'Cursed Black Swan' by Ryan T. McFadden Tour & Giveaway
Cursed Black Swan
A Fixer Novel
By- Ryan T. McFadden
Genre- Fantasy/Dark Fantasy
Published By- Dragon Moon Press
Publication Date-October 30th
"Let's get one thing straight—I'm a fixer. You need someone murdered? Then hire an assassin. You need something stolen? Call a thief. But if there's something no one else can do, or a job that no one else wants, then you talk to me."
Nathaniel specializes in the strange, the weird, and the dangerous. But no matter how far he runs, he can't leave behind his bloody past, nor the ghosts that chase him.
Nathaniel has just saved Jane from two would-be assassins. The catch: Nathaniel thought Jane had died five years previously.
I didn't have a place I called home. Home implied a permanence I hadn't possessed since my days as a child prince. Even in Cresek-Tawn, my domiciles never truly belonged to me. Though my estates were furnished with the trappings of success, they were staging areas or hideaways, easily discarded and forgotten when necessary. While my current safe houses were far less extravagant, they were just as ephemeral, places paid for with cash in advance, usually negotiated through several faceless intermediaries. Many lay dormant for months, if not years, until they were needed. Some I used more than others, perhaps more from habit than any form of attachment, though I suppose I did possess a certain fondness for the Ordeum.
The Ordeum was a crumbling theatre, once home to Havencastle's greatest performances. Now it housed indecent productions hat pushed the boundaries of moral acceptance: bodice rippers, salacious shows of orgasmic proportions. They charged a few brine for each performance and they packed the Ordeum, the old timbers trembling during each production. I was sure that one day, the whole thing would collapse upon itself.
But until that day of destruction, I had a nice little room in the upper rafters. The rent was cheap and as a side benefit I got to watch the performances.
Today was a rehearsal, the Ordeum buzzing with the stress of a rapidly approaching opening night. Two women pushed past, rubbing their naked breasts against us in the narrow confines of the hall, wearing only masks with exaggerated phallic noses.
"You've moved up in the world," Jane commented once the women were by, rubbing her eye as if one of the noses had inadvertently poked her.
"I've always been a supporter of the fine arts."
I led her through the back passages of the Ordeum, navigating past a troupe of performers. Their dry rehearsal involved a dozen naked men and several batons. I tried not to stare at the over-endowed men, wondering how the hell they could even walk with such afflictions.
Then we climbed the five flights of stairs to the upper room that served as my apartment. I checked the lock for tampering, then ushered her inside. Though I'd stayed here for several months, the place didn't reflect my identity. A lumpy bed with a few rumpled blankets, a washstand, a change of clothes hanging from wooden pegs. There were no windows, but I had removed a few of the knotted floor boards to provide a vantage point down to the stage.
She took a cursory glance of the room. "I like what you've done with the place."
I straightened the sheets on the bed, which I realized was an odd thing to do considering we'd just murdered two people. I didn't bring her here to impress her, I brought her here to be safe while we figured out what had just happened.
And we stood there in an awkward silence, while several floors down the actors and actresses went through their rehearsals, the director yelling that their orgasms weren't authentic enough.
I wanted to touch her so badly, but she stood with her shoulder to me while she absently wiped at the dried blood on her forearm. I offered her a towel and she snatched it from me.
"When are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?" Dammit, I’d been hoping to approach the subject with a little more tact, but it turned out that five years was a long time to keep that much frustration bottled in. "You’ve been…” Couldn’t bring myself to say dead, “gone, for five years. Five years! Then you show up in a cafe halfway across the world. Coincidence? I never know with you. Not that it matters, because you call me a son of a bitch and push me away without a single word of explanation. Really? That's how this is going to play out? Within minutes of seeing you, I'm splattered with blood and we've just murdered two people in the heart of Havencastle. So let's cut to it. What are you doing here?"
"I called you a bastard," she said.
"I called you a bastard, not a son of a bitch."
"What does that have to do with anything?" I screamed. The sounds of the director on the stage had disappeared. It seemed we were becoming the main event. I had to get myself under control.
"You're blaming me for this?" she asked.
"It’s a pretty good place to start. Who were those two?"
"Maybe you sent them."
"Why would I send them?"
"I don't know, Nathaniel, maybe to finish the job you started five years ago?" she spat.
My mind was reeling. "I don't even know what you're talking about. Jane, I thought you were..." The image of her lifeless body flashed in my memory but here she was standing in front of me.
"You know you can't trust her," the Dark said, and I agreed. But it didn't matter. She didn't say anything. Reading her body language used to be difficult—she kept her emotions in check—but now anger practically wafted from her, as if I was to blame.
I exhaled and turned, unbuttoning my bloody shirt and tossing it into the wood stove. My days of washing blood out of my clothing was long past. I splashed myself with tepid water from the wash basin. I sensed her staring but I didn't face her. Not because I was angry, but because I didn't know what I was. More confused than anything and I wondered if I had somehow become caught in one of the surreal productions of the Ordeum, just with a whole lot less sex.
"Those are new," she said softly.
Her words brought me back. I turned and realized she was staring at my back.
"You're a sawbones now?" I tried to say it with sufficient bite but failed miserably.
"Just...I remember every inch of you."
I didn't need to tell her the biggest scar was the one she couldn't see. There was so much I wanted to ask her but I couldn't—because I didn't want to hear the answers, fearful of what those answers would be.
She stepped to me, so close I could feel her warmth. I faced her and she didn't retreat, nor did she step away when I took her delicately by the arms. My heart was beating so forcefully I could hear it in my ears. I wanted so badly to lean and taste her lips but this wasn't the time.
"What happened?" I asked her, and there was a quickly covered flash of confusion.
"It's complicated," she said, that line like a spear to my gut. Complicated often meant someone else was involved. I wanted to push. Damn, I wanted to push but if I did, I would drive her away.
It was like I was stuck on a high wire without a net. Instead of asking questions, I said, "Right, complicated."
"I've missed you," she whispered so quietly I barely heard it.
Then I leaned in, and kissed her.
Ryan T. McFadden is a writer of fantasy and horror, with short stories and novellas published through Dragon Moon Press, Edge SF & F, and Absolute X-Press. In 2014, his novella Ghost in the Machine won the Aurora Award (Canada's most prestigious award for SF&F) for Short Fiction.
His motley past involved such dangerous work as database administration, ice cream flavouring (seriously, that's a thing), hockey league administration, screen printing, web design, furniture building, and home renovations.
He lives in London, Ontario, with his two beautiful, but sometimes diabolical daughters, who he is sure are plotting to one day overthrow him.