Winterblaze - By Kristen Callihan


As always, many thanks to my dedicated and wonderful agent Kristin Nelson. My hardworking and astute editor, Alex Logan. The awesome Grand Central/Forever team, Amy Pierpont, Lauren Plude, Jennifer Reese, Megha Parekh, and countless others—every day, I thank my lucky stars to be working with you.

To my family for their never-ending love and support, especially my husband and children who treat this job as though it was a team effort—and I suppose they’re right!

Thank you, Amy Noble, for bidding on and winning the Darkest London package for the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. I hope you enjoy your namesake.

Many thanks to Jenny Harlett and mixologist Krishna Ramsundar for the highly educational, if not slightly intoxicating lesson on absinthe. Any mistakes I made regarding the Green Fairy are solely my own.

And to the reviewers, bloggers, and readers who have spread the word about my books, given me support, and absolutely made my job worth it. I cannot say enough how much it means to me. You are my inspiration.


And now dear little children, who may this story read,

To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:

Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,

And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

“The Spider and the Fly” Mary Howitt

London, 1869, Victoria Station—An Auspicious Beginning

Winston Lane could never recall the impetus that prompted him to leave the confines of his first class railway compartment and step back onto the platform. The whistle had sounded, long and high, indicating that they would soon be off. And yet, he’d felt compelled. Was it for a quick draw upon his pipe? The need for a bit of air? His memory was muddled at best. Perhaps it was because the whys did not matter. From the moment he’d stepped off that train, his life changed completely. And it had been because of a woman.

Now that he remembered with the vividness of a fine oil painting. Great billows of hot, white steam clouded the cold air upon the platform, obscuring the shapes of the few railway workers attending to last minute duties, giving their movements a ghostlike subtlety. Idly he watched them, interested as always in the activities of the common man, when through the mists she emerged. It might have been lyrical had she been gliding along in peaceful repose, but no, this woman strode. A mannish, commanding walk as if she owned the very air about her. And though Winston had been raised to appreciate ladies who exuded utter femininity and eschew those who did not, he’d snapped to instant attention.

She was tall, nearly as tall as he, this assertive miss, and dressed in some dull frock that blended into the fading light. The only spot of color was her mass of vivid, carnelian red hair coiled at the back of her head like a crown. So very red, and glinting like a beacon. One look and he knew he had to have her. Which was rather extraordinary, for he wasn’t the sort prone to impulse or rash feeling. And certainly not about women. They were interesting in the abstract, but one was much like any other. At nineteen, he was already set in his ways: orderly, bookish, and logical. Save there was nothing logical about the hot, hard pang that caught him in the gut as she walked by, her dark eyes flashing beneath the red slashes of her brows.

The pipe fell from Winston’s hand, clattering upon the ground as he stood frozen, surely gaping like some slack-jawed idiot. She did not appear to notice him, but kept walking, her long legs eating up the ground, taking her away from him. This, he could not allow. In an instant, he was after her.

He nearly broke into a run to catch her. It was worth it. The scent of book leather and lemons enveloped him, and his head went light. Books and clean woman. Had God ever divined a more perfect perfume? She was young. Perhaps younger than he was. Her pale skin was smooth, unlined, and unmarred, save for the tiny freckle just above her earlobe. He had the great urge to bite that little lobe.

She did not break her pace, but glanced at him sidelong as if to throw out a warning. He did not blame her; he was being unspeakably rude approaching this young lady without a proper introduction. Then again, they were the only ones on the platform, and he was not fool enough