QSFer Cassie Sweet has a new fantasy book out:
At the chasm between life and death lurks the art of reanimation.
When world-famous violinist Andres Valentine is pushed from a window to his death by Herr Maestro Wilhelm Kering, he is snatched back from the abyss by a doctor well-versed in reanimation. Contrary to popular belief, Andres’s life up to this point has not been filled with opulent soirees and adoring fans, but is controlled by a hellish force, a being of the dark fae—Azgarth.
Henri Vauss is a medical student who works for a man capable of raising the dead. Even though the practice is controversial, Henri sees the revolutionary side of the science and enjoys the challenges he finds in Dr. Stanslovich’s lab. Ever since taking on the case of Valentine, though, odd occurrences have infected the manor, making Henri question everything he believes about science and the world.
When Valentine confides to Henri that he wants to be rid of Azgarth’s bonds, Henri vows to find a way to free him, never expecting to get caught in the snare of the fae master.
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ANDRES CAME off the stage and headed straight for the dressing room while Herr Maestro accepted his accolades from the crowd. A slow chant of “Valentine” rose up through the theater to echo through the halls.
They wanted an encore.
For once in his career, he had no intention of paying the audience the compliment. Unkind payment for their years of devotion, but he meant to stand behind his decision.
The Great Valentine was no more.
He had enough money invested in ventures throughout the world to keep him in a comfortable style for the remainder of his life. No need to live frugally. Now he had only to collect his luggage and make it out of the opera house before Herr Maestro came off the stage, searching for him.
He’d arranged for a boat to take him to the port, where he’d booked passage for New York. Opportunity and greater anonymity awaited him in America. He didn’t intend to squander it.
Nor could he live under Herr Maestro’s thumb a moment longer.
Giving up the world stage was a small price to pay to reclaim his freedom. For too long Herr Maestro’s puppet strings had strangled instead of supported Andres. Creativity and imagination had been pushed to the side to make room for avarice and greed.
Music had never been about money for Andres—it had been about his spirit. Back in his childhood, before Herr Maestro ever found him busking on the street corner, Andres’s talent had soared on the wings of the wind. He had only to close his eyes and draw the bow across the strings to become transported to another world. One where notes rode the air in brilliant colors, dancing waltzes, polkas, and reels. In those days, he’d not known the art of reading music, nor placing his compositions on lined pages.
Form, instruction, and discipline had crushed his creative expression—his magic.
It had also introduced him to the world of the dark fae, and he had no desire to live in that realm or move within those circles any longer.
Andres shoved what few articles he’d allowed himself to take out of his trunks and placed them in one small black bag. He’d have no need for others. Everything he required already awaited him in New York. Oh, he’d been so careful in his plans, waiting for the precise moment of Herr Maestro’s greatest triumph before sticking the knife in his ribs.
The man deserved so much worse.
Both he and his master did.
Andres pulled an extra hat and cloak from a hiding place behind the wardrobe. He’d stashed the articles there the day before; careful to conceal them from anyone who might be inclined to snoop through his belongings.
The nondescript brown wool would transform him from Andres Valentine, world famous violinist, to Andrew Etine, immigrant and music teacher. No one seeing him dressed as a common working-class man would believe him to be the premiere violinist in the world. Nor would they expect him to book passage in the steerage compartment on a steamship bound for America.
His humble beginnings had prepared him for much worse than any shipboard inconveniences might offer.
Andres started for the door, his hand on the knob, only seconds away from escape, when an angry voice shouted down the hallway.
“You ungrateful bastard! I’ll rip your heart out for this.”
The threat made Andres swallow hard. His heart beat in sixteenth notes. Blood sang in his ears. Time to pay the devil, and there was no demon worse than Wilhelm Kering and his master.
No. He’d not face another punishment for disobedience. He was a grown man with thoughts and dreams of his own. He no longer wanted to live in fear of masters who took and gave nothing in return.
The door burst open. Herr Maestro’s face was livid with rage. His eyes glowed with anger. Even his hair stood up in violent disarray. He was the very image of a man beyond the reach of amendment.
Herr Maestro lifted a beefy arm and pointed a shaking finger in Andres’s face. “Betrayer!”
Andres took a step back, cursing himself for showing fear. “I only want my freedom.”
“I’ve given you more than that. I’ve given you the world—two worlds—and you’ve thrown it back in my face!” Herr Maestro pushed Andres back a few feet.
The blow nearly made Andres lose his breath.
He dropped his luggage, hat, and coat on the floor. He scrambled to his feet. Before he could retrieve the fallen items, Herr Maestro kicked them out of Andres’s reach.
“You are never leaving my service. I won’t let you.”
“I won’t be enslaved forever. I’d rather die first.” Andres dove for his bag but caught a kick to the chin from one of Herr Maestro’s shiny black shoes.
A maniacal light, both dark and awful, lit Herr Maestro’s eyes. “Do not tempt me.”
Herr Maestro laughed. “What? Did you think death would release you? It will only ensure you never leave his side.”
Andres’s breath came harshly. Not even death would set him free.
He tried to step around Herr Maestro and got another shove for the effort. He tried not to cringe, to fall into old patterns. His body remembered too many nights of beatings until he was too weak to play the songs Herr Maestro wanted him to perfect. If Herr Maestro had opened his rotted heart, he’d have heard the real music Andres had played from the time he was old enough to hold a violin.
Andres should have stayed on that street corner busking for a few coins to buy a meal or earn a place to sleep. He should never have sold his soul for the price of fine clothes and luxurious surroundings. Andres knew what the so-called civilized world had yet to learn—no amount of money could turn a human heart to gold. Not a heart as black as pitch. Not one touched by the dark fae.
Herr Maestro stalked Andres across the room. None of the corners served as a good enough place to retreat until Herr Maestro’s anger was spent. If Andres waited, pretended to acquiesce, he might be able to slip out in the early hours of the morning and still make his boat.
One look at Herr Maestro’s eyes and Andres knew the anger wouldn’t be gone anytime soon. His entire future hinged on this moment.
He waited until Herr Maestro moved to the left. Andres stepped to the right. For a large man, Kering was surprisingly quick. He caught Andres around the waist and pulled him around until he faced the window—and pushed.
Glass shattered. Wood splintered and broke, falling to the stone walkway beneath. People standing below, waiting for the gondolas to take them to their lodgings, screamed in panic.
Andres had never known plunging to his death would bring him a sense of peacefulness. He closed his eyes in complete acceptance and begged God to intervene on his behalf.
Maybe then he would be free.
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Cassie Sweet lives and works from her along the St. John’s River in sunny Florida, where she shares space with her over-affectionate Golden Retriever, Lily and an artist husband, Dave. Her writing takes her to many destinations, both real and imagined.