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Becoming the Dark Prince: A Stalking Jack the Ripper Novella
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Format:ebook (Digital original) $0.99 $0.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 15, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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In this irresistibly-priced short story, catch a glimpse of the inner struggles and triumphs that drive Stalking Jack the Ripper‘s endearing but troubled hero.
Enigmatic, brooding, and darkly handsome, Thomas Cresswell has always been the one mystery Audrey Rose has never been able to fully solve. As brilliant partners in crime investigation, they understand each other perfectly…but as young lovers, their passionate natures have led to both euphoria and heartbreak throughout the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.
This novella features a collection of scenes that takes place during and after the pair’s horrifying Atlantic voyage in Escaping From Houdini. Experience new and familiar scenes from Thomas’s unique point of view, including an intensely personal look into his plea for Audrey Rose’s hand in marriage.
With a romance for the ages, Audrey Rose and Thomas reach the conclusion to their epic, irresistible partnership in their final adventure, Capturing the Devil.
4 JANUARY 1889
Hail drummed its fingers against the porthole in my cabin, driving me half out of my mind as I tried—and failed—to count each drop. The cursed pitter-patter was too much to keep up with. I rolled onto my side, shoving my pillow beneath my head, and stared at the raging tempest outside. The sky was still the dangerous bluish-black of night and would probably remain that way well past dawn. Or maybe the weather would surprise me like other recent events had.
Outside, ropes creaked, the sound like ghosts cracking doors open. The RMS Etruria unsettled me. Or perhaps it was the maelstrom of emotions stirring deep within me that made me uncomfortable. Jealousy was a miserable mistress to have. It seemed to grow every time I imagined the seductive grin Mephistopheles wore like another mask around Wadsworth.
He was especially intolerable after his nightly carnival performances, strutting around like a king of fools. What’s worse, passengers seemed charmed by his deceit. Like taking on the name and persona of a demon of legend was something to applaud. As if hiding his identity with frivolous masks both on and off the stage was a delicious mystery to sink their teeth into.
I hated his easy laughter and glittering suits, flashing like stars in the night sky.
I hated his self-serving bargains and perception of everything as a game.
I really hated how hard he tried to charm the girl I adored. Right in front of me.
But most of all, I hated the ugly beast that Mephisto’s actions roused in me. Partly because of my mother’s Dracula lineage, and partly because it seemed to give him pleasure, my father called me a monster. He said it often enough that it was almost easy to believe. Especially once I took a fascination with studying the dead. Who but an abysmal creature would choose such a dark fate? That gnawing worry mixed with the discomfiting knowledge of my Romanian ancestors was enough to plant seeds of fear—that somewhere lurking beneath my cool exterior, a beast was waiting, hoping to devour the gentleman I pretended to be.
I wondered if I loathed Mephistopheles more because of how badly I longed to unleash that monster clawing under my skin. I shoved a hand through my hair, uncaring that it stuck out chaotically now. Personal loathing aside, the ringmaster wasn’t good enough for Audrey Rose Wadsworth.
Not that I had any right to offer such an opinion.
I still didn’t believe Wadsworth wanted the pompous peacock of a ringmaster, and, honestly, his efforts to win her over ought to be amusing. Which made me wonder at the twinge of… something… still rising in me at the thought.
I’d deduced soon enough that whatever bond was forming between them—at least on her part—was borne out of a bargain; I just hadn’t quite solved the mystery of what he’d offered that was important enough for her to omit parts of the truth. Wadsworth was an unstoppable force while investigating a crime, but there was something more driving her now. Something personal.
Spying on them would give me the details I needed, but I couldn’t abide by the idea of surveilling the person I loved like some deviant. I’d promised that she was always free to choose her own path, and I refused to act otherwise because of him.
Imaginary talons scraped against my senses, provoking me to act.
Bloody hell. I needed help. I was allowing thoughts of this fool—who’d named himself after a bargain-making demon in a Faust legend, and had so obviously taken on that same dark persona for the stage—to crawl like maggots beneath my skin.
Writing to my sister, Daciana, for assistance in the matter would be wise, but the post couldn’t be sent from sea and I wouldn’t get a response until after we’d reached New York anyway. I’d need to sort out these emotions on my own. I sighed and rubbed a hand through my hair again. Of all the complex puzzles the world offered, who would have guessed my emotions would be the greatest challenge of my life?
The hail abruptly stopped its assault, drawing my attention to the sudden silence. It was a break in the weather I couldn’t resist. I glanced at the clock. Dawn was still a few hours away, but I must have been ruminating over the ringmaster of the Moonlight Carnival longer than I’d realized. Demon spawn that he was. I shot up out of bed and quickly dressed. I needed air. If the clouds parted, perhaps I’d get lucky and see the stars. I desired a nice visit with two of my favorite constellations—Ursa Minor and Cygnus.
I didn’t expect anyone to be out so early—or so late depending on the circumstances—especially with the threat of another storm approaching. I should have known better than to apply that rule to Audrey Rose. Nothing as pedestrian as the weather would keep her caged when she had a goal to achieve and a young woman’s murder to solve.
I knew the theatrical manner in which the bodies were posed for discovery enraged her. Anyone with an ounce of compassion would despise the garish homage to tarot cards that the killer used. But Audrey Rose felt so deeply that the need to right every wrong consumed her. It was visible in the fire in her sea-green eyes, twin embers that seemed to promise vengeance for those who’d been so horribly wronged in both life and death.
I fought a smile. It was one of the qualities I loved most about her. I—
I abruptly stopped walking as she and her cousin approached from the opposite end of the promenade, no doubt heading for their shared cabin. She seemed relaxed, happy. Her arm was looped through Liza’s, their smiles infectious as they giggled much too loudly and promptly shushed each other before dissolving into even more laughter.
I paused, half-considering turning around before they spied me, when my attention fastened on what she wore. Midnight stockings showed off her legs, and her low-cut, red-and-black striped corset was sprinkled with just the right number of sequins to draw the eye strategically to her curves. I swallowed hard and cursed under my breath. She was dressed like one of the Moonlight Carnival performers, and she was a vision.
And I was staring like a besotted fool.
I heard Daciana’s voice in my head, admonishing me for getting flustered over something as mundane as clothing. With a great amount of strain, I forced myself to think clearly and logically. And to most certainly stop glancing at the dark silk outlining the shape of her hips…
“Oh, Mr. Cresswell!”
Liza drew them up short. Audrey Rose’s face registered shock when she looked up and saw me. I studied her expression intently, thrilled to see I was a welcome surprise. I worried she might think I’d been purposely walking by her cabin to check on her. Truthfully, I didn’t realize I’d been heading this way. I’d been too consumed with my own thoughts.
Liza looked between us and bit her lip, trying to keep the smile from her face as she let her cousin go and rushed to their door. She gave a most exaggerated yawn, not fooling anyone with her acting as she feigned tiredness.
“I am so exhausted,” she said to no one in particular. “I’ll just be in here, sleeping soundly.”
She winked at Audrey Rose and slipped inside, leaving us alone. A curious thing happened to my pulse—it surged. Fear and desire shot through me. A confusing mix I’d need to ponder later when I was alone. For now, I needed to remember to breathe and act like the gentleman I was trying to convince myself I was.
“Cresswell.” She swayed forward, narrowing her eyes. “Is it really you?”
I flashed her my most charming look. “Not to worry, Wadsworth. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m actually real either.”
Her gaze moved to my mouth and lingered. An expression close to longing crossed her face. It was the same look she’d given me when we’d kissed in her cabin a few nights ago. I recalled the warmth of her body, the feel of her soft skin, the way she’d tasted…
I inhaled deeply and focused on solving mathematical equations. I thought of numerators and denominators. I conjured square roots. Anything, anything to keep from noticing my pounding heartbeat and the way she made me nervous and excited all at once.
And then she slowly licked her lips—as if she’d deduced the heat blazing through me, destroying my resolve to set her free.
It took all of my willpower to keep myself a decent distance away. One word or plea from her was all it’d take. It was more than lust. More than a physical need. I adored every part of her. If she asked me to, I’d unleash every one of my desires, pleasuring her in a way that would let her know precisely how much I cherished her.
Praise for the #1 New York Times bestselling seriesStalking Jack the RipperHunting Prince DraculaEscaping From Houdini
*"A marvelous yet somewhat gruesome mystery...an unexpected twist makes the ending worth the wait. A must-have."—School Library Journal (*starred review*)
"There are plenty of suspects and red herrings as well as tense escalations....A scenic, twisty mystery."—Kirkus Reviews
"Audrey is a young woman eager to use her brains and willing to flaunt society's rules....This mystery pays homage to classics like Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein [and] will satisfy those readers looking for historical mystery, a witty heroine, and a little romance."
—School Library Connection
"Maniscalco has created a serious, sharp-minded, and forward-thinking protagonist in Audrey Rose, whose fearlessness will endear her to readers looking for an engaging historical thriller. Abundant red herrings and a dash of romance round out this gruesome but engrossing story."
"Every sentence of this novel drips with decadence. The settings and Midnight Carnival performances are lush yet dangerous, beautiful yet terrifying. It was easy to understand just how Audrey Rose comes to be so enthralled with the Midnight Carnival and the performers because, as readers, we're put under the same exact spell.... Masterfully crafted."—Hypable
- On Sale
- Jul 15, 2019
- Page Count
- 64 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers