The Organised Author

The Heart Collector

I’m very excited to announce that my book, The Heart Collector-Auckland Steampunk#1, is ready for pre-order. If you want to receive an ARC copy to leave a review, please contact me.
The book is published by:
And I'll always be grateful to Anna Lena Spies for the gorgeous cover!
Auckland, 1884. The Supernaturals are frightened. Despite being able to do extraordinary things like teleporting or lighting a fire with a stare, a serial killer, the Heart Collector, is slaughtering them. He rips their chests open and removes their hearts.
While other aristocratic, nineteen-year-old girls spend time dancing, Isabel trains hard to become an MI7 agent—Military Intelligence Seventh Division, a crime squad run by Supernaturals. The Heart Collector murdered her best friend, and enrolling at MI7 is the best way to help catch the killer.

Isabel senses other people’s feelings as if they were her owns. But MI7’s leader is too worried about Isabel’s safety to let her join the team.
Eager to prove that her power is valuable, Isabel volunteers to meet Murk, a dangerous Supernatural man who can turn himself invisible. MI7 desperately tried to recruit him and failed.
She believes that her power is enough to convince Murk to become an MI7’s agent and help apprehend the Heart Collector. If he wants to attack her, his feelings will broadcast his intention, and she’ll be ready.
What Isabel isn’t ready for is to fall in love with the man who will collect her heart.
Chapter One
Auckland, 1884

One of the perks of being a duchess and the lady of Hastings Manor was that I could make my own decisions.
Most of the time.
I bunched a corner of my long brocade skirt and climbed the sweeping stairs toward Victor’s office. The bustle, heavy with satin ribbons, bounced lightly, tapping on the small of my back.
On the landing, one of the little cleaning machines that roamed the house trotted around, buzzing as its brushes dusted the white marble floor. A puff of steam trailed behind it while its wheels and pistons whirred. I strode on, the star-bright tiles sparkling under my velvet slippers.
The butler bowed stiffly, carrying a tray with tea and cakes that smelled of cinnamon. “Your Grace.” He stepped aside to let me pass.
“Hollom.” My heels’ click-clacking noise died down on the blue rug covering the entrance in front of Victor’s office.
I raised my fist to knock but stopped inches away from the gleaming, polished oak wood, needing a moment to collect myself. Victor had to see reason. Convincing him that my role in the investigation was vital wouldn’t be easy, but I was nineteen and properly trained in combat. More or less. The point was, I could face danger.
My resolve wavered, and I bit the inside of my cheek. On light feet, I turned and slid inside my late father’s personal library. Victor’s supernatural hearing wouldn’t catch me in the room protected by thick walls, and the old leather-bound volumes calmed my nerves.
I cleared my throat before rehashing my speech. “Victor, you’re the leader of Military Intelligence Seven, but as Duchess of Sussex, I have the right to  . . .” I shook my head. This sounded patronizing. I took a deep breath to slow my pounding heart, glad that I wasn’t wearing a corset. Another perk of being a duchess.
I squared my shoulders. A wrong word and Victor would dismiss me. “Victor, I kindly request… would you… I would appreciate if you assign me to the ongoing investigation on the Heart Collector, since I believe my skills can be an asset.” There. Simple, polite, and to the point.
I jutted out my chin and smoothed my bodice. I should’ve worn my dark green dress. It made me look taller and older. This blue gown gave me a childish air with its velvet ribbons and budding roses.
Too late.
After another deep inhalation, I marched toward Victor’s office again and knocked on the door.
“Come in.” The thick door muffled his deep voice.
I wiped my sweaty hand on my skirt before turning the handle and stepping into the office that had once belonged to my father. Victor and his younger brother Jamie stood up from their stuffed chairs and bowed.
“Good morning, Victor, Jamie.”
After the dimly lit corridor, the sunlight streaming from the floor-to-ceiling window blinded me, and I squinted, closing the door behind me.
I walked to the desk that occupied almost half of the room, keeping my eyes on Victor’s frowning face. “I need to talk to you.”
Victor stretched out an arm, indicating the empty chairs. His serious expression added wisdom to his five and twenty years. “Of course, Isabel. Please, sit.”
I sat on the very edge of the chair and set my back straight to not crush my bustle. Victor sat at his desk while Jamie settled himself next to the fireplace.
“Is something the matter?” Jamie leaned forward, his blond hair swishing about his cheeks. “You are pale.”
I faced him. “Well, I—” A dark blue bruise marked his chin, his bottom lip was split, and a fresh cut marred his forehead. “What happened to you?”
Jamie clenched and unclenched his fists. “My encounter with one of the Supernaturals we’re trying to recruit didn’t end well.”
I focused on Jamie, unleashed my power, and reached out for his feelings. A rush of energy flooded me, and heat warmed my chest. Jamie’s anger, annoyance, and humiliation washed over me. Physical pain stabbed him as well. I gently prodded his body with my mental strength. His ribs hurt, and a cut on his back throbbed. His feelings left the sour taste of unripe grapes in my mouth.
I swallowed. “This Supernatural must be particularly strong to hurt you.”
Jamie stroked his bruised skin. A new wave of mortification surged from him. “He is moderately strong.”
Moderately strong? Jamie could bend iron bars with two fingers and lift twenty times his weight. How strong was this Supernatural?
Victor shifted his gaze to me. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“Exactly about this.” I nodded toward Jamie. “This Supernatural you want to recruit for the investigation on the Heart Collector.”
Victor knitted his blond eyebrows in the same way Jamie would. “You don’t have to concern yourself with that. Jamie will soon make another attempt to meet this Supernatural.”
“But.” I paused to read Victor’s feelings. His determination and mild exasperation reached me. It wasn’t a good start, but maybe my speech would convince him. “I would like you to allow me . . . I mean, to assign me to this mission since I request, kindly, I request kindly, that it would be me, myself, to do it.” Damn. So much for rehashing. I clasped my hands in my lap not to show how much they trembled. “I’d like it to be me.” I swallowed. If I weren’t so eager to get the job, I’d laugh at Victor’s scrunched face.
I searched his feelings again. Even without my supernatural empathetic power, the hard set of his jaw and his narrowed icy blue eyes told me he wasn’t pleased. I cleared my throat. “I want to meet this Supernatural.”
“You want what?” Jamie asked, propping an elbow on the mantelpiece.
I ignored him. “What did you say his name was?”
“I didn’t.” Victor straightened the pile of documents on his desk, arranged quills and inkbottles, and loosened his bow tie.
His simmering anger caused my skin to prickle. Maybe I should stop sampling people’s feelings without them knowing, but I needed to understand how he felt.
“This is a bad idea, Isabel.” Jamie pressed his lips together and winced. A stab of pain hit me as well. His pain. “That man is not the average Supernatural.”
Why did Jamie have to be here? He wasn’t helping me. I turned my attention to Victor. “Victor?”
He pushed back his shoulders. “We know only how the man’s called in the streets, Murk. He’s a street urchin, probably only a few years younger than you are, sixteen or seventeen. We aren’t sure. And that pretty much sums up all we know about his personal life. He isn’t even registered in the archive of Supernaturals. I couldn’t find a single piece of information about him.”
“Aside from the fact that he can become invisible.” Jamie pointed a finger at his battered face. “And he’s bloody strong.”
Victor slapped a hand on his desk. The wood cracked on one side from his strength. “You’ll talk politely in the presence of a lady.”
I recoiled. He didn’t usually lose control of his immense strength.
A muscle in Jamie’s jaw twitched, and sorrow coursed through him, forming gray tendrils above his head. “Sorry, Isabel. My point is that Murk is a formidable adversary. His invisibility, plus his strength, makes him almost impossible to stop. He’s fast as well. From what I learned when he wasn’t invisible, his fighting technique is sloppy, mostly made of street moves, but effective, as you can see.”
“But that’s why I can be useful.” I stopped fiddling with a fold of my skirt. “I sense feelings as if they were voices. I don’t need to see him. If I meet him, I’ll know where he is by using my power. If he’ll become aggressive, I’ll know it.”
Jamie blew a breath and sat in the chair next to me. “Please, Isabel.”
Victor set his elbows on the desk, and a new crack opened on the smooth surface. “Did you make any progress in your training?”
“Yes, I did,” I replied.
Jamie squirmed in his seat.
Victor glanced from his brother to me. “Well? Jamie, you’re responsible for her training.”
Jamie coughed in his closed fist. “Yes, well, Isabel is taking her training seriously.”
Victor drummed his fingers on the desk. “I see.”
My cheeks heated while I mentally thanked Jamie. Even Queen Victoria in the portrait above the desk seemed to glare at me with disapproval. “The truth is that I’ve made progress in hand to hand combat, and I manage to shut out the pain of my adversary, quite often.”
Victor regarded his brother. “What about weapons?”
“Er, Isabel needs more training in handling daggers, and well, guns aren’t for her,” Jamie added.
An upsurge of his concern hit me. He worried about me, so much it hurt him. But it was time I used my skill to do something more than studying other people’s feelings out of curiosity.
“Can you sense people’s feelings even if they aren’t in the same room with you?” Victor asked.
“I’m working on that,” I hurried to explain. “I’m getting better, and I won’t need a gun or a dagger if I meet this Supernatural. Sure enough, Murk won’t kill me.”
Jamie opened his mouth, but Victor held up his hand, silencing him. “How do you know he won’t kill you?”
I pretended to not be scared by the idea of facing an invisible, incredibly strong Supernatural. “He didn’t kill Jamie, and I wager Jamie wasn’t friendly with him. He wouldn’t kill a lady.”
“How do you know that? Maybe he didn’t kill me because I was stronger than him. Besides, at the end of the fight, he earned his share of cuts and bruises.” Jamie pushed himself off the chair and paced, limping on one leg.
Every step sent a twinge of pain in my body. I called back my power to close the connection with him, but it didn’t obey. I tried again, willing it to stop flowing. It rushed back into my chest like a warm gust of wind.
“Yet.” Victor rubbed his chin. “Isabel has a point. Murk could’ve stabbed you. After all, he fought fairly.”
“Fairly? Do you call being invisible fair? I’d say it’s bl . . .” Jamie groaned. “Invisibility isn’t fair.”
“Maybe an empath is what we need to lure Murk to our side.” Victor’s frown softened.
I stifled a shout of joy and forced my face to remain still.
Jamie stopped pacing and turned to Victor. “We took an oath. We promised Isabel’s mother, on her deathbed, that we would take care of her and keep her safe. And you want to throw her out there with a serial killer who rips the hearts out of the Supernaturals? Hell, for all we know, Murk could be the killer.”
I stood up before Victor could rebuke Jamie about his swearing. Victor rose as well.
“I can’t be cooped in the house forever,” I said. “MI7 was everything for my parents. In two years, I’ll be of age, and I’ll take an active role in MI7, whether you like it or not. Wouldn’t it be better to let me start now under your guidance?”
I didn’t want to push it and remind Victor that my parents founded MI7. They’d been active agents, even my mother who wasn’t a Supernatural. I wanted to follow their path. A choking sensation gripped my throat at the thought of my parents. Father, always so enthusiastic about new adventures, and Mother, always so sweet. Would they approve of this? Would they be concerned?
“Isabel.” Jamie strode to me, placed his bear-like hands on my shoulders, and gave me that solemn stare of his. Since he’d declared his feelings for me, his protectiveness had doubled, and my rejection still stung his soul. But he was like an older brother for me and my friend. Nothing more.  
Jamie’s fingers squeezed gently. “It’s too dangerous, and you aren’t ready. You have problems containing even your empathic powers.”
I gritted my teeth. He was right, but unless I faced danger, I doubted my skill would hone. “I need to do something to stop this maniac from killing Supernaturals. How many of them died? Fourteen?”
“Sixteen.” Victor’s voice cracked.
“I want to help. I owe this to Marianne.” A sickening lump crawled into my throat. I stepped out of Jamie’s reach and inched closer to Victor. “I felt her pain, you know that. When the Heart Collector ripped her chest open, I felt the blade cutting my own flesh.” I touched my throat with the same hand that Marianne’s blood had stained. “I failed her. I failed my best friend.” Tears blurred my vision.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Jamie said. “She was in the wrong place at the wrong moment.”
“She was there because of me. It was my idea to sneak out of the house and go to that stupid fair.”
Victor exhaled sharply and rolled back and forth on the balls of his feet.
I couldn’t resist the temptation and freed my power. It shot forward, hungry for emotions. If it were that easy to rein it as it was to free it, I wouldn’t share the pain of others. My power’s invisible vines extended and sank into Victor’s body. Indecision, worry, and anger battled inside him.
Please, say yes. Please, let me do this.
“Victor.” Jamie’s tone rang low. Worry gurgled inside him again. “Don’t.”
Victor lifted his head, his handsome face tense. “All right, Isabel. You’ll meet Murk.”
“Thank you.” A smile crept on my lips.
“Victor, I beg you to think again.” Jamie balled his fists.
“Murk’s power is too valuable. We need him on our side before either he becomes the next victim, or he’s recruited by the wrong people.” A wide grin spread on Victor’s mouth. “Imagine what MI7 could do with an invisible Supernatural. We can move this investigation forward and faster than we could hope.”
“But—” Jamie started.
“And Jamie will escort you and make sure you’re safe. So, he’ll be less worried.” Victor gestured to the door. “Please, get ready. The sooner we convince Murk to work with us the better.”
Jamie bowed. “All right.”
A laugh bubbled up in my mouth, but I bit it down. I could get used to winning with the Cleath-Steward brothers.
I was officially an active agent of MI7.