It's been a crazy few months, but I feel like I can finally check a couple things off my list. I managed to send my steampunk clothing craftbook to my editor, and also wrapped up edits on the second book in the Viridis series. I'm happy to let you all know that Devil on a Sparrow's Wing is now available on Amazon and Smashwords! Barnes and Noble will also have it available soon, but their upload process takes a while.
Although this is the second book in the series, it works just as well as a stand alone novel, so no worries if you haven't read Viridis yet.
Not sure if it's for you? Well, I'd never have you buy without a sample! I do hope you'll enjoy.
Devil on a Sparrow's Wing
Edinburgh, May 1866
Phoebe stood there at the helm of Gavin’s airship, arms crossed and her temper up, as Seth argued with her.
“It could be dangerous and I’d rather not have to worry about ye. I cannot concentrate on the matter at hand if I’m distracted by trying to keep ye safe. Gavin,” he turned to his friend for support, “can ye not talk some sense into her?”
Gavin balked. “How am I to talk sense into the lass, when she’s your wife?” A teasing smile crept across his lips.
“I’ll not have you talking around me as if I’m not even here.” Phoebe’s cheeks flushed with her annoyance. Nothing was more infuriating than having others make decisions for her. “And it makes no difference whose wife I am. Do you hear me, Seth Elliott? Wife or no, I’m still my own person, and I’ll not have you dictating whether or not I’ll be allowed to go to a meeting regarding my herbal.”
Seth ran a hand down her arm, diffusing some of the tension between them. “Can ye blame me for wanting to keep you safe, a ghaoil? Of course we’re here because of Sanctis, but it does not change the fact that this could be a dangerous situation. We’re meeting with the heads of Am Freiceadan for the first time and I cannot be sure of the situation.”
Am Feiceadan, known as The Watch, was the group responsible for giving Scotland the edge it needed to win its independence from England, its members notorious for their fighting prowess. They could also be instrumental in helping the Cause, an underground movement trying to better the lives and circumstances of London’s poor.
However, Phoebe was not swayed by his argument. “So you think they’ll assault and murder my person in the middle of the tavern?” Her eyebrows perked up in question.
Gavin finally spoke up. “Let her come, mo charaid. No harm will come to her. I’ve dealt with these men before, and they wouldna hurt her, aye?” Gavin winked at Phoebe, and she couldn’t help but smile. “Besides, she’s liable to get in a world of trouble if we leave her here alone.”
Seth shook his head, cursing under his breath, accepting defeat. “Aye. Ye can come then.”
As if he had a choice in the matter. Phoebe threw her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek, before whispering in his ear with a nibble. “I’m glad you’ve come to your senses. I promise, you’ll barely know I’m there.”
“My love, ye could walk into a room with a hundred other people, and I would instantly know ye’re there.” His arms went around her waist, kissing her full on the lips. “Since I knew ye’d likely insist on joining us, I’ve made ye a little something. If ye’ll excuse us a moment, Gavin.”
Once in their room, Phoebe watched as Seth rummaged under the bed, returning victoriously with a silk wrapped package. He handed it to her with a grin on his face and a sparkle in his eyes. “For you, my love.”
The delicate rose ribbon fell to the side as she peeled away the cream colored silk. “Seth, what have you done?”
“Do ye like it?” He stepped up behind her to peek over her shoulder, his body so close, it was all she could do to not lean against him.
She held it up to take a better look. “It’s a leather corset?”
“Not just a corset, a ghaoil. I’ve designed it to withstand charges from fuse guns, and even a knife or traditional gun would have a hard time penetrating it.”
She spun to face him with a smile upon her lips, his arm going around her waist to hold her close. “What would I do without you, my dearest tinkerer?”
An eyebrow perked up. “One can only imagine.” A laugh escaped him. “Here. Let me give ye a hand getting into it.”
Phoebe loved that the recent months spent in Gavin’s company had Seth’s words falling back to their more natural Scots, the lilt in his voice melting every fiber in her being. She could hear him talk all day long and never tire of it.
“Ye see, it can be worn both under a gown or over it. And knowing ye often travel without a maid, I designed it so it doesna lace like a traditional corset. Ye’ll be able to get yerself in and out of it with few problems.” He showed her how the corset buckled on each side.
It was actually quite heavy. Though the exterior was made of a deep brown leather and the inside was lined with a burgundy silk, there was another thick layer in between the two. The leather pieces had been riveted together with hundreds of little brass rivets. It was quite unlike anything she’d ever seen.
She went to her wardrobe and chose a silk burgundy gown with a nicely bustled back, the color complementing her mahogany locks and porcelain skin. Seth moved to her side to help her out of the corset and gown she was currently wearing, but when he started to trail kisses down her bare shoulder, she forced herself to take a step away from him. “We will be quite late if you keep up your antics, my love.”
“Ye canna blame me, aye?” Seth snaked his arm around her waist, pulling her close for a kiss.
“Could you give me a hand, please?” Ignoring Seth’s look of disappointment, she slipped into the gown she’d chosen and handed him the corset.
He wrapped the corset around her waist. “Ye see, ye adjust the buckles like so. Start with one side and then move to the other.” He fastened the buckles, and then turned her towards the full-length looking glass.
“Oh Seth, it really is stunning.”
“Ye’re the one that’s stunning, my love.”
Phoebe now sat happily sandwiched between Seth and Gavin, as Seth maneuvered his steam coach down the cobbled streets and into the center of Edinburgh. Busier than she had expected, the walkways were teeming with people coming and going.
It was quite fascinating to see the revival the city had undergone, now a tinkerer’s haven, transformed from its traditional past. So much had been accomplished, and she knew Seth was sorely tempted to move his shop here and away from London.
Phoebe put a hand on his arm. “I’ve never seen anything of the like. Perhaps one day we could live here. It really would be the perfect place for you to be tinkering.”
Seth glanced at her, his brow furrowed. “We couldna do that when ye have Viridis back in London.”
Viridis, Phoebe’s club back in London, was named for Phoebe’s first herbal concoction, bearing the same name. Much to her surprise, Phoebe and her drink had taken London by storm and become an instant success.
“I could always leave it in someone else’s care, though I’ve no doubt the revolution may very well alter even the simplest of plans.”
Seth glanced away from the road again. “Phoebe, I’d never ask ye to do such a thing.”
“I know, love, but we could always open a second club here, could we not? I’ve never seen a more amazing city.” Phoebe was excited to see all the marvels as she looked around the city. “Look over there.” Phoebe pointed to a large brass and glass coach dangling from a metal rail as it sped along between the buildings, leaving a trail of steam dissipating behind it.
All around them tinkerings abounded. A glass tube on the exterior of a rakishly tall building carried people up its side, airships dotted the sky, and towers reached to the heavens. There was even an abundance of other steam coaches on the road, in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Their ride through Edinburgh was remarkable, but it was not long before they arrived at the tavern where their meeting was to take place.
“Here ye are, love.” Gavin gave Phoebe a hand out of the steam coach as Seth came around to join them.
Seth tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow, his eyes alight as he took her in, his touch lingering. “Are ye ready, my love?” Seth’s voice held a hoarse edge of need, making her want to abandon the meeting all together and drag him back to the airship.
He leaned down and kissed her quickly, before turning his attention to Gavin. “This is yers, aye? Ye’ve had dealings with them before, and it’ll probably be best if ye do most of the talking.”
Gavin gave Seth a quick nod in answer. “Aye. Will do.”
They followed Gavin into the tavern, and after a preliminary glance around, headed to the back of the room where two men stood upon seeing their approach.
One man couldn’t have been more than thirty-five, strong and fair of face, with an unruly thatch of red hair. The other man had to be in his late forties, with a weathered face and brown hair streaked with grey. The thing that caught Phoebe’s attention, however, was the tinkering the man wore in place of his left arm, the shirtsleeve rolled up and out of the way to allow for the metal joints and mechanics to operate freely.
It was remarkable. Like nothing she’d ever seen before, it was difficult to not look. The hand was made of wood and metal, each joint articulated. The fingers moved independently from each other, most likely by a series of thin wires and pulleys hidden within, if she were to guess based on its movement.
Neither looked like the type of man you’d want to go up against in a fight, good hand or not, and both men were kilted in their plaids, as were Seth and Gavin. Since Scotland had gained its sovereignty from England, the kilt had become a symbol of pride and independence.
Phoebe had never seen Gavin, a full-blooded highlander, in anything but a kilt. Seth, who happened to be half Scot, normally wore breeches when in London, but when he came north, he always wore the tartan of his mother’s clan—and there was something about seeing him in a kilt, tall and strong, that made her heart race.
Gavin made the introductions, starting with the older of the two men. “Niall Campbell and Conall MacAllister, I’d like to introduce ye to Seth Elliott and his wife, Lady Phoebe Hughes Elliott.”
The men shook Seth’s hand, and then turned their attention to Phoebe. Niall took her hand with his good one and bowed over it, but Conall was far more forward, kissing her hand with a lingering touch.
Phoebe blushed, and though she felt Seth shift at her side, she hoped he’d not make a fuss. It could ruin their chances to secure help for the Cause. With the revolution looking as if it might erupt at any moment, they desperately needed to secure weapons and men if the Cause was to be successful.
Pulling out a chair for Phoebe, Seth took the seat next to her, Gavin once again sitting on her other side. They ordered a round of ale for all, still too early for a meal.
Conall smiled at Phoebe. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet ye, m’ lady, though I’ll admit, I hadna
expected the creator of such a revolutionary herbal to also be one of such beauty.” His eyes ran over her figure before flicking over to Seth for a moment. “Yer husband is a verra lucky man.”
Phoebe’s back stiffened, not quite sure how to react, but before she could speak, Gavin came to her rescue. “Conall, it’d be greatly appreciated if ye’d stop being a shite and concentrate on the matter at hand, aye?”
Conall let out a hearty laugh, giving Phoebe and Seth a bow of his head. “My apologies. I meant no offense.”
Niall glared at Conall, before continuing. “Ye’ll have to forgive my companion. It seems he lost his manners when he crawled out of the gutter this morning.”
Niall shifted in his seat before continuing, his eyes now focused on their group. “I’d like to get to the matter at hand, and will speak frankly with ye, aye? Our group fully supports what the Cause is doing but I’m afraid we canna get involved in another war with England if it willna benefit us in some way.” Holding up his mechanical hand, he added, “The cost of it is still too fresh in the minds of those who were there.”
“Aye,” Gavin added. “We’d not be bothering ye if we didna have something to offer in return. When we spoke, I told ye about the herbal. We’d be willing to exchange ten barrels for yer help in the way of arms and experienced men.”
Conall motioned to Phoebe. “If the lady would be so kind to explain the effects of the herbal— Sanctis, is it?— it would aid us in our decision.”
Phoebe nodded. “Of course. It’s an herbal elixir that’s mixed with spirits, and derived from an alteration of my formula for Viridis. Are you familiar with Viridis, sirs?”
It was quite obvious by Niall’s blush, if such a man could, and by the smile tugging at Conall’s lips, that they had at the least heard the rumors. It was Conall that answered her question. “If ye wouldna mind telling us about it, it’d be much appreciated.”
Ignoring the men’s reactions, Phoebe continued, very matter of fact. “Viridis is derived from a combination of herbal extracts, and tends to leave one with a feeling of euphoria while sensitizing the skin.” She would not add that the rumors were indeed true, and that when taken in its undiluted form, an orgasm could be brought on by a single kiss.
Niall’s blush now extended to the rest of his face. “And the difference between Viridis and Sanctis?”
“The alteration to the original formula resulted in an enhancement of the senses, sight and sound being primarily affected, though you probably would not want to experience any extremes in temperature.” She tucked a stray curl behind her ear before continuing. “I was able to eliminate most of the skin sensitivity and euphoria inherent in Viridis, though not completely. You may also experience an increase in strength and stamina, though it tends to come about once you’ve used it repeatedly.”
Niall sat forward, running his hand over his chin. “Are there any unwanted effects that ye ken of? I’d hate for my men to drop like flies, aye?”
Phoebe shook her head, no. “Not that I’m aware. I cannot say for sure, though I doubt it would cause anyone to drop, as you so put it, like a fly. The herbal is still relatively new. Viridis does not have any unwanted effects, and I’d be tempted to say the same will prove true of Sanctis, based on the fact that they are similarly derived. I brought some with me, if you would like to try it firsthand.”
Niall nodded. “We would love for ye to join us in a drink.” Phoebe knew it was his polite way of ensuring they would not be poisoned, and could not help but smile.
Seth reached into his leather bag, and pulled out a dark blue bottle as Niall waved to the serving girl for some glasses. The empty glasses were placed on the table along with the ale they had ordered. Seth poured out a small amount of Sanctis as Phoebe passed out the drink.
Gavin lifted his glass. “To a successful partnership.”
Niall, nodded his head in their direction. “May the gods be willing.”
They all drank the herbal, conversation drifting to nothing of importance as they waited for the herbal to take effect. It did not take long— no more than ten minutes— when Phoebe noticed her eyesight had sharpened and she could now hear things clear across the tavern. Even the taste of her ale seemed more pronounce, the hops and yeast distinct in their flavors.
“I’ll be damned. It actually works.” Conall tilted his head to the side. “Ye can sort of focus on what ye wanna hear, aye?”
Gavin nodded. “It takes a little getting used to, but ye’ll have it down in no time.”
“Aye. And how long does it last? Do ye ken?” Niall was looking at the liquid remaining in his glass.
Phoebe answered him. “It depends on the quantity you’ve had and whether or not the drink has been diluted. At its full strength, I’d say two ounces of Sanctis should keep the effect going for close to two hours. If you cut it by half, you’ll cut its effectiveness and longevity by half.”
Niall nodded. “I’d be willing to send two hundred weapons with ammunition— the latest tinkerings, mind— and another twenty men, all well trained and capable of training others. What do ye say?”
Gavin gave it a minute and then said, “Make it two fifty and twenty five, and ye’ll have yerself a deal.”
“Aye. Agreed, if ye’ll also throw in two barrels of Viridis.”
Phoebe smiled. “Agreed.”***