Snippet Monday (belated): Dust and Silver

I apologize for the lateness of this post, but my reasons are good: I was caught up untangling some plot messes yesterday, forgot to write up this post, and ta-da! It’s suddenly Tuesday and whoops.

So, this week, I bring you another excerpt from Dust and Silver. In this scene, Lady Drummond arrives at a meeting with several others, to discuss a recent string of murders that has occurred in London…female_angel_praca_dos_restauradores_2

***

“Another one?” I pose the question to whichever of them decides to provide me with an answer. Mr. Albert Goring, the man at the table, is the first to reply.

“That makes three now. A prostitute, a kitchen maid, and now the wife of a banker.”

I scan through a few more lines, my eyes narrowing as I attempt to make out the notes, apparently written in some haste. “Hmm, seems to be moving up steadily along the rungs of society. And there is nothing in common other than the manner of their deaths?”

Mitchell sniffs and lets the window blind fall back into place. When he turns towards us, his dark eyebrows are pinched together, the creases between them the only lines on an otherwise smooth, ageless face. “The head nearly chewed off. Hell, this one was barely held to the body by more than a scrap of sinew.” He comes up behind Goring, reaching over him to shuffle through a few of the papers until he finds what he wants: A photograph, one that he takes the trouble to walk around the length of table in order to bring to my side.

“No,” I say, as my gaze falls on the image. “Not a clean wound at all.”

I try not to imagine how much worse the scene must have appeared to the naked eye. Rendered in black and white, a majority of the blood is reduced to mere mottled shadow, or stains that could be explained away as something – anything – else. But the position of the woman’s head cannot be interpreted as a play of light and shadow or a simple photography trick. There it lies, against her shoulder, the thick, wet ropes of her dark hair spread out around her, in a grotesque simulation of a crown or the rays of the sun.

There is no elegance to the injury. A knife or even the swift slice of an axe would have left some line of the woman’s throat intact. But this is a nothing short of a mess. Flesh that appears to have been gnawed on, torn apart, the skin hanging ragged around the still-gleaming white and visible vertebrae of her spine. The rest of her remains untouched, and I wonder at how so much violence could be inflicted on a single part of her body, and nowhere else.

“What was her name?”

“Mrs. Lillian Butler,” Goring tells me. “Married less than a year. The police, of course, have their eye on the husband. But he wasn’t even in the country when the last murder occured. They were on their wedding journey, in Paris at the time.”

I push the photograph away from me, face-down on the tabletop. “So we have three deaths over the span of a year—”

“Fourteen months.”

I glance at Mitchell, who has resumed his place by the window.

“Fourteen months,” I amend. “Three women, vastly different backgrounds, and there’s nothing connecting the location of their deaths?”

Goring clears his throat. “Mrs. Butler was murdered in her home. In Leadenhall Street.”

“And the ladies’ maid, Miss Docking, was in St. James’ Street. Though she wasn’t killed there.” Instead, her body had been found in the mews behind the townhouse in which she lived and worked, the straw of an empty horse’s stall soaked in her blood. “And Miss Patton—”

“The whore,” Mitchell interrupts. I refuse to even flick my eyes in his general direction.

“—was discovered in an alley off Chancery Lane. And there is nothing else? Place of birth? Even where their parents, their grandparents hailed from?”

Goring shakes his head. “Nothing but the, uh…” He waves a hand in front of his collar, the vicious wounds shared by three separate victims recreated with a waggle of wrinkled fingers.

I lean back in my chair, drum my fingers on the edge of the table. “So we are precisely where we were before, when Miss Docking was killed.”

***

Snippet Monday: Dust and Silver

I’ve given myself a deadline to have two books finished before the new baby arrives in June (possibly three if I don’t rest on my laurels) and so to help with that, I’m going to share an excerpt from one of those works-in-progress every Monday, just to help keep me moving forward. female_angel_praca_dos_restauradores_2

Today’s snippet is from Dust and Silver, a historical paranormal set in the Victorian era. There will be werewolves, witches, secret societies, and so very much more! For some context, we have Lady Drummond and Mr. Muir working – grudgingly – together to solve a series of extraordinarily violent murders.

***

“Ariadne.”

The knife is out before he’s finished speaking the final syllable of my name. I find his throat in the darkness, or where his throat should be beneath layers of collar and silk necktie. That he doesn’t flinch deflates some of my confidence, though he does raise a gloved hand, palm towards me, fingers crooked in a relaxed manner.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

Not until the words are out do I realize it’s the second time I’ve asked this question of him within the last six hours.

“You really should see about hiring a new driver.” Mr. Muir’s tone is purely conversational, not a quaver in his voice despite the pressure of the silver edged blade nestled against the underside of his jaw. “I’m sure you’re rather loyal to Melchett after all these years, but the poor man hardly blinked when I let myself into your vehicle.”

“He let you in?”

“Perhaps you need to question his loyalty to you. To have a servant in your employ who will let any ruffian in off the street…”

I apply more pressure to the knife, until I see the dark blot of blood appear on his skin. “Are you checking up on me? Are you my nurse, come to see that I’ve had my porridge and tonic and am tucked safe in bed for the night?”

He raises his chin slightly, so that the small bead of blood trickles down towards his collar. “I’d be more worried if that’s all you got up to at night.”

I pull the weapon back, snapping the blade into its engraved handle. It is not until the sharpened edge is put away and out of sight that Mr. Muir visibly relaxes – a breath slipping out of him, a small slump to his shoulders –  no matter how casual he managed to appear as I drew that single thread of blood from his throat.

“What fool notion made you come all the way back to London when there’s someone going about ripping apart young women’s necks, hmm?” The knife again in my sleeve, I plant my hands on the tops of my thighs and lean against the seat. I want to close my eyes and tip my head back, but I cannot look away from my fellow passenger, at least not while he is in such close proximity. “You should have remained safely tucked away in Venice. No one would have any reason to suspect you then.”

“So they do suspect me?” Is that a whisper of pride underlying his words?

“Not for the first two, at least. But this business with Mrs. Butler…” I dig my fingers into my legs, pushing at the layers of skirt and petticoats and flesh underneath until the urge to lash out again recedes. “They want to question you, as they call it.”

He scoffs. “Want to see my pelt tacked to the wall, is what you mean.”

“They will not relent. Even if they do manage to lay their hands on the true culprit.”

Mr. Muir puts his own head back, allowing me a view of his throat and jaw, stubbled with dark hair and the stain of the injury I gave him. “They’re beyond their levels of comprehension with this case. They’ll be responsible for the deaths of another dozen victims before they understand that a bit of bigotry and brute force will not be enough to give them their victory.”

The seat creaks beneath me as I lean forward, hands sliding down to wrap around my knees. “You know something. What is it?”

“Not enough,” he mutters to the roof of the carriage. And then he shakes his head. “Creatore di mostro.”

The Italian clashes with his accent, and it takes me a moment to decipher the words from their original language. “Monster creator?”

“And there’s the rub.” He regards me in the low light of the carriage; eyes, hair, hat all blurring into the smudge of shadows behind him. “Find one of these killers, and there’ll most likely already be another to take its place.”

***

And stay tuned for next week’s excerpt!

Midweek and a Short Story

I have a massive to-do list looming over my head, so instead of tackling that I sat down and wrote a short story.

But! Before we get to that, I do have the pre-order link for The Stranger, a horror anthology due out October 2nd that will include my standalone prequel to The Half Killed, “With My Own Eyes.”

Now, the short story.

It’s another entry into the files of That Victorian-era Werewolf/Gaslamp Fantasy Story I Need To Sit Down and Write. (I keep saying “this fall,” but this fall is almost here, so… hmph.)

So read, enjoy, and be warned that it’s a longer one, nearly 6k words. Just so you know.

An Only Pawn An Only Pawn
A flick, a brief push of air as the folded note cuts a path towards the tabletop, and there is the name and particulars of the person I am to kill, written in a cramped, blotted scrawl.

A confession, Reader: I have never killed another person. No matter that I unfold the paper carelessly, that I read the words forged on the surface of the vellum as if I were scanning the details of a shopping list; inside of me there is a great tremor of something—fear, perhaps—that what I have been appointed to do will mark an event from which I can never recover.

“There’s no concern over whether or not the death should appear natural.” The man across the table from me—Edwards, is his name, as if he were a valet come to decry the muddy state of my boots—brushes his knuckles across his jaw before pausing to bite at the edge of a ragged fingernail. Nothing else about him is ragged: his coat and trousers are immaculately tailored, if a bit nondescript. It’s not our purpose to garner attention here, in a middling tavern that treads a delicate line between the upper echelons of London society and the filthier holes of drink and gaming.  

“So a slit throat and all will be well, hmm?” I look at the paper again, at the name that loops its way across the upper corner of the page.

Lady Ariadne Drummond.

Continue reading “Midweek and a Short Story”

Monday, a Short Story, and Snacks

It is eight days until the release of The Bride Price (you can read the entire first chapter here) and I’m almost to the point of running around like a chicken without its head. Not quite, but almost.

So in the meantime, and to perhaps serve as a distraction that might save my sanity, I bring you another short story/scene written for a prompt contest on Wattpad, featuring one of those old pals of mine, Mr. Callum Muir.

(And you can read more about Mr. Callum Muir here, here, here, here, and here.)

***

In Silence and Tears In SilenceAndTears

His head still hurt where they’d struck him.

It throbbed, really, and he didn’t care much for the nausea that overtook him every time he opened his eyes and attempted to focus on… well, anything. They’d been thorough, at least, in their attempt at rendering him incapacitated.

The bonds on his wrists cut into his skin where he’d twisted against them. He’d expected brass or even iron, something that would act as a reminder that despite the ache in his head, the dried blood on his chin from where they’d split his lip, this was still a civilized society. But instead it was mere twine, wrapped around so tightly he’d lost feeling in the tips of his fingers hours before.

“She’s ready to see you.”

Continue reading “Monday, a Short Story, and Snacks”

An Update and a Short Story

I’ve had sick kids in the house for the last two weeks (one of those situations where, instead of them getting it all at once, they drag it out by only getting it one at a time) so I’m a bit brain dead at the moment. Lack of sleep, never-ending fetching of cups of juice, endless viewings of Moana and Horrible Histories…

But since I’m home with sick kids, I’ve been writing and editing and baking (so much baking…) The Bride Price is getting ready for its August 1st release (*bites nails*) and is now available for pre-order! I’m still finishing up revisions on An Unpracticed Heart as well, which is slated for a late-fall release (I’m looking at end of November-ish, to be honest.) And I’ve written another short story/scene set in the same world as my previous stories Dust and Silver, Sleet and Shadow, Pale for Weariness, and Music in its Roar. I’m posting it below for you, just to prove I’ve not been sitting around, resting on my proverbial laurels. *wiggles butt* These laurel things are prickly!

***

Upon the Brink Upon the Brink

I cannot see a thing. The rain ceased some hours before, but still a heavy mist clings to everything, clutching stubbornly to the rooftops, mingling with the smoke that belches out of every chimney and streams from every factory this near to the water.

“Stop here,” I say, and knock my fist against the ceiling of the carriage for good measure. The carriage meanders to a halt, and I drop the window and poke my face through the narrow opening. Despite the lights that should belong to the buildings I know are there, the orbs of illumination that should mark the position of each boat and ship currently trawling along the surface of the river, we are encased in a thick, stinking cloud that seems to glow from within, and all without providing any light by which George, my driver, can direct the horses.

The murk is even more impenetrable outside of the carriage. I stand still for a moment, the fingers of my right hand touching the door until I find my bearings. For there are no landmarks on which my eyes can fix, and before I can restrain it, a panic wells up inside of me, tightening around my chest like a steel band.

The sound of a ship’s horn is my saving grace. My mind latches onto it like the needle of a compass, and I move forward, picking carefully over the uneven ground as I approach the river.

Behind me, George clambers down from the carriage, and I hear his soothing words to the horses before he is swallowed up by the fog behind me. My eyes have adjusted to the point that I can make out a few larger impediments on either side of me. Warehouses, no doubt. And as I pass between them, the sounds of water slapping against the bank, of metal and wooden things knocking against each other grows louder. A gentle, downward slope of the ground, and I know I’ve nearly reached the water’s edge.

The light of the lamp catches my eye before I’ve taken three more steps. Two flashes, and then it is gone. Two more flashes…

My pace quickens, and what seems like it will be a great distance to travel is proven to be another trick of the mist when I almost stumble into the bearer of the light, one arm reaching out to steady me as the shuttered lantern swings from his other hand.

“My lady?”

My gaze sketches out the edge of narrow shoulders placed somewhere beneath a head and the brim of a cap. I search for the more identifying features of a face, but the gloom is too thick and so I must make do with the familiarity of the voice instead.

“Mr. Robson.” There is no gesture I can make that he will see, and so I move closer, my eyes fixing on the thin line of light peeking out from behind the cover of his lantern. “Where is he?”

My guide says nothing, but his fingers tighten on my arm and he draws me onward, our steps kicking out stones behind us as we rush towards the river and the treasure most recently dredged out of it.

Continue reading “An Update and a Short Story”

Music in its Roar – A Short Story

I intended to have this finished nearly two weeks ago. I also intended this to be a short-short story, maybe 2k words or less. And then it grew, and grew, and grew, and finally just tipped its toe past 6k words and here we are.

If you’ve read any of my earlier short stories (Dust and Silver, Sleet and Shadow, Pale for Weariness) set in this world of werewolves and corsets and proper speech, then this is a prequel to those (though there’s no particular order in which any of them needs to be read). And if you’ve been curious as to how Mr. Callum Muir took on the curse of a werewolf, well then this is the tale for you…

Music in its Roar

Music in its Roar 

He wasn’t entirely certain of the day. Morning, perhaps. But, no. The light was all wrong. Despite the mist that clung to everything, mingling with the fog that hovered several feet above the ground, there was a quality to it; a glow that spoke of a sun completing its journey towards the horizon, of stars springing back to light in an unseen sky.

He could’ve moved if he’d wanted, away from the questionable puddle by his right hand. The stench would still be there, but at least he would find a safe remove from its source. Instead, he flexed the fingers of that same hand, one at a time, wincing as he reached the third finger, the one he suspected was broken. The pain was fresh and raw, still throbbing as he took to turning his wrist once, and then again. Another thing broken. He recognized that feeling, along with the ache in his ribs, the grinding of fractured bone every time he drew in another breath of the foul, cloying air.

There were windows, though less resembling their namesake than existing as mere apertures in a crumbling wall. Even the door was gone, ripped free of its hinges some time before, enough years passed since its removal that ivy grew thick around the frame, as if it would reclaim the building along with himself, should he lie there much longer. And if he could roll onto his side, or at least turn his head, he knew that she would be there, too.

Continue reading “Music in its Roar – A Short Story”

Monday, Another Short Story, also Monday. Always Monday.

It was a busy week last week, a busier weekend, but I’ve come out of it with a child who is now six years old, a houseful of groceries, the new Beauty and the Beast movie watched and enjoyed, a lesson learned that I should not give my three-year-old son M&Ms at any movie theatre for the foreseeable future, and too much ice cream cake and pizza consumed in the last 36 hours.

And here I am, trying to get back into the usual Monday routine. Dishes, schoolwork with the kids (we learned about clouds and condensation today, and Freja wrote a “commercial” for her latest favorite book, Penguin and Pinecone), and baths for everyone (and hopefully a quick shower for me).

I have a few more in-depth posts slated for later in the week, but to make sure I don’t slip away and forget to leave my mark here, I’m going to post the third werewolf short story I wrote recently. The prompt for this one was to focus on the transformation into a werewolf, and the word count limit was cut from 2000 words to 1500, so I had to be fierce in cutting out what wasn’t necessary. I have another story set in the same world in the works for the weeks ahead, and with a longer word count (2k-5k) so I should be diving into that one before the end of today or tomorrow.

For now, enjoy Pale for Weariness, and I’ll be back soon.

(If you’d like to read my previous short stories about Lady Drummond and Mr. Muir, you can check out Dust and Silver and Sleet and Shadow.)

Palefor Weariness

Pale for Weariness

At the bottom of the stairs, the candle gutters and nearly goes out. I turn my head in anticipation of a noise that will lead me onwards. But there is nothing. The thump that pulled me from my bed is proving itself an aberration, and I fear I’ve come all this way to find a mop slid down from its place or one of the children tucked into the housekeeper’s room, sneaking a midnight helping of jam. 

I could return to my room. My feet are bare, the marble floor that leads a checkered path towards the vestibule like a block of ice against my skin. But curiosity will be my downfall. The candle sheltered behind my cupped hand, I scurry further along the corridor, chasing shadows that remain always a few paces beyond my reach.  

Several steps more and the gun room lies ahead, along with the doorway that will lead me down to the kitchen and the laundry rooms at the rear of the building. Still, I hear nothing aside from the pulse of my own blood through my ears, the click of my jaw as I swallow over a lump of apprehension that wasn’t there moments ago. I steer myself towards the gun room. Like a fool, I’ve left all manner of weaponry upstairs. If I’m to venture further, a defense greater than a dripping candle will be needed to lend some manner of self-assurance to my search.

I open the door and step inside. My gaze dances across shadows that I recognize, the polished wood of shelves and the shine of glass in cabinet doors. I could arm a legion of men with the armaments on display, but they’re all beyond my reach. For between myself and the nearest pistol or sword or mace, lies a figure sprawled across the rug. Continue reading “Monday, Another Short Story, also Monday. Always Monday.”

Well. That Was Unexpected.

Have I been quiet lately? I have. Apologies for that. Life, the universe, and everything, you know. And a horrible cold that the kids have been passing around like a chewed up juice cup. That, too.

But I’ve been writing like a banshee (Do banshees write? That may have been a terrible comparison. Apparently NyQuil has not been kind to my brain these last few days) and baking and crocheting and overall adjusting to life now that I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom. *insert additional hyphens here* I’ve also begun working on short stories, which is a format I’ve always felt I needed more practice in. Over on Wattpad, I’ve begun following story prompts set out by @projectwerewolflove, and the first one was the theme “Feel the Love.” The challenge was to present a romantic relationship between two characters, at least one of them being a werewolf, and without the catch of a mate-bond thing that is used in some werewolf and shifter stories.

And it seemed like a fun thing to do. I’ve never written a werewolf story before, but I’ve always loved the Jekyll and Hyde/Frankenstein/Dorian Gray/Wolfman stories of the Victorian era. So that’s what I sat down to write. And I was pretty okay with it, for something I wrote really quick and submitted hours before the deadline.

And then I found out today that I won the challenge.

So, you know. I’m pretty pleased about that, I have to say.

I even won a nifty badge.

Which…. I can’t seem to download at the moment. I’ll edit to add it later. Just imagine that it’s here, and it’s nifty.

*nifty badge goes here*

And also to celebrate, I’m going to post the story here, for those of you who don’t have Wattpad accounts.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you my first foray into werewolfdom, Dust and Silver.

(Just so no one thinks I’m being flippant, I am super pleased to have won. And honestly? I think I fell in love with these characters about five second after putting them on the page. They may just have to earn their own full-length story at some point.)

dust-and-silver

***

I step into the room and find myself in darkness. There is little light from the window, whether because the sky produces nothing more than an ochreous glow or because the glass itself is rimed with a mingling of frost and filth, I cannot tell. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust, and then I see the outline of a bed, of a writing desk and chair tucked beneath the slant of the ceiling.

There is more if I give myself time. I gravitate towards a washstand in the corner, a pitcher and basin of what might be a beautiful blue porcelain in the full light of day. And there, his toiletries lined up—toothbrush and powder, a shaving kit kept in a wooden box, with razor, strop, and soap all arranged and ready for the next morning’s use.

I reach out with one hand, then pull my fingers back. A quick tug and I remove my glove before stretching forward again. It is too personal, I think, to be here. To touch these objects as if I had any right to do so. I wonder how I would feel should I learn that he had visited my rooms, pawed over my belongings in the same way in which I run the edge of my thumb over the bristles of his hairbrush, but I cannot find the outrage within myself that should be there.

“What are you doing here?”

Continue reading “Well. That Was Unexpected.”