Today we welcome O.M. Grey as she drops by on her blog tour…
O. M. Grey Blog Tour: Steampunk ParaRomance and Tiara Giveaway
Thank you so much for hosting me today, Suzanne, and all the Lovely Lolitas at STEAMED! It’s so great to be back!
Today I’d like to give all STEAMED readers a chance to win my YA Steampunk Paranormal Romance novel, The Zombies of Mesmer, along with this lovely tiara/necklace made by EJP Creations. I’m wearing it in this picture from my Gearhearts Steampunk Glamour Revue photo shoot. This was my favorite picture without the red hair, but it didn’t make it into the final issue, although several other lovely pictures did. But before we get to the contest portion, please enjoy my short story “Hannah & Gabriel,” a Steampunk retelling of the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.”
Hannah & Gabriel
“Gabe! Gabe, wake up!” Hannah urged her brother in a desperate whisper, shaking him.
“What?” Balled fists rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
“Listen. Come here and listen.” Before Gabriel could find his bearings, Hannah was yanking him across the room. “Listen,” she whispered again.
Through the wall, Gabriel could hear his parents talking in hushed tones. His own breathing drowned out their words, so he held his breath and listened.
“No.” It was his father’s voice. “I will not, woman. There must be another way.”
“You know there isn’t.” Gabriel’s step-mother did not speak as softly. “There is no work, Oscar. No work means no food. Do you want us all to die?”
“Of course not, but they are only children.”
“Exactly, they will probably be found by someone who will care for them. We’ll dress them in their best and send them on their way. They’ll be better off.”
“What are they talking about?” Gabriel asked his sister.
“Shhhh. They’ll hear you.” Hannah climbed back into her bed and pulled her knees in tight. All was suddenly silent. The voices in the adjacent room had quieted, and all Gabe heard was the sounds of the night. Then bare feet padding across the wooden floor. Gabriel dove back into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin just as the door opened. His last sight before clamping his eyes shut was his sister feigning sleep.
“See.” His step-mother’s voice. “Sound asleep. You worry too much.” Her fading footfalls told Gabriel she had returned to her room, but he never heard his door close. He chanced a peek through his eyelashes and saw a blurred version of his father standing in the doorway, just watching them. After what seemed like forever, his father brushed the back of his hand across his cheek and closed the door.
“Hannah,” Gabe whispered after all had been quiet for awhile, but there was no answer. “Hannah!” Nothing. His eyes started to burn and the fear filled his chest, suffocating him. Covering his face with the covers, he muted the sounds of weeping and tried to tell himself everything would be all right. His lips formed the words over and over again. “Everything will be all right. Everything will be all right.” The mantra mixed with his emotional exhaustion finally lulled him to sleep.
A loud clanging noise startled him from his dreams. Gabe sprung up, his hands covering his ears against the offensive racket. His step-mother stood in their doorway, banging a wooden spoon on an iron pot. “Wake up! Wake up! Important day today, my doves. Put on your finest, for we are going on a journey.”
After he and his sister dressed in silence, they made their way into their father’s workshop. They found him as he always was in his waking state: hunched over a clock or pocket watch, peering through his special work glasses, each side held three separate magnifying lenses affixed to tiny arms fanned above the frames like bizarre eyebrows. Some of the very tiny watch parts could only be properly seen with magnification.
“Father?” Hannah began in her small voice. “Where are we going today?”
Oscar looked up from his work, and Gabriel had to suppress a laugh. One of his father’s eyes looked four times as big as the other through his work glasses. It felt good to smile, but Gabe’s smile quickly turned into a sinking feeling. He wished he had laughed out loud instead of holding it in, for that might be his final feeling of joy for quite some time.
“Your mother is taking you for a special treat! A picnic in the forest, just the three of you. She’s even made a fresh pie to enjoy,” he said, removing the glasses. His eyes were rimmed red, as if he hadn’t slept all night. The bottom lid filled with tears, reflecting Gabriel’s own eyes. He turned to his sister and saw her tears streaming down her cheeks, so Gabe bit his lip and swallowed hard, determined to be strong for Hannah. Whatever was going to happen today, they would be together.
Their father gathered them up in his arms and squeezed them tight. Upon seeing his father’s small bin of extra and broken watch gears, Gabriel suddenly had an idea. While still grasped desperately by their father in his farewell embrace, Gabe reached out and grabbed a handful of small brass cogs and pocketed them.
“Children!” Their step-mother’s shrill voice entered the room just before she did. “Time to go. Come on. It will be a fine treat. I’ve packed some little morsels for a nice picnic. It’s a lovely day, but it will take us much time to get there, so we must leave now.”
“Why are we dressed up for a picnic in the woods? Won’t we get our fine clothes dirty?” Gabriel knew exactly why, but he just couldn’t resist saying something.
The hard woman clenched her jaw and her eyes glared at them for a moment before softening. “It is a game, my duck. We are going to enjoy the day like we are rich and have not a care in the world. It shall be like a holiday.” Although her voice was pleasant and her expression gentle for a change, when her bony hand clamped down on Gabriel’s and Hannah’s shoulders, her fingers dug in deep, urging them along without another word.
As they followed their step-mother into the woods, Gabriel held his sister’s hand, squeezing it affectionately every time he heard her sniffle. With his free hand, he held the watch gears, dropping one every ten steps. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten, drop. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten, drop. This helped keep his mind focused and the fear at bay, for he knew his horrid step-mother meant to leave them alone in the woods. But he’d show her. They would follow the path of cogs back home, and their father would be so glad to see them that he will hug them and kiss their heads. Then he would throw that horrid witch out on her oversized bustle. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten, drop.
But the time came that Gabe ran out of cogs and they kept walking. He watched his step-mother’s determined gait just ahead of them, and he tried to pay attention to his surroundings, but all the trees looked the same after awhile.
They came to a clearing in the woods, and their step-mother stopped short. She told them to spread out the blanket she had carried under her arm while she went to find some firewood, for the air was a tad nippy and stung the sweat gathering around Gabriel’s collar.
“I’ll go with you,” Gabriel said.
“No, you stay here with your sister. Here–” She pulled a small parcel wrapped up in a napkin out of her basket and handed it to Gabriel. “Share with your sister.”
Gabe unwrapped it, expecting to see the fresh pie Father had spoken of, but it was just two crusts of bread spread with some congealed honey. Same as usual. The crusts that no one else wanted, this was her treat for them.
“Please don’t go, mummy,” Hannah said through her tears. Gabe knew she was really scared if she was calling that witch ‘mummy.’ She was not their real mother, for no mother would abandon her children out in the forest. Father married this harpy a year after their real mother had died. Didn’t make it through the winter because she gave most of her share of the food to her children. Although Hannah is too young to remember much of her, she still knew this hard woman before them was no nurturing mother. Hannah was terrified, and for good reason. She hadn’t stopped crying the entire way there. For hours they had walked, and now her fear was also mixed with exhaustion.
“Why are you crying, Hannah? Here. Let us play a game before I gather wood. We’re still warm enough from the walk, but the air is chill. We will cool down soon enough, and you will wish for a fire. But no matter, we shall play a game first. How about Hide & Go Seek?”
“Yes!” Hannah exclaimed, smiling. “Let’s! You can be ‘IT,’ and me and Gabe will hide.”
“Gabe and I,” their step-mother corrected.
“Yes, Gabe and I will hide.”
“That would be no fun, for I am much more clever than you are. It would be harder for you to find me, besides, I wouldn’t want you two to get lost in the woods while hiding.”
“You’re really not going to leave us here?” Hannah said.
“Silly child! Where did you ever get such an idea? Now, be a good girl and close your eyes. You, too, Gabriel. Close them tight. That’s right, put your hands over your eyes. No peeking!” Gabriel felt her bony hand on his shoulder and she began turning him around and around until he thought he might fall down. “Now, count to thirty while I hide. No peeking!”
“But–” Hannah said between her wrists.
“Fret not, my duck. I shall keep you both in sight. Count to thirty.”
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven….” Gabriel listened closely to the sound of her footsteps as they got further and further away. He did not count all the way to thirty. When he could no longer hear her rustling in the fallen leaves, he uncovered his eyes and looked all around.
They were alone.
You can also listen to “Hannah & Gabriel,” as well as other stories on my fiction podcast at Caught in the Cogs.
But before you go read the rest of the story, please enter the contest to win an author-signed copy of The Zombies of Mesmer and this lovely clock-hand tiara (pictured above) by leaving a comment and asking me a question below. In addition to this giveaway, I’m running several more this week during my blog tour, so please visit my blog for the full schedule and links.
About AVALON REVISITED~
Arthur Tudor has made his existence as a vampire bearable for over three hundred years by immersing himself in blood and debauchery. Aboard an airship gala, he meets Avalon, an aspiring vampire slayer who sparks fire into Arthur’s shriveled heart. Together they try to solve the mystery of several horrendous murders on the dark streets of London. Cultures clash and pressures rise in this sexy Steampunk Romance.