Turnbull House!

Although the official release date is Feb. 1, Ira’s second novel is currently available for pre-order at Bold Strokes Books and all the usual suspects. I’m currently approaching the halfway point on the third installment, Fool’s Gold. It’s so hard to be patient!

Turnbull House, the second book of the Porcelain Dog series, was a delight to write. It practically wrote itself. Part of this, I think, was the fact that, with two novels under my belt, I had a better idea of what I was doing. It also helped that I already knew the characters pretty well–although in the process of telling me their story they all revealed some new depths and wrinkles that I hadn’t known were there. I’m rather proud of how the story came together in the end. The plot is more straightforward than that of Porcelain Dog, and the characters, I think, are more polished–though still with some appealing rough edges. It’s very much an intermediate installment. This book’s events reach their natural conclusions, but the larger story arc is noticeably …To Be Continued… I do hope that works in the book’s favor. Feedback from beta readers who hadn’t read Porcelain Dog suggested that it stands alone well. Hopefully readers unfamiliar with the first book will be inspired to go back and read that one as well.

I’ve already posted a number of snippets, but as Release Day approaches, I’ll be posting a few more. Here’s one of my favorites.

The entryway of Goddard’s house was little changed from when I’d left my keys and farewell letter on the little silver mail tray and walked away. The coatrack, where Eileen hung my things, still stood beside the door. Next to it was a bench made from cherrywood and padded with a velvet cushion held down with brass tacks. Black-and-white checkerboard floor tiles. A round table of polished, quartersawn oak stood opposite the door. The silver goblet of flowers that I remembered was gone; in its place at the center of the table stood a globe with colorful fish. A nice touch. Stairs to my right led up. To the left, a corridor led to Goddard’s sanctum sanctorum. It was a strange sensation, returning as a visitor to a place where I’d once lived.

Eileen returned shortly. “Right this way, sir.” She winked again. “’Ope you brung your appetite.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Murphy.”

Goddard stood when I entered, surreptitiously closing his Literary Quarterly on the table. His features looked softer than I remembered, the lines at the edges of his eyes more relaxed. The dignified gray that had dusted his temples the last time I saw him now peppered his moustache and precisely cut dark hair. He was dressed for dinner, which I hadn’t expected. But then again, I was a guest now. And he always looked dashing in black. His expression was curious but open, as if he wasn’t sure why I might have turned back up after so long but was willing to entertain an explanation.

“Thank you for asking me to dinner,” I said once Eileen had seated me at my usual place at the foot of the table, left, and closed the doors behind her.

“I figured it might have been a while since you’d enjoyed a proper meal.”

“Two years, to be exact.” Wilde had, of course, included me in his restaurant parties from time to time, but it wasn’t the same as an intimate meal at someone’s table.

A moment later the double doors opened again, and Eileen entered with a girl I didn’t recognize. The girl was carrying a small tureen, and Eileen instructed her to set it on the table. My stomach growled as succulent smells filled the air. The food would be plain but well prepared and tasty. Goddard might have had the money to eat like Prince Eddy, but he always upheld strict standards of healthfulness and frugality. As the girl ladled out a hearty vegetable soup under Eileen’s watchful eye, Goddard said, “The beard suits you.”

My hand went unbidden to my chin. I’d been barefaced when Goddard had met me, and so I’d remained at his request. But as soon as I’d left his house, I’d embarked upon a spree of eccentric facial-hair stylings. The one I currently sported—a close-cropped “box beard” with thin lines of hair running up each side of my jaw to the ear—was admittedly rashly conceived. It also needed a trim.

“It’s kind of you to say so.”

“Although I prefer you clean-shaven.” He lifted a spoonful of soup to his lips and blew. “Keeping busy?”

“You could say that.”

We circled each other with the delicacy of diplomats until the end of the second course, carefully avoiding each other’s eyes or topics that might lead to conflict. Eventually, however, we reached a state of mutual comfort, and conversation ensued. My stories of Wilde’s hijinks amused him, and he was appropriately impressed by my more serious undertakings at Turnbull House. He told me all about his latest passion—a special greenhouse he’d designed, which now took up much of the back garden. He’d cultivated roses for years, but since I’d left he had expanded his interests to include flowers and plants in general. The greenhouse allowed him to experiment with creating new varieties, he explained, and even to grow out of season. He didn’t mention teaching. Apparently he’d finally given up the last vestiges of the academic career that had been ruined by scandal so long ago. If so, he was well shot of it. If the intellectual world didn’t appreciate his accomplishments by this point, it was their loss.

Before I knew it, my belly was fuller than it had been in two years, and my head was full of exceptional wine. I leaned back in my chair, nearly sleepy with satisfaction.

“And now,” said Goddard as the girl cleared away the dessert bowls, “the time has come for gentlemen to adjourn to the parlor.”

So the morning room was a parlor now.

It wasn’t important, I suppose, what the room was called. When I’d lived at York Street, he’d given it over to me. I’d been too intimidated to alter the decor, but over time, Goddard’s preference for clean-lined, masculine furnishings had become my own. As I followed him inside, I noted the two boxy Morris chairs he’d commissioned during my tenure. The design had come from America, and in its straight slats of wood and crisp corners, I sensed echoes of the bold forthrightness of Bess Lazarus’s countrymen. Off to the side stood the olive-colored velvet divan, always a favorite of mine. The double desk remained before the window that faced out onto a small patch of dormant roses and a rather impressive-looking greenhouse. Only one side of the desk was in use. A cheerful wood fire burned in the fireplace.

“The usual?” Goddard asked as I took a seat on the divan. I nodded.

Many men would have taken cigars at that point, as well, but for health reasons, Goddard abstained from all but the occasional Egyptian cigarette. His one indulgence was fine whiskey, which he served in the cut-crystal glasses I remembered well. He walked over to hand me the fuller of the two glasses and then, to my surprise, sat down rather close beside me.

“So,” he said, taking a long sip from his glass. “You never told me why you decided to contact me after all
this time.”

“Well…” As I searched for the right words, he quietly set his drink on the polished wood floor. “It’s funny
you should—”

The kiss came as such a surprise that I scrambled backward across the divan and almost tumbled over its rounded
arm. Whiskey sloshed over the rim of my glass, splashing silently onto the Chinese rug. What remained I belted back in one go before setting the glass on the floor and wiping my shaking fingers on my trousers.

It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of kissing him, but I really hadn’t expected it. In fact, if I’d seen him start toward me in the first place—he was remarkably quick for a man in his mid-forties—I’d have assumed he was going for my throat.

Goddard chuckled under his breath. “Sorry. Did I startle you?”

“You might say that.”

I was also taken aback by the presumption. I had always liked it when he took control, and the hard, whiskey-flavored slickness of his mouth had left me aroused. All the same, I was no longer his plaything. Part of me felt as if he should have at least asked permission.

I forgot my objections when he leaned in a second time, slowly, and cupped my face in his smooth, muscular hands. Now that I was expecting it, the kiss felt like coming home after a long, unpleasant journey. For just a moment, all of my troubles dissolved, and nothing existed except his fingers in my hair, the traces of his jasmine and bergamot cologne, and the smooth, familiar contours of his mouth.

And then as suddenly as he had moved in, Goddard pulled back, leaving me confused, disappointed, and blinking in the gaslight and shadow.

“Why did you come, Ira?”

“To ask you for money,” I said.

I know. I know. But every drop of blood in my head had surged to my cock, and I found myself incapable of the higher functioning required for either diplomacy or deceit.

Perhaps that had been the idea.

(c) 2013 Jess Faraday

Published by jfaraday

Jess Faraday is an award-winning author of historical suspense.

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