June 30th 2012
Dying of a rare blood disease, Eleanor Franklin needs laudanum to ease the pain, often driven to steal in order to buy more. But when she steals a ruby she has no idea that the gem will tip her into the midst of a deadly species war.Saved by Jefferson Park, she discovers a man with an even darker past than her own: he is one of the last true Vampires fighting to stop the eradication of his kind.
But the Sanguine aren’t the only problem as Eleanor finds herself falling in love with Jefferson. It is a relationship she cannot commit to, as she knows her time is limited, and she will not risk breaking his heart.
But I couldn’t run far, not when every slip on the ice beneath my feet made the pain in my back and ribs flare more. I darted into another alley, realizing too late that there might be yet more creatures hiding in the shadows. I struggled on, every breath an agony now. I wanted laudanum. Dear God, I needed laudanum. The pain would only get worse, otherwise. Whereas sometimes I prayed for death, now it was chasing my heels, I found that I didn’t want to die. Not now, and certainly not as I imagined that thing would dispense death. I pulled on my dwindling strength and rounded another corner.
Ahead of me, a man stood in the center of the alley. I skidded to a halt. He regarded me with a steady gaze, unperturbed by my sudden appearance. In fact, I thought that he seemed ready for it, even though he was dressed for a night at the opera. His dress suit was dark and immaculate, expensively styled, while his polished shoes reflected the scant light.
He wasn’t a large man, and there was plenty of room to pass by him, yet despite that I knew instinctively he represented a greater danger than the thing chasing me. A passing breeze confirmed this notion; billowing his red-lined cloak to reveal how the long fingers of his right hand toyed with the silver grip of a pistol. His eyes shifted from my face to the soft scuttling behind me. The wry amusement that had marked his expression up to then fell away.
“You might care to move out of the way,” he told me, his tone light but with a slight undercurrent of tension. I decided to heed his warning and moved to the side of the alley. Cold leeched from the bricks through my thin blouse as I pressed against the wall. Ice sank straight into my marrow and caused the pain to multiply a hundred-fold. My eyes blurred with tears.
In that moment, a soft whump echoed off the alley walls. Static prickled over my skin, and the tang of ionized æther filled my mouth and nostrils. Something fell with a heavy, wet sort of sound. I dared to open my eyes and saw the creature dead on the ground, the dark stranger standing over it. As I stared at the scene, the creature’s form rippled and fell in on itself, turning into a puddle of black ichor.
Gagging at the stench of long-dead flesh, I turned and retched. My stomach twisted in knots and the acrid bile burnt my throat. Tears stung my eyes. A hand on my shoulder jolted me. My spine snapped as I straightened too quickly. My startled gaze met a pair of gray eyes, narrowed in contemplation.
His face was lean and clean-shaven, his pale skin stark in the darkness. His cheeks were hollow, bisected by sharp bones. Thin lips were pressed into a flat line. The slight breeze ruffled his already unruly hair, lending him a somewhat manic look. This was echoed by the pistol he still held. My jaw dropped at the tell-tale white-blue glow of the crystal chamber: I’d heard about æther weapons, but this was the first one I’d laid eyes on. What did it mean that this man had such a device?