QSFer Bran Lindy Ayers has a new steampunk book out:
Spymaster Lafayette Goddard knows better than to trust anyone in their line of work. Now they sit in prison with information that could save the Queen yet they cannot bring themselves to trust the new Captain of the Royal Guard. Even if it means losing everything they’ve worked so hard for.
All Captain Jasper Stanton ever wanted was a chance to prove himself. Mistakenly imprisoning Lafayette isn’t how he planned on distinguishing himself. Now he must try to win the former spy’s respect if he wants cooperation investigating the conspiracy.
The secret to finding out who is plotting to kill the Queen lies with Lafayette’s mysterious informant known only as the Jeweled Dagger. The closer Jasper gets to Lafayette, the more he wonders just how much is being hidden from him.
The winner will get a short story prequel to the novel that is going to be available exclusively during the book release party, as well as a signed print copy of The Jeweled Dagger. To enter, comment below with your email address.
A clang reverberated through the cell block. Lafayette jolted from where he sat leaning against the bars of his cell. The movement set off a riot of aches and he clenched his teeth. His stiff aching limbs threatened to cramp and refused to allow movement. Blinking grit out of his eyes he reached up to push unruly hair out of his face and winced as his shoulder protested. Echoing footfalls signaled someone’s approach. Had they finally figured out their mistake and come to get him? He narrowed his eyes as the tall, dark haired Captain walked into view.
Damn, why can’t it be someone I know and not the cretin from last night?
Was Advent Company recruiting on looks alone now? Intent brown eyes regarded him for a long moment but Lafayette couldn’t discern what he might be thinking. Did he even want to know? What would a man like this with his straight nose, broad shoulders, perfect hair, and immaculate uniform think of someone like him? He represented everything Lafayette was not and never would be, everything he’d always been told was out of his reach. He clenched his jaw against the urge to launch into a scathing criticism of the Captain’s intellect. Now was not the time to dwell on either the Captain’s intelligence, or lack of, or on how handsome he looked in his uniform. As soon as he saw to the Queen’s safety he would make sure the Captain was stripped of his rank. Such incompetence had no place among the Queen’s Royal Guard.
“Get up.” The Captain turned away and took the set of keys off his belt along with a pair of metal shackles. Unlike the other guards he carried only a pistol strapped to his left hip. Left-handed then? “I’ll take you to the Queen.”
“About damn time! You’ve cost me hours and put the Queen at risk.”
That got him a cold glare. “I’m just doing my job.”
“You are an idiot and I’ll see you removed as Captain. I told you who I am!”
“And I told you that without your papers you can shout all you want, but I’m not taking any chances. Now stop bellyaching and get up. You’re wasting my time.”
“Yes of course, tides forbid I waste your precious time, Captain.”
Bracing himself against the wall at his back Lafayette struggled to his feet. He clutched the bars, his determination to show no weakness thwarted by his exhaustion. He couldn’t meet Rona like this. Especially not if the Captain planned to take him to her audience hall. To appear in Court filthy and smelling of this squalid place would only give fuel to the rumors he couldn’t administer his duties as Spymaster. His plan to meet her in private last night and then to collapse in his own bed for the first time in over a month had suffered an abrupt end at the Captain’s hands. The things he needed to discuss with her were not for the ears at Court, though now he no longer had a choice.
Lafayette trudged over to the door, taking care not to step on the wet and matted straw that lay clumped on the floor of the cell. He allowed the Captain to put the cuffs back on. The gentleness irked him for a reason he couldn’t quite discern. He only briefly entertained the idea of kicking the Captain’s feet out from under him as the door opened and Lafayette walked through. Exhausted and aching, he’d just botch the maneuver, hurt himself, and give the Captain an excuse to beat him. Though a spiteful voice in the back of his mind told him he deserved it. He’d been careless and stupid and it had put Rona at risk.
He didn’t try to shake off the warm hand that grasped his elbow. His mind jumped from one thought to the next, trying to figure out how to salvage the situation. It had been paramount that he reach Rona with the message last night. If he was too late …
He stumbled, his foot catching a riser as he started up the stairs. The grip on his arm tightened, preventing him from falling. The Captain remained silent. No sneering comments, not even a suppressed laugh. They were certain to come later.
The jailer, Sulis, opened the door for them. His heavy-jawed head swung back and forth between Lafayette and the Captain for a moment, the look puzzled. For a brief moment Lafayette hoped Sulis might recognize him, but he shook his head and handed a sack to the Captain. Lafayette let his eyes fall shut for a moment. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy.
“You sure ‘bout this, Captain? Not standard procedure.”
“I know, but I’m not taking any chances with the Queen’s safety.”
Sulis shrugged, the ill-fitting uniform tightening over his paunch. “Just don’t blame me if things go wrong.”
The Captain chuckled, a soft, oddly pleasant sound that had Lafayette glancing over at him. How dare he take this situation so lightly. Lafayette drew a tight rein on the urge to lash out. The Captain would not be laughing after they saw the Queen.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Outside, the smell of rain lingered in the cool breeze, bringing with it the scent of burning wood and hot metal. Low clouds hung above them as if the morning fog couldn’t decide whether to impale itself on the factory smokestacks or remain aloft and confound the airships. The Captain’s boots crunched over the gravel as they walked south down the path toward the palace. The sight of the main wing of Glasswick Palace glowing in the morning light sent a tremor through Lafayette and his knees threatened to buckle. So much had happened the past month, at times he’d despaired of ever seeing the beautiful sweep of glass and stone again. The fear he’d been too late had chased him from the docks, sent him scrambling through the gardens and tunneled his vision, but his haste might have cost him everything he held dear. To see his home now, but as a disgraced prisoner—even if wrongly so—was almost more than he could bear. They reached the stairs leading up to the terraces that ran along this wing of the palace and headed for the nearest door.
Lafayette cringed inwardly as they walked through several rooms, trailing dust and dirt behind them. They crossed a hall and stopped before a set of enamel and gold filigreed double doors. The Captain nodded to the two guards standing to either side. Lafayette recognized both of them. The shorter of the two, Mibbs, sneered at him and he knew then they weren’t going to inform their Captain of his mistake.
“Morning, Calder, Mibbs.
“Morning, Captain. Shall I announce you?” Calder said.
The doors swung open, the heavy scent of lavender and lilac wafting through the air along with the buzz of voices.
“Captain Jasper Stanton, Your Majesty.”
The low hum of conversation ceased and he could hear the shuffle of feet and rustle of heavy skirts. Lafayette’s chest tightened, his breath catching in his throat. As embarrassing as this was, it would all be over as soon as Rona saw him. Then the Captain would regret everything.
“Captain, what is so urgent I had to delay breakfast?” The Queen’s voice rang through the room, clear and commanding yet not unkind.
“Your Majesty, I am sorry. Perhaps I was a bit rash.”
“Well, don’t stand out in the hall. Come in.”
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Bran Lindy Ayres is the pen name of Davonne Burns. They write gaslight fantasy for MOGAI readers who enjoy excitement, intrigue and romance and want stories focused on characters like themselves. As an avid reader and writer and a member of the MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Genders, Alignments and Intersex) community it’s their goal to bring the more marginalized orientations and gender identities into the public conscious. They write romance for those who are more interested in the emotional journey and who like to see healthy loving relationships grounded in mutual respect and trust. Their characters are complex, flawed and true-to-life portrayals of the struggles of being different from society’s norms. Their hope is that by sharing these stories that readers will find characters and situations to relate to and see that love does indeed come in all shapes and sizes. Having your race, orientation and/or gender represented in books you love is incredibly important to a sense of self-worth and everyone deserves to be represented.