No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #30

I don’t usually introduce my teasers, but I wanted to tell a little story about this one. I wrote No Rest for the Wicked during NaNoWriMo2016. I wasn’t sure how I was going to introduce the character of Prudence, Vi’s aunt. I opened a message I’d received in my NaNo inbox, which I rarely did, and there was a writing prompt from a 6th grader inside. Just two words, and this entire chapter came together. Her suggestion was “awkward supper.” So here’s a little taste of what that prompt helped create.

Even though it had been almost a decade since Vi had last seen the room, nothing had changed. The same family portraits kept watch from the bloody red walls, the same servant still served the food, though his age had slowed his movements to a glacial pace. She moved the elegant meal around her plate with her fork as she thought about little George, enjoying what would probably be plain but delicious fair in the cozy surroundings of the kitchen alongside the old cook. She’d never wanted to trade places with a child so much in her life.

Bonnie started to speak, but Vi quieted her with a shake of her head and nervous glance to the woman at the far end of the long table. Her friend looked from the matriarch’s stern and quiet visage and back, mouthing, “Why not?”

Vi returned a frustrated but silent, “Just don’t.”

She rolled her eyes. “Miss Prudence—”

A vehement, short shush interrupted her from the corner. When she looked at the source she found the ancient butler bringing a quivering finger to his lips.

The little brunette’s face screwed up in defiance and she continued. “Thank you ever so much for welcoming us into your home.” Prudence didn’t even lift her eyes from her plate, her knife squeaking as she cut off another tiny piece of pork chop and brought it to her lips. Bonnie raised her voice and tried again. “You have a lovely home, Miss Prudence.”

The room held its breath as the older woman picked up a linen napkin and dabbed at the corner of her mouth. Prudence gently set down her fork and leveled her razor sharp, green eyes at her niece. “Viola,” she said with a soft voice.

Vi swallowed hard. “Yes, ma’am.”

“You know how I feel about talking during mealtimes.”

I didn’t say anything!”

“I’m sorry,” Bonnie cried, blood rushing to her cheeks. “I didn’t know!”

Prudence waved away her concern but continued to glare at Vi. “No. Of course you didn’t. Because my wayward niece never thought to inform you.”

She began to protest, then slumped back in a sulk. “No, ma’am.”

“And why do we do that?”

Vi mumbled, “Because silence is golden.”

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #29

“I am on a case right this moment, I’ll have you know. And, no. What Pru studies and what I have gotten wrapped up in is nothing alike. She is not so…tender-hearted as yours truly,” Vi replied, reaching for the bottle. “And don’t forget. Pru seeks all of this out! If I could, I would wake up tomorrow and pretend this is all a bad dream.”

Peter leaned away, but he appeared more puzzled than hurt as he examined her face. She regretted saying the words as soon as she finished saying them, but they were also true. No point apologizing. She poured another drink.

“What happened to you? You are even more surly than usual.” The ghost rested his insubstantial elbows on the table and propped his chin against his fists. “Same side, remember?”

As she peered at him over the top of her glass, the gap in her resolve widened further. Even though death stripped his features of their color, it was still a face she could trust.

With one more gulp to fortify her, Vi confessed, “I seem to have developed a new…talent.”

Read the first excerpt
Read the previous excerpt

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #28

Vi caught a glimpse of her reflection in the next shop window. The pale figure before her had lived longer than the shadow-self she’d watched a few days prior, the sun and inner turmoil both doing their parts to etch lines on her face when she wasn’t looking. She hadn’t experienced any more flashes of memory since that night with the book. But she wheeled away from her reflection, suddenly felt self-conscious about how she’d changed, and how she still seemed to be changing.

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #27

Vi’s body relaxed and she rolled to face the wall to better welcome sleep. She breathed into the gentle dark for a few moments, then an alarm bell suddenly went off in her head. Without thinking, she quested outward with her extra sense to find the danger. A ghostly energy approached, and for a moment she thought it was just Peter remembering his promise to a little boy, but a wave of malice rippled through the air in greedy tendrils. Her senses touched it and recoiled, scurrying back to the safety of her skull like a whipped pup.

Pins and needles spread down her spine, an acid burn that singed deeper as the spirit approached. The angry blur came to their car and paused for a moment, as if scenting the air. The ghost moved again and came to a stop just on the other side of the wall. An old, childhood instinct squeezed her eyes shut. But her whether her extra senses or her imagination were to blame, she was sure the ghost raised its hand and rested it on the wall beside her head.

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #26

The ghost chuckled and leaned against the wall. “Got yourself some light fingers, eh kid?”

“I didn’t do it!” the little boy cried. “I swear!”

“We know you didn’t,” she assured him, then favored Peter with another glower.

“I was always getting blamed for things when I was your age, too. And you know what I did?” Peter whispered.

George leaned forward with rapt attention. “What?”

“I proved them right,” he said with a chuckle.

“Oh, excellent advice!” Vi interrupted.

The ghost just shrugged. “It’s true.”

“And look where it got you!” she spat.

“I thought I had you to thank for that.” His quiet words stunned her to silence even as he blazed clearer and darker before her, his pain manifesting in his spectral body. His sharp edges dissolved as he turned to the boy. “Anyway, Georgie. I figured as long as people were going to think the worst of me, I might as well live down to their expectations.”

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #25

“I figured it out,” Bonnie declared as she slid open the cabin door. George waited patiently in the hall, ready to tidy the room once the ladies left for the dining car.

Vi stood inside the cabin, doing a final check in the mirror of how much damage her sleepless night had done to her face. She gave her cheekbones a pinch to add color. “What did you figure out?” she asked eventually.

The other woman waited until she’d slipped out the door before answering. “Your secret,” she whispered mischievously.

“You’ll have to be a bit more specific than that. I’m a woman with many secrets,” Vi replied. She tried for a chuckle but it came out strained, her new and unpredictable ability weighing heavy on her mind.

Bonnie savored the moment as they passed to the next car. Once they’d shut out the rush of wind she smiled. “I know why you’re looking so grouchy.”

“Really. And why is that?” Vi asked levelly.

“Well, you keep trying to hide it, but I know the truth…” the little brunette trailed off suggestively, eyes shining. Finally, she announced, “Trains make you sick to your stomach!” Relief flooded Vi’s body, and she let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Bonnie mistook it for admission of guilt. “Aha!”

“Yes. You’ve found me out,” Vi replied, applying just the right amount of remorse to her voice to sell it. Feigning motion-sickness was far more appealing than trying to explain the true source of her sleepless night. Bonnie may be proving more resilient than she first appeared, but there were limits.

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #24

After he retrieved the loose pages, the sepia-colored Peter puffed up his cheeks and he blew out a low, appreciative whistle. Awe knocked the slur out of his voice as he surveyed the stack of deeds, titles, and other important papers he held in his hands. “This has to be one of the biggest scores of all time.”

“Big enough to get out of here and never look back, that’s for certain,” Vi confirmed, carefully tipping the heavy bottle over the narrow opening of her champagne flute. “To my new husband, and his very deep pockets,” she said with mock seriousness and raised her glass. Some of the golden liquid bubbled up over the brim and she giggled as it sloshed and dribbled over her fingers.

Peter captured the younger Vi’s hand in his. Before either of them realized it had happened, he pressed his lips against her fingers. He caught the ribbon of champagne before it dripped onto her dress, and for several heartbeats her shadow-self sat breathing into the moment.

The flesh and blood Vi knew what came next, but couldn’t drag her eyes away.