Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Good morning! It's morning where I live, anyway.
After a long period of silence on the blog, a Facebook lockout that seems to be ongoing (if you are still patiently waiting for the winners to my small, late-September giveaways to be announced, please hang in there) and some existential anxiety spikes...
I'm happy to provide a small look at one of my coming novellas, which is a slight tie-in with Duke of Misfortune. It's part of Dragonblade's Christmas 2020 anthology, which you can preorder here.
In all, I'm very proud of it. It's more like Victorian Christmas ghost tales than the Hallmark Channel, and while you can expect a happy ending, there's spookiness too.
To give a bit of explanation: the heroine, Florence, is hiding in an empty, rural house to escape a lecherous employer. It belongs to the hero, Charles, who has just inherited it from his father. Things happen, of course.
Dejected, Florence definitely decided against the bath or bathing ever again. It was simply too cold.
In reality, anyway, she had no need to be clean or presentable. She knew it might help her feel better. But the prospect of chilling herself into catching an illness was too terrifying. Her father had died after an unexpected tumble into the sea, not of drowning — he never would have; he had been swimming as long as he could walk — but of a subsequent fever.
She sat on the kitchen floor, her back leaning against the wall. “You really were ridiculous. You should have just run out of the nursery, collected yourself, and gone back to work.”
Mr. Danvers had not hurt her. She knew that many women had suffered worse at the hands of an employer, yet they had not run away. Perhaps she had ideas above herself, or she was weak and everyone else was comprised of sterner stuff.
Just when she was thinking on what it might be like to go back, there was a scrape outside a door to the side of the kitchen. It led to an herb garden, or what had once been one years ago.
When the knob started to turn, she shot up and looked for the nearest solid object.
Making ghostly noises wouldn’t work — it was unlikely that they could even be heard through the solid door.
Besides, she hadn’t the strength to shriek or sob so loudly. Not now.
She snatched up a sturdy pan that parted from the table with a flurry of dust motes. Then she fixed her eyes upon the door.
It came open, hinges groaning, and a slim young man sprung inside, saying, “I told you that one of those keys was bound to work on a door. They cannot all be stuck clo —“ He saw Florence when he turned from whomever accompanied him. “Good lord.”
Only her sad, pilfered candle stub lit the large room, but she might swear that he went pale.
With disdain, she wondered if he thought she was a ghost. “Who are you?”
Words quick, she did not add sir to the question. This was not one of Mr. Danvers’ associates. That she knew of. But he could still be a threat.
“Mr. Nigel Maclean.”
He wasn’t a Mason. That was some relief.
When she did not reply or lower her pan, he said, “May I have the pleasure of knowing your name?”
She liked that he did not come any closer, so she elected to tell her Christian name.
“Florence.” Her parents were rolling in their graves, but she was not quick enough to pick a false surname in the name of propriety.
Propriety did little good, now. It had done nothing for her in that nursery.
His mouth opened.
Then someone else spoke to him, saying, “Who are you talking to? The Sobbing Lady of Ullinn House?”
Mr. Maclean said, “Well… Charles, I do believe your house has more than mice in it.”
Charles, whoever that was, stepped past him.
Florence knew her eyes went wide. It was due to attraction, she was reluctant to admit, because like propriety, attraction would do little for her. It might even do less. Unless she considered the thought of potential damage.
Attraction could do heavy damage.