OTHER THAN by Mia Jo Celeste / Gaslamp fantasy, paranormal romance / Released Jan 27, ,2017 by The Wild Rose Press
Her mad dash brought Evie skidding into a wondrous sight. The whole kitchen was awash in a yellow blaze. The bread ovens’ bricks glowed a vivid orange. Sparks like fireflies rode eddies of the heated air that felt soothing under her wet quilt. The water gave her the notion of safety within the beautiful and deadly inferno.
Boots paced above her. A door swung shut.
Hope fluttered in her belly. Mayhap she might just do it—race up the steps, rescue Victor and be out of the kitchen before the flames caught her. She dashed through and mounted the stairs.
Adrenaline fueling her speed, she attempted to outrace the flickering destruction climbing the stairs along her heelsnd succeeded. Amazingly succeeded. Apparently, the fire was slowing, as though sated and content to toy with the kitchen.
Perhaps Sesha and Jessup had convinced their Almighty to aid her even after she’d reneged on her promise. She owed them—she’d save the cure in their memory. She sped into the ruined conservatory and got to the table, but the rack was empty. No vials. And the top of Jessup’s desk was clear. His journals and notes were gone.
On the floor, splattered blood led to and from the threshold. She followed it to the phoenix room and sensed Victor beyond the door.
He was alive. She’d found him.
For a moment, she gave in to giddy relief. Then, she turned the knob and entered.
Victor was before her. Surrounded by smoke, but before her.
His hair singed, the right side of his face blistered from heat, the left a deadly pallid, he slumped on the red-quilted bed and mopped at a red gushing hole in his abdomen with his torn off shirt. Seeing her, he straightened. Hope gleamed in his eyes. “You came. I called and you came.”
“You called?” She wanted to lift and twirl him in the air like he did her. Silly maybe. She was as dazed as the phoenix in the wall paper.
Real flames gnawed the hand-painted vines. “Why? Why are you here?”
“You don’t give me much credit.” His eager grin flattened. “Where is that trust, you’re working on?”
She wrung her hands. Their future depended on his next words. “You came because of the Maiden, didn’t you?”
“Damn right. I shan’t spend the rest of my life with her egregious murmurs in my mind nor can I allow her to inflict her will on others.”
She searched his eyes, and then his skin, those small tells, the nuisances of expression that hid deception. They weren’t there. He was earnest. He hadn’t intended to use the statue but destroy it. She swallowed to clear the lump in her throat.
“What did you think?” He waved a bloody hand as if warding off a blow. “No, don’t say.”
Blood. She jerked straight. Hoff had shot him. Here she was fretting over their future while he bled.
“Mayhap, I don’t deserve credit.” Victor’s lips twitched into a sardonic smile.
Always so good at wheedling out her feelings, he’d likely read her concern over his wound. Her vision blurred in the heated air.
“I know I’ve done unspeakable things. Things that need now to be set right. I began last night with you and our relationship. I thought I’d succeeded, but no.”
“You did. You have. It’s me who’s at fault currently. I doubted you, but I don’t now. It’s your health that alarms me. You, I’m sure of. Very sure.” She blinked hard and focused on the goal—Victor.