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Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth—she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it. In 1860 Surrey, a young woman has only one occupation: to marry. Senza Fyne is beautiful, intelligent, and lacks neither wealth nor connections. Finding a husband shouldn’t be difficult, not when she has her entire life before her. But it’s not life that preoccupies her thoughts. It’s death—and that shadowy spectre haunts her every step. So does Mr. Knell. Heart-thumpingly attractive, obviously eligible—he’d be her perfect match if only he wasn’t so macabre. All his talk about death, all that teasing about knowing how to avoid it… When her mother arranges a courtship with another man, Senza is desperate for escape from a dull prescripted destiny. Impulsively, she takes Knell up on his offer. He casts a spell that frees her from the cruelty of time and the threat of death—but at a steep price. In order to maintain eternal youth, she must feed on the heartbeats of others. From the posh London season to the back alleys of Whitechapel, across the Channel, across the Pond, across the seas of Time… How far will Senza Fyne go to avoid Death?
He took her captive hand and raised it to his lips, his dark eyes glittering. A flush warmed her throat, spilling up into her cheeks. Who was he? They hadn’t been properly introduced. He shouldn’t be speaking to her, let alone pressing a kiss to her hand. It simply wasn’t done— “Will I have the honor this evening?” He released her hand, but held her still with his gaze. That smile again, like he had a secret. Like he knew something about her and would love to tease her with it. She couldn’t look away. For a moment, she was connected to him in a way she’d never felt before or would ever understand. “Um—” She stammered, her cheeks on fire. “I’m sorry, I’ve promised the next several numbers.” “Serves me right for waiting so long, bien-aimé. I will be content to wait for you.” He bowed low, sweeping out a slender hand in an eloquent gesture. “I would wait for you forever.” A flash of that smile, deeper this time, deep enough to send flutters through her entire body. A smile and he was gone, like smoke on a breeze, like a shadow retreating from the sun. “Miss Fyne.” Mr. Pembroke stepped through the crowd. “I believe I have the honor. Shall we?” She nodded, quite at a loss for words, still in thrall of that brief interlude with the man who had no name. His voice echoed through her head, drowning out Pembroke’s polite chatter and frequent admirations for her friend, the darling Miss Keating. One word repeated, over and over, a heartbeat in her head. Bien-aimé. French, for beloved. Although the stranger was not to be seen again for the remainder of the evening, Senza danced every last dance with him, even if only in spirit.
Meet Ash Krafton:
Ash Krafton is a writer of all things spec fic. She believes spectacular endings make the best beginnings... Why not? One billion black holes can't be wrong. The second bravest thing she's ever done was volunteering to go first when her Girl Scout troop visited a High Ropes challenge course somewhere back in the eighties. (Thankfully, few photos exist.) The third bravest thing was wearing her purple Colin Stuart boots with the extreme stiletto heel to her kids' school open house one year. (Three floors, all steps, no brakes.) The top of the Brave Things list, however, remains to be written. Ash can also be found:
And writing as AJ Krafton: