I had so much fun sharing inspiration photos and excerpts from my novel Booked that I wanted to do one for Cast From the Earth, my polyamorous romance with zombies set in the 1890's. This book features a F/F and M/M/F pairing and lots of fighting... for love ;) Check out some snippets below!
Dust billowed up as the wagon ambled down a worn dirt road reserved for indigents and invalids. Curled in the back of the wagon clutching her satchel, Cordelia was certain she was neither. She had been offering a perfectly legitimate trade on that street corner back in town. Yet someone still turned her in for begging in public.
Cordelia found herself with no means to pay for a room at the boardinghouse and not a single establishment in White Spring would let her wash dishes or sweep floors for even one day.
Without any further discussion, Cordelia was shoved into the back of a wagon to be hauled off to the Clay County poor farm.
There had been a brief exchange in which the man entrusted with the task of hauling Cordelia off to the Clay County poor farm solicited services for less than a respectable price and Cordelia tried to punch him. Other than that, there was no discussion.
The man’s name was Victor and he was the elected official when it came to poor farm business. He was a lazy driver but the team seemed to know the way on their own. Victor had attempted to pass the time by telling lewd jokes but finally gave up when Cordelia remained resolute and silent.
Folded up in the corner of the wagon box with her satchel, Cordelia tried to conceal any patches of pale, bare skin from the beating June sun. Her snow blonde crown throbbed with heat but Cordelia did not move. She stared at the worn toes of her boots and the ragged hem of her skirt. The calico had faded to a tired white the same shade as the dusty rock road that carried Cordelia toward her fate.
Resentment bubbled deep, but she held the lid tight. She would cooperate for now, get a few hours’ sleep, and run in the morning. There was another small town, Beckettsville, several miles west of the county poor farm. Cordelia still had one nice dress in her pack. Perhaps she could find respectable work.
Cordelia ran across the yard over the clover that grew as thick as a carpet. She was at Sara’s door and had knocked before she even realized. Sara answered despite wearing only her thin chemise.
May I come in she meant to say, but the word that slipped from Cordelia’s lips was, “Please.”
Sara stepped back and drew Cordelia into the room. Her eyes glinted in the darkness of her little bedroom, deep and calm.
Cordelia felt phantom-like and every move seemed to draw out long and luxuriant, like swimming in a pool of deep water. Cordelia moved toward Sara and Sara let her come, let her put her arms around her, let her stand on tip-toe to meet her lips with a brush that felt like rose petals.
The moment swelled and Cordelia became aware of how much taller Sara was and her fantasy began to crumble around her. The heat of excitement turned to panic as reality pressed upon her. She had so much to lose, how stupid could she be? Cordelia pulled back, trying to stammer out an apology. She wanted to turn and run out the door and keep running until she ran out of regret.
But Sara would not let her run.
“No,” Sara said, pulling her back in. “Stay.”
Relief melted over her as Sara kissed her again, and again, sprinkling kisses over her lips, her cheeks, her eyelids. Sara held Cordelia’s face in her hands and their bodies swayed together with the ease of a hand crafted rocking chair.
Dan would still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and forget where he was. But then he would find Grace in bed with him, her warmth curled into his side, her bed-messed head resting on his chest and he would remember – they were living in Beckettsville and Dan was working a real trade and someday they would be married and have a home they would call their own. Dan was the happiest he had been in his entire life. His dreams had also improved. Instead of garish, violent nightmares, Dan found himself awoken in the night trembling with pleasure. Waves of delight would crash over his work-worn muscles. Afterwards he would pluck thin strings of his memory to try and remember the scenario that his slumbering mind had conjured making his heart race and his body throb in arousal.
He never wanted to wake Grace up when this happened, but on one night in January, he did. Her fingertips, lethargic from sleep, felt about his face in a clumsy gesture before she wriggled out of the bed sheets to turn up the lantern.
Are you all right? she gestured to him.
Yes. Dan answered with his hands. Sorry. Dream.
Grace settled into bed with her knees drawn to her chest. Was it a bad dream?
No, it was a good dream.
She smiled, wide. One of the things Dan loved about her was that when there was something worth appreciating, she appreciated it, even if it was in the middle of the night.
Do you remember? she asked.
Dan rubbed his eyes and blew out a long breath. He had been telling her he had forgotten what the good dreams were about, but the truth was he knew. He didn’t want to keep lying.
Dan’s hands easily made the gestures, I dreamed about Jack.
Jack. Grace said. Our Jack?
You had a good dream about Jack?
He… was… helping me. Dan sighed and thought to himself, Close enough.
Grace nodded. I like Jack. When I look out the window at the summer rain I feel safe, warm, happy. That’s how I feel. With Jack.
Dan nodded slow. Me too.
Satisfied that this was the end of any necessary conversation, Grace turned down the lamp and burrowed back into the bed. Dan settled in with her, his hand resting on her back, and waited to feel her breathing even in sleep. Once it had, Dan let his eyes slip shut and did his best to remember as much as he could about his dream.
Dan grinned and placed his hand on his heart before saying, You can marry us, then it wouldn’t be odd.
Jack rolled his eyes. Three people can’t get married.
Dan didn’t know where this conversation was going, but he was interested in helping it along. Why not?
That breaks the rules, Jack said.
Sara and Cordelia break the rules, Dan pointed out.
Sara and Cordelia are special, Jack responded.
So are we, Dan said.
Jack’s hands remained still in silence.
Dan proceeded slowly. Do you love me like you love Grace?
Yes, but… Jack gave a nervous glance over his shoulder to the closed storeroom door. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about that here.
Jack. No one can hear us.
Jack pursed his lips in frustration but he continued, Yes, all right.
You’re scared, Dan finished for him.
Jack stopped and stared at him, obviously wondering how Dan knew. But Dan knew. Dan always knew.
You try to hide how you feel from other people, Dan said. I can’t hear, but I can see things other people can’t see. I’m sorry. You can’t hide from me.
Jack looked like he might cry. What do you see?
Dan took a deep breath. There was so much. He hoped his hands could keep up. I see the way you looked at us at the funeral. Like you couldn’t imagine losing someone like Mr. Bossert lost Isabella. And you were thinking of us. I saw how you looked at us at our wedding. I see how you look at my hands, even when I’m not talking.
I like your hands, Jack confessed. I really like your hands.
Dan held out his hand in response, not as a gesture, but as an invitation.
Jack took Dan’s hand in both of his, tracing his thumbs over Dan’s knuckles. Slowly, Jack shifted his grasp to intertwine their fingers. Jack’s hands were warm, gentle, and Dan’s skin tingled under his touch. Jack took his time, tracing an index finger over the contours of his palm, across the back of Dan’s hand, around the bone that jutted at Dan’s wrist. Dan felt a little lost giving his hand over not to talk or work, but purely to be appreciated for simply being a part of himself.
Cordelia was kneeling and had filled the first bucket with seed when she felt a twinge in her heart. When she gasped, she caught the putrid stench of coffee grounds and rotting pumpkin in the back of her throat, the smell engrained in her memory at the poor farm.
Rotting flesh. Dead, eyes. Bad blood.
With her lightning response to danger, Cordelia whirled around and slammed the bucket into the side of the monster’s head, the feed cascading out like a sudden summer downpour. It was a man. Tall. Severely decomposed but still strong. Who knows how long it had been wandering around the prairie before it stumbled onto the farmstead searching for fresh flesh. The monster reeled back but lurched forward again just as fast. Without the weight of the feed, Cordelia’s second swing with the bucket was a worthless shot as the beast knocked the metal bucket away with a clang. Cordelia retaliated with a swing of her fist that sunk into his abdomen, splashing blood up to her elbow. A howling shriek made Cordelia freeze for just a moment, and just a moment was all the monster needed to wrap his great, decaying arms around her in capture.
Cordelia suffocated under the stench of melting flesh and sparks flashed in the corners of her eyes. She thought she was going to pass out when the monster was suddenly wrenched away.
Cordelia fell back, coughing and gasping for air. When she wiped the blood and hair from her eyes she saw Jack had jumped on the monster from behind and was now dragging it backward. The monster bucked and screamed, a raspy whine that sounded like a rusted nail on tin, and the two crashed into a coffin Dan had finished, knocking it from its stand upon two saw horses.
They continued their drunken dance around the barn and Cordelia grabbed up a shovel from the corner.
“Jack! Let go!”
Jack released the monster and rolled out of the way. Cordelia swung with every ounce of strength in her body. The monster teetered and a second blow landed him in the gut of the coffin.
Jack leapt forward and heaved the lid over the opening and the two wrestled to get the lid set even as the cannibal monster thrashed and howled and clawed.
Cordelia climbed on top of the coffin’s lid to hold it down. Jack dove for something then spun around with a mallet in his hold and from his other hand a clattering of nails scattered over the freshly cut pine. Jack grabbed one and began pounding the giant nail into the soft wood.
Trembling and trying not to throw up, Cordelia picked up nails before they could shimmy away and handed them to Jack as he made his way around the edge of the box, hammering maniacally with the mallet.
After a dozen were in, he pounded the last nail inches from where Cordelia still sat on the lid and she saw droplets of blood splatter with each hammering hit.
Jack dropped the mallet with a sob and sank down next to the coffin staring at his blood soaked hands. Both of them were drenched in the rust-brown poison. Cordelia could feel it under her fingernails and thick in her hair like honey. Jack had it smeared across his face, and he turned to spit some from his mouth.
“Cordelia,” he gasped.
“Jack,” she answered.
There was nothing else to say.
Jack batted away more tears from the corners of his eyes. “Wonderful. Just when I have something to live for, the dead rise up and do their damnedest to bring me to their side.”
Cordelia sighed. “I know. But I also know you probably wouldn’t have met Grace and Dan if we hadn’t have had to burn the monsters down with the poor farm.” Cordelia poked him. “So maybe this whole end of the world thing was intended just for you.”
Jack was too exhausted to be angry. “Thanks.”
“Look.” Cordelia put her hand on Jack’s shoulder. “The fact that we all found each other was a miracle. So I have faith that what we were meant to do – or be – won’t end here.”
Jack sat up and leaned in to sit forehead to forehead with Cordelia.
“When did you know you loved Sara?” he asked.
“Oh. Well.” Cordelia bit her lip. “I don’t know. The exact moment I saw her?” Cordelia laughed and Jack couldn’t help feeling better hearing something so light and familiar.
The two leaned into each other in the early morning light.
“Maybe that’s why it hurts so much more when they’re not with us,” Jack said.
“Maybe,” Cordelia replied. “But they’re out there, waiting for us. They look up at the same stars at night that we do. And that makes me feel better.”
“Can’t see the stars right now, Cordelia,” Jack choked out.
Cordelia waited a beat, then grabbed the tattered quilt that lay over the bed. She pulled it over their heads and held it up, fingers splayed. The strengthening morning light shone gossamer through the thin material and dots of bright white lit along where the thread had been stitched through in a swirling pattern. The pin dots of light looked like the night sky, and Jack could almost start naming their own constellations. He helped her hold the quilt high and a tension he had been carrying with him for days broke within his body.
“I can see the stars just fine, Jack Parker,” Cordelia said with a smile. “It’s our world now. We better make the most of it.”
Cast From the Earth is available in both print and ebook.
Thanks for reading!