Stolen Petals by Katherine McIntyre
One man has swiped bounties from Viola, the Brass Violet, for years. Longstanding rivals, they’ve only had brief encounters, and if she had a choice, she’d avoid him entirely. When he saunters into her bar with an offer to work together on a job, the proper response would be to shoot him down and send him back to Shantytown. However, curiosity’s a wicked beast, and Viola needs to know why, after so many years of stealing her marks, he’d approach her now.
The man is insufferable, annoyingly cavalier, and tends to stir up memories she’d rather forget–but she needs assistance on this job and he’s offering aid and blueprints which could cut their work in half.
Given the intense way he looks at her though, working together isn’t all he has in mind. Van Clef is known for his persistence and, with his charm, he wins women over effortlessly. Viola’s not so easy though–she’s wise to his tricks. But if he wants to play the game, she will gladly rise to the challenge. By the end of this bounty, she’ll be the one leaving him in the dust.
“I see you’ve taken it upon yourself to order for me.” Viola folded her arms across her chest as she came to a halt in front of the Fox.
He lifted the second glass of the emerald elixir and gave her the sort of smile that would send most women reeling. She accepted with a polite nod and held it to her nose, pretending to take in the aroma. The drink was the correct green for absinthe whereas a sedative would make it milkier. Bitter, sweet licorice wafted up from the liquid, but no other herbal fragrance stood out. Shouldn’t be spiked.
She took the first sip as she sat, aware he wouldn’t pull out the seat for her. The absinthe rolled across her tongue, allowing her to relax.
“Edward Van Clef at your service.” He tipped his hat, a crooked tooth poking out with his grin.
“Viola Embrees.” She pursed her lips. The scoundrel had already found her establishment, so false names were pointless. He sat in silence, his eyes honing in on her painted lips and resting on her porcelain chest. Ever the gentleman. Up close, Edward wasn’t unattractive. Boorish and ragged, yes, but he had deep-set eyes and a long chin that widened with his smile. Perhaps if he stumbled onto a bath and a tailor he could even be considered handsome. Viola sipped the absinthe again to cover up her stare.
“I’m relieved you decided to indulge my request.” His voice lowered with a hint of glibness. “I was concerned you’d toss the invitation considering who it was from. Not that I haven’t enjoyed our competition in the past, I just—” he halted, frowned, and lifted the cup to his lips.
Viola waited for him to continue. What about this bounty did Fox want so badly he’d work with her? The question enflamed her curiosity like nothing else.
“Are you going to get to the point?” Viola murmured into her drink. “After all, why bother with niceties given the illustrious–history–that we’ve managed to build with barely a glimpse of one another.”
His grin widened. “My dear, business is business. I can’t help but fall victim to deceit and manipulation as any addict can stave off gambling.”
“You sell your company so well.” Viola cast a glance over to the waitresses who wandered through, ranging from bony to sallow. Most of these women hadn’t seen better days and never would. Every single one of them had the same haunted look of women from Shantytown, that world weariness. A taller waitress with a bush of ratty black hair brushed by her and Viola didn’t miss the venom in the woman’s eyes. She returned the glare with similar coldness. Envy her all they wanted, but she’d fought her way out and would never, ever return.
“Who needs to sell a point when I’ve got what you want?” He ran the tip of his tongue over his teeth. Of all the insufferable men around, she was saddled with one of the worst.
“That all depends. If you aren’t offering anything enticing, then you needn’t try to sell your deficiencies. I’ll walk away.” She fixed him with her gaze, insinuating her point. There would be no sabotage or hidden knives slung because she already packed her own.
“You wound me, madam. Would I waste your time?” He placed a hand over his chest while his teasing smile reflected in his eyes.
“Yes. You would. And you’d revel in the fact you got me to tromp down here for a drink.”
Q: Romance readers have a lot of choices these days. What makes Stolen Petals stand out in the crowd?
A: While there are plenty of steampunk romances, I tend to mix mine with a little more science fiction. I always loved the space opera storylines with bounty hunters chasing their foe through the unknown, because I think danger enhances some of the passion. And this story has plenty of passion. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy witty banter?
Q: We like to include our favorite quote in our reviews of the books we read. What is your favorite quote from Stolen Petals?
A: My favorite quote from Stolen Petals is:
She ignored the heat in her chest and delivered him a sweet smile. “Sorry, one night stands don’t stack up as credentials for tending bar.”
About Katherine McIntyre
A modern day Renaissance-woman, Katherine McIntyre has learned soapmaking, beer brewing, tea blending, and most recently roasting coffee. Most of which make sure she’s hydrated and bathed while she spends the rest of her time writing. With a desire to travel and more imagination than she knows what to do with, all the stories jumping around in her head led to the logical route of jotting them down on paper. Not only can her poetry and prose be found in different magazines, but she’s had an array of novels and novellas published through Decadent Publishing, Breathless Press, Hazardous Press, and Jupiter Gardens Press. For more casual content, she’s a regular contributor on CaffeineCrew.com, a geek news website.