ZM_CH6: In Which Nickie Nick Sees A Rickett

NickieCVR4WebContinuing in the Victorian tradition, enjoy today’s installment of The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel.  Every Friday a new installment of this YA Steampunk ParaRomance is published free for your enjoyment. Leave a comment and be entered to win an author-signed copy of the sequel, released Summer 2013. The more you comment, the more times your name is entered.

Follow Nicole Knickerbocker Hawthorn (Nickie Nick) as she discovers her destiny as The Protector, a powerful vampire hunter. Ashe, a dark and mysterious stranger, helps Nickie and her friends solve the mystery behind several bizarre disappearances. Suitable for teens, enjoyed by adults, the story is full of interesting steampunk gadgets, mad scientists, bloodthirsty vampires, and mesmerized zombies. This paranormal adventure is sure to appeal to fans of Boneshaker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries.

The Zombies of Mesmer is a Gothic Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel set in Victorian London. Appropriate for teens.

Get your very own copy of The Zombies of Mesmer in paperback or for your Kindle (FREE for Prime Members)! Don’t have a Kindle? Kindle apps are available for smart phones, PCs, and tablets. Have another eReader? Email me about other formats.

-_Q

Chapter 6: In Which Nickie Nick Sees A Rickett

The two younger boys looked up from their card game as Conrad and I entered the room. Their fear-filled eyes wide at the sight of the blood. Edwin started to cry silently.

“He will be all right.” I helped Conrad over to his bedroll. “It is just a scratch from a fight. Really, Edwin, it is not as bad as it looks.” I tried to be reassuring, but I turned to see three very uncomforted boys. “Really,” I said again. “He shall be just fine.”

They had all gathered rather close behind me to watch. I pulled up the beautiful stranger’s ascot and looked. The blood had stopped flowing. At the moment it was just a light ooze.

“Rufus, I need you to hold this tight on Conrad’s neck, all right?”

“No,” Conrad interrupted. “I can do it myself.” He smiled despite the pain and looked up at me with a softness I had not seen before. He looked at me the same way I had felt when I looked at that beautiful stranger.

Flustered, I got up quickly and stumbled on my oversized boots again. “Curse these boots!” I said, kicking them off. I can hardly walk in these clodhoppers let alone fight.

Franklin went back to his corner, picked up a piece of coal and started sketching something on the wall. The entire corner of the room was covered with his coal-sketched drawings, the first manifestation of his creations. Each of those drawings someday would be made into some amazing gadget pieced together with scavenged items from the streets.

“Are you all right, Nickie?” Edwin wiped away his tears. He saw the blood on my shirt collar, but I convinced him I was fine by taking off my coat and showing him my neck. Looking down, I noticed my waistcoat was shredded over my stomach, so I unbuttoned it and discovered that the shirt beneath it was shredded as well. The vampire must have lashed out at me just before he dusted. Fanny had said they had rather claw-like fingernails.

I felt beneath the shirt to see if my chemise was also ripped, but my hand touched something hard. The corset. In my rush to get dressed I had forgotten to take it off. Never did I think that I would forget about a corset. Good thing, too, as it likely saved my life tonight, or at least kept me from being slashed and wounded.

“Listen boys,” I started, still marveling at my luck two nights in a row. If I had had any doubt about the importance of training, that doubt was all gone. “Get some rest for a few hours and then gather your things. You are moving in the morning.”

“Moving? Where?” Rufus said. “Don’t you remember how long it took for us to find this place?”

“I know, and I’m sorry, Rufus. It just is not safe here anymore.”

“It is safer in here than on the streets,” he protested.

“You will not be on the streets. We shall think of something,” I reassured.

“I found another place earlier today,” Conrad said weakly from his corner. “It’s smaller than this, but it’s safe. They won’t know we’re there. Unless, of course, you lead them to us again, Nickie.”

Nausea. And it was not that vampire-is-near feeling, this was true nausea. It had been my carelessness that put them in this situation, but how was I to know? “I must get back out there, all right? We will move in the morning, after the sun comes up. That will be the safest time.”

I turned to leave, but Conrad stopped me.

“Here.” He grabbed a handful of carved stakes with his free hand, the other still held the ascot in place. He tossed the stakes to me and they all fell just at my feet on the earthen floor. Stooping to pick them up, I smiled. He had made all these for me.

When I looked back up at him to thank him, his eyes were once again full of love, so I turned away towards the others, not knowing what to do. Perhaps it was just because he was injured and afraid to die, but Conrad and I had been friends our whole lives. This just would not do.

“I shall keep watch tonight,” I said, looking around at the four boys. “Then in the morning, I will go home to change and get some food. All right? Then move you to Conrad’s new place.”

Rufus grabbed one of the stakes from Conrad’s bedside. “I’m coming with you.”

“Oh no you are not,” I replied in a tone that should have indicated there was to be no argument.

“I can fight.” He puffed his chest out.

“No, Rufus. Not tonight. Not without any training, and even then. It is just too dangerous.” His face fell and he turned, throwing the stake against the floor. He went to his own bed mat and plopped down, arms crossed.

“Let us all just get through the night, shall we? We will talk more about fighting and strategy tomorrow. Just get some rest, and take care of Conrad.”

After tucking all the new stakes into my belt and any free pocket (I even put one down my corset), I grabbed my overcoat and headed back outside.

The alley was quiet this time when I emerged, and the smell of the blood was fading in the freshly falling snow. I went up to the mouth of the alley and stood just out of the light from the nearby gaslamp. The night had barely begun and the streets were rather busy with carriages and full of the sounds of clopping hoofbeats. My mind went back to the beautiful stranger. Where had he come from? Where had he gone to? One hears stories about how something very bad could be happening in an alleyway just adjacent a very busy street, but no one comes to help. I found that hard to believe before tonight.

Yet he had come to help. He had probably saved Conrad’s life.

And he knew vampires existed, that was a definite benefit.

Then the strangest contraption caught my eye. It was a carriage without a horse, clattering down the street with the rest of the carriages. Being the daughter of industrialists, I certainly was not ignorant of modern machinery. After all, mother and father had some quite impressive steam machines that facilitated production in their textile factory. Even Franklin himself came up with truly ingenious inventions just from assembling junk and such, but this was like nothing I had ever seen up close. It looked every bit like a carriage, only instead of four wheels, it only had three, two large ones in back and a smaller one in front. From the large back wheels, chains ran from gears on the wheels to other gears extending from an axle beneath the carriage’s floor. A man sat on the right, fully dressed for the evening in a top hat and fine overcoat, holding onto the steering rod with his left hand and another lever with his right. A woman wrapped in a fur stole and earmuffs sat beside him.

Stepping up to get a closer look as the thing puttered by, I saw that there was a mechanism beneath the carriage floor that turned the gears, which in turn, turned the wheels. I stooped down to get a look of the thing from beneath, but it had already passed. There on the back sat the engine. It looked like a coal boiler and a long pipe extending up from it belched out steam.

“Interesting, no? A far cry from a penny-farthing,” a smooth voice above me said. I stood up quickly to find that it was none other than my beautiful stranger.

“Yes. It is a Rickett Carriage. I read about them, but I have never seen one before. Simply amazing,” I responded calmly, although some rather large fluttery things had taken up residence in my stomach.

“You read, do you? Also interesting. This evening is just full of surprises, is it not, Nick?”

“How do you know my name.” It came out as a whisper, for I was breathless. He filled my world. It was as if all of London fell away from my vision, and there was only him. Black eyes twinkling in the gaslight. One side of his cinnamon lips curled up in a half-smile. Pale skin covered in soot and jaw-hugging sideburns. I shivered, and it was not the cold December night that caused it.

“Your friend said it before. It is beneficial to pay attention to the details in life, don’t you find? I am called Ashe.” He offered a gloved hand. “We were not properly introduced before.”

I took his hand and gave it a manly shake, which was not too difficult with my new strength.

“Strong, too, for such a young lad,” he said, putting his hand back in his pocket.

I felt my brows furrow at this. He thought me a boy, and a kid at that. I was no kid. I was The Protector, after all.

“I’m not all that young.” I deepened my voice perhaps a little too much. My cheeks suddenly felt very hot and flushed, so I turned my face into the cold wind and let the snowflakes cool my no-doubt-rosy-cheeks down. “Bet I’m as old as you.”

Great. That sounded quite mature, Nicole.

“Do you now?” he said. “Thought I told you to stay safe and inside. This is no place for children. Where is your friend. Is he all right?”

I bit my lip to stop from scolding this infuriating man, and I turned back to him, ready to do so anyway. As soon as I caught his eyes again, however, I was unable to speak. Literally. The ability to form words completely escaped me.

“He is all right, isn’t he?” He sounded concerned.

I couldn’t even manage a simple ‘yes,’ so I nodded instead.

“So, tell me more about this Rickett Carriage, Nick.” Ashe leaned casually against the stone wall of the building but kept his dark eyes scanning the streets.

“Um.” I tried to force my eyes off of him so I could at least speak again. Imitating him, I, too, leaned against the building and looked out at the passing carriages. “It was first built something like twenty years ago by this man named Thomas Rickett, an inventor of sorts, but it didn’t go far. Now that technology has caught up with his vision, his original design has been taken by a new inventor and redesigned. It was just released last week.” I felt his eyes boring into me. My face flushed again, and I tried to focus on my breath as Fanny had taught me.

“Impressive, Nick.” His eyes shifted back to the street, and I breathed easier.

“He will be fine,” I said, finally able to talk properly. “Conrad, the boy who was hurt. He will be just fine. The bleeding stopped and the others are caring for him below.”

“And you?” he asked.

“Quite well,” I answered a little too quickly.

“Your first vampire was it?” he asked.

“No. Last night was the first.” Then I wondered why I was telling him anything. He was a stranger after all.

“You certainly knew what to do.” He sounded rather impressed. “How does such a young boy know how to slay a vampire?”

There was that word again. I was not young. I mean, I was not old either, but the condescending way he said ‘young’ really irked me.

“I have been around” was my only response.

He made a noise that sounded like a stifled laugh, and I look up fiercely at him, ready to give it to him this time, but the words were once again caught in my throat. He was smiling, which should have only made me more furious, but it was the sweetest smile I had ever seen. It was like it was suddenly morning, as everything seemed brighter. A few snowflakes had gotten caught in his sideburns, and there, one fell on his lip.

“Well, Nick,” he said, still smiling. “You seem to have everything under control here. Have a good night.” He tipped his cap, showing me the momentary black curls beneath, and then he was gone.

I watched him walk away down the street, until a group of awkwardly marching men blocked Ashe from my view. I found myself hoping I would see him again.

-_Q

Thank you for reading this week’s installment of The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel. Join me every Friday for a new installment of this YA Steampunk ParaRomance. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win an author-signed copy of the sequel, released Summer 2013. The more comments you leave, week after week, the more times you’ll be entered!

~ by omgrey on June 21, 2013.

One Response to “ZM_CH6: In Which Nickie Nick Sees A Rickett”

  1. […] Read the rest of the Chapter, or even more of the book, for free on my blog, Caught in the Cogs, or get your very own copy from Amazon. […]

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