Woohoo! The Mysterious anthology is out!
Massive apologies to anyone who was hoping to get this book for Halloween last year, but the good news is that it’s out in perfect time to get it for Halloween this year 🙂
Shadows in Time by Laura Baumbach: Trying to avoid ruin and disgrace, young naive Neal Clifton, wealthy heir to a sizable Boston family fortune faces the illicit and dangerous complication of his first affair with man–a scheming, unscrupulous man with influence and power that reaches beyond the grave. Neal vows to never give into his own unnatural desires again but finds his only hope for escape in the hands (and arms) of stoic silversmith, Peter Wade.
The Wages of Sin by Alex Beecroft: Charles Latham, wastrel younger son of the Earl of Clitheroe, returns home drunk from the theatre to find his father gruesomely dead. He suspects murder. But when the Latham ghosts turn nasty, and Charles finds himself falling in love with the priest brought in to calm them, he has to unearth the skeleton in the family closet before it ends up killing them all.
The Dark Farewell by Josh Lanyon: Newspaper man David Flynn knows a phoney when he sees one, and he’s convinced the Spiritualist Medium Julian Devereaux is as fake as a cigar store Indian. And he’s absolutely right. But when Julian begins to see bloodstained visions of a serial killer, the only person he can turn to for help is the cynical Mr. Flynn.
Hee! I’ve finally achieved my ambition to be in an anthology with Josh and Laura 😀 I’m so honoured and chuffed. I can’t wait for my author’s copies to arrive so that I can gloat over them in private 😉
Quick excerpt under the cut:
Charles shut the breakfast room’s door behind him and leaned against it. The rain had drawn off, and sunlight shone from a pale, washed sky, into the eggshell like dome of the hall. On the ceiling far above, the pink drapery and golden hair of Persephone curled about the pomegranate that Hades held out to her. The Lord of the underworld had long, white limbs scarcely veiled by his indigo cloak. His face, concealed from those below by the flying silk of his jet black hair, turned to her and she smiled.
“Come with me.”
Charles started so severely that his feet almost left the ground. He thought for a moment that Death had stepped from the painting and stood before him, but it was only Jasper, materializing out of the shadow of the stairs as if he had stood there, waiting for the chance, since the doctor left.
“You startled me!” Caught between surprise and that odd flutter of not-unpleasant fear, Charles laughed. But he looked down nevertheless. Leather soled shoes. Jasper’s steps should echo through this vault as his own did – heavier than his own, in fact, for Jasper was bigger.
“I want to show you something.”
Jasper bent his head and swallowed a smile, though part of it escaped, lifting the very ends of his lips. His eyes thinned and wrinkled at the edges. The effect was oddly sweet. “I don’t think you would come if I explained.”
Father’s enemy Elizabeth said. And Charles’ father – it didn’t seem possible. He would sleep soon and, waking, discover it had all been a strangely theatrical dream. But Charles’ father was dead. Jasper’s shoulders were broad and his step silent. He had the power to hold an old man down while he drowned in his own vomit, and the stealth not to be caught at it.
“I take it you don’t believe this was an accident?” Jasper asked.
“Then come with me.”
Curiosity got the better of him. How dangerous could a clergyman be, after all, against an opponent not already stupefied with drugs? Charles nodded, and followed Jasper up the staircase. From the marble-topped dresser on the landing the statue of a little black boy in a turban watched them both pass out of blank eyes outlined in gold.
Jasper opened the door to one of the spare bedrooms, stepped aside to let Charles in. Regretting his sword – still hanging in his own room – Charles brushed past. His shoulder touched Jasper’s chest, and he stopped, long enough to feel the man’s sharply indrawn breath through his own body.
The green silk wallpaper had faded in the light from the windows, and the hangings of the bed showed an early lacework of moths. The washbasin had not yet been emptied of its grey, soapy water, and on the dresser a nécessaire stood open, displaying a shaving kit, an unstopped perfume flask, and a sphere of wig powder tied up in a stocking.
“Temporarily.” Jasper shut the door and stood in front of it. The quiet click of the latch felt ominous. The room filled with the kind of prickle that presages a storm, and sunlight pressed on the back of Charles’ head as he retreated towards the window. From the open bottle on the dresser came the animal, sensual smell of ambergris, like a fox in rut.
Charles took out his handkerchief and wiped suddenly sweaty hands. He had begun to breathe hard again, half frightened, half enthralled. “You wanted to show me something?”
Jasper’s tongue swept out to moisten his lower lip. He gave a little twitch as though interrupted mid thought. His voice, when he spoke, was husky as the scent. “I did.” He moved to the wall by the fireplace, and when Charles joined him there stood quiet for a long moment. “Do you hear that?”
They might have been in Church – Charles too felt he had to whisper. “Hear what?”
“Closer.” Jasper took him by the shoulders, positioned him with an impersonal, authoritative touch. By the time it occurred to him to resent being handled like a puppet, he found himself standing flat against the wall. Its rougher texture proclaimed that they had reached the old house; the Tudor core around which his grandfather had constructed the modern wings.
The wall at his back, and all down his front the living presence of Jasper Marin – the man radiated sensuality like a candle-flame’s light. Heat kindled in the pit of Charles’ belly, and flooded his body. His yard stiffened, and that only redoubled the burn of awareness, and delight. “I don’t…” he tried wriggling away, ashamed.
This time Jasper’s smile was almost fond. He lowered his head so that his mouth almost touched Charles’ ear, and said in that same drifting, intimate voice; “You’re nothing at all like your brother, are you?” Lifting a hand, he covered the side of Charles’ face, turning him gently to press his ear to the wall.
At first he was conscious of nothing but that hand curved around his cheek, the finger with its jet signet ring resting in the hollow above his lip. The little hairs there stood on end at the touch, and all over his body the rest of his skin tingled in sympathy.
Then a small part of his brain registered that this was a huge hand, much bigger than the print on his father’s face. At that sobering thought he felt the cool of the plaster against his other cheek, and the smell of lime and dust made his racing heart shudder to a halt. Through one ear he could hear Jasper’s breathing – the long, barely audible tide of it. Through the other came the muffled sounds of the house. Doors closing, feet in the passages. Somewhere beyond it… no, not further, but fainter, closer to him, as if echoing through the wood and brick of the house itself, in the hollows of the chimneys and the dust of the hearths, wailed the eerie mewling cry of a new born child.
“It’s Elizabeth? She’s had her baby?”
Jasper shook his head. “No. It’s always been here. It grew louder last night, as though the child had been left alone. I lay awake much of the night, listening to it.”
“The wind, then. Some trick of the wind across the chimneys.” Charles retreated from the wall, turned and did not stop moving until he was under the arch of the door. But when he placed his hand on the latch, the little cry, despairing, unremitting, wailed on within the metal.
“You know that isn’t so.” Jasper’s powdered face was so white that beside it the curls of his wig looked discoloured – a helmet of ivory.
“You should wear more rouge.”
It almost startled a laugh out of the man. Charles could see the amusement burst like a wave in the back of those extraordinary eyes.
“I am prepared to try it, if it will make you listen to what I say.”
“Because there is a curse on this house, Mr. Latham and, if you do nothing to lift it, I am afraid for you all.”
Charles stiffened. Abruptly the room and its occupant disgusted him; the incense-like smell and his own deeply atavistic response. “I am an educated man, Mr. Marin. Whatever is going on in this house, I’m sure it needs no appeal to the forces of childish credulity and Papist superstition. If you’ll excuse me.”
“And I thought you believed in honesty.” Jasper raised a sceptical eyebrow, sat down on the edge of his bed. He was human enough, at least, to sink a little into the mattress, leave creases in the counterpane. “Perhaps you are more like George than I thought; happy for a congenial explanation, even when you know it isn’t the truth.”
“Do not insult my brother to my face.” Charles paused with the door half shut. “He is the only reason you are being tolerated here at all.”
Jasper bowed his head in the same meek, enduring curve he had used at breakfast. He turned his face away. “Just as you say.”