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.
Melusine looked out the window. The sky above the smoke of the city was turning orange. She spotted the gigantic silver balloons of airships glinting in the rising sunlight. Below her, on the street, steam carriages hissed and sighed, carrying people from here to there. It was just dawn and already Chicago was full of life.
Outside, she waited to cross the street as an entire house on rollers was being pulled down the road by live and metal horses. Rather than stay put and have their homes raised out of the muck, many wealthy people had decided to move the buildings themselves to a new (and more stable) location in the city. As the house rolled by, Melusine spotted a family sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast, their routine not changed in the slightest by the fact that the house was swaying underneath them. Melusine smiled and shook her head. This was the sort of madness she loved about Chicago.
Forgoing a carriage for a brisk walk, she kept pennies in her palm to pay the crossing sweepers. The homeless boys who cleared the corner of slop and mud brought a pang of kinship to her heart. She hadn’t swept dirt when she’d come to Chicago, but she knew what it was to rely on strangers’ generosity for her next meal.
At the far end of Dearborn Park, dull, black metal trains lined up at the railroad station, chugging and gasping as they prepared to leave. Above her was the huge platform where airships docked briefly on their way to somewhere else.
Melusine strode to the boating docks, squinting out at the huge expanse of Lake Michigan. The lake was an endless line of blue, meeting up with the sky at the horizon. There was little wind today, the waves soft hills instead of sharp cliffs.
She heard the soft scuffle of shoes on the planks and said without turning around, “Good morning, Mr. Cannon.”
Levi moved next to her, an amused smile on his lips. “How did you know it was me?”
“The stink of self-importance gave you away.”
Levi’s smile didn’t fall, but stayed fixed. Too fixed. “Shall we then, Miss Doré?” He led her further down the docks, past the sailing ships and the newest steamers. Here the mud and slime were worse than downtown, her feet nearly sinking below the surface with each step. Finally, they came to Sir Edwin Aldridge’s private mooring. Levi’s key opened the iron gate leading onto the jetty. The doorframe was wrought into twisted vines that ended in barbed points, deterring any intruders from trying to climb around the gate to the pier.
The top half of the submarine shone copper and gold in the rising sun, a round metal ball with a large observation window at the front and a square hatch and long periscope at the top. At the back, the rudder stuck out like a fish’s tail, two large propeller wheels hugging its sides. But overall, it was not much larger than a marriage bed.
Melusine’s belly rocked and her knees nearly gave out. But she locked them into place and stood in the slight breeze, deep breaths grounding her. She’d traipsed through a mountain pass infested with packs of spike-tailed dragons, she’d carved the beating heart out of a 400 year-old vampire, for pity’s sake. This should be easy. She was a professional. It didn’t matter that the quarters were so close. Or that Levi smelled so good. Or –
“Gorgeous thing, isn’t she?” Levi commented as he opened the hatch. “I cannot wait to try her out.”
Melusine took another breath and nodded. The craftsmanship was lovely. But the sub was just so small. She stood stock still while Levi held out his hand to help her inside.
“Ahem,” he coughed. “Ladies first.”
Melusine gestured down at her outfit of gas pipes and her armored corset. “I’m hardly a lady, Mr. Cannon.”
His face broke into a grin and he pulled her forward so she could step inside the hatch. “Then this will be so much more fun than I’d anticipated,” he said, his mouth near her ear as he lowered her into the submersible.
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.
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