GASLIGHT HADES – Chapter Two

Many thanks for all your comments and for reading the inaugural chapter of GASLIGHT HADES.  While I may not respond directly to all comments, I read and appreciate each one.

Concerning the contest for the links you provided, my apologies for being late on announcing the winner.  I’m still going through the links (almost done) and should have an announcement mid-next week.

I hope those of you who checked out Dana Marton’s story THE RELUCTANT CONCUBINE have enjoyed it as much as I have.  It’s the first thing I check every morning when I log on.  She has me thoroughly addicted to her tale.

Regarding GASLIGHT HADES:

As with all the chapter updates I post here on the blog, I’m including the usual caveat lector with this one:  This is a rough draft replete with errors of all stripes and varieties.  My editors haven’t seen it, and I won’t do a self edit until the story is complete and I’m ready to turn it over to them for additional flensing prior to revision and formal publishing.  In other words, this is the bed hair version.

And now, on with the show.  Thank you for reading!

Best,

Grace

GASLIGHT HADES

by Grace Draven

Copyright 2011 by Grace Draven

All rights reserved

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Nathaniel watched Lenore Kenward’s carriage until it disappeared behind a tree-lined esplanade. His Lenore. Despair knifed through him, as cutting and painful as that first moment of recognition when he saw her alone at her father’s graveside.

Her hat and veil hid her face, but he’d recognize that proud posture anywhere, the graceful curves of her body swathed in yards of mourning crape. He’d envied the mist that swirled over her skirts and caressed her back.

As a Guardian, he stayed hidden in the shadows of the crypts and sprawling oaks of the cemetery. His role was not to scare the living but to protect their dead. He’d broken an unspoken rule amongst his kind, manifesting in the midst of the fog and frightening the clutch of mourners gathered nearby, but he couldn’t stay away.

She had changed very little since he last saw her five years earlier—certainly in comparison to him. His appearance was the stuff of nightmares, his aspect warped by the twisted ambitions of a crazed and soulless man. Lenore did not run away in terror; she blanched with fear, but she did not run.

He drew no closer, unsure if she might yet change her mind and flee. Instead, she approached him with single-minded purpose, hesitating only briefly as she drew closer. She might be frightened, but it didn’t stop her from seeking him out. He’d almost smiled. She was still as mulish as he remembered.

When she spoke, the cane on which he leaned nearly snapped beneath his tightening fingers. He might not have forgotten her stubbornness, but the cadence of her voice had dimmed in his memory. Soft and sure, it caressed him as surely as if she reached out and stroked him with her hand, bringing back breathless recollections of a lost time. When she raised her veil to better see him, he’d almost dropped to his knees.

Some would say Lenore Kenward was an unremarkable miss, of strong intellect and banal looks—the perfect recipe for a blue-stocking spinster. Her brown eyes, dark hair and regular features didn’t fit within fashion’s definition of great beauty. Yet Nathaniel had been struck dumb at first sight of her in her father’s workshop almost a decade earlier, his bewitchment complete as he came to know her mind and character.

Even now, when no one would call him a man any longer, he remained ensorcelled, entranced and deeply in love with a woman who once rejected his proposal and now thought him dead.

“Do I know you?”

She’d rammed the knife home and twisted it for good measure with the simple question. Nathaniel thought himself no longer capable of emotions beyond the blunt satisfaction in killing resurrectionists or the equally dull grief in his existence. He’d been wrong. Those four words kindled a living fire in the empty places where his soul and heart once resided—a fire of rage and regret.

“I was your friend and your lover,” he wanted to say. “I would have been your husband had you not rejected me.” Instead he uttered none of these things, answering her with a question of his own. Even if she’d truly known him, the Nathaniel of five years ago no longer existed, only the twisted remains of his spirit were left, still bound to earth by unnatural means in an unnatural form.

He’d almost stopped her from pulling down the veil that hid her eyes and solemn mouth—a mouth he’d kissed and tasted many times. Pain, sharp and bloody, cut jagged lines into his soul, but he didn’t stop her from leaving. Lenore didn’t belong here with the dead and their keeper.

The undertaker and sextons lingered at the cemetery gates, hesitant to venture any closer but unwilling to leave an open grave uncovered. Nathaniel melted back into the concealing fog, a phantom among other phantoms. Another half hour passed before the party returned to the grave. Unlike their work on Albert Kenward’s grave, they carelessly shoveled dirt onto this casket until a loose mound formed. All three looked over their shoulders every other minute until Nathaniel thought they resembled confused pigeons. They would never see him unless he chose to reveal himself a second time, and it amused him to watch their antics.

He was not so amused when they tossed the last shovel of dirt onto the mound, packed their supplies and left the Hamlets.  Neither bricked nor warded with the simplest protection spell, the grave was ripe picking for the body snatchers. Either the family didn’t care enough for their deceased to pay for the additional protections, or the undertaker took advantage of not being observed and squirreled away the extra coins into his own pockets.

“I shall have visitors tonight,” Nathaniel whispered to himself. “Regrettably, there is no tea.”

Afternoon faded to twilight and then to evening in the Hamlets, casting crypts and headstones into the silhouettes of a macabre cityscape. In the distance, London glowed from the contained fire of gas lamps, and Nathaniel watched the HMA Pollux sail the path of her nightly run. She was once his home, her crew his family. Now both were as far out of his reach as the star for which she was named.

Tonight the airship hovered low over the Hamlets, her propellers humming a mechanical dirge as steam and aether pumped from her engines. He had wondered if she might make an appearance tonight to bid farewell to the man who had made her the most formidable dirigible in the fleet.

A cascade of white flowers spilled from the open windows of the control and wing gondolas. They fell to earth with soft thuds, a snow drift of petals and stems settling on Albert Kenward’s grave and the neighboring headstones. Two flashes from a beacon light and the ship sailed on, rising higher to ride the celestial currents.

Nathaniel beckoned with two fingers, and flower petals rose from the ground, spiraling into an ivory ribbon that twined around his arm before settling in his palm in a mound of fragrant slips. He held them to his nose and breathed. Rose and lilac, lily and violet. These were from Lenore’s garden. Only the Kenward women grew such lush flowers.

The screech of metal from the oldest part of the cemetery shattered the quiet. Nathaniel didn’t move, his eyes closed as he savored the heady perfume of Lenore’s white roses and listened to the spectral voices of warning that rose around him.

“They are here. They are here.”

The wrenching iron sound was as familiar to him as birdsong–rails bent to create more space in the fence enclosing the graveyard. His visitors had finally made their appearance.

Resurrectionists always traveled in packs of no less than four, and tonight there were a half dozen. The Guardian followed them as they fanned out among the headstones, scuttling over markers, kicking aside carefully laid bouquets and charms. Considering the noise they made and the haphazard destruction of the graveyard, Nathaniel wondered why they bothered to stay hidden behind crypts and trees.

Emboldened by the lack of guards or a confrontational caretaker, the men’s voices rose from furtive whispers to casual conversation. One pointed to the spot where Lenore’s father rested and the unprotected grave nearby.

“‘ere, lads. We got a naked one and one in stays. Easy enough work tonight with two on the dirt and four on the bricks.”

Another chimed in. “The doctor’ll be ‘appy. Two blokes should keep him busy for a fortnight or so.”

“May I suggest a good book instead?”

Nathaniel smirked at the startled shouts and curses that followed his remark. Moonlight glinted on steel, and he neatly dodged the thrown dagger that whistled past his ear and struck the oak behind him with a hard thunk.

“You missed.” He casually circled their little group as they tightened into a defensive cluster.

They’d dressed for an evening of thieving, tool belts slung across their hip, picks on their backs. One man bared yellow, broken teeth at Nathaniel and raised his arm. He clutched one of the new mercurial disrupters for sale on the black market. He aimed it at Nathaniel’s heart, and his cracked grin promised murder.

“We’ll make it three blokes then, mate. I’ll bet Doc Teppes would pay ‘andsomely for a bone keeper seein’ as ‘ow you’re muckin’ up ‘is business these days.”

The de facto spokesman’s bravado lent the others courage. They snickered and two more brandished sidearms. Nathaniel braced his weight on his cane and shrugged.

“Shoot then, and let’s get this over with. I haven’t all night.” He closed his eyes for a moment and shifted, feeling his armor come alive and slither across his skin. As with the time before this, and the dozen more before that, the action was met with yelps of horror and the predictable lock and whine of a disrupter just before it fired.

He knew what they saw—a white haired, pale-eyed demon wearing armor that writhed and hissed and snapped fanged jaws in a Medusa dance around his body.

A miasma of green light filled his vision before a blunt force smashed into his chest. Nathaniel stumbled, the breath rushing out of him in a hard gasp. He righted himself with the aid of his cane. Mercurial rays that would have killed a normal man ricocheted against his rib cage and darted through his altered veins in a shower of razor-edged splinters. The living armor pulsed with verdant luminescence, shifting back to rigid angles and points that set him aglow like an ethereal gaslight.

“For God’s sake, shoot it again!”

More blasts, more green light. Nathaniel shuddered from the agonizing shock of the blows but remained standing. All his focus centered on containing the energy suffusing his body, shifting and shaping it until it emerged from his chest in a rotating sphere of emerald fire. The orb hovered between him and the resurrectionists, tiny bolts of lightning arcing along its surface.

“Dust thou art.” Nathaniel blew gently and the sphere exploded, blasting outward in a blinding surge.

It enveloped the men in radiant flame. Their screams were mere ripples on the night breeze, dampened to whimpers by the rays’ effects. Fabric and flesh melted away from bone that darkened to coal and finally disintegrated altogether until what were once five men became nothing more than the scrapings from a dirty fireplace.

Nathaniel ran the tip of his cane through one of the ash heaps, pushing aside the melted scraps of destroyed disrupters. “And unto dust shalt thou return,” he whispered.  

The sepulchral chorus chanted in his ears once more. “They are gone. They are gone.”

“Yes, and good riddance.” He suffered no guilt for dispatching the vile creatures that desecrated the dead and turned them over to men who would make them lurching horrors. He wiped the cane on the dew covered grass. And people called him monster.

He left the ashes where they’d fallen. Wind and the inevitable rain shower would wash them away until they became part of cemetery earth. He paused at Kenward’s grave. “Be at peace, friend.” He scooped up another handful of petals. Frail slips drifted between his fingers as he carried them through the graveyard to the caretaker’s cottage.

There would be no more thieves tonight. They were a territorial lot and staked their claims on certain burial grounds on certain nights. Once others discovered this band no longer offered a challenge, a new group would take their place to do the nefarious Dr. Teppes’s work. Nathaniel snorted derisively at the pompous pseudonym.

A carafe of wine awaited him at the house, left by the wife of the rector who attended the adjacent chapel. No amount of wine or ale would ever dull his senses again, but he could find some lost measure of humanity in the simple act of enjoying a libation.

The cottage had once been a homey place, despite its location. Now it reflected the cemetery’s hushed solemnity. Nearly empty of furniture, the rooms lay in darkness, broken only by bars of moonlight filtered through panes of cloudy glass. Dust drifted across Nathaniel’s feet and rose in a murky cloud when he sat at a rickety table in what was once the parlor and poured wine into a pewter chalice.

Cool on his lips, the wine was sweet and tasted of summer—or what he remembered of summer. An image spun before his eyes, of a grey-eyed girl with an easy smile and long dark hair that glinted red in the sun.

“Lenore.” White rose petals danced across the table, and the name echoed in the void.

~!~!~!~!~ 

A Free Serial read with daily updates

Quick note:  I’m still going through all the links you awesome people sent me regarding Victorian funerary customs, etc.  I didn’t expect such an enthusiastic response (THANK YOU!) so it’s taking me longer to go through them, see what I already have, read what I don’t and pick the winner.  Give me a few more days, and I’ll post on the blog and my FB page who the winner of the Radiance print is.

Now, on to other news.  The author Dana Marton is posting her book THE RELUCTANT CONCUBINE to her blog as a free read to folks.  She updates daily with a new chapter.  There are currently eight chapters available.  I’ve read them all and am dying to read the next one.  It is a fantastic story so far.  I’m in love with the heroine and fascinated by the hero who is introduced in chapter 7.  I highly recommend giving this story a try.  Except for a moment of your time, it’s free, so little to no risk.  It is a dark fantasy romance with a fair amount of violence that isn’t gratuitous but does exist in the story.  So if  you’re looking for lighter fare, this may not be the tale for you.  I personally fell in love with it so am recommending it here.

http://danamarton.blogspot.com/2015/02/reluctant-concubine-chapter-1.html

Best,

Grace

A sincere thank you

First up – For those who sent me an e-mail requesting a bookmark, I’ll have those out in the mail this coming week.  :-)

Second – All the links you’ve sent on Victorian cemeteries and funerary customs are AMAZING.  You all are awesome!

Third, and definitely most important – I’d like to say Thank You to all of you who followed RADIANCE, bought the book and/or made recommendations to others about it.  Because of you and other readers, RADIANCE made it onto the USA Today Best Seller List this week, debuting at #149.  We’re all pretty excited here in the Draven household, and it’s earned me a celebratory dinner out with the spouse tonight.  Nice moniker to add to my name and I don’t have to cook tonight.  Win/win.  :-)

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2013/06/21/radiance/2444877/isbn/B00S5IDLEQ/

I’ll update the blog next week with Chapter 2 of GASLIGHT HADES.  Many thanks for all your lovely comments on that story!  I’ve always wanted to do a Hades/Persephone story of some type, and this one has been fun to write so far.

 

Would you like a bookmark?

With so many of us reading ebooks these days, the bookmark is a bit outdated.  I, however, still like ‘em.  :-)

I have a stash of bookmarks I ordered when MASTER OF CROWS first came out.  The illustration I used is one I licensed from the artist Nathie Block for the purposes of promotion of the book.  So if you see this illustration elsewhere, rest assured, I have her permission and authorization to put it on the bookmark and give it away to folks who want one.  Anyway, if you would like a bookmark, just hit the Contact tab here on my website and send me your physical address so I can mail one to you.  I promise I’m not a stalker or a psycho who’ll show up on your doorstep.  I’m just a writer with too much imagination and not nearly enough organization to make it work right.  ;-)

Unlike the RADIANCE print, the MoC bookmark is not limited to domestic mailing.  It actually won’t break the bank for me to send it overseas, so international addresses are just fine.

Here’s the bookmark:

 

Master of Crows - promotional 3

 

Best,

Grace

Give-away of RADIANCE book cover print

This is open to folks here on the blog and on my FB pages.  X-posting at all three places:

A DARK VALENTINE:

So, we have Valentine’s Day coming up this Saturday. As a nod to this most famous (and sometimes expensive) Hallmark holiday, I’m giving away one 20″x30″ print of the RADIANCE book cover. I’d love to have my artist Isis sign it, but she’s across the pond from me, and getting it there and back again will put us way past Valentine’s Day, so you’ll have to make do with my signature on the back. :-)

And as much as I’d like to open this to international entries, I can’t. The cost to mail it overseas will be too cost-prohibitive, not so much because of its weight but because of its shape and size. I sincerely apologize and wish things weren’t so expensive to ship.

Winner will be chosen by the following criteria: find a link to a source (cannot use Wikipedia as the source) that mentions something about Victorian-period cemeteries, or funerary rites and customs/trivia. Post the link to the comment section so I and everyone else can have a look-see. I’ll check out the links and choose the winner. I already have a large cache of info. on this subject stored for use on GASLIGHT HADES, so the more obscure, the better the chance I don’t already have it.

The print is a substantial size, even unmatted and unframed.

Please post your entry no later than end of Saturday, Feb. 14th at 11:59 P.M. U.S. Pacific Standard Time (PST) zone. I’ll pick and notify the winner by late Monday, Feb. 16th.

Thanks for participating!

 

GASLIGHT HADES – Chapter One

As I mentioned in a reply to another comment, I’ve missed sharing the backstage activity and morphing that goes on with a story as it’s created in rough draft form and before it’s edited and revised.  Posting the rough draft (or what I like to call the bed hair version) of RADIANCE was a lot of fun, and I didn’t mind at all showing you all the mistakes, mishaps, hiccups and screw-ups that occur in the first passes of a tale.  I did, however, underestimate the challenge my schedule represented to regular updates, not to mention the fact that my intention of just making RADIANCE a short story was tossed out the window fairly quick.

I’ve learned several lessons from that first endeavor: 1) it’s a damn lot of fun, so I’m doing it again, 2) a weekly update schedule for me is the equivalent of insanity, 3) showing the process in real time is very motivational for me and keeps me from being distracted with other stuff.

Here’s where the warning comes in:  I’m going to try and update every 2 weeks, but don’t hold me to it.  As we all know, life in general can blow the best laid plans and schedules out of the water.  I will finish what I start, but if you don’t care for serials or the wait times in between, you might want to hold off until it’s complete, edited and published before committing your interest and time to the story.  I’d love to have you read each update as they post, but I know the frustration in waiting for something to post and sometimes regretting that I got invested in the first place.

For those who are looking for THE BRUSH OF BLACK WINGS, no worries.  I like to work on multiple projects simultaneously.  It keeps the writer’s block away.  So while GASLIGHT HADES will be in the limelight for now, TBoBW (Master of Crows sequel) and Eidolon (Radiance sequel) are moving apace behind the scenes.

GASLIGHT HADES is an older tale that I’ve had on the backburner for a few years.  I almost abandoned it, but after revisiting it over the holidays, I found I couldn’t do it.  I still liked the premise of the tale which is a mash-up of the Hades-Persephone story and Frankenstein with various and sundry odds and ends thrown in.

Many who followed the Radiance serial updates will find the following verbiage very familiar:  This is a rough draft or bed hair version with all the attendant detritus that goes with it (typos, stylistic hiccups, grammatical errors, misspellings, etc.).  I know they’re there.  My editors haven’t seen the chapter, but I depend on them solely for catching the problems and have every faith they will do a fine job of flensing the work and polishing it once it’s done.

And now, on with the show.  Thanks for reading!

Best,

Grace

 

GASLIGHT HADES

by Grace Draven

Copyright 2011 by Grace Draven

All rights reserved

CHAPTER ONE

For the last time, Lenore gazed at her father’s coffin, draped in black velvet and topped with a spray of everlasting flowers.  Her mother’s doing of course.  Albert Kenward would have hated the frippery, but Jane Kenward had been adamant that no expense be spared, and the bouquet had been ordered and delivered for the funeral.  Lenore found it repulsive.  Hard-edged and cold, despite their brightly painted white petals and green leaves, the lead flowers were as lifeless as the body resting beneath the coffin lid.

She did her best to ignore the ache in her chest.  The weight of it had resided against her breast bone for almost a week; her own silent grief at her father’s passing.  She would miss his good-natured company, the frantic workings of his mind, so filled with ideas and creations that his inventor’s hands couldn’t build them fast enough to suit him.  He’d enlisted her help in his work since she was old enough to capably hold a wrench.  Much to Jane’s frozen disapproval, tea had often been spent in conversation of Albert’s latest improvement to a submersible’s navigation system or a modification to the rudder of one of the airships in the King’s privateer fleet.

“If you’ll step back, miss, we’ll cover the grave.”  The undertaker indicated the sextons waiting nearby with their shovels.

Lenore blew the coffin a kiss and moved far enough from the grave to stay out of the sextons’ way but still keep a close eye on their work.  She recalled her mother’s waspish indignation when Lenore refused to leave after the initial interment.

“You cannot stay here alone!  You’ll accompany me to our carriage this instant.”  The black feathers on Jane’s hat quivered as the woman practically shook with rage.

Lenore blithely disregarded her mother’s ire.  “No. You are welcome to return home and see to our guests, Mama, but I’m not leaving here until I know Papa is properly interred.  I won’t have some thieving resurrectionist digging him up before the earth around him is even settled.”

Unwilling to engage her recalcitrant daughter in an argument in the midst of mourners and guests, Jane had flounced away in a huff.  Lenore expected she’d be subjected to a fiery tongue lashing when she returned home.  She didn’t care.

The undertaker had instructed one of his coachmen and carriages to remain until she was ready to leave.  At the moment, he kept an eagle-eye on the sextons, making certain the grave was properly covered and suitably bricked.

Lenore kept her own vigilance, but worry and fear refused to be quelled. The resurrectionists were snatching bodies these days before the grave diggers had even put away their shovels.  She only hoped the work involved with quietly unbricking a grave in the dead of night might keep the thieves away.

When the sextons finished, Lenore nodded her approval and requested a moment’s privacy.  The undertaker bowed and left with his men to wait nearby.

Fog, rising from the fields surrounding London, washed in a tide through the Tower Hamlets cemetery.  Through the enveloping murk, Lenore caught a glimpse of another burial close by.  Minister and family, friends and business associates, professional mutes in their mourning cloaks; they all reminded her of a murder of crows.

Many in that crowd watched her in return, their features pinched with disapproval.  A young woman alone and unchaperoned anywhere, even in a cemetery still raised the ire of many.  The temptation to offer up a rude gesture almost overcame Lenore.  Nosy, gossiping biddies far more concerned with a breach of social etiquette than the exodus of a loved one from the world.

She made to turn her back on them and offer a final prayer over Albert’s grave when chaos erupted amongst the gathering.  Much swooning and fearful cries ensued, and Lenore gawked in amazement at the sudden transformation from somber gathering to milling circus.

“Merciful God, what is that thing doing here?”  A portly gentleman pointed a shaking finger at something behind her.

Alarmed, Lenore spun and peered into the fog for a glimpse at what captured every one’s attention.  A lithe shadow passed along the walls of lichen-covered crypts, gliding over the brown grass of late winter before finally coming to a halt near the winged statue of the archangel Raphael.  Like her father, she was not of a fanciful bent, but it seemed as if the feathered wings fluttered away from the angular darkness.

More fearful cries sounded through the cemetery.  She paid them little heed, stunned by the sight before her.

It was rude to stare, but Lenore couldn’t help herself.  She’d never thought to see a Guardian.  At least not this close.

All the fears one held of the dark had gathered together and stitched themselves into the shape of a man.  Rumor had it that Guardians weren’t human, losing their claims to the appellation in the notorious Dr. Harvel’s crazed experiments.  Lenore wasn’t one to pay attention to or believe gossip, but this rumor carried the weight of truth.

The Guardian stood still as a scarecrow between the stone angel and a stately crypt, oblivious to the crowd gaping at him with open-mouthed horror.  The sinuous fog intermingled with his long hair, white as a shroud.

His apparel was nothing like one might see on the streets of London, worn by commoner, aristocrat or even one of the more eccentric airship captains.  Lenore doubted such garb was worn by anyone except a keeper of the dead.  Ghastly and sharp, it encased his tall form in black armor reminiscent of an insect’s carapace.

As if he heard her thoughts, the Guardian turned his head.  The group of mourners fled en masse, including the clergyman, leaving the open grave abandoned.  Even the undertaker and his minions sped for the refuge of their carriage parked outside the cemetery gates.

A gaze as pale as a corpse’s skin pierced her mourning veil.  That long stare bore into her, stripping away layers of black crape and petticoat, flesh and muscle until it reached her soul and dissected it with pitiless scrutiny.

Lenore’s stomach tumbled to her feet, and she swayed.  Except for the silent dead, she was alone with this creature.  She crushed the folds of her skirt in one hand and prayed she wouldn’t faint.

He came no closer, content to settle next to the angel and watch her from the gloom.  Lenore looked to her father’s newly bricked grave, then to the one forsaken by the fearful family and took a deep breath for courage.  She was no body snatcher and as such, had nothing to fear from this Guardian. She made herself take those first steps toward him, gleaning strength from the knowledge that her mother would pop her corset laces in outrage if she saw her daughter now, and her father would chuckle with gusto if he still lived.

Her steps slowed as she drew closer to the marble angel and its equally still companion.  The Guardian watched her approach, saying nothing until she stood no more than a foot from him.

“How may I be of service, madam?”

Lenore shuddered at the words.  As if a cold wind had purled off the North Sea, the Guardian’s hollow voice buffeted her with an icy emptiness. Rendered speechless, she could only stare into eyes that revealed an endless stretch of barren tundra.  He was a study in sharp angles and contrasting colors of ash and bone.  White hair cascaded over a suit of blackened steel spiked at the shoulders, hips and knees.

She might have stood there forever gaping at him had she not caught sight of the oddest thing among the already strange.  He carried a cane and leaned on it with the casual grace of any London gentleman.  The affectation served to snap her out of her stupor.

“You are a Guardian, sir?”  The question was purely rhetorical, but she had nothing else proper for which to start this conversation.  She only wished her voice didn’t sound so shrill.

“I am.”

He fell into silence, the endless gaze resting on her as he awaited her next statement.

Butterflies battled within her, knocking frantic wings against her ribs as she grasped for some measure of calm.  The Guardian had not even twitched a muscle, yet he loomed over her, a spectral shadow.

“Yes, well I would ask a favor of you.”

The casual stance didn’t change, nor did her sense of being thoroughly scrutinized, but something new pervaded the air between them, that breathless hush before a storm.  Lenore cleared her throat.

“The sextons have bricked my father’s grave, but I fear it won’t be enough to deter the resurrectionists.  I’m told the Guardians protect the dead from such men.  I can pay you…”

Long fingers brushed her glove, halting her movements as she reached for her reticule.  Enthralled by the contrast of wraith-white hand against black glove, Lenore found it difficult to look up when the Guardian spoke.

“Do not trouble yourself, madam.”  He glanced at the open grave near her father’s.  “There will be no disinterments in the Hamlets.  I protect all who rest here.  Your father and the others will remain undisturbed.”

The hollow voice, with its hints of eternity and long night, raised chills on her arms, though now it was from fascination instead of fear.  She lifted her veil to better see him and so he might better see her and bit back a gasp.  Unnaturally pale, his features held a peculiar beauty highlighted by sharp, elegant cheekbones, narrow nose and solemn mouth.  He was a combination of sinister and fragile, unearthly and eerie…and familiar.

Some invisible tether anchored her to him, drew tight until she was nearly leaning into him, peering hard into those pinpoint black pupils.  Her better judgment warned such a notion was impossible, yet she asked the question anyway.

“Do I know you?”

Something bright and hot ignited in that desolate gaze before guttering.  The Guardian cocked his head to one side in a puzzled gesture.  “Do you?”

Lenore almost leapt away, her cheeks hot with embarrassment.  She yanked the veil down.  “Forgive my presumption.  Of course we don’t know each other.  For a moment, you just reminded of someone I once…”  She almost choked on the words.  Two deep breaths and she managed to find her voice again.  “I won’t take up more of your time.  On behalf of my family, I thank you for your vigilance, sir.”

She held out her hand.  Pleasant tingles cascaded from the tips of her fingers to her shoulder when the Guardian clasped her palm lightly and bowed.  A thick lock of white hair brushed her knuckles.  Even through her glove, Lenore imagined she felt its softness.

“I assure you, the pleasure is mine, Miss Kenward.”

Her hand twitched in his grasp, and he released her.  “How do you know my name?”

His mouth turned up in a brief smile.  “I read your father’s monument when it was delivered to the Hamlets.  I assume that as his daughter, your surname is the same as his.”

Lenore almost groaned at her foolishness, but a tenacious certainty that she once knew this Guardian goaded her to push a little more despite the fact she was making a cake of herself.  “How do you know I’m not married?”

“Because a husband of any worth would never leave a wife to grieve her parent alone in the graveyard.”

The words, flatly spoken in that sepulchral voice, brought greater heat to Lenore’s cheeks.  She’d never been so thankful for the half-blinding safety of her mourning veil.  “You are very observant.”  Thank God she sounded so collected in this strange conversation she’d foolishly instigated.

“A useful skill in my line of work, Miss Kenward.”

Lenore nodded and backed away.  “I thank you again, sir, and bid you good day.”  She pivoted sharply, her long strides eating ground until she stood by the carriage.

Eager to flee the cemetery and the Guardian’s deathless presence, the coachman practically tossed her into the carriage before leaping onto the coachbox.  The horses lurched forward in their traces, hard enough to jolt Lenore backward and knock her hat askew.  She tossed it to the side and turned for a last look at the keeper of the dead.  He was as she left him, a statue himself next to the archangel, wreathed in fog.  She raised a hand in farewell.  He did not return her salutation, but she fancied she heard his voice on the whisper of the Hamlets’ ancient oaks as they creaked in the hint of a breeze.

“Until next time.  My Lenore.”

—————————————–

MASTER OF CROWS – prints, totes, etc.

Louisa Gallie, the creator and copyright holder of the MASTER OF CROWS book cover art, has put the art up on Society6. If you’d like to order a print or a tote with the artwork on it, please drop by here:

http://society6.com/product/beyond-neith_bag#26=197

All proceeds are split between Society6 and Louisa. I’ll be ordering some of the totes myself. :-)

RADIANCE – final, edited version now live

Had a bit of a hiccup getting the e-book file loaded to Amazon yesterday, but it’s fixed now, so we’re good.

My editors did a great job of catching all kinds of stuff that existed in the bedhair version of RADIANCE. My sincerest thanks to Lora and Mel who always go above and beyond to wrench my manuscripts into shape.

RADIANCE is now live in both ebook and print format on Amazon and ebook format on Smashwords.  Check out my Books tab and select RADIANCE if you’d like see links.  You can download in the format of your preference directly from Smashwords or wait a few days and Smashwords will feed to iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo if you wish to purchase from one of those vendors.

I also owe some folks an e-mail. I’ll do that either tonight or tomorrow depending on what’s on tap tonight for family obligations and demands.

Many thanks to you all for accompanying me on this storytelling outing. I had a lot of fun interacting with you all real-time as I wrote RADIANCE.

Best,

Grace

Cover flat reveal for print version of RADIANCE

Quick miscellaneous note:  My website person (bless ‘em – I know I drive them crazy) has added an RSS feed to my site.  Yay!

RADIANCE goes live next week in both ebook and print format.  I’m also working on the audio version, but that won’t be available until spring.  My narrator starts production on it mid February.  This is the cover flat for the print version:

 

RADIANCE-PRINT4-web promo smaller

This is the back blurb/summary:

THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over.  A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty.  Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage.  Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat, but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human.  Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

———————————–

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Grace