Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Halloween Choose Your Own Adventure® - Day 3

Maven Lacey KayeFrom now until Halloween, the Manuscript Mavens are running a Choose Your Own Adventure® story, in which YOU vote on what happens next! Every morning brings a new author, from the Mavens to the just-sold, to the best-selling. And every night brings a new twist!

Get your Choose Your Own Adventure® votes in by 8:00pm EST (5:00pm PST) and you'll be eligible for random prize drawings. Vote every day, and you'll be eligible for the Grand Prize--autographed books from Maven pals and Guest Mavens!

(Already read the intro? Skip to today's story. No idea what's going on? Read the "rules.")


“You can’t go on foot.” He steered her toward the carriage, even though she tried to dig her heels into the frozen ground.

“Nightshade!” The eerie shriek sounded again, closer, but there didn’t seem to be anyone else about, save the viscount’s gnome-like driver.

“No.” Mary pulled free, but he swept her into his arms and tossed her over the side of the barouche onto the wet seat.

“Don’t you understand? She’s coming closer. We must find shelter. You haven’t forgotten the tragedy, have you?” His stare was accusing, intense, terrifying. He climbed into the barouche.

Mary shook her head and gasped at the sight of her sister running from Hemlock House.

Nightshade whispered, “Isn’t she dead?”
He reached around Mary and began tugging at the aged, collapsed barouche top with one hand. The other—warm, strong, and firm against her arm—steadied her as the carriage lurched forward. “She ought to be dead. Has this foolery not gone on long enough?”

Mary whipped her head around to plead with him. Her sister was alive. How many years had they waited for news? Yet he behaved as if Sarah’s sudden return were another tragedy and not cause for celebration. “You must turn back!” she cried. “Please, please, my lord! Stop your carriage!”

But he ignored her. She ducked from the pointy danger of his elbows as he yanked the barouche top into place. “My God,” he muttered, affixing the snaps together, “I’d no idea there were two.”

She blinked against the snow dampening her lashes and icing her brows. The ragged top, gaping with holes and the irregular edges of rat nibbles, did not prevent cold slush from blowing into her face. But the viscount made no move to set the oil flaps into place—or wipe the sleet from his own eyes.

When he also did not explain his cryptic mumbling, she asked over the wind, “Two what?”

“No, not what, my dear Miss Goodweather. Two who. Have you no notion of the danger you were in?”

“Please, sir, set me down! I wish to see to my sister. She will fall ill from the cold.” When this plea did not sway him in the least, she added, “Have you any idea of the danger I am in presently? If there is a thread of goodness in you, sir, spare my innocence!”

He laughed, a deep, rich rumble that scattered through trees and blurred as the carriage sped down the lane. “Perchance, once, I considered myself a threat to your guilelessness and virtue. But that was before.”

“I do not understand you, sir, when you speak in riddles. I wish to be put down.” She tried to address him with the conviction of a woman who would prefer the cold company of her possibly dead sister than the frigid, confounding company of a terrifying recluse with a wicked pair of eyes.

He said nothing. She peeked at him, clasping the frayed edges of her coat to her neck. He was staring ahead, the cold, blank look in his eyes as empty as if they had never spoken, never chanced on each other’s solitude. Tendrils of icy air snaked into the gaps of her coat and coiled around her arms, sliding like cold, wet scales down her back, and she shivered.

The trees ahead became familiar. She was given no chance to remark on it, however, for he finally drawled, “Ah, but I do not wish it. Have you any care for my reputation, Miss Goodweather? I have borne too much since the tragedy, I fear. I will not have yet another life on my hands.”

Mary went cold. He had killed, then, as the rumors said. Once. Perhaps more.

Perhaps even…her sister.

Was the woman on the road truly Sarah? Cold streaked down Mary’s back. Sarah was dead. Even Viscount Nightshade had heard the rumors. Or maybe…maybe he had indeed murdered her. Maybe it was guilt that made him see a Sarah in every pale woman he found on the road.

Maybe that had not been Sarah after all.

Viscount Nightshade’s lips turned down. He turned and held his hands palm-up for Mary’s inspection. She looked without thinking. His gloves, once a buff fawn, had worn to a gray shine across the palms. The chestnut red of dried blood splashed over the leather, darker in some places than in others. At Mary’s sharp gasp, he said, “Ah, I see you do remember.”

She nodded mutely. Her fist felt frozen to her coat, and she did not need to look down to know her own blood had iced in a crust over her bruised knuckles. Yet when his hand raised toward her face, she did not turn away. “These gloves hide a secret, Miss Goodweather,” he murmured, drawing a stitched fingertip across her stinging cheek. “They conceal a curse. One, I fear, that allows me to promise you have nothing to fear from me.”

“You will not…touch me, then?”

Chagrin transformed his face. The sharp aquiline profile of his nose could not be changed, but the hollows of his pale cheeks rounded just before a puff of steam became lost in the wind. For one moment, the tight, almost unnoticeable lines etched around eyes the color of sleet and loam disappeared, replaced with a wistful softening. Save for his pallid skin, he looked remarkably…human.

What a fanciful idea! As if the viscount was truly otherworldly. Mary shook her head, dislodging a damp curl of hair stiffened by the cold. Tearing her gaze from Viscount Nightshade’s oddly arresting face, she looked past the hunched, cloaked form of his driver. “Satan’s Fury!” she gasped. “And Hemlock House! My lord, we have come in a circle!”

He nodded grimly. “’Tis the other part of my curse.” He leaned back against the damp, cracked squab of his barouche and the indifference he had worn when first she’d laid eyes on him masked his face. His voice became flat. “I offered her everything I have, believing I loved her. She wanted nothing but my time, which I could not give. Now we have an eternity in each other’s company to sort it out.”

Mary felt more than saw him glance at her. She darted her eyes toward him just in time to see the very corner of his lips turn up. A lace-like snowflake cracked and melted at the edge, and she almost wanted to—

“I’m afraid,” he continued, seemingly unaware of her sudden fascination with his mouth, “that is the real tragedy.”

She laughed. She could not help it. The peal of bells, the chirp of a well-fed bird on a Sunday morning, the chime of coins jangling in a pocket—these could not compare to the bubble of mirth that escaped Mary. She laughed until she could hardly breathe for it. Wind whipped against her cheeks, stinging the icy trail of a tear as she leaned to rest a hand against a stitch in her side.

The last of her laughter caught in her throat as the barouche tilted on the right two wheels. Her breath turned to a scream as her frail body slammed into the carriage wall, and it died in an oomph as the surprisingly heavy weight of Viscount Nightshade slid against her, catching her in the chest.

The cackle of a woman scorned followed them over the edge of the barouche as they tumbled to the ground in a painful heap. Elbows bit into tender places. Legs entwined. Suddenly, Viscount Nightshade was lifted from Mary, leaving a cold imprint against her front. She pushed snow-crusted hair from her eyes and gasped at the sight of:

A) Sarah, her sister, holding Viscount Nightshade up over her head, the muddy tails of his coat swirling around her gray body like tendrils of death. You know what they say about a woman scorned…

B) A zombie clutching his zombie stomach, rotted hands clasped around his entrails as Viscount Nightshade pulls a machete from his corpse. Does anyone know CPR?

C) A handsome, virile woodsman, ruddy from the exertion of cleaving wood and chasing down a ghost-like barouche. He is pressing a jewel-tipped dagger to the pale white throat of Viscount Nightshade. Has the hero finally arrived?

D) Sarah, her sister, preparing to toss Viscount Nightshade over Satan’s Fury. A powerful gust of wind prevents Mary from leaping up to save him. But does she even want to?

YOUR TURN: You decide what happens next! Leave your vote in the comments by 8pm (5pm Pacific) every day between now and Halloween---Tomorrow's story continued by Elizabeth Hoyt with the twist YOU choose!

Today's continuation brought to you by Lacey Kaye.


Tessa Dare said...

I cannot possibly vote yet. I'm dizzy from that circular carriage ride, and I am completely freaked to learn that I will follow Elizabeth Hoyt on Friday. Somehow this was little detail was missing from Darcy's email! Talk about hair-raising...

Oh, but I will go ahead and vote anyway. Because I've realized I desperately want a virile woodsman, EH-style.

Camilla Bartley said...

D gets my vote!

Erica Ridley said...

Great job, Lacey! Stuck between two choices... I'll be back later to vote!

Maggie Robinson said...

A, although I couldn't tell you why. I'm too frozen and freaked from the atmospheric prose.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm going with A today. I'm too wrapped up in the dark and tragic Nightshade to think about a husky woodsman.

So, give me the freaky strong sister with the Viscount complex. ;o)

Carrie said...

I love the circles! off to contemplate my vote...

Erica Ridley said...

Okay, I'm back. I've been thinking about this for hours, now, so I figured I had to suck it up and vote. I was stuck between A, C, and D. I love "the muddy tails of his coat swirling around her gray body like tendrils of death". Love love love. That rocks. As does "cleaving". Maybe because it sounds like cleavage. Not that the woodsman has cleavage, I'm just saying. Cleaving is nice too. But I'm going to have to go with D. D might go anywhere. I have the feeling Viscount Nightshade might pull out a giant can of whup... butt. (Doesn't have the same ring.) Then again, Sarah's pretty capable herself. Is she dead or alive? An undead zombie? An overcaffeinated ninja? Only time will tell!!!

P.S. to Carrie:
Give it up. You know you want the zombies. *g

Bill Clark said...

I think I'll go for A today - my usual D seemed a bit improbable as I'm not sure Sarah has that much tossing ability. Lifting, yes; tossing, no. So A it is.

CM said...

B. Zombies! Plz!

lacey kaye said...

Tessa, isn't it fun? Round robin-ing with the big girls!

I'm beaming, myself. Glad you are all enjoying the game! More to come...

CrystalG said...

My choice is A. :)

Jacqueline Barbour said...

OMG, I love A, C, and D. I can't deeeee-ciiiiiide!

BTW, for a totally different sage of terror, check out my blog. Complete with pictures...

Jacqueline Barbour said...

Er-sage=saga, lol! Although there is plenty of sagebrush involved...

Vicki said...

I'm going with A today. I'm loving the story. :D

I linked to it from my blog just in case there is anyone who doesn't know to make this a daily read. (g)

Mary said...

I'm an A vote as well. Want more of the Sarah/Viscount story, and love the imagery more than D. Took me about five minutes to decide though.

Anne-Marie Carroll said...

Ohh, ohh, me, me. I love this story. Hmm, for today I think I'm going to go with A. Just gotta love a woman scorned. lol

Jacqueline Barbour said...

Okay, after much hemming and hawing, I'm joining Tessa in voting for the virile woodsman. I'm sure EH can do him justice.

Jennifer Linforth said...

I nearly spewed coffee on my screen.

Gotta go with A for that reason alone. It made me bust a gut. The woman scorned line was a delightful detraction from edits.

I will have to work dang hard to get that image out of my mind...

lacey kaye said...

This is way fun! We do have a leader:

A) A woman scorned = 8
B) Zombie war = 1
C) Cleaving woodsman = 2
D) Hero in peril = 2

Better drag in your other zombie-loving friends, CM. It looks like you may need backups.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I have to agree, this is a tough one. Virile woodsman or angry Sarah? I'll go with...A.

Darcy Burke said...

I have been mulling this all day! Decisions, decisions! I'm voting for D, though I almost voted for C. Or A. Or B.

Lacey, you rocked this round!

Ruth M. said...

A----it flows so well, and the imagery is awesome!

lacey kaye said...

I'm so tickled you all liked the choices! Thanks for all the superstar comments. I'm not sure I'll be able to get to work tomorrow now that my head is so big :-)

Lupe T said...

I'm soo disappointed I missed the vote!! Lacey you rock!! I would have voted A as well.

lacey kaye said...

Hi, Lupe! Welcome to the Mavens' site!

Like Marnee yesterday, you still won. (Everyone's a winner! Yay!)

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