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Authors: Jordan L. Hawk

Tags: #horror, #Fantasy, #Historical, #victorian, #mm, #lovecraft, #whybourne, #widdershins

Maelstrom

BOOK: Maelstrom
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Maelstrom

 

(Whyborne & Griffin No. 7)

 

 

Jordan L. Hawk

 

 

Maelstrom
© 2015 Jordan L. Hawk

ISBN: 978-1-941230-16-9

 

All rights reserved.

 

Cover art © 2015 Jordan L. Hawk

© Depositphotos/Shad.off

© Depositphotos/haeton

© Depositphotos/ysbrand

© Shutterstock Inc./Ryan Jorgensen

Model: Charles McGregor

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental.

 

Edited by Annetta Ribken

 

SMASHWORDS EDITION

Chapter 1

Whyborne

 

I stood amidst the press of bodies at the
Nathaniel R. Ladysmith museum, desperately wishing I were
elsewhere. Preferably back in Alaska; although I’d despised the
cold climate, at the moment the memory seemed heavenly compared to
the stuffy heat of the crowded grand foyer. Sweat crept down my
back beneath my layers of clothing, and I longed to slip outside
and remove my gloves. In previous years, I might have at least
escaped to one of the open windows in hopes of catching a bit of a
breeze.

Unfortunately, the days of my anonymity were
over. Almost as soon as I arrived this evening, Dr. Hart and the
museum’s president Mr. Mathison cornered me. We’d soon been joined
by the head librarian, Mr. Quinn, whom I couldn’t remember ever
seeing outside of the Ladysmith’s library before, let alone in
formal wear.

The gathering tonight celebrated a rather
large donation of rare books to the museum’s library. Although my
philological expertise tended to the deciphering of more ancient
languages, the source of the donation made it of more than usual
interest to me.

Two years ago, my husband Griffin and I had
traveled to Egypt to assist our dear friend Dr. Christine Putnam.
Christine’s sister, Grafin Daphne de Wisborg, had joined us,
ostensibly in mourning for her dead husband.

In reality, Daphne had used
the books in the late graf’s library to find a way to communicate
with the spirit of Nitocris, Queen of the Gh
ū
ls, lurking Outside our ordinary
world and awaiting her chance to come back. Daphne, possessed by
Nitocris, then murdered her husband and came to Egypt with the
intent of turning the world into a wasteland of the dead for her
gh
ū
ls to rule
over. My left shoulder still bore the scar of the bite she’d
inflicted with her jackal teeth, as we fought for our lives in the
Egyptian desert. As for Christine, losing her only sister in such a
terrible fashion...well, she didn’t speak of the incident, but it
couldn’t have been easy.

The letter from the current Graf de Wisborg
had taken Christine by surprise; that much I did know. The young
graf had found himself in possession of a crumbling castle he had
little interest in maintaining, and an extensive library he cared
for even less. Daphne’s connection with Christine, and thus the
museum, had inspired him—and if his generous donation came with the
chance to travel and meet rich American heiresses, so much the
better.

I’d come tonight not only to please the
museum director, but to offer my support to Christine. Her nerves
were already stretched thin from the stress of planning her
upcoming wedding; this had certainly done them no good.
Unfortunately, I could think of no way to politely extricate myself
from the director and president.

“This is quite the triumph, don’t you think,
Mr. Quinn?” asked Dr. Hart. His balding head shone with sweat, and
his face flushed red with the heat.

“Indeed.” White tie and tails somehow failed
to make Mr. Quinn look any less like an undertaker. His silvery
eyes went to Dr. Hart, then to me. He then proceeded to stare at me
without blinking. “I suspect we’ll find many tomes of great value
within. Perhaps Dr. Whyborne would care to assist when we open the
crates.”

His suggestion caught me off guard;
cataloging new arrivals wasn’t remotely one of my duties. Still, it
would give me an excuse to look for the truly dangerous tomes and
suggest they be kept under lock and key, before they had a chance
to find their way onto the general shelves. “Of course, Mr. Quinn.
I’d be glad to assist.”

Dr. Hart rubbed his hands together with
glee. “The Wisborg Collection will finally wipe the smirk off the
faces of those fellows from Miskatonic. Their paltry library will
be nothing compared to ours!”

“Now, now,” Mr. Mathison said with a
good-natured smile. “Let’s not forget Miskatonic University is Dr.
Whyborne’s alma mater.”

“Dr. Whyborne belongs to Widdershins,” Mr.
Quinn said, giving Mathison a rather poisonous glare. “His
allegiance, I should say. To the museum.”

“Er, yes.” I cast about for some means of
escape. Once again the elite of Widdershins crowded the Ladysmith’s
grand foyer, nibbling on canapés beneath the looming hadrosaur
skeleton, exclaiming over the carefully curated displays from
Nephren-ka’s tomb, and silently judging one another’s clothing,
demeanor, and heritage. “I say, has anyone seen Dr. Putnam
recently?”

“Last I saw, she was speaking with the
graf,” Mathison said, taking a flute of chilled champagne from a
passing waiter. I snagged a flute of my own.

“No, no, the graf is being set upon by every
heiress in the place,” Dr. Hart replied. “The ones with enough
money to desire a title to accompany their fortune, that is.”

“He looks like Orpheus stalked by the
maenads,” Mr. Quinn observed wistfully.

I edged away from him—but I also took a
quick look about to make certain the graf wasn’t actually being
torn apart. I assumed as much from the lack of screams, but...well,
the former Graf de Wisborg had been killed and eaten by his own
wife.

I didn’t see the new graf, but I finally
spotted Christine near the Nephren-ka relics. Iskander stood beside
her, in earnest conversation with my father.

My heart sank. God only knew what Father
might be saying to them. To suggest I’d been shocked when Father
offered Whyborne House as the venue for Christine’s wedding would
be an understatement. Obviously he must have some sort of ulterior
motive, but what he had in mind hadn’t yet become clear. Most
likely he thought doing favors for my friends would convince me to
abandon my career, return to the fold, and take up my position as
the heir of Whyborne Railroad and Industries. It was, I suspected,
the same reason Father settled a large amount of stock on Griffin
for his birthday last month.

“Excuse me—I need to speak to Dr. Putnam.” I
hurried away without waiting for an answer. As I wove through the
crowd, I caught sight of my friend Dr. Gerritson and his wife.
Unfortunately, they appeared to have been cornered by Mr. Durfree
and Mr. Farr, a pair of art curators known for their passionate
disagreements on anything and everything. I hurriedly ducked behind
a gaggle of heiresses to avoid being drawn in.

My champagne had grown warm in the stifling
heat. A whisper of magic chilled the glass, frost forming briefly
on the outside of the flute before melting. I lifted it to my lips
and was promptly jostled from behind. Champagne splashed across my
chin and down the front of my shirt.

“Oh, sorry Percy, didn’t see you there,”
drawled Bradley Osborne. He didn’t sound sorry at all.

I took out my handkerchief and began to dab
ineffectively at my now-wet clothing. “Quite all right, Bradley,” I
gritted out between clenched teeth. “Accidents do happen.” Not that
I imagined for an instant this had been an accident.

Bradley observed my efforts at drying myself
with a smug smile. “You really ought to watch where you’re going.
Been drinking a bit more champagne than good for you, eh?”

The old familiar anger ached in my chest. I
straightened my spine, which forced Bradley to look up at me.
“Actually, I’ve been speaking with Mr. Mathison and Dr. Hart.”

His jovial mask slipped—just for an instant,
but enough to let me know I’d struck home. Bradley had spent his
years in Widdershins trying to claw his way higher into society.
When we’d first met, he’d held me in contempt, for...well, for all
sorts of reasons, but not taking advantage of the class I’d been
born into was certainly one of them.

Bradley’s right hand
tightened around his champagne flute; his left he tucked at the
small of his back, perhaps to conceal a fist. Then he relaxed and
put on a false smile. “I’m sure they found your father’s money and
name—I mean, your conversation—
most
fascinating.”

I forced my expression to remain neutral,
even as I seethed within. It wasn’t just Father’s money that had
brought me to the attention of the museum’s board and president.
Most of the blame lay with my wretched brother Stanford, who’d held
Widdershins’s upper crust hostage in this very foyer, forcing me to
save them.

“Among other things,” I replied coolly.

“Ah, yes, other things.” He continued to
smile, but his eyes were cold and dead as knives. “By the way, how
is Mr. Flaherty?”

“I’m quite well,” Griffin said from just
behind Bradley. “Thank you for your concern, Dr. Osborne.”

I felt a thrill of savage satisfaction when
Bradley started in surprise. Griffin stepped to my side, his green
eyes fixed on Bradley and a smile no more genuine than Bradley’s on
his lips. The man I called husband always cut a handsome figure,
but the tailcoat and white tie suited him very well indeed. His
chestnut hair, worn longer than strictly fashionable, curled around
his collar.

Unfortunately, Bradley recovered quickly
enough. “I’m glad to hear it, Mr. Flaherty,” he said even as his
lip drew into a sneer. “After all, if I recall correctly, you were
shot right over there. I take it the wound no longer troubles
you?”

Goosebumps prickled on my arms despite the
heat, and I felt as though the marble floor had shifted beneath me.
The night Stanford had taken the museum staff and donors hostage,
he’d also tried to kill me.

But first he’d shot Griffin, with the clear
intention of hurting me. After first calling me a sodomite.

The implication had been obvious enough. But
Stanford was a madman who had tried to murder the most powerful
people in Widdershins. Polite society put his insults and actions
down to lunatic ravings.

Whether anyone really believed that or
no...well, Griffin had quietly received an invitation to various
museum functions, including this one, with no real explanation as
to why. If pressed, no doubt it would be pointed out he’d tried to
save everyone at the Hallowe’en tour and been gallantly wounded in
their defense. Surely that was worth a few invitations to exclusive
events?

And perhaps it was the real explanation. I
honestly didn’t know and certainly would never ask. But I had no
doubts as to Bradley’s opinion.

Would he try to use it against us? He hadn’t
so far, but that didn’t mean the day wouldn’t come when we’d find
police knocking on our door. Or my name in some headline from a
tawdry New York paper, as no reporter in Massachusetts would dare
risk Father’s wrath.

My hand tightened on the champagne flute,
the scars beneath my white glove pulling tight. The great arcane
maelstrom that underlay Widdershins turned beneath my feet. A
breeze ruffled through the gathering, bearing on it the scent of
the nearby ocean.

“As I said, I’m quite fine,” Griffin
replied. “Come, Whyborne—you need to dry your shirt.”

He touched my elbow. The breeze died away,
and my sense of the maelstrom receded to the back of my mind, in
the same place that kept track of my heart beating and my lungs
breathing.

BOOK: Maelstrom
8.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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