Today I am so pleased to welcome K.J. Charles to Joyfully Jay. K.J. has come to share an exclusive except from her latest release, An Unnatural Vice (which I reviewed here and totally loved!). She has also brought along a copy to give away. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Nathaniel Roy, journalist, is writing an expose of the spiritualist movement. He attends a seance held by the Seer of London, Justin Lazarus…
Lazarus tipped back on his chair, stretching a sinewy arm behind him to take a slate from the bookshelf. “Here we are. Could you all pass that round?”
“There’s really no need,” a portly gentleman said. “Mr. Lazarus, you must know we place our trust in your honour.” He shot Nathaniel a combative look.
“Nevertheless, please pass it round,” Lazarus said. “I am humbled by your faith, but I will never assume it.”
The slate made its way around the table. Nathaniel examined it closely, tilting it toward the gas lamp and feeling the sides of the frame. It was a plain slate, with no tampering or trickery evident.
“Feel free to touch it.” Lazarus’s voice betrayed a hint of amusement. “I should hate you to doubt.”
Nathaniel rubbed at the surface, felt only slate, saw nothing on his finger. He passed it on. The woman next to him also gave it a tentative stroke, in obedience to Lazarus’s look.
“Very well.” Lazarus took the slate back, squinted at the surface they’d touched, raised a comical brow, and pulled out a handkerchief with a flourish that won him a ripple of laughter. He wiped the slate, tilted it to the light like a housewife checking for dust, then placed it on the table and spanned his hands above it, not touching, fully visible. “Will someone bring me a stub of chalk from the pot? Thank you.” He lifted the slate and rolled the chalk under it. “Spirits, if you wish to share your names now, give us that gift. Mark them where we may see them, if we are worthy to be told. Let us see now.” He closed his eyes, tilting his head back to expose his throat, a priestly action that had a wholly secular effect on Nathaniel.
Justin Lazarus was without question a disgraceful fraud, but as his lips moved in silent prayer, Nathaniel could not help the thought that he looked like a glorious fuck. The bad kind, of course; the kind that left a man feeling dirty and ashamed and degraded in his own eyes. The kind Nathaniel had never had in practice, and wouldn’t have admitted to imagining, but could see all too clearly. Bending the medium over his own table, holding him down. You want the furniture to move, Mr. Lazarus? That can be arranged.
There was a scratching noise. Nathaniel couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but everyone was looking at the slate, and the medium’s hands spread unwaveringly above it. Lazarus’s luminous grey-sky eyes were gazing directly at Nathaniel.
Go on, Nathaniel thought. Read my mind.
Lazarus clearly couldn’t, or what he saw would have wiped the faint smile off his lips. “Shall we see?” he suggested. “Mr. Standing, would you?” He lifted his hands away from the slate as he spoke.
The portly gentleman reached out and turned the slate over. There was a general intake of breath from the sitters, and then a delighted gabble, because a name was written slantwise, in chalk, across the slate: Benny Bone
“Benny,” Lazarus said, mouth curving. “You little trickster. Good evening, my friend.”
How the devil— How the devil, Nathaniel thought. He reached out his hand for the slate, an imperative movement that won him some unpleasant looks. There was without doubt a name there in chalk. He ran his finger through it and saw dust on its tip. He picked up the stick of chalk, also real. Lazarus’s hands had been visible throughout. The tabletop was uncovered, no hatches or secret holes. Yet the underside of the slate had been written on.
That wasn’t possible. And therefore, he reminded himself, it wasn’t real.
In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.
Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.
Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.
But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.
K. J. Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden, and an increasingly murderous cat.
K.J. has brought a copy of An Unnatural Vice to give away to one lucky reader though Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The giveaway is open to US or CA residents only. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Monday, June 12th at 11:59 pm EST.
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