I had the very great privilege of reading Steel Time by J.L. Gribble in the beta stages, and I am so excited to share this excerpt with all of you! In a world with vampires, warrior-mages, weredragons, and sarcastic violin players, time travel seems like the obvious next step.
ABOUT THE BOOK
You’re never too young or too old to experience a paradigm shift.
Toria Connor is 25 when tripping over an artifact in the ruins of Nacostina thrusts her a century into the past, before the city is destroyed during the Last War. Now, she finds herself alone. Adrift in a time where she must hide everything important to her, from her mercenary career to her true magical ability.
Victory is over eight centuries old when she follows her adopted daughter. She has seen empires rise and fall, but never anything like this. She must survive alone in a city inhospitable to vampires, dodging friends and foes from her past alike.
Both of them know the clock is ticking down to the moment when the city is wiped off the map. Now, they’re in a race against time. To find each other. To escape the past. And to save the future.
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ABOUT THE SERIES
It is possible to read Steel Time as a stand-alone book, but don’t miss out on Toria and Victory’s previous adventures!
The drive began in silence, but Toria didn’t miss the glances Liam made, as if he wanted to say something but didn’t know how. As if he’d had a better idea of how to handle her when she was an intriguing artifact to be studied, but now that she blended into his normal surroundings, he was more inclined to treat her like a boring human woman.
Well, that wouldn’t do. Toria might be in over her head, but she was never, ever boring. “Thank you for the delicious lunch today. And for orchestrating the appointment with Granny Tia. I’m not sure how I would have handled this on my own.”
“Lunch was my treat. You’re very welcome.” Liam maneuvered the large vehicle around a slower car. “So, you’re a governess?”
Ah, the next round of interrogation. “Something like that.”
“Is that something you were interested in continuing?”
Toria twisted herself to face him. Behind them, Hugh stared out the window as if the passing scenery was the most interesting thing in the world. “It’s an option I’d considered. I’m trained in a variety of things, so there has to be something I’m qualified to do here.”
“I hope you’re aware that it’s not necessary.” This time, Liam gripped the steering wheel with both hands, and tension strained his shoulders under his tailored sport coat.
“What the hell else am I supposed to do with my time?”
Liam flinched at her language, but didn’t respond until after he’d shifted gears and pulled into Hugh’s quieter neighborhood. “First of all, it might be a good idea to give you some lessons on the particulars of the future. You have some history to catch up on, and it might help you blend in better.”
“I see.” Toria tilted her head forward, as if eyeing him over the rims of the sunglasses she’d left behind in the future. “Teach me how to be a proper lady, is that it?” When the length of Liam’s silence made it obvious he had no immediate response, she gave an unladylike snort just to see him flinch again. “Okay, fine. Civilization lessons it is. When do we start?”
Liam slid the car to a smooth halt before Hugh’s house. “Will it suit you if we meet for lunch again tomorrow?” His fingers tapped the gear stick, and he avoided her gaze.
“I’m sure I’ll manage to fit it into my busy schedule.” Without waiting for a response, Toria exited the car and stormed toward Hugh’s front door. The door was locked, of course, so she threw herself into a rocking chair while Hugh exchanged his farewells.
Instead of unlocking the door, Hugh set the package of Toria’s clothing in front of it and settled into the other rocker. He lifted one arm in a wave, and Liam pulled away from the curb. When the car disappeared around the block, Hugh turned to Toria. “Gonna tell me what that was about?”
She tucked one foot under herself and pushed the rocker with the toes of her other. “I can’t imagine that Liam expects me to fritter away the rest of my life as a woman of leisure, even after he trains me to be a proper woman by Nacostina’s standards.”
Hugh matched her pace with his own rocking chair, lacing his fingers together across his stomach. “You have to remember that nothing like this ever happened during my time at the museum, and I started a good decade before Liam moved here from Europa, along with the head curator. But I know the annual budget includes funds for such incidents. I bet the compounded interest is…extensive, at this point. So, yes, you could be a woman of leisure for quite a while.”
The streetlights flickered on one by one, and down the street, an unseen mother called her children for dinner. “That doesn’t sit well with me.”
“And that right there is another reason I like you.”
Hugh seemed content to enjoy the warm evening air while Toria brooded. How much to tell him? Even though he agreed with her side of this odd moral dilemma, some context would not go amiss. But how much could she explain about her past in the context of the history she was creating for herself? What could she say without compromising the secret she must protect?
She could begin small, then gauge the rest from Hugh’s reactions. “I’ve never been a woman of leisure, though you could say I come from an upperclass background.” A quick glance to Hugh, who dipped his chin once in encouragement. “I have a college degree. More than one, if you consider I graduated in multiple specialties. I’m also a master-level mage, a status I obtained before college. And I have master-level status in the Mercenary Guild.” She held her breath. If he asked for details, her cover might fall apart. Her life story was colorful enough even without throwing in the warrior-mage thing. Or the adopted-by-a-vampire thing.
Hugh’s expression was more thoughtful than confused. “That does explain the muscles.”
His response startled a laugh out of Toria. “Like I said, the sword’s not just for show.”
“Can I ask why you won’t share all of this with Liam?”
“I don’t know.” Some of the tension bled out of her skin at Hugh’s calm responses. “I guess I don’t think he could handle it? He has such strong expectations and ideas about what he thinks is right.”
“Sounds like an elf to me.” Hugh shrugged one shoulder.
Toria curled her lips in a smirk. “Sounds like a man to me.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.
Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.
She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats.
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