As promised, I need to share the rest of what I’ve done for the free prequel to Lady Doctor Wyre — Lady Wyre’s Regret — and see what you think about the ending. Of course as I give each snippet another light editing before I post it here, I’ll probably think of something else I want to add anyway. *rolls eyes at self* We’ll see how it goes.
I posted some bits of this during NaNoWriMo but I’ll back up a bit to the last “formal” posting here, continuing forward into the “assassination.” It might be a re-read for some of you that were following along through NaNoWriMo, but I think the continuity and revisit will help me decide!
Waving regally, Charlotte paused on the front steps of Wyreton and awaited her public assassination. Her heartbeat ramped to supersonic speeds, but she managed to smile for the millions of Britannians watching the Solstice Eclipse festivities. Cameras flashed, broadcasting her departure for the royal ball. As the Duchess of Wyre, she’d be fashionably late.
Eternally late, if Lord Regret manages to pull off this charade.
She heard the shocked whispers and gasps before the assassin’s blade dug into her neck. This time he didn’t spare any pressure, deliberately drawing enough blood to leave DNA evidence on her spotless white marble.
It must look authentic beyond any reasonable doubt.
Drawing in a deep breath, she let a shrill scream echo across the plaza. She clawed at his arm locked about her throat so tightly she couldn’t breathe. Combined with the rigid corset, she was afraid she might actually pass out.
Pain burned across her throat and she tried to scream again, but she didn’t have enough air. She hadn’t counted on being so terrified. Her orders had been explicit. He must rough her up enough to make it look real. He must draw her blood, obviously wounding her severely enough that the general public would believe her dead.
Yet she couldn’t help that niggling doubt. What if Majel had gotten to him? What if someone had upped her price, making the amount on her head too attractive for the famous assassin to resist? Every man has a price. What is Lord Regret’s?
He picked her up, manhandling her down the impressive stairs to her gleaming carriage. Her shoe fell off and she had the inane urge to laugh. Cinderella would be late to the ball. Would Prince Charming find her shoe and come to her rescue?
Lord Regret slung her inside the carriage so hard she fell face first against the floor. Her head rebounded off the wall and for a moment, everything went black. Outside, screams and chaos did nothing to help her regain her senses. She tasted blood and her head throbbed.
The flash of heat stirred her numb limbs to life. Fire exploded about the carriage, created by the Razari crystal she’d studied. A deliberate message to Majel, as well as a plausible source for the execution to which she could claim ignorance. Someone had to want Charlotte dead other than the Queen, enough to make her doubt Charlotte’s hand in her own execution.
Of anyone, the Razari would most want her dead for what she’d accidentally done to their planet.
Smoke choked her, making it impossible to see. She ran her hands over the floor of the carriage, trying to find the escape hatch. I have to get out before it starts moving. Damnation, where’s the latch?
Panic made her hands tremble. Sweat trickled down her face, the heat scalding her skin. The stench of scorched silk and melting metal burned her throat. Finally, she found the latch, hefted the small door open, and jumped through to blissfully cool darkness. She pulled the hatch shut after her and nearly collapsed into a heap of smoldering skirts.
Too close. Too real. Her mind shrilled, her nerves raw with fear, but she forced her body to move. She had to get off Wyreton lands as soon as possible. Majel wouldn’t delay the search long, even if they managed to extinguish the blaze.
Her greatest fear was that someone would put out the fire before it managed to destroy the carriage. The Razari crystals were powerful, flashing so hot that metal began melting almost immediately. Definitely hot enough to combust a body into nothing but ashes, indistinguishable from the remains of the carriage.
No one outside of Wyreton knew there were extensive tunnels beneath the estate, and her own people would never betray her House, not even to the Queen. Yet she daren’t leave any trace behind, just in case.
From her reticule, she pulled out a thin canister of bio-bandage to seal shut the assassin’s wound. She yearned for a mirror to see how badly she’d scar, resisting her vanity that insisted she cover the ugly cut with a scarf. She didn’t feel much damage. Sig knew very well what he was about.
She had no lady’s maid to help her strip off the gown, so she heaved her skirts up about her waist, picked up her remaining slipper, and ran down the corridor in her stockings with nothing but a hand on the wall to guide her. No light, in case someone was watching. No sound. No trail for Majel to follow.
Once well away from the house, she exited the tunnel in a dim, empty stable. No horses lived in these stalls, but Charlotte—and her mother before her—had always been careful and suspicious with private caches and safehouses throughout Londonium. With ruthless House Krowe in control of Britannia, a lady never knew when she’d have to make a run for it, and a Wyre always went in style.
Donning a full-length cape, she hopped on a motorized scooter—her own invention, of course—and headed for their meeting place at the Thames dock. She checked her timepiece and pressed the accelerator. Regret had been adamant about the time. Once the accident happened, the docks would close down within minutes just to make sure no one escaped. Majel would claim she wanted to capture the assassin who’d dared harm her physician, but she’d also want to ensure Charlotte wasn’t escaping the net at the same time. Five to ten minutes would be all they had to get out of the Britannian airlocks.
She skidded to a halt at the dock, Pier 371 as he’d ordered. The motor started in a rumbling roar of smoke. Oh, dear, the Captain could surely use my assistance in fine-tuning his engines. Perhaps he’ll allow me to make a few modifications as we sail…
The ship lifted off and she stared at it a moment, dumbfounded. She opened her mouth to shout, but it would do no good. No one would hear over the engines, and she daren’t draw attention to herself. How ironic that she’d been betrayed by her own assassin. “Dead” wouldn’t matter if she couldn’t get off Britannia. There was only so long she could hide, so many favors she could claim, so many bribes…before the Queen’s Ravens found her.
She squeezed her eyes shut and fought for calm. Think, Wyre. Think!
A hand closed around her arm and she nearly shrieked like a fishmonger in Cheapside. Her eyes flew open and met Regret’s knowing smirk.
“Doubting the trustworthiness of your assassin, Lady Wyre? Surely not.”
He guided her further down the dock to a much smaller ship. Fighting back shock and relief, she stared doubtfully at the tiny boat. Would it even be large enough for the two of them? Then an overwhelming sense of loss washed over her, weakening her knees. My research. Lost. What if it falls into hands worse than Majel’s? Her voice trembled as badly as her hands. “My trunks?”
Inclining his head, he waved her aboard, smiling at her torn stockings and slightly scorched silk. “Already aboard, Your Grace. I thought it best to have my own red herrings. Lord Regret would make almost as an attractive lure as Lady Wyre for the footpads and pirates lurking about the docks. Shall we be away?”
Charlotte spared one last glance at the glorious city stretched out along the Thames. The Tower of Londonium rose like a gloomy dark sentinel against the brightly-lit night. Even at this late hour, crows flew about the tower, their eerie caws echoing like ghosts in the nearly silent city. Britannians everywhere were pausing in their chores and celebrations to watch with awe and not a little dread as the small distant planet, Americus, began to slide in front of the silvered moon. For almost an hour, the moon would be completely hidden in the dark of that planet.
While I slip far, far away.
“I’ll not regret it if I never see Londonium again.”