Jillian Stone is here today with the third installment in her Phaeton Black Paranormal Investigator series, The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter, an exciting steampunk romance with a bit of steam. Keep reading to get a glimpse of this book and fill out the form for your chance to win a gorgeous necklace!
Plunge deeper into the curious world of the deadly Nightshades.
The Moonstone is having a destabilizing effect on the time/space membrane leaving Phaeton trapped in a parallel mirror world where everything is opposite or upside down, yet oddly the same. He is held captive by Domina Valour and tested sorely in this darkly sensual third episode of the Phaeton Black series.
Gaspar Sinclair can't go after Phaeton. His physical body is unraveling before everyone's eyes. America Jones is large with child, but only she has the preternatural ability to locate Phaeton and bring him back. And Doctor Exeter's beautiful charge, Mia, has her claws in him. Quite literally.
To accomplish Phaeton's rescue, the doctor must let loose forces he hasn't the foggiest clue how to control, including his attraction to Mia.
Lean sinew rippled under a coat of sleek, black fur. Exeter stood on the rooftop and admired the panther’s agility and stealth as she dropped down between buildings and into the alley north of Curzon Street. A gray ghost of fog crept over stone pavers. “So, the huntress is on the prowl.”
Anytime now, she would return to human form. These in- voluntary shifts never lasted long. Exeter hooked a finger into his waistcoat pocket and tipped out his watch. Nearing the stroke of three.
Less than an hour ago, a large blue-black cat sprang from Mia’s bedchamber window to the roof of the townhouse. She had put up a merry chase, and he had followed after, hurdling gables, vaulting chimneys, using potent energy for the impossible jumps. Still, it amounted to vigorous calisthenics, keeping up with the agile feline.
Exeter leaned against the steep pitch of an attic roof, and
squinted. The dark cat crept down the mews lane, but he could not make out what she stalked. Further away, a dust bin toppled to the ground with a crash.
Mia froze, fixing on something down the narrow row. Shoulders hunched, she crouched low and waited.
He suspected rats or alley cats, until he heard the scoffs and shouts that followed. Exeter stepped out from behind the chimney for a better view. Three young street rowdies sauntered down the row, up to no good. One of them emptied the last of a whiskey bottle and gave it a toss. The glass shattered against a wall.
Mia backed into a corner and hissed.
“Well now, what ‘ave we here?” A brawny young man stepped closer and she took a swipe at him. “Watch yourselves— this pretty puss has claws.” The drunken sot swayed backward, then pitched forward. One of his mates had the good sense to yank him away and prop him between cohorts, who hung back. “Look at her—big ain’t she?” Another boy gasped. “Some big green eyes on her . . .”
She curled her lip with a snarl.
“Fangs, as well.” The bolder, drunker lad stuck a thumb under his cap and scratched. “What do you suppose?”
All three ruffians stared as one spoke up. “I say this pussycat likely escaped from some rich lord’s private zoo, don’t you know.”
The rowdy beside him nodded. “Mattie works fancy balls at a duke’s house in Belgravia. She says he’s got a leopard— one of those big cats with spots. Rides ‘im in an open carriage through Hyde Park.”
Exeter stood at the edge of the roofline and observed the cornered panther that was Mia. She paced back and forth eye-ing the young men. Jersey Blood had warned him about tracking Mia in her shift-state. “Unless she’s in dire straights—leave her be. She needs to learn her own strengths, how to defend herself.”
Mia lunged at the doddering bullies and hissed. She was testing them.
“You suppose this one’s escaped?” one of the boys asked.
“There’s a bloke named Jamrach, has a shop over on Radcliff Highway in Shadwell—Jamrach’s Menagerie. He deals in wildlife, birds mostly, but large cats as well. I wager she’ll fetch a thumping-good sum.” The boisterous de facto leader kicked over an empty dust bin, and picked up the lid. “Hand me a stick and grab one for yourselves, lads.”
Using the lid as a shield, he tried poking and prodding at her. “Let’s see if we can get this pretty puss into the bin. Go around to the side there—don’t let her escape.”
A gnash of bared teeth ended in a snarling growl that quickly grew into the loudest call of the wild ever heard in the borough of Westminster. She leapt directly at the large bloke, teeth bared. At the last second, as bully boy staggered to one side, the sleek cat veered off and took a jaw dropping spring into the air. She jumped from window ledge to roof and landed not far from Exeter.
If he wasn’t mistaken, Mia had incorporated a bit of what Ping referred to as relic dust and champagne, or potent energy, to assist in those breathtaking leaps. Until now, he hadn’t seen such skillful maneuvering from Mia. And she had manipulated the physical universe in cat form.
The wild creature stared down at the astonished hooligans below who dropped their sticks and lids and hurried out of the alley.
The cat turned, flashing green eyes of . . . was that recognition? His heart thumped hard inside his chest. He stood his ground and held his breath as she crept closer. At the last moment, she turned her head and rubbed against his leg, arching her back. Glancing over his shoulder, he watched her curl back around for another pass. He descended to his haunches and she allowed him to rub her neck and scratch behind her ears—with one hand, then both. Her robust rumble modulated into a low purr as she closed her eyes and collapsed into his body.
A flesh and blood young lady lay in his arms. Exeter removed his coat and covered her. She opened her eyes momentarily and shivered. Lifting her up, he bent the physical world just enough to make it home in several leaps—from rooftop to rooftop, until he dropped down onto the balcony of her room. He pushed open the window and was greeted by Mr.Tandi, who waited beside a small copper bath. His manservant poured a steaming kettle of water into the tepid water, as he angled Mia through the French door.
“That will be all, Mister Tandi.”
“That will be all, Mister Tandi.”
Exeter lowered Mia into the warm bath and stayed until she was revived enough to begin to bathe herself. “Are you well enough, Mia?”
She looked up and nodded. Still he waited until she smiled softly. “Leave me—you look tired, Om Asa. Get some rest.”
His servant stood in the corridor holding a brandy on a sil- versalver. These
strange, middle of the night rituals had be- come routine of late. Exeter slumped onto one of upholstered chairs in the hallway. For months now, the Nightshades had kept vigil from these chairs—only tonight it would be Mr. Tandi.
He took a sip of the warm amber liquid. “How long has it been since you and Mia announced yourselves at my door, Mr.Tandi?”
His manservant’s eyes lit up at the memory. “My word— seems very long ago—ten years, I believe, sir.” Exeter recalled the tall, soft spoken African man standing in the foyer, holding the hand of a doe-eyed waif of a child, the young Anatolia Chadwick. Mia, as she was called, even by her parents, was at best a distant relation. But, it seemed, he and his father were all the child had left in the world.
Mr. Tandi had recounted a hair-raising tale of a bloodthirsty raid on a small town built around a mining operation. Mia’s parents had been murdered. Wearing the clothes on their backs and carrying a hidden pouch filled with diamonds, Tandi and the child had made their way to Cape Town, sold a few gems, and booked passage on the first ship bound for London.
A last swallow of brandy slipped down his throat. Exeter closed his eyes and pictured the scrawny little girl and the African man––as dark as midnight––standing at the door. He set down his glass and rose from the comfortable chair. At Mia’s bedchamber, he tapped lightly on the door before slipping inside.
Silently, Exeter stood at the edge of the canopy bed. He swept back a veil of diaphanous curtain and watched her breathe, tempted to get out his stethoscope and listen to her heart. She had always looked like an angel in her sleep; since when had she become the devil’s own temptress?
For several months now, there had been provocative mo-ments between them including a few ardent displays of affec-tion. Some of Mia’s advances had been quite shocking and affected him deeply. So much so, he wasn’t so sure he could still say that the attraction was entirely one sided.
This evening, as was his custom, he had waited on a neighboring rooftop for her. From this vantage point, he had spied Mia seconds before her shift. Her nude figure bathed in soft moonlight . . . so breathtakingly beautiful, he had thought her as stunning as a painting he had once seen by Jules Lefebvre in the National Gallery of Victoria.
Just hours ago, she had stood on tiptoe and stroked the stubble along his jaw. He had captured her hand, and his lips had found the sensitive flesh on the inside of her wrist. His tongue traced a light blue vein, and her pulse had quickened. “Carus Deus, you are torture.”
How long was he going to be able to resist her?
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