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*A Finalist for the Maggie Award for Excellence in Erotic Romance*
From Passionate Plume award finalist Elizabeth Schechter comes a steampunk novel of dark passion. In a respectable neighbourhood, on the top floor of a beautiful house, crouches the Succubus; by design, and by temperament, she is all that men crave and fear. To the wealthy and privileged men of London, the Succubus is a test they must pass to gain access to the House of Sable Locks, the most exclusive brothel in town. However, to William, a wealthy young man born and raised in India, she is the very essence of his desires.
William is recovering from the loss of everything he knows and loves when he first meets the Succubus. With great care she tears him apart… and he falls in love again. But their idyll cannot last: there is a killer loose in London, and the darkness of William’s past is about to collide with the terror of his present.
Based on the story “The Succubus” from the acclaimed erotic steampunk anthology Like Clockwork, HOUSE OF SABLE LOCKS lets us enter the mysterious brothel readers previously only had a glimpse of.
About the Author
Elizabeth Schechter was born in New York at some point in the past. She is officially old enough to know better, but refuses to grow up. She has been, at various points in her life, a jeweler, an artist, a counselor, a minister, a fitness instructor, a singer, counter-person in a coffee-shop, a lab tech, a research assistant, quarter-staff master, a daycare worker, a high school English teacher, a kindergarten teacher, a stay-at-home-mom, an editor, and a writer. She firmly believes in the Heinlein adage that specialization is for insects, and is still working on the tinker, tailor, soldier, and spy parts of the list.
Elizabeth lives in Central Florida with her husband and son, and a most accepting circle of friends who are both very amused and very proud of the pervy, fetish writer in their midst.
Elizabeth can be found online at https://easchechter.wordpress.com/, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth.A.Schechter.
Look under the cut for a hot excerpt!
Prologue: The Succubus
In the parlor, there is a portrait of Madame, painted when she was a shy young miss of seventeen. She is looking over her shoulder, and her midnight hair tumbles down her back in a profusion of curls. The uninitiated might think that this house, which has come to be called the House of the Sable Locks, was named for that portrait, and for Madame’s glorious spill of hair. But that is not so; Madame’s hair is more silver than sable now, and there is another reason for the name. The uninitiated never go further than the parlor, never know that there is another world beyond the doors that lead into the rear of the house. They think that Madame is simply a woman of independent means, the widow of a rich, albeit eccentric, inventor. They do not know the truth. They do not know about us.
The House of the Sable Locks is famous, but only in a rarefied circle. Certain men meet at their clubs and whisper to each other about the delights that they find behind our doors. There is the second floor, where those who prefer women can gather. Or the third floor, wherein those who prefer men can find what they seek. And then there is the fourth floor, where I can be found. But I get ahead of my story.
The “Sable Locks” refer not to a woman’s crowning glory, but to the exquisitely wrought and enameled locks that adorn the collars of the men who frequent our halls. They come here at first uncertain of what they will find, knowing only the whispers of their peers. They meet with Madame in private, and no one speaks of what happens behind those closed doors. But when that meeting is over the gentlemen either leave the house, never to return, or Madame takes them on a tour. It will be the first and last time they walk the halls as free men; when next they arrive at the house, they will be escorted to the servants’ quarters. There, they will be stripped of clothing and jewelry, hooded, gagged, and collared. Thus rendered silent and anonymous, and wearing only their locked collars, the bearers of the Sable Lock make their way to their chosen rooms, and to the pleasures and torments that await them there. They never know who the other men are, or of what station they might be. The man that they pass in the hallway might be a member of the House of Lords, or the son of the butcher, or even their own brother. No one knows for certain except for Madame.
* * * *
The fourth floor is usually quiet, with only the hum of machinery and the distant voices from the floors below. The men do not return to the fourth floor after their initial encounter with me. They desire something more familiar, more in keeping with their personal fantasies. More safe. So I wait, alone, and the silent servants tend to my needs. This evening will be different. I know it already. I can hear Madame’s familiar step on the stair, and another, heavier step with her.
She enters first, the train of her evening gown sweeping the floor as she moves to the table and lights the lamp. The man lingers in the door, peering into the gloom. He wears pristine evening dress, and the lamplight picks out the gold links in his watch-chain and the gleam of the ruby on his left hand. The walls have already whispered his secrets to me: the second son of a Duke, one who was never expected to take the reins of power. One who came, all unexpected, into an inheritance that was never meant to be his. His older brother was dead of typhoid, gone without a son to succeed him, and so the younger son was now Earl Hathaway. It was no surprise to us that the late, lamented Reginald Warwick, Earl Hathaway had died without issue–he had also borne the collar and lock in this house, and had shown a definite preference for the third floor. It will be interesting to see what the new Lord Hathaway prefers. His name, the walls have told me, is Nigel.
“You can come in,” Madame says. “She won’t bite you.” She laughs, and leaves the lamp to go to the far wall, and the switches there. She throws them, one at the time, and light floods the room.
I hear him gasp, and I know what he sees. The ceilings in this room are high, and although they try to hide it with draperies, you can still see the machines that tower overhead, disappearing into the shadows above the lights. The machines hum and churn, gears half the size of a man moving in the eternal dance that gives me life. Occasionally they release puffs of fragrant steam into the air, making the entire room warmer than would normally be considered comfortable. There is very little furniture in the room, most of it covered with drapery against dust and future need. And then there is me. Shining silver and chrome, gleaming brass and copper, I lie in wait, reclined on the wide couch as might a goddess whilst she awaited her worshipers.
“But… it’s clockwork!” he blurts out, stepping into the room. He looks around, expecting to see a living woman. But, of course, there is no one else in the room.
Madame sniffs slightly. “Of course she is. I did explain that to you, did I not?”
Lord Hathaway has the grace to look embarrassed, “You did, but… the others all look… alive. This one…” he gestures wildly.
“She was the first, created by my late husband,” Madame says, walking over to my couch. She brushes her nails over my shoulder and continues. “The others came later, and I refined the forms to make them more… approachable. Despite her form, the Succubus is the most complex of all the automatons.”
“How can that be? It looks like a statue!” He takes a step toward the couch and points at me. “It is a statue!”
Madame runs her fingers over my gleaming silver skull, “Oh, this is just the focal point, Your Lordship. The Succubus encompasses this room.”
He looks around, his eyes wide, “The whole room?”
“The whole of this floor, actually. As I said, she is very complex.” Madame makes her way back to the wall and stands near the bell rope. “Now, it is customary for the first appointment to be with the Succubus. Did your brother not tell you this?”
Lord Hathaway shakes his head. “All Reg told me was that I would not believe what I found here. He wouldn’t say more.” He swallows, looking nervously at the figure on the couch, and then back at Madame. “Is it safe?”
Madame laughs, “My dear sir, you’ll be as safe here as in your own mother’s arms, if that is your desire.”
He looks at her sharply. “What does that mean?”
Madame just smiles. “You’ve seen what we offer. Surely it’s no surprise to you that there are some who prefer an element of risk. Don’t you agree?”
He does, although I doubt that any would see it but me. His breath quickens ever so slightly. The flush in his cheeks heightens just a touch. He looks at me again, studying me, silent. After a long moment, he turns back to Madame, “What do I have to do?”
She draws from the reticule that hangs from her wrist one of the shining silver collars, the black lock dangling from the end. She smiles at my soon-to-be paramour. “Take off your clothes.”
To read the rest, download the ebook or buy the paperback today!
From Passionate Plume award finalist Elizabeth Schechter comes a steampunk novel of dark passion. Dominant and implacable, the Succubus is all that men crave and fear. However, she has met her match in William, a young aristocrat trained to be the perfect submissive. Their idyll cannot last: there is a killer loose in London, and William's dark past is about to collide with the present.
Also available in paperback!