Unhallowed (Rath & Rune 1) will be out in just TWO WEEKS! I’m so very excited to share this book with you all.
To that end, I thought I’d share a little sneak peek with everyone. Below is the first full scene, introducing one of the MCs, Vesper Rune.
And, because I anticipate questions about this, you do not have to have read Whyborne & Griffin first in order to read this series!
The monster boarded the train in Boston.
He found an unoccupied seat at the back of the rail car. Warm May air drifted in through the open window, along with the tang of burning coal. Men and women crowded the platform outside, the plumes in the women’s hats bobbing in the breeze.
A small girl tugged urgently on her mother’s skirts, demanding attention. The monster stiffened, expecting the woman to backhand the child. Instead, she smiled indulgently, bending down to better hear her offspring’s excited babbling.
“Pardon me,” said an affable voice practically in his ear.
He jumped, then cursed himself. Inattention wasn’t something he could afford, ever. Certainly not now, when so much hung on the outcome of this journey.
A smiling man, his face flushed from the heat, stood looking down at him. “Is this seat taken?”
He thought about lying, but he’d be caught out when no companion appeared. “No.”
The man stowed his suitcase, then dropped into the seat. “Dave Moore,” he said, thrusting out his hand.
“Vesper Rune.” Ves shook reluctantly, withdrawing his own hand as quickly as possible. The last thing he needed was a gregarious seatmate, but a quick glance around the car showed no other empty seats. It seemed he was trapped, at least until the next stop.
The train whistle screamed, and a few moments later, it lurched into movement. Ves turned to the window, suppressing a flinch as he caught a glimpse of dark hair and brown eyes reflected in the glass. Fortunately, his reflection was distorted, and he was able to look through it and pretend to be deeply interested in the passing scenery.
Alas, that wasn’t enough to dissuade his seatmate. Mr. Moore launched into a long monologue concerning his business (traveling brush salesman), his family (wife and three children), and the weather (warm). Ves murmured where it seemed polite, but his thoughts were only half on the other man’s idle conversation, until he asked, “So where are you headed, Mr. Rune?”
Resigning himself to an unwanted conversation, Ves said, “Widdershins.”
To his surprise, Mr. Moore paled. “Widdershins? Is that…I mean, do you hail from there?”
“No,” Ves said, and hoped Moore didn’t pry any further into his origins. It was tedious to lie all the time, and he was becoming sick of it. But what choice did he have? I was raised in an insane cult was the sort of answer that only invited even more intrusive questions. “I’m visiting on business.”
Moore seemed marginally less concerned, though a frown still creased his brow beneath the brim of his hat. “I see. You won’t be there long, I hope?”
The task Mr. Fagerlie had given him was simple enough. With any luck, Ves and his brother would be leaving New England behind forever in only a little over a week’s time. With the curse lifted, they’d be free to go anywhere they pleased, live as they chose.
“I’m not planning on staying,” he replied. “May I ask why?”
Moore worried at his lower lip with his teeth. Then he leaned in, dropping his voice to a whisper. Ves stiffened, hoping the cologne he’d splashed on this morning covered his natural scent. “They claim the town was founded by a man fleeing the witch trials, back in colonial times. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s said those who live there even today scorn the laws of both man and God. I wouldn’t linger any longer than you must, if I were you.”
Ves barely kept from rolling his eyes. What a bunch of rot. Widdershins might be a small port town, but it was still a town, which meant people and their prying eyes. It wasn’t like the countryside where he’d grown up, where the remoteness of farmsteads meant their inhabitants had the privacy to engage in activities that would make Moore’s blood curdle were Ves to name them aloud. Nothing Widdershins had to offer would be stranger or more horrible than what had surrounded him growing up.
Nothing would be stranger or more horrible than himself, when it came down to it.
But of course he couldn’t say that out loud. “Thank you for the warning, but I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Moore still seemed uncertain. “What sort of work do you do, Mr. Rune?”
Here, at last, was a chance to secure some peace and quiet. “I’m a bookbinder and conservator,” Ves said, and immediately launched into a long dialog concerning the importance of margin width in rebinding. As predicted, Moore’s eyes began to glaze over within seconds.
“How very interesting,” Moore said hastily, when Ves paused to draw breath. He retrieved a newspaper from his suitcase, signaling an end to the conversation. Ves suppressed a smile of triumph.
Moore settled himself, unfolding the paper. The front page occupied him through the stop in Revere, but as the train pulled out of that station, he angled it in Ves’s direction. Ves glanced down and saw Moore was indicating the daily update on the speed and visibility of Halley’s Comet.
“What do you think about all this?” Moore asked. “That French astronomer says we’re all going to die when the earth passes through the comet’s tail next week. That it’s the end of the world.”
“It isn’t,” Ves said shortly.
“But how can we be certain?”
Ves turned away without answering. Because he knew what Moore—what most people—didn’t.
The end of the world was supposed to have happened eight years ago. And it had been Ves’s purpose to help bring it about.