Smoke & Mirror
Vesper St Clair
(a Gilded Lily novella)
Publication date: March 4th 2019
Genres: Adult, Historical, LGBTQ+, Romance
Frank knows plenty about being haunted, after his brother was killed on his watch. But he has no patience for mediums. Especially not ones with silver tongues and piercing blue eyes like the Illusive Kasimir. Frank can’t understand why his boss, the head of the Brunetti crime family, is all too happy to waste his money and time trying to speak with the dead.
Until a devastating attack at one of Kasimir’s séances leaves the Brunettis in shambles, and Kasimir and Frank on the run.
Frank needs to hunt down whoever ordered the hit on his boss. What he doesn’t need is another doomed love affair with someone he can’t trust—like the con artist Kasimir. But if he’s going to save the Brunetti family—and his own broken heart—he’ll need to exorcise more than just his ghosts.
SMOKE & MIRRORS is a standalone M/M novella with a HEA set in the glamorous and dangerous world of 1920s Jazz Age Manhattan and the fictional Gilded Lily speakeasy. It contains violence and explicit sexual content between consenting adults.
“Not enjoying yourself, Mister . . . ?”
The Illusive Kasimir had manifested, wraith-like, at Frank’s side. Frank nearly jumped—not too many men were able to sneak up on him. Instinctively, his hand started toward his waistband, but he forced that arm to straighten. No sense drawing unwanted attention to his piece.
“Some of us work for our money,” Frank replied.
Christ, the con artist was even more gorgeous up close. That hair was like amber, and he had the kind of gaze that could shuck oysters. Shuck clothing, too. Not that Frank was in any position to be thinking about that right now.
“You have the look of a haunted man,” Kasimir said. His voice was subdued, but carried a choppy flow to it that made Frank think of the East River on a stormy day. Slavic, if Frank had to guess.
“Don’t suppose people come to you if they aren’t some kind of haunted.”
Kasimir shrugged, his lips pressed together in a way that made them flush a rosy pink against his milky skin. Frank tried his best to ignore the faint hitch the sight of it put in his breath. “How long,” Kasimir asked, “since your brother passed?”
Oh, fuck this. Frank’s hand dove for his pistol. Arn was off-limits. For Sal, for the rest of the Brunetti crew, for goddamned everyone. This asshole had no right—how had he even known—
Then his fingertips brushed the gun’s grip. The grip engraved with Arn’s initials. Frank’s anger narrowed its focus down to a single razor-wire point. “Who the hell told you—”
“It’s my business to know everything about everyone who attends my séances.” Kasimir tapped the side of his nose with one slender finger. “And I won’t waste my time trying to make a believer out of one who’s clearly not. But perhaps we can keep one another’s secrets, hm?”
Frank clenched and flexed his fist. That was even worse. He knew how these mediums worked, skimming secrets from public records, loose-lipped acquaintances, and more to make their marks. It rattled him to think of someone so casually slipping this bastard the story of his brother. How much more had they said? God, there was no escaping Arn’s ghost in this town. Frank couldn’t even escape his own shadow.
“Fuck you,” Frank growled, but his anger had left him. He was just tired. So tired of this life. He thought he and Arn would be free men by now, resting fat and happy on their hard-won loot.
Kasimir’s hand shot out, whip-quick, and seized Frank by the chin. For all his brawler’s reflexes, Frank froze. Kasimir’s gaze cradled his with the same firmness that his hand held Frank’s chin, and Frank felt exposed, like Kasimir was peeling back all his layers. Digging for something Frank no longer knew if he possessed.
Then Kasimir’s thumb brushed over his lower lip, soft but slow. It caught the skin and tugged. Frank swallowed with an unpleasant warmth building in his gut. He was uncomfortably aware of the crowd all around them, of the dim parlor lighting that still felt far too harsh. It felt as if everyone could see them, could see the naked want that touch had painted across Frank’s face, despite his fury, his resentment.
“Maybe later,” Kasimir murmured, and let him go.
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I wanted Smoke and Mirror to be longer! I know it was meant to be a novella but these two characters could have been developed so much more and I would have loved every minute of it. I think both Kas and Frank would have benefited from being in a longer book. Then we could have seen the plot play out more. It felt rushed. I also think that we could have seen Sal more and the daughter that he had.
There was so much heat between Frank and Kas. I loved the relationship that they had and their interactions were written beautifully.
I definitely liked this one but I think it could have been so much more.