GENRE: Gay Interracial Steampunk Mystery Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 20,495 words
Detective Inspector Sebastian Gully has been promoted on the London police force when he and his partner, Joseph Atwell discover the body of a mellified man. The victim was turned into a hive for honey and a mechanical queen lodged inside his chest cavity. There is very little evidence and absolutely no leads.
When more bodies with different bugs and mechanical creatures show up, the desperate detective team seek the help of a phrenologist, Phineas Hoffsteadr, to understand the true nature of the men killed. As Sebastian's relationship with Phineas develops, Sebastian soon realizes there are some things that history -- and himself -- cannot repress.
Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.
“Tell me,” Phineas said after a moment. “Have you ever seen a phrenologist?”
“Um, no. No, I thought it was a rather peculiar art.”
Sebastian chuckled. When he’d been a younger man, he’d spent hours reading in his local library. Upon finding the stories of Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare, he had become aware of a certain longing between the pages that he also shared. Sebastian had turned to books to try and understand himself and his desire from a proper light. Instead, he had come across a phrenology chart that outlined the ridges on his head as aberrant sexual desire. A man with aberrant sexual desire could take no wife and have no children. He had no future. So Sebastian had tried to forget the answers he had found and threw himself into his work instead.
“You have an answer for me,” Phineas said. “I know you do. So tell me: why don’t you like phrenology?”
“It seems as if it’s more geared to keeping people in their place than giving them a future.”
To Sebastian surprise, Phineas chuckled and nodded his head in agreement. “That used to be the case, for sure. Now, I think with people like me working in this profession, there will be more room for growth than ever before?”
“What do you mean?”
“I can tell the future with my hands on someone’s skin -- but I can also defy it, too. In my training, I read books that said I would not be a success due to the shape of my skull. So I took that as a warning to be prepared for unfortunate events. Now, when my shop is raided or something else peculiar happens, I know how to counteract. I can surrender to my destiny -- but also defy it.”
Sebastian made a face. The conversation was getting away from him. He tried to loosen his collar, only to feel light headed. “You said your shop was raided. When was that?”
“A month ago. Maybe less.”
“Maybe,” Phineas said. “I’m not sure. I did report it, but no one did anything about it.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll look into it.”
“You don’t have to,” Phineas said, rather sharply. “But I’m still curious about how you feel about phrenology now, knowing its evolving history. Everything that you have read before seeing me has been a stain on the profession. A story told from the wrong angle.” Phineas grinned as he took several steps towards Sebastian. “Please, let me try again with you.”
Sebastian’s throat was dry. He knew if he spoke, his voice would crack. So he merely nodded and decided to see what his future could feel like inside Phineas’s hands.
Phineas’s palms were a heavy weight as he touched the back of Sebastian’s neck and combed his fingers through his hair. Sebastian felt a sudden lightning bolt of tension. Intense and very intimate, more than he wanted to admit. Phineas could feel the bumps and ridges on Sebastian’s skull that gave his queerness away. As if he doesn’t already know. He’s probably seen you with Avenport. He’s probably ... Sebastian’s thoughts grew quiet. If Phineas had seen Avenport in the bar, that meant he was there, too. And maybe, just maybe, we all share the same secret. If secret was the right word for it now. Maybe we have evolved past the point of shame.
The thought made Sebastian almost giddy with excitement. When Phineas pulled his hands away, he left a lingering sensation on Sebastian’s skin.
“What did you find?” Sebastian asked.
Phineas took a few paces back, turning towards his wall of specimens and posters. Sebastian followed his gaze and noted the jars at the other end of the room, filled with other live insects like praying mantises who tapped against their transparent cages. A new work station? The next project? Sebastian’s eyes scanned the specimens, but he saw no bees. No fire ants. Nothing that could sting or become a drone.
“I think you are a smart man, Mr. Gully,” Phineas said after some time. “And I think you will find what you need.”
This book was published on April 03, 2016.