So far in Clockwork Image:
Tressa, Brox, and Jasper got the photographic proof they needed to stop the child labor secretly happening in Westwood Orphanage. Doing so got them caught by a gang of vampires. Thanks to some quick thinking on the part of Tressa, Jasper, and Brox they were all able to escape--of course, Tressa's favorite heavy wrench helped out as well.
Tressa paid for the broadsheet—no less than a full pound as Jasper was wont to do—and looked down at the headlines.
A picture of a room full of children, working the night away until their fingers bled, filled the top. It was one of the images Jasper had snapped. Both the cameras that Tressa and Brox had carried into Westwood had been crushed. But Jasper had somehow managed to hide his during the attack, later getting word to Christina about where she might find it.
Now, two weeks later, the papers were still posting different photographs almost daily. Mr. Clark wouldn’t stand trial for another month, but the papers didn’t seem to care. They were broadcasting the news of his arrest, his wife’s true nature, and all the affairs regarding Westwood far and wide. Not only was the whole of London abuzz with the news, but this time, due to Jasper’s well framed photos, they could see what had been happening.
Jasper walked up beside her. “I thought I’d find you here today.”
She angled the paper toward him. “Your pictures are wonderful. I told you the broadsheets would eat them up.”
He only shrugged. “I liked some of my other ones better.”
She folded the paper. “Does this mean you’re ready to start being a professional photographer?”
His lips turned up in a sheepish smile. “I do like seeing them in print.”
She looped her arm through his. “I always said you should. You did a grand job saving those children.”
Jasper pulled up short, stopping her as well. His smile was gone, his brow creased.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He let out a long, slow breath. “I see those children, night after night. Sometimes I see them whenever I close my eyes.”
Tressa could relate. She did, too. “But we’ve stopped Mr. Clark, and his monstrous wife.”
He nodded. “Yes. But . . . Tressa, that night, I was so focused on getting good pictures—pictures that would stir this city’s heart and move them to action—I told you not to stand up and protect the children. I held you back.”
“But you were right. I could have saved those children right then and there, but your images have saved them for years to come.”
“I’m still not sure it was the right thing to do.” His gaze floated upward, bouncing from the people around them, to the buildings that lined the street, to the perfectly staggered, ornamental trees. “Is it truly better to remain aloof and accurately capture life as is? Or to step in and change it?”
“You did cause change.”
“That little boy still got hurt. I was close enough to intervene but didn’t.” He slipped her arm out from his and gave her hand a squeeze. “I don’t know the answer yet. Maybe I never will.” His small smile came back. “The broadsheets are giving me the opportunity to find out, though. They’ve offered me a full-time job as a news correspondent.”
“Brilliant.” Oh, this would be perfect for Jasper. “Hopefully this doesn’t turn into another adventure in a career that’s not for you.”
“There’s no way to know, but I have a good feeling about this one.”
Pride for her brother swelled up in Tressa. “You’ve worked hard. You deserve this opportunity.”
He chuckled. “I don’t know about that. But I wouldn’t worry too much. After all, it was because of a two-week stint as a sewer maintenance worker that I learned how to flood the pipes.”
“Your flightiness has saved us all,” Tressa said in mock solemnity.
“You’re the one with the killer swing.” He tipped his hat and turned to leave, but then paused, looking over his shoulder. “I never did say thank you for saving me.”
“I wasn’t about to let that demon vampire eat my only family.”
“I’m not talking about that. I mean, thank you for dragging me to Westwood. It wasn’t a great place to grow up. Gears above knows it’ll probably haunt us both for life. But at least we got to grow up. And I always knew you had my back.”
Turning toward her fully, he wrapped her in a bear hug. “Thanks for that.”
Tressa couldn’t think of anything to say so she hugged him back, hoping the strength of her arms around him let him know just exactly how she felt.
“For the record,” he whispered, “I think it’s about time I wasn’t your only family.”
She pulled back abruptly. What was that supposed to mean?
He only winked at her and strode away.
Great. It looked very much like he was making plans again. So long as his plans didn’t include a deluge of water—in buckets or in pipes—Tressa figured she could handle it.
Westwood appeared far less intimidating as she marched up the steps than when she had first returned home. She didn’t hesitate to open the door, nor did striding down the halls and through the rooms leave her feeling on edge.
Today was the day she was signing away all her savings to support and further continue the work of saving children at Westwood Orphanage. Furthermore, she had—after constant harassing from both Brox and Jasper—agreed to step into Mr. Clark’s position as head of the board.
It would mean a whole new life for her. No more trips across the world. No more crew to order about. No more engines to repair, unless the boiler started acting up or Brox’s motorcar sputtered out.
It was a huge change, and yet, as the gears above would have it, the change happened all in only a matter of moments.
She entered the board room, where everyone was already gathered, and without pomp or deliberation, signed a few papers. Everyone congratulated her, though she could tell several were still reeling from the change.
And that was that.
A couple of hours later, Tressa found herself standing atop a bridge watching water course beneath her. Diving below the ocean had always been her life. A huge wave had saved her life. Now, this little stream not far from Westwood promised to be one of her favorite spots for contemplation.
It was intimidating, all the changes that were taking place, but also thrilling. She was ready for this next phase of life, ready to help protect and safeguard the children brought to Westwood. If a couple of them showed an aptitude for mechanics, so much the better.
“Long day?” Brox leaned against the bridge railing next to her.
“If you would have told me when I first stepped onto land two months ago how much my life was about to change, I would have said you were up in the night.”
He chuckled. “Has it only been two months? It feels far longer than that.”
She could agree with that. It felt like a lifetime ago since they’d first met in the boiler room and she’d been handed a note informing her of the small fortune she was to receive.
Brox took a half-step closer to her. “Are you too tired to help me with something?”
“No, not at all.” She had a feeling Westwood was going to require many a long day from her. But she wasn’t one to shy away from hard work.
“Good. First, though, I need you to practice something for me.”
Tressa listed her head. What on earth was this all about?
Brox continued, “Repeat after me. Yes.”
Seriously? He wanted her to say one single word?
“Like this. Yu-ess.” Brox watched her for a moment. “Come on, Tressa, I know words aren’t your strong suit but even you can say one little word.”
His smile grew. “Good. Say it again.”
“Because we’re practicing. That’s how one practices; by doing something over and over again.”
“You’d better not be trying to make a fool out of me.”
He held both his hands up. “No, that would be Jasper’s specialty. I’m just preparing you.”
“By making me practice saying yes?” What was this all about?
“All right.” She looked up at the sky. “Yes. Yes. Yes.” If anyone was watching they would do well to keep their mouths shut. If she found out that someone had blabbed all over London that Seawoman Wimple was a mindless idiot, she’d tan their hide. “Is that good enough?”
“Brox, what is this about?”
“It’s this.” He took hold of both of her hands and drew her in close. “Tressa, my love, since the moment I first met you I was overwhelmed with your beauty, grace, and strength.”
Since the first time they’d met? She was covered in grease then. Her skepticism must have showed for he laughed.
“I’m serious. Even covered in grime, you’re lovely.” His thumbs stroked the backs of her hands. He was nervous. Though, surprisingly, Tressa found she was not.
Brox glanced down for a moment. “I know I speak well before a large group, but the truth is, I struggle when speaking to people one-on-one. Especially when that one is an intelligent woman. I think I made quite a fool of myself more than once those first few days. A man certainly should not refer to another man’s underclothing in front of a lady.”
Her mind jumped back to the day Brox had asked her what had gotten Jasper’s ‘knickers in a twist’. Tressa laughed. She’d just assumed he’d seen her as a pal and friend and nothing more. Tressa never guessed Brox was struggling to find the right words to say.
“But then,” he continued, “I found I could just be myself around you. And now, I don’t ever want to be without you.”
She gazed back at him.
Brox dropped to one knee and pulled out a small, black box. He flipped the lid open. “Seawoman Tressa Wimple, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife? You are my all and everything. I have waited my entire life for a woman as wondrous as you.”
The sunset glistened off a golden ring tucked inside the black velvet box. It was a simple, unadorned band—and absolutely lovely.
Brox leaned over her hand and whispered. “This is the moment we practiced for.”
Tressa laughed. Her inability to speak last time he’d asked her an important question had nearly ended their relationship. So the silly, besotted fool had thought it best he prepare her.
In truth, this time she hadn’t needed the practice. She had waited her whole life, too, for someone as wondrous has Brox.
“Yes. Absolutely, yes!”
He slipped the ring onto her finger. It fit perfectly. She held it up and watched the sunlight reflect and sparkle off the ring’s surface.
Brox stood and wrapped her in his arms. “I love you, dearest.”
“I love you, too,” she whispered as he pulled her closer.
Brox leaned in and kissed her. Holding him close, Tressa kissed him back.
And they stayed that way, kissing one another, until well after the sun had set.
Thank you for reading Clockwork Image!
This has been a crazy, awesome adventure--all the more fun because you did it with me.
Until next time,