Kady Cross, publishing under various names, is a USA TODAY bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Harlequin TEEN's Steampunk Chronicles. She is lucky enough to have a husband who shares her love for the slightly twisted and all things geek, and a houseful of cats with whom she shares her darkest secrets. Her love of books and makeup borders on addiction—of which she never, ever wants to be cured. Visit her on the web at www.alterkate.com or on Twitter: @AlterKates.
Ps. After looking for more steampunk books I found that I have some lol
"All opinions are 100% honest and my own."
The moment she saw the young man walking down the darkened hall toward her, twirling his walking stick, Finley Jayne knew she'd be unemployed before the sun rose. Her third dismissal in as many months.
She tensed and slowed her steps, but she did not stop. She kept her head down, but was smart enough not to take her gaze off him. Perhaps he would walk right by her, as though she were as invisible as servants were supposed to be.
Felix August-Raynes was the son of her employer. At one and twenty years of age, he was tall and lean with curly blond hair and bright blue eyes. Every woman who saw him called him an angel. Most who knew him thought him the very devil.
The other maids in service had warned her about Lord Felix her first day in the house. A mere fortnight ago. He belonged to a gang of privileged ruffians known for their facial piercings and lack of respect for anyone else, especially females. She had been hired to replace the previous girl hurt by the young lord. Rumor had it that the maid had required serious medical attention.
Finley didn't court trouble, but part of her—that part that was going to keep her safe, yet get her fired—hoped he'd try something. It was horribly delighted at the prospect of the violence to come.
The rest of her was terrified. Were it not for the steel boning of her leather work-corset, she fancied her heart might slam through her ribs it was pounding so hard.
Lord Felix smiled, teeth flashing in the dim light as he stopped just a few feet in front of her, blocking the only route to the servants' quarters where she slept. The tiny brass bar that bisected his left eyebrow—and proclaimed him a member of the Dandies—glinted. "Hello, my lovely. I had hoped to run into you."
Finley hesitated. Maybe he'd move out of her way and let her pass.
Or, a voice in her head whispered—her voice—you could kick his teeth in. She lowered her gaze, not wanting him to see the bloodlust there. Silently, she willed him to let her pass. For his own safety.
Instead, he closed the scant distance between them.
"You're new, aren't you?" he inquired, moving closer. He was already much too close for propriety and there was no one around to make sure he didn't overstep his bounds. The light on the wall above them flickered as though attuned to the fluttering in Finley's chest. This close, she could smell stale ale, cologne and the undeniable oily scent of mech-boxing on his fine suit. Lord Felix was a great patron of the sport. Though why anyone would want to watch automatons pound the gears out of each other was beyond her.
"Please, my lord," she said softly, wincing at the pleading in her tone. Please don't make me hurt you. "I wish to retire. It's late."
It was after three in the morning, to be exact. She would have been in bed hours ago were it not for the fact that the darling debutante of the house had demanded her pink riding habit be laundered for the morning. As Lady Alyss's maid, it was Finley's job to take the ensemble down to the laundry where the air was thick with hot steam and the smell of overheated gears. She had washed the clothing and set it to dry. Right now her blouse and short skirts were damp, and her feet were sweating inside her high, thick-soled boots. She wanted nothing more than to unfasten the many buckles and take them off, along with her corset. She was going to be up early to collect the habit for Lady Alyss to wear.
And now this annoying twit stood in her way. Finley didn't like it. The thing inside her truly didn't like it. She used to think of it as an imp on her shoulder, urging her to be naughty, but lately she'd come to think of it as less mischievous and more dangerous.
Dangerous to whoever threatened her.
Lord Felix propped a palm against the plaster by her head, turning so that he pinned her against the wall with his own body. "What's the hurry?" he asked, beer breath hot on her face. "Don't you like me?"
Finley held her tongue. If she opened her mouth she'd tell him exactly what she thought of him, and she needed to keep this employment. She needed to get out of this situation without either of them getting hurt.
He slid his other hand behind her, down her back to her backside and squeezed. "Don't you want to make me happy? Smart little girls want to make me happy."
Finley turned her head as his face came down toward hers, and narrowly escaped being kissed. His wet mouth landed on her ear instead. She shuddered. "Please, my lord. Let me go." For your own sake.
His lips fastened on her neck instead. Nausea rolled through her stomach and then suddenly stopped as she felt his palm against the striped stockings that covered her thigh. He wasn't going to cease. He wasn't going to let her go. He was going to take what he wanted, because that's what rich young men did to girls under their control.
But she wasn't under anybody's control. Not even her own. She could feel it fracturing as something deep inside fought to get out.
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