Book 3 of the Treasure Chronicles
A young adult novel of romance and the paranormal set in a steampunk world.
An asylum patient has a cryptic vision: Clark will overthrow the presidency. She’s just insane…right?
When a clockwork lion kidnaps their daughter, Clark and Amethyst’s calm new life shatters. Hunting down the beast leads the Grishams and Treasures to a conspiracy not just against Clark, but also against the country.
The conspirators attacked their little girl. An offense like that can’t go ignored. With his old gang at his back, Clark is ready to take on an abandoned circus, dethroned royalty, a corrupt orphanage, and the presidency itself.
WICKED TREASURE is available now on Amazon from Curiosity Quills Press.
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Can’t wait to read the next installment in the Treasure Chronicles world? Check out the first chapter:
They washed her hair, so she knew it was coming: the next visit. The nurse shoved Samantha’s head beneath the water in the tin tub, the liquid already cold from the air, and she stayed still; if she fought, they might bind her wrists. Last time they did that, the linen ropes had cut her skin.
Droplets splashed over the edge as the middle-aged woman shoved her deeper, Samantha’s chin striking the bottom. Blood filled her mouth where her teeth had nipped her tongue. She fought to not gasp as the nurse pulled her up to drench her hair in lavender oil.
The gas lamps shone too bright in the ceiling. Yellow glows twirled around each other like macabre dancers. She could drift back into the soapy water and inhale; death would take her to join that dancing.
“Filthy nits,” the nurse mumbled as she yanked a silver comb through Samantha’s ginger curls. Oil splattered onto Samantha’s bare shoulders, pooling along her collarbone.
She could say the nits weren’t her fault. She could request regular bathing.
Samantha stared out the room’s lone barred window as tears stung her eyes. Each jerk of the comb snapped more hairs from her scalp, and the oil’s scent burned her lungs.
A bell rang from somewhere deep within the asylum, muffled by brick and wood. Two nurses laughed in the hallway. They all got to go home at the end of their shifts. They had families and houses.
Samantha could have pushed them into the tub until the final air bubbles burst past their lips.
The comb clattered onto the side table, where cosmetic products had been lined up on a silver tray like medical instruments. Her gums where they’d ripped out her molars ached at the thought. Whatever rich sod received her teeth better have taken care of them.
“Ugly thing.” The nurse jabbed pins into Samantha’s hair to keep her curls up. “Should shave your head, we should. Get rid of those nits and all this fussing. Get you a wig then. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, chit?”
If it kept away the suffering of bathtime, then yes.
“Rise.” Nurse Hairy Mole—the huge brown mole grew at the tip of her nose—slapped a ragged towel against Samantha’s frame. “We’ll put you in the sitting room this time. He didn’t like the parlor, said it was too cold. That man doesn’t like a thing.”
And Samantha didn’t like him.
Captain MacFarland gritted his teeth as he took the front concrete steps two at a time. The stone plaque beside the door matched well with the asylum’s cold interior.
Wade Asylum. The only institute in the northeast for the mentally unhinged.
He hummed under his breath to keep away morbid thoughts, and the bronze attendant opened the door for him with a nod that sent the machine’s gears grinding. They might think him off, bringing music into the darkness, but the walls tended to close in around him, as if he too might become strapped into one of the cribs.
He’d seen the cribs once when his friend had insisted they come to visit his wife. The cribs, Captain MacFarland understood, were reserved for those who fought confinement, and his friend’s wife had screamed as though a banshee had possessed her.
Come night, dreams of Wade Asylum plagued him, and she’d haunted the majority for the past year. He could still hear her shriek, “You only put me here so you could be with that slut!”
His friend had stroked his fingers across her arm, her wrists bound to the sides of the metal crib. “Of course. I’ll always love you, but you didn’t like my mistress. You’ll need to stay here until you can accept her. They’ll help you right your mind here.”
The woman had spit at him, one of her eyes swollen shut. No one had told them who had punched her.
Captain MacFarland hummed louder as he approached the mahogany front desk where a young nurse in a low-cut white bodice wrote in a journal.
“Hello, Captain MacFarland.” She closed the journal and clasped her hands atop the leather cover. “Always so punctual, aren’t you?” The girl bent forward to expose more of her pale bosom. The song faltered in his throat as he pictured hopping over the counter to push her against the wall. He could push up her skirt, he imagined her without bloomers, and take her there in the waiting room that smelled of lamp oil. Those pink-painted lips of hers would part in a gasp, and she might even bite his neck. He loved it when they bit.
“I pride myself on punctuality.” He pulled the brass pocket watch from his brown jacket to flash her the time, and she smiled enough to show her straight white teeth.
“I made sure to assign you the sitting room in her ward, Captain. I recall how much you loathed the parlor.”
How anyone could call that drafty room a parlor escaped him. “Wonderful. I was wondering, Miss Nurse, about how you would feel meeting over a meal this evening. We could talk more about what it’s like here at Wade.”
“Captain, yes! I get done here at six if that works.” She chewed on her fingernail before she tipped back in her seat, her bosom bouncing. “I’ll get an orderly to show you to the patient, sir.”
He leaned one arm on the desk and winked. “I’d like that.”
His pleasure diminished with each step as he followed the brass orderly, who moved on wheeled feet, toward Ward 8. The machine unlocked door after door, and sealed them behind, until he seemed he’d entered a box he could never escape. Bars covered the few windows; bare bricks replaced wooden paneling on the walls. Gas lamps flickered close to the ceilings.
The air adopted a damp, musty odor, mixed with medicine he didn’t recognize.
The orderly unlocked a final door and entered what he assumed counted as a sitting room. Unlike the parlor with a table and chairs, this space offered velveteen settees. Light shone through two windows across the chipped tile floor.
Samantha sat on the settee closest to the door. Iron cuffs fastened her ankles together, visible beneath her black velvet skirt. The material matched the collar of her purple brocade jacket.
“I see you’re wearing the clothes I sent.” He cleared his throat when it rasped, and he glanced at the orderly, but of course it couldn’t make judgments on what it overheard. By order of the government, the orderly who attended them had to have its recorder removed so the conversation wouldn’t leave.
Someone had painted her lips a too dark red. “You can take them with you when you leave. I never get to see them again.”
“What do you wear normally?” Captain MacFarland had always imagined the girl posing in them before a mirror whenever he departed. He chose the highest fashion for her to make her feel… well, like she wasn’t a mental patient.
“A shift.” Samantha shrugged. “We’re not allowed anything else, and it’s sewn on us, didn’t you know. If we had loose sleeves, we could strangle ourselves.”
Her matter of fact tone made him shudder. He dropped onto the settee across from her. The last time he’d sat beside her, she’d lunged toward his eyes, and the orderly had pinned her down while administering a sedative from those brass fingers. The trip had been wasted.
“Do you remember,” he murmured, “when you were a child and I brought you peppermint sticks?” He should have done that for her again. Her green eyes had always adopted a life then, rather than the bloodshot, bulging quality they possessed otherwise.
“Better than the toys. They took those away after you left.”
He coughed. “How are you, Samantha?” It seemed wrong to take what he wanted and leave. She deserved a social call; he knew he was her only visitor, and his boss only required one visit every two months.
“They don’t allow me to take lessons anymore now that I’m sixteen.”
Captain MacFarland winced. Her birthday had occurred earlier in the month. He should have given her more than the clothes, no matter they would vanish. A nurse probably commandeered them.
“What do you do with your days then?” When she was younger, before she realized what it meant to be in Wade Asylum, she would have chatted with him about nonsense, like shapes she spotted in the clouds. He could have told her about the upcoming date with the nurse, and she could have told colors looked best on him. Brown, he already knew, but hearing from her had always brightened him.
Then, she asked questions he couldn’t answer. She learned about life outside from the nurses. She came to hate him as her jailer.
Samantha tipped her head as if judging his query. He’d brought her a hat this time, and it slid cockeyed across her head. Sixteen… young lady now despite her frail frame. He was thankful he’d delivered the white blouse with the high lace collar, fastened with a cameo one of the nurses must have supplied; it fit with a more mature age.
“I’m drugged up,” she said. “They didn’t give me anything, because of you I suppose. This is Ward 8. I hear stuff, you know. Ward 9 is the toughest. Constant lockdown. Violent criminals. I’m just in the criminal wing.” She scowled, her yellow teeth crooked. “We can’t wander. Oh no, that would be too dangerous. We get ropes and medicine.”
Ropes and medicine. Bile burned his throat. It wouldn’t help if he voiced aloud his wish for a different life, one where his boss didn’t make her stay under lock and key. One where he didn’t have to venture into the sterile building to see her on a clockwork basis.
“I’m not crazy.” She’d said that at every visit since she turned ten. “I know why I’m here. Someday the doctor’s going to believe me.”
“Oh, sweetie.” The doctor could believe her all he wanted. Money kept him quiet and her confined, and so long as he kept getting his checks, he wouldn’t so much as whisper the truth in his sleep.
Her pale face hardened, and she stuck out her hands, the fingernails broken, blood caked under them. “Come get what you want.”
He pulled off his leather gloves and placed them in his jacket pockets. Something told him he’d be doing this for the rest of his life, and was only thirty-four. “Tell me what the country needs to know.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and breathed through her mouth, the sound loud and harsh in the room where the only noise came from the tick-tock of the orderly’s body. He gripped her hands and interlaced their fingers, hoping it would lend her strength.
Perspiration dotted her skin despite the frigid winter air. Snowflakes stuck to the window glass. A trickle of blood seeped from her left nostrils and her teeth chattered. Her eyeballs rolled back in her head as her lids fluttered.
“Tell me what the country needs to know,” he repeated.
“Clark Grisham will overthrow the presidency.”
Jordan Elizabeth became obsessed with steampunk while working at a Victorian Fair. Since then, she’s read plenty of books and even organized a few steampunk outfits that she wears on a regular basis (unless that’s weird, in which case she only wears them within the sanctuary of her own home – not!). Jordan’s young adult novels include ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, COGLING, TREASURE DARKLY, BORN OF TREASURE, RUNNERS AND RIDERS, GOAT CHILDREN, PATH TO OLD TALBOT, and VICTORIAN. WICKED TREASURE is her sixth novel with Curiosity Quills Press. Check out her website for bonus scenes and contests.
In honor of WICKED TREASURE, check out book one, TREASURE DARKLY, on sale now for 99 cents!