Read A Dark Heart Online

Authors: Margaret Foxe

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Victorian, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Steampunk, #Historical Romance

A Dark Heart

 

 

 

 

A Dark Heart

A Victorian Steampunk Romance

Book Two of
The Elders and Welders Chronicles

By Margaret
Foxe

 

 

 

 

 

The characters, places and events portrayed in this book are
fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
and not intended by the author. The author has taken liberties with the details
of the historical events mentioned in this book.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Margaret Foxe

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by electronic or
mechanical means – except for brief quotations – without written
permission. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook
may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share
this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each
recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for
respecting the hard work of this author.

Cover art by Clarissa Yeo (
www.bookcoversale.com
)

Visit the author on
Amazon
,
Goodreads
,
Facebook
,
Google+
or
Wordpress
, or
Tweet
her @FoxeSteampunk.

 

 

 

 

 

To my BFF Vicky:

 

Cymru, baby. Cymru.
Just you wait for Brightlingsea’s story. His mother was Welsh, and he … well,
Shakespeare pretty much says it all:

 

At my nativity

The front of heaven
was full of fiery shapes,

Of burning
cressets; and at my birth


The frame and huge
foundation of the earth


Shaked like a
coward.

 

-Glendower (
Henry
IV, Pt. 1
)

 

So, yeah, he’s
shaping up to be a real badass, old school rules. But for now, dear friend,
you’re going to have to make do with yet
another
vampire story. What can
I say? I couldn’t resist. But mine don’t sparkle. They just brood and make
really
bad choices. Enjoy.

 

Prologue

 

London,
1888

LADY
Christiana Harker couldn’t count the number of times she’d awakened with the
image of Elijah Drexler's brilliant sapphire eye still gleaming in her mind, a
remnant of her never-ending dreams of him. The number was embarrassingly
incalculable. She'd loved Elijah since she was seventeen and he was a wounded,
feral boy of eight. And she'd been
in
love with him since she'd returned
to London six years ago and met the man he'd become. She hadn't been able to
help herself. The moment she'd seen him again, she'd lost her heart – and
the tormenting dreams had begun.

Impossible dreams, for so many reasons. He didn't even know she was Ana,
the sick girl from his past, a girl who was supposed to have died over twenty
years ago. He, like everyone else, thought she was her younger sister. And she
was forbidden from telling him the truth.

Though she doubted it would change anything between them. She might be
hopelessly in love with him, but he'd never shown signs of suffering the same
affliction. He didn't even seem to like her – went out of his way to
avoid her, in fact. And she knew it was because of her resemblance to the dead
girl he'd once adored. So she'd endured her case of unrequited love without
attempting to interfere in his life, just as she was destined – and bound
by an oath – to do.

But then, last week, she'd followed Elijah into Whitechapel, and
everything had changed. She'd more than ignored Rowan's rules. She'd shattered
them, and she'd not seen Elijah since.

Until now. This time the sapphire eye peering down at her wasn't part of
a lingering dream. She was quite awake, for she could feel the cold spring
breeze from the open casement window caressing her exposed skin, and the hot,
uneven breaths from the man hovering above her against her cheek. The
sensations were too real to be a dream.
He
was too real.

He'd come to her.
At last
. Moonlight made the deep blue of his
left eye glimmer, just like in her dreams. And just like in her dreams, he was
much too close, the heat of his trembling body like a furnace, and just inches
from her own. So close, but never close enough.

But this very real, very angry, wild-eyed man was hardly the tender lover
of her foolish dreams. So she lay still beneath him, afraid to move, her own
breath growing labored as he studied her with savage intensity.

Her body was on fire from his proximity, and her mind raced with a
thousand questions. She'd been so worried, wondering where he'd been since he'd
run away from her a week ago in that alley in Whitechapel. Wondering if he was
even alive. But despite the chaos of her thoughts and her uncomfortably
feminine response to his nearness, she finally latched onto one significant
fact.

Elijah Drexler had two eyes. Two real, human eyes. Which wasn't possible.

He'd lost his right eye when he was eight years old, in the same fire
that had given him the razor-like scar streaking down his cheek and the limp in
his right leg. In an act of charity, her father had taken in the half-dead East
End urchin after he'd been discovered by the Metropolitan Police in the ruins
of a burnt-out slum. The old Earl had given him a brass-fitted, goggle-like
Welding eye to replace the one he'd lost, and a Welding brace to support his
crushed leg. Christiana, herself an invalid at the time, had helped nurse the
lad back to health, so she'd
seen
his ruined eye before the Welder had
come to fix it.

But now...

She couldn't restrain herself any longer, despite the warning in his
expression. She sat up abruptly, the bedcovers falling to her waist, and raised
a hand towards his left cheek to draw him near. He dodged her with a hiss,
leaning just out of her reach.

His rejection stung, as always, though she refused to show it. She reached
over to her nightstand and turned up the gas lamp instead.

He glared at her with stony defiance as she studied the miracle before
her in the warm glow of the lamp. The strange scar on his cheek remained, but
he had a new, perfectly formed eye, fringed with beautiful long, sooty black
lashes to match the other one. But the eye wasn't sapphire. It was the color of
amber fire.

The color of Rowan's eyes.

Her blood ran cold, and she clutched the bed sheets around her lap to
keep from reaching for him. She'd imagined a thousand consequences to her
actions that night, but not this. He'd
regrown
an eye – an
immortal
's
eye, judging by its unnatural color. And somehow she suspected that was not all
that had changed.

"What did you do to me?" he rasped.

She shook her head, unable to speak through her shock. He scowled at her
silence and impatiently jerked the collar of his loose white shirt apart,
revealing a throat untouched by a Welder's blade. She sucked in a sharp breath,
her unease growing. The Iron Necklace, a breathing device everyone of his
generation had implanted in order to survive the worst years of the Great Fog,
was gone. Not even a scar remained as evidence it had ever even existed.

She trailed her eyes back up to his face, the stark, ruined beauty of his
features obscured by the shadows dancing through the room and the thick stubble
on his jaw. He looked as if he'd not slept in a week, and his fever-bright,
mismatched eyes were filled with such confusion, such accusation, she flinched.
And then she flinched again when, in an abrupt move she didn't see coming, he
reached out and jerked the Iron Necklace from her own neck, snapping the metal
clasp in the back as if it were made of air. Had the device been real, he would
have ripped her throat out with the force of his action. But it wasn't real,
and her neck was as untouched as his own, a fact that he'd obviously deduced.

At least, she hoped he had, before he’d torn the device off of her so
violently.

He tossed the false necklace aside with a look of disgust and crouched
further from her at the end of the bed, watching her, waiting, his body
literally thrumming with his fury.

She clutched her exposed throat reflexively, her mind whirling. She knew
she owed him answers, though she didn't have very many. "Your leg?"

He growled – literally
growled
– with impatience.
"Healed. What did you
do
to me?" he repeated, gritting every
word out.

Her mind raced back to last week's debacle. Elijah had been one breath
away from his last that night, after the Ripper had left him for dead. If she
hadn't been there, watching from the shadows, he would have died. As she'd held
him in her arms, she'd
felt
the life leeching from him. She'd reacted
purely on instinct, unable to bear the thought of losing him. She'd had to try
something – even if that something was forbidden.

"I didn't even know if it would work, but I couldn't lose you, Eli.
I couldn't let you die."

When the nickname she'd called him as a boy slipped from her lips,
unbidden, she knew she'd made things even worse. He froze and fixed her with a
look that took the last of her breath away. The fury was still there, but
alongside that was a quiet devastation.

As if she'd broken his heart.

"You're
her
," he whispered. In anguish.

Her heart sank, and she hated herself for causing the pain she heard in
his voice.

"You're Ana. Somehow ... you're
her
," he continued.

"Eli..."

"Tell me the truth, damn you!" he breathed. "You're Ana.
Not her
sister
."

She could do nothing but nod, and, coward that she was, stare at her
trembling hands, unable to meet his accusatory stare any longer.

He cursed under his breath, and, even with the distance between them, she
could feel the tension in his body coil even tighter.

"I should have known, the moment I saw you six years ago ... I
knew
,
but I couldn't believe ... How is it possible?" he cried. "How is any
of this possible?"

She sighed and threw back the covers, sliding her feet to the ground,
unable to remain where she was a moment longer. She felt too ... vulnerable,
tucked up in her bed while he raged at her.

But at her movement, he leapt from the bed all the way across the room in
the blink of an eye, pinning himself against a wall and gazing at her in
horror. "What are you doing? Stay where you are!" he breathed, his
lungs working as if he’d run clear across the city.

She froze halfway to her feet, her stomach turning over. She'd never seen
anyone move as fast as Elijah had, save for Rowan and the other Elders.

Oh, this was not good, not good at all. But she refused to panic. Elijah
was doing enough of that for the both of them, crouching against the wall and
following her every movement like a cornered animal. She feared he was a breath
away from shattering completely.

She tried to remain calm as she stepped across the room and fetched her
silk wrap from the back of a Queen Anne chair. It was flimsy, but it blocked
the chill in the air. And it gave her time to gather her wits. She approached
him, but he held up a hand, averting his head, nostrils flaring.

"Don't come any closer," he gritted out with such agony in his
tone that she stopped, though her instinct was to wrap him in her arms and hold
him close to her heart forever. "Just tell me what is happening to
me," he demanded. "Tell me you aren't a monster like me!"

Her dread deepened at the word. "You're not a monster, Elijah. I'm
not a monster either. You remember how sick I was when you were a boy. I was
dying, and Rowan healed me."

His eyes widened at the mention of the Earl. "Healed you? He did
more than heal you," he bit out.

She nodded weakly. "I don't age. And I don't get sick, and if I'm
hurt, I heal ... very quickly. I know it's difficult to believe. But Rowan is
... well, he's immortal.”

But Elijah was hardly listening to her any longer. He just slumped
against the wall, shaking his head. "You never died.
Ana
never
died."

She clenched her hands at the horror in his voice, resisting the growing urge
to go to him. "To the world, that sick girl
did
die. It was a
necessary fiction, since the truth is ... impossible."

"A necessary fiction," he repeated in a dead voice.

"I'm sorry, Eli," she said softly. "You were my dearest
friend, and I had to lie to you."

"Friend," he spat, the broken expression quickly replaced by
anger. "You let me believe you died. You're not my
friend
. And I
certainly as hell am not yours. You've no idea..." He paced the room at an
alarmingly inhuman speed, running his hands through his unkempt, coal-black
hair in agitation. "Why did you come back at all? Why have you tormented
me for
six years
? Every time I looked at you, I saw
her
."

She shrugged helplessly. "I couldn't stay away. Father was dying,
and he needed me. It was easy enough to become Lady Christiana, and for Rowan
to become the brother I'd lost. So many years had passed, no one cared. And I
wanted to see
you..
."

"Don't," he warned, cutting her off. He covered his face with
his hands again, as if blocking out the world. "God, how I wish this were
a nightmare, how I wish I didn't believe every ludicrous thing you just told
me! The Earl is an
immortal
, and you ... I don't know
what
you
are. Bloody hell! I'd rather be insane than have this be real. Tell me what you
did to me!"

He was nearly shouting now, and she flinched at the rage vibrating
through his whole body.

"I ... I gave you my blood,” she said. “It was the only thing I
could think to do to save you. I thought that, perhaps, since Rowan's blood had
saved me, mine could save
you
. And it did."

He laughed wildly, humorlessly. "You've no idea what you've done, do
you?"

"No, not really," she admitted, biting her bottom lip.
"What I did is forbidden, against the laws that govern our kind."

"Your
kind
," he sneered. "Didn’t you ever think
there was a good reason it was forbidden?"

"I didn't think. I just didn't want you to die, Eli."

"Don't call me that. Never call me that," he said quietly, his
breathing once again growing ragged as he glowered at her.

"You'll always be Eli, that little boy who was so dear to me,"
she answered defiantly, stepping towards him once more, and into a beam of
moonlight. "And I'll never regret saving you—"

She broke off with a gasp when she saw the change come over him. One moment
he was scowling at her, the next moment both of his eyes glowed like lanterns
in the dark, and two long, sharp, metallic blades seemed to descend from his
mouth, curving slightly over his bottom lip. She had a hard time believing what
she was seeing, but the ocular evidence was fairly conclusive.

Elijah had fangs. Metal fangs.

And glowing amber eyes. Even the whites of his eyes were filled with the
strange fire, obscuring every other detail.

And he looked a hair's breadth away from pouncing on her, if his flaring
nostrils and clenched fists were any indication.

"What in heaven's name..." she began.

"Damn you, Lady Christiana," he growled in a deep, animal voice
she hardly recognized. "Move out of the moonlight before I do something
I'll regret."

But she remained where she was, too stunned to process what was
happening, much less move. "What?"

He tried to turn his head to hide his transformation – she could
see his struggle – but he couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from her.
An inhuman sound issued from deep in his chest, and he took a step towards her,
as if he couldn't help himself. "The moonlight ... I can see
everything
through your robe," he hissed.

It took another long moment before his meaning finally penetrated through
her shock. "Oh!" Her cheeks turned crimson, and she quickly retreated
back into the shadows, wrapping her arms around her breasts, pulling her robe
even tighter around her waist.

Other books

Sugar on Top by Marina Adair
Runaway Groom by Virginia Nelson
The Girls From Alcyone by Caffrey, Cary
Desired and Dominated by Eva Simone
As The World Burns by Roger Hayden
Elm Tree Road by Anna Jacobs
Shadow of the Sheikh by Nina Bruhns