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 #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 Ch 20 Teaser

Vi had just finished giving them the final instructions when a disheveled Bonnie leaned on her shoulder. She directed a puff of air at the stray hairs falling over her face. “Now what?”

“Now, we pack.” The grifter turned the corner and darted up the stairs, the widow following close behind.

Once they were safely through the door of her apartment, her friend wheezed, “What? We’re running away?”

“Are you sure there isn’t any way I can talk you out of this?” Peter walked out of the wall and into the conversation.

“Not running away, my friend!” She waved the younger woman to follow her into the bedroom. The steamer trunk at the foot of the bed beckoned. The stray bit of clothes and papers were shoved aside and she threw it open. “For the first time in my life, I think I’m running toward something.”

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No Rest for the Wicked: Chapter 14 Teaser

“That’s not the problem really,” Bonnie dithered. “It’s that…Tobias is here, too, isn’t he?”

“Yes. He’s here. He’s always here.” Vi deflated in disgust; domestic drama once again rearing its ugly head. “You should talk to your husband,” she groused. Tobias watched the exchange in silence, sorrow deepening the haze of his form from white to gray.

Bonnie sighed. “Yes, I probably should. It’s just…Oh it’s selfish. I shouldn’t even think such a thing.”

“Well now I’m curious,” she replied, sitting forward. “Though frankly, I doubt anything you have to admit will be much of a scandal after my little confession.”

The widow hesitated, chewing over her words with her next serving of brie. “If it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, it should also be wrong to be feel cross with him.”

“Should and shouldn’t, right and wrong? That sounds an awful lot like religion.” Vi pulled a face. “I don’t really think in those terms, myself. As you can imagine, my line of work didn’t exactly lend itself to a ‘godly’ state of mind. What I do know is that if it were me, I’d rather stop being angry. Not for my soul, but for my own peace of mind.”

Peter’s mumble broke into the conversation. “You’re one to talk.”

“I came all the way out here to escape my demons,” she reminded him pointedly. “They simply found their way to my doorstep again.”

No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 11 Teaser

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“Where were you when all that fighting was going on, I wonder.” Vi made a show of scrutinizing his torso as she stood back to her full height. “Or do I detect a hint of yellow on that belly?”

There were a few scattered gasps from the people gawping on the sidelines. Jeb glowered, then grabbed the top railing to swing up and stand on the edge of the platform. His nose came within inches her face but she held her ground and smirked. What showmanship—in another life, they probably would have been friends. 

“Looks like he’s not the only one who needs to learn a thing or about how he addresses people.” He hopped back down to the street and addressed the crowd. “How’s this for a lesson? I believe my friends and I should take this beautiful horse of yours to help you with that education.”

“I didn’t do anything to you,” she retorted. “You don’t have anything even in the same neighborhood as proof that I did.”

His Adam’s apple bobbed. “I don’t see as that matters much anymore. The bottom line is that I like that horse and I don’t like your attitude. So, I’m taking him.”

Vi’s fingers found the knot of Smithy’s lead rope and tightened around it. “You can’t do that!”

“I can,” Jeb replied and pulled out a shiny six-shooter. “And I will.”

Several members of the audience took a step back and ducked out from the fringes, their errands suddenly much more important than they’d first thought. A few sympathetic folks met Vi’s eye, but nobody seemed willing to do anything to help her. Not that she expected much in the way of help; prudence had made her work rigorously not to make much of an impression on anyone for some time.

An idea sprang to mind and before she could do anything about it, it sprang to mouth as well. She raised her voice and called over the din. “You want proof it wasn’t me?”

The bandit turned back to face her with a wry smile. “Sure. Try me.”

“You think my horse is too tired to race? Let’s see if you’re right.” She made her way through the nearest break in the railing and over to Jeb’s side, her hands raised up to her shoulders to show she offered no threat. “I say I’ve been here all day and Smithy is fresh as a daisy. So, let’s settle this. If you win, I won’t even put up a fight when you take him, but you’ve got to give me a chance to show you that you’ve made a mistake.”

The outlaw nodded smugly and put his gun back into its holster. “I’m sure that can be arranged. But I’ve got to warn you, Clementine is the fastest horse I’ve ever seen. This probably isn’t really a fair competition even if your horse really were fresh.”

Vi returned a shrug and a lopsided grin. “I guess that’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

 

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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 7 Teaser

Rage washed over Bonnie’s face as she struggled to her feet. “What do you mean ‘Tobias?’ Is this some kind of sick joke?”

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Vi gritted her teeth and pressed on. “I promise you, Bonnie, this is really happening. And I’m here to help you.”

“That’s right!” Tobias called, only inches from her head. Next, he added emphatic gesturing to the loud and elongated syllables. “Sheee iiiiz heeeeere tooooo helllllp yooooooo!”

Vi could no longer contain her irritation and rounded on the ghost. “Shut up, Tobias!”

“But I,” he stammered and his whole body seemed to deflate. “I wanted to help.”

“I’m trying to handle this but I can’t do it with you yammering.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Tobias?” a voice squeaked from the corner. Rage washed over Bonnie’s face as she struggled to her feet. “What do you mean ‘Tobias?’ Is this some kind of sick joke?”

Vi wheeled back to face her. “I can explain—”

“What is wrong with you? This is cruel!”

She made a desperate grab for Bonnie’s hand but the other woman snatched it away before they could make the crucial contact. “Please, Tobias is—”

“Don’t you dare say his name. Get away from me!”

“Bonnie, really! Tobias is—”

Vi’s plea was cut off by a ringing slap across her face. The widow let out a peep of surprise as they touched and she saw the form of her husband appear and disappear again.

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