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Preview of Kinship and Kindness

Kinship and Kindness

My next book in a brand new queer paranormal historical series, Kinship and Kindness, comes out July 31st, and to celebrate and whet your appetites, I have posted chapter one below. You can preorder Kinship and Kindness, on all major ebook platforms and paperbacks will be coming later.

Let me know what you think and stay tuned for more soon.


Chapter One

The Rougarou

Preparing for the Annual Delegation of American Werewolves for the first time on his own should have been exciting, but Theo Bisclavret’s eyes glazed over as Mr. Rosier droned on about the growing list of half-finished tasks he had to accomplish. Every werewolf in Grand Chien had been abuzz about the imminent arrival of delegation members from all over the United States, but after facilitating the preparations for three weeks in his father’s stead, Theo just wanted it to be over or for his father to return from England, whichever came first. It had been an endless parade of lists from various members of their international governing body, Les Meutes, each trying to make sure he had everything in order, as if he hadn’t attended nearly every werewolf event his father had organized in the last fifteen years. Tension creeped up Theo’s neck and into his jaw, but as he rolled his shoulders and tried to breathe out the nagging pain, his eyes shot up as his sister pointedly cleared her throat on the other side of the room. He raised his gaze to find Rosier looking at him with a grey eyebrows raised as if waiting for an answer.

Theo slowly straightened in his chair, keeping his face neutral and his back straight as he often saw his father do. “Could you please repeat the question? I thought I heard something outside.” His wolf surfaced, searching for a sound, but Theo gently shoved it down.

“I said, do you know when the Rougarou will return?”

That was what they were all wondering. “Our father has assured us that he will return in ample time to meet with the delegations. When we have a specific date of arrival, we will let everyone know.”

Rosier looked over his shoulder at Eudora, but she kept her head down over her portable desk. When Rosier turned back to him, Theo leveled a look at him that would quash any further questions. With a tightening of his lips and a final admonishment to send him the final preparations post haste, Rosier took his bowler from the edge of the desk and departed. The moment the door closed behind him, Theo deflated and let the chair beneath him languidly spin before swiveling back to his sister. Eudora pursed her lips and shrugged. Tucking a wayward brown curl behind her ear, she sat on the edge of the desk and reread the notes she had taken.

On the far wall, the calendar hung mockingly across from the desk. Theo counted back the weeks and scrubbed a hand over his face. “I can’t believe Pa’s been away three weeks already.”

“Yup,” Eudora replied flatly, her brows furrowing at the interruption.

“And you’re certain the last telegram came six days ago?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Yes.”

“Do you think something’s wrong? It isn’t like him to be away for so long.”

“I’m sure everything’s fine. Maybe they have bad weather and he can’t leave. I’m sure it snows in England.”

“Yeah.” Theo sat back. He wished he knew where his sister had put the letters she had read to him over the past few weeks during dinner. Reading them might put his mind at ease, but he hadn’t thought to ask. It seemed pointless to demand them now. “Do you think Wesley is all right?”

Eudora’s face tightened a fraction before brightening with a placating smile. “You are such a mother hen, Theo. Wesley is fine. He’s a Pinkerton. He can hold his own. Hopefully Pa can talk him into coming back sooner than later. Then, you won’t have to keep up this charade.”

Guilt rose in Theo’s gut so fast he felt ill. Being the future Rougarou had been his dream for so long that, even though it was impossible and had been for some time, he still felt as if he had failed. He had failed himself, he had failed Pa, he had failed the packs if Wesley or Eudora couldn’t take over after Pa stepped down and instability ensued. His wolf’s comforting bulk rubbed against his mind, and he absently flexed his hand as if reaching to touch it. An unexpected warmth closed over his hand. He looked up to find his sister’s acorn brown eyes pinning him with something between affection and sorrow.

“That is what you want, right?”

Theo nodded and inwardly sighed. “You should go back to the house and get some sleep. You’re going on patrol tonight, aren’t you?”

“Yes, mother. And you should, too. You’re burning the candle at both ends.”

“I have a few things left to finish up.”

“I balanced the books and took stock of the linens that came in this morning, so you don’t have to.”

“Oh. Then, I guess I’ll go home with you. I want to put a few baskets of food together for the neighbors before you go out tonight.”

“Just make me a list of names, and I’ll do it. Give them some peaches, would you? I can’t bear to eat another jar of peaches.”

“They’re good for you, and you love peach jam.”

“Used to.” With a smile, Eudora kissed the top of his head and squeezed his shoulder. “Come on, let’s walk home together. I don’t like you walking through the woods alone.”

“Now, who’s the mother hen?” Theo said only to receive a flash of her tongue in response.

Gathering his coat and hat, Theo tried to ignore the pain in the back of his head and the twisting in his stomach. It was probably just worry, but he couldn’t help the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

***

Bennett swore as he slapped a mosquito off his cheek. This trip had been nothing but a pain in the ass. He had thought the trip to Louisiana would be a vacation from his life in Brooklyn. For the first time in years, Bennett could sleep without the constant cacophony of city life only a stack of brick away. He could eat in relative peace without the lingering scent of turpentine or oil paint. There would be no fine layer of clay dust on everything or piss-poor piano music playing at all hours, and no raucous lovemaking on the other side of too thin plaster walls.

Instead, Bennett spent three days vomiting everything that passed his lips. Whether he was on the deck overlooking the East Coast rolling below or tucked into his windowless room, bile clawed up his throat and his stomach roiled at the ship’s constant motion. All he had been able to see before dirigible sickness struck was the northern half of New Jersey, and he had already seen that from the ground. Stepping off the dirigible outside of New Orleans, he knew he looked like death. He felt like it and probably smelled liked it. Three drivers had refused to take him to Grand Chien, but this one seemed far more eager to take him than he should have. As the narrow boat tilted beneath him, Bennett clutched the sides but yanked his hands back when he remembered the swamps were supposedly riddled with alligators. Cramps rippled through his calves and arms, but he bit them down with a grimace.

Hoping the young man ferrying him across the swamp didn’t notice, Bennett eyed him with suspicion. The entire journey, he hadn’t shut up for longer than it took to take a breath, and while he was far more willing to ferry an ill passenger than the others, Bennett couldn’t help but be suspicious. He knew he could easily be shanked and dumped into the swamp without a qualm once his pockets were emptied. It happened plenty in Brooklyn.

Bennett squinted at the stars dazzling through the trees as the midnight world began to awake around them. Bats and night birds cried from the tree tops while insects kept a heady buzz in time to an unseen metronome. Despite the noise, the lack of people was disconcerting in a way Bennett hadn’t expected. He was accustomed to constant movement. At all hours he could hear people coming and going from the Ruth’s house. Her numerous boarders and friends never seemed to all sleep at once, and the grocers, suppliers, and newsboys outside had no qualms about waking people up. Years in the city had taught him how to sleep through anything, except silence. Luckily, the ferryman hadn’t stopped talking since they embarked from the landing field.

Bennett pulled at his collar and licked his dry lips. God, he was tired and thirsty. It was painful how badly he wanted some water. The other man probably had a flask of something on him, but Bennett didn’t want to ask. Too much liquid meant he would have to relieve himself eventually, and he didn’t want to think about the logistics of that. He chuckled to himself under his breath. It was ironic to be surrounded by so much water yet be so thirsty. That shouldn’t have been so funny.

“Y’all right?” the ferryman asked.

Bennett swallowed against another surge of dizziness as he turned to face the other man. “Yes, why?”

“You’re a little green around the gills.” Removing the lantern from the bottom of the boat, the ferryman held it aloft. Bennett squinted into the darkness but couldn’t see what he was focusing on. Then, he shuttered the light and opened it again three times; twice slowly and once quickly. When Bennett looked at him quizzically, he added, “I’m letting the patrols know I’m a friend.”

“Patrols?”

“Oh yeah, the Rougarou’s people patrol the bayou every night.”

“Why?”

“Because the bayou is vast and dark, and people do bad things when they think others can’t see.”

Was that a hint or a threat? Bennett’s ribs struggled against the confines of his girdle at the thought. His normally attuned danger senses felt fuzzy. Bennett tugged at his collar and licked his dry lips as the pirogue pushed through a copse of mangroves to emerge in an open stretch of water that ended in a vast swath of grass. At the shore, a large shed stood near a dock, and behind it, a house emerged through the darkness. While he couldn’t make out much detail, Bennett could tell it wasn’t the grand plantation home he had expected the Rougarou to inhabit. The boat slid smoothly beside the dock and bumped onto the mossy shore.

“This is it?” Bennett asked, ignoring the ticking of a muscle in his leg.

“You said you wanted to be taken to the Rougarou, right?”

“Right. Will anyone be up this time of night?”

“Of course! I wouldn’t have brought you out here otherwise. The house is straight ahead up a ways.”

“Ah.” Fishing into his pocket, Bennett struggled to count out enough money to, hopefully, cover the fare, but as he put his hand out, the younger man pushed it away. “But I—”

“The Bisclavrets are paying me to ferry delegation members to and from the landing field. I’m not to take money from guests, Mr. Reynard.”

“I see. Well then, thank you for your help.”

Hefting his bag onto the grass, Bennett stood to shake the other man’s hand and lurched forward. He clasped his hand in what he hoped felt like a natural handshake even though the earth seemed to pitch beneath his feet. With a tight smile, he turned and took a heavy step onto the shore. His knees buckled beneath him as his vision shrunk to a pinpoint and his body collided with the wet grass.


Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. If you’re interested, you can preorder a copy at all major ebook retailers.

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The Wolf Witch is Out Today!

banner books to 6

The sixth book in the Ingenious Mechanical Device is out today! You can grab a paperback or ebook copy of THE WOLF WITCH on Amazon here.

Since returning to England from abroad, Emmeline Jardine has managed to get a place of her own, maintain a tenuous truce with her guardians, and celebrate her new found freedom by attending as many parties as she can manage. That is until a man claiming to be her father shows up.
Her father has a problem. Her half-brother, Wesley, has disappeared while investigating possible werewolf sightings, and he needs Emmeline’s help finding him. Emmeline reluctantly agrees only to find there are others interested in Wesley’s plight. When she receives a mysterious invitation to a country estate deep in the woods, Emmeline is shocked to find a familiar face there.
Nadir Talbot, Decadent, writer, and all around nuisance, infuriates her to no end, but Emmeline soon finds he is the only she can turn to as they are thrust into a world of werewolves, monsters, and secrets from her family’s past that threaten to bring the empire to its knees.

Emmeline has done a lot of growing since Dead Magic, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading her story and following her on her journey to discovering who she truly is.

If you pre-ordered a copy, it will be waiting for you on your Kindle, and if you enjoyed THE WOLF WITCH, I hope you will leave an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. They help small time authors like me a lot in terms of visibility.

I hope you all enjoy THE WOLF WITCH, and I will have news soon on my next project, which involves characters mentioned in THE WOLF WITCH.

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A Preview of The Wolf Witch

WolfWitch_v1

It is 43 days until The Wolf Witch officially releases, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to post a teaser. This story takes place after the events of Selkie Cove and can be read as a standalone if you don’t mind reading a series out of order. You can pre-order The Wolf Witch on Amazon and have it delivered to your Kindle on the release day. Paperbacks will be forthcoming.


Chapter One: A Wolf and a Pinkerton

Wesley Bisclavret didn’t believe in coincidences. The fact that three gruesome murders had gone unreported in a city like London was the first clue that something was amiss. After Ripper, the press should have been all over it, yet no paper he picked up even mentioned the killings. The second was that they appeared to have been caused by a wolf, and to Wesley’s knowledge, he was the only werewolf in all of Britain and he certainly hadn’t done it. It didn’t take a Pinkerton to realize that someone with some clout had something to hide.

Snuffling along the cobbles, Wesley’s wolf lifted its head at the sound of a steamer chugging down the lane. Its ears flattened in annoyance as it pushed into the hedges again. This is why Wesley never took city assignments. The stench of so much garbage on top of thousands of bodies made it nearly impossible to track anyone, and the racket of banging and thrumming from streets over gave him a headache. Dogs could do it, but he was part man and that made things more difficult. He should have told Les Meutes to shove their assignment, but he needed to prove that he was more than just his father’s son.

The moment the cab passed, the wolf slunk out and shook the grime from its back. At least England didn’t have so many horses. The damn things seemed to know a werewolf from a dog and made a god-awful racket when they got too close. Most of his work took him to the West or up the Mississippi. At least there, he could blend into the shadows even if wolves had long since abandoned those parts for fear of running into humans. In Louisiana, he had grown up stalking bandits with his father and the  rest of the local packs, moving through the trees on silent paws as one. Wolves lived in those parts, bobcats too, but here… Here, there was nothing but the occasional scraggly stray dog and rats that looked as if they ate better than he did. Even their parks were barely more than manicured lawns. It was depressing.

When the streets fell silent, Wesley’s wolf padded down the cobbles and sniffed the air. Cologne. Expensive cologne and fancy food. French, if he wasn’t mistaken. His mouth watered at the heady perfume of beef hanging in the air, but with a shake of its head, the wolf continued on, following the familiar smell lurking beneath it. Its tail flicked as its lips curled into a semblance of a smile. They had him now. Shifting its eyes between the pavement and the road ahead, the wolf followed the smell through the city, ducking into parks or behind iron fences and trees like some feral creature whenever a human shape cut through the nighttime fog.  Trotting across the road to a row of neat red brick houses choked in ivy and with fences sharp as iron pikes, Wesley could taste the slick of paint on his tongue and the stench of flowers that had no business being concentrated into perfume. Dandies, he huffed, curling his lip as the wolf sneezed out the irritating odor.

Wesley’s wolf darted past a house alight with the clamor of a party in full swing, hoping no one spotted him through the window as he picked up the scent in the next shadow. Trailing down the alley between the two houses, his wolf lifted its head. The other wolf was here or had been recently. He was certain of it. As his wolf lifted its leg on the corner of the house, Wesley figured out his next move. Even in his human form, he could smell his way back to the house and confront the man. Squeezing past the garbage littering the back alley, Wesley’s wolf froze. Its mouth watered at the scent, and it instinctively licked its teeth as if it could taste it.

The primal part of the wolf stirred within. Blood, and where there’s blood, there’s flesh.

Shit, Wesley thought as he pushed past the mottled brown and black wolf.

Pain ripped through him as his bones broke with a sickening crunch, stretching until every ligament tore only to reform the moment he feared they would sever. Claws sunk beneath the flesh of his digits as they lengthened to form pink fingers and toes that curled against the war of natures. Fur flattened into skin, which grew and darkened to accommodate his new but all too familiar form. Keeping his head low, he bit back a scream as his face and jaw caved in before rebuilding into a human skull. Wesley staggered forward with his hand on his throat to brace against the bile that rose where a cry should have been. Leaning against the garden wall, Wesley rested his forehead against the cool brick and panted as the final reverberations of the curse passed. It never seemed to get easier. Rain pattered against the skin of his bare back, cooling the crescendo of aggravated nerve endings until he could think again. A shiver passed through him that took his breath away as the wolf curled deep within him. It was times like this that he understood why his brother refused to shift anymore. It hurt like hell even at the best of times.

He rubbed his arms and passed a hand through his chestnut hair until it brushed against the bundle of fabric draped around his neck like a yolk. Pulling the makeshift collar from his throat, he unfurled a pair of trousers and a wrinkled shirt. Somehow seeing a collar around a wolf’s neck gave people pause. The line between pet and predator was thin, and thankfully a collar led to more awkward head pats than gunshots. Quickly dressing and pocketing the leather kit he had hidden within the bundle, Wesley peered into the darkened windows at the back of the house. Through the part in the curtains, he couldn’t see a soul, but the tang of cooling blood was unmistakable. He choked down the saliva pooling in his mouth and focused on the back door. Pulling the picks from the leather pouch, he worked them through each tumbler despite his trembling hands. With a soft snick, the door yielded.

Standing on the threshold, Wesley listened for footsteps but when none came, he closed the door and crept through the back parlor. The servants must have the night off, he thought as he inhaled the familiar scent of furniture polish and something herbaceous. He didn’t know enough to differentiate the plants, but memories of following Grand-père into New Orleans to consult Madam Laveau and the other knowing queens surfaced in the gloom. Their parlors had made his nose itch with the pungent aroma of ground herbs and smoke, but what clung to his senses were the tenuous stirrings of magic. Not quite a smell or a feeling, each remnant was unique to its owner. It’s why the priestesses rarely crossed the werewolves; they could sniff out who had done them wrong. Copper, flesh, and the underlying smell of magic hung heavy as he crossed the dining room. Upstairs, the wolf nudged. Turning the corner, Wesley jolted, a growl rising in his throat at the flash of motion at the end of the hall. His shoulders sagged as he realized it was only his reflection staring back from a gilt mirror.

As he reached the base of the steps, the stench of the other wolf trailed from the door to the shadows of the second floor. It didn’t smell like the wolves back home. They smelled like nature, like leaves and sap clinging to fur. The refuse of the city clung to the other crime scenes: slobber and wet fur overlain with waste and ash. Something was wrong with this one, horribly wrong if the crime scenes were any indication of its character. Thankful for his bare feet, Wesley silently walked up the steps, pushing back the wolf inside him as it rose to flick its tongue out to taste the blood in the air. We’re on duty, he reminded the wolf as the scent grew so powerful he could barely register the other wolf anymore. At the end of the hall, a door stood ajar. Even without the lights on, he could make out papers standing starkly against the carpet and the bookcase tipped over in the struggle, its contents dumped unceremoniously on the floor atop a misshapen, bloody heap. Keeping his eyes on the shelves littering the study, he searched among the clay seals etched with cartouches and the mummies of long-dead creatures. Had it been a thief? The other crime scenes had been ransacked too, but nothing ever appeared to be taken. Not one item on the workbench across the room, littered with jars of dried spices and things so pickled he couldn’t tell if they were plant or animal, seemed out of place.

Glass littered the floor where the victim had dropped a jar of blue powder. Apart from the shelf of books that had overturned in the struggle, nothing appeared to be amiss. Collecting himself, Wesley turned to face the body. Blood soaked into the carpet, spreading away from the broken body where a pale, lined hand peeked out. Wesley tried not to breathe as he pulled the shelf back, cringing as the last of the books clinging to the shelves clattered to the floor. The carpet squished beneath his feet and stained his soles red as he looked down at the white-haired gentleman who lay twisted on the rug. He stared up at nothing, his spectacles cracked and askew, his mouth open in an anguished cry. Wesley made the sign of the cross and shook his head.

Lowering his gaze to the man’s chest, Wesley carefully lifted the lapel of his bloody tweed jacket. The gorge rose in his throat at the sight of his half-eaten liver and the rope of his intestines hanging loose from his body. Bite and claw marks scored his ribs and left what remained of his pink, wiry flesh in shreds. Wesley closed his eyes. It had been the same with the other murders. All the victims had lived in decent neighborhoods, had enough money to be comfortable without attracting attention, and all had been eviscerated. Even the most moon-sick wolf wouldn’t resort to something so abhorrent. This wasn’t simply some mutant hybrid or hot-housed wolf. This was something far more sinister, something without rules or a shred of human decency left. Perhaps the human part was the problem.

Cocking his head, Wesley noticed that between the dead man’s outstretched fingers was a clump of rough black fur. He squatted down and plucked it from his hand, turning it over in the light as he rubbed his fingers over the coarse strands. At home, he could have gone to his father or the other families for help, but here it was just him. There had to be some way he could tip off the authorities without exposing himself. Holding the wad of black fur to his nose, Wesley drew in a deep breath to commit the smell to memory. The wolf rubbed across his mind in agitation, but Wesley ignored it. There had to be some clue as to how the victims were linked. As he rose to his feet, his attention twitched to the door. For a second, he could have sworn he heard—

At the sound of a board whining in the foyer, Wesley sprang over the desk. Standing before it, he yanked at his shirt, sending a button flying, but there was no time. He called to the wolf, and the beast rose within him, bringing forth the stillness of eons past, the scent of wet earth, and the agony of evolution. Wesley’s bones tore and fur shot through his skin like hot needles, but there was no time to recover. Shaking his head, he struggled to free himself from the cloth tangled around his neck. He kicked and shook, glancing toward the door as the muffled tread approached. How stupid could he be? As he pawed the shirt over his nose, a blow hit him squarely in the side. He stumbled into the heavy oaken desk, teeth bared as two men in worn, rough uniforms loomed over him. In their hands were long poles ending in blunt metal spears with a loop dangling beneath them. The closest man pushed the tip of the pole against the flesh of his neck where the fabric collar had once been while the other pinned him by pressing his weapon into the soft flesh of his belly. The wolf snarled, but when the men didn’t retreat, it bit at the pole. As the wolf snapped, the second man lunged forward, hooking a burning chain around his neck.

Spots flashed in their vision as the chain tightened around their throat until they gagged. Wesley wanted to transform, the wolf wanted to escape, but they couldn’t. In that moment, he could see himself as man and wolf, but the fluid bridge between them had been hopelessly tangled. His paws slid against the carpet as he staggered back. Before he could try to slip from the makeshift noose, a woman appeared, her fine features silhouetted in the library’s golden glow. Her silver hair had been pulled back in a tight bun, and while her face had lined with time, her bearing gave no hint of infirmity.

“You are hereby under arrest by order of Her Majesty’s Interceptors for murder and for violating the sovereign laws governing extranormal creatures and for the murder of Alexander Lockwood,” she said, her eyes staring past the wolf to speak to the man within.

Without looking away, she raised a tube the length of a flute to her lips and blew. A hot prick of pain jolted through Wesley’s flank as the first man let go. The metal pole disappeared only to be replaced by the weight of a net. The wolf took a step forward, but before Wesley could attempt to pull the wolf back, a wave of fatigue washed over them. Their legs slid out from under them, and they tipped headfirst into the rug. All thoughts fled from their mind, except the smell of blood and the chain burning deep into their neck. Their eyes flickered and their tongue lolled under the weight of the their binds, but before they could muster the strength to rise again, the world teetered and went black.


You can pre-order The Wolf Witch here or you can grab the rest of the series on Amazon. Book one, The Earl of Brass, is 99 cents for the ebook.

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The Wolf Witch is Available for Pre-order!

WolfWitch_v1

*taps microphone* I finally finished The Wolf Witch. *collapses*

If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that 2018 wasn’t my year.  I hit a mental low due to things being frustratingly beyond my control, and this poor book suffered for it. I rewrote it in its entirety (all 53,000 words of it) and then added another 37,000 words to finally finish it off. It’s done. Well, apart from final edits.

I’m super proud of what The Wolf Witch has become and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have. Here is the blurb:

Since returning to England from abroad, Emmeline Jardine has managed to get a place of her own, maintain a tenuous truce with her guardians, and celebrate her new found freedom by attending as many parties as she can manage. That is until a man claiming to be her father shows up.

Her father has a problem. Her half-brother, Wesley, has disappeared while investigating possible werewolf sightings, and he needs Emmeline’s help finding him. Emmeline reluctantly agrees only to find there are others interested in Wesley’s plight. When she receives a mysterious invitation to a country estate deep in the woods, Emmeline is shocked to find a familiar face there.

Nadir Talbot, Decadent, writer, and all around nuisance, infuriates her to no end, but Emmeline soon finds he is the only she can turn to as they are thrust into a world of werewolves, monsters, and secrets from her family’s past that threaten to bring the empire to its knees.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting some snippets from the story along with other extras. The Wolf Witch is due out July 12th. You can pre-order the ebook on Amazon, and the paperback will be available as it gets closer to the release date.

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