Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sneak Peek, Part Two

It's hard to get back to work after such a totally relaxing break. We had a wonderful time up at the lake, touring plantations and planting climbing roses and honeysuckle around the house. Even the weather cooperated, with lovely clear blue skies and daytime temperatures in the 70s. Bliss.

Now, as promised, here is the beginning of the second chapter of Where Shadows Dance. (And my apologies to everyone I made worry that I was about to kill off Gibson!)


The first rays of the rising sun caught the heavy mist off the river and turned it into shimmering wisps of gold and pink that hugged the soot-stained chimneys, church spires, and rooftops of the city. Standing beside his bedroom window, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, cradled a glass of brandy in one hand. Behind him lay the tangled, abandoned ruin of his bed. He had not slept.

He was a tall man, leanly built. Not yet thirty years of age, he had dark hair and strange yellow eyes with an unnatural ability to see clearly at great distances or at night, when the world was reduced for most men to vague shadows of gray. Now, as the world outside the window brightened, he brought the brandy to his lips only to hesitate and set it aside untasted.

There were times when memories of the past tormented his sleep and drove him from his bed, times when his dreams echoed with the crash of cannonballs and the screams of mangled men, when the cloying scent of death haunted him and would not go away. But not this night. This night, he was troubled more by the present than the past. By a life-altering truth revealed too late and a future he did not want but was honor bound to embrace.

He reached again for his brandy, only to pause as the sound of frantic knocking reverberated though the house. Jerking up the sash, he leaned out, the cool air of morning biting his bare flesh as he shouted down at the figure on the steps below, “What the bloody hell do you want?”

The man’s head fell back, revealing familiar features. “That you, Devlin?”

“Gibson?” Sebastian was suddenly, painfully sober. “I’ll be right down.”

Pausing only to throw on a silk dressing gown, he hurried downstairs to find his majordomo, Morey, dressed in a paisley gown of astonishingly lurid reds and blues and clutching a flickering candle that tipped dangerously as he worked at drawing back the bolts on the front door.

“Go back to bed, Morey,” said Sebastian. “I’ll deal with this.”

“Yes, my lord.” A former gunnery sergeant, the majordomo gave a dignified bow and withdrew.

Sebastian yanked open the front door. His friend practically fell into the marble-floored entrance hall. “What the devil’s happened, Gibson? What is it?”

Gibson leaned against the wall. He was breathing heavily, his normally jaunty face haggard and streaked with sweat. From the looks of things, he hadn’t been able to find a hackney and had simply hurried the distance from the Tower to Mayfair on foot—not an easy journey for a man with a wooden leg.

He swallowed hard and said, “I have a wee bit of a problem.”

* * *

Sebastian stared down at the pale body stretched out on his friend’s granite slab and tried to avoid breathing too deeply.
The sun was up by now. The wind had blown away the clouds and the last of the mist to leave the sky scrubbed blue and empty. Already, the day promised to be warm. From the corpse before him rose a sickly-sweet odor of decay.

“You know,” said Sebastian, rubbing his nose, “if you’d left the man in his grave where he belonged, you wouldn’t have a problem.”

Gibson stood on the far side of the table, his arms folded at his chest. “It’s a little late now.”

Sebastian grunted. To some, they might seem unlikely friends, this Earl’s heir and the Irish surgeon with a passion for unraveling the secrets of the human body. But there had been a time when both had worn the King’s colors, when they’d fought together from the West Indies and Italy to the mountains of Portugal. Theirs was a friendship forged in all the horrors of blood and mud and looming death. Now, they shared a dedication to truth and a passionate anger at the wanton, selfish destruction of one human being by another.

Gibson scrubbed a hand across his lower face. “It’s not like I can walk into Bow Street and say, ‘By the way, mates, I thought you might be interested to know that I bought a body filched from St. George’s Churchyard last night. Yes, I know it’s illegal, but here’s the thing: it appears this gentleman whose friends all think died in his sleep was actually murdered.’ ”

Sebastian huffed a soft laugh. “Not if you value your life.”

The authorities tended to turn a blind eye to the activities of body snatchers, unless they were caught redhanded. But the inhabitants of London were considerably less sanguine about the unauthorized dissection of their nearest and dearest. When word spread of a body snatching, hordes of hysterical relatives had a nasty habit of descending on the city’s churchyards to dig up the remains of their loved ones. Since they frequently discovered only empty coffins and torn grave clothes, the resultant mobs then turned their fury on the city’s hospitals and the homes of known anatomists, smashing and burning, and savaging any medical men unlucky enough to fall into their clutches.

Gibson was well known as an anatomist.

Sebastian said, “Perhaps Jumpin’ Jack dug up the wrong body.”

Gibson shook his head. “I plan to check the rolls of mortality later today to make certain, but my money’s on Jumpin’ Jack. If he says this is Benjamin Knox, then this is Benjamin Knox.”

Sebastian walked around the table, his gaze on the pale corpse.

Gibson said, “Do you recognize him?”

“No. But then, to my knowledge I’ve never met anyone named Benjamin Knox.”

“I’m told he had rooms in St. James’s Street, above the Je Reviens Coffeehouse.”

St. James’s was a popular locale for young gentleman. “Who told you he died of a defective heart?”

“A colleague of mine at St. Thomas’s—Dr. Anthony Cooper. He was called in to examine the body. Swore there were no signs of any violence or illness; the man was simply lying dead in his bed when his valet came to rouse him that morning. Cooper was convinced he must have had a weak heart. That’s why I was so anxious to dissect the body—to observe whatever malformation or damage might be present.”

Sebastian hunkered down to study the telltale slit at the base of the man’s skull. “Your Dr. Cooper obviously didn’t think to look at the back of his patient’s neck.”

“Obviously not. But surely there would have been traces of blood on the pillow and sheets?”

“If Mr. Knox were killed in his bed, yes. I suspect he was not.” Sebastian straightened and went to stand in the open doorway overlooking the unkempt garden that stretched from the stone outbuilding to the surgery beyond.

Gibson came to stand beside him. After a moment, the Irishman said, “Looks like a professional’s work, doesn’t it?”

“It does.”

“I can’t just pretend I didn’t see this.”

Sebastian blew out a long breath. “It’s not going to be easy, investigating a murder no one knows occurred.”

“But you’ll do it?”

Sebastian glanced back at the pallid corpse on Gibson’s dissection table. The man looked to be much the same age as Sebastian, and he found himself wondering if Knox had left a wife and children to mourn him. A mother? Perhaps a father. He should have had decades of rewarding life ahead of him. Instead he was reduced to this, a murdered cadaver on a surgeon’s slab. And Sebastian knew a deep and abiding fury directed toward whoever had brought Knox to this end.

“I’ll do it.”


Lainey said...

"Gor," as Tom would say! Sounds as if Gibson is in great danger even if he wasn't the primary murder victim.

And if I'm understanding you correctly from a couple of blog posts below, it may be early 2011 before I'll know how Sebastian handles this difficult case? And how Miss Hero Jarvis is doing . . .

Charles Gramlich said...

The game is afoot, Dear St. Cyr.

Anonymous said...

"I have a wee bit of a problem."

"..if you’d left the man in his grave where he belonged, you wouldn’t have a problem."

You know, I am reminded of the tale of how Mr. Jack Cochran earned his nickname in WHAT ANGELS FEAR. (I know, I know, I’m not supposed to laugh!)

Thank you, Ms. Harris, for these "teaser" chapters for your next Sebastian book.


cs harris said...

Lainey, Yes, it's looking as if this one won't be out until early 2011.

Charles, it is indeed!

Zinnuraain, You are indeed supposed to laugh!

Anonymous said...

Oh, painful waiting. :-) Thank you for sharing this little appetizer, though!!!

I'm new to your blog, and to the series. I came upon Where Serpents Sleep at the local library and it brought me into the series.

You're doing a fine job!!

Anonymous said...

Egads - 2011; I'll never make it; the suspense will kill me. In an earlier post I promised to buy the series to put on my keeper shelf (there is limited space, so kudos to you) which I have (well, 4 of them and waiting for paperback "to match" for the 5th). I've reread the entire series this week and loved it again the second time around. I do have a question though. The titles of the first three were so elegantly incorporated into the chapters of the book. It was something I loved. They were pretty blatant and maybe that's what I need as I just couldn't seem to find that same incorporation with the titles of the 4th and 5th books. Can you shed light on how those latter titles came to be? Oh, and any sooner that 2011 is what I'm wishing for. A devoted fan, Sabena.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the preview. I seem to be in the minority in rooting for Kat and Sebastian. I see Hero as being more compatable with Gibson. Marrying what society would deem is beneath her should rile Jarvis.


Pam P said...

Oh no, that's too long a wait for the next book. Afrer just finishing the latest, I'm now thinking Hero and Sebastian could end up very right for each other.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Yep, Heaven lived up to my expectations and as a happy bonus, I got my best friend hooked on the series, so now I have someone with whom I can happily burble away about plot and character and speculating where this will all go.

Also love this chapter a lot-- a lovely lagniappe, if you will.

I know you wondered a few posts back why one of the reviews seemed to focus on the romance when it's such a small thing within the scope of the book. I think it's because you've done such a masterful job of building that story and weaving it--as well as the story of Sebastian's background-- together so beautifully throughout the overall arc of the series. Just little things here and there that make the reader want more.

Well, and in my case, because I'm an unabashed romantic. *g*

Anonymous said...

Just finished "...Heaven". I'm not real fond of Hero, but if she is the one, okay. She does appear to be a good daughter, and probably will be a good mother. I wonder about Sebastian's mother and real father. No doubt that awaits future books, straining my patience. Obviously, I like the interpersonal parts of the stories. Thanks, C.S., for such an entertaining series.
Diane, Vancouver. WA

RevMelinda said...

I'm not sure whether it's kind or cruel to give us these tastes of the book to come! The only comfort is knowing that time does relentlessly go by and 2011 will come--however long the wait seems. (I confess I have been in the Hero camp since the very first book and part of the delicious delight of the series for me has been watching Hero and Sebastian move inexorably toward one another. . .)

Wanted to tell you that you got several mentions (and raves) over at the Word Wenches blog the other day. . .here's the link:


cs harris said...

redelixer, thank you! It's so good to hear you're enjoying the series.

Sabena, so glad to hear you're enjoying the books! As for the titles... the first three were mine. But the editors didn't like my titles for the next two books and made me change them. Publishing is all about compromise (at one point they wanted to call fifth book "Death Comes for the Archbishop." Really.)

Kim, I hope you'll enjoy the series as it unfolds.

Pam P, it's my understanding the release of #6 will only be delayed by a few months.

Barbara, I'm so glad to hear it lived up to your expectation. And yes, I'm a sucker for romance, too.

Diane, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love both Hero and Kat, myself. I intend for both to end up happy. (Maybe I shouldn't have said that?)

RevMelinda, I debated posting them, but the chapters will be appearing at the end of next summer's paperback anyway, so I thought it might be fun to know what's coming next. And thanks for telling me about the Word Wenches. Since NAL does no publicity for the series, these sorts of things are so important in attracting readers to the series.

orannia said...

*keeps desperately checking library catalogue for appearances of What Remains of Heaven*

Thank you! Lovely temptation, all in one post *grin*

I love both Hero and Kat, myself. I intend for both to end up happy.

Ohhhhh. I can't wait to see how you're going to do that :) Me, I'm a Hero fan...I like Kat but...all the reasons she has given Sebastian for refusing his proposal are....reasonable. And while I can respect the reasons behind her'intelligence' activities, I can't accept them, being as the information she may have sourced could have hurt the man she loved. Ah, but nothing is black and white is this grey world in which we live...

cs harris said...

Orannia, I agree, her unselfish love for Sebastian is one of the most admirable things about Kat.

Steve Malley said...

Glad your break was so soothing! And this teasing is cruel-- I want to read the rest of the darn story and have to wait til '11! :)

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

I've had a sneaking suspicion about Kat's happy ending for a while now. Which means I'm probably thoroughly wrong, but that's part of the fun, no? I'm glad to see you saying she'll get one, though because while I'm definitely a supporter of Hero/Sebastian, Kat has been a strong, integral character and deserves something good in the end.

cs harris said...

Steve, you do know, of course, that it's not all going to resolved in the next book?!

Barbara, it'll be interesting to see if your sneaking suspicion is right.

Keira Soleore said...

"Wee" here has got to be the understatement of the book. "Colossal" would be more like it. I can't stop chuckling every time I think of Gibson's summation. Thank you for the teaser, but now how do I want for 14 months?????

I know I hold an unpopular view, but I want Kat's hubby to have a sudden, obvious, natural death and Hero Jarvis to simply give up her kid to Seb and take herself away on a loooooong journey. Seb & Kat 4evar!! :)

Since NAL does no publicity for the series, these sorts of things are so important in attracting readers to the series.

Goodness Gracious! Your fans need to do blog reviews of your backlist and perhaps some interview-type things closer to the date of your next release. I'm volunteering my time and my blog.

Keira Soleore said...

Sigh! That should be "wait" not "want" in the first paragraph.

cs harris said...

Keira, Sorry about the wait. I know it's hard. And thanks for volunteering to blog about the next release!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the wait will be hard. As for Kat & Sebastian, I don't see why she would suddenly change her mind and marry him. She would never allow him to ruin himself. She would just disappear. I've love Hero from the beginning. She is very strong, yet so lonely. As is Sebastian. And the child needs a father. I'm looking forward to the next mystery as well. I've love them all!!

Anonymous said...

I just finished the last book in the series to date. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I do so hope that Hero's happy ending does not involve Sebastian. She is my favorite character, and deserves more than marriage to a man who is honor bound only. The revenge on her father will be bittersweet. I hope Sebastian and Kat get their happy ending, too. I wonder what will become of them when they are finally able to be together...will the reality of life pale in comparison to the angst of forbidden love? The minor characters in the book are great, too. I am excited to see that the next book will be "Gibsoncentric". Thanks for a great series, and a sneak peek at what is to come in the next book!

Silby said...

This post doesn't refer to your latest blog but this was the only place that I could find to leave you a comment. I hope you don't mind.

This morning, whilst emptying the dishwasher, I was idly recalling a conversation on cannibalism that I had had yesterday when a vague memory came to me of a programme that I'd seen on TV that dealt with some people who had resorted to cannibalism.

I could vaguely remember that one of the characters was a clergyman and sought in vain for the film or TV programme these mental pictures could be from. Of course it eventually dawned on me that I was recalling 'Why Mermaids Sing'!

I just wanted you to know how powerful a picture you had conveyed through your writing. So powerful that I had been able to convert your words into a picture memory and convince myself that I had watched the whole story as a film.

I love crime and mysteries and am absolutely addicted to all of your best TV series. I am also a history buff and have immersed myself in the Regency period so your St Cyr series is an absolute godsend.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Sheffield, England

cs harris said...

Anon at 3:57, meet teri0419! All I can say is, I'm very fond of both women. Each is strong in her own way.

Silby, thank you for telling me that! I got a good chuckle. It's nice to know.

sab said...

thanks for the sneak peek!!
Gibson is a really good secondary character (as all the other ones)
2011?!!!!! how can I wait soooo long!!!^^

I just bought all the 5 books (with the hardcover, *ouch* ) and read them in a row (well I had read the first one first and like I loved Sebastian, the mystery, and I confess, above all the potential of Hero and her next meetings with sebastian, I had to buy all the others^^) my favorite mystery remains the first one (I had so pleasure to guess the identity of the killer) and my favorite book is the fourth one, not so much for the principal plot (a little confusing) but for the pairing Hero/sebastian (finally!!!^^). Love so much the awesome and fantastic banter between these two strong characters!! deliciously well written!!

Diane, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love both Hero and Kat, myself. I intend for both to end up happy. (Maybe I shouldn't have said that?)

I really don't like that!!^^
because Hero can be happy with no man, and the only real happiness for Kat would be her happy ending with Devlin and I really don't like this "love story". Their romance is totally unhealthy. the blind love of sebastian for kat is rather disturbing. well, Love? rather Obsession. I really don't like Sebastian when he is with kat (or think at her), she brings him always down (unintentionally). She is a good and moving and tragic character but a little too much a martyr for me, that's why I will never like her. the two of them are at their best when they are not together.
and why the intelligent, not-so-beautiful woman (Hero) couldn't have love (and marriage?) too with the hero? and I confess, Sebastian with jarvis in father in law? THAT I will love to see it. (I so can't wait to read his reaction at the pregnancy!!^^)

Sorry, they're "mysteries" books and I'm obsessed with the romance^^ but I love this two characters and the pace you're using for them. Just one scene in the first one and I was addicted, the same for the scd and third ones. I hope many many and many other stories with the two of them bantering that way (and I hope slowly falling in love together.) can't wait too for the new mystery (you write them so well!!)

(sorry for my english, I'm only a poor french^^)


Anonymous said...

I'm a huge fan of the series and have just finished What Remains of Heaven - the hardback was on my Amazon Wishlist for Christmas and Santa obliged. I loved it.
Put me in the "Hero camp" . I think that Sebastian will fall hard for Hero after they marry (and be very perturbed by this!) My take is that Hero is already in love with Sebastian and in big time denial.
And hey, the mysteries are really good too. It's just REALLY hard to wait between books.
Please write fast , Ms Harris!

Lytania said...

I discovered this series through my Amazon Kindle's suggestions for stuff I might like- I started with the first book on Thursday, June 24th and just finished What Remains of Heaven this morning on June 28th. It was great reading all day in the sun escaping my doctoral work. I was so excited to find out about the next book that I googled the author and ended up here, reading this sample. Thank you for this series. I have been quite bored lately. I am currently downloading samples of this "steampunk" genre to tide me over.

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