So I thought I'd give everyone a little tease with a snippet of the cover Anne is doing for Silk & Poison. This story is very dark, very hot and very different in terms of romantic elements and I know we're both curious and maybe a bit apprehensive on how people will react to the exploits of our beloved bastard Dao Kan Shu and his not as innocent as he appears protege Toshiro Itou.
Here's a quick intro to Mr. Shu...
San Francisco, 1870
The Chew Kee was a small shop for exotic teas, herbal medicines and oddities imported directly from Hong Kong. A number of signs and posters scrawled with Chinese characters advertised the shop's merchandise through smoke-stained windows. Meanwhile, the characters for poisoned dragon painted onto a corner of the dark glass of the front doors in crimson ink served as a warning for the Chinese that this building belonged to the Wong family, as much of San Francisco's Chinatown already did. Any unwelcome visitors would be dealt with appropriately.
The thought of what was generally considered "appropriate" made Dao Kan Shu smile as he pushed open the door and stepped inside. After all the recent trouble from a number of impetuous rival tongs, the men he worked for were finally beginning to fully appreciate the artistry involved in punishing those who crossed them.
"Mr. Yang is looking for you," the shop owner called out as he stroked his long gray beard with a bony hand and eyed Shu over a cup of black tea. Dao Kan walked in silence to the back of the shop, not giving the older man a second glance. Shu smirked, knowing full well the reason why Yang wanted to see him.
He passed through the door and entered the other Chew Kee-the sprawling opium parlor where only the most favored members of the city's underworld were allowed. Occasionally, some of the more recognized allies or clients of the Wongs could be found entertaining themselves here with one of the family heads, including several local politicians. Tonight however, only a handful of other "hatchet men" lounged around, looking for amusement within this establishment's wood paneled walls. Shu took his usual place towards the back of the parlor and dropped into the padded seat as he waited for a serving girl to bring him a pipe.
The girl who approached, he did not recognize. She was new to the establishment, bright-eyed and eager to serve. Fresh off the boat no doubt, either lured by promises of a rich husband or even sold off by her family as an unnecessary female mouth to feed.
"Good evening and welcome. I am at your service." She licked her painted lips. "For anything."
She handed over the opium pipe then knelt beside the chair.
"Anything?" Shu's sharp gaze followed the curves of her body as he exhaled, a cloud of wispy smoke filling the distance between them. "What a dangerous thing to say..." He laughed softly, his assessing gaze coming to rest on her smooth, painted face. It looked warm and inviting, the sort that promised to deliver on the pleasures inferred by her words. She bore such an enticing look in her lovely eyes, those rich brown depths speckled with hints of green and gold. The soft, yet clearly sensual expression only proved what he'd already expected-that she lacked all knowledge of just whom she was attempting to service.
"You must be new around here, mei mei," an amused smile played across Shu's lips. "I don't remember seeing this pretty face before." He leaned forward and cupped her chin between his thumb and forefinger, turning her head slightly to the left and then to the right. It was a pleasant face, but it could always be lovelier. Yes, with tears of pain running down her cheeks and her eyes wide with terror, she would be lovelier.