Elizabeth Hunter-Payne is an adventurous widow with time on her hands -- a dangerous combination in Victorian London of 1859. Seeking excitement in a time of radical change, Elizabeth starts her own Investigation Bureau.
Armed with an inquisitive eye for detail, the capacity and boldness to ask obvious, if blunt, questions, and most importantly of all, her ability to keep her mouth shut, Elizabeth is quickly immersed in a case of kidnapping, smuggling, murder, and general mayhem. With guns blazing, steam-cars steaming, and clockwork automatons of a salacious nature going clickety-clack, can she save the son of a violent industrialist? Can she recover the priceless Turquoise Spider from the vicious clutches of underworld thugs behind one of Victorian London’s infamous Houses of Introductions?
The survival of the Empire may well depend on the fortitude, brazenness and deductive powers of the irrepressible Elizabeth Hunter-Payne.
Praise for The Turquoise Spider
"This is the first book I've read by this author, but it won't be the last! I was more than pleasantly surprised at how well written it was, and the storyline was phenomenal! It was a quick and easy read, full of action and suspense! Throw in some steamy but tasteful sex scenes and you have a book that will keep you turning the pages!"
-- 5 Stars from Vicky Whedbee, Goodreads Review
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The Turquoise Spider (Elizabeth Huntington-Payne Steampunk Adventures 1)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Mikala Ash
My First Client
The morning fog, thick, noxious and tinged a sickly green, swirled around me like a snake when I alighted from the cab along Grosvenor Crescent, Belgravia. I paid the cabbie who, after a respectful touch to his forehead, put the noisy contraption into gear and sped off, the steam from its boiler adding to the cloying atmosphere. The machine was quickly swallowed up in the gloom, the noise of its passing dampened by the blanket of fog that had been hugging the city like a death shroud these past few weeks.
I checked the address on the gilt-edged card once more, and a minute later ascended the steps of the number indicated. This was a fine building, with fierce stone lions jutting from the walls either side of the door. I grasped the heavy brass knocker of similar motif and rapped twice.
I patted down the front of my woollen day dress, despairing as I did so as I had inadvertently smeared oily smuts from the steamy fog which had settled on the material. At the same time I congratulated myself for choosing one of my darker dresses, as the stains would not show as much. This was to be, I anticipated, an important meeting, and I had resolved to look my best and to present a competent and responsible image. I adjusted my fur-lined pelisse and took a deep breath.
The door was opened by a darkly handsome butler in his early twenties; tall, square-jawed, clean-shaven with piercing black eyes and a thick head of curly black hair. He was, surprisingly, shirtless, his tight black trousers held up by thick leather suspenders that hid his nipples, the only concession to discreet fashion. He also wore a studded leather collar around his neck which for some unaccountable reason set butterflies aloft in my nether regions. His broad chest was firm and his stomach flat as a washboard. I couldn’t help but note that he dressed to the left. The sausage-shaped lump at the juncture of his muscular thighs was impressive by any standard. I felt my face flush hot against the cold damp air.
I was momentarily lost for words; his singular appearance having disarmed me completely.
He raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Yes, madam?”
“Elizabeth Hunter-Payne to see Lord Sloane,” I mumbled, my mouth suddenly dry. “He is expecting me.”
He stepped back and allowed me to glide past him and into the hall, the hem of my dress brushing over his shiny shoes. I could not help but notice that he smelled strongly of lavender. He shut the door behind me in a hurried fashion as if to keep the cold and odious fog from entering the house.
With trembling fingers I stripped off my gloves and removed my cloak and bonnet. I handed them to him, and taking them in his long, smooth, immaculately manicured fingers, he placed them carefully onto a sideboard.
“If you would follow me, madam, his lordship is waiting in the library.”
As I followed him along the hall I could not resist studying his muscular shoulders, the straight spine, narrow waist, and within his trousers the perfect globes of his buttocks, which moved rhythmically as he walked. He stopped abruptly and I bumped into him I was so engrossed by my study of his manly physique. I confess I didn’t know what was happening to me. I’ve been a widow these last three years, and while I admit to having febrile dreams about my late husband and I enjoying marital bliss, I have never before looked at another man in this fashion. Like all women I pretended not to see the hard evidence, as it were, of a man’s gender imprisoned within their tight trousers, and to be honest I have never taken particular notice of them. Until today, that is, and I was completely nonplussed by the experience.
He opened a door exposing a large shadowy room, the curtains of the windows still being closed, and the only illumination being the roaring fire to my left. The main feature of the room was the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a huge grandfather clock. Curiously, on tables and pedestals dotted around the room were variously sized mechanical contraptions of brass and steel that moved with the faint clickety-clack of moving gears.
I recalled seeing automatons such as these exhibited at the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace in 1851. There had been a great variety of moving caricatures imitating human beings and animals performing all sorts of activities such as playing the flute, using a bow and arrow, writing a poem and one was even able to draw. I had been captivated by their ingenuity and the imagination of their creators. But none were like the ones on display here, in this London library....