Last week, I told you all about my new story, an erotic gothic horror called “The Fruits of Wartime”. The story is pretty much everything you think it is and you can now read it in your hot little hands in Ravens & Roses, an anthology of women’s gothic horror from Quill & Crow Publishing House. Here’s a little excerpt to satiate you, or maybe even entice you, until you get a copy.
The Fruits of Wartime
Jacqueline was only ever good at making toast or sandwiches. She often tried to replicate some of Cecelia’s favourite meals, only to struggle and curse herself for failing at womanly chores. She could clean well, but she was much better at meddling, and sometimes, when the occasion was right, protesting.
Jacqueline sliced a chunk of meat from an overcooked chicken breast when she heard a car pull up in the gravel driveway outside. She peered through the window at the black vehicle that crawled into view. She hesitated, throwing out the entire chicken before answering the knock.
The man who stood at the door gawked at Jacqueline’s trousers. “She’s got a gardener answering the door now?”
“I’m not the gardener,” Jacqueline said. “I-I’m the housekeeper.”
The man narrowed his gaze. “Forgive me, but you don’t at all like a housekeeper.”
“I know,” she said. “We’ve been rather short-staffed.”
He pushed past her, stepping into the hall. “She wrote to me a while back,” he said, surveying the dimmed gas lamps and the dusty vases. “I’m sure she thought she was writing to Peter, but that alone was a sign that things weren’t going well.”
Jacqueline shut the door and turned. The guest had dark eyes, brown hair, his chin unshaven. The growing stubble cast a shadow over his jaw. He set his suitcase down and Jacqueline glanced at his left hand. No ring.
“Are you Matthew?” she asked, her throat going tight.
“Your mother hasn’t been herself since the deaths,” Jacqueline said. “She reads the paper but often forgets about the war.”
He expressed no concern for Cecelia, ducking instead toward the library. The sun slipped through the stained glass windows, but the mahogany shelves still made the room seem darker than it actually was.
“Do you want me to call on her?” Jacqueline asked.
“Not yet,” he said, picking a frame with Peter’s photo off the mantle. He stared for a while, but then set it down so hard that the other frames shook.
“You didn’t even attend the funerals,” Jacqueline said.
“I’m sure my mother appreciated that,” he said, turning to her, cocking a smile.
“Didn’t you want to pay your respects?”
“Neither of them ever paid me much respect,” he said, looking at her for too long, enough to make her shift. Then he turned his gaze toward the shelf she’d searched the night before.
She shifted. “I don’t much about you, Sir. People gossiped but—”
“You’re quite forward for a servant,” he said. “You’re asking questions that you probably shouldn’t. Why would she keep you, out of everyone else?”
Jacqueline made a fist over the shelf, straightening her spine as though she were still wearing a corset. “I was the last-hired maid. In the end, I was the only one she could afford to keep.”
He pushed into her personal space, his gaze settling over the tapered leg of her trousers, where the fabric clung to her ankles. “And so you do all the cooking and cleaning?”
“I try.” Jacqueline tried to stand firm. “I try to make things seem as normal as possible. She barely has enough money to keep the gas running.”
He smirked again, nodding at his suitcase in the hall. “Well, if you’re a half-decent maid, then I suppose I can trust you to take my things to a vacant room upstairs?”
His stare hardened her, but it still made her chest flare inside. She drew a breath, a bigger one than a corset would allow.
“I can do that for you, Sir,” she said.
His smile quickly faded. “Matthew,” he said. “You asked for my name. Go ahead and use it.”
“Yes, Sir—. Sorry, Matthew,” she said, turning, hurrying to retrieve his bag.