Sleight of Hand
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by Katrina Strauss
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
Description: What if the man of your dreams is also the one of your nightmares? Edwin Matthews just wants to get some sleep. Traveling by steam train with his family, the melancholic nineteen year old is plagued by restless nights and recurring dreams of a fiery disaster. When a mysterious magician comes aboard, the troubled insomniac's trip takes an interesting turn. Tall, dark, and incredibly handsome, the flamboyant Sir Marco Satori offers to cure what ails Edwin. Spurred by equal parts curiosity, desperation, and attraction, Edwin agrees to the experiment. Suddenly he finds his quiet journey turned into a wild ride of life, love, sex, death..and a few strange things in between. He also finds himself claimed--in more ways than one--while a promise of "eternity" may be more than Edwin bargains for. Warning: This book contains violence, dubious consent, masturbation, anal penetration, light D/s, frock coats, cravats, questionable Victorian parlor tricks, and hot sex between beautiful men on a fast-moving train.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
25 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [100 KB]
Reading time: 58-82 min.
The grinding screech of metal upon metal tore through the night, the ravine transformed into an inferno of heat, fire, smoke and screams. Clawing his way out of hell, Edwin grasped at dirt, rock and roots, anything which might give him purchase to pull himself up the slope. As the ground level came into view, he found more of the same horrors awaited him.
He took in the scene from where he clung to the edge of the bluff, his ribs heaving from exertion against the hard earth. Through the smoke and the flames, a lone silhouetted form emerged. Untouched by the fire, the figure strode toward the precipice. Long hair billowed wildly in the hot draft.
Was this the Reaper come to harvest his soul? If so, it was well-nigh time. Edwin feebly stretched one arm and opened his hand.
The figure loomed closer, now lit rather than shadowed by the flames, until the man came to tower over Edwin. No matter how many times Edwin may have wished for this moment, he had never envisioned Death as being quite so handsome. Elegant, tapered fingers touched his, sending a liquid stream of heat coursing through him.
So his fate would be death by fire; yet the flame which threatened to consume Edwin burned from within. He stared up into the man's eyes, as black as night, and then they narrowed and glowed with a feral red gleam.
Edwin gasped. In his shock, he released his hold on the gentleman's hand. He slid, losing his footing, and felt himself plummet. As his stomach dropped with him, Edwin jerked and blinked. Disoriented, he found himself seated in the saloon carriage, the window blotted with a patch of condensation where his brow had been pressed to the cool glass.
The train whistle sounded. The countryside flowed by, tendrils of fog curling through the patchwork of autumn trees which blanketed the hills in the distance. As the train crossed the trestle, Edwin tried in vain to recall the dream from just moments before. He was certain of one thing--he'd suffered the same dream the past several nights, the details escaping him each and every time upon waking.
Edwin watched out the window with bated breath, releasing a quiet sigh once the train had traversed the span. His fear of bridges would truly be tested when they reached the mountains and crossed the newly constructed arch truss across the ravine.
In the opposite bench seat, his mother knitted quietly. His younger sister, who sat directly across from him, indulged in her latest dime novel from the stack she'd bought from a depot newsboy. Though as well versed in the classics as he, Alma preferred easy reading for the long trip. From beneath puckered brow, her blue eyes skimmed the flimsy pages. For a fleeting moment, cloud-filtered light seeped through the window, suffusing the golden curls which spilled from the twist of ribbons at Alma's scalp, faintly illuminating her porcelain features colored by the pink cupid's bow of her lips. In her black dress trimmed with white frills, styled like the dress of a child but tailored to fit the form of a woman, it struck Edwin how doll-like his sister appeared, though he knew her to be independent, sharp-witted and anything but a doll. Taking this into account, he failed to understand why she'd so readily agreed to marry that old codger back east, their household's financial circumstances notwithstanding.
The promise of sunlight faded as the rolling clouds thickened and the rain picked back up. Edwin looked back to his mother dressed in funereal black faille, her needles gleaming as she deftly looped the yarn in and out to form a pattern. In a way, he envied the widow's ability to lose herself in such a repetitive task while shutting out all around her; but of course as a man, he could not indulge in such feminine pastimes. He had attempted to read earlier that day, having gone so far as to sift through Alma's books, but found himself unable to focus on even potboiler drivel.
The ability to concentrate had often proved a challenge when the shadow of despondence crept upon him. Edwin had suffered such affliction as far back as he could remember, vacillating between bouts of ennui and restlessness. The two distinct conditions had merged around his fourteenth year, precipitated by the growth spurt that had stretched his already slender frame to five foot nine and lent him a deeper voice. At that point, his mother could no longer chalk up his behavior to childhood sensitivity and she'd had him committed to a secret asylum stay. The nerve doctor had diagnosed humoral imbalance due to an overactive spleen and prescribed a regime to cleanse Edwin's system of black bile. Within a few months, the alienist had declared his young charge cured, as was generally the success rate with the wealthier patients who occupied the private rooms of the upper ward; however, his prescribed treatment of phlebotomy and purgative bitters had done little to ease Edwin's mental state, and had served in reducing him to his currently frail weight of eight-stone-five.
Now, just past his nineteenth year, Edwin found his nights vexed by insomnia, the rare spell of sleep interrupted by nightmares. Meanwhile, his waking hours were spent in a daze, his lethargy tinged with an inexplicable sense of despair that gnawed at the pit of his belly.
Edwin bit back a sigh and resumed looking out the window. His focus gradually shifted from the scenery to his reflection in the glass, to the same blond curls and pallid complexion as Alma's--features considered a welcome attribute in his sister, while for him they only contributed to his elders' concerns regarding his fragile constitution.
He felt the train decelerate. As they neared the next depot, Edwin noted with curiosity the lone carriage parked on the adjacent runaround track. With the luxurious styling of the private saloon, the car burst to life with color, making for a notable incongruity in the midst of the drizzle.
Sir Marco Satori bold lettering declared, the name as brash and vivid as the flourish of golden-scripted curls. Intrigued, Edwin read the simpler text detailed below the name.
"Illusionist, hypnotist and spiritualist extraordinaire," Edwin murmured. A second byline stated that Satori also offered Tonics and restoratives to cure what ails you.
"Pardon?" Alma asked, alerted by Edwin's mumbling.
Edwin glanced at her and tapped his finger on the glass. Alma looked out the window and uttered a tiny gasp, her cheeks flushing pink. Puzzled by her reaction, Edwin followed her gaze back to the private car.
A gentleman had stepped out onto the rear platform. Tall and slender, he stood resplendent in frock coat, gloves and top hat, all black save for the cream white collar of his shirt and the scarlet cravat knotted at his throat. A straight sheen of ebony hair spilled from beneath his hat and draped his shoulders, framing smooth-shaven features. Sir Marco Satori, Edwin presumed, clothed in the costume one would expect of such a dramatic-sounding persona.
A switch engine chugged toward the fore of the coach and began pushing it in reverse. Ah, so the magician would be joining the train, an event which Edwin found interesting in what had thus far been a tedious journey. As the coach was pushed closer to the saloon car, Edwin appraised the strange gentleman. He gauged the magician to be in his early to mid thirties, younger than one might expect of a spiritualist, a moniker Edwin associated with silver-haired ladies sipping tea whilst discussing such matters in a dim, dusty parlor cluttered with overstuffed furniture and bric-a-brac. On such a young man, the slightly outdated ensemble made for an appearance both eccentric and elegant, while his aloof demeanor lent him a mysterious appeal.
The gentleman's dark eyes flitted and directly caught Edwin's gaze, and the corner of his lips curled in a slight smile. He touched one gloved hand to the brim of his hat and nodded. As Edwin returned the acknowledgment, he felt an odd dip and swell in his belly, as if the floor had dropped out from under him, followed by the realization that his face had grown as hot as Alma's.