Just five weeks until the release of A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS! Can you believe it?! I’ll be announcing the big release month giveaway March 1st and will have tons of other fun for you to celebrate the launch, including the release of Kenneth’s A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS score. Can’t wait to share it all with you!
In the meantime, this week’s teaser features Griffin (you met him last week here) and Helen engaging in some, er, intimate training in the ballroom.
A moment later, they rounded a corner into an enormous, nearly empty room. Sun-
light streamed in through windows that rose to the ceiling and
dust motes hung in the air like a veil as Helen stepped onto
the parquet floor.
“It’s lovely.” She turned in a circle, admiring the chandeliers
overhead, the gilt-framed art on the walls.
“It hasn’t been in use for some time.” Griffin crossed to
a small table against one wall. “I wasn’t even old enough to
attend the last ball that was held here.”
Helen nodded, her mind touching on the experiences she
always assumed would be hers before the murder of her fam-
ily and the ruin of her home.
“I’ll bet it was wonderful, though.” She smiled at him as
he came back toward her, holding something in his hands.
“When it was all lit up, I mean.”
He nodded. When their eyes met, his loss mirrored her own.
He held something out to her. Helen took it, closing her
hand around the smooth wood of the V-shaped training sickle.
“It won’t hurt you while you learn, but it will give you
a feel for the advantages and challenges of such a strangely
shaped weapon. I assume you’ve taken fencing?”
Helen couldn’t hide her surprise. “How did you know?”
He shrugged. “It was part of the curriculum for most of us.
All the usual studies plus Latin, religious history, intelligent
“Intelligent defense?” She remembered Father’s lessons on
Latin and religious history and the more recent addition of
fencing, but she didn’t recall anything approximating intel-
“It might not have been presented as an actual lesson. Our
parents were killed before we could study it outright. But
when we were small, the lessons came in the form of games.”
“What kind of games?” But Helen already knew what he
“Games like Find the Way Out and What Would You Do If . . .” He
tipped his head. “You did play them, didn’t you?”
She nodded, the pieces of the puzzle clicking together in
her mind. “I didn’t realize they were more than games until I
escaped from the tunnel under my house the night of the fire.
I emerged in front of Claridge’s.”
Griffin raised his eyebrows. “I take it you were familiar?”
“My father took me there for tea every week. We often
walked the streets afterward. Right by this very house, I’m
“It must have been difficult to prepare us without actually
telling us anything. It cannot have been easy to teach children
such things,” he said. “As time passes, you’ll discover a lot of
things you didn’t realize you knew.”
She heard her mother’s frantic voice the night of the fire.
You know more than you think, Helen.
“Now, when you hold the sickle…” Griffin backed up,
looking at her more closely, his eyes traveling to the hem of
her skirts. “I do like your new clothing, Helen, but . . . well,
your skirt seems shorter than normal.”
She had wondered if Griffin would even notice the eccen-
tricities of her attire.
Sighing, she reached down with her free hand, pulling the fabric
away from her legs so he could see the cut of the design. “It
isn’t a skirt. Not really.”
His bewilderment turned to shock. “You’re wearing trousers?”
“They’re not trousers!” she protested. “It is a slightly shorter
skirt sewn in the middle so I can move about more freely.”
“Yes,” Griffin agreed, laughing. “Pants! Like I said.”
She slapped him playfully on the shoulder. “Gowns are made
for strolling and sewing. I cannot hope to defend myself with
all that fabric weighing on my legs. This can pass as a slightly
short skirt while still allowing me some freedom of move-
ment. Besides,” she looked down at herself, feeling a twinge of
pride, “I think I did quite well designing them on a moment’s
notice, and Andrew did brilliantly with creating them.”
“All right.” Griffin rubbed the stubble, faintly visible on his
chin. “I see your point.”
He backed up a few more feet, beginning to explain the
use of the sickle. Helen listened intently, for though they were
practicing with wood, she might well be holding the razor-
sharp edge of a real sickle someday soon. And her life might
depend on her ability to use it.
It was not very different from fencing in stance, Griffin
explained. He reminded her to place her weight on her back foot
when gauging the situation and to transfer it to her front
when taking the offensive.
“It’s trickier than fencing, though, because you don’t have
the length of the blade between you and your opponent.” He
demonstrated, moving closer to her. He held out the training
sickle as if attacking her with its sharp edge. “You have to get
close enough to do damage, but that places you near enough
to be injured as well.”
“How do I avoid that?” Helen asked, her mind already work-
ing to come up with a solution.
He smiled. “By keeping them too busy to go on the offen-
sive or by knocking their own weapon out of their hand.”
She nodded, storing the information for later as he
stepped forward, tapping his sickle against hers. “The other
thing you have to watch out for is the lock.” He slipped the
edge of his weapon into the hook of hers so that they were
intertwined in the center of the V. “If someone gets a lock
on you, it’s tough to extricate yourself without injury. That’s
the bad news.”
“What’s the good news?” she asked, her sickle still inter-
twined with his.
“That you can do the same to them.” He gave his sickle a good
yank, and the piece of wood in her hand clattered to the ballroom
She bent to pick it up. “I think I’m beginning to under-
stand,” she said. “It’s not a physical problem. Well, not really.
It seems like it is, because we’re moving around. But it’s really
more mathematical. More scientific.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Scientific?”
She liked the way he looked into her eyes when she spoke.
As if he truly wanted to hear what she had to say and was not
just being courteous by asking.
“Yes. Probability, cause and effect, that kind of thing.”
His brow wrinkled a little. “Go on.”
She studied the sickle. “Using this as an example, if my
opponent comes closer than two feet, the probability of his
using greater strength to injure me is great. But if I can hook
my sickle with his before that point or right as he reaches it, I
have a better chance of disarming him altogether.”
Griffin shook his head. “You wouldn’t have the strength to
“Strength isn’t a requirement.”
“I’m not sure I agree with that.”
She raised her sickle. “I’ll show you.”
He lifted his arm, holding the wooden sickle in front of
him, waiting to see what Helen would do. A split second
later, she whipped her weapon around his, trapping it in
“This is what I mean, Helen. Now you’re trapped.”
She could feel the pull of strength on his side of their battle.
Their sickles were taut, and it took all of Helen’s strength to
hold her ground. She let a couple of seconds pass while Griffin
became used to the idea of disarming her.
Then she released the tension in her arm just enough to
cause him to stumble back. Before he could regain his bal-
ance, she tapped his sickle hard, sending it skidding across the
He nodded, his expression turned from one of surprise to
admiration. “Nicely done.”
She smiled, her cheeks warm. “Thank you.”