For most of this past year, I’ve been working on The Journeyman’s Trial, the second book of my steam punk erotica series The Toymakers Guild. I’ve finally finished; at 92K words, the novel is the longest thing I’ve ever written. It’s scheduled to come out next Wednesday, the 8th of December, so today I thought I’d give you a taste. This excerpt, which actually is Christmas-themed, is rated PG. I will warn you that is not true of most of the book!
I’ll be posting a much spicier excerpt for the Steam Hop next Tuesday. Meanwhile, enjoy!
If she builds it, will they come?
Technically brilliant and thoroughly wanton, Gillian Smith has found her vocation: designing innovative erotic devices for the Toymakers Guild. Lust is a lubricant to creativity at Randerley Hall. But what happens when two Toymakers fall in love?
The Guild’s tribe of talented, uninhibited engineers has embraced Gillian as one of their own. Edward Thorne, the perverse genius who founded the Guild, undertakes to train her in the skills she’ll need as a journeyman, from practical mind-reading to transcendental orgasms.
As Gillian labours to impress the charismatic Master, her enigmatic fellow journeyman Rafe both entices and frustrates her. Their passion seems to go beyond mere appetite, but in Randerley’s promiscuous and permissive environment, does love make any sense?
When the Toymakers receive a commission to equip London’s most exclusive brothel with the latest sexual technology, Gillian has the chance to demonstrate her formidable abilities as well as to help Rafe exorcise the demons of his past. She doesn’t realize she’ll be forced to choose between Rafe and her future in the Guild.
If you like intelligent, lusty women and kinky steam punk sex toys, pick up a copy of The Journeyman’s Trial.
The Hook (PG Rated)
Christmas at Randerley was a more sedate affair than Gillian had expected, partly because the Master had invited the entire household. As the apprentices and journeymen gathered around the gaily decked tree on Christmas morning, they were joined by Henderson the butler, Mrs Jones from the kitchen, her scullery boy Jim, Pete Murphy, and a compactly built young woman with a crown of ash-blond braids, wearing a grey uniform with a white collar and apron. Gillian had assumed that the steam-powered robots that hurtled up and down Randerley’s corridors handled all the cleaning, but perhaps this girl was responsible for the more complicated aspects of domestic management.
The Master, with his characteristic discernment, noticed Gillian’s curiosity. He gestured at the young and rather pretty stranger. “I gather you’ve not met Emily. She joined us a few weeks ago.”
Given that Gillian had spent the bulk of her time over the last month working in the laboratory, her failure to notice the new maid was not that surprising. She gave the young woman a warm smile. “I’m pleased to meet you, Emily. I’m Gillian Smith.”
Emily’s eyes focused intently on Gillian’s face. After a short pause, she nodded and returned the smile, but not the greeting. Gillian glanced at the Master.
“Emily comes from a village west of here,” he commented. “A childhood fever left her unable to hear, and she’s quite reluctant to speak. However, she can understand what we say by reading our lips.”
A deaf-mute servant! That was certainly convenient for protecting Randerley’s secrets! Gillian’s initial sympathy for the maid quickly transformed into admiration as the girl circulated among the Guild and household members with a tray of eggnog. Emily moved with quiet grace, a self-assured presence that made her a delight to watch. Very likely she knew that she was fortunate to have found work here. Gillian did not doubt that the Master paid her generously.
Rafe sidled up and slipped an arm around Gillian’s waist, distracting her from Emily’s trim figure. He planted a quick, nutmeg-flavoured kiss on her lips, but somewhat to Gillian’s regret did not take further liberties. More quickly than she would have liked, he released her. Slipping his hand into his trousers pocket, he extracted a box about three inches long and half as deep, wrapped in brown paper and tied with green twine.
He offered her the diminutive parcel. “Happy Christmas to you, Jill.”
“Oh, Rafe! That’s very sweet of you, but really, you should not have gone to the trouble.” Guilty embarrassment made her blush. In fact, she’d been so focused on her work that the question of Christmas gifts had never even entered her mind.
She shifted the package from one hand to the other. It was unexpectedly heavy. What could it be? She hoped he hadn’t spent a lot of money on her. Thankfully, the box was the wrong shape for a ring. Last night she’d told him she loved him. The declaration had been sincere, but still, she couldn’t possibly accept a ring as a gift, given the implications.
“Open it,” he urged.
Gillian glanced around the drawing room. Everyone seemed engrossed in their own conversations, sipping their eggnog and nibbling the gingerbread fingers Mrs. Jones had provided. The Master sat on the chaise near the tree, Amelia at his right hand and Roderick on the left. Both of them half-turned toward him as if to catch some words of wisdom. Jia was ensconced in one of the wingback chairs by the fire, with Ian perched on one arm, Tug on the other, and Archie on the ottoman by her feet. Lucy gestured dramatically as she related some funny story to Pete Murphy and Emily. The groundskeeper chuckled, while the tidy little maid nodded and smiled.
No one was paying any heed to her and Rafe.
With a touch of trepidation, she pulled on the end of the twine. The bow came loose and the paper unfolded, revealing a box of unvarnished wood. She turned it over several times, as Rafe grinned. “What is it?” she asked finally.
“Check the front panel,” he told her. Sure enough, there was a barely visible depression near the bottom edge on one side. She centred her thumb in the dent and pushed away from her. The thin wooden sheet slid upward along a pair of grooves. Nestled in the soft red wool lining was a miniature hourglass.
She extracted the instrument and cradled it in her palm, a bit puzzled. “It’s lovely,” she told him. The sand inside was white as the snow outside. “Thank you.”
“I made it especially for you. Blew the glass and brazed the enclosure.”
“You made it? Oh my!” She examined the item with more care, noting a few minor imperfections that marked it as handmade. A comfortable warmth settled in her chest and her residual guilt evaporated. “Your versatility continues to amaze me, Rafe. But why?”
“I wanted to give you a Christmas gift.”
“No, I mean, why an hourglass?”
Taking the artefact from her, he turned it on its end and placed it on a nearby occasional table. Sand flowed smoothly from the top orb to the bottom through the narrow waist. “To continue your lessons in patience,” he told her, arching an eyebrow. “For instance, I won’t touch you again until all the sand has collected in the bottom.”
Gillian burst into laughter. “That’s hardly a lesson,” she countered. “I doubt it will take more than a minute to empty the top chamber.”
“Well, that depends.” He lifted the device, fiddled with a tiny thumbscrew between the two globes, then set it down again. The flow of sand slowed to the point that it was almost imperceptible. “Now what do you think?” he asked. “Can you wait until the sand runs out?”
Gillian gazed into his dark eyes, full of love and challenge. “You rogue!” She licked her lips. “Can you?”
She yearned to grab him, despite their very public situation. She wanted to drag his mouth to hers and run her hands along his muscled back, down to his firm buttocks. He could tease her, could pretend he’d mastered his own lust, but now she knew better.
Pre-order at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09MQV4Y86
Pre-order at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1118032
Be sure to visit the other authors participating in today's Book Hooks hop!