She is lucky enough to have a husband who shares her love for the slightly twisted and all things geek, and a houseful of cats with whom she shares her darkest secrets. Her love of books and makeup borders on addiction—of which she never, ever wants to be cured. Visit her on the web at www. Her third dismissal in as many months. She tensed and slowed her steps, but she did not stop.
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When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….
The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
Also, for Steve, who not only inspired me, but helped with research, helped me brainstorm, took care of meals and never complained about all the takeout he had to eat while I worked. Thanks, hon—not only for the support, but for going to see Twilight with me.
You so rock. Hugs to Krista and Nancy and Miriam for believing in this project, and in me— even when I had my doubts. And lastly, this book is for me. Her third dismissal in as many months.
She tensed and slowed her steps, but she did not stop. She kept her head down, but was smart enough not to take her gaze off him.
Perhaps he would walk right by her, as though she were as invisible as servants were supposed to be. Felix August-Raynes was the son of her employer. At one and twenty years of age, he was tall and lean with curly blond hair and bright blue eyes.
Every woman who saw him called him an angel. Most who knew him thought him the very devil. The other maids in service had warned her about Lord Felix her first day in the house. A mere fortnight ago. He belonged to a gang of privileged ruffians known for their facial piercings and lack of respect for anyone else, especially females.
She had been hired to replace the previous girl hurt by the young lord. Rumor had it that the maid had required serious medical attention.
It was horribly delighted at the prospect of the violence to come. The rest of her was terrified. Were it not for the steel boning of her leather work-corset, she fancied her heart might slam through her ribs it was pounding so hard. The tiny brass bar that bisected his left eyebrow—and proclaimed him a member of the Dandies—glinted.
I had hoped to run into you. Or, a voice in her head whispered—her voice—you could kick his teeth in. She lowered her gaze, not wanting him to see the bloodlust there.
Silently, she willed him to let her pass. For his own safety. Instead, he closed the scant distance between them. This close, she could smell stale ale, cologne and the undeniable oily scent of mech-boxing on his fine suit. Lord Felix was a great patron of the sport. Though why anyone would want to watch automatons pound the gears out of each other was beyond her.
She would have been in bed hours ago were it not for the fact that the darling debutante of the house had demanded her pink riding habit be laundered for the morning. She had washed the clothing and set it to dry. Right now her blouse and short skirts were damp, and her feet were sweating inside her high, thick-soled boots. She wanted nothing more than to unfasten the many buckles and take them off, along with her corset. She was going to be up early to collect the habit for Lady Alyss to wear.
And now this annoying twit stood in her way. Dangerous to whoever threatened her. Lord Felix propped a palm against the plaster by her head, turning so that he pinned her against the wall with his own body. She needed to get out of this situation without either of them getting hurt.
He slid his other hand behind her, down her back to her backside and squeezed. Smart little girls want to make me happy. His wet mouth landed on her ear instead. She shuddered. Let me go. His lips fastened on her neck instead. Nausea rolled through her stomach and then suddenly stopped as she felt his palm against the striped stockings that covered her thigh. Not even her own. She could feel it fracturing as something deep inside fought to get out.
Finley brought both hands up and pushed hard against his chest. He flew backward, hitting the opposite wall with enough force to crack the plaster. Lord Felix stared at her, in both shock and outrage.
No guttersnipe servant talks to me that way. Her head jolted back under the force of his fist, striking the wall. Lights danced in the darkness of her eyes as pain shot through her skull. But she did not pass out. It would have been so much better for Lord Felix if she had. She could feel blood trickling from her mouth and she wiped at it with the back of her hand. Vision finally clear, she saw that Lord Felix had also removed his waistcoat and was now rolling up his sleeves.
There was no point in denying it anymore. She had been raised in a loving home with her mother and stepfather—a kind and honest man who doted on them both. He would never dream of such violence—no good man would. But Lord Felix August-Raynes was not a good man. And it was time someone taught him a lesson.
The warm rush of familiar power brought a slight smile to her battered lips. She gave up all attempts to keep it reined in. It was as though she was watching herself from a perch on the ceiling—all she could do was observe as her other self took over. Her boots shifted on the bare floor, right foot forward, left foot back and pointed out. She raised her fists.
It was a dangerous voice, and even Felix paused at the sound of it. Finley, however, did not pause. He staggered backward, eyes wide with shock as he coughed and choked and struggled for breath.
She bounced on her feet, waiting for him to recover. She should run and hide. She should be gasping in fear, lungs constrained by the tight lacing of her corset. She was going to fight. But first, a little fun. She was going to let him think he stood a chance first. When Felix recovered enough to come at her again, she was ready for him.
He swung and she ducked, landing another punch to his kidneys. When he doubled over, she grabbed his head and brought her knee up fast. Unfortunately, the layers of skirts she wore softened the blow. He struck her in the stomach, knocking the breath from her, and then hit her in the face again. She fell to the floor, rolling just in time to avoid being kicked by one of his boots. She gasped for breath against the polished wood floor, rolling again when he struck out with his foot once more.
She moved faster than she should have, the pain from his blows already easing. He called her all kinds of horrible names—guttural and nasty sounding.
But instead of making her feel awful or frightening her, they only made her want to hit him all the harder. She pulled herself to her feet. Her stomach and face ached, but not like it should have. It never hurt like it should. Her hands grabbed Lord Felix by the front of his shirt. She pulled him toward her, hard, and smashed her forehead against the bridge of his nose. There was a snapping sound just before he screamed.
The Girl in the Steel Corset
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch…. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles Series)
Steampunk Chronicles Series