Dreams and Devices

Dreams and Devices

by Maxine Marsh

NOOK Book(eBook)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781781841198
Publisher: Totally Entwined Group Ltd
Publication date: 11/05/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 86
File size: 263 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Maxine resides in very hot and very wet southern Florida. Her childbots and hubinator keep her busy most of the time, but she steals away to write as often as possible.

Maxine is as equally attracted to themes of marginality, the horrific, the weird, the solitary, as she is to sweet romance and a happy ending.

Steampunk is her newest love. Her erotica has been featured by Noble Romance Publishing, Freaky Fountain Press, Vagabondage Press, Xcite Books, Oysters and Chocolate, Lucy Felthouse, and Cleis Press.

Read an Excerpt

On the day Tessa ventured out into the centre of the city she had so recently come to unhappiness in, she realised that she had not one friend among the innumerable souls also setting about their daily business. As of late, those she'd believed were her friends had quickly abandoned her, and now she was setting out to meet with a person she could only accurately term an adversary.

She watched the bustling streets of London pass her little porthole as the electric carriage rattled over cobblestone. The jostling dug the whalebone spine of her corset into the flesh of her sides—she must have had her waiting lady secure it far too tightly that morning—but she ignored the discomfort, too anxious to concern herself with anything but her dilemma. She went into the wide leather belt locked around her waist and pulled from it a pocket watch. The bevel-relieved case felt large in her palm. The watch had belonged to her late husband, but she had desired a timepiece to carry on her outings, and this one gave her a particular comfort. The front plate swung open—she would be on time to her meeting.

Even though London had surely not changed after she had been widowed, it somehow felt different to her. The city was abuzz with machines and people, the sky columned with the dingy remnants of burnt coal, and here and there dotted with dirigibles, whose gazebos reflected the soft sunlight of the early morning hours. She would likely have enjoyed the relatively clear day if she were not concerned with the demands Lyle Halbard had made of her. He'd sent her notice the day before. She had read his note twice over, then thrown the rudely scrawled message into the dying embers of the fireplace in the corner of the sitting room.

Everything was the same—but everything was different. None of her female friends would return her messages, and their servants always made a point of noting they'd just departed whenever she called without warning. Her reputation had been suffering from social rigor mortis for the past few weeks, with no sign of revival. The interesting part of it was that she wasn't sure she cared. It had become glaringly obvious that that part of her life did not hold much meaning, especially now that she was a widow. No, Chester was dead and her social standing had been snuffed out faster than a cheap cigar at a gentleman's club.

The carriage jolted to a stop adjacent to a row of office fronts. With the cessation of the loud carriage's pistons, the city seemed even noisier than before. She stepped out of the carriage without waiting for the driver to assist her then motioned for him to wait—she did not intend to stay longer than necessary. A large ship passed, casting its creeping, oblong shadow over the city. The sight of the thing made her heart jump—she yearned to be away from this place. Not just from the office of the creditor whom she was obligated to meet with that morning, but the city as a whole, and her—recently failed—single life.

Tessa pushed away the sour look she could feel forming on her features as she took in the sign on the door before her. Lyle Halbard, Esq. and financier.

When she felt she could no longer hesitate without appearing silly to any onlookers who may have noticed her arrival, she grasped at the ornate bronze door handle and let herself into the financier's office.

The small entry room was uninhabited at the moment. In the corner was a secretary's desk, organised neatly but abandoned. Tessa turned a full circle, taking in the gold-embossed tapestries, the ridiculous and oversized landscape paintings and the electric lamps dotting the wall here and there, all squeezed together in a misguided attempt to seem elegant. Approaching the desk, she spied a little silver bell. She grabbed it and rung it a few times in quick succession.

"Yes, coming!" a man yelled from behind a closed door, marked similarly to the sign outside. He stepped out a few seconds later. "Ah, Mrs Darlington, right on time, I see."

"Of course, Mr Halbard."

He went to the secretary's desk, picked up a file and after a cursory look seemed satisfied with its contents. "You would not believe how often my clients are late to see me. It seems the greater their debt, the longer it takes them to arrive." He rummaged noisily through a few wire bins.

"I see."

"My secretary is out for the day."

She managed a smile and a nod.

Halbard finally stopped his rummaging to take a long look at her then extended an arm towards the far doorway. "Well, into my office, then, madam."

She followed him in through, only to find an equally busy amount of adornments covering the space. The room was windowless and smelt of stale cigars and rank French aftershave.

"Are you not travelling with a chaperone today, good lady?"

She took a seat in one of the twin chairs in front of his desk, not waiting for an invitation. "Is there a reason I might need one, sir?"

He cracked a cruel smirk. "I thought you would want a man to help you with such endeavours. The matters of money can be quite complicated."

The insult was clear. Halbard moved in similar circles as herself and knew the scandal that had befallen her, as well as the rumours of her impending poverty. There was not a man in London that would associate with her now, personally nor professionally. Halbard was the lone exception—he preferred riches to reputation and somehow had managed to be able to convert one into the other. He was visited by aristocracy and lechers alike. No one seemed to care much, such were the blinding properties of money.

She pursed her lips. "I suppose I'll make do with the small amount of wits I have, sir."

"Very well."

Halbard moved around to the far side of his desk, undoing the single button of his coat before resting himself down in his pretentious, ornate chair. He had hair the colour of ash and kept a trim beard that made him seem even more sneaky and disagreeable, if that were possible. The bloke reminded Tessa of a mean old ferret, one kept around only to deal with slightly more irritating pests.

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