No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 10 Teaser

The temptation to reach out to taste the auras around her built as the feeling changed from a chilly tickle to an acidic burn.

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Despite her serpentine route, the sensation continued to grow, the same way it had when Tobias approached her the night before. The temptation to reach out to taste the auras around her built as the feeling changed from a chilly tickle to an acidic burn. But this time she refused to give in. Experience had shown the more she employed those abilities, the stronger they’d grow, and she’d somehow already gotten herself committed to helping Bonnie and Tobias settle whatever it was they needed settling.

When she reached the half-darkness of the alley behind the saloon, she slipped around the corner and put her back to the wall, taking comfort in its solid bulk against her body. People came and went, and she watched them for a few minutes from the safety of the passage. No one approached her or even paused as they bustled along.

The sting of paranoia receded as she forced deep, steady breaths in and out of her lungs and the more she thought about her panic the sillier she felt. The stranger’s vague description didn’t even necessarily apply to her; it wasn’t as if she were only woman with a black horse in all of Sacramento. In the face of something so trivial as a poor night’s sleep and an empty stomach, she’d almost lost control and relapsed, almost taken that next fatal step. Falling back into the old ways would be so easy, but she already knew that path had no peace to offer.

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 9 Teaser

“Someone was looking for you.”

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“Thank you ever so much!” she called after him, employing her best damsel voice. As soon as he turned the corner, her impatient glower returned and she leaned against the counter. Her stomach rumbled loudly and grew even more anxious. Bonnie would be coming back to the saloon any minute, and Vi wanted to make sure she beat the other woman back. Not that she needed to keep a trip to retrieve the post a secret, but old habits told her not to leave anyone in her apartment unattended for too long, and Peter’s strange behavior only served to strengthen the conviction.

“Never fear!” the clerk called. “Your friend Annabelle won’t have cause for any complaints.” He swept back into the room clutching a plain, tawny envelope in his wizened fingers.

“Really?” She couldn’t keep the incredulity out her voice as she straightened and stared dumbfounded at what he held in his hand. “Annabelle Sinclair” had been the last name on the list, the one she’d included even though she’d only ever used it for one job—the biggest one, and the last.

“Yes ma’am,” he replied and slid two letters through the slot. Vi snatched up the envelopes and checked the undisturbed seals. The smaller envelope bore Peter’s name as the sender, but the larger one came from an address she didn’t recognize. She caught a glimpse of the official-looking emblem in the glob of red wax as she turned it over.

“That little one came in with the load a day before yesterday. I filed it myself,” he continued. “The other one’s been here a while, maybe a few weeks? Got a batch going out tomorrow morning if your friend needs to send an answer. Otherwise, it’ll be a few more days before we collect enough for a run.”

“Day before yesterday, you say?” she asked distractedly. That would put the letter’s arrival around the same time Tobias died, and she still didn’t know the full story of the connection between Peter and the ghost. Time to ask good old Toby a few more questions.

The old man cleared his throat. “Pardon me, ma’am. But you don’t own a big, black horse, do you?”

She gave a murmur in the affirmative but couldn’t tear her eyes from the envelope from Peter in her hand. It felt oddly heavy and her searching fingertips found a strange lump as she ran them along the bottom.

“Someone was looking for you.”

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 8 Teaser

The book in the other room whispered, begging her to find out what message was so important that Peter had employed a messenger only she could see to deliver it.

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Part of Vi longed to rush over to the bookshelf the moment the door clicked shut, but evidently that part wasn’t in charge of her feet. Instead, she left the sitting room and set about making herself presentable enough for the public eye. People could tolerate a woman owning her own saloon as long as she made sure to be pretty about it. It was an old game and she knew it well, but a little rouge and a fancy dress were hardly the worst of her deceptions. Besides, bustles suited her.

The book in the other room whispered, begging her to find out what message was so important that Peter had employed a messenger only she could see to deliver it. Yet she dragged her brush through her hair and pinned it up in a tumble of coils at the back of her head. She straightened the seams of her emerald dress in the long mirror and touched up her eyeliner while the weight of dread and the burn of curiosity tore at her insides. A final spritz of perfume and there was nothing left to do; she couldn’t stall anymore.

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 5 teaser

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An oil lamp by the door burned low and threw soft black shadows around the stock room. A rustling in the corner grabbed Vi’s attention and she stood rooted to the spot. The occasional rat was to be expected, but this sounded much bigger. She reached out and turned the screw on the lamp to feed it more wick and flame blazed to life. The rustling grew frantic, accompanied by a yelp and the unmistakable thud of a human skull meeting wood.

Vi’s heartbeat dropped back to normal and she kicked the crate nearest to her. “God dammit, you two! You scared me half to death.”
The round face ringed and mussed yellow curls a serving girl called Caroline peeked out from behind a wooden carton. “It’s just me, Miss Viola. Just…um…looking for some rum!” She grabbed one of the bottles in front of her and tried to look innocent.

“Uh-huh. So what you’re telling me is that when I go through that door, I’m going to find my bartender behind the bar, right where he belongs?”

“Well, see,” the waitress sputtered, “Jimmy went out a couple of minutes ago to—”

Vi sighed. “Jimmy?”

“Yes, Miss Viola?” squeaked a male voice from somewhere behind the stack of boxes.

“I want you back behind that bar in five minutes.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Caroline had the good sense to look guilty when Vi shifted her gaze to include her. “But then this never happens again during working hours. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” the couple chimed in unison.

Vi reached to take the bottle from the blond woman. “Also, this is bourbon. I trust you can tell the difference when you’re serving the customers.” She winked and leaned in for a conspiratorial whisper. “Five minutes. Make them count.”

“Yes ma’am!” Caroline giggled and disappeared behind the crates again.

With a shrug, Vi turned down the lamp before leaving the stockroom as she’d found it. “Newlyweds.” She sighed and looked at the whiskey in her hand. A little hair of the dog might be just what the doctor ordered.

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Just ONE WEEK Left if you Want the Inside Scoop on the Edwardian Ball in New Orleans! – New Rewards Added

Time is running out …

I was offered the chance of a lifetime, but I can’t take advantage without your help.

As the new US Editor for Steampunk Journal, I’ve been given the opportunity to report on the Edwardian Ball, a fantastic charity even taking place in New Orleans on March 25. But beyond the Journal, I am writing a series of books and several of them take place in New Orleans! (Read a teaser or the full Chapter 1)

This is an incredible opportunity for me to conduct research to give my books and the setting the full, rich treatment it deserves. I have lived in or visited many of places where Vi travels during the course of Mistress of None, but the Big Easy isn’t one of them. I chose it for its history, and it’s reputation as one of the world’s “Most Haunted” cities.

Not only will I report on the Ball for Steampunk Journal, but I plan to bring all kinds of wonderful historical tidbits and spooky facts about New Orleans to followers of PhoebeDarqueling.com. But only if you help me get there next weekend! If you can see it in your heart to forego just ONE coffee, I can take this important journey down my writing path.

marco-sanchez-edwardian-ball-2017-187

Visit the campaign page

Butterfly Shadowbox
Yours for a $50 pledge to my Kickstarter campaign!

I will also be offering prints of your favorite photos from the event, the Steampunk Journal report in your inbox early, and one of a kind works of art like the shadowbox you see here, but you get to see your name on both Steampunk Journal and PhoebeDarqueling.com!

Burlington Arcade

IMG_0570While I was in the Piccadilly area for the market I also did some serious window shopping. There are so many lovely stores and window displays in this posh neighborhood! I didn’t really have anything in mind, but as soon as I spied Burlington Arcade I had to take a stroll down this lovely little pedestrian thoroughfare. I am not sure if it was all the shiny watches glinting at me from across the street, or the top-hatted man in the portico, but I had a feeling I would find something relevant there for my Steampunk wanderings.

I was surprised when I entered to find a high ceiling complete with beautiful skylights hidden behind the curving façade. The natural light was great for looking at the new and vintage jewelry and watches, but terrible for taking pictures due to the glare on the almost unbroken string of glass display cases that line the lane, which means I don’t have much to illustrate this post. So here is a little history instead. (Adapted from http://www.burlington-arcade.co.uk/the-arcade)

Lord George Cavendish was a prominent politician during the late 1700s and early 1800s, and he had a garbage problem. Ruffians were always throwing trash like oyster shells and other refuse over the wall to the grounds of Burlington House where he lived, so he decided to finance the building of a shopping arcade to fill the alleyway. Officially, his reasoning was to offer “gratification to the public” as well as “work to industrious females” but really he was just tired of all the rubbish. When it opened in 1820 only 4 of the 47 leaseholders were women, but the prevailing convention at the time was to address even male shopkeepers as “madame”, so I guess he sort of kept his word.

Victoria CrossThere are several shops of note that still have their polished doors open to the public even now. For instance, Hancocks is a fabulous jewelry store, and back in 1856 was commissioned to design the Victoria Cross, the highest award given in the commonwealth military.

If you are in the Piccadilly area, I would definitely suggest a stroll down this historical pedestrian street.