MENTOR: Shelley Watters
ALTERNATE: Wendy Qualls
TITLE: THE LADY CALLER
CATEGORY/GENRE: Steampunk Historical Romance with magical realism elements
WORD COUNT: 90,000
A steampunk sorceress and a reluctant inventor must cover up a friend's engagement and fake their own in order to rescue a kidnapped girl.
Tinsmouth, Devon, 1870
Vera froze. No one had called her by her real name in ten years – and no one else's voice had ever caused her mouth to go dry quite like his did. Once upon a time she would have sworn she’d never forget him, or the sound of his voice, but spending the last decade in London must have ground down her brain. Even now, with her old home so close she could taste the raw tang of tin in the air, Cole’s voice had the power to turn her mouth to dust.
Vera squinted down the tunnel, but the faint starlight filtering into the tunnel’s mouth was coming from behind her and she could just barely make out his silhouette as he approached. He hadn’t changed that much – still those massive shoulders, that purposeful gait. Had he always been so menacing, or were her emotions merely getting the better of her?
She took a deep breath and tried to will the sudden tension out of her system. Somehow, in all the time she’d spent dreaming of this homecoming, she had managed to convince herself she was ready to face Cole again. She couldn’t afford to be wrong.
Cole stopped, close enough for Vera to make out the shock on his face. He was looking beyond her, up the tunnel to the gaping hole in the once-solid wall which had protected the town of Tinsmouth from the outside world for the last quarter-century. The mine's weathered steel door still stood beside it, silent and menacing in the deep shadows, but Vera's digging machine was much more efficient with the rock.
She resisted the urge to turn and admire her work. The machine's work, mostly – she had only needed to use her Calling to create the initial spark which ignited the boiler. Although it was a miracle she hadn't accidentally set the whole coal hopper ablaze, considering her anxious state. Ten years ago – honestly, ten months ago – she wouldn’t have thought it was possible to come back like this.