Aether Psychics, Book 2
Hailed as the most talented actress of her generation, Marie St. Jean has something more to her ability than mere talent. She loses a bit of her soul to each role. When the ghostly spirit of the theatre promises her an easy fix, she’s tempted by the chance to finally live a normal life.
Unfortunately, the man she’s drawn to is the last one to settle for normal. But with the Prussians surrounding Paris, there’s no escaping that temptation, either.
Violinist Johann Bledsoe thought he’d left his disgrace in England, but a murder outside the Théâtre Bohème makes him wonder if he’s been exposed. Another reason not to stick around once the siege ends, even if Marie fascinates him.
More murders, steam-powered ravens, and past and present secrets bring them closer to discovering just what lurks within the theatre, and who threatens from without. The only way to save themselves is to reveal their darkest shames—and use the Eros Element in a way that has already driven one man to the brink of madness.
Warning: Processed in a facility where wine is used as currency and dessert is a reward. If you dislike French cooking and attitudes, move along. Things are cooking in this book, and it ain’t Julia Child.
Review of Eros Element at Girl of 1000 Wonders. (12/14)
Reviews of both books at A_TiffyFit’s Reading Corner. (12/15)
Review of Eros Element at Candace’s Book Blog. (12/16)
Review of Light Fantastique at Girl of 1000 Wonders. (12/17)
Review of Eros Element at Deborah Jay’s Author Blog (12/17)
Character Interview of Johann at Anna Durand’s blog (12/22)
From Chapter Eight:
Sometimes the wanderlust in Johann subsided just enough for him to feel a twinge of homesickness. The snow outside made him think of how his family home would look now at the beginning of the holiday season. Perhaps a light dusting would give the peaks and sharp-angled roofs a glittering edge, or a heavier fall would make the old hall look like a dowager trimmed in white fur—dignified and elegant, but also potentially deadly.
His mouth twisted into an almost-grin at the association. One never escaped a conversation with his grandmother, the dowager Marchioness, without some sort of scar. Typically for him it included a hint or direct statement of what a disappointment he was to the family, a dreamer rather than a doer like his older brother.
A fluttering movement caught the corner of his eye, and he looked up to see Marie standing in the back of the theatre, something clutched in her hand. Whatever it was disappeared into her cloak pocket, and her expression distracted him from curiosity about what she’d caught, if anything. Longing warred with confusion on her face.
“Mademoiselle?” he asked. “Are you all right?”
“That music,” she said and put a hand to her middle between her heart and her stomach. “It made me homesick for something, but it doesn’t make sense. This is my home, such as it is, but now I miss…something. What were you playing?”
Johann had spoken with hundreds and played before thousands, but he’d never told his secret. His gut said he could trust her even if he wasn’t trustworthy himself. What would it be like if he was, if he could bear open his heart to someone else? He’d never wanted to, and the idea struck him as strange, but accustomed to going with his impulses, he stepped into that space between fear and trust.
“It’s my own composition. I call it Winter.”
She moved closer, and the amused lift of her cheeks became apparent when she stepped into the light cast by the lamps in the orchestra pit. “Original title.”
He put his violin on its stand. “You mock me, Mademoiselle?”
Her smile vanished, and now her cheeks reddened. “Oh, no! It was lovely, but it needs a name that’s less bleak and more poetic, maybe Blossoms Under Snow?”
He liked seeing her blush and wondered if she was one of those women whose flush covered her entire torso if it was deep enough. He sent a desist thought to his groin, but it bounced the notion back with the urge to keep her talking and blushing. “I can’t use a word like Blossoms in a composition title. I’m far too manly for that—it would make me appear weak.”
“Then how about icy shards? That shouldn’t challenge your masculinity.” The temperature in her tone matched that of the hypothetical ice.
What had he said? It figured he would get himself in trouble before long. What did she want?
The answer came to him, then—to be respected for who she was. And he saw her as a very strong woman. But he didn’t know what to say to get himself out of this mess. He only knew one thing—he didn’t want her to leave angry.
“Forgive me,” he said and took her hand. That was always a safe bet, much safer than the ones that had ended him up in this mess, the ones he’d taken to escape his father’s influence.
“For…?” She wouldn’t look at him, and she snatched her hand away.
“For being an ass. I’m too good at it. I didn’t mean to imply that womanliness was the opposite of strength. In truth, you and Iris are two of the strongest people I know.”
“Iris? You are on such intimate terms with her?”
“Miss McTavish, then. Yes, we’ve been working together to help Edward, and no, nothing improper has occurred between us. We’re…friends.”
“You’re not accustomed to being friends with women.” Her statement was almost a question.
“Not typically. I’ve not treated them well in the past, I fear.”
What was she doing to him to make him want to confess and clear his conscience to make room for… For what? He certainly had no desire to be tied down to anyone. As soon as he got this little problem with the Clockwork Guild worked out, he planned to continue the adventure they’d started, perhaps even to the Ottoman Empire and beyond, and he wasn’t afraid to go on alone.
She drew back, but she didn’t leave. “Why the sudden burst of honesty?”
“It was the music. It is a piece about my home, and I play it when I miss it.”