Last night, I completed the first draft of the second Accomplice novelette, Assassin’s Accomplice!
At several points writing this story was like pulling teeth, because it is a counter-pov parallel story. This means the first book, Assassin’s Arrangement, was written from one point of view, and the second book covers the same overarching plot from a different character’s perspective. I told myself several times this was redundant and readers would get bored, but I powered through it. There’s a large amount of original material. Beta readers–fans of the first book–will tell me if I hit or missed the mark.
Meanwhile, here is the first chapter! It should sound very familiar to those who read Assassin’s Arrangement, with a slightly different flavor. I made sure to read through it and polish it up before sharing.
Let me know what you think!
Miss White was thinking about maps as she walked down the busy sidewalk, almost oblivious to the bustle around her, and completely oblivious of the man just three blocks away, whose dead hand still clutched his gaping throat. As she walked, she fingered the folds of paper around a parcel she held close to her body. The paper itself was a comforting texture, but Miss White could not wait to feel the leather and canvas within. She had feared in the bookstore someone would think her mad if she had caressed the covers or smelled the fragrant pages. Instead, she restrained herself, flipping through, reading excerpts, and concealing her excitement.
Frederick Douglass had aroused her warm memory of maps, creased and ragged from their journey all the way from the United States, still a new nation upon their making, to her father’s studio. They, like the maps her father created, stirred within her a deep longing, almost painful, to experience the adventures unique to those unfamiliar, foreign names.
A dark figure crossed her path and before Miss White could raise her gaze, a surprisingly solid body collided with her shoulder, spinning her around. The parcel tore, the string loosened, and the books fell to the ground.
“Oh!” She ducked to rescue her precious new belongings. Frederick Douglass was tread upon. Only Thackeray escaped with nothing more than a scuff. The dark figure paused and bent to retrieve Percy Shelley from where he had been kicked just out of her reach.
“It’s quite alright,” Miss White replied breathlessly. Her shoulder throbbed and she had gotten mud on her dress, but she was relieved to have the books safely off the ground. As she accepted Shelley from him, she glanced up, then did a double-take. The stranger was so handsome, she had trouble remembering what she should say next.
Thank you? Yes. “Thank you…”
The corner of his mouth twitched up. Miss White’s mind raced for something else to say, something impressive, something to keep those eyes on her, but nothing would come.
He nodded and touched his hat. “Have a lovely day,” he said and turned abruptly.
“Oh!” She had missed her window. She blinked, flustered, and bowed her head over her books. “Oh…”
“Murder!” a voice cried. Several men armed with cudgels, spades, and other tools of trade shoved their way through the pedestrians. They grabbed men with their rough hands and rifled through their clothes.
Covering her mouth at the spectacle, Miss White turned to the stranger. He did not seem to have noticed the uproar. He had continued past her, away from the men, but stopped. There was a commotion ahead of him as well:
“I beg your pardon!”
“Clear a path!”
The stranger spun back. Miss White dropped her eyes to the parcel paper clutched in her hands and attempted to wrap it back around the books.
“Forgive me for prying…”
She jerked her head up, breath catching in her throat. He was, indeed, addressing her, and stepped close, wearing a smile that made butterflies swarm in her belly.
“Did I see correctly you were reading Shelley?”
Books! He wished to speak about books! “Yes, that is correct. Ar-are you an admirer?”
“Oh, very much so—”
Behind him, the ruffians converged with a group of constables. Each man felt the need to shout his case so all could hear. The stranger turned to them with a cocked brow and an expression of contempt, but his hand slid into his pocket. Miss White took all of this in with a thrilling ripple of fear as he turned back to catch her watching. The man before her was handsome beyond words, finely-dressed, and well-spoken. Could he possibly be the ruthless murderer the men were speaking of? The stranger waved a dismissive hand and bowed closer to her.
“Love, hope, and self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.”
His voice was deep and resonant, his recitation perfect. Miss White blushed furiously and sighed. She opened her mouth to speak, but a man behind them, rougher and more persistent than the others, demanded their attention:
“—looked no different than any other man! ’E slit ’is throat clean through an’ walked away like nothin’—”
Her smile disappeared. The stranger glanced at the speaker, then turned his focus back on her. With a flourish of his hand, he gave a small bow.
“Joseph Thorne.” He offered her his hand.
Her heart fluttered. “Catherine White.” She was slow in accepting his hand, remembering the manners her mother had struggled to teach her.
“He says a man with a knife ran this way!”
Miss White started. A man with a poacher’s priest pointed in the direction from which the constables had come. The mob shoved their way through the crowd. Mr. Thorne’s mouth twitched as he watched them.
She feared if she didn’t say something quick, he would hurry off again. “Do you also read Mary Shelley, Mr. Thorne?”
He blinked and opened his mouth to respond, but only turned to her once the mob had disappeared. “Unfortunately, I have not.”
Now that his focus returned to her, the activity around them seemed to fall away. His eyes fixed on her face as if he cared for nothing else in the world but her response. Her mouth moved wordlessly. She cursed herself for not engaging in candid conversation more often. She cursed herself for bringing up a topic as controversial as Mary Shelley.
But he waited patiently for her to speak. Perhaps there was even anticipation in his eyes.
You will never see him again, Cate. Say what you wish.
Her words started as a huff, but finally slid out: “Her ideas are unconventional, yet her skill is equal to any man.” She settled back, waiting to be contradicted or dismissed.
“Mary Shelley will be my next investment, then.”
Miss White’s jaw dropped. Mr. Thorne touched his hat and gave her a deep nod.
“Thank you, Mrs. White.”
He’s leaving again! “Miss White.” Her tone came out far more forcefully than she intended.
His brow went up and a smile spread across his face. “Miss White. Have a lovely evening. I do hope you enjoy your books.”
Of course I will. The words formed clearly in her mind, but would not come out of her mouth as he turned and walked away, back in the direction he had come. She realized after a moment she had not been breathing. Lowering her head, she missed him glancing back at her as he turned a corner.
Did this sample pique your interest? You can pre-order Assassin’s Accomplice for just $0.99 by clicking HERE!
You can also read the first novelette, Assassin’s Arrangement by clicking HERE!