So back in November is wrote Besotted, a romantic steampunk novella. It’s the start of the Chaos Factor series and related to my two short stories Unrequited and Requited. Here is a sneak peak:
Copyright © 2015 by Elle Clouse
All rights reserved.
Chapter One (Unedited)
Tamsyn paused a moment at the gate, looking up at the brick mansion with trepidation. Five years since graduation from the academy and the prince called a reunion. She looked forward to seeing old friends but the struggle to graduate niggled the back of her mind as if it were yesterday.
She sighed, brushed the wrinkles from her taffeta gown and pushed open the cast-iron gate. The windows leaked light and the music from the dance hall almost drown out the horse and carriages that traversed the streets behind her.
She was late.
“Miss Bradford, a pleasure to see you again.”
“Gilly!” Tamsyn had been so focused on the front door she didn’t see the footman. “How have you been? Is Edgemont still treating you well?”
“Yes Miss, always. A fairer master I couldn’t not find.” Gilly smiled, his eyes lined with wrinkles. The old man had been employed at the prince’s estate as long as she could remember and he’d always been kind to her.
“Good. Is the gang all here?” She was lingering. So much had changed since their classes together yet so much remained the same.
“Yes, and they are waiting for you.” Gilly pulled open the front door. Incense and laughter wafted out, reminding her of their last soiree. They all had such high hopes five years ago; had any of them attained their dreams?
Pushing her insecurities aside, she crossed the threshold into a realm she rarely entered; a realm of wealth and privilege. Although permitted to attend the academy, Tamsyn never fit in amongst the sons of the titled wealthy; except for her close circle of friends. She wasn’t the only woman or the only commoner but that never kept some from reminding her of her low birth. She never knew who to thank for getting into the prestigious school but someone had paid her tuition.
The foyer was empty save another footmen standing ready to take her wrap. She handed over the cashmere knit to bare her shoulders and chest, a peacock green corset hugging her bosom and narrow waist. Her late mother would be proud of her attempts to fit in among her peers. Although Tamsyn never cared what people thought of her, her mother knew the value of perception.
She tucked a wayward curl behind her ear and chose a path; left, straight, or right. The most ruckus sounds rolled in from the left so she turned right into a parlor. Edgemont had redecorated since she’d been there last. No more beige and olive green, but crimson and gold accented curtains dominated the windows. The furniture and cushions bore some shade of red or gold and couples sat or stood around the room sipping champagne.
Eyes turned to her and she fought the swell of her throat. She was a woman without an escort, how risqué. She lifted her nose and scanned the room, no familiar faces. She strolled to the next adjacent room, the stares of former classmates and their dates following. Did they recognize her? When she attended the academy, she dulled the red hue with teas and dyes. Now she let it shine in it’s full crimson glory.
She jumped at the sound of her name. A familiar lanky gentleman pushed past the billiards table. His pale blond hair was worn longer than she remembered and pulled into a low ponytail. His suit was wrinkled and his necktie hung around his neck. Before she could dodge him, he snaked his arms around her and embraced her.
“Wow, Tamsyn, aren’t you a bit of jam!” He set her down and pulled a curl taught and released it. It bounced back into place. “I thought for sure you’d show in your military uniform.”
“Lir Coleman, that’s no way to greet a lady.” Tamsyn swatted at his hand when he tried to tug another curl.
“Ha, you and I both know you are no lady.” He bumped her with an elbow and laughed. “You can best most of these men with one arm behind your back.”
“Don’t say that too loud or I’ll have to prove it.” She laughed and brushed her skirt. “And I’d prefer my uniform to this… Finery.”
Lir smirked, his gaze sweeping from hem to curl. “You put every other lady here to shame. You just need to stop fidgeting or you’ll give yourself away.” He grabbed her hand and lead her forward past the classmates he, moments ago, shoved aside to greet her. He pulled her into another room further back in the house, a private study with two more happy faces.
“You lot owe me a guinea, I told you she’d come.” Lir flourished his hand to her as if presenting a prized horse. “May I present Tamsyn Bradford, Head Mistress of Her Majesty’s School for Exceptional Ladies.”
Tamsyn blushed. The gentlemen before her clapped and smiled. “That hasn’t been announced yet.”
“No but I have an inside source.” Lir waved over a taller man, his hair golden blond and wild as the wind. Wearing the latest fashion, she’d recognize his swagger anywhere.
“Edgemont.” Tamsyn nodded. “Am I to believe you had a hand in getting me the position?”
“Lord no, Tamsyn, I know better than to interfere. You earned it fair and square.” He pressed a glass into her hand and raised his own. “To Tiny Tamsyn who’s made it farther than any of us! Hip hip!”
“Hurray!” The three men all shouted in unison.
The second man, dark slicked back hair and a patch of stubble on his chin, stepped forward and clapped her on the back. “Congratulations. If anyone can launch a battalion of lady fighters, it’s you.”
“Thanks Zeke.” She smiled up him. “It’s nice to see you all. You must tell me what you’ve been up to since Lir already blabbed my exciting news.”
“I’m working for my father, but that’s no surprise. He sent me to the academy to aid in his research.” Zeke sipped his champagne. “It’s all quite boring, I promise.”
“You can guess what His Highness here has been up to.” Lir drained his glass and set it aside. “Nothing but tot-hunting when he’s not running his mother errands.”
“What more is a prince to do?” Edge joked.
“Leave a mark on society, that’s what.”
They all turned to the new voice, one Tamsyn had never heard before. Tall and blond like Edge, this man was built like an ox and barely fit into his suit. His eyes were a piercing blue like Edge’s but lacked the swagger of the prince.
“Ah, Tamsyn Bradford let me introduce my twin brother Slademont Foust.” Edge lead her forward with a hand on the small of her back.
The new man, Slademont, met her gaze then bowed. She curtseyed and heat rushed through her as he took her hand and pressed his lips to the back of it. His skin was coarse but warm and he ran his thumb over her skin before releasing her.
“We graduated in the same class but you never saw Slade because he was always working on his damned machines.” Edge hadn’t noticed their moment. He hugged his brother around the shoulders, and side by side, Slade dwarfed his brother. “He’s a machinist, don’t you know? Works on all those giant engines that make trains and airships move.”
“That’s right.” He smiled at his brother, a dazzling sight that made her heart skip a beat. “Keeping all those fancy designs you create working for the normal folk.”
Edge laughed. “That’s right, designing them is more fun than building them. Too dirty.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a little hard work.” Tamsyn’s gaze kept seeking Slade. Never in all her years had a man made her react that way and it frightened her. “What about Axel, will he be joining us?”
Edge guffawed. “That old pirate had better things to do than visit his prince. Something about a new performance at some opera house? I don’t care.”
She turned to Zeke. “How is your sister?”
“Good. She should be done with school soon and I do believe my father has a debut ball scheduled already.” Zeke topped off all their glasses with champagne before he sat down on a plush armchair opposite the desk in the center of the study. “Although when I told her what you’ve done, she said she wanted a transfer. I doubt she could take a knock like you, Tiny.”
“Wait, this is Tiny Tamsyn?” Slade strode to her side. “The woman who wrestled Edge to the ground first day of classes? I’d have paid anything to see that fight.”
“I let her win.” Edge snickered and sat at his desk, glass in hand.
“He had that black eye for a month.” Slade picked up her hand and inspected her knuckles. “I thought I was the only one able to wallop him.”
“He brought it on himself, you know.” She smiled up at Slade. “He said no man could best him in a fight. And none did.”
Slade bellowed with laughter, throwing his head back. “He never mentioned that!” He wiped a tear from the corner of his eyes as his laughter subsided. He looked to Edge who waited for him to finish.
“Tamsyn was ours from that moment on,” Zeke said. “And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Top of her class in every subject. I might have failed arithmetic if it weren’t for her.”
Tamsyn blushed again, she had forgotten all the late study courses with Zeke to get him through his lessons. No one could forget the fight with Edge, it was the most talked about event at school that year.
“Just being a good friend.”
Slade sighed. “Speaking of being a good friend, Edge. You invited all these people to your house and you’re hiding in your study. You should get out and mingle. We all should.”
Slade offered her his arm. She looked to Zeke who nodded, unsure if she should accept. If her heart rate was any indication, she was in trouble. She kept away from all romantic attraction in school and even now after she’d graduated. If she fell in love, if she got married, she’d be railroaded into life of a wife.
“Yes, we should all get out and go have some fun.” Edge jumped up from his desk and pressed Slade and her together while he passed. “There is plenty of champagne and I shall call dinner. Then we can dance.”
Copyright © 2015 by Elle Clouse
All rights reserved.