While Scorched Earth finishes baking, I thought I'd serve a sweet taste of what I'm working on now. Welcome back to the Iron & Hemlock universe!
Copyright © 2014 by Autumn Dawn
Sometimes a heart of stone is a good thing.
Super-duper book blurb here.
“I’ve heard good things about this house.” The old woman’s bones creaked as she maneuvered her navy taffeta skirts up the stone steps. Her face was weathered, but her black eyes were sharp and her white hair was in a neat bun. The old dame knew her business, knew the right impression to make. She’d survived the French Purge, saving one precious child from the butchers. They’d fled to England to make a new life, and she would do all in her power to see the girl found a new clan.
Cachet nodded and absently wished she could adjust her wings. Carefully folded against her back, they itched with tension. At least the humans couldn’t see through the glamour; she didn’t want the night to end in flames and pitchforks.
She was only forty-six, and the invitation to the party at Lord Griffin’s house had made her swoop with excitement. Not only was it the most glamorous thing that had ever happened to her, but the house was rumored to be a hotbed of magical activity. What better place to find other gargoyles?
Lord and Lady Griffin welcomed their guests in the front foyer. A former playboy, Lord Griffin looked resplendent in his black tailcoat. His tawny hair appeared as if he’d raced to the party on a horse and leapt off moments ago. With his hooked nose and slightly pointed chin, he seemed predatory, and he studied Cachet with brown eyes that glinted gold.
Lady Griffin was elegant in a boat neck burgundy gown with a front skirt gathered and pleated to reveal the ruffled black underskirt. Her black hair was pinned up and decorated with an unusual fascinator. The silver griffin had golden topaz for eyes and was accented with several brown feathers traced with gold.
Her blue eyes lit with pleasure when she saw Cachet. “My dear, welcome!” Her smile widened as her gaze swept Cachet’s form. “You will be very popular with the young men.” She kissed Cachet’s cheeks in and warmly welcomed Cachet’s grandmother. “Mrs. Black, I’ve so looked forward to meeting you in person. Our house welcomes you.”
Mrs. Black smiled with pleasure. “I’m excited to further our acquaintance, my lady.” She ushered Cachet into the party, surveying the gathering crowd, and settled stiffly on a couch. “Ah, I could sit here for a hundred years,” she said wearily. Under the glamour, her true skin had become very stiff, with an ashy cast that had been worsening over the last few months. She wouldn’t be able to rise without assistance.
“Not yet, Grandma,” Cachet said softly, attempting to smile. Even with the glamour, her face was too strong, her eyes too big for conventional human beauty. Her ebony hair and tan human skin was unfashionable, and her filed talons had to be disguised as French manicured nails, a somewhat racy choice for an English miss.
She was used to being a wallflower at these gatherings, her family considered odd. She sighed and glanced longingly across the room at a dark window, wishing she could escape the overwhelming noise and smells of beeswax, perfume and perspiring human. Grandma hadn’t flown in years, so Cachet did the hunting. She could be out there now, snagging a fat rabbit, surrounded by the scent of pine and earth.
She straightened as a body blocked her view. She looked up and gasped. Another gargoyle!
Handsome, his wings hooked over his chest like a cloak. He had a strong, deeply boned ebony face with large dark eyes and white hair that fell past his shoulders in in a silky mane.
She froze, suddenly shy, and went gargoyle still to avoid detection. Her heart raced, and she fought the frantic urge to see if her hair was smooth and her wings arranged to their best advantage. Did he like short girls? She was unbecomingly petite for a gargoyle…
That was when she noticed that he was gazing at her grandmother with surprise and concern. He stopped before the couch and bowed politely. “May I help you, elder? Are you alone?”
Mrs. Black sniffed, scenting the air with her old nose. She paused, arrested, and exhaled with great relief. “Take care of her. Make her happy,” she murmured.
Startled, he finally seemed to notice Cachet. His eyes widened in surprise, his gaze slowly sweeping her form.
She snapped out of her daze, trembling with excitement as her grandmother introduced her. “This is my granddaughter, Cachet Black. You may call me Mrs. Black. And you are?”
The gargoyle bowed politely. “My name is Rook. My brothers are here somewhere; there are four of us at Griffin House.”
Four! Four male gargoyles! Cachet wanted to dance with joy. She had four potential mates to choose from…if they liked her. She bit her lip. “May I meet them?” she asked shyly.
“Of course.” Rook glanced at the Mrs. Black for permission and held out his hand. “We might see them better from the dance floor.”