Fire and Ice Young Adult and New Adult Books

The Inventress

by Mary Victoria Johnson



"The Inventress" by Mary Victoria JohnsonDomino Blanken was supposed to be a nobody. A charity case, a gutter-cleaner. To everyone’s surprise, her brilliance soon made her one of the most valuable minds in the country . . . and, somehow, the only friend of standoffish Kay Ross.

Kay is no stranger to the extraordinary. She’s grown up surrounded by bitter rivalries, socialites with heartless smiles, and inventors creating contraptions that have conquered even the skies. Belonging to England’s most powerful—and hated—family comes with its own challenges, and at seventeen, she’s made her fair share of enemies.

But even Kay isn’t prepared for the brutal crime that leaves her best friend dead. As vendettas and secrets from the past are thrown into the open, Kay is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her world, her family, and Domino herself.


 

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Fantasy
Steampunk
Alt-History

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Teen


Prologue


It’s odd, attending the funeral of someone who is still alive. At least forty people have made the passage from Ascendance, dressed head-to-toe in black, to mourn the supposed death of a girl they never knew. None of them have the slightest clue that Domino Blanken isn’t lying in that coffin. None of them realize how wrong it all is.

A light drizzle, befitting of such a drab affair, rains down on my umbrella. I don’t see why I need an umbrella at all, but my mother insisted. She’d bought me a black one specifically for the funeral, which I think is ridiculous—had Domino really died, she wouldn’t have wanted everybody to be dressed so darkly. She was—is—a girl of colour and life, and celebrating her in such a dull way seems ludicrous.

“Kay.” My mother nudges me. “It’s your turn.”

I step forward. The vicar hands me a clump of earth and dampness seeps through my glove. For a moment, I stand over the grave like I am the tombstone, perfectly still and emotionless. The copper embellishments on the coffin below gleam wickedly.

“I know you’re not dead,” I mutter to it, fingers closing around the earth. “I saw you. I saw you.”

“Miss Ross?” The vicar clears his throat, not hearing me.

“You were a good friend, Domino. A really good friend. I’ll miss you.”

I drop the earth into the grave, watching as it splats on the coffin. It doesn’t seem that anybody has noticed the edge to my voice, since when I turn back to the crowd, they’re all dabbing their eyes in the same fashion as they had before. Liars.

In turn, each person steps forward and says their own goodbye, as if their hate for Domino never existed.

When they finish, a man comes with a shovel and begins filling the rest of the grave. He looks bored, but at least he is being honest about his emotions.

The people split into little groups and talk about the weather rather than Domino. I move away from them unnoticed.

Towards the edge of the graveyard there is a tree. It isn’t anything spectacular, nothing more than a skeleton with its leaves lying in a brown pile by the trunk, but I sit underneath it just the same. If I turn a certain way, it blocks my view of the man shovelling dirt.

“Catherine?”

I jump. The man coming towards me is only a few years older than I, dressed somberly for the occasion and sporting an uncanny smile.

“You know I hate being called that.” I try to summon a smidge of distain, but my voice stays monotone. “Why are you here? There’s no way you were invited.”

“Nobody was invited.” He shrugs, sitting beside me. I stand up, but he takes no notice. “It was open to all who wanted to pay their last respects to dear departed Domino.”

“Don’t give me that rubbish.”

Straughter chuckles. He waves a gloved hand at the congregation. “Of course, now isn’t a good time to be seen as an enemy of the deceased, is it?”

I stare at him, lips pressed tightly together. As tempting as it is to argue, there’s no point anymore. We both know where we stand with each other.

When I say nothing, Straughter continues, “I came because I heard an interesting rumour—involving you, actually, although that shouldn’t come as much surprise. But this one was mad even by your standards.”

I clutch my umbrella and glare.

“Rather convincing hoax, don’t you think?” His tone is lilting, but his eyes are hard, gaging my reaction. “I saw them cleaning blood from the boardwalk. Dozens of people saw the body, and the police are convinced that—”

“Stop it!”

“Not until you tell me why you think Blanken is still alive.”

He’s too close. I’m too cold. I don’t want to play his game today.

“Why, does it bother you, Straughter? Being in the dark?”

He drops the smile. “If it was anyone else, I couldn’t care less. You’ve got to understand how inconvenient it would be for me if Blanken didn’t stay dead.”

The word ‘inconvenient’ sends a stab of fury through my heart, and I fight the urge to drive my umbrella into his eye socket. He’s doing it on purpose. He wants me to react. 

“Maybe you shouldn’t pay so much attention to gossip,” I say. “Goodbye, Straughter.”

I don’t look back. My throat is tight, and for the first time during the funeral, I find myself blinking away tears.

 

DB

1893-1909

 

They’ve stuck a wooden cross above the freshly filled grave until the stone can be brought in. Two letters, two numbers. That’s all she’s given.

It’s unfair. It’s unfair of her to abandon me like this. It’s unfair of her to leave such a mess in her wake. It’s unfair that Straughter caught wind of the rumours, and it’s unfair that all these people are gathered here to protect their own interests.

“I saw you. I saw...”

It’s becoming harder and harder to remember. The rational part of me is beginning to believe that I’d imagined everything. After all, I hadn’t been thinking straight.

Promise me...

My mother calls. I inhale, try to stop myself from shaking, and go to her.