Today I am so pleased to welcome L.A. Witt to Joyfully Jay. L.A. has brought along an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Precious Metals. She has also brought along a fabulous giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
We picked our way over the landslide. At least this one was more solid than the last. More of a half-frozen mound of dirt than a pile of trees. Between our heavy packs and our exhausted legs, climbing over anything was difficult, so I was grateful for the more passable terrain.
The ground leveled out, and we continued along the trail. I hoped like hell that was the last slide, but given our luck for the past couple of days, I wasn’t counting on it.
“Why’d you become a Mountie?” he asked around midafternoon. “Doesn’t seem like something anyone would want to do, inspecting mechs out in the godforsaken mountains.”
I shrugged. “I needed work.” It was idle conversation, but it was a damn sight better than the taut silence we’d shared for the first day or so.
“That the only reason?”
“It was the most compelling one.”
Joseph studied me for a moment. “But there were others?”
Shifting uncomfortably, I avoided his gaze. “I needed to leave my hometown. Get as far away as I could.”
“There was a, um, you could call it a scandal.” I took a deep breath of the chill air. “The preacher’s wife accused me of . . . with her daughter . . .”
Joseph winced. “I assume that didn’t sit well with the congregation.”
Whistling, I shook my head. “Not well at all. After that, I left town. Became a Mountie. Ended up . . .” I gestured around us.
He chuckled. “Penance for your sins?”
“Something like that.”
“I suppose—” He stopped dead. “Oh God.”
Oh no. Not again. “Now what?”
He pointed forward.
I lifted my goggles, and when I saw where he was pointing, I swore under my breath.
It wasn’t another landslide. Up ahead, most of the trail had been washed away by the river. Recently, too—the newly exposed clay had only a light dusting of snow on it.
The rocks that had slid were already in the river—we’d have to jump several feet to reach them, assuming we didn’t over- or underestimate and go into the rushing water.
Fortunately, a small section of the trail remained, but it was narrow and precarious, a bad step away from collapsing into the freezing, rushing water below.
Joseph frowned. “What do we do now?”
“I don’t think we have much choice.” I nodded toward the mess in front of us. “We’ll have to take what’s left of the trail.”
He blinked. “Are you mad?”
“Do you see any other options?”
Joseph swallowed hard. “What about our packs?” He glanced at me. “We might be safer on that path if we don’t have to bear the weight.”
“Agreed, but I’m not sure what else we can do. We haven’t got enough rope to string up a line and take them over that way.”
“And dragging a pack over it might damage the trail before whoever’s on this side has a chance to cross.”
“Looks like we’ll just have to carry them.”
“I suggest we go one at a time, though. God knows how stable that bank is.” He looked around. “There’s got to be a better way.”
“If there is, it means hiking out of our way.” I gestured at what was left of the hillside. “Either climbing up until we find more solid ground, and then coming back down on the other side, or backtracking until we find a passable trail up onto the ridge. It’ll take time, but perhaps it would be the best route.”
“Not if there’s actual climbing involved.” He tapped a knuckle on his false leg. Nodding toward the washed-out riverbank, he added, “If that path holds, we’ll be all right.” He gnawed his lip. “If it holds.”
“And you’re sure you can make it? Across something that narrow?” I gestured at his leg. “With—”
He halted me with a glare. “I can’t climb, but I can walk. If my leg was going to hinder me, it would have a long, long time ago.”
I put up my hands and didn’t argue. He had made it this far after all. “All right. You go first.”
“Why?” A smirk tugged at his lips. “So you can go back if it collapses under me?”
I bit back a groan. “I’m heavier than you are. It’s more likely to collapse under me, so at least you’ll be past it.”
He sobered, swallowing hard. “And if it does?”
“Then I’d better move fast, hadn’t I?”
He didn’t laugh. “Paul . . .”
“It’ll be fine. Just stay ahead of me. If I need to move quickly, I don’t want to knock you into the river in the process.”
“All right.” Joseph eyed the path for a long moment. Then he started across it while I waited on more solid ground.
With every step he took, I held my breath, certain that his false leg would fail him at the wrong time. Or that the ledge would collapse.
One step at a time, Joseph. Easy.
But hurry. Get off that ledge . . .
When he was about halfway across, I started after him. I tested the ledge, tapping it with the toe of my boot to make sure it was firm, and the clay shelf turned out to be more solid than I’d anticipated. Narrow, yes, but sturdy.
I took a careful step, easing my weight down on my foot, but the densely packed clay held. Another step. Another. I kept a hand out, my fingertips brushing the low-hanging branches and ferns along the part of the hillside that hadn’t washed away.
Joseph made it to the other side, and there, he turned and faced me. “Not as bad as it looks, is it?”
“No.” I took another cautious step. The pack didn’t help—I had to move an inch at a time to avoid letting the weight shift and throw me off-balance. Off-balance and into the river. Oh God.
I paused. Closed my eyes. Took a deep breath.
“You all right?” Joseph called out.
“I’m fine.” I repeated the words to myself, took another breath, and continued. With each step, I calmed down a bit more. Joseph had made it, and now I would, and we’d both be back on solid—
The soil shifted beneath my boot.
And I was weightless.
For Constable Paul Benson of the North-West Mounted Police, monotony is a blessing. As a provision inspector below the Chilkoot Pass during the Klondike Gold Rush, he’s seen miserable conditions and gold fever turn civilized prospectors into madmen.
Joseph Starling is on his way to the Klondike to find the men who savagely beat him, murdered his eldest brother, and stole their mining machine. They’ll kill his youngest brother if Joseph doesn’t operate the machine for them—it won’t work without him. With time running out, Joseph must purchase an expensive ticket aboard a crash-prone airship. But the station is miles away through dangerous terrain.
Under orders, Paul grudgingly escorts Joseph, but quickly finds himself intrigued by the young man. As they make their way toward Juneau, it’s not just the need for warmth that drives them closer together. But neither man can draw an easy breath until they make it to the gold fields . . . and there’s no guarantee that Joseph’s brother will still be alive when they do.
L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer currently living in the glamorous and ultra-futuristic metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a disembodied penguin brain that communicates with her telepathically. In addition to writing smut and disturbing the locals, L.A. is said to be working with the US government to perfect a genetic modification that will allow humans to survive indefinitely on Corn Pops and beef jerky. This is all a cover, though, as her primary leisure activity is hunting down her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who is also said to be lurking somewhere in Omaha.
Gaslamp Fortnight: A Steampunk Book Tour – October 27th – November 7th
Authors L.A. Witt, Alexis Hall, and Cornelia Grey come together on a Steampunk book tour to celebrate the releases of Precious Metals, Prosperity, and Circus of the Damned.
Join us on adventures through the lawless, untamed, kraken-infested skies! Trek the snowy wilds of the Klondike in the company of a Mountie! Visit a soul-stealing circus where entertainment is at your own risk! Riptide’s Gaslamp Fortnight will tempt you with the steampunk and gaslamp worlds of Cornelia Grey, Alexis Hall, and L.A. Witt.
And Gaslamp Fortnight is featuring a fabulous giveaway! Comment on the tour stops for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate to Harlots and Angels Steampunk Corsetry and get your own custom corset or personalized steampunk gear.
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