Cindy Spencer Pape has returned today with an excerpt from "Photographs & Phantoms" of the Gaslight Chronicles. This steampunk series has garnered a lot of attention and here's a peek at the reason why.
Photographs & Phantoms
A Gaslight Chronicles Novella
Available as a Free Download from Carina Press or Amazon.com
Excerpt 1: PG
At the front door, he set his valise and trunk by the step and pressed the bell.
“Yes, may I help you?” A modestly dressed, middle-aged woman answered a few moments later. She had a pleasant face, showing the lines of frequent smiles and a life well lived, and blond hair fading gracefully into gray.
“Miss Deland?” He doubted it, but he’d been given absolutely no description to go on. All he knew was that Lord Drood’s niece was a photographer. This woman, though, had no chemical stains on her fingers nor hint of developing fluid to her scent. Rather, he detected furniture polish, rosewater, roast beef and fresh shortbread. His stomach rumbled.
“No, dear, I’m Mrs. Bennett, the landlady.” She beamed at him, wiping her hands on her apron before holding one out. “Mrs. Abigail Bennett, that is.”
“Kendall Lake,” he replied. He wasn’t in the mood to be milorded, and Lake was his family surname as well as his title. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Bennett.”
“Delighted, Mr. Lake. You’ll find Miss Deland around back in the carriage house. Are you here to have your photo taken?”
“No, I’m on an errand from her uncle, I believe. Lord Drood.”
“Oh, how nice. You can leave your things here in the foyer and tell Amy you’re welcome to stay for luncheon, dear.” With that she tittered like a flirtatious debutante and held the door while he tucked his luggage inside.
Kendall shook his head as he walked around the house. Amy? An awfully feminine nickname for a lady photographer. It also made her sound rather younger than the image he’d formed in his mind. Quite honestly, he expected steel-gray hair and trousers. The female descendants of Knights tended to be a little—well—odd. One theory was that the magick that ran through their bloodlines was somehow corrupted in females, and therefore erratic and unreliable.
The truth was the Order hadn’t trusted female mages since the days of Morgan Le Fey. Most of the younger Knights found that notion rather outdated, but Kendall had never taken much interest in it one way or the other. Order politics hadn’t been something he’d particularly concerned himself with. Now, though, that his father was head of the Order, he supposed he probably should.
Thinking about all of this was why he found himself standing beside the whitewashed carriage house with his walking stick raised to knock when the door opened. A mother and child, dressed in what was likely their Sunday best, whisked out the opened portal. Kendall tipped his hat and couldn’t resist winking at the mischievous-looking child of about seven.
“Goodbye, Mrs. Nutt. Lucinda.” A young woman in a simple but attractive navy day dress stood in the doorway, waving away the customers. She was hatless, with shining, honey-brown hair in a simply braided coronet. She looked up at Kendall and quirked one neat brow above a pair of remarkable eyes, so deep a blue they were almost violet, and lifted one corner of her full mouth into a half smile. “Good afternoon, sir. Why don’t I believe you’re here for me to take your portrait?” The accent was almost American, but softer and with a faint French overtone that matched the name Deland.
“Because your neighborhood tends to discourage clients with full wallets?” He found himself returning her dry tone and wry smile. A neatly lettered sign on the door said simply A. Deland, Photographer. “Or perhaps just because I’m a trifle older than the bulk of your clientele?” He’d glanced past her into the small foyer of her studio—most of the portraits hanging on the wall were of children, or families at the very least.
“True, though I do wedding and funeral portraits also, and landscapes. Perhaps you’re about to be married?” She crossed her arms under her rather impressive bust and leaned against the doorframe. The sailor-style blouse and slim hoops of her skirts allowed her more freedom of movement than the tight bodices and wide crinolines currently in vogue among Kendall’s social circle. Even in such understated clothing, he found her enchantingly feminine—except for the lines of strain that bracketed her soft lips and creased the corners of her eyes.
“Not that I’m aware of, Miss Deland.”
“And you are…?” Amusement twitched briefly at the corners of her lips.
“Sorry.” Good God, he’d been staring like a gobsmacked lad. He held out his hand. “Kendall, Lord Lake, at your service. I believe Lord Drood told you I was coming?”
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