In the gaslit streets of Victorian London, phantoms rule the night, demons dance till dawn, and one supernatural detective dares to be seduced by the greatest power of all...
He's The Man With The Magic Touch
A master of deduction, seduction and other midnight maneuvers, Phaeton Black is Scotland Yard's secret weapon against things that go bump in the night. His prodigious gifts as a paranormal investigator are as legendary as his skills as a lover, his weakness for wicked women as notorious as his affection for absinthe. But when he's asked to hunt down a fanged femme fatale who drains her victims of blood, he walks right into the arms of the most dangerous woman he's ever known...
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March 27, 2012
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Excerpt from The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone
Believe I have located Phaeton Black. Appears to have let a flat below Madam Parker's brothel. Though the suggestion will undoubtedly cause you pain, I must continue to recommend Phaeton as the best man for this unusual case.
"OH, PLEASE NO, MADAM, HE IS A BEAST," THE HARLOT WAILED. "I beg of you, Mrs. Parker, do not send me down to Mr. Black."
Phaeton Black turned his back on the hubbub, and paced the length of corridor between the foyer and staircase. A sultry sway of hip caught his eye. A luscious copper-colored wench descended the stairs. Her dark eyes lusty, curious, she ventured closer. "Fancy adding another dollymop, sir?"
Slouched against the stair rail, he swept a lazy gaze over her every curve. "Yes, why not? The more the merrier." He ducked his head around the corner and caught a glimpse of the bickering females in the salon. "We are waiting, my timid little sparrow."
The pretty whore beside him tilted an ear toward the clamor and quirked a brow. "Lucy?"
The din from the parlor hardly dampened his grin. "I believe so."
Right on cue, the reluctant whore let loose a shriek that pricked up the ears of every hound in the neighborhood. "I promise I'll work double the number of gents, just don't send me--"
"Hush, Lucy, before you have all the customers in an uproar." Esmeralda Parker stood just inside the parlor, arms crossed under an ample chest.
His stare trailed the baroque details of velvet flock-work wallpaper. "Does my reputation precede me?"
"Oh yes, something the size of an elephant's trunk, sir." The cocotte flashed a flirty smile.
He foraged back in his mind through a blur of absinthe and opium. "How long has it been since I rented the flat below stairs?"
"Near a week, Mr. Black."
He sighed. "I toss up a few petticoats, just to try out the wares, and already I am obliged to face down frightfully depraved and exaggerated rumors."
"Not a bad thing if you ask me, sir. Pay no mind to Lucy. She's a nervous little goose--believes everything she hears. Hasn't yet figured out a girl can pretty much work any size in, as long as she has a bit o' sloppy down there."
He dropped his head back against the wall, angling his gaze at the bronze beauty. He patted his leg. "Come closer."
She pressed against him and rubbed.
The whining and whimpering from the parlor continued unabated.
"And your name is?"
"What kind of a name is--?"
"Mason." She sucked in a breath and pushed her breasts up and out at him.
Mentally, he undressed her voluptuous curves. Cheeky toffer, this one.
"Named after me da, who was a stone mason by trade-- all I know of him." Her deep, coffee-colored eyes brightened. "Mrs. Parker calls me Layla."
"Ah, the ancient Persian tale, Layla and Majnun." The wanton strumpet brushed back and forth across his lower anatomy. "And do you promise to drive me mad, Layla?"
The parlor door rolled open and Madam Parker swept down the hall, dragging the miserable little tart behind her. He noted the vitality in Esmeralda Parker's determined stride, a fine looking middle-aged woman. Truly a shame she had retired early to run one of the more reputable bawdy houses in town.
Things grew wonderfully cozy as two more women crowded onto the stairs. He inhaled the myriad scents of the female flesh surrounding him. "Esmeralda. Care to join?"
"Phaeton, be a dear and assure Lucy you will be reasonable with her."
Blinking back tears, the pretty whore shrank behind Madam's skirts.
He considered her again. Round bosom, tiny waist, lovely hips. Yes, there were very good reasons why he had selected her. "Lucy, might I assure you I am a man of... tolerable size, bone-hard." He tucked a finger under her chin and tilted upward. "Though I am not entirely safe to play with, at the moment I am far from dangerous. In fact, it may take the two of you to flog me into a state of excitement."
Esmeralda snorted. "I imagine that will be quick work, ladies."
He held his hand out until Lucy placed a trembling, clammy palm in his. He frowned. "This one has been on the job how long?"
"She has a crippled brother and rummy father. Teach her well, Phaeton--she is their only means of support." Esmeralda stuck him with a fierce look before she turned to climb the stairs.
The sway of Mrs. Parker's bustle captivated him. He had attempted several times to lure her into his bed. So far, to no avail. With each refusal she became more attractive.
He cocked his head. "Any house credits for the instruction?" A faint echo of laughter and the muffled rumble of a door rolling shut answered the question.
Two delectable lovelies stood before him.
"Are you done crying and being afraid, Lucy?" In the darkened stairwell, he could just make out a nervous nod. A terrified doxy just wouldn't do.
"Suppose I make you a bargain. If, at any time during the frolicking and frivolity, you decide things have gotten a bit--"
"Whopping?" The copper-colored vixen offered.
He dipped his chin. "Do try to be helpful Layla." He closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath. "Now, where was I?" A hooded gaze shifted from one comely wench to the other. "If our interchange gets a bit too impassioned, shall we say? You may call a break in play. Exactly like a game of rugby--not entirely an unlike activity. What do you say, Lucy?"
"Very kind of you, Mr. Black."
Her eyes shone with relief. "Yes, sir."
He leaned closer. "Prove it with a kiss." He touched his mouth. "Here."
Tentative, soft lips pressed to his and shyly pulled back. "Charming." He pulled Layla close for a taste. Ah yes, sensuous lips with a bit of tongue. "Delightful."
"I believe this might turn out to be satisfying." Hands pressed to his lower back, he stretched. "Well then, shall we visit my den of iniquity? After you, ladies."
Descending into his flat, he opened the stove and poked at a few coals. The act of love should be something reasonably well-enjoyed by all participants. Even for ladies who made a living on their back. Phaeton bristled at the thought of Lucy's inexperience and terror. Well, he would make it a point to show her some pleasure. Pleasant enough duty.
"Madeira, or perhaps something stronger?" He perused several pantry shelves, upper and lower, and shuffled several packages and bottles about.
He passed through a cold spot and shivered. A low, unearthly vibrating snarl drifted up from below. The ghastly creature's purr was familiar enough. Phaeton took a peak at the girls. Predictably oblivious to his otherworld intruder. A shadow of movement swept past the corner of his eye. The end of a leathery scaled tail slithered around a cabinet opening. Phaeton stomped hard but missed. The fey creature disappeared into the blackness of the cupboard.
"Damned little demon."
"Rats, sir? Mrs. Parker set traps out just last week." Keen- eyed Layla dipped to get a look. He suspected she didn't miss much.
Phaeton kicked the lower door shut. "Harmless as a dormouse. Nothing to fear, ladies."
He decided to pour something stiff. A brief inspection of the young women had him imagining two sweet derrieres. "To a most favored position." He lifted his glass with a wink. "Bottoms up."
At the moment, his informal sitting room featured a single overstuffed club chair and a comfortable old chaise longue. Phaeton flopped onto the divan and reclined against a curvy pillowed end. He opened his arms wide. "I invite you to loose the dragon."
Reluctant Lucy made him grin, for she now eagerly climbed onto his lap. "Ah ah ah." He wagged a finger. "This teasing prelude has a caveat. For every button of mine undone, you must remove one article of clothing apiece."
He studied his evening's leisure through half-closed eyes. A man could be infinitely happy, at least for an hour or two, with a beauty settled on each knee. And the diversion was sorely needed. Purge the jabberwocky from his head and calm the racing thoughts that threatened to drive him round the bend. After a few hours of vigorous love play, he fancied himself dead to the world, thoroughly spent, snoring between two naked lovelies.
An ephemeral breeze bristled the hair on the back of his neck. The subtle shift in air pressure signaled yet another presence. A shadow drifted overhead and the stairs creaked. Just above, in the darkness, something moved. His gaze shifted away from nubile flesh spilling out of unhooked corsets and untied petticoats. "Why, I believe we have a visitor, ladies. Care to join? One for each, I don't mind sharing."
The tall, dark-haired man on the landing frowned and continued his descent.
"Such unfortunate timing." Phaeton nuzzled a supple neck and groaned. "And I so dislike postponing pleasure."
He shifted both doxies off his lap. "I promise you will each have a turn on top of me." An exposed fanny invited a gentle smack. "Off you go."
The pretty trollops gathered a few undergarments and paused for a brazen inspection of the intruder before vanishing upstairs in a clamor of footsteps and twittering.
"Well, well. Scotland Yard's most celebrated agent, Zander Farrell, come calling." Phaeton buttoned his pants and settled back with a grin. "Something desperate has happened to bring you here, below stairs."
"I admit it took a bit of ferreting about." Zander ducked under a sagging floor joist. "You've made quite a comfortable nest for yourself down here." He lifted an aquiline nose and sniffed the air. "A bit moldy in winter, perhaps."
"Due to my recent loss of employment, I have found it necessary, indeed prudent, to conserve resources."
Never one for small talk, which Phaeton greatly appreciated, Zander got straight to it. "We appear to have another monstrous character about on a killing spree. Chilcott wants the case solved before the bloody press clobbers us. He'll not have another debacle like the Ripper."
"I can assure you Jack is gone. I took a stroll through Whitechapel just yesterday. Not a trace of the fiend's miasma."
Zander glared. "Exactly the kind of green fairy talk that got your contract cancelled."
"Chilcott doesn't like me. Never has." Phaeton noted the barely perceptible clench in the man's jaw. Zander seemed strangely unnerved, a rare state of being for him. "Something's got you rattled. What is it?"
"There is some kind of beast or--vampire stalking the Strand."
Phaeton never laughed, a self-imposed rule that had remained unbroken for years. Otherwise, he would have been rolling all over the cold stone floor of his new flat at that very moment.
So he simply grinned. "Perhaps an actor costumed as Varney the Vampire? Or an Empusa. Might I look forward to a seduction by a bewitching female bloodsucker?"
Zander's glower gave way to a wide-eyed stare. "I thought you'd be pleased. You claim to believe in fairies and all that undead rubbish."
"My interest in the occult is not a matter of faith, actually." He rose off the couch and signaled Zander to follow. Rummaging through a set of pantry cabinets, he withdrew a bottle of liquor. "Nevertheless, I am honored and amused that Scotland Yard appears ready to consult the fey world."
He sensed darker undercurrents and listened momentarily to a fog of whispers. "The notion of an unearthly murderous evildoer is intriguing." He pulled out a chair. "Why don't you brief me while I louche us a glass?"
"Whiskey for me."
He swung back and raised a brow. "Certain about that? A bit of absinthe might help the investigation right about now."
Zander exhaled a bit too loudly. "As you wish, Mr. Black."
Phaeton set up two glasses and poured the dark green distillate. He angled slotted silver spoons etched with the likeness of a naked flying nymph across the rim of each vessel, and placed a lump of sugar on top.
The number two Yard man leaned back in his chair. "Quite an elaborate ritual."
"Hmm, yes. I suppose it falls somewhere between a witches' Sabbath and the Eucharist." He retrieved a pitcher of iced water from a makeshift cold closet. "Just as the water looses the spirit of absinthe, so does the absinthe free the mind."
As the chilled liquid dripped slowly over the sugar cube, Zander's glass changed from deep emerald to a delicate, cloudy swirl of pale green elixir. "Ah, the transformation, when essential oils bloom and the fairy is released. To quote Rimbaud--"
"A meandering, scatological French poet." Zander huffed.
Undaunted, Phaeton poured a last splash over nearly dissolved sugar. "As I was saying: 'the poet's pain is soothed by a liquid jewel held in the sacred chalice, sanity surrendered, the soul spirals toward the murky depths, wherein lies the beautiful madness--absinthe.' "
He settled down and lifted his glass. "I know what they say about me at the Yard. Eccentric, when they're feeling charitable, a menace or madman otherwise."
"That's not true. Gabe Sterling thinks the world of you."
"Then you and he are the only ones."
"Not me, just Gabe." Zander sipped a taste before taking a swallow. "Frankly, I can't say enough about a man who can step into a crisis situation and disarm a Fenian bomb without a care. I don't know where that kind of courage comes from, Phaeton, and neither do a lot of other agents who would rather call you mad than try to understand a man who invites death and fears nothing."
Phaeton shrugged. More pale green potion slipped down his throat. "I miss those small hours of the morning. You know as well as I do, from all our evenings on surveillance, the coldest chill of night happens at the edge of dawn." His hazy gaze landed on Zander. "The time when shadows are not deep enough for spirits and abominations to hide in."
Zander leaned forward. "I need you back on the job. Murdering hobgoblin, vampire--whatever or whoever the killer turns out to be. Take the assignment, Phaeton. But don't do it to prove the other agents wrong."
Taken aback, Phaeton blinked. "Why not?"
"Because they're right."
"Bloody, thieving pirate."
America Jones's gaze fixed on Yanky Willem's every movement as he moved across the polished wood floor of the shipping office. The vile ship snatcher paused between secretary desks and curled back an upper lip.
Up until this night, she had merely been an annoyance to him. A pestering fly he could easily wave aside. But his nonchalance had served only to embolden her purpose. She had picked the door lock, and he had caught her, dead to rights, searching for proof of treachery. Now, quite suddenly, her circumstances had grown perilous. Eyes darting, she calculated the position of Willem's other lackeys stationed around the workplace. His men had not bound her as of yet. No doubt they thought her a helpless, frightened twat. Thickheaded cock-ups.
"Miss Jones." The Dutchman exhaled smoke as thick as his accent. His breath reeked of the black cigar clenched between his teeth. "Words cannot express how pleased I am to have you in my company this evening."
The captain's gaze traveled over every inch of her. "And my great, great grandfather was a pirate, Miss Jones, but not I."
One day she'd wipe that smug grin off his face. Forever.
"I was obliged to take over your father's shipping business because he failed to make good on our loan arrangement."
She bit out a single word. "Liar." Quick as a strike from a snake, his hand lashed across her face. The blow jerked her head back, flooding her cheeks with heat. She licked dry lips and tasted blood at the corner of her mouth. Heart pounding, she blinked aside tears and retreated.
By the look in his eyes and the bulge in his pants, he would have her flat on her back soon enough. Then he would hand her off to his crew.
"I wager you'd all like a taste." She lifted her skirt and lace petticoats above the knee and made eyes at every surly mate. Her sashay about the room revealed more and more leg. When she reached the tops of her stockings, their mouths dropped open.
Seductively, she slipped her hands between her thighs. Eyes wide with feigned surprise, she looked down, then up again with a wink. "Silly me."
In one swift motion, she loosed a derringer from one garter and a bowie knife from the other. Falling back toward the door, she brandished both weapons.
"If you value y'er jewels, I wouldn't make a move."