Title: Change of Heart
Author: Lilliana Rose
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
Vickie wants spice in her life, but her husband George is more interested in his work as a doctor. As a Victorian lady she is struggling to find her place in the world. An outbreak of a mysterious illness threatens the ordered world of Vickie and George. George becomes ill, and Vickie is left to care for him, keep him safe, as well as trying to work out the cause of the mysterious illness. Vickie must take charge in her world in order to survive.
The ex-war time airship hung in the afternoon sun, tethered to the top of the four-story building. A survivor from the First World War. Floating with the warm air, the leather balloon looked out of place, like a bird that had come to nest on a leafless tree. It wasn't alone. Other airships, brand new, trimmed with polished brass reflected the glamor of the new era; the future was in the sky and people rushed to join the developing fashion.
An unusual Christmas present for his wife, Vickie, this particular airship cost Dr. George Wenderlen much more than a brand new model. The sentiment had been too hard to resist when he'd first seen the beauty in the yard at the wreckers. Deflated leather, punctured from bullets, a tangle of ropes and pulleys, wood decaying with the help of white ants, sparked the romantic in him. He saw the queen she had been and wanted to restore her to the sky, where she could be crowned by sun once more, buffered by thin white clouds, flying over land, free and majestic.
To restore the airship, George employed a man, Matt Moore, a genius inventor who'd fallen on hard times, to repair the ship. Now she was ready.
His gift to Vickie. A peace offering because he worked long hours at the hospital, and he didn't have time for holidays. He knew he was losing her. Five years of marriage, no children and now they hardly knew each other. He couldn't remember when they last sat down together to eat or even talk. He wanted a private get-away. A special place for them, somewhere they could escape, the two of them, so they could rediscover each other and maybe finally begin a family. This gift was his chance to change things around.
George stood with pride, watching the airship blossom in the morning sun.
"She's a beauty," George wiped the corner of his eye.
"A queen of the sky." Matt watched her, entranced by the marvel of the technology he'd used to bring her back to life. Both men had eyes for her and she was large enough to accommodate them and many more, just by hanging in the blueness. She ruled them, their hearts and mind.
"Queen." George stared at the ship, soaking in her beauty.
"Queen. Her name."
"Now she's completed."
"Shall I paint her name on the bow?"
"Yes." He turned to Matt and thumped him on the back. "Good job, mate."
"Pleasure." Matt tipped his hand to his head as if wearing a hat. He'd enjoyed restoring the ship and finding purpose for his life again. The airship pin reflected in the light just under his collar showed he once had a profession, and maybe he would again soon.
George gave Matt a final pat on the shoulder, turned away and went back inside.
The Queen hung in the lazy sky, filled to almost bursting with a man's expectations of rekindling lost love.
~ * ~
"George, this had better be worth the climb to the roof with all the smog outside." Vickie closed her eyes shut as he tied the blindfold.
"Have I ever not made it worthwhile?"
She blushed. Newly married, they'd treated the rooftop as a bedroom. Back then, five years ago, before he became addicted to practicing medicine and experimenting making up his own medicine.
"And what happened to the rat infestation you told me about?" She stood and held out her hand.
"Fixed." He guided her out of the front room, near the kitchen to the hidden door leading to the roof. The servants didn't bother to go up this spiral staircase after he started the rumor of the oversized rats.
He opened the door, camouflaged in the embossed floral pattern wallpaper. Stale air greeted them, sucking fresh air from their lungs. His father rebuilt this house in the style of the Victorian era, before giving the house to him as a wedding gift. The roof had been modified, square topped with strong iron railings for the purpose of tethering airships.
"Just follow me." He began walking up the stairs slowly, the gaslights failed this morning and he cursed to himself for forgetting to ask Matt to fix them.
"Don't let me fall." She followed confidently for someone who couldn't see.
He guided her up the dusty staircase to the roof. She wore a long brown walking dress, practical attire for the viewing, simple and smart, emphasizing her bust and waist.
They climbed, George behind trying to guide Vickie up each step. The tight spiral staircase held them close together in the dim light. Halfway up the staircase, Vickie stumbled. George grabbed her waist as she fell forward. He misjudged and fell onto the stairs, just missing her.
"You okay?" He gasped trying to ignore the pain in his ribs.
"Yes." She began to pull off the blindfold.
"No, not yet." He stopped her.
"George, I want to remain unhurt, able to walk, and alive." Her cheeks reddened and her shoulders tensed.
"Trust me." The words punctured her anger and she ripped off the material covering her eyes.