Ashes & Alchemy
Police inspector Sebastian Brown served Queen and country in India before returning to England to investigate supernatural crimes alongside the Order of the Round Table. If his wifeless, childless life feels a little empty sometimes, that’s not too great a price to pay in the name of duty.
Minerva Shaw is desperately seeking a doctor when she mistakenly lands on Sebastian’s doorstep. Her daughter Ivy has fallen gravely ill with a mysterious illness—the same illness, it seems, that’s responsible for taking the lives of many of Ivy’s classmates.
Seb sniffs a case, and taking in Minnie and Ivy seems the only way to protect them while he solves it. But as mother and daughter work their way into his heart and Seb uses every magickal and technological resource he can muster to uncover the source of the deadly plague, it’s he who will need protecting—from emotions he’d thought buried long ago.
Exclusive Steamed! Excerpt:
What felt like hours later, but had really been only minutes, they pulled up in front of the tenement Minnie called home. Inspector Brown lifted one eyebrow as he put his mask back on, but didn’t say a word, just gestured for Minnie to precede him up the rickety steps.
She’d have taken them at a run if her tired muscles would have cooperated. Instead she all but dragged herself up the three flights. There were no gaslights in the building, so she fumbled blindly in her pocket for her key, until she heard her companion mutter, “What the deuce?”
He reached out and pushed open the door—which had been broken off its hinges.
“Ivy!” Minnie shrieked and ran into the tiny flat. The lone oil lamp still burned in its corner of the table, but its wick hadn’t been trimmed and emitted thick, oily smoke. On the opposite wall was a worn settee Minnie had filched from the dustbin behind a fancy shop. Jane, dear, sweet Jane, lay at an odd angle, half on, half off the settee, her eyes vacant and a dark stain covering her shirtwaist. Minnie gasped. “Dear God, Jane!”
The inspector was already at Jane’s side, closing her eyes and covering her carefully with a quilt from the back of the nearby rocking chair. Minnie took two steps toward them, but he held out his hand and caught her shoulder. “Was she here minding your daughter?”
Minnie nodded and clapped her hand over her mouth. “Oh, no. Ivy!” She spun on her heel and ran into the only bedroom.
Everything had been thrown around, as if a small cyclone had ripped through the room. Ivy’s cot was empty—the blankets tossed every which way. Minnie’s narrow bed was ransacked as well, with no sign of the child. Minnie dropped to her knees to peer underneath. Nothing but a few boxes. “Ivy? Oh, God, Ivy, where are you?”
“There’s no blood in here,” Brown said softly. “That’s a good sign. He must have taken her, for some reason. That means she’s likely still alive.”
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Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 18 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.
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