Welcome to the Wednesday Book Hooks blog hop! Today I’m sharing an exclusive snippet from my most recent release, The LastAmanuensis. This story is basically dystopic sci fi with an erotic edge. Not the cheeriest thing I’ve ever written, but it’s extremely intense from an emotional perspective – and does have redemption at the end.
Poetry is like blood – you can’t hold it back.
The Emperor has decreed that Reason will rule in his lands. Art and literature are banned in favor of military technology. The fearsome Preceptors prowl the capitol, arresting anyone who dares, even secretly, to engage in forbidden activities.
A former teacher and frustrated writer, Adele is grateful for her job as secretary to the enigmatic Professor. During the day, she transcribes his learned treatises on a vast range of topics. Then he calls her to his room one night, to give her a more difficult and intimate assignment, one that risks both their lives.
First he served me tea, asking me, rather perfunctorily, about my education and previous employment. He was clearly pleased to hear about my scientific background. As soon as my cup was empty he took me upstairs, sat me at a typewriter, and gave me a quadrille notebook full of handwritten scrawls.
“Type this, please.”
I peered at the page he indicated, which at first glance seemed totally illegible. I had no idea how I was going to decipher his chicken scratchings. My dismay must have shown on my face, for he laughed. Merriment transformed his stern countenance and for the first time, I saw the warmth that dwelt behind his intellectual's mask.
“Don't worry. Take your time. It's far more important for you to be accurate, as these notebooks record my lifetime of research.” He adjusted the gas lamp so it brightly illuminated the chosen page. “I'll leave you to the work. I'll be downstairs in the front parlor.”
Grateful that he'd left me alone—for he definitely made me nervous—I set myself to the task he had imposed. At first I had significant difficulty but as I became more familiar with his writing style, the process became easier. Still, I needed nearly an hour to transcribe that single page.
He appeared delighted by the result. When he smiled I found him far less forbidding. I concluded from his reaction that I'd gotten the job. However, he had one more test for me.
Sitting me down at his desk, he handed me a sheet of linen notepaper, a pen and a bottle of ink. “Copy the first paragraph from this typescript,” he ordered. “I need a woman with a fair hand.”
After my ordeal at the typewriter, this assignment should have been trivially easy. However, instead of leaving me as he had before, he stood behind me, watching every stroke I made over my shoulder.
Rattled by his presence, unable to concentrate, I spoiled the first piece of paper. Shaking his head, he gave me another. “Last one, though. If you don't have the nerves to work under my scrutiny, you're not right for this job.”
Closing my eyes, I centered myself. Then I took up the pen and began to write. The ink flowed clean and smooth onto the page. After each sentence I forced myself to pause, to summon my ability to control the pen's trajectory.
The professor remained at my back, a presence I could not ignore. He was close enough that I could sense his body heat through my woolen gown. His breath stirred the stray hairs on my neck, below my chignon.
Irrationally, my nipples knotted under my chemise and the blood climbed into my cheeks. I had not been this close to a man in years.
Think about the pen, I told myself. Only the pen.
Finally, it was done. I released the air I'd been holding in my lungs, blotted the page, and handed it to him for his verdict.
“Lovely,” he murmured. “Absolutely lovely.”
I glowed at that first praise—just as I do now.
Be sure to visit the other authors participating in today’s event. You’ll find their links below.