought into the house and Felipe turned his attention back to Oliver. He was tempted to have him work on defensive moves with Teresa again, but Colonel Monstery had always suggested short practice sessions to avoid diminishing returns. On a full stomach, they would probably be even worse. Letting his focus fall to the tether lodged around his heart, he felt for Oliver at the other end. His heart pumped as steadily as his own, but he could feel the undercurrent of fatigue and anxiety beneath it. The length of the visit was probably wearing on him along with more potential trips out, but Felipe didn’t want to leave yet. There was still so much time to make up for. Teresa pulled her hair back and shot Felipe a questioning look that bordered on mischievous. One last match, then.
“How about we give Oliver a demonstration of how uncommon street bawlers fight?”
“Limitations?” Teresa asked with a knowing smile.
“The usual: no purposeful hits to the face and no taking to furs. Street brawler rules apply. Winner at first blood or forfeit.”
An expression between confusion and anxiety crossed Oliver’s face as he looked between the two Galvans. “Do you need my helmet and jacket?”
“Just the helmet. Don’t worry, we used to do this all the time.”
He tossed Teresa one of the practice daggers from his bag and tucked the other in his waistband as he took his position on the makeshift piste. Slipping the mask on, Felipe’s heart sped at the comforting adrenaline of a fight. He relished the way the controlled chaos of sparring allowed his mind to fade into the background until he was nothing more than limbs and motion. As he and Teresa saluted each other and fell into position, he hoped Oliver could feel his excitement across the tether.
For a long moment, they merely circled each other, testing each other’s swords to see who would make the first move. The impatience of youth won out as Teresa struck. She was fast, hitting him with half a dozen strikes in rapid succession, but he had decades of experience. The moment he struck low, her stance changed, and in place of the decorated fencer was his protégé. The practice foils weren’t his or her preferred weapons; they lacked the stability of the sabers they typically used, but they would do. A small smile crossed Felipe’s lips at the realization she was slowly walking him back toward the high wall surrounding the yard.
When she pressed her advantage, he swiveled out of the way and struck until she was the one being backed into the wall. Her brown eyes narrowed behind her mask as their swords clashed with as much strength behind them as she could manage. Her feet slipped in the grass until her left boot struck brick, but Felipe realized her move a second before she did. When her right foot came up to strike him, he caught it and pulled her forward. She tumbled to the ground with a huffed breath. By the time he backed out of reach, she was on her feet with the dagger in her free hand.
Teresa circled him calmly, though he could see her chest rising and falling harder than it had before. She lazily spun the dagger in her hand as if testing its weight. He hadn’t stipulated they couldn’t throw the daggers, but for Oliver’s sake, he hoped she wouldn’t. The moment he reached for his, she charged. Metal clanged as he threw up his arm to parry both her blades in one sweep. When they collided again, they were so close, he could see her brows furrowed and her teeth gritted beneath the mask. Meeting his gaze, a small smile crossed her lips. Before he could move, her hand closed over both swords and she slammed her hilt into his. It jolted out of his grasp as she swung both blades back with her full weight. She tumbled and rolled to her feet, tossing Felipe’s foil aside as she popped up with both her blades at the ready.
This time when she came at him, he was ready. He caught her sword with his dagger and twisted, pressing with all his strength until he was close enough to grab her. With his free hand, he pulled her back flat to him. She struggled in his grip, pushing his dagger back, despite the close quarters. Letting out a frustrated grunt, she drove her elbow straight into his side.
A crack reverberated inside him followed by a flood of pain. Releasing her with a hissed breath, Felipe schooled his features and desperately tried to keep his voice steady at the sudden stabbing with each breath. “I forfeit. The jaguar wins.”
“It’s hardly fair. You always take it easy on me,” she said while looking pleased with herself, “but I will accept your forfeit.”
A wave of concern flickered across the tether, and when Felipe stiffly turned, he found Oliver’s gaze flickering over him as if looking for the source of his pain. When he opened his mouth to ask, Felipe shook his head.
“I think that’s enough sparring for one day. I’m going to get cleaned up.”
Before Oliver could stop him, Felipe took the steps as fast as he dared with what little adrenaline he had left from the fight. Shutting the bathroom door behind him, Felipe let out a pained breath and unbuttoned his waistcoat and shirt. The beginnings of a livid bruise bloomed across his ribs where Teresa struck him. He couldn’t blame her for hurting him. She had never had to be careful with him before. He was her indestructible Papa who healed immediately even if she drew first blood. Was. The backs of Felipe’s eyes burned as he perched on the edge of the tub and struggled to kick off his trousers without upsetting his rib. It should have started healing by now. In the past, a cracked or broken rib would have been a temporary annoyance he would have shaken off completely within a quarter of an hour. Now, he would be lucky if it was mostly healed by the end of the day, and it would take even longer if he didn’t eat an egregious amount of meat when he returned to the Paranormal Society.
Felipe put his head in his hands and let his thoughts be drowned beneath the water streaming into the tub. He was good at pretending he was all right; he had done it his whole life. But he wasn’t all right. He should have been dead—he was dead—and in coming back to life, he had gained and lost more than he could have imagined.
One thing was certain, the indestructible Felipe Galvan was dead and gone. And that hurt far more than a broken rib.
If you enjoyed this preview of The Reanimator’s Soul, you can preorder it at all major retailers. A paperback will be available closer to the release date, which is October 24th, 2023.