I'm pleased to welcome Kara Jorgensen back to my blog to celebrate her latest steampunk release, The Winter Garden. She has a marvelous excerpt for us below. Check it out!
The Winter Garden; Book Two of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices
by Kara Jorgensen
Can death be conquered?
When Immanuel Winter set off to the banks of the Thames, he never thought his life would be changed forever. Emmeline Jardine, a young Spiritualist medium, drowns, but the potion given to Immanuel by his mother brings her back from the dead and irrevocably intertwines their souls.
But Emmeline and Immanuel aren’t the only ones aware of his ancestors’ legacy. Understanding the potential of such an elixir, the ruthlessly ambitious Alastair Rose knows securing the mysteries of death will get him everything he desires: power, a title, but more importantly, dominion over the dead and the living.
Unaware of what the dashing madman is capable of, Emmeline follows him deeper into a world of corrupt mediums, unscrupulous scientists, and murder. All that stands between Lord Rose and his prize is the boy who refuses to die, but both men know the key to stopping him lies within the girl who shares Immanuel’s soul.
When Immanuel Winter begrudgingly set off from the dormitories all the way to the bank of the Thames to sketch and label the native flora for his botany class, he never thought the day would have ended in anything more exciting than sunburn. As the blonde man sat tucked under an oak tree with his sketchbook resting on his narrow thighs and the August sun scorching the side of his face, he listened to the voices on the other side of the copse. On the way to his spot near the river, he had passed a large picnic of well-dressed families and their servants. At first he thought the merry group may have been the professors and their wives, but then he noticed the banner welcoming the guests to the 1891 Annual Oxford Spiritualist Society Picnic. The young man’s stomach growled at the thought of it. Oh, how he wished the professors were the ones having a feast. With a sigh, he once again applied himself to sketching a stalk of water mint that peeked from the water’s edge. He smiled as he inspected his handiwork. His mother was fond of flowers, and he hoped in a few months when the term was over to send her a great folio of English botanical prints to go along with her collection of German ones.
“I like your necklace.”
Immanuel looked up to find a young woman staring down at him. Her strigine brown eyes and soft porcelain cheeks gave her an inquisitive expression that made her appear more like a child than the young woman she was. As she tucked a curl behind her ear, he followed the girl’s coffee hair across her cheek and down to her shoulder where it drizzled onto her white gown. His hand instinctively reached for the chain hanging around his neck. He had always considered the pendant quite ugly, but his mother insisted he wear it to England to keep him safe. It was a vial no bigger than his finger wrapped in curled gold vines and tarnished silver leaves. Etched into the stopper were the words “Miscē cum Cruor.” His mother said to use it if he was ever injured, but from the murk of the liquid within and the vial’s ugly exterior, he always joked that it was probably filled with poison.
“Thank you,” he replied, his German accent gone after over three years on English soil.
Her gaze traveled over him, scrutinizing his face and taking in his deep-set blue eyes, angular cheekbones, and sandy hair before migrating to his sketches. “Are you an artist?”
“No, I’m studying to become a scientist.”
She plucked the sprig of blue and yellow flowers from her hair and held it out to him. “What are these are called?”
“Myosotis scorpiodes, true forget-me-not,” Immanuel replied as he flipped to the page where he drew them earlier and held it up for her to see.
“I like forget-me-not better.” As she went to put the flower back in her hair, it was as if she noticed the fabric parcel in her hand for the first time. “My mother sent this for you. She thought you looked hungry.”
He gratefully took the bag of food she dropped into his lap, unable to suppress his shock at the unwarranted act of kindness. “Thank you. Please, miss, tell your mother thank you for me.”
With a nod and a smile, she turned and strolled back to the picnic, running her hands over the trees and grasses as she went. Immanuel untied the linen bundle to reveal a roast beef and a Welsh rarebit sandwich along with a turnover pastry. He ravenously dug into the spread, savoring the rare meat as it bled down his lips with each bite.
The hair on the back of his head prickled. Looking around the trunk of a tree, he spotted a middle-aged version of the young woman watching him from the picnic nearly a quarter of a mile away. She sat perfectly still beneath her parasol in the midst of the prattle and bustle of the other guests, a statuesque queen in white lace and silk. He mouthed, Thank you, and held up the remnant of his meal as she gave him a stately nod. Once the remaining sandwich and pastry had been devoured and the evidence licked from his fingers, he went back to his book and weeds.
Immanuel stretched, cracking his neck and long fingers, before readjusting the wool coat canopy he created using the reeds and bushes he was sitting between and his jacket. He looked toward the river as a familiar voice sweetly sang and hummed. The owl-eyed woman’s ivory parasol bobbed as she stooped to add wildflowers and pretty weeds to her bouquet before plopping down onto the lawn. As she sat near the bank only a few yards away and picked stray blades of grass and bugs from her hoard, Immanuel lightly sketched her form. For a few moments, his eyes and hand worked in unison, tracing the curves of her hair where they melded with her cheek and back. With his pencil, he darkened in her hair but frowned when the arabesques muddied into a grey graphite clump. Immanuel glanced up from the paper to study the pattern of the lace on her dress when his eyes met only an empty patch of grass and a pile of flowers. His eyes roved from the thickets on both sides of his den to the group of picnickers, but the woman with the curious expression was nowhere to be found. With a sigh, he slowly began packing up his supplies to head back to Oxford before dinner. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught something moving. A parasol floated lazily down the river, twirling as it became entangled in the plants at the water’s edge. He abandoned his tools and grasped the ivory handle, but as he brought the umbrella out of the water, the unmistakable flutter of white fabric and dark tresses wafted near the other bank.
“Ach mein Gott!” he gasped as he searched for anyone nearby who could help her. The words in English suddenly escaped him as his eyes locked onto the young woman’s lifeless form.
Taking a step back, he ran off the edge of the bank and plunged into the brisk water of the Thames. Puffs of silt erupted around him, obscuring his vision, but as the dirt settled, he saw her suspended above him just below the water’s edge. Swimming closer, he found the young woman’s eyes shut and her face a deathly pallor. Tendrils of inky hair and the lace of her gown drifted with the current while her arm still hung above her as if she had reached for the surface before succumbing to the River Isis. Immanuel wrapped his arms around her, but her body refused to budge. With a sharp tug, her foot broke from the roots and reeds, sending out bits of debris and mud. Immanuel’s chest tightened and the urge to open his mouth grew almost too strong to ignore as he kicked toward the surface but was hampered by the weight of her waterlogged petticoat. Closing his eyes, he fiercely writhed toward the warmer waters in one last effort to save them. His lips broke open in a gasp, drawing in not only the Thames’s earthen waters but the thick summer air. Holding head above the surface, he let the tide carry them down to the bank.
Immanuel laid her against the bed of wild flowers before hauling himself onto the grass and dragging her onto the bank. Leaning close, he patted her cold cheek, which had blanched to the color of her dress. Her lax, blue lips refused to move or draw a breath, yet behind her ear remained the sprig of forget-me-nots. He touched her face and shook her shoulder begging her to return to consciousness, but her body and face remained still. His heart raced as he touched her neck, feeling his own frantic pulse against her artery. No beats of blood fought against his fingers. Finally Immanuel put his head to her breast, but the familiar tug and pull of life were gone.
“Hilfe! Please!” he cried desperately toward the faceless picnickers as he picked up her listless form, but with the dense between them and the chatter, they couldn’t hear him. Tears burned the backs of his eyes as he helplessly held her against his chest, wishing someone would hear his pleas. The right words escaped in a stifled shout, “Someone please help!”
The woman’s head lolled over his arm, and as it rolled, her hair wrapped around the chain of his pendant and nearly pulled it from his neck. The necklace. Carefully laying her down again, he uncorked the vial but hesitated. Could he trust his ancestors or was the potion was merely a family hoax? Immanuel looked from the murk to her lifeless features. It couldn’t hurt her now even if it was poison. Then again, if his mother said it could save him, then he had to trust that it would.
He reread the words incised into the top, cruor. He needed blood. The scientist quickly checked her body but found it to be pristine. Rushing over to his art supplies, his wet shoes slid out from under him and sent him to his knees. Immanuel scrambled to his bag for a pen. The moment it was in his hand, he dug the nib as hard as he could into the skin of his palm. With a final twist, the blood hesitantly dripped from the shallow wound. He removed the top, his eyes stinging with the astringent odor of the brew, before letting his blood trickle into the milky liquid. The fluid bubbled as the red droplets spread and with their invasion came the sweet smell of honey. Immanuel carefully supported her head as he poured the fizzling potion between her lax lips. Voices were coming through the trees as he called out again for help, waiting and hoping what his mother told him was true.
Then, he felt it. His pounding heart seized. The chambers froze one after another until his heart, for the first time since the womb, stood waiting for the spark of life. With a final exhalation, all the air seeped from his lungs. Had he forfeited his own life to save hers? Immanuel hung precariously on the verge of darkness as every muscle in his body froze. When the sound of voices ceased, his fleeting thoughts turned to death. At twenty-one, he never thought he would recognize death with such clarity. A shudder passed over him as thousands of minute fibers prickled through his body and skin like a spider web. The moment the last thread escaped, his heart jolted back to life and his lungs inflated. He doubled over, catching his breath, and watched the girl’s big eyes flew open in pained confusion. Water gurgled up from her throat as Immanuel patted her back to sooth her ragged coughing sobs. His body shook with spent adrenaline, leaving only empty fear. The scientist stared at the empty vial and then at the woman. There was no plausible explanation for what happened, but at least they were both alive.
“Emmeline! Emmeline!” her mother cried as she clasped her sunhat to her head and sprinted toward the young man cradling her daughter. Only when she drew near did she see the pink of their flesh shining through where the river had reduced their clothing to muddy veils. “What happened?”
“Mama,” the young woman called from Immanuel’s lap as she tried to stand but fell when her shaking legs gave out. Tears mixed with silt streamed down her cheeks. “I fell in.”
As the other Spiritualists reached the river, Immanuel gathered her up as best he could with his quivering arms and handed her to the blonde man standing beside her mother. The gentleman’s honey eyes narrowed as he searched Immanuel’s features before coming to rest on the empty vial at his feet. Emmeline’s mother embraced her weeping child, coaxing her into quiet with consolatory promises of her safety. She closed her eyes as she pressed Emmeline’s damp face to her breast and held her against her heart, feeling the weight of what could have been. Finally, she let her go, and the gentleman carried her daughter back toward the tables on the other side of the trees.
“You saved her?” the woman asked as she worked a handkerchief in her grasp but never brought it to her eyes.
Staring into his eyes, she rested her hand on his damp shoulder. She studied his face to ensure she would always remember the boy who rescued her only child when she could not. “Thank you.”
About the Author:
Kara Jorgensen is an author and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. An anachronistic oddball from birth, she has always had an obsession with the Victorian era, especially the 1890s. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of literature and science through science fiction or, more specifically, steampunk. When she is not writing, she is watching period dramas, going to museums, or babying her beloved dogs. Currently, she has two steampunk novels out: The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden, but her work has also been featured in Selfish and Literary Orphans.
Connect with the author online:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kara-Jorgensen/e/B00L4KTO0W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1423590212&sr=8-1
Awards: The first book in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, The Earl of Brass, was designated as IndieReader Approved by the IndieReader.
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