It's been an interesting, albeit rocky experience: it's the first story I've ever plotted out in its entirety—which both almost killed it and is the only reason it's finished—and working on the cover necessitated buying a new PC to save my laptop from certain doom, but after everything it's done.
I became very attached to Kirill and Niko while I worked on this, and I really hope that readers will too!
The Destruction of Kirill will be out on the 15th July 2014, and you can preorder copies on Kobo US and Kobo UK, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, iTunes US and iTunes UK. Other retailers will become available after the release date.
As a thank you for preorders, there's a special edition copy available at All Romance Ebooks that comes with an exclusive bonus chapter.
Born in the workhouse and moulded into an obedient slave, Kirill expected his life to be simple: serve his wealthy owners until they grew bored and sold him, repeating the process again and again until the day he died. He never wanted his master's precious only son to take an unhealthy interest in him, and he didn't expect one single horrifying summer's day to plunge his life into ruin.
Now he has to adjust to another kind of life: one with a man who never wanted to own a slave and has no use for the one he now possesses. But just when Kirill thinks he's finally found normality it all comes crashing down again—and worse, this time it's all his own fault.
Hauled into a world of chaos and destruction by a charming stranger, Kirill struggles to manoeuvre his way without letting both his past and his grief overwhelm him, but is his rescuer all that he seems, or has Kirill walked from one hell straight into another?
Reuben Gamble was two years older than Kirill. He’d heard about the handsome only son of his master and mistress, naturally—always in glowing terms—but had never met him. School and university kept that illustrious young man from home, and even when he’d visited Kirill had never set eyes on him. He’d been too busy working to pay attention.
Only when Reuben returned in disgrace did Kirill learn the master’s son had been employed for two years after university—not that it seemed he’d been too occupied with work. The servants discussed it at length; with his room just off the kitchen, Kirill couldn’t help but hear the late-night gossip even when he tried not to listen. The tales mostly centred around rumours of debauchery and drunkenness, gambling, late-night carousing and no-shows at work, all of which led to Reuben’s expulsion amid a cloud of debt. All was retold in such salacious detail Kirill wasn’t sure any of it was accurate. Not only did he not want to listen, but all the gossip made him nervous. The less he knew about his master and mistress, and by extension their offspring, the better.
Despite Reuben’s return to the fold, however, life carried on as normal. Kirill helped with the added washing and ensured one extra room was spotless every morning while the family was busy. The most he saw of the master’s son was the occasional glimpse; with his eyes kept down and every hour not spent at his mistress’s side focused on work, that was all Kirill was ever likely to see.
Everything was as it should be. Until it wasn’t.
At midsummer the tweeny left abruptly, her stomach rounder than Kirill remember it being a month ago, and her choked sobs stabbed at his heart. She’d matured into a pretty seventeen-year-old, promoted from between-maid to housemaid while remaining friendly and cheerful; although she’d ceased chatting with him once he’d recovered, she still threw him the occasional sweet smile and once in a while hid food in his room to compensate for his sole meal being after the first sweep of cleaning in the morning. In return he tried to take on some of her work to make life easier for her, and hoped she never noticed.
Even for a naïve slave it was easy to guess what had happened, but he’d never thought of her as the careless type. She never made eyes at the other servants. Perhaps it was a village boy she’d met on her one day off a week. She’d cared for him once, he’d wanted to do the same. He hadn’t loved her—he wasn’t sure a slave was even capable of an emotion like that—but there was an odd protectiveness he couldn’t help and her departure left a crushing pain in his chest. She’d been cast out and there was nothing he could do for her.
No one else was hired in her stead. Some of her tasks fell to Kirill, others to the tweeny that suddenly assumed her role: a girl who’d never expected such hasty advancement and was ill at ease with it. The extra work wasn’t as bad as Kirill had secretly feared and his guilty attempts to eavesdrop on what might have happened to its previous owner were fruitless. Sullen normality returned, punctuated only by low whispers of gossip he couldn’t catch and the times he lay awake at night hoping for her safety.
Two weeks after the maid’s dismissal, Kirill was cleaning an upstairs hallway that connected the spare rooms when footsteps filled the air and sent his heart crawling into his throat. It didn’t matter that he knew he did a good job, he was still terrified that one day the master or mistress would find fault. He didn’t even know why, beyond half-suppressed workhouse memories of what happened when he did things wrong, but it was enough to make him strive for perfection.
His grip tightened on the cloth and he threw himself more fully, if that was possible, into buffing the mahogany dado into a shine as the footsteps grew louder and a shadow passed over him—and instead of moving on, came to a standstill. “What are you doing?”
Kirill thought his heart would fail entirely. “Cleaning, sir,” he addressed the rail, polishing so hard he felt the muscles of his arm stand proud.
“And you enjoy that, do you?” The voice was both familiar and not, amusement colouring the warm tones.
“I’m not in the wall. Face me when you speak to me.”
The laughter in the voice was irrelevant, it was clearly an order. Kirill turned slowly, keeping his eyes down. “Yes, sir.”
The voice wore expensive shoes. He remembered cleaning them only hours before, one of the day’s first tasks. “Aren’t you a little too handsome to be doing this menial work?”
“No, sir.” His hands twitched; he resisted the urge to cover his scars.
There was a snort of amusement. “I’m telling you that you are.” Two fingers pressed under his chin. “Raise your head.”
As much to escape the fingers digging into his skin as in response to the command, Kirill did so.
With a sharp tsk, the hand gripped his chin more firmly. “Open your damn eyes.”
He’d been taught it was only respectful to shut them rather than stare openly at his master, but an order was an order. Nervously, he opened them.
Reuben Gamble gave him a brilliant smile. “That’s much better, isn’t it?” The hand relinquished his chin and brushed away the flash of white hair that fell over his forehead. “This came from the accident? But only the front...” The fingers moved to smooth the black strands over his ear instead. “Will you tell me about it?”
This was the most uniquely frightening situation he’d ever been in. Only his mistress ever asked him friendly questions and he knew the answers he was expected to give, but being addressed so informally by the owner’s son—and expected to answer for himself? He could barely breathe. Stepping sideways with a gesture to the door beside him, he tried to deflect the question: “I’m sorry to trouble you, sir. I’d hate for you to waste your time talking to me—”
Two hands squeezed his shoulders. Suddenly the wall was against his back, the dado hard against his spine; the hands slid down his arms to settle on his hips. “I’d much prefer you stay here.” In one step Reuben was only a hair’s breadth away, each word tickling Kirill’s nose. “I’ve been fascinated by you for a while now. My mother’s always had impeccable taste.”
The hands on his hips slid down to gently cup his buttocks. Kirill flinched as they dragged him fractionally closer, just close enough for the older man’s interest in him to become evident. His voice came out as little more than a whisper. “S—sir, what are you doing?”
His backside was released, only for the hands to shift upwards again: one to his chest, just above his heart, and the other to slide between their bodies and stroke the front of his trousers.
With a terrified squeak he twisted away, freed through sheer dumb luck than real intention. Leaving his equipment where it lay and without daring to look back, Kirill fled his master’s son and bolted down the stairs.
There was no sign of Reuben when he crept back, heart in his mouth, to pick up where he’d left off; he’d never before realised relief had a taste.