What would a Haunted Austen event be without a post from Steph Nixon? After all, her book, The Darcy Madness, was the first JAFF paranormal story I ever read, which led me to read of JAFF stories that explore the darker side of JAFF. I reviewed “The Darcy Madness” here last year, and I highly recommend it to my readers!
Once Steph starts posting this story on AHA, I will post or tweet about it for my readers.
I have culled an excerpt from my latest book, which is titled, Love and Other Madness. This is a follow on book from the previously published work, The Darcy Madness, in as much as it also delves into the lives of the curse Darcy jaguars, but can also be read as a stand-alone book, as it doesn’t really refer to the previous story. I would recommend reading The Darcy Madness first, as it does make understanding some of the scenes easier, but isn’t necessary for full enjoyment of the story.
Although I started writing this book mostly because this particular version of Elizabeth and Darcy just wouldn’t leave me alone, I quickly found myself working on a story that was heavily influenced by the political situations that existed both in my own country and in many countries around the world. The story itself revolves around a non-canon relationship between the two main characters, although there is a little Hunsford scene thrown in there for good measure. It in many ways revolves around society’s perception of people who are different and I suppose how the media can influence for good or ill how the majority accept the minority. This is particularly relevant for me at the moment, because since I am British, I now live in a country that has decided to, in the most part, reject the European Union, meaning the free movement of people and trade and in general the gloriousness of multi-culturalism. Mostly due to fear and the overblown xenophobic rhetoric of politicians who have their own agenda to serve. Regardless of which way anyone voted in the recent “Brexit,” I find it a worrying development. Britain has always been a multi-cultural country.
Because of Brexit, I now live in a country in which race crime has spiked in the last few months, the majority of it has been fuelled by ignorance and irresponsible, inflammatory journalism, with a liberal sprinkling of political lies and evasiveness.
This book does perhaps exaggerate the xenophobic rhetoric to the nth degree due to purgative reporting and an ignorant population, but I think that unfortunately at the moment (especially with all of the other problems in the world i.e the Burkini incidents on beaches in France, Trump threatening to build a wall and ban Muslims from entering America etc) it’s not exactly beyond the realm of reality.
The other general theme that underscores the story is that of theft of animals, both farm and equine that is as much as people think that “Rustling” is a 19th Century Wild West problem. It isn’t. I live and work in a rural community. I have friends who depend upon raising and selling animals for their livelihood, and who are losing potentially thousands of pounds of income a year, not to mention the bloodlines that they have diligently worked on to expand and improve their end produce. It is a big problem, that people don’t seem to want to acknowledge exists. And its not just agricultural animals. There are hundreds of pedigree dogs that go missing from people’s homes and gardens, where they should be safe, just so some unscrupulous person can make a lot of money quickly.
I wanted to, in some way, raise awareness of the problem, so that people will take the victims seriously.
My posting plans are to get something onto A Happy Assembly by the end of October/beginning of November. I am almost completely finished now, save for a few chapters to wrap up the action, as long as my various work related injuries don’t stop me from typing.
I will mostly likely publish the book on Amazon Kindle sometime in the new year, and once it’s been posted on the forums. I always welcome comments on the forums, they help to make me a better writer, and hopefully ensure my reader’s enjoyment of the mad ravings of my brain!
“Darcy,” Foy’s deep, gravelly voice murmured on the other end of the line once I had accepted the call. He sounded exactly the same as normal, but my friend’s tone had never been a particularly good indicator of emotion or seriousness. He could be trapped in a burning building and still sound exactly the same as usual. “We have a bit of a situation. You’re needed at the school.”
As far as Foy was concerned a situation could be anything ranging from a couple of out of control teenage shifters that needed their heads cracking, or the beginning of world war three.
“You might want to bring the Russian with you,” my friend said calmly. “And a change of clothes.”
Which meant that the situation was leaning toward the world war three end of the spectrum. My inner feline bared viciously sharp teeth at the thought that someone might be causing problems with the people that it had claimed as its own. It raked its claws down the insides of my skin with an ever-present hunger for blood and violence.
“Alright,” I murmured. “I’ll be there as quickly as possible.”
Ducking back into the dining room I was greeted by several pairs of curious eyes, wondering how I was supposed to explain my absence to those seated at my table who knew nothing of my second-self. Elizabeth’s expression was creased with faint lines of concern and I hated that I needed to lie to her about what I was doing and where I was going. If she was my mate in truth then there would be no need for the deceit and subterfuge that only served to anger the monster in me.
“There’s been a bit of an emergency,” I told my assembled family lightly so as not to alert them to the fact that I might be walking into a brutal, bloody fight. “I need to go and sort it out. I’ll be back as soon as I can, finish dinner without me.”
“Do you need a hand?” Richard asked, more than likely guessing that my business had nothing to do with legitimate Darcy enterprises.
I shook my head. If things were going to get bloody I would rather my cousin not be involved. Although he was quite capable of handling himself on the battlefield, he was human and vulnerable against the wrath of a shape-shifter, or one of the more aggressive Others who wished to harm him.
“No, I’ll be fine. Hopefully it won’t take too long and I’ll be back before everyone goes home,” I brushed a kiss along Elizabeth’s cheek and met my mother’s serious gaze. She knew me too well to fail to understand what I was not saying, but she’d never attempt to stop me from doing what was necessary. “I’ll see you soon.”
I retreated before anyone could ask any further questions, and retrieving Matvej from the rooms that had been given over to him and Klara for the duration of their stay in London, we set out into the night for Cheapside. Traffic had eased since rush-hour, although in the City it never became truly quiet, and it took little more than twenty minutes to reach our destination.
To any casual observer the big, imposing building that housed the school looked no different than it ordinarily did, but my keen ears could easily detect the sounds of angrily raised voices from within its thick walls. I exchanged a quick glance with my silent companion and mounted the steps, the scent of blood and terror stinging my nostrils as I gripped the door handle making my inner feline chatter its teeth in agitation. Something was most definitely not right, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. No one disturbed those who were under my protection without very rapidly coming to regret it.
As I opened the door I could scarcely believe how many people were gathered within the building. The hallways were thick with Others, anger and resentment radiating from their forms, the din of anxious, furious chatter almost deafening. The scent of blood grew thicker once I was inside, the jaguar curling its lip in a silent snarl at the knowledge that somewhere in this building someone was hurt, perhaps beyond endurance.
At my entrance the gathered Others began to fall into an uneasy silence. Their expressions registered a gamut of emotions from relief to fury as I passed by them, my long strides eating up the distance between myself and the main meeting room where I instinctively knew the main agitators of this particular problem were gathered. Matvej paced soundlessly in my wake, making the watchers withdraw even further, their eyes rounded with wary uncertainty at the knowledge that not one, but two dangerous predators stalked by.
I was intrigued to realise that the majority of those gathered here this night were shape-shifters; mostly predatory species, but a few non-predators were scattered amongst them. As a rule shape-shifters rarely met in large numbers, many of them fearful of discovery by the mundane authorities, although the main overriding reason was that mostly their beasts did not particularly get along well with one another in tight, enclosed spaces.
Something highly irregular must have occurred to occasion such an unprecedented gathering and I was becoming more and more perturbed the deeper I moved into the bowels of the building. There was such an air of aggression and outrage in the atmosphere that it was almost a struggle to draw breath. My inner feline snarled and snapped its teeth at the subtle challenge to my authority, wanting to find the instigator and crush him for his insolence.
Within moments I had arrived at the meeting room to find Foy almost facing off with a pair of brothers, lions in their late thirties, who had only recently started utilising the school. They were both a thorn in my paw, thinking that, by virtue of their being lions – and therefore King of the Beasts – they were due far more respect and deference than they received. They had little idea what ruling over this establishment and those who frequented it really meant, and no ability to appreciate all that the Darcy family did for those Others who dwelt nearby. If I had to interrupt a family dinner solely because the pair had decided that they wanted to act like dicks, then their punishment would be swift and brutal and not likely to be forgotten for a good long while.
I had no tolerance for stupidity, and even less tolerance for delusions of grandeur.
“And I say that something needs to be done!” one of the brothers – I think his name was Donovan – practically roared at Foy; an altogether dangerous thing to do to my friend, for he had no patience for idiots and a feral delight in proving it. “Not only do they try to tag us like animals, they attack us without the fear of reprisals because we are too afraid to reveal what we are to the authorities! They ought to be afraid of us!”
“They are afraid of us, idiot,” Foy’s rough growl silenced the brief murmurs of ascent that followed his loud pronouncement. “That’s why they attack us when they think that we are vulnerable.”
“So we make them pay,” the other brother, Michael, snarled back, the rage in his eyes making them glow with an inhuman brightness. “And pay until they learn to leave us alone.”
Irritated by the rhetoric that was only likely to see shape-shifters rounded up like cattle and forcibly imprisoned, or worse, put down, I allowed the annoyance of my inner feline to erupt from my throat in a deep, rumbling growl. The sound filled the room, displacing precious, necessary oxygen with its powerful vibration until almost all of those within gasped convulsively for breath. It pleased the viciousness in me to see the two brothers turn red-faced and then white as they struggled to conquer my dominance – and fail.
“What the hell is going on here?” I demanded in a soft voice that made several people in the room shiver and whimper at the silken menace that wound around their forms like chains of titanium and steel.
Foy half-turned to face me, all the while keeping an eye on the rabble-rousers, completely unfazed by my power that solidified the air around us.
“A shifter women turned up on the steps this evening,” Foy informed me, his expression grimmer than usual. My inner feline wrinkled its nose with disquiet, his eyes were that peculiar shade of hammered gold that told me his beast was close to the surface and wanted out. “Beaten almost to death. She’s pregnant. It’s uncertain whether or not she will lose the babe.”
I could no more stifle the growl that poured from my mouth than I could my need for oxygen. Undoubtedly this act of malevolence had been perpetrated by those who thought that shape-shifters were nothing more than vicious animals and these idiots wanted to prove them right by undertaking more violence. How could they not see that responding to such an act with further brutality would do nothing but harm every single Other in the country?
“And you think it a good idea to seek vengeance openly,” I rounded on the pair of lions who appeared to be the loudest proponents of this foolish course of action. “Like an animal. Do you even know who is responsible? Or was your grand plan to simply savage the first person who crossed your path, regardless of whether they were involved or not?”
“Somebody needs to do something!” Donovan snarled against the restriction that my fury tightened around his throat. “What do you care? As long as your precious lifestyle isn’t disrupted you turn a blind eye to what happens to people who haven’t got the money to protect themselves.”
I exhaled a sharp snort of rage, my gums aching with sharp pinprick points of pain as my jaguar canines curved fresh and lethal from their concealment. My muscles thickened with the craving for violence, madness a thin shimmer of red mist across my vision, goading me to rip out this insolent male’s throat and be done with him for good.
“Fangs and claws won’t win this fight,” I ground out, reminding my inner demons as much as I did those around me of this sage wisdom. Did they think me any different than themselves that I did not have the desire to brutally destroy all those who tried to harm those that I loved and protected? “They will only prove those who call us animals right.”
“Then what can we do?” an elderly grizzled male black bear growled from the rear of the room, folding his arms in front of his broad chest with a stubborn look on his face. “How are we supposed to make ourselves safe if they think that they can come after us with impunity?”
“These people need to be punished!” a female tiger in her mid-forties and the mother of a large family spoke up in agreement.
“And they will be,” I assured them, silencing any further protest with a single harsh glare. Undoubtedly they could see the vicious jungle predator in my expression and had no desire to tangle with me. Although either of their beasts could be considered more dangerous than a normal jaguar, everyone sensible of their own continuing existence in the room knew that to cross a Darcy was to die. We were not normal shape-shifters. We were anything but. “But rioting in the streets and killing innocent people will not solve any of our problems. In fact they will only create more.”
I glanced around the room, realising that I had their undivided attention and exhaled another deep breath.
“The only way we are going to get these beatings and killings to stop is by making the actions of these few people unacceptable to the rest of the population,” I continued. “As long as the majority of the British public think that we’re all one short step away from spree killers then they won’t care that every so often a shape-shifter turns up beaten to death. Openly killing is only going to confirm their beliefs.”
“We can’t ignore the deaths,” the female tiger argued softly, her eyes darting around the room so as not to meet my glittering green gaze.
“I don’t plan on ignoring anything,” I informed them with a thin smile that was as lethal as a blade and I sensed a shiver of disquiet move around the packed room as though the temperature had just plunged into minus degrees. “Those responsible will be dealt with discretely, so as not to endanger the rest of the shape-shifter population. But be assured that they will be punished. If anyone has a problem with my plans then they are quite welcome to challenge me.”
It seemed as though the whole room held its collective breath, eyes quickly diverting to the ground or their feet so that I wouldn’t mistake a meeting of gazes for a challenge. I bit back my darkly amused snort. They might rail against my authority upon occasion, but none of them were willing to take on a Darcy to change the status quo.
“We have a problem with that,” the two lion brothers spoke up, startling a gasp of astonishment out of their audience.
“Very well then,” my softly spoken words and brutal smile, that revealed wicked canines the size of dinner forks miraculously opened up a space around us in the packed room. “If you can beat me, then you can have the privilege of deciding what needs to be done.”
I cracked my neck and rolled my shoulders, feeling the vicious energy of promised violence warming my muscles. I could feel primal fury pumping through my veins that they had dared to challenge my dominance, the jaguar growling with feral intent. I would teach the two lions a lesson that they would not be likely to ever forget.
Although in the wild a jaguar would be unlikely to win a battle against one lion, never mind two, I was a Darcy jaguar and therefore completely unlike any other jaguar shape-shifter on the planet. The madness in my soul pounded like a hammer against my temples, slipping through my body and squirming with eagerness for the blood and the violence. Those two lions would have no idea what had hit them.
I shot my opponents a contemptuous glance as they hesitated at seeing my willingness to take them both on at once.
“Come on then,” I taunted. “I haven’t got all night. Unless you’re scared.”
My words made Donovan roar and charge at me in a blunt, brutal frontal assault. I couldn’t help the savage grin that curved up at the corners of my mouth as I met his charge head on. If he was going to try to outmuscle me, then he was in for a painful surprise.
My fist met him square in the face, bone and cartilage shattering under the force of the blow, made even greater by his own momentum, and blood fountained between us, a deadly addiction to the insanity that shimmered in my veins. My other hand flashed upward, six inch claws sprouting from my fingertips as they slashed brutal scarlet lines across this throat, forcing a distressed gurgle from his mouth as his hands helplessly rose to clutch at the torn and mangled tissue. His brother tried to attack my flank whilst I was busy slicing Donovan into pieces, but he didn’t account for the impossible flexibility of the jaguar’s spine.
Turning my body I easily avoided Michael’s arching talons, and ignoring the collapsed bloody form of my other attacker I delivered a crushing strike to the back of his head with my balled fist. I thought I felt the bones of his skull crack with the impact, my assailant folding upon himself like a house of cards and crumpling motionless to the floorboards at my feet.
Neither lion got back up again.
In the silent aftermath of the violence I could have heard a pin drop, and my teeth bared menacingly as I glowered around the room. My chest heaved with the effort that it took to contain my desire to kill those who had challenged me, only their utter stillness and defeat enabling me to resist the urge to tear out their throats.
“Is there anyone else?” I snarled, my words harsh and mangled as they ripped from a throat that was less than entirely human.
None dared to meet my furious gaze and the jaguar uttered a satisfied growl at their easy acquiescence.
“Justice will be served,” I told them in a voice that was thickened by savagery and primal dominance. “My justice. You will obey me, or you will be considered my enemy. There are no second chances.”
Ignoring the bleeding lions lying unconscious on the floor at my feet I glanced at Foy, noting his indifferent expression as he nodded in understanding. He was to find out what had happened this night, find out who was responsible for the attack on the harmless pregnant shape-shifter and ensure that they understood what manner of folly it was to harm one of my people.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is a Curse man. He harbours a secret in his blood that, if discovered, could mean disaster for his family.
Five hundred years ago, his ancestor angered the Aztec jaguar God, and his decedents all suffered the consequences. If they did no learn to control themselves, and to trust in the love of their mate they would slowly go insane and eventually murder all those that they cared for.
To make matters worse, when Darcy was a child, unscrupulous, sensationalistic journalism revealed the existence of the Others; paranormal individuals who lived side by side with the normal human population, leading to witch-hunts and widespread discrimination and abuse of those who were discovered to be anything other than mundanely human.
As a young boy Darcy had vowed that if he ever met the man responsible for that article, he would show no mercy. He certainly never meant to fall in love with his favourite daughter.
And now his life, his very sanity hangs in the balance. Could the daughter of a man who spewed his hatred of the Others to anyone who would listen ever love the beast that lived in his soul…
I have a giveaway of “The Darcy Madness” for my Just Jane 1813 readers. To enter your chance to win her ebook, please leave a comment on this blog by midnight, ET on November 4th. The winner will be announced on November 5, 2016.
Thank you, Steph Nixon, for visiting us today with this exclusive excerpt and for your generous giveaway for my readers!
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