Click to Enlarge

An Unlikely Duke
The Myrridian Cycle: Volume 1
Click one of the above links to purchase an eBook.

ISBN-10: 1-77115-271-0
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Romance
eBook Length: 282 Pages
Published: November 2015

From inside the flap

Often, the unexpected is all we can expect.

When Chris McCabe agrees to travel to another dimension to prevent the death of a ranking nobleman, he doesn't expect to be greeted with the man's corpse. Nor does he expect to develop a strong attraction to the slain man's widow.

Helen Lattimore never expects to develop warm feelings for Chris, who bears much too close a resemblance to her dead husband. Her heart learns quickly that the resemblance is only skin-deep.

Chris's colleague, Elijah Holmes, expects the challenges he encounters in attempting to prevent his friend from suffering a similar fate to the slain duke, but he never expects to lose his skepticism regarding magic.

Robert Claybourne, heir to Myrridia's throne, never expects to experience a deep friendship with a man who resembles his all-but-sworn enemy, the murdered duke.

Edward Fitzroy never expects to be wrong. Ever. Nor does he anticipate the potential disruptions to his plans for Church dominance in Myrridia, and he only has himself to blame.

And then there's the duke's murderer, who never expects to see his victim, alive and well, again.

An Unlikely Duke is about magic, power, life, death, and above all, people. And you never know what people will do.

An Unlikely Duke (Excerpt)


Chapter One

Tired of your current job? Seeking motivated individual for rare opportunity. Must be independent self-starter and able to perform under pressure. Relocation necessary, expenses paid. Salary negotiable.

Boston, May, present year

Dr. Christopher McCabe read through the classified ad clipping another time, then glanced around the waiting room again. The other applicants, two men and a woman, avoided eye contact. Chris tried to adjust his tie unobtrusively. He was uncomfortable wearing one and wished he were back at the hospital, dressed in his familiar scrubs. The receptionist, a pleasant middle-aged woman, smiled at him.

"It won't be too much longer, Mr. McCabe," she said.

Chris returned the smile for a second and made an effort not to fidget. A young man stepped out of the inner office. The receptionist, Kate MacMillan according to the sign on her desk, called the waiting woman.

"Mr. Fitzroy will see you now, Ms. Matthews. Go right on in."

Chris started to read the job listing again, and then stopped. Not for the first time, he wondered why he had even set up the appointment. He had debated for several days before answering the ad. He was focused on obtaining a medical position, and there was nothing in the ad to indicate this job was medical in nature. His best friend and roommate Elijah Holmes had seen the ad as he'd perused the classified section a week ago Sunday. He'd circled the ad, added two question marks, and left the newspaper on the kitchen counter where Chris would see it. They'd joked about answering it, but Chris had tossed the paper in the recycling bin the next day.

On Thursday of that week, Chris had a run-in with his attending physician, criticizing Chris's treatment of a seventeen-year-old male who had just tested positive for HIV. Despite his harried schedule, Chris had spent an hour off the clock just talking with the teen, who was terrified of his parents finding out he was gay and infected. Chris had been furious with his superior after the encounter and remembered the advertisement. He'd met Elijah in the hospital cafeteria that night, and his friend had suggested he check it out, and ask if there were two positions. Chris returned to his present surroundings as the young woman left the inner office.

"...and thank you very much for your interest, Miss Matthews. We will call you. Who is next, Mrs. MacMillan?" Edward Fitzroy asked.

Ms. Matthews shot a disgusted look at the other applicants before stalking out of the waiting room, letting the door slam behind her.

"That would be Dr. McCabe, Mr. Fitzroy."

"Send the other applicants home, Mrs. MacMillan," Edward Fitzroy interrupted. His face wore an expression of mingled relief and amazement, but his tone was all business. "I will not need to interview anyone else today."

Bewildered, Chris stood, gathered his papers and briefcase, and followed Fitzroy into the office, noticing one of the other two applicants glaring at him. The remaining man looked baffled. Chris shrugged. "Don't ask me - you know as much as I do."

Edward motioned Chris to one of the two leather chairs facing the room's large cherry desk. "Please have a seat, Dr. McCabe. Would you care for a drink - coffee, tea, water?"

"No, thanks," Chris replied. Edward nodded and took a seat behind the desk. He sat forward, looking directly at Chris.

"I would like to apologize for my tone out there. I hope you do not mind, but this interview may take a while," Edward said.

"No problem." Chris was beyond bewilderment into confusion. Wasn't that young woman just in here for a few minutes? He shook his head, then gave Fitzroy his full attention.

Edward Fitzroy was dressed in a three-piece conservative business suit of navy blue that looked new, and to Chris's eye, tailor-made. Chris had purchased his own suit off the rack for his medical school interview, which had been several years ago, and had worn it only a handful of times since. Even Fitzroy's tie was a conservative dark blue with small yellow diamonds. Chris studied his features.

Edward appeared to be in his fifties. His blond hair was graying and starting to thin, and he had piercing blue eyes, which seemed to miss little. They were studying Chris intently. Chris suddenly wondered if the man were a senator or something. No, not a senator, Chris thought. He has an upper class British accent. What was going on here?

Edward interrupted his thoughts. "Before we begin, Dr. McCabe, could I look over your resume?" Edward asked.

"Of course, Mr. Fitzroy," Chris handed his resume across the desk. Take your time, he thought. He looked around the office. There were no clues as to the name of the company, no diplomas or credentials - there wasn't even a nameplate on the desk. Chris was having serious second thoughts. I shouldn't have come, he told himself. He shifted in the chair, suddenly uncomfortable.


***

Edward Fitzroy's mind was racing at a similar pace to Chris's. He thought back to how he'd spent his time since stepping through the "window" that had appeared in his Magical workroom in Rhennsbury, in the kingdom of Myrridia. At first, he'd felt disoriented and nauseous, but he'd quickly recovered. He summoned light and studied his surroundings. He was in a windowless chamber that had a stale smell in the air, with nuances he was unable to recognize. He later learned it was old cigarette smoke. He made his way to some stairs and eventually found his way to the outside. It was night, though the city was far from quiet. Mechanical carriages moved along the streets, and groups of people walked along the sidewalks. Edward stared at the streetlights and traffic lights, marveling at the Power required to maintain them, and began walking. The one emotion he didn't feel was fear. He trusted the Power that had sent him to this place.

He had to spend that first night walking along Boston's streets; he had no money. He took his Episcopal ring to a jeweler the next morning and sold it for what sounded like a great deal of money. He asked the merchant about accommodations, and the man directed him to a nearby hotel. As soon as Edward told the check-in clerk he would pay for his room in cash, the young man's welcoming smile disappeared.

"Mack, you're not the first courier who's tried the priest get-up to fool me. Get out of here before I call Security."

Edward was baffled and began to protest. He was a priest, a bishop. The clerk pointed toward the revolving door. "Out. Now." After making the sign of the Cross and murmuring a benediction to the clerk, Edward turned on his heel and moved toward the exit. The clerk rolled his eyes. "Jesus," he muttered. "Nuts are everywhere."

Edward fared better at the next hotel he tried, mentioning his intent to pay in cash first. He shrugged an apology. This clerk was sympathetic.

"It's the cardinals and bishops who keep the credit cards, right, Father?" the young dark-skinned woman asked with a smile.

Edward was unsure how to reply. "Exactly," he said finally. She asked for two nights' payment in advance, then handed him a small rectangular card in a paper folder.

"You're in room 1018," she said. "The elevators are behind you and to the right. Tenth floor. Call if you need anything." She glanced at his registration information. "I hope you have a pleasant stay in Boston, Father Fitzroy."

Edward's head was spinning. Elevator? Tenth floor? He nodded vaguely and turned away from the counter. He moved toward his right. Two men in business suits glanced at him; Edward tried not to stare at their clothing. He couldn't help staring, though, when part of the wall facing him opened. The two men stepped into the opening.

"Going up?" one man asked Edward impatiently. Edward fought the urge to cross himself as he stepped into the small chamber. "Floor?"

"T-tenth," Edward muttered, almost yelping as he felt himself rising. What kind of Magic was this? His knees felt like water when he stepped off the elevator into a hallway. He murmured a quiet prayer of thanks as he finally crossed himself. He followed the signs to room 1018. He tried to open the latch, but it wouldn't budge.

How do I get in? he wondered. He wasn't getting back on that elevator and asking the friendly clerk, partly out of pride and partly out of a fear of getting thrown out of the hotel. He'd been sent to this place for a reason, and he wasn't giving up at the first seemingly impossible obstacle. He held up the paper with its odd rectangle. Could this be the key to the room? If so, where was the lock? Edward glanced along the deserted corridor. He was on his own. He studied the door and finally noticed a narrow slot. He inserted the key and tried the door handle. Nothing. He turned the key around and tried again. A green light flashed near the latch, and there was a faint clicking sound. Edward tried the handle; this time it gave. The door opened so suddenly that Edward nearly fell into the room. He closed the door quietly behind him and sagged against it. He'd conquered one obstacle.

Once Edward got his heart rate back to normal, he moved further into the room. He noticed a large bed and a writing table with chair. He walked to the table, eased into the chair, and put his head down for a moment. Looking around again, he spied a notepad on the table. Frowning, he looked around for a writing implement. He picked up the thin cylinder near the paper and stared at it. Its cap fell off. Edward studied the point, then began writing on the paper. He smiled as he formed letters. He began to jot down the plans he'd made while walking the night before. He hoped he could find a man with a strong resemblance to Duke Christian Lattimore and convince him to travel to Myrridia and prevent the nobleman's death.


***