Excerpt: Tobias’s Own

You can, of course, get Tobias’s Own from Dreamspinner.

Blurb:
All Tobias wanted to do was stop a robbery. On the way to Doctor Svoboda’s Clinic For Nervous Health, Tobias J. Poole finds himself confronting the famous airship robber Caledfryn H. Hawthorne. Tobias’s act of bravery doesn’t turn out quite as planned, and he finds himself caught in the famous villain’s clutches.

It’s not so bad, really; especially once Tobias meets young tradesman Philippe Carreleur. But Tobias was on that airship for a reason, and his past catches up with him at the most inopportune time. Will Tobias’s new friends be able to make sure his adventure ends happily, or is he destined to be treated for Nervous Health forever?

Excerpt:

It was the politeness that changed Tobias’s entire life. Well, it was actually a split-second decision to try being a hero, but he wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for the politeness. The pirate stories he’d grown up on were full of wild-eyed and desperate men who swore like the sailors they subdued; who were mean, villainous, and often sported really ridiculous mustaches.

The man working his way down the line of passengers was calmer, quieter, and—not that Tobias was thinking about it too closely—clean-shaven. He held a soft cloth bag in his right hand and a nasty little Ledent pistol in his left, and as he moved, he kept up a constant patter.

“That’s right, missus, I’ll have those earrings; no, no, not your wedding rings, you keep those. Sir, your watch— Wait, what’s the inscription say? Twenty-five years in the Corps? No, you keep it. Your wallet, now, empty that if you please; thank you. Yes, miss, that’s quite a sweet portrait, have you a safe place for it? Yes? Did he give you— No? Then I’ll have the locket and chain both. Thank you. Cash? Gold? No? All right, then.”

The man watched as Baronne Chénier jerked a heavy twist of pearls from her neck and flung it at his feet. “You want my jewels, you horrible man? You and my miserable bastard of a first husband can crawl for them.” Her rings followed the necklace, bouncing across the rug to bump against the polished toes of his shoes.

“Thank you, missus,” the man said, as sweetly as he’d said everything else. He dropped to one knee, flipped the jewelry into his bag with the snubby nose of the Ledent, then rose smoothly.

That was the moment that Tobias decided the man couldn’t possibly be any sort of threat. He was outnumbered by the people in the salon; there was no way he could hope to escape if they banded together! They only needed someone to make the first move, and he would be the one. The man had moved on to Miss Ford, who was the daughter of some timber baron or something. Once he was done with her, Tobias would take the man down and that would be that.

“Those earrings, miss, are they rubies?”

Miss Amberleigh Ford lifted her chin and looked down her nose at him, an impressive feat considering that she was a full thirty centimeters shorter than her interrogator. “Of course they are,” she said, voice as chilly as the ice field they were drifting over. “All of my jewelry is real.”

“Splendid,” he said, and he held up the sack. “Please put everything in here, miss.”

“And if I refuse?” She crossed her arms.

“Miss,” he said, giving her a cajoling smile. “I’m sure you’ve plenty more pretty things in your room. What are these, to you? Besides….” And here, the smile fell away as he leaned toward her, his voice getting louder for the first time since he’d announced his presence. “You poor thing, those colors do nothing for your complexion. I’m sure one of the other women on board would have mentioned it. Or perhaps they wouldn’t.”

Tobias was fascinated by the change that such a simple statement wrought on the young woman. She flushed right down to the collar of her tea dress, her mouth opening and closing as her hands fell to her sides. Miss Ford removed her earrings, her necklace, and the rings from her fingers with sharp movements, dropping them into the bag.

“Thank you, miss, and wear emeralds next time, won’t you?” A grin flashed at her, and then it was Tobias’s turn.

“All right, young man, your wallet and your watch, if you please.”

“I brought neither with me,” Tobias lied, staring at the gun. “I’m afraid you’ll have to be content with this.” He made a grab for the man’s left hand, managing to force it up toward the ceiling. The gun and its attendant possibility of death demanded the whole of his attention, which was why the blow to his chest was a surprise. Tobias grunted and looked down, away from the struggle, and in that split second of inattention the man struck him again.

“Do not move.” The cold metal of the Ledent’s barrel pressed against his cheek, just under Tobias’s right eye. “On your knees, lad, and put your hands behind your back. That’s it.”

He was hard-pressed to decide which was worse: the burning humiliation of failure, or the fact that he had been winded and subdued with only two strikes. The man cuffed him, then helped him to his feet, which was strange enough to make him forget his embarrassment. “What the—”

“You’ll see. Now,” the man said, tugging him out of the line of people, “since you claim to be free of valuables, I think I’ll make do with you. Stand here quietly, please, while I finish up. Oh, and next time you want to pretend you’ve left your watch elsewhere?”

The man seemed to be waiting for a reply, so Tobias said, “Yes?”

“Make sure your chain’s not visible.” He gave the young man a quick little smirk, then went back to the line of passengers. Ten minutes later, he shoved the bag into Tobias’s hands and looped the drawstring around his cuffs, then bowed to the assembly. “Thank you kindly,” he said, before he hauled his loot through the salon door and disappeared.