CINDERMAID makes its debut this Tuesday–and the winner for its Amazon release day copy has already been notified! As a special thanks to everyone who entered the contest, the book will be available for 99 cents for a limited time, starting Wednesday, October 16th through the 23rd.
There will be more chances to win for future and current positive reviewers on retail sites for those of you who are signed up for the newsletter/reader’s circle. We’ll be posting more details and sending them in the newsletter as we approach the next cycle of The Dark Woods Series.
Can’t wait to see what’s inside the latest book? Glance below for one more sneak peek before CINDERMAID’s official debut:
“Would you like to know how I came all this way?” he asked.
“If you wish to tell me,” she answered. She took a tinderbox and lit the candle on the sideboard as the ones lighted upon the table now flickered low.
A spider crouched on its web in the corner drew away from it; legs slowly winding a struggling fly in threads of silk like the hollow bundles swinging lifelessly around it. Empty forms swaying from single threads along the web's edge.
“There was such outrage when his cottage door was found broken and the woman gone. Every place was combed, every wood and vale and rotted stable. All hope was lost -- there were stories of a strange widow -- one villager saw her and swore it was the same -- but then she disappeared.”
“But then,” he shifted his position more comfortably at the table, “There was a letter.”
Madame Levier's fingers were very still as they held the flame to the wick, although the light had already begun to burn. She was listening closely; he could see it in her eyes, perhaps.
“A young lady had come into the employment of a widow with two children. She had heard rumors in the past of a mythical husband and a prostitute masquerading as a noblewoman at some time or other. But she did not believe it until she lived a long time in the house of her employer.”
In the brightness of the candle’s close light, Madame Levier was as pale as death. In one hand, she held the candelabra; the other lifted a decanter of wine from the scant row of liquors upon the sideboard.
“There were certain strange things that made her believe that here lay the key to all those stories. And when a time came that she could bear the secrets no longer, she sent a letter of them to the magistrate in the village where the murder happened.”
Reaching into his coat, he drew out a folded piece of paper, a broken wax seal upon its topmost edge. “This is the letter, Madame. For my employer, the merchant, is the magistrate.”
As he unfolded it, scrawling words were revealed inside, blue ink which seeped in places as if the hand which penned it was unsteady. “She informed him of the place where her mistress dwelled -- but then, the lady in question was removed from there suddenly. It took me a great deal of time to again find the home of the widow and two children.”
The wine decanter sat before Madame Levier’s wine glass from dinner, the candelabra on the table between them.
“You do not speak of the whole story,” she said. “There was nothing in your tale of the windows nailed shut and the doors locked by key. Nor of the chamber windows painted over and the torment within.”
“This is not the tale of a country maiden of poor prospects,” he answered.“This is a matter of ingratitude. Of suffering inflicted upon those who depended upon a man’s life and fortunes.”
From the cabinet above the sideboard, Madame Levier took two glasses from the row of poor crystal, a pair the same color and size as the ones which had served the suitors of her daughters. She placed one before Monsieur Lappo and one before her own seat.
“Let us speak plainly.” Her gaze was cold, although her voice held a faint quiver of emotion. “What is it that you want?”
“Do you intend to bribe me?” he asked. “Is that your intention, Madame Levier? I think you hardly have the means to do such a thing, else the quality of your table would be better.”
“Then why are you here?” she asked. “You know everything, it would seem. What more is to be had by confronting me?” She seated herself at the table again and poured a glass of wine.
He filled his glass from the decanter, then took a draught. “You have not suffered for your crimes,” he said. “I wish to see you hang for the murder of Monsieur Bespierre. The man whom you gutted in his own bed.”
“And you have come all this way to force me to suffer this fate,” she asked.
“I was cheated of seeing the hangman put a rope around the neck of my master’s murderer,” he said. “There is nothing else that would satisfy me or his friends in all the village. No amount of gold or silver could compensate me for it.”
“You have seen my daughters,” she answered. “Is there no pity in your heart for them?”
He snorted. “Had he lived to see his child, he might have been pleased to do something for her -- she is pretty enough, certainly. But it is you, Madame, who doom them both with your destruction.”
She was silent. “But what if I refuse and deny these charges?” Her voice was low. “What then? You have nothing except the letter in your pocket, Monsieur. And its author is dead.”
“Then I shall speak to the magistrate of your own village. I will write to my master and tell him where I am -- he will send soldiers at arms if he must.”
“Then you have not written to him already?” Madame Levier’s face was pale, but not as pale as the man before her, whose glass was now nearly empty.
“Not since Toulec,” he answered. “But will it matter, when I bring you to him?”
“Unless I found a means of persuading you to go without telling him of me.“