I’m such a history fan. I loved reading one with POCs being brave and covert and important, and based on real characters. I recommend this highly to fans of histfic AND romance. Yes, there’s a hot romance too!
Please hurry and give us the next installment in this series!
TITLE:Déjà You PUBLISHER: Emerald Lily Publishing RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017
In Déjà You, five authors share stories of second chances, as varied in telling as the writers themselves.
Kelly Cain’s We’ll Always Have Oahu takes us on a whirlwind New Adult romance set in the 80s between a young woman on a high school graduation trip and a handsome Navy sailor.
Bianca M. Schwarz transports us to 1760 in The Pearl with the story of Marcus Landover, who attends a card party and ends up with more than he bargained for in the beautiful Sophia Chelmsford.
Amanda Linsmeier’s Joy and Sorrow reunites lovers separated by death in a Women’s Fiction tinged with the unusual.
The Eyes of the Heart by Jamie McLachlan gives us Rosalina, who is forced to confront her attraction and the truth about her blindness when a new gardener is hired at the Greystone house.
Finally, C.H. Armstrong brings us Mr. Midnight, where tragedy reunites two star-crossed lovers, but misunderstandings soon rip them apart. Now, six years later, the stars are realigning with the help of the smooth voice of a late night radio DJ.
Some of the stories are sweet, some sad, some steamy, but all carry the same theme. Déjà You is a collection of stories for those who believe in love, but most of all, second chances.
The Birth of Déjà You
About two years ago, a group of five novice writers signed with the same small publisher, each inexperienced in the publishing world yet committed to understanding the process and finding success. Through their mutual dive into unchartered territory, Amanda Linsmeier, Bianca M. Schwarz, C.H. Armstrong, Kelly Cain, and Jamie McLachlan reached out to one another and became instant friends, sharing laughs, tears, and the struggles of life and writing. We soon dubbed ourselves “Book Besties.”
During the fall of 2016, we decided to write a book of short stories together. As friends, we wanted to combine our talents to create a collection that would inspire hope and happiness. After much deliberation, we chose the theme “Second Chances” and decided to title this anthology, “Déjà You.” Though each story contains the same theme, they all are as unique as the author who wrote it. Including New Adult, Women’s Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, and Contemporary Romance, each short offers a different take on the theme and involves varying heat levels, from sweet to steamy.
About the Authors
Kelly Cain has published a multicultural adult and new adult romance, but she writes across genres and age groups, currently penning book one of a young adult urban fantasy series. Most of her stories are set in Texas with frequent travels to her home state of California, and all of her stories have an excess of food weaved throughout.
If she’s not writing, she’s probably reading. Or maybe cooking. Check out her website for recipes for dishes featured in her books, and some other fun stuff. She has two adult daughters and lives in a suburb of Houston, Texas.
Bianca M Schwarz was born in Germany, spent her formative years in London, and has a US passport, but she considers herself a world citizen. She lives in Los Angeles because that’s where they make movies and she used to work on them. She writes novels because that’s kind of like making a movie in people’s heads and because she just loves books. Bianca has one son, because that’s all she can handle and she tolerates her husband because, well, she loves him and there is no help for that. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Amanda Linsmeier is the author of Ditch Flowersand Beach Glass & Other Broken Things. Her writing has been featured in Portage Magazine, Literary Mama, and Brain, Child Magazine. Besides writing Women’s Fiction, she loves reading and writing fables, fairytales, and fantasy, and sometimes she pretends her Hogwarts letter is still coming. She can be found blogging about writing and books at amandalinsmeier.com. When she’s not writing, she works part-time at her local library and brings home more books than she has time to read. Amanda lives in the countryside, surrounded by trees, with her family, two dogs, and two half-wild cats. You can Amanda’s blog for book reviews and random musings, or check her out on Twitter or Facebook for more information.
Jamie McLachlan is the Canadian author of Mind of the Phoenix, an Amazon Bestseller in Dark Fantasy and the first novel in the Memory Collector Series. The third, Rise of the Phoenix, is set for release in summer of 2017. When not writing, Jamie reads, dabbles in various crafts, and spends time with her family. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.
C.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma-native transplanted in the Midwest. A life-long lover of books, she made her author debut with the 2016 release of her historical fiction novel, The Edge of Nowhere, which was inspired by her own family’s struggles during the one-two punch that was The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. Armstrong is currently working on two young adult novels and is a regular contributor to the Minnesota-based women’s magazine, Rochester Women. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.
For more information on Déjà You or the Book Besties, visit their website, or find them on Twitter or Facebook.
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Carl, but we do have some things in common. We both hail from Northern California, have a love of books, and have an intense interest in history.
Carl’s debut novel, The Life And Times Of Jackson Haines: Fairshot, is a not-so-typical historical western novel set in Wyoming, and is out now. See below on where to purchase it.
Here’s a little more about Carl and his novel.
Author name: Carl Randal
Book title: The Life And Times Of Jackson Haines: Fairshot
Tell us a little about yourself and your background: I grew up loving reading and books. As an only child who lived in a very rural location—in a house surrounded by orchards on all four sides and five miles from the town of Red Bluff, California—I’d often ask my parents to take me to the library, where I’d check out an armful of books, mostly novels and histories.
Later, when I moved down to Sacramento to attend college, I majored in Political Science with a minor in English, and then earned a master’s degree in English Literature, with an emphasis on creative writing. Because I elected to remain largely self-employed in the career world throughout my working years, I never had occasion to use either degree much, but I remained an avid pleasure reader, devouring literally hundreds of books over the years in my leisure time.
I always harbored the desire to become an author myself, dreaming up a vast array of plots, storylines for novels, and characters with which to inhabit those books over the years. As a lark, I enrolled in several adult education classes in writing fiction after I finished my formal education and usually was able to rise from student to being regarded as a peer by my various instructors during the course of the semester.
Now, with the release of my first novel, I’m realizing a long held dream.
Tell us a little about your novel: My current release, The Life and Times of Jackson Haines: Fairshot, may be thought of as fitting squarely in the western genre, but it is not your typical western novel. For starters, there is a gay bathhouse and barbering establishment owner who figures prominently in the story, and I’ve given the small town of Fairshot, Wyoming, in 1890, mind you, a gourmet dinner house which serves haute cuisine. There is a feisty, progressive-thinking preacher’s daughter who is all for women’s right to vote and a more independent role for American women and who nevertheless, has no qualms about seducing the book’s hero to get what she wants.
And my protagonist, Jackson Haines; you’ve never met a fictional character quite like him before. He is the best man in the world with a gun, and he knows it. He is flamboyant, theatrical by nature, and he enjoys putting on a show. Jackson is great friends with both society elites, by virtue of his dime novel fame—which he eagerly helps to nurture and grow—and with bona fide western legends like himself, like The Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, Luke Short, and Bat Masterson. He also counts Buffalo Bill Cody as a close friend and has toured England with the Wild West and met Queen Victoria in person.
The girl Haines meets in the novel, Hannah Barnes, is a good example of how some characters tend to take over a novel. She was totally unplanned, as a character.
She came out of nowhere and became central to the book. Hannah didn’t even have a name, in my mind, until she did. She was just some bit of business I came up with out of the blue, to help flesh out an unimportant scene.
Have you written anything else (including novels, short stories, novellas, etc.): Nothing I’d want to lay claim to publicly; just some romance stuff under a pen name.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk: When things are going right, creatively, I don’t really write, I observe the characters actions and conversations, their thoughts in my mind and simply type them out. Sometimes their actions come as a complete surprise to me; they become real people and “take over” a story. I guess it would be fair to say I’m not the sort of author who outlines carefully and adheres rigidly to pre-thought out plan.
What are the big themes in your book: There really are no grandiose, hidden, symbolic themes running through this book. It is, at its base, a simple tale about a man who is accustomed to winning doing so again, against overwhelming odds and how he goes about doing it.
How did you decide on the setting for your book: I’ve been to Montana numerous times. It is still relatively big and empty, even today, and it must have been even less populated in 1890, the year the events in the book take place. I needed a setting like that, for the book to work, and Montana seemed perfect.
Which of your characters was the most fun to write: Hannah was far and away my favorite. She appeared out of nowhere and all but takes over the last half of the book with her feistiness, her bubbly personality, and her innate courage. She has a sort of naïve quality about her through all she experiences in the book that I find enchanting.
If you could be a character in your book, which would it be: Jackson Haines, of course; he’s handsome, bold, and a perennial winner in all he attempts. And he gets the girl. What’s not to like about being him?
What is your next project: Haines proved such and interesting character, I’m currently researching the second installment of his saga. There is, unfortunately, a lot of research involved in recreating the exciting period Haines lived in, just before the nineteenth century became the twentieth.
Reading about the times themselves, the intricacies of stage Buffalo Bill’s Wild West extravaganza, then disassembling it and moving it to the next stop on the tour—it is fine points like this that separate good historical fiction from the mundane. And I have no desire to write mundane fiction, be it historical or contemporary.
What authors have most influenced you as a writer: Reading the fiction of Ernest Hemingway made me want to be a writer. In addition to his larger-than-life persona, his prose was simply revolutionary for its time. If you don’t think so, try reading the novels of Henry James or Theodore Dreiser—both leading literary lights of the late nineteenth century—and then reading The Killers one of Hemingway’s early short stories, written during the first quarter of the new, twentieth century, and contrasting its stark, minimalist style with theirs.
Since I discovered Hemingway, I have read and enjoyed the work of many other writers. After all, I was an English Lit major!
Do you have any pointers or advice for aspiring writers: Read a lot, and be sure to study what you read. How did he or she DO that? Why was that scene so gripping? Was it the pace, the language, the subject matter, the way the author presented it? Pay attention, all the time, and remember what you’ve learned.
Favorite song: I don’t really have a favorite, but I do greatly enjoy listening to the Beatles—even today.
Favorite movie/tv show: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Probably the greatest TV miniseries I ever saw was Lonesome Dove. The best weekly series was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Chosen superpower: Invulnerability
Toilet paper: over or under: Over, usually
Real book or tablet: Book
Star Trek or Star Wars: Star Wars
The first thing he did, when he’d ridden back into town and stabled his horse again, was to stroll into the general store that Roscoe Cone owned a half interest in and buy a pruning saw that folded up, the blade sliding neatly into a slit in the middle of the handle that had been cut for just that purpose, easy storage. He slipped the saw into the saddle bags he was toting over his shoulder, picked up his Winchester, and started back to his hotel.
He nearly ran right into a very pretty young lady on his way out of the store. She came bustling in the front door just as he was heading out of it.
Tipping his hat and smiling in apology, he deferentially backed out of the way to allow her to enter. She was probably in her early twenties, and was extremely attractive in a countrified, growing-up-in-the-middle-of nowhere, in rural Wyoming, sort of way. Her complexion was slightly wind-reddened and apple-cheeked, and her deep blue eyes were almost startling in their clarity and brightness.
“Sorry, Ma’am,” he told her as he stepped completely out of her path. “I was in a rush to get back to my hotel, and I didn’t look where I was going.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right,” the girl told him, blushing just slightly in a most beguiling manner. “I’m afraid I wasn’t watching where I was going either. I’d heard that Mr. Crosby had gotten in some of the latest style hats from back east, and I couldn’t wait to see them.”
“I’m sure none of them are pretty enough to do you justice, Ma’am,” Haines said, flirting with this fresh-faced prairie belle a little, enjoying himself immensely.
“Oh, aren’t you kind?” the girl smiled, her blush deepening. “You said that you were at the hotel. Are you staying in town long, Mister….uh, I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.”
“Smith,” he told her, bowing and tipping his Stetson just slightly, “I’m Timothy Smith, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. I’m looking over some business opportunities here in your fine city.”
“Oh, how exciting!” the girl bubbled. “I’m Hannah Barnes. My father is the Reverend John Barnes. You must come and hear him preach this Sunday, at nine o’clock, sharp, if you’re still in town.”
“What denomination does he represent?” Haines inquired politely, as though he might actually consider attending a sermon.
“Oh, we’re Baptists, through-and-through, of course,” she said, as if everyone who was anyone around these parts was a Baptist.
“Well, then, I’ll make it a point to attend, if I’m still here this Sunday, Ma’am. I’ve always enjoyed Baptist sermons; I’m partial to a little fire with my brimstone, you see.”
With that, he tipped his hat politely once more and went out the door, leaving the enchanting Miss Barnes to puzzle out whether he was, indeed, a dashing stranger or a saucy rogue of some sort, what with that chiding bit of banter about fire and brimstone.
Haines walked up the street, a huge smile on his face. He’d genuinely enjoyed flirting with young Miss Barnes and teasing her just slightly.
He took a deep breath, liking the bracing Wyoming fall air very much, and positively reveling in his last afternoon of freedom and anonymity for the foreseeable future.
In just a few hours, he’d be Jackson Haines once more. When he wasn’t the internationally famous Haines–when he was masquerading as nobody Tim Smith–he could do whatever he pleased.
He could sleep late, stop for a beer, chat with a pretty girl—a girl who wouldn’t have said “boo” to him, had he been decked out in all of his Haines finery and sporting the big hat and fancy guns. She’d have been too intimidated to even acknowledge him, had she run into the famous western legend in that store just now, instead of affable saddle bum, Tim Smith.
Haines sighed. In some ways, he much preferred being Timothy Smith to Jackson Haines.
When he donned the Haines regalia, it was like dropping a large red bull’s eye over his chest and across his back at the same time. Once people knew that Jackson Haines was amongst them, things changed abruptly for him; there could be no more careless strolls down the street. When you were Haines, there was only vigilance and watchfulness and caution; hands hovering near your guns at all times, your eyes and ears searching constantly for possible ambushes and back-shooters.
Oh, well, he thought, you are who you are. No one notices Tim Smith, but then no one is clamoring to pay him thousands of dollars to take care of their problems for them, either. You can either be anonymous and broke, or famous and on your guard at all times, I guess.
With that, and a final small backward glance toward the front of the general store–where Miss Hannah Barnes had just emerged wearing a very fetching new hat with a wide brim and a bunch of fine white lace on one side of it atop her golden-brown mane of upswept hair–Haines turned on his heel and crossed the street toward his hotel.
When he got there, he stowed his gear in the closet, took off his boots, and laid down on the bed for a nap. His last thought before dropping off to sleep was: need my rest–tonight should prove to be a busy night.
I have the pleasure of introducing a wonderful debut novel. Please check back Monday for a full interview with the author.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JACKSON HAINES: FAIRSHOT
BY CARL RANDAL
It was the fall of 1890, a mere decade away from the twentieth century. But some parts of the west were still as woolly as they’d ever been.
Fairshot, Wyoming, is just such a spot. Jackson Haines is a household name in America, known far and wide as a dandy, a high-stakes gambler, and a sometimes lawman who’ll tame the wildest town—for a price.
He’s in Fairshot to do just that. But with cattle baron Ike Hillyard against him, backed by his vast wealth and as many hired guns as he needs, will Haines’s skill with a pistol and his dime novel reputation as the Deadliest Man Alive be enough?
When Carl Randal settled into an early retirement a little while back, he decided that now was the time to realize a lifelong dream; that of being an author. While this is a secret desire of many, relatively few actually pursue a second career as a writer.
Perhaps it was a long-held interest in fiction and its creation, maybe it was his educational background in English Literature—and not wanting it to go to waste—but Randal proved different. His latest venture into novel writing is the first part of a planned series of books concerning the life and times of the legendary Jackson Haines, adventurer, sometimes lawman, entrepreneur, gambler, and famous frontier character.
Hard at work on research for the second Haines novel, Randal enjoys reading fiction for pleasure, day trips around his northern California base, and relaxing with friends and family. His literary interests are wide and varied, so don’t be surprised to see a mystery, or science fiction novel, or a contemporary thriller from this author.
He has lots of book ideas, and he wants to explore them all…
This week I have the pleasure of showcasing my friend who is also an author with Penner Publishing. She has written a fabulous book that is available now. If you’re interested in my review, please see ithere.
Author name: Bianca M Schwarz
Book title: A THING OF BEAUTY
Tell us a little about yourself and your background: Well, I was born in Germany but now speak and write better English than German. I left Germany at 19 to go to England and went to college there. I studied English Lit and Film and after ten years in London, I moved to LA.
I actually came to LA twice. The first time for the film industry, I had big dreams of becoming a director. I never made it that far but I made a few shorts and worked in the industry as a script supervisor. By then I was married and we stayed for six years but then the work permits ran out and we had to go back to England.
The second time we came because I had won a green card in the diversity visa lottery. I had just given birth to my son, but LA was still the most likely place for me to achieve my dreams and for my husband to make a comfortable living for us, so we packed up and moved Continents once again.
Tell us a little about your novel: A THING OF BEAUTY is a historical romance thriller with some erotic elements. If you like your romance rose tinted and sex free, you might want to find another book.
To the ordinary observer, the wealthy Sir Henry March, cousin of a duke, seems a typical London gentleman. But to the Crown, Henry is a powerful asset, secret defender of the country. When he sees an injured girl stumbling down the side of the road, he must stop.
The stepdaughter of an abusive innkeeper, Eliza Broad is from another class entirely. But the moment Henry lays eyes on the spirited and beautiful girl, he feels a connection. To protect her, he takes her into his home.
In Henry, Eliza finds a rescuer, handsome and kind beyond her wildest dreams. But danger is at their heels. On Eliza’s trail is one of London’s vilest and most notorious pimps, a man whose connections tie him to a dark world of sadism and treachery.
In this dark, historical thriller, can Eliza and Henry fight to protect England, their hearts, and their lives?
Have you written anything else (including novels, short stories, novellas, etc.)? I have written an autobiographical book about our first time in LA, a modern romance and an earth bound science fiction novel before A THING OF BEAUTY, but I do not consider any of them currently good enough to be published. I might work on the romance at some point.
However, since ATOB has been published, I have written a related short story called MILLIE’S REQUEST that is available for free from the Penner Publishing website and on mrblackthorne.com. Mr Blackthorne also published a couple of my poems there and I will have a short story in his upcoming anthology.
Q & A
What character was the most difficult to write and why? I didn’t find any of the characters particularly difficult to write. They all had things that were tricky but that just made them interesting to me.
The most difficult thing to write in the book was the scene where Daisie tells Henry her story. This is likely also the most worked on scene. It was much more gruesome and detailed when I first wrote it and I think it was the one and only time that my lovely critique partner Carmen cringed at something I wrote. She told me that Daisie was oversharing for someone who had kept such a secret for eight years. I toned it down and then later with Carolyn [Schwarz’s editor] worked on Daisie’s accent and anything that was too Freudian theory in Henry’s attitude.
How did you come up with names for your characters? Henry and Eliza obviously allude to another couple who fall in love despite being separated by class, but their relationship is very different. Emily is named after Emily Bronte and Viscount Fairly gets his name from one of my favorite book boyfriends. Allan Strathem has my favorite actor’s surname and Millie was the name I wanted to give my daughter when I thought I was carrying a girl.
If you could write a book with any writer, who would you pick? I had to really think about this one. My first reaction was to say that I particularly enjoy the fact that I don’t have to work with anybody when I write and that is the truth of it. It is completely mine and I love that about writing. However, there was one writer, who sadly has passed, whom I would have loved to partner up with to write my world history according to vampires, Douglas Adams. He was quite simply a genius, his way of seeing and describing the world completely unique and poignantly funny.
What do you like to have with you while you’re writing? I need my laptop and I prefer to be somewhere with a view. For some reason being able to fix my eyes on something in the middle distance helps me tune out all the distractions and demands around me.
What historical fiction thriller books would you recommend to readers who will love your book? Lucinda Brant’s SALT BRIDE is amazing. Another favorite of hers is the Roxfort Family Saga. I like a lot of Natasha Blackthorne’s work and Grace Borrows never disappoints.
You have lived in very different countries and societies. To what extent has that influenced you as a person and how does it color your writing? I think my perpetual itchy feet define me in a lot of ways. I grew up in Germany, became a fully defined human being in England and then moved to the West Coast of the USA to follow my dreams. There is no telling where I will end up and I like it that way.
But I think the most important thing you learn when you live in different places is that people are pretty much the same anywhere. Customs may be different but the fundamentals are the same. There are good and bad people everywhere, there is always more that unites us then divides us and the people who can’t see that are the ones who cause the most suffering.
My writing benefits from the fact that I have first-hand knowledge of a lot of places. It definitely makes it easier to imagine my characters in those locations and describing them is easy without requiring a lot research.
If you could instantaneously master one writing skill, what would you choose and why? Spelling. I am horribly dyslexic and need to get everything I write prof read since the spellcheck frequently can’t figure out what I’m talking about. It makes for some very funny mistakes sometimes, but it does horrible things to my confidence.
Do you have any pointers or advice for aspiring writers? Write a good book, of course. Seriously though, write something you will have fun with because there is no guarantee you will ever get anything other than the sheer joy of writing the project out of it.
Favorite song: “Love Song” by The Cure
Favorite movie/tv show: I have about a hundred of them. Right now, “Django Unchained” or maybe “Cake”
Chosen superpower: Flying
Toilet paper: over or under: What?
Real book or tablet: Kindle
Star Trek or Star Wars: Both
A Thing of Beauty
Eliza had never seen so many people in one place. The sights, the sounds, the smells made up an atmosphere that was almost celebratory. It was noisy with all the vendors vying for the shoppers’ attention and joking good naturedly with their customers in their thick cockney accents. The stalls were covered with colorful canapés and as far as Eliza could tell, anything one could possibly desire was for sale somewhere in this market. From sweet cox apples, small mountains of exotic spices and dried fruit, to bales of wool and silk cloth, to books and cheap trinkets as well as shoes, hats and furs. It smelled of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and unwashed bodies and someone, somewhere, was roasting meat.
The cries of the hawkers were underscored by the occasional sounds of a fiddle, an old English ballad and even the distant strains of a bagpipe. Henry explained that the best musicians would be at the plaza in front of the Opera House, where the Punch and Judy show was and where the acrobats performed. He promised that they would stop there later after they were done shopping.
Sir Henry insisted on freshly roasted chestnuts to munch on whilst they explored. They meandered leisurely through the seasonally large crowd. Representatives of all social strata could be observed perusing the stalls—the market was one of those rare places where the classes mingled naturally, all drawn by the festive atmosphere and the bargains to be had.
They bought cone shaped bags of sugar plums and candied almonds for Mrs. Tibbit, some delicate doll clothes for Emily’s favorite doll, a length of lovely, white-on-white sprigged muslin for Eliza to practice her sewing and, of course, the gloves and muff they had come for.
The gloves were soft grey leather and slid onto Eliza’s fingers like a second skin. Not that she could bear to wear gloves in a place where every stall seemed to hold something that just had to be touched or smelled to be fully appreciated. The muff was, at least to Eliza’s mind, a decadent creation made of grey rabbit fur and covered on the outside with red velvet.
Eliza couldn’t stop herself from rubbing the soft fur against her cheek as she thanked Sir Henry for the handsome gift. But she was afraid she would lose the lovely thing in the crush and so let the vendor wrap it for her and handed it to William to carry.
Henry watched Eliza explore, and smiling to himself, relaxed into the experience.
The two servants took the opportunity to do a little Christmas shopping of their own and so were soon laden down with all their purchases. Henry sent Roberts back to the coach with all the packages and told him to meet them in the plaza before the Opera House, where the buskers and acrobats performed.
On the way to the plaza they cut through the big market hall, where Eliza admired a hat in a milliner’s shop, but she moved on as soon as Henry caught up to her. Henry took one look at the shop window, saw the fur trimmed, grey hat with the dark red ribbons Eliza had been looking at and was about to suggest that they go in when she hustled past him and pretended to be impatient to see the acrobats. While she was probably embarrassed about the money he had already spent on her, the hat would go perfectly with Eliza’s new muff and cape and he figured it would make a splendid Christmas present, even if he couldn’t be there to see her unwrap it on Christmas morning.
Henry had not seen anybody who looked remotely how Eliza had described Wilkins and he felt confident that no one had followed them. So he called to William to stay close to Eliza and for them to go on ahead, and ducked into the small shop to buy the hat.
As soon as Eliza stepped into the plaza she felt exposed, vulnerable. She couldn’t have explained why, it was just a cold prickle at the nape of her neck, and she told herself to stop being such a ninny and that both Sir Henry and Roberts would be back in a trice. Besides, the burly William stood right next to her sharing his sugared doughnuts with her so she was hardly alone. But the prickle of warning would not go away.
They had worked their way into the crowd to get a better look at the tumblers and so, whilst William marveled at a girl cartwheeling on a tight rope, she looked around her, unable to dismiss her feeling of unease.
There were no familiar faces in the crowd but the handsome gent in the dapper rust colored suit and the brown top hat, who stood just behind her, had an odd glint in his eye when he said to somebody on her other side: “She’s a pretty pigeon.”
The smile he bestowed on her made her skin crawl and she was overwhelmed by the thought that this creature was ten times worse than Horace had ever been. But before she could nudge William or cry out around her last bite of doughnut, a broad, callused hand closed over her mouth and a beefy arm pulled her backwards through the crowd. Then the stench of onions and rotting teeth threatened to overwhelm her when Wilkins’s voice whispered in her right ear: “Come along Liza, play time’s over! I come to collect what’s mine.”
Eyes wide with panic Eliza tried to get William’s attention by the sheer force of her will. She scratched at Wilkins’s hand dragging her mercilessly backwards and kicked at the dapper gent who had parted her cloak to grab her around her waist and kept smiling at her as if they were playing some sort of game.
Within seconds, she couldn’t see William anymore and knew herself to be lost if she could not alert anyone to her plight. She swallowed that last bit of doughnut that had lodged itself in her throat and bit down as hard as she could on Wilkins’ fat, dirty middle digit. He bellowed and cursed but let go of her mouth. By this time they were out of the crowd and she was being dragged between stalls towards a dark little lane beyond. Eliza threw her head back in desperation, head-butting Wilkins in the process, and screamed with the full force of her lungs.
“HELP! HENRYYYY!!!! HE…AHHH”
Her scream for help turned into a cry of pain as Wilkins cuffed her around her ear and the other man’s hand grabbed her breast in a vice like grip and twisted her nipple with excruciating efficiency. “Shut up bitch or I’ll tweak the other one, too!”
Fear froze any further sound in Eliza’s throat as she looked into the man’s pale, menacing eyes. The smile that crept back over his face was pure evil. The vice grip around her nipple relaxed and his hand started to massage the pain away and she thought she would be sick on his polished boots.
“See Wilkins, it’s always a question of findin’ the right mo’ivator. Soon as we’re in me ally, she can scream all she likes, no one will take no notice.”
With that he turned her around and grabbed her around her waist as Wilkins’s fist closed around her upper arm on the other side. His stupid grin held the promise of more pain to come.
“Right ya are Mr. Hobbs.”
Now that she could see that they were only one stall away from said ally, Eliza knew with blinding clarity that she had to make one last stand. Neither Henry nor William could come to her aid if they did not know which way she had gone.
She fervently wished she had ignored the doctor’s advice and donned her stays just for today. They would have offered some protection from Hobbs’s evil fingers. But there was nothing for it, she ignored all the fear pooling in her belly and used the fact that they were practically carrying her to pull up her knees and slam down her booted heels on both her captors’ toes. In the same movement she twisted her arm out of Wilkins’s slackened grip and turned under Hobbs’s arm to head back towards the stall behind her.
“SIR HENRY! HELP!”
She managed to grab the canvas of the rickety stall and upended a table full of brass oil lamps that clattered to the ground making an unholy racket, before a merciless hand grabbed her hair right at the nape and yanked her back. And then his hand closed around her other breast and the white hot fury of pain he inflicted on her rendered her helpless. The pain had left her no breath to scream but the stall holder’s anger lent her hope that he might remember her if Sir Henry came to see what the commotion was all about.
Hobbs hauled her through the last row of stalls and into the alley.
Bianca was born in Germany, spent her formative years in London and just got her US passport, but she considers herself a world citizen. She lives in Los Angeles because that’s where they make movies and she used to work on them. And she writes novels because that’s kind of like making a movie in people’s heads and because she just loves books. Bianca has one son, because that’s all she can handle and she tolerates her husband because, well, she loves him and there is no help for that.