First let me say hello and a big thank you to Amber for inviting me. I’m a multi-genre writer from the UK, including m/m romance. I’m here to throw one of my characters a party. Hard choice. I had two books out in October both suited to Halloween — one from Loose id, and one from Musa Publishing, but for this I’m going with the latter, and a character and book that’s a bit different for me. For one thing, it’s more literary. Don’t read this and think you know my work. My style can vary by genre, and when re-working a classic I had to choose the right tone. I love this story and wanted to maintain the right note. If you enjoy the following party setting with excerpts, please comment and I’ll run a draw at the end of the month for a free copy. So without further ado let me wish Amber a Happy Birthday, and throw Ignatius Swain a party.
To Ignatius Swain
You are hereby invited to an intimate soiree…for two.
Desiree Delcroix will not be able to join us; neither will her father, Gregoire, a condition I am sure will please you without reservation. A pity the late, great Washington Irving cannot make it, but despite what we owe him, I would rather have you to myself. So it should not greatly surprise you to hear the guest list consists of your saucisson, os de jambon, ane coq, Jacques Bouchard.
Please be present at home on this day the 20th of the month, but don’t arrive too early.
PS: There will be plenty of food, especially chicken.
The candlelight was a warm welcome, and the pumpkins raised a smile. The other ‘haunting’ decorations stopped Ignatius wandering through his London home, so different from the hovel in which Gregoire Delacroix had long ago sequestered him. Time had changed his perception of that humble dwelling, particularly owing to the recollection of one evening when, chilled by ghostly tales, an unenviable trek bound for the ramshackle abode in frosty air had led to an encounter the like of which he had only ever dreamed.
That was in the past, though, and his memories were a happy happenstance that pertained to the present, producing a shake of the head and a following sigh, part melancholy, part joy. This jolted to life the memory of how he and the man awaiting him had met:
He blinked again when dark formidable eyes returned his stare from beneath a hardy brow and a shock of black hair.
“A stranger, and an odd-looking one at that,” the man said, when Ignatius had been thinking the same thing about him. At least, he had never set eyes on such broad shoulders before now.
“I’m new to town, sir,” Ignatius confirmed. He cast a glance around the rambunctious assemblage, seeing that this man hung with a motley crew of manly specimens. There were four of them, five including the large man, and they gave the impression of being a gang.
“Indeed.” That rich, warm voice rang out. The booming quality shook Ignatius’s frame as though a bell tolled within him reverberating all the way down to his toes. “And what can we do for you?”
The question came so unexpectedly that for a moment Ignatius quite forgot to answer. He stared at the other man and dark twinkling eyes gazed back. He was not sure what he could see in them, but that gaze was a peculiar mix of emotions. For an instant, Ignatius perceived himself to be transparent, as though this man stared into his very soul, yet as for the man himself, he was impenetrable. Ignatius had thought he had the chap’s worth figured out the moment the brute had placed his legs into his path, but now he felt misguided. Someone coughed, bringing him back to reality.
Merriment broke through the reminiscence as he took in the decorations. The image of Jacques cutting out ghostly shapes and hanging them as streamers brought back Ignatius’s high spirits. The brute would have been crying with laughter and grinning so widely, it would be a wonder the smile did not meet around the back of his head.
The spread of food, including fine wine and cake, and as Jacques had promised, plenty of chicken, was enough to turn the most steadfast and learned of men weak with desire. The perfect evening he suspected was ahead of him was underlined when he spied his gift simply tied with ribbon — a book of ghostly tales to cause shivers to ripple up his spine, and if that did not work, an apparition would likely breathe a chill breeze on the back of his neck. Though never mind that. In that moment he could think of nothing more intellectual than offering himself up as a plate upon which the other man would dine. He could think of no better way to spend a birthday, and he’d suggest they start with the chicken:
“Open,” Jacques insisted, and Ignatius discovered he had parted his lips without thinking. “Wider.” Once more, he declined.
“’Tis any passing the old crossroads at night who needs be most on their guard.”
Naturally, Ignatius had to walk the crossroads to reach his hovel. One part of his mind was listening to the story. The other was unconcerned with mysticism and more taken with the spectre of Jacques Bouchard blocking out the light and all avenues of escape.
“Aye, the crossroads. Such a pretty sight in sunlight, with the old brook bubbling down through the glen. But at night—”
Ignatius blinked and blinked again. Jacques waved the chicken leg under his nose. Ignatius’s mouth opened, half in question, half-gaping, and Jacques moved the meat closer to his mouth.
“Bite, or I’ll feed it to you forcefully.”
Wondering if the meat were poisoned, Ignatius hesitated.
“Most sightings of him happen there.”
“Aye, every spirit has his favourite stomping ground. ’Tis best avoided.”
“And who is this old spirit and what if one were to encounter him?” Desiree clearly knew the story but was relishing the moment.
Ignatius opened his mouth, Jacques pressed the meat home, and a moment later, Ignatius’s teeth pierced the flesh, salty, succulent juices flooding his mouth, easing over his tongue.
“There’s not many lived to tell the tale. A few, though, they say they’ve seen him as a skeleton in livery or flames. Some say they’ve rode or walked alongside him until he went back to whatever hell he came from, but I don’t believe it.”
Ignatius couldn’t believe he was chewing, and Jacques’s dark eyes watched his lips while he did so. The look in the man’s eyes was one of fever or fire. Perhaps hatred, perhaps…desire?
“Fools,” Jacques muttered, offering Ignatius another bite of chicken. Rather than face another threat, Ignatius ate. He didn’t know what Jacques meant by the comment.
The story continued, mostly one of warnings about how not to go out late at night, and not alone, and never travel by the crossroads: the very thing Ignatius was shortly going to have to do. He took a last bite of chicken and flinched when Jacques tossed it somewhere over his shoulder regardless of whether it landed on the table or the floor, and someone found it in the trifle or stepped on it and slipped. Ignatius was very aware of the grease from the meat glazing his lips.
Those dark eyes studied him, seemed to search Ignatius’s gaze, and no matter how the young tutor strove to look away he could not do so. Jacques leaned in and Ignatius would have pulled away if there had not been a wall at his back as steadfast and solid as Jacques himself.
The man tilted his head. Ignatius, frowning, did his best to sink into the unyielding surface behind him wondering what manner of torment Jacques was about to perpetrate upon his person. Jacques’s tongue flicked out and licked the juices that surely glistened on his lips before closing their mouths together.
Ignatius is about to be seduced by a legend.
During a time when even the most educated of folk believe in ghosts, Ignatius Swain arrives in the quiet town of Ville sur le Fleuve to act as pedagogue to the adult daughter of Gregoire Delacroix. There he encounters the enigmatic Jacques Bouchard, who appears to view him as a rival for Desiree Delacroix’s affection. Nothing could be more misconstrued. Even if Desiree’s gaze were not able to freeze water, Ignatius has set aside hopes of love hereabouts. He satisfies his desires with the ‘helping hand’ of ghostly fables, tales of terror that walk shivery traces and fiery passion up his spine…until one night when Jacques’s behaviour breeches barriers, and the pair encounter the most famous of resident spirits on the road.
Prize: A copy of Seduced by a Legend