Phoebe Darqueling, the awesome author of ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ has kindly shared some insights on one of her wonderful characters and a brief taster of her latest novel.
Prudence Thorne started seeing the dead when she was a child. Her brother had no time or patience for the little girl who trailed him like a shadow, so the spirits who drifted into Thorne Manor became her closest friends. Prudence believed the ghosts were a delicious secret for her alone. Then, everything changed.
The ability to see the dead and channel spectral forces didn’t belong only to Prudence, it was a family trait. It didn’t affect all of the Thorne women and it didn’t manifest at the same time, but most of her family line had some kind of ability enhanced by their close connection to the spirit world. Much to her delight, Prudence’s aunt Magda came to live in the Manor and immediately recognized her potential. In no time, they became closer than sisters, closer than mother and daughter. Prudence learned all about her family history and how to expand her potential, and the day that Magda passed peacefully into the afterlife was the loneliest of her entire life.
But there was a ray of hope. For though Prudence never married, her brother had a daughter whom she hoped would connect with her the same way when her powers manifested. She kept a sharp eye on Vi and sent her ghost companions into her path in the hopes that her niece would show some inkling of power. But even though the energy that pulsed off of the child was the stronger than anything Prudence had ever felt, the little girl either never saw the dead or refused to admit the truth of her eyes. The feeling of betrayal caused a deep, painful schism between the two, and when Vi was old enough to strike out on her own, she leaped at the chance, leaving Prudence alone and bitter, rattling around an empty mansion.
Then, everything changed again. After a long absence, Vi and some companions arrived on the doorstep of her ancestral home…
From No Rest for the Wicked by Phoebe Darqueling
The room was so quiet, even the ticking of the grandfather clock reached their ears. Every tiny scrape of a utensil or creak of a floorboard under the butler’s foot echoed all the way to the tall ceilings of the dining room. A golden chandelier encrusted with crystals and dust in equal measure hung over the center of the table. A huge, Venetian mirror reflected the stoical scene from over an ornate mantel; a tall woman, with gray hair cropped close to her skull, scowled at
one end of a long wooden table, while two other women sat in awkward silence staring at the other.
Even though it had been almost a decade since Vi had last seen the room, nothing had changed. The same family portraits kept watch from the bloody red walls, the same servant still served the food, though his age had slowed his movements. She moved the elegant meal around her plate with her fork as she thought about George enjoying what would probably be plain but delicious fare in the cozy surroundings of the kitchen alongside the old cook. She’d never wanted to trade places with a child so much in her life.
Bonnie started to speak, but Vi quieted her with a shake of her head and nervous glance to the woman at the far end of the long table. Her friend looked from the matriarch’s stern and quiet visage and back, mouthing, “Why not?”
Vi returned a frustrated but silent, “Just don’t.”
The other woman rolled her eyes. “Miss Prudence—”
A vehement, short shush interrupted her from the corner. When she searched for the source, Bonnie found the ancient butler bringing a quivering finger to his lips.
The little brunette’s face screwed up in defiance and she continued. “Thank you ever so much for welcoming us into your home.” Prudence didn’t even lift her eyes from her plate, her knife squeaking as she cut off another tiny piece of pork chop and brought it to her lips. Bonnie raised her voice and tried again. “You have a lovely home, Miss Prudence.”
The room held its breath as the older woman picked up a linen napkin and dabbed at the corner of her mouth. Prudence gently set down her fork and leveled her razor-sharp, green eyes at her niece. “Viola,” she said, voice soft but her tone wrought with iron.
Vi swallowed hard. “Yes, ma’am.”
“You know how I feel about talking during mealtimes.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I’m sorry,” Bonnie cried, blood rushing to her cheeks. “I didn’t know.”
Prudence waved away her concern with a skeletal hand, but continued to glare at Vi. “No. Of course you didn’t. Because my wayward niece never thought to inform you.”
Vi began to protest, then slumped back in a sulk. “No, ma’am.”
“And why do we do that?”
She mumbled, “Because silence is golden.”
“Indeed,” her aunt replied. The barest hint of a smile crossed her lips, then they returned to a straight line. “I rather thought you’d taken that particular lesson to heart. All I’ve had from you is silence.” She balled up her napkin and threw it onto her half-eaten meal. “That will be all, August. I’ve lost my concentration completely. Clear the dishes.”
The grifter slanted protectively over her plate. “I’m not finished.”
“Very well.” Prudence let out a long-suffering sigh at the small act of defiance. “Carry on. I suppose we’ll all simply have to wait for you.” The butler shuffled over and cleared away his mistress’ plate and utensils while she stared at her former ward over steepled fingers. When August went to Bonnie’s place, she allowed him to take away her unfinished dinner, her
eyes flicking uneasily from one woman to the other. With a saccharine smile, Vi cut a tiny piece of potato and placed it delicately into her mouth with a theatrical ‘mmm.’
Prudence clucked her tongue, then turned to her other dinner companion and gestured widely. “You’re right. It is a lovely home.”
Bonnie let out a squeak, withering under the unexpected turn of the woman’s granite gaze. She recovered her aplomb, replying. “Yes, er… has it been in the family long?”
“There’s been a Thorne in this house since it was built,” Prudence replied proudly. “Though I don’t know how much longer that will be true. I thought to leave it to her when I pass, but Viola seems to have made her home…elsewhere.”
“You’re going to leave me the house?” Vi exclaimed, choking on her half-chewed bite.
“This is why we don’t talk and eat,” her aunt scolded, then returned her attention to Bonnie. “So, tell me. How do you two know each other?”
Her friend shot Vi another look, uncertain of how to proceed but unwilling to be the one to spill the secret. “It’s quite a long story…” she hedged.
“I see,” Prudence replied coldly. “And you believe I am somehow unequipped to listen to a long story?”
“Well, I—” Bonnie stuttered.
Vi re-entered the conversation. “Leave her alone. You’re angry with me, not her.”
“Do I sound angry?” the older woman replied with an infuriating lack of emotion. “I’m not the one raising my voice,” she pointed out.
“You never sound angry,” her niece replied. “But that doesn’t mean you aren’t. I know you too well to believe you aren’t furious with me right now.”
“Are you quite finished yet?” Prudence sighed. “We could adjourn to the study like civilized people if you would surrender your plate.”
The corner of Vi’s eye twitched, but she pushed away the remains of her supper. As August rounded the table, he stopped to whisper something in his mistress’ ear.
“Apparently, I already have a visitor waiting for me in the study. If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ll see to what he wants.”
The butler assisted Prudence with her chair as she rose, but Vi’s next words stopped her halfway through the motion. “He’s with me.”
Her aunt regarded her skeptically. “I highly doubt we’re talking about the same… person.” She brushed at non-existent wrinkles and straightened her cuffs before stepping away from the table.
“The ghost?” Vi asked, savoring the moment. Her heavy heart lifted a little as she watched her aunt stop dead, confusion twisting her features. With a smile, Vi continued lightly. “Yes, Peter is my guest, but he preferred to take a nice stroll rather than arrive with us in the carriage.”
Prudence lifted her chin and glowered down her aquiline nose at her niece, but she couldn’t keep the curiosity, and perhaps even pride, out of the creases of her stately face. She gestured at the study door. “Come along,” she said, her eyes momentarily flashing with satisfaction. “And tell me everything.”