Octopus Armaments

A horrid shriek ripped me from sleep. Grabbing the palsifying aether disruptor snugged under my mattress, I burst into the sitting room.  Between first sight and second thought, the disruptor discharged with a sizzling snap and Annealicia flopped to the floor. I stepped closer, curious how repeated disruption would affect a body. It’s quite possible her twitching was more intense this instance. “Oh feathers. Now I’ll owe you another week’s tobacco.”

“What the devil have you been about in my flat at this Godforsaken hour?” I queried the insensate Annealicia. Reproachfully the clock wheezed a sullen quarter-hour past ten.“Perhaps not so forsaken after all. I’ll own the fourth cocktail last evening might have been a questionable decision.”

A wet sucking sound followed by a distinct splat drew my attention back to the floor. Sigh. “Wallis, what are you doing out of the tank? If I find you’ve rummaged the coldbox for the clotted cream again, I shall padlock you in your proper home.”

The seven-legged cephalopod rolled two more tentacles over and splatted a few additional inches my way. Then clanked. “What…?”

Wallis had gained an eighth leg — a segmented mechanical device attached to his poor stump. How, I couldn’t tell, but he seemed able to control it as if it were natural. Except for the clanking.

“Well look what a superb new appendage you have!”

Wallis glared at me and slapped a crimson tentacle against the floorboards in my direction. Then he clicked his beak rapidly at Annealicia in a chittering fashion.

“Oh. She mended you did she? And you didn’t much like it. I was sleeping quite soundly, you know. Perhaps it’s you I should have stunned for waking me so unpleasantly.”

I stepped forward to scoop him up, and the little gobshite flipped his new leg over and grabbed my bare toe with the clawed end of it. “Oh sweet son of a…! Why the devil did she give you a three-pronged pincher? I should definitely have stunned you.” I hopped backward on my good foot before he could nab me once more.

Facedown on the floor, Annealicia groaned. “Blimey, M. Did you stun me again?”

“If you knocked like a normal person instead of lock-picking your way in, you’d never have to worry about it. I’m dressing and heading down to the corner bakery for a bite and a cuppa. You are capturing my freshly armed octopus and shoving his ungrateful arse back in the tank. Make a padlock while you’re at it. He’s transcended uppity.”

Annealicia lifted her head with a wicked chuckle, a muscle in her cheek still twitching.  “Just wait until he figures out how to use the grappling hook attachment.”

Bloody hell.

 

Published in: on August 4, 2013 at 9:40 am  Comments Off  

Sun and Secrets

May 01, 1859

“So three months and no word from that Duke bloke?”

Annealicia puffed her pipe on the portico of Rosemarie’s stately abode. As always, Annie had propped her feet anywhere that wasn’t ground – in this case, the porch’s stone rail. She tipped back in her chair to catch the spring sun on her face.

“What duke, who now?” Rosemarie sat properly at the table nibbling a cucumber sandwich. “Oh! The wolfman! Do tell!”

“Marked. And no.” I grumbled into my books and notes, snatching a page the breeze tried to steal. I shoved it under my Compendium of London Othernaturals.

Annie snorted. “What does that even mean, Marked? Have they inked their skin or some such? Because werewolf is really much more descriptive.”

“I’ve researched more since the clan repossessed Patricia Dalton’s journal.” I marked my place and looked up. “Most of the clan are kin, not werewolves. Keepers are special kin, assigned to help their charges with control. The ‘Marked’ are so called because they carry some sign of their otherly nature in their human form.”

“Like what?” Rosie put her teacup down and leaned in to skim my notes. “Oh my goodness, what a hirsute gentlemen. Is that a proper sketch of someone in particular?”

“Yes. This man’s mark is his abundance of bodily hair, even as a human.”

“Huh.” Annealicia puffed on her pipe and sipped her brandy. Never tea for Annie. “And your Duke looked like he was wearing badgers all over?”

“He’s not my Duke. No, marks vary from wolf to wolf. Not all of them are visible. For instance, I’m sincerely hoping Duke’s is his sense of smell. If they’re all that sensitive, I fear my indecent desires are on olfactory display for complete strangers.”

We sat in silence for a moment, enjoying the long-awaited fine spring day. A small hare hopped across the lawn from the rose bushes to the reflecting pool.

“Don’t you think it’s odd that Mrs. Dalton wrote such intimate details in her Keeper’s journal?” Rosemarie mused into the calm afternoon. “She had to know it would go into the clan library as all others have. Surely they aren’t all expected to document such titillating confidences.”

“If they are, I’ll bite my arm off to sneak into that restricted section myself, M.” Annealicia tipped up the last of her brandy.

“Cool your valves, strumpet.” I shared a commiserating glance with Rosemarie. “Mrs. Dalton was thorough with her journal because bonds were her area of interest. Keeper/Marked bonds and mate bonds.” I smirked. “And apparently her commitment to research overcame any concept of personal privacy.”

“Too bad you couldn’t hold onto that thing.” Annie sighed her regret.

“Duke?” Rosemarie asked pertly over the rim of her cup.

“I’m just glad I’ve been left to my own since the clan recovered the volume.”

“Surely you are.” Annie scoffed while Rosemarie hooted with laughter. “I don’t need othernatural olfactory skills to smell that lie.”

Published in: on May 16, 2013 at 10:27 am  Comments Off  

Now I’m In It

February 2, 1859

“Your actions suggest you are not a very smart woman, Miss Weatherwax.” The mountain in my doorway shook his head. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Fear? I wish it had been. That would have been sensible. He grinned, and a fine set of stark white teeth broke the ebon planes of his face.

“Speechless, I see. I’ve come for the journal.”

I cleared my throat. “Um. What journal?”

“Miss Weatherwax, you gave your full name at the clan library, left your scent all over the restricted section, and took one of the journals on display. Your trick with the perfume was so obvious I felt insulted.”

“Well, then. What took you so long?” I took a deep breath. Green things, the supple leather scent of his long coat, coal exhaust from the street. Mmmm.

“We’ve been trailing you since you left, trying to learn what you intend to do with it. I’ve decided you plan to snuggle up with it like a penny novel. Give it back, and find something else to entertain yourself.” He blinked at me. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“Trying to distract me. Perhaps if you tie your wrap shut instead of holding it closed, it won’t fall open thus.”

I looked down at my favorite French silk chemise and shrugged. “You’ve seen it now. No point in pretenses.” I raised my head in time to see his unguarded appreciation. Oh my. Tingles rippled along my skin.

The man in my doorway chuffed and shook his head. “You can’t be serious. You are supposed to be intimidated. Everyone is intimidated by me.”

“Maybe I just hide it exceptionally well.”

“You are aroused.”

I blinked. How…? Ah. “You’re a wolf. You smell it.”

“Marked, and yes I do. Would you mind controlling yourself?”

“But I’ve not even had one unclean thought. I just find you appealing. And I find your olfactory detection disconcerting. I think you have an unfair advantage.”

“I have a what? No! That’s not what I — “

“Are you sure you’re not using your Lure on me? I’ve heard it can happen by accident.”

“Are you mental? Of course not.” He braced both hands on the door frame and leaned down until his black eyes were level with mine. “Molly Weatherwax, you are playing with fire.”

“Oh, goody.” My whisper startled a chuckle out of him. He stood back up and threw his hands in the air. I grinned. “So, you know my name, you’re visiting my flat in the middle of the night, and you’ve made my arousal the topic of conversation. Given how familiar we’re becoming, perhaps you’ll see fit to share your name with me?”

He crossed his arms and frowned. “Duke.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s all you’re getting.”

“Duke. What kind of name is that? That’s what one names a horse. Or one of those giant gangly-legged dogs that sleeps in front of rich men’s fireplaces.”

“What sort of name is Molly? You sound like a freckled girl child. Or one of those creepy life-like porcelain dolls.”

Oooh, I was really growing fond of this man.

“There you go again.” Duke’s eyes flashed with polished steel, and he did that chuffing thing once more with his nose.

“Shouldn’t you have more control than this? Where’s your Keeper?”

“I have remarkable control, and my Keeper’s whereabouts are none of your business. I’m not the problem here. You are.”

“What? Ridiculous. You certainly can’t be suggesting that I should curb my arousal so you can keep yourself reigned in.” I stood on my tiptoes and placed my cheek alongside his. “Perhaps you find yourself intimidated by a woman who knows exactly what she wants.” I punctuated my accusation with a quick scrape of teeth on his earlobe. Duke jumped back so fast and so far he left a Duke-shaped dent in the wall behind him. I smirked. “Skittish as a kitten. Maybe you should come back in the daylight, when I’m not so frightening.”

This time, when the polished steel shone in his eyes, it didn’t recede. My mouth went dry, and my heart flipped. He growled. I gasped and grabbed the door frame. “Duke,” I panted, “I may be bold, but I don’t take strangers to my bed on impulse. You need to leave before one of us does something exceedingly unwise.”

He growled again, and I tried not to puddle at his feet. The wolf never left his eyes, but he nodded curtly and retreated to the end of the hallway in a few long strides. “Also,” Duke’s rough voice traveled back to me, “You have an octopus wrapped around your ankle.”

Published in: on March 18, 2013 at 9:03 am  Comments Off  

A Titillating Find

February 01, 1859

My academic credentials finally won me entrance to the extensive library of London’s werewolf clan.  I eked forbidden cherished minutes in the restricted section with clever use of perfumes and two of Annealicia’s footstep generators.  It might mean my death, but I pocketed Patricia Dalton’s first Keeper journal.  I’ve been up all night hanging on her every word, but I must begin transcription. Only a fool would think clan Guardians aren’t track me down this very moment.

May 16, 1782

I’d be damned if Ben would shake me again on the night of his moon. Third month as his bonded Keeper, and I still hadn’t won this game. Today he’d blocked our bond before I even woke. I’d finally tracked him to Vauxhall gardens, but the throngs thwarted further progress. Any woman would happily hide him in the mazes under guise of a tryst. Wily sod.

Shading my eyes, I checked the sun. One hour before daylight gave way to the waxing gibbous and Ben shifted whether he willed it or not. But this month, I’d drag his arse to shelter before he beat me there. This month, I would win.

Once inside London’s garden of delights, I resorted to shameless tactics, teasing at Ben’s block with amorous interest. A first kiss. A nervous flutter. Sweet fledgling desire.

There. Just a pinpoint of presence, quickly shielded. But enough to sense his intrigue and general direction. West, toward the artificer’s workshop. I plunged through the finely-dressed crowds promenading around the orchestra. A chorus of scandalized protests followed me as I burst out the other side.

“Yes, ladies and gents!” A barker’s voice carried as I reached the artificer, “This is only the first of many wondrous beasts that will make the finest carousel in the world. Right here at Vauxhall Gardens!”

Blasted crowds. I pushed harder at the wall Ben had slapped across our bond. The kiss deepens. I wrap my arms around you, slide my fingers in your hair. I want more.

Ben gave it. A darkly possessive impulse, tempered by joyful frivolity. Deadly fun. Phantom hands smoothed over my curves but raced away as he blocked once more, leaving me stumbling in the midst of a mechanical zoo. I sidestepped a growling clockwork bear on a rolling globe only to collide with an equally disturbing baboon. The baboon shrieked in distress, and a familiar chuckle sounded from the garden paths.

“Watch it there, Miss.” The maker righted his construct and glared at me.

Before I could apologize, a horrid timepiece caught my eye. The artisan had etched a chubby-faced moon into the bronze casing, and silver stars tipped the hands inside. I handed the man every pound I’d strapped in my boot and grabbed the bauble.

Dare I taunt Ben further to flush him out? Indeed I do. I put my hands over yours, and trembling with uncertainty and yearning, I guide you to cup my breast.

Rapid-fire impressions had me groping for support – his lips closing over my nipple, rough hands seeking out every intimate secret. Desire, possession, the promise of delight, and his own overwhelming arousal. This time when he retreated, a thread of aching need remained. Enough for me to follow.

I grinned wickedly. Too close to victory to stop now. Find me, I willed him. Joy. Hunger. Wanting. Then I changed direction, heading for the underground lair. And I blocked him. Could he resist a hunt of his own?

I kept moving, trying to foil his sensory advantage, heedless of the coachmen’s shouts as I dodged through traffic and hopped rides on carriage sideboards. His testing of the bond became a constant heartbeat, until –

“Got you!” Ben swooped down upon me just yards from the moon shelter, laughing darkly as he spun me off my feet.

“No. I have you. I found you before you beat me here!”

My dark-haired charmer stopped abruptly, flummoxed.

Standing on the very tips of my toes, I let down my block and whispered, “I win.” Dancing away, I swung the shelter door wide. “Now down you go. Take off all your clothes and let me lock you up. I’ve a consolation prize for you.”

“Do you?” A smile flickered at the corners of his mouth, and he headed down the narrow steps of the stone cellar, opening his side of the bond and shedding all clothing above the waist. Between my tease and the chase, his blood was as flush as mine.

I pulled his timepiece from the vest he handed me. “Lovely. But I’ve gotten you something special to replace it.” I slipped his into my skirt’s hidden pocket and pulled out its replacement. “You’ll be wearing this one until next moon. It’s equally as fine as the hat I sported last month.” I tucked the cheeky moon into his vest then unlocked his temporary prison just as a surge of fangs and claws raced through our bond. I tore my attention from his distractingly naked upper half and met his gaze direct. “Too close. I can already see him behind your eyes, a razor’s edge from coming out.”

Closing my eyes, I focused my will. Smooth lakes on warm summer afternoons. A soft breeze rustling the tall grasses. Sated from a long hunt. Rest. His wolf settled. When I opened my eyes I’d taken his face between my palms and rested my brow against his. “That will buy a handful of minutes.”

“I’m glad you caught me, Tricia.” His breath tickled my lips.

Ben smelled of green grass and pub smoke. I nearly melted in his arms before another scent slapped me to my senses. “Roses.” I stepped back. “And lavender. What have you been up to? Hoping to make it three in one day?”

Ben’s booming laughter filled the room, and he tapped my nose. “I’m afraid you’ve teased, chased, and baited us out of time for such things.” He stepped into the cage and shucked his breeches before I locked him in. “And while my moon is up, ask yourself – Which game did you win today, and which did you lose?”

With an icy shock, the man ceded to the werewolf. Our bond screamed with hunger and rage. The towering beast who’d replaced Ben drove itself against the bars with an ungodly bellow, snapping its slathering maw. “Only one game ended today, love,” I told the wolfman, now absent all humanity and comprehension. “Do remember how I hate losing.”

Blast.  Heavy pounding at the door in the wee morning hours can’t be good. Hopefully this won’t be the last of Patricia’s entries I transcribe.

Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 8:52 am  Comments Off  

Tea and Grumpkins

November 19, 1858

Tea at the Blue Petticoat Club began as usual – with Annealicia puffing her pipe and detailing her previous evening’s escapades against a background of Rosemarie’s protests.

“Ah, Elsabeth.” Annie relaxed in her overstuffed chair, one ankle propped on the other knee. “The two of you would have liked her immensely. Quick and clever tongue. Not just in conversation, either –”

“Must you, Annie?” Rosemarie perched at my side on the edge of the settee “I mean, really. Beyond simple respect for the woman’s privacy, there’s also the fact that you’ll never bring her round anyway.”

Annealicia grunted and puffed her pipe some more. “Maybe I will.”

Rosie turned to me. “What say you Molly, shall we wager on it?”

“Not a chance. The day Annie takes a woman to her bed more than once, the earth will cave in on itself. I won’t have my wager be responsible for such destruction.”

A shriek and tittering tore through the club’s murmured afternoon conversations. Rosemarie tsked and sighed. Grabbing her parasol, she popped up and bustled off to the disturbance. Something like “falderol” and “nonsense” and “ridiculous twaddle” trailed back to us. I grinned and sipped my tea.

“Bother.” Annealicia moved not a hair. “I’ve half a mind to change clubs if this one can’t get the grumpkin problem under control. How costly could it be for magickal wards to keep the buggers out? Think we should follow her?”

“By the time we get there, she’ll have battered it, berated it, and banished it. Besides, I see the automated trolley coming with fresh tea and sandwiches.”

A thud, inhuman screech, and some hushed arcane chanting proved me right. With a sucking sound and a moist pop, the grumpkin’s final whines died abruptly. A crowd of ninnies beset Rosemarie like so many tittering vultures. My good friend handled the squealing chorus of gratefulness well enough, but Annealicia snorted. “If they know what’s good for them, they’ll let her loose. She’s getting the gleam in her eye that means Please give me an excuse to use my parasol again.”

When the trolley reached us, Annealicia took the tea and programmed in a scotch neat for Rosemarie. Before I could murmur my approval, my heart tripped to a stop. Beyond her shoulder, Magdalene Burke and Violet Dalton entered arm in arm, giggling like two school girls sneaking into a men’s club. Their advancing age did nothing to diminish their obvious lust for life.

“Add a whiskey and a champagne to that order, Annealicia.” I watched them cross the room to settle in a cozy nook. “I believe I have celebrities to woo.”

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm  Comments Off