Welcome to my blog!

I'm so excited that my lifelong dream of becoming a published author has come true. If you'd like to go straight to excerpts, descriptions, and buy links for my books, click on the covers below on the right.

I love to hear from my readers! If you have a comment for me or if you'd like to submit a character for published character interview or unpublished character analysis, please use the form below or email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wolf Pack Run - Huge book sale!

Greetings, all!

I'm excited to announce that I'm part of the Howling Good Romance Authors Group sale, which they term the Wolf Pack Run. There are 26 paranormal romance and urban fantasy books, each of which is on sale for 99 cents, including The Mountain's Shadow. There are also a couple of box sets in there, too.

Even better - there's a giveaway for $100 and $50 gift cards.

Intrigued yet?

Check out this page for the giveaway link and a list of the books. I will probably end up grabbing some of them for myself, too! :-)

Thanks, and happy reading!


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Character on the Couch: Beth Dolgner's Carter

I had a lovely time at Anachrocon a couple of weekends ago with fellow authors including Beth Dolgner, who, I found, lives quite close to me. She was kind enough to send her gentleman ghost hunter Carter over for a chat.

Ghost of a Threat 
Book 1 of the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter Series

Normal young women go on dates on Saturday nights. Paranormal investigator Betty “Boo” Boorman goes on ghost hunts in Savannah, Georgia, America's most haunted city. She's more comfortable around ghosts than guys, anyway.

A violent haunting forces Betty to team up with her rival ghost hunter, the arrogant Carter Lansford. When the violence is turned toward her, though, Betty knows she needs additional expertise. She enlists the help of a handsome stranger, who introduces himself simply as Maxwell, Demon.

Betty's ghost hunting is cut short when she's threatened and, finally, attacked. Either someone wants her to stay away from an investigation, or a demon hunter is targeting her. As Betty begins to fall for Maxwell's mysterious charm, she starts to wonder if her life—and her soul—are worth the risk.

Barnes & Noble

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Carter Lansford had never thought of himself as someone who would willingly visit a psychologist. He was descended from a long line of strong men, rich merchants who had helped shape Savannah’s history. None of them would have ever visited a psychologist. After all, they certainly weren’t the ones who needed help. They did just fine on their own, thank you.

Then again, none of Carter’s ancestors had been ghost hunters like him. Nor had they, Carter thought smugly, ever published a book, been a featured guest at paranormal conventions or been the local media’s favorite person during the Halloween season. They had also never seen demons in the flesh.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Carter had refused to believe in demons for as long as possible, assuming that violent paranormal activity was simply the result of really angry ghosts. He had been in denial until he had seen a demon lay his hands on a man and burn him from the inside out, incinerating the body completely. Carter shuddered every time he remembered the scene, a sickening feeling in his stomach rising as he recalled the smell of burning flesh. Carter would never dare to tell his friends about the nightmares, and so he had finally given in, hoping no one would see him furtively entering the psychologist’s office.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Carter walked into the office and headed straight for the window. He brushed the fingers of one finely manicured hand along the windowsill, as if he was inspecting for dust. With a sniff of satisfaction, he turned and walked to the couch, sitting down with the air of visiting royalty. He crossed his legs and smoothed his blonde hair calmly.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

“So,” Carter said grandly in his Southern drawl, finally making eye contact with the psychologist, “if you’ve read my book, then what I’m going to say won’t be much of a surprise to you. Do you believe in ghosts and demons?”

“Do you, Mr. Lansford?”

“Of course. I have proven their existence. My paranormal investigation team is the best in Savannah. Understand, though, that I can’t tell you all of my story because some of it could have, well,” Carter paused dramatically, “negative consequences.”

“Our discussion is completely confidential, I assure you.”

Carter waved a hand dismissively. “I’m a public figure. I can’t be too careful.”

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Of course The Burglar Bar would be the closest bar to the psychologist’s office. Carter kept walking, knowing it was a favorite place of Betty’s. While he and his rival ghost hunter might have formed a tenuous friendship, he was in no mood to run into her, especially since so much of his therapy session had been about her and her boyfriend. It was worth walking the few extra blocks to enter the cool darkness of the bar at the Pink House. The snug space in the basement of the historic mansion was quiet at this time of day, and Carter sat at the far end of the bar, as far from the few other patrons as possible. Carter barely looked at the bartender, and his voice was distracted as he said simply, “Martini.”

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

My best characters show up in my mind pretty fully formed, and the opening chapters of a novel are when I get to know them. I carefully observe the decisions they make and the things they say, tweaking the text until it suits their personality. Often, after that “getting to know you” stage, my characters seem to act on their own. I don’t feel like I’m creating them anymore: they are autonomous beings, and I’m simply following in their wake, writing down everything they say and do.

Of all the characters I’ve ever written, Carter is my favorite. His snobbish attitude meant he often said or did things that surprised me. I’d be typing a manuscript while thinking, “Really, Carter? Can you really be that much of a jerk?” He often disappointed me in the first two Betty Boo novels, but I was proud to see his character evolve and grow over the course of the whole series. Carter always felt so real to me!

CD says: I love it when that happens! I usually feel like opening chapters are a "getting to know you" period for my characters as well. Thank you so much for stopping by!

Beth Dolgner started writing short stories at a young age, and having a journalism teacher for a dad certainly set her on the right track. After she graduated from Florida Atlantic University with her degree in Communications, Beth began working as a freelance writer, journalist and public relations representative. 

Georgia Spirits and Specters, Beth's first non-fiction book, debuted in the spring of 2009 and was followed by “Everyday Voodoo” in 2010. Beth made her fiction debut in October of 2011 with the paranormal romance Ghost of a Threat, the first in the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter series. She is also the author of the young adult steampunk novel Manifest.

Beth and her husband Ed live in Atlanta, Georgia, with their four cats. Beth is online at www.BethDolgner.com. Her books are available in paperback, Kindle and Nook formats from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Happy Thursday and Valentine's Day!

Greetings, lovely readers! I have a couple of surprises for you today. First, though, I'm on a review tour with CCB Book Promotions, which includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now for the goodies...

Since I love all of you who read my books and follow my blog, I have a free short story for you to download. It's a silly story I wrote a few years ago - apparently when Valentine's Day was on a Tuesday - that features an undercover witch, a young man running away from his troubles, and a talking catfish. I put it in my public Dropbox folder, so to download, click on the menu at the top right, the box with the three dots, and select "Download." Here are the links:

If you'd like a .pdf, please use the contact form at the right and let me know. Sorry, I'm still figuring all this tech stuff out. And of course I'm open to feedback, especially if any of you would like to see the story continue. Don't worry, it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but there is more to tell.

The second surprise for you is a dual cover reveal! The first is for a prequel novella to the Aether Psychics series, and it will be released toward the middle of March. If you'd like a preview copy in exchange for an honest review, please let me know - I should have advance copies by the end of next week.

Danger. Love. Lies.

After tragedy hits and danger moves in, Pauline Donahue flees London, searching for sanctuary and a way to start over. A job at a small university provides the escape she needs. Keeping recalcitrant professor Edward Bailey on task after a shattered heart renders him broken and destroyed becomes her daily routine. But when the same vicious man from her past sets his malicious sights on Pauline, her safe haven comes crashing down.

Duke of Waltham, Christopher Bailey, never counted on the gentle commoner, Miss Donahue, to save his brother--and himself--from broken pasts and a lifetime of mistakes. But she does just that. As their love blossoms, danger closes in, threatening Pauline and Christopher's lives. Together, they are forced to face their biggest fears, revealing secrets that could ruin them both.

The second cover reveal is for the third book in the Aether Psychics series, Aether Spirit. As you saw in Light Fantastique, aether isn't exactly the innocuous substance our characters thought. Now the series picks up with Dr. Chadwick Radcliffe, who is reunited with his beloved Claire, but of course it's complicated.

Forgetting her is impossible. Remembering him could kill her.

Aether Psychics, Book 3

When Chadwick Radcliffe arrives at Fort Daniels to assume the position of medical chief, the prejudice against his mixed heritage is no surprise. But he never expected to encounter the one woman who’s beyond his reach—medically and emotionally.

A steamcart accident stole three years of Claire McPhee’s memories, and now as she helps soldiers cope with combat-related neuroses, she secretly hopes to find the key to filling that gaping hole.

There’s something vaguely familiar about Dr. Radcliffe, but every time she comes close to determining why, he pushes her away—and her hypnosis-induced memory blocks explode with pain.

Chadwick knows the Eros Element can heal, but its unintended side effects are too dangerous to risk using it to bring Claire’s memories out of the shadows. But with the key to the Union’s victory buried in Claire’s mind, Chadwick and Claire are forced to push past the boundaries others have placed on them—even if rediscovering their love risks their lives.

Warning: Vast amounts of Victorian mental health geekery and copious amounts of tea were poured into the writing of his book. No matter how pretty the aether is, the author cautions readers not to try using it to manipulate others’ emotions. The side effects could be atrocious.

It's in final edits now, so I'll let you know when it's available for preorder and when I have review copies. The release date is May 31.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Valentine's Day weekend!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Characters on the Couch: Leanna Renee Hieber's Clara and Harold

Today I'm excited to welcome Clara and Harold, two of the main characters from Leana Renee Hieber's Gaslamp Fantasy trilogy. I met Leanna first at DragonCon and then at last year's Authors After Dark. She is charming and approachable, and I can't wait to read this series!

Welcome to The Eterna Files, written by Leanna Renee Hieber, "the brightest new star in literature"(True-Blood.net)

London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire's chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.

Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped―and has a sample of Eterna.

Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound―and the immortality it will convey―will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Because The Eterna Files trilogy is a very character-driven historical fantasy / paranormal saga set in 1882, and it's a large cast novel featuring two X-files kinds of teams, one in London, one in New York, I have to answer for two of my leads across the respective pond. One, twenty-nine year old New Yorker Clara Templeton, a strong-willed Clairvoyant, Spiritualist and Sensitive, who heads The Eterna Commission in New York City, a commission that began as a search for a cure for death but became the first line of defense against supernatural terrorism, and stoic Englishman Harold Spire, just as strong-willed and determined, not to mention a staunch skeptic. He is a police-chief turned paranormal officer and he doesn't really believe one word of what he's been summoned by Queen Victoria to pursue and protect. Their voices are very strong in my head and heart, so in some cases here I'll answer in their voice...

Clara Templeton:

"A psychologist? Is that like a psychic? If so, I always like to talk to one of my kind. As long as they don't summon too many ghosts, as more than five in a room has an adverse effect upon my health. If this couch has any positive effect on epilepsy I'd be much obliged."

Harold Spire:


"There's nothing that needs examining in my head, thank you very much, it's the heads of my "superiors" that I'd recommend be thoroughly accounted for. And maybe when they came to their senses, I'd be taken off this circus of 'paranormal' detail and returned to blessed, solid, corporeal police work."

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Clara Templeton:

"Oh, dear, well, The Eterna commission was my idea, and it's been a terrible mistake and cost lives I'd never intended. I'm very internally fraught over this, but it's the dark magic that's now begun to unfold around the commission that presents a problem."

Harold Spire:

"Internally, yes, I do have a problem with being appointed to a 'paranormal' appointment I do not support or agree with. But duty is duty and I try to keep my anger and frustration to myself, though I do believe my colleague, the astute Miss Everhart, sees through all my masks. The progressing conflicts of supernatural terror that befall my team and myself are entirely external and I hope to see their swift end."

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

They would each, as polite and genteel citizens, wait to be bid to sit and only in the chair or place indicated to them. Once there, they would remain still, poised and thoughtful. Harold Spire might clench his fists if presented with a problem he could not summarily solve, Clara would fold her hands and look into the distance with a laser focus, as if searching for answers from the past lives she is connected to.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Clara Templeton: "I've nothing to hide about myself. I'd like to hear your thoughts, Madame Therapist, on how I might best shield my mind from an onslaught of spirits and malevolent energy, as I wish to address my most significant weakness and nip it in the bud."

Harold Spire: *staring with steely focus* "Give me insight, please, into the mind and motives of a killer, Madame Therapist, so I may root him out from his lair and make him serve justice."

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Clara Templeton: "I'd like a cordial, please, a soothing liqueur, something of spice and caramel."
Harold Spire: "Pint of ale, please. Quickly."

If Mister Spire and Miss Templeton were at the bar together, they would carefully talk business from two very different perspectives; the skeptic and the believer, and never let the alcohol dim their sharp senses or sensibilities. Both like maintaining control far too much to let any substance get the better of their meticulous awareness.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

For this book, no, my characters were plain as day to me, I know entirely who they are and if anything, I had to struggle a bit to get them to unfold some of their vulnerabilities to me. With Clara, since she is the most like me of any character I have written, I had to divorce myself from her enough to write her objectively and properly. Now that I'm writing the first draft of book 3 in the trilogy, they're more clear and adamant than ever and I love it, especially as the two leads look at the world in opposite ways, but conduct themselves very similarly, with confident aplomb and fierce commitment to their duty.

Buy link: The Eterna Files

Thank you so much, Leanna! I enjoyed meeting your characters, and I love it when they appear fully formed in my brain, too. Good luck with this new series - I'm looking forward to reading it!

Actress, playwright, artist and award-winning, bestselling author Leanna Renee Hieber has written nine Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens, set in 1880s New York City and London. Her Strangely Beautiful saga hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists, garnered numerous genre awards and will reissue in a special edition from Tor/Forge in April 2016. Darker Still of her Magic Most Foul saga was a Scholastic "Highly Recommended" title and an American Booksellers Association "Indie Next List" pick. Her new Gaslamp Fantasy trilogy, The Eterna Files, an X-Files meets Penny Dreadful kind of series, is now available from Tor/Forge and the sequel, Eterna and Omega, releases August 2016. Her books have been translated into many languages such as German, Complex Chinese, and Polish. A lifelong Goth girl devoted to spreading love and understanding of Gothic literature, she is also a proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA and works as a ghost tour guide for New York City's premiere Ghost and Macabre tour company Boroughs of the Dead. She's been featured in several films and in television on shows like Boardwalk Empire. She's active on Twitter @LeannaRenee, Facebook, and more about her books as well as free reads and writing resources can be found at http://leannareneehiber.com and her Gothic, Steampunk, Neoclassical art and jewelry can be found at https://etsy.com/shop/torchandarrow

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Paranormal Love Wednesdays blog hop

Greetings, all! I've decided to jump in on the Paranormal Love Wednesdays blog hop since I'm trying to figure out what character to write about next in the Lycanthropy Files series. I've got a survey going and thought I'd share excerpts from two of the females in the running, Kyra Ellison and Reine la Fey (Reine ended up being a write-in, so I thought I'd mention her here).

First up, Kyra. She was sort of a villain in The Mountain's Shadow, but I felt she would have an interesting story of her own. Here's her short excerpt, told from the POV of the main character Joanie:

He scurried back into the office, and I turned to see a woman in a long white dress gliding through the cars. My first thought was that it was the angry ghost of one of the vehicles’ former owners, but then Lonna narrowed her eyes.

“Isn’t that the chick who was with Leo in the restaurant on Tuesday? What’s her name, Kyra? The third—”

“Yep, that’s Kyra Ellison.” I interrupted her before she could blurt out the word.

She came closer, and I saw she wore a white sundress. So much for the ghost. But she did look pissed.

“You!” Her shout was almost a shriek. “You’re the one.”

“One what?” I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me or Lonna.

“Man-stealer!” She reached into the pocket of her dress, and Lonna grabbed my arm.


Then there's Reine, the mischievous fairy in Blood's Shadow. Her excerpt is told from the point of view of Gabriel, who looks really hot on this cover, don't you think?

“So you’re older than you look,”

“As are you. And we both have our secrets. You just don’t know as many of yours. Now leave me. I will seal the blood so that it won’t hurt poor Maximilian again, and I’ll do the same upstairs.”

“Could you wait until our detective finishes what he needs to do?”

“No, it is necessary now. Sealing the blood will allow it to rest, which will allow the spirits attached to it to be at peace if nothing else stands in their way. Plus, I need to remove the contamination from Max’s wards around the building and land—his using blood magic, even in small amounts, damaged the spells and allowed the intruders to get in. Nothing I do will interfere with the detective’s work.”

“I trust you,” I said, realizing I did.

“Oh, do you?” She flashed me a wicked grin, and before I realized her intention, she pulled my head to hers and kissed me on the lips. She tasted of honeysuckle and sweet wine, and the passion she ignited flowed through me in golden waves. The static came back, and I pulled her to me to quell the tingling that became a burning need.

I barely heard Selene’s “Gabriel, oh!” before Reine pushed me away with a mischievous laugh.

“That’ll teach you,” she said. “Remember, my kind is never to be trusted. Nor are most others.” With a chuckle that lingered in the air, she disappeared, and I turned to face Selene.

So who deserves their own novella set in Salem at Halloween? Vote here! To vote for Reine, put her name in the "You forgot..." space and click Vote. For a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, vote, then come back and tell me who you voted for in the comments, and be sure to include your email address with your comment text so I know how to get in touch with you.

Don't forget to stop by the other posts on the blog hop! Click here for the main post with links.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Calling all Lycanthropy Files fans!

Greetings, all, and happy new year!

I hope your holidays were enjoyable, peaceful, or whatever you needed them to be. To my friends who have had a tough time, hugs! Regular life is starting up soon.

My holiday season was busy with lots of eating, cooking, drinking, more eating, more cooking, some writing, and a little bit of reading. You can check out my reviews on my Goodreads author page (and maybe think about following me?). :-) I'll post about the holiday kitchen playtime on the wine blog sometime soon. Tonight's dinner is going to be cassoulet, yes, the Julia Child version. That was a multi-day project.

The exciting news - I was given the opportunity to participate in a Halloween-themed paranormal romance box set, which will be out in the fall. It's been a while since the last Lycanthropy Files book, and some of my fans have been requesting a new one, so I thought it would be fun to have a novella set in Salem (the box set requirements) with one of the secondary Lycanthropy Files characters. I know, it's hard to remember who everyone was, so I set up a handy dandy survey. Don't worry, write-ins are allowed if someone is missing who you'd like to see.

Click here to vote!

Thanks, and happy reading and writing!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Light Fantastique Releases December 15!

Light Fantastique will be available for purchase on December 15. Reviews so far have been great with a four-star review from Romantic Times, which starts with, "This deftly woven adventure is cast with well-developed characters that round out an entertaining mystery." Then Riley over at Smart Girls Love Sci Fi Romance wrote a very perceptive review for her Tea Time Reading column. 

Blurb, excerpt, and buy links are below.

At the Théâtre Bohème, danger decides who takes the final curtain call.

Aether Psychics, Book 2

Hailed as the most talented actress of her generation, Marie St. Jean has something more to her ability than mere talent. She loses a bit of her soul to each role. When the ghostly spirit of the theatre promises her an easy fix, she’s tempted by the chance to finally live a normal life.

Unfortunately, the man she’s drawn to is the last one to settle for normal. But with the Prussians surrounding Paris, there’s no escaping that temptation, either.

Violinist Johann Bledsoe thought he’d left his disgrace in England, but a murder outside the Théâtre Bohème makes him wonder if he’s been exposed. Another reason not to stick around once the siege ends, even if Marie fascinates him.

More murders, steam-powered ravens, and past and present secrets bring them closer to discovering just what lurks within the theatre, and who threatens from without. The only way to save themselves is to reveal their darkest shames—and use the Eros Element in a way that has already driven one man to the brink of madness.

Warning:  Processed in a facility where wine is used as currency and dessert is a reward. If you dislike French cooking and attitudes, move along. Things are cooking in this book, and it ain’t Julia Child.

Purchase Links

Samhain (on sale at time of post for $3.85 all ebook formats, $11.89 paperback)

I'm doing a review tour with CBB book promotions for both Eros Element and Light Fantastique. It also includes a giveaway for a $25 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Click here for the schedule. Stops so far:

Steampunk Sunday at Talk Supe, which includes an interview with Marie. (12/13)

Review of Eros Element at Girl of 1000 Wonders. (12/14)

Reviews of both books at A_TiffyFit's Reading Corner. (12/15)

Review of Eros Element at Candace's Book Blog. (12/16)

Review of Light Fantastique at Girl of 1000 Wonders. (12/17)

Review of Eros Element at Deborah Jay's Author Blog (12/17)

Review of both books at the Shelf Life blog. (12/18)

Character Interview of Johann at Anna Durand's blog (12/22)

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy! 

From Chapter Eight:

Sometimes the wanderlust in Johann subsided just enough for him to feel a twinge of homesickness. The snow outside made him think of how his family home would look now at the beginning of the holiday season. Perhaps a light dusting would give the peaks and sharp-angled roofs a glittering edge, or a heavier fall would make the old hall look like a dowager trimmed in white fur—dignified and elegant, but also potentially deadly.

His mouth twisted into an almost-grin at the association. One never escaped a conversation with his grandmother, the dowager Marchioness, without some sort of scar. Typically for him it included a hint or direct statement of what a disappointment he was to the family, a dreamer rather than a doer like his older brother.

A fluttering movement caught the corner of his eye, and he looked up to see Marie standing in the back of the theatre, something clutched in her hand. Whatever it was disappeared into her cloak pocket, and her expression distracted him from curiosity about what she’d caught, if anything. Longing warred with confusion on her face.

“Mademoiselle?” he asked. “Are you all right?”

“That music,” she said and put a hand to her middle between her heart and her stomach. “It made me homesick for something, but it doesn’t make sense. This is my home, such as it is, but now I miss…something. What were you playing?”

Johann had spoken with hundreds and played before thousands, but he’d never told his secret. His gut said he could trust her even if he wasn’t trustworthy himself. What would it be like if he was, if he could bear open his heart to someone else? He’d never wanted to, and the idea struck him as strange, but accustomed to going with his impulses, he stepped into that space between fear and trust.

“It’s my own composition. I call it Winter.”

She moved closer, and the amused lift of her cheeks became apparent when she stepped into the light cast by the lamps in the orchestra pit. “Original title.”

He put his violin on its stand. “You mock me, Mademoiselle?”

Her smile vanished, and now her cheeks reddened. “Oh, no! It was lovely, but it needs a name that’s less bleak and more poetic, maybe Blossoms Under Snow?”

He liked seeing her blush and wondered if she was one of those women whose flush covered her entire torso if it was deep enough. He sent a desist thought to his groin, but it bounced the notion back with the urge to keep her talking and blushing. “I can’t use a word like Blossoms in a composition title. I’m far too manly for that—it would make me appear weak.”

“Then how about icy shards? That shouldn’t challenge your masculinity.” The temperature in her tone matched that of the hypothetical ice.

What had he said? It figured he would get himself in trouble before long. What did she want?

The answer came to him, then—to be respected for who she was. And he saw her as a very strong woman. But he didn’t know what to say to get himself out of this mess. He only knew one thing—he didn’t want her to leave angry.

“Forgive me,” he said and took her hand. That was always a safe bet, much safer than the ones that had ended him up in this mess, the ones he’d taken to escape his father’s influence.

“For…?” She wouldn’t look at him, and she snatched her hand away.

“For being an ass. I’m too good at it. I didn’t mean to imply that womanliness was the opposite of strength. In truth, you and Iris are two of the strongest people I know.”

“Iris? You are on such intimate terms with her?”

“Miss McTavish, then. Yes, we’ve been working together to help Edward, and no, nothing improper has occurred between us. We’re…friends.”

“You’re not accustomed to being friends with women.” Her statement was almost a question.

“Not typically. I’ve not treated them well in the past, I fear.”

What was she doing to him to make him want to confess and clear his conscience to make room for… For what? He certainly had no desire to be tied down to anyone. As soon as he got this little problem with the Clockwork Guild worked out, he planned to continue the adventure they’d started, perhaps even to the Ottoman Empire and beyond, and he wasn’t afraid to go on alone.

She drew back, but she didn’t leave. “Why the sudden burst of honesty?”

“It was the music. It is a piece about my home, and I play it when I miss it.”