Authors: Nicola Claire
Scarlet Suffragette, Book One
By Nicola Claire
Copyright © 2015, Nicola Claire
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organisations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Cover Art by Nicola Claire
Image credit: 123RF Stock Photo
Image # 31941365 & 31379089
More books by Nicola Claire:
Mixed Blessing Mystery Series
Dark Shadow (Coming Soon)
Sweet Seduction Series
Sweet Seduction Secrets (Coming Soon)
Elemental Awakening Series
The Tantalising Taste Of Water (Coming Soon)
A Lick Of Heat (Coming Soon)
Breathless (Coming Soon)
Lover of books.
Lover of hugs.
Lover of family.
Rest in peace, Poppa.
The Scarlet Suffragette
This is not your average historical romance. You'll find no bad-boy earl deflowering his virgin lady here.
It's gritty and twisted, authentic and a little dark. It's Whitechapel meets early settler New Zealand, Jack The Ripper mixed up with Suffragettes. It's the type of historical romance I've always wanted to read, but could never find. It's real. It's Victorian. It’s shocking.
It’s the true and sometimes devastating vagaries of love.
And like Jack, it will rip you apart in the end.
a love story
…mixed up with a whole lot of mystery and death.
- Nicola Claire
The Ripper Is Here
Auckland, New Zealand
“The Ripper is here.”
The whispered words somehow found their way through the cacophony of noise surrounding me. Wrapping around my chest in a vice-like grip, threatening to crush my ribs and pulverise my heart. I sucked in a shaking breath of air, smelling sweat and horse manure, coal and brimstone.
Hell is Auckland city on a protest rally day.
A scream rang out, and then another. The high pitched sound an unusual occurrence for Queen Street. The splash of boots through the nearby re-opened portion of the Ligar Canal accompanied the thunder of hooves upon gravel as they bore down on us. Bodies pressed in closer, even as arms flailed and the weaker amongst us fainted.
I reached out to grasp the hand of Wilhelmina, but her glove slipped through my trembling fingers. Her body slumping to the dirt and grit coated roadway, the collar of her dress caught up in the straps of her sandwich board, threatening to strangle her as she lost consciousness.
My switchblade was in my hand before I even registered the movement, aware that a jostle from a frightened protester could make the weapon lethal. I crouched down, fear of being trampled a real concern, perspiration beading my brow, but my hand steady as the blade sliced the straps in two, freeing Wilhelmina from her inadvertent self made noose.
“Stand back!” I cried, swatting at the petticoats of a bystander. “Can’t you see a woman has fainted?”
“There’s more to be concerned with, Anna Cassidy, than a girl who wears her corset too tight,” the woman, Ethel Poynton I realised, remonstrated. “Something has happened over on Queen Street Wharf,” she added, standing on the tips of her toes to see over the now silent crowd.
Fear or curiosity had finally gotten the better of the mob. Now it seemed to be drawn to the distraction on the Wharf, as though pulled by a dray through a recently turned field. Resistance was futile. Soon Wilhelmina would be trampled under the hooves of the Suffragettes.
I stowed my knife, and gripped Mina beneath her armpits, then dragged her backwards through the throng, using my bustle as a convenient mouldboard; instead of earth it parted women. The imagery was fascinating, but I had graver concerns.
“Wake up, you silly chit!” I chastised through gritted teeth, my breaths punched out with exertion. But received only a small mewl of protest as her head jostled from one of my forearms to the other.
One last inelegant heave and I had her out of harm’s way, resting under the frontage of the Bank Of New Zealand building. A gentleman glanced down from his superior height on the top tread with a disgruntled frown, but failed to offer any assistance.
Instead he commented, in tones brooking no argument of his disapproval, “This is what happens when women concern themselves in the affairs men.” He harrumphed loudly and proceeded to push his way through my meddlesome - in his eyes - counterparts.
“‘Tis gentlemen like you,
, who make the necessity an imperative!” I shouted after him.
“Did we make it, Anna?” a small, trembling voice said from street level. My eyes darted down to find Wilhelmina awake and rousing, pushing herself up to an amusingly ladylike position, despite the location and circumstance.
“No, sweeting,” I said, glancing back at the crowd of women, now dispersing, or moving closer to the still chaotic scene and elevated sounds of shock from farther down the street. “But we came close this time.”
“Perhaps Mr Entrican laid eyes upon us, understanding the gravity of our request, and has no need of the petition at all now.”
“‘Tis wishful thinking, Mina,” I said with sadness. Two decades had not convinced the Government of our plight, I doubted one aborted protest rally would seal the deal. “But whatever the deputy mayor has registered this morning, I’d hazard a guess his attention is now elsewhere.”
I glanced back down the street, a sense of unease settling inside my stomach.
“Didn’t Margaret say she’d meet us at the stage?” I asked, chewing on my bottom lip nervously; a habit my father had tried unsuccessfully to wean me of.
“She said she’d keep an eye on His Worship for us, ensuring he didn’t leave before we all arrived.”
I took a step away, pulled by the allure of chaos which had already claimed so many of my contemporaries.
“Stay here,” I said absently. My feet already taking me several yards down the street. The constriction of earlier inside my chest now the weight of a smithie’s anvil. I wasn’t sure why, but fear coated my skin in a fine sheen of perspiration.
The crowd that had gathered at the end of Queen Street was larger than I had anticipated. The deputy mayor’s speech not the draw card, I was certain. The smell of refuse from the canal overrode the sea salt air sweeping up from the waterfront. Only minutes had passed since that first whispered sentence. Seconds, truth be told, while sweet Mina had fainted.
Not even the Police Force had yet arrived, but order of some sort had been established. No doubt an enthusiastic volunteer from the Auckland Militia or members of the Fencibles. There was always someone from either establishment close at hand these days. Peace may have a tenuous hold over the nation, but Auckland was not such a pivotal political centre to go so unprepared.
I pushed through the edge of the crowd of onlookers, noting absently a few of my fellow Suffragettes had gamely ventured this close to whatever had started the crush back on Queen Street. A line of militant looking gentlemen stood across the entranceway to a darkened alley behind the raised stand the deputy mayor had been about to commandeer. Crates and merchandise, not yet sorted from the wharves, stood on either side, several of which had toppled over, indicating an energetic scene had transpired.
The closest guard held up his hand when a well dressed gentleman attempted to step forward.
“No one enters until the bobbies make it,” he declared in an east London accent announcing his origins and recent arrival to the Antipodes. Or simply his desire to cling to the old and not embrace the new.
A constant theme in our world of late. Change is disruptive. Consistency is so much cleaner.
“What happened?” the gentleman enquired.
“Murder,” the man reported with a devilish glint in his eyes.
Murmurs ran through the crowd, as though the whispered fears of earlier had all been forgotten.
The Ripper is here.
I stepped through the now stunned immobile audience and moved in front of the gentleman.
“I’m a surgeon,” I announced. “Allow me to determine whether the victim is indeed deceased.”
“Surgeon?” another man to my side said derisively. “A woman indeed!”
I turned raised eyebrows on the man, noting belatedly he was the banker from the steps of the Bank of New Zealand building, and said as clearly and loudly as I could muster, “My father was Doctor Thomas Cassidy. He trained me well, sir.”