Right. If you would like to be a first reader on a 42K Victorian fantasy short novel with some sex, a soupcon of WTFery, and a gallon of smartassery, let me know; I’ll send it out on Monday.


James sprinted to the door and flung it open. In the brief glimpse I had before he slammed it shut after him, I saw the face of the guard, red and angry, lit by the brighter light of the corridor.

“They are dressing in men’s clothes,” James announced. There was an angry statement in a low voice, and then James added, scandalized, “Of course not!” A question, less angry, and James replied, “Lord, man, I don’t know. Whatever it is that gels get up to in men’s clothes. Horseback riding. Putting on tableaux. Trying to sneak past their guards to gad about town.”

Or, I considered, going fishing, and thus in need of fishing-poles from the boathouse where Cook was being held. I crept slowly toward the door.

“When they…ahem, when Miss Elizabeth threatened to begin removing her dress, I exited the room as quickly as possible. It was clear that Nicholas wasn’t about, and that they weren’t to be dissuaded from their plans.”

After another low bit of conversation on the guard’s part, with James making various noises of wordless agreement, the door creaked, and footsteps–two sets–began walking away down the corridor. I reached the door and locked it, leaving the key in the keyhole. The stairs downward creaked, then stopped, and James’s voice called out, “I should keep an eye on them, if I were you. You never know what mischief that girl is going to get up to.”

The panel behind me brushed against the floor as Victoria closed it. “What are we getting up to?” she whispered.

“Take off that dress,” I whispered back, going through my brother’s wardrobe, looking for trousers that might be pinned up or let out to fit Victoria’s decidedly womanish curves. “If we’re going to get into trouble, we may as well get into the kind of scrape that has to be hushed up because it’s so ridiculous that no-one would believe it. We’re going to be village boys out for a few trout, and sneak out and find Cook at the boathouse to question her.”

“Hmph,” she said, but when I turned to face her, my arms full of humble trousers and plain linen shirts, her face bore not an expression of disgust but of satisfaction. “That’ll tweak Conroy to no end, I’ll wager.”

“Indeed,” I said. “Now put on these trousers.”