In an alternate world, Romeo and Juliet are gunslingers. Verona gives way to a steampunk Victorian London. The victims of turf wars are dumped in an alley they call Lovers’ Lane, and the moment the son of his family’s enemy touches his face, Cain’s revenge is poisoned by love. Fate would have it no other way.
Levi Ruslaniv is the heir to the Ruslaniv family gang, but ridiculous ancient feuds do not interest him. Cain Dietrich’s vengeful hatred for the Ruslaniv family is rooted deep, since he believes the Ruslanivs arranged for the murder of his parents. But his encounter with Levi pierces him deeper than hatred ever could.
With bullets and blazes of glory, schemes, spies, and pack mentalities, loyalty runs as deep in the veins as passion or revenge, and there is only one way to end the fighting. From the start it was inevitable—a bloodstained fate for children with bloodstained hands, and the streets of New London will never be the same.
They say miracles are past.
William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well
THEY CALLED it Lovers’ Lane, and he thought that was a mess of something more evil than irony.
The broken ground under his boots was flooded with grimy puddles, which hid the cracks and the gravel and the sharp juts between potholes in the concrete and cobbles. The walls of the narrow alley were no better. Dank and gritty, they dripped with moisture, cracking under the weight of the world. Bandaged water pipes and boarded-over windows offered a bit of aesthetic flair, at least, if one cared for that desolate, grungy look.
Sometimes the water running down the alley was dark with fresh blood. Some stains in the concrete never went away. Corpses and cadavers, the victims of turmoil and violent frays in a world where Her Frail Little Majesty simply could not seem to hold the peace, no matter how many civil agreements and treaties were signed to end the bloodshed, to bring noble families together, to leave revenge in the rich and dusty past with the unforgiving ancestors.
Not too many years ago, Cain had found his parents there, in Lovers’ Lane. Shot—execution style. Murdered and dumped on the uneven cobbles, where the dead were left until the undertaker ventured along with his ancient cart and hoisted them away.
They’d been dumped over the tin shingles, strewn bloodied and cocked at frightening angles on the ground.
When first Cain had found the family hound dead and cold in the parlor of Dietrich Manor, puppy-dog eyes never to roll around in greeting again, he’d cried out in grief. Ah, no, not his dog. Not the German shepherd. Not the one that kept him warm at night, the one that looked more like a great wild wolf than a domesticated breed, the one that barked at all the nightmares and monsters hiding under the bed—God, no!
But when, in Lovers’ Lane, the toe of his boot had nudged the lifeless side of his father, Cain hadn’t managed to do much else but stare.
And the rain fell—a shy and dreary mist the wind tossed to and fro, which felt incredibly clichÃ© even in its monotony—and Cain had stepped over his father’s broken neck, petted the matted blonde curls from his mother’s blank eyes, and dug into his pockets for coins to close them with. He’d come up empty-handed. He hadn’t expected to find much anyway, because the first rule was that you didn’t carry money on your person unless you were planning to spend it immediately, or so his father had taught him very early on once he’d hit adolescence. Money matters were pivotal for a noble heir to master. So Cain had tromped through the dirty puddles and the shadows of Lovers’ Lane, slipped around the corner, and ducked out of the cursed alley to meander his way home.
Except that was when they found him, and it was a long while until he made it back to his warm bed, because—
“Nostalgia, young one?”
Cain started briefly, a meager flutter of the lashes and twitch of the pale skin between his brows, but he repressed the rest of his surprise. He had his revolvers tucked away safely at the small of his back, under his suit coat. He didn’t need them with the undertaker. The undertaker wasn’t even worth a bullet shell.
The undertaker had caught him strolling memory’s way, of course, and stood slouched over the side of his rickety little cart, straight from the streets of Bombay or Peking, threading his ugly knuckles together. His hands were as gray as the fish in the markets, nails all the color of a bruise. Dead-looking. Did one begin to change with one’s occupation after working in it for so long? Cain shuddered involuntarily, closed his eyes, and only opened them when he’d turned his face away, because he refused to watch the undertaker hoist the body of a young woman from the cobbles of Lovers’ Lane and into the bed of his cart.
Limp. Beautiful. Dead.
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J. I. Radke goes by a variety of handles and pseudonyms, most commonly “themissinglenk” and/or “white silver and mercury.”
Once upon a time he wanted to be a marine biologist because of sharks. That lasted a year or so. Now he is an English/Creative Writing and History double major (emphasis on 18th/19th c. Western Europe, Classic mythology, and the history/psychology/theory of masculinity and sexuality), minoring in Russian Studies.
Radke writes ghost stories, romance novels, transgressive fiction, and “fanfic” that’s sometimes all of that in one. He doesn’t favor polemics, but he does believe in passionate speeches, discussions, and intellectual debates (best ones after midnight under the stars). He also believes in ghost hunting, swimming in coves with bioluminescent algae, zodiac/Tarot/moon cycles, sushi, Phad Thai, and pizza. He doesn’t do quite as well with Ferris wheels.
Born in New Jersey but raised all over the U.S., Seattle is home to Radke.
Maybe one of these days he’ll embellish this bio with a very clever quote from some respected historical figure or another.