by Sherry D. Ficklin
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: October 16th 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult
“Bad Luck” Benny is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Recently released from jail, he has vowed to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But he also needs to care for his ailing sister and the rest of his struggling family, and he’ll do anything to make that happen—even if it means taking a position with a notorious crime boss. He soon finds himself in over his head—and worse still—falling for the one dame on earth he should be staying away from.
Masie is the daughter of a wealthy gangster with the voice of an angel and gun smoke in her veins. Strong-willed but trapped in a life she never wanted, she dreams of flying free from the politics and manipulation of her father. A pawn in her family’s fight for control of the city, and with a killer hot on her heels, she turns to the one person who just might be able to spring her from her gilded cage. But Masie is no angel, and her own dark secrets may come back to burn them both.
Two worlds collide in this compelling story of star-crossed lovers in gritty prohibition-era New York.
Perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams’ A CERTAIN AGE or Libba Bray’s THE DIVINERS, THE CANARY CLUB by Sherry D. Ficklin will entice Historical Romance fans of all ages. This Gatsby-era tale filled with dazzling speakeasies, vicious shoot-outs, gritty gangsters, and iridescent ingenues has also been compared to the television series Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING and BOARDWALK EMPIRE.
CANARY CLUB EXCERPT
“Is the laudanum not helping?” Doctor Mackie asks, shining a penlight in my eyes, momentarily blinding me.
I take a deep breath. Truthfully, I passed the last three bottles off to June for recreational use. Despite his assurances it will help with my insomnia, I can’t bring myself to use it. After seeing Mother abuse it so often, and with such devastating results, just the thought of it turns my stomach.
“I don’t like it,” I complain. “It makes my mind foggy.”
Putting the light down, he tsks. “That’s the point, dear.”
Far greyer than a man should be in his mid-thirties, Doc Mac has a surprisingly grandfatherly countenance. One stern look from him carries the guilt of a hundred nuns, and he gives me one now.
“I know you are under a great deal of strain, dear.” He hesitates, choosing his words very carefully. My father is his employer, so he can only complain so much about my working such long hours, my frequent headaches from the smoke and lights, and my borderline high blood pressure. We both know the culprit behind my troubles, but we also know that nothing either of us says or does will change my circumstances. “But you must try to rest. You will put yourself in an early grave otherwise.”
“Better me than someone else, I suppose,” I quip, attempting to lighten the mood, but failing.
“The laudanum will help you relax. Help you rest. You need that, at least.”
Sprawling back against the white wing-backed chair, I wave him off. “Whatever you say, Doc.”
He opens his mouth to speak, but he’s cut off by Butler, who clears his throat behind him.
“What is it?” I ask, wearily draping one arm over the headrest.
“JD just telephoned, Miss. He and your father are on their way here. Doctor, they ask that you remain here until they arrive. There has been a shooting.”
I spring forward, the bodice of my floral dress tightening around my middle, adding to tension already growing there.
“Is everyone alright?” I demand, pushing to my feet and slipping back into my t-strap shoes.
“One assumes not,” Butler responds, holding out his gloved hands. “But I gather that he and your father, at least, are unharmed.”
My breath escapes in a low hiss. Is this my fault? Retaliation for the beating I’d personally ordered on the man who’d assaulted my friend? Or was this something else entirely? Father has no shortage of enemies on his own. Even so, I mentally curse myself for adding one more name to that list—even if he’d well and truly deserved it.
Doc nods to me. “I should go wash up and get ready to receive any wounded.”
I nod, but say nothing. This is his real job, after all. Not looking after me—though Lord knows he tries to do that as well—but pulling out bullets and stitching up knife wounds. The sort of thing that can’t be done in a hospital without having to answer too many questions. I motion to Butler, who stands in the doorway still.
“Fetch some clean linens and towels. Set them up in the kitchen. It will be easier to clean up blood from the tile than the carpet.”
He bows stiffly and exits, leaving me standing in the study and wringing my hands. I should probably go, or at least hide in my room. That’s what Daddy would want. He’s very keen on pretending the violence of his world can’t reach its icy hands into my life—though deep down, I’m sure he knows better. Perhaps this will be a good thing, a way to remind him that, despite his best efforts, he can’t shelter me. He can’t keep me safe, not really. Perhaps he’ll be more open to the idea of sending me off to college, then.
I roll the thought around in my head, balancing it with the silent prayer that whoever is hurt will be all right, while wondering if using this person’s misfortune to my own advantage makes me a truly awful person.
I don’t have time to debate it too much because the front doors open with a thunderous boom, and I rush toward the sound. One young man, his face pink with exertion and speckled with sweat, carries the limp body of another as JD ushers them toward the kitchen. Father enters last, followed by Vincent, who twists his cap in his hands. Daddy rushes toward me, planting a rough kiss on my forehead.
“You should go to your room, darling. You don’t need to see this,” he mutters, nearly pushing me down the hall. Then he points toward Doc, who is ushering the boys into the kitchen. “Take care of that boy. He saved my life.”
I dig my feet into the long carpet. “No, that’s alright, Daddy. I want to see if I can help.”
Without giving him a chance to respond, I hurry to the kitchen, throwing open the door just in time to see Doc lean over the young man now laid across our antique mahogany table.
The one who’d been carrying him backs up against the sink, watching Doc work with intent eyes.
“What can I do?” I ask, taking a spot across the table.
Doc doesn’t even look up; he simply hands me a towel. “Apply pressure here while I remove the bullet.”
Taking the towel, I press it to the young man’s side, drawing a deep groan from the mostly unconscious patient.
Doc uses his light to check the boy’s eyes. Though his face is spotted with blood, his skin paler than my fine bone china, there’s something attractive about him in the cut of his jaw and the small, barely noticeable dimple in his chin. As soon as the thought comes, I shake it away, forcing myself to remain clinical as Doc cuts off his shirt and tie with a pair of medical shears.
No time for that now.
“Young man, can you hear me?” Doc asks as he sets to work. “What’s your name?”
The other boy answers, “It’s Benny. Benjamin.”
“Alright Benny, this is going to hurt, but I need you to lie very still.”
Doc motions to the other boy, then to me. “You two are going to need to hold him.”
I almost ask why since he clearly isn’t responsive, but the other boy takes one shoulder, just above where Doc begins to cut. As soon as the metal pierces his skin, the boy bucks, his eyes flying open. I struggle to hold his other side, pinning him to the table with all the weight I have.
Finally, there’s a wet popping sound, and Doc wrenches the bullet free. Blood flows in earnest now, down Benny’s arm and soaking his chest. The boy whimpers through gritted teeth. Doc wets a rag with some laudanum, pressing it over his nose and mouth for a few seconds. When he finally draws it back, the boy’s head lulls to the side, his green eyes wide.
Leaning over, I lower my face close to his. “Are you alright?”
He opens and closes his mouth a few times, as if it isn’t quite functioning.
Finally, he half grins and manages to slur, “I can’t feel my tongue.”
I let out a sharp laugh, and he smiles up at me. “Hey, you’re really pretty.”
“You aren’t too shabby yourself,” I offer with a grin. “I mean, except for being full of holes and all.”
He frowns. “Why am I full of holes?”
His face is so full of concerned innocence that it’s hard not to smile. “Because you got shot, silly.”
“I got shot?” His head jerks up in alarm. “Is everyone else alright?”
“Calm down,” I say, soothing him as best I can with a hand on his shoulder. Then, realizing I’d almost forgotten to keep pressure on the towel at his side, I return to it. “Everyone else is fine.”
He nods once, his expression relaxing again. “I feel pretty good, considering. Really good, actually.”
“That’d be the laudanum Doc gave you. Takes the edge off,” I offer, my eyes flicking up to Doc. He’s slowly stitching up the hole in the boy’s shoulder. The bleeding has mostly stopped; it’s just sort of weeping now. “But you’re gonna be fine, Benjamin. Just rest now.”
His eyes flicker up to mine. “That’s a shame.”
“What is?” I ask.
“That I’m gonna be fine. I kinda like being here with you.”
I sigh. “Oh, you like bleeding out on my kitchen table?”
He nods once, his face serious. “Whatever it takes.” He hesitates, then continues, “But just in case I don’t make it, do me a solid and look in on Aggie for me.”
I raise one eyebrow. “Aggie… that your girl?”
But his eyes roll back and his face goes slack, his head rolling to the side once more.
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