Author: Katie Hayoz
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Melusine Doré slays monsters for a living. The grim and gruesome don’t frighten her; she can take on a cyclops or a three-tailed dragon without even breaking a sweat. But falling in love? Falling in love terrifies her. Because love has the power to reveal a secret dark and dangerous enough to completely shatter her world.
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From Chapter One
LEVI CANNON BACK IN CHICAGO. NO NEED TO FEAR THE BOGEYMAN shouted the headline of the newspaper spread out on Melusine’s dresser. A skilled drawing of Mr. Levi Cannon stepping on a monster with one giant eye was directly underneath the headline. Below that was a quote that made Melusine fume: “Miss Melusine Doré is now free to learn flower arrangement and make social calls. There is a man in town to do a man’s job. I promise you all that the beast found hunting here will be gone in a matter of days. Unlike Miss Doré, I do not take precious time to see if a monster has a heart of gold or not. It’s a monster, after all, and if its heart happens to be gold, well then, I shall rip it out and sell it for a fortune.”
Grabbing her fountain pen, Melusine inked warts onto Levi’s nose and cheeks, and filled in the area between his eyebrows. She gazed down at his lifeless face and grunted. Warts and all, Levi Cannon still looked good. Too good.
Once a year or so Levi would come into town, challenging Melusine, leaving a trail of dead monsters and smitten women in his wake. But she never rose to his dares and instead stayed out of sight until he left.
He was too dangerous, for so many reasons.
Tonight, however, she had a job to finish. She’d be quick as a bullet, no dallying. Then Mr. Cannon would have no reason to stick around. She fastened her scabbard around her right thigh and headed down the worn wooden stairs on tiptoe, but Mrs. Steed heard her regardless. The landlady stepped out in front of her, her red-gray hair coiled round her head like a snake ready to squeeze.
“Where you off to, Miss Mel? I don’t want you bringing any beastly body parts back here, you hear me?”
Melusine sidled past her, stifling a grin. “It was just the once. Every part of a Silver Spined Dragon is useful; I couldn’t allow the corpse to go to waste.” The dragon meat was roasted, the claws carved into weapons, the scales ground up and sold and the vertebrae made into bullets. The wings paid for one month’s rent and a bag of butterscotch candy. If Melusine had another beast like that to bring back, she wouldn’t hesitate.
Mrs. Steed harrumphed and pointed to the boarding house door. “Pull it tight behind you.”
Outside, it was approaching dusk, the smoke and steam of the city blending into the blue of the darkening sky and the white of the rising moon. Across the street from Melusine, workers swore, sang and grunted, preparing a block of buildings to be raised by lifts out of the muck that was Chicago. Up above, an airship hissed over the city, and down the street a clockwork horse whinnied a brassy sound.
A steam carriage huffed its way through the mud to stop directly in front of the boarding house. As she trod down the steps, Melusine thought she saw something move in the alley next to the building. A man, perhaps. Thieves and assassins were common in Chicago, killing for a penny if they could. Mel narrowed her eyes, scouring the darkness, but the driver pumped a lever and the coach coughed out a cloud of hot vapor. “You getting in or not, Miss?”
She threw her shoulders back and climbed into the carriage. Whatever it was that was out there was by far less worrisome than the thing she was on her way to face.
Katie Hayoz was born in Racine, WI, the youngest of six kids. Originally, she wanted to become pope (for the awesome hat and fancy robes), but quickly realized reading—then writing—was her true religion. She now lives in Geneva, Switzerland and devours speculative fiction like she does popcorn and black licorice: quickly and in large quantities.