Available October 29
Available October 29
from the pirate reverse harem short story Into the Storm
Available September 10 in the anthology Falling into Chaos
Where the traveling arrangements are not to Mary’s liking…
Steam billowed up from the engine. Light filtered into the loading platform, obscuring everything from sight. The heavy loader beasts grunted, and hissed.
Being in close proximity to the animals made Mary nervous. It was bad enough having to travel through the streets of Chicago behind an ostrich, she now had to brace herself, knowing they were near by.
Born and raised in a city, and as a proper young lady she did have riding lessons. The biggest animal she was used to having to deal with were horses. Even if the riding stable had trained for the larger saurans.
She followed the porter down the row of train cars to her carriage.
A large shadow loomed through the steam. Mary jumped, heart pounding, afraid that the impending dark that approached her was one of the saurans.
“Miss Dryer.” The voice that rolled out of the cloud calmed Mary more than she cared to admit.
The tension in her back relaxed, and if it weren’t for her corsets, her posture would have slumped noticeably.
He tipped his hat to her, and she found her composure. How dare this man be so familiar with her. She did not know him, she did not care for his company. It did not matter than a million men this afternoon had already tipped their hats in her direction in a gentlemanly acknowledgment of her presence. What mattered was that this brute was here to make sure she got home to be married off to the highest bidder.
She shuddered and let out a low growl. Her grandfather had ruined everything. Pythagorus could probably bank roll whomever George Dryer had cornered into marrying her sight unseen.
She tipped the porter after Marshall took her carrying case from the other man.
“Come with me.” His voice was a gravely command.
With a harrumph she followed him up and into the train. The man didn’t even have the decency to allow her to mount the steps first.
She walked with as much dignity as she could muster down the narrow passage. They encountered another group headed in the opposite direction. Mary began backing up, they would have to make their way to the juncture of the two cars before the others could pass.
Marshall didn’t budge. She couldn’t see his face, but the face of the porter facing him told Mary all she needed to know. He was glowering and being intimidating. She would have to speak with him privately about his behavior if he were to be in public with her. She would not tolerate boorish caveman like rudeness. If he wanted to be that way, he could excuse himself and go ride one of those beastly saurans.
With much fussing the other party backed up. Mary nodded and gave them a weak smile along with her sincerest apologies. “I am dreadfully sorry. Trains are so small, but still so much more comfortable than traveling by horse cart.” She scurried to catch up with Marshall once passed her embarrassing ordeal.
He ignored her and continued walking. Which Mary noticed with some satisfaction, was difficult for him and his broad shoulders in the narrow space. He had to twist slightly to the side and lead with his right shoulder.
He turned his head back to cast a quick glance at her. “Marshall will do just fine. I’m not one of your fancy gentlemen.”
“Obviously. That is what I daresay we need to speak about.” She stopped following him and stomped her small foot. He wasn’t paying her any attention at all. It was infuriating.
He finally stopped and slowly turned all the way back to look at her. He said nothing. He slid open the door to a passenger compartment. He tossed her bag in, and then held up his hand indicating she should enter next.
She stomped her foot again, and with another indignant huff she stormed passed him and into the compartment.
She wasn’t able to stomp far. The room, if it could be called that was barely larger than a wardrobe where she stored her dresses.
“Where is my state room? What is this?” She demanded.
There were bench seats facing each other, with racks above their heads.
Marshal shouldered his way into the small space.
Mary was astounded to silence that the man had the audacity to enter her room without permission.
She stumbled over her own tongue as he took his hat off and placed in on the rack, before shrugging out of his coat and sitting down.
How dare he!
He looked up at her, completely unaware of the affront he was causing.
She pointed her finger indicating the door. “You should leave sir.”
“Sit down,” he told her.
She stomped her foot. “Not until you explain what is going on here. And then exit my room.”
“What is going on here is I am settling in to take a nap. We have a long ride ahead of us, and the lounge car, and open-air observation cars will not be open until we are underway and out of the city.” He squinted at her like he did not fully comprehend her, something Mary did not find unexpected.
“My room, you should leave.”
“No Miss, not your room.”
“Then I should leave, where is my stateroom?” She was shocked he would have let her enter his cabin, but he had tossed her bag in here so unceremoniously.
“Sit down Miss Dryer. This is our room. There are no staterooms available on this train, and your grandfather did not send me with enough funds to acquire a private Pullman car for your feminine needs.” he kicked his rather long legs out, and propped his boots on the plush seat across from where he slouched. “I was able to get us a private compartment. Don’t worry, once the conductor has checked our tickets, I will not be spending my time in here. I have already lined up a card game that will keep me occupied for the majority of our days on this rolling cart. You will only have to suffer my company for a few hours this afternoon. And then at meals, which I will take with you. The rest of the time. I trust you will be comfortable enough in here.”
Mary slowly lowered herself to the seat. Resigned that she was stuck with the brute, she allowed herself to sit, but she would not do away with the trappings of her outer coat in the presence of this practical stranger.
She cast about the small space, there was not room for her trunks.
“Where are my trunks? My traveling items?”
He shrugged. “Baggage car I would assume.”
“And they’ll be delivered when?”
Marshall Hunt let out a sharp derisive laugh. “How did you manage to get from San Francisco to Chicago?”
She sat up straight and lifted her nose to him. “Not with a man in my chambers, that’s how!”
©2019 Lulu M. Sylvian
Shane bumped Justin’s arm with his knee, causing the kid to lose control of his game character.
“Hey, what gives?” Justin complained.
“Let’s go for a ride. C’mon.” Shane nodded his head, indicating they needed to leave. “We need to talk.”
Justin whined, “You’re not gonna talk to me about my dick, are you?”
Shane laughed. “The only dick we’re gonna talk about is your dad. Let’s go.”
Justin shrugged and powered off his game.
Shane drove for about twenty minutes in silence before Justin started talking.
“So I thought you and Mom broke up.”
“We just had an argument, man. It happens.” Shane suppressed a smile. It was good that Justin had started talking. All his informal therapy sessions with Melinda had taught him that much.
“But you didn’t come back. I didn’t think you were gonna.”
“J-man, me and your mom go way back. And I always come back around. Always. You’re my family. You, Stacey, your mom, a little argument isn’t going to drive me away for very long.”
“Then why is Dad divorcing us? We’re his family, and he’s just walking away from us. He’s being mean about it too.”
Justin turned and stared out the window. He shrugged and adjusted in his seat. Shane figured he was wiping at tears. This was all too much for the kid to handle. He didn’t need to hear what Shane thought of the man. He didn’t deserve to be their father. He didn’t deserve their tears.
“Dogstar wasn’t there when we got back. Mom took him to the vet, huh?”
“Yeah, J-man. She got him back home where he belongs.” Shane felt that was about right. He was with them where he belonged.
They pulled into a parking lot in front of a stucco building with a low tile roof. Shane cut the engine off.
“What are we doing here?” Justin looked eagerly from the building to Shane.
“Well, your mom thought that maybe…” Shane shrugged.
“I can get a dog?”
Justin ran inside the Humane Society office, leaving Shane to follow him.
The house smelled like garlic and onions when they got home.
“Stacey, get down here!” Justin yelled as soon as they walked in the door.
Lucy came into the living room first. She looked around, and her eyes fell on a carrier case. “I thought you were going to bring home a dog, not a cat.”
“Cats,” Shane corrected.
“You got cats?” Stacey asked as she walked down the stairs.
She went straight to the carrier and peeked inside. She lifted one black-and-white cat out. The animal shivered as she sat and cooed at it, stroking its fur. Justin lifted out a second cat, this one whiter with black markings. The kids sat and held their new charges.
Lucy pulled Shane aside. “What have you done?”
“We got a beautiful little girl,” Shane practically purred. “She looks like an Australian shepherd. It was love at first sight. They let Justin meet a few dogs, but she crawled right in his lap. She’s getting fixed in the morning, and we’ll pick her up after school. The cats were Justin’s idea. He thought Stacey would like the cats.”
Lucy slid into his arms. She felt so right.
“Justin was right, she’s gonna love those cats.”
©2018 Lulu M Sylvian
I want to thank everyone who participated in the tour. The bloggers who shared my book, and the readers who played along in the giveaway!
Can a person become a better person after they’ve died? Gil is pretty sure the answer is yes because she has fallen in love with a ghost. Dead Sexy is a paranormal ghost romance about a Hollywood has-been hunk and the woman who falls in love with his ghost.
Hollywood has-been hunk finds a talented illustrator to write him into the perfect life he didn’t have. Life doesn’t give you do-overs, neither does the afterlife.
My Peter muse started out very much like Peter in the book, demanding of my time, and fussy about how he wanted his story told. He also sort of ditched me just as the story got rolling.
Very similar to Gil’s experience where the Michelle Muse kicked in, Gil’s character took over the storytelling.
Unlike the book, there was no ghost, and there was no dreamscape sexy time.
I will announce the winner of the signed book giveaway:
Dreams with Peter were not the typical mini-movie style of normal dreams. They felt real. I couldn’t distinguish them from an actual memory. Had they actually happened? Where was the line between dream and reality?
I sat cross legged on my bed. Peter sat next to me, he braced his feet against the floor, and gripped the edge of my mattress as if was all that kept him from leaping off into space. He was overwhelmingly sad, all slumped into himself. I didn’t know what to do for him. Pain rolled off him in tangible waves.
I stroked his back and murmured comforting sounds. I don’t know how long we sat like that. I don’t remember how we got there, but it had been the same for several nights in a row now. Sometimes, I would be tucked up under blankets, sometimes, I would sit next to him. We would sit, and though I don’t remember actually talking, we talked. Peter told me all about his life, and I told him about mine. Tonight was different, he didn’t speak.
I leaned against his back, and tried to rub the tension out of his arm. His grip was so hard I was afraid he would rip my bedding. He snatched his arm up and away from me like a cat. I let him, I didn’t want to hurt him.
“I don’t know what to do for you, Peter.” Probably a stupid thing to say, but I didn’t know what to do. My heart broke for him.
He shook his head. “It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.”
I didn’t exactly know what he was talking about, and yet, I knew he meant having died. When he turned to me, his eyes were rimmed with dark pink. Full of pain and tears.
I adjusted myself on the bed and reached up to guide him down to my lap. His legs stretched out, and hung over the end of my bed. His head rested on my thigh, his breath hot against my skin. With out of focus eyes, he stared into the void.
I stroked his hair, and watched his face. Even in his sadness, he was beautiful, and large. I tried to soothe him until the texture of his shaggy hair made my fingertips go numb. Are men’s heads always so big? Why did I think the weirdest things at the most inopportune moments?
I whispered, “I’d help you if I knew what you needed.”
He rolled his face into my leg. I could feel his body quake.
I curled over him and held him the best I could. He hurt, and somehow, he found me. I felt like there was a reason for this, and I wanted to help.
I rolled over and woke with a snort. My dream of holding Peter was replaced with the reality of my bedroom in the middle of the night and David’s naked shoulder in front of me. I reached up to pet his skin. How different these two men were—one so very real, and one in so much pain.
©2019 Lulu M Sylvian
and here are those links:
Mary pulled on her gloves. Her hat was already pinned in place. With every single one of Janey’s tears, another steel rod metaphorically lashed to Mary’s spine. It was going to hurt if she stood up any straighter.
“I’ll never see you again,” Janey wailed.
Mary cooly looked at her sister. She wanted nothing more than to dissolve and collapse to the floor holding her sister and dearest confidant close. But the way Janey chose to carry on was beginning to grind on Mary’s last nerve. Besides, she refused to arrive at the station and have that dreadful Marshall Hunt catch any hint of evidence that she had been crying.
She was distraught enough as it was, yet somehow bettering that man gave her strength.
“You said that at your wedding in San Francisco before Charles whisked you back here to the bosom of his family. And look, I came for such a wonderfully prolonged visit. Once we have children we shall see each other again. We are family dear sister. And by rail, it really isn’t that taxing or difficult of a journey. No more covered wagons.” She was surprised she hadn’t completed her tidy little speech with a ‘tsk, tsk now.’
“You will write to me every day.” Janey pleaded.
“I will document every step of my journey. Dear Janey, you really must stop crying. You will get me started and then where will we be? You know I cannot possibly go out in public with pink-rimmed eyes and sniffling nose.”
She turned her attention to Charles. The man positively had the same good-humored cast about his visage as if they were discussing shares in the Superior Holdings Company or a tea war in China. She would never share her innermost thoughts, but she did sincerely believe that Charles was more than just a hint dim-witted.
“Thank you for hosting me, Charles. And for making such lovely introductions to your friends. Please pass my regards on to Mr. Peterson. I regret the way we left things. It had rather been a taxing afternoon. I rather hope my situation does not, how would he say it? Put a wrench in the works for your friendship.”
After all Pythagorus Peterson had been about to make a proposal, Mary was certain of it. And had that dreaded telegraph from her interfering old grandfather not shown up, she would have been in a position to accept and marry into one of the wealthiest families in Chicago. In the United States even.
Oh, she hoped Grandfather knew what he had tossed a wrench into. She was sure to give him an earful the second she debarked from the rattley, smelly train she was confined to for the next several days.
“I dare say it had been. I’m sure Py will understand fully. There are some decisions a man shouldn’t delay in making.” Charles positively chuckled.
“Are you sure we can’t accompany you to the station?” Janey sniffed.
“There’s no time dear sister. Besides, you would feel positively awful if someone should see you making a fuss.” The sisters had been raised never to be seen making a fuss. They were allowed to wallow all they wanted, but never where they might be seen by anyone of social ranking. It was bad enough Janey was carrying on where the help could see.
Mary turned and nodded her head ever so slightly to Henrietta the maid, and Barclay the butler. “Thank you for your help during my stay.” While not expected, Mary found it to be quite rude to not thank the help occasionally.
“It’s been a pleasure miss. Safe travels,” Henrietta said. That last comment may have been a little too familiar. Maybe thanking the help didn’t need to happen. Mary scrunched up her face as she contemplated this new concept.
“Your bags have been sent on to the station. Everything has been arranged for your arrival,” the butler said. That was more like it. A proper interaction.
“Looks like your carriage has arrived,” Charles announced.
Another earth-shattering wail escaped from Janey’s lips. The poor dear would have to spend the rest of the day in her chambers recovering. Mary felt moisture form at the corner of her eye. Her sister really was taking this all to heart so extremely.
“I do hate goodbyes.” She wrapped her fragile willed sister in a firm embrace and squeezed. She didn’t want to go either. Chicago was so much more exciting than home. And Janey was here.
She broke off the hug and dabbed at her eyes.
“Well then.” She nodded at Barclay indicating he could open the door.
She stepped onto the porch and hid her disappointment behind a grimace.
It was not a closed carriage as she had requested. Rather an open aired, handsome cab. She openly sneered at the beast before wiping all emotion from her face. She detested ostriches. They left fluffs of feather dander everywhere, and they squawked. Horses were quiet with their huffs and calm whinnies.
The lashings of her spine tightened, and Mary found herself standing even more upright. Well, this was it then. Her last moments in Chicago behind a giant turkey. So be it, no one would see her complain, no matter how much her insides boiled.
©2019 Lulu M Sylvian