Clockmaker Josef Kronecker makes more than just clocks.
In his study in Salzburg, he crafts lifesaving clockwork appendages for clients, including a famous pianist, a count who loves to dance, and his very own assistant, Anna, who suffered a harrowing attack before coming to work at Kronecker’s Timepieces.
When Josef meets Klara, a beautiful party attendee, he’s entranced and soon becomes unknowingly entrapped in a web of lies. His infatuation positions him as the victim of a royal bully, who presents an impossible challenge and requests an unthinkable sacrifice should Josef run out of time.
While Josef falls for Klara and is held to a deadline he can’t possibly make, Anna keeps the shop afloat as she faces her past trauma, proving that the number of limbs does not make a person whole, but rather the will to live.
Sustaining life is Josef’s calling, but now it’s his life on the line. As the clock ticks down, he realizes that while infatuation is a powerful thing, love is deeper and sometimes goes unseen, and it seems adopting Anna’s unwavering will to live is the way to survive.
Honest, inventive, and both heartbreaking and heartwarming, OF GILDED FLESH is a captivating story about resilience and how much we have to live for.
Anna doesn’t sleep. With Pascal warm beside her under the covers, she watches the fire, which has burned down to glowing embers. They made love twice more before he drifted off.
Knowing she won’t be falling back to sleep, Anna decides to ready herself for the day. Then she feels hands upon her, and arms wrapping around her, lifting her from the soft linens.
“Allow me,” Pascal tells her, his breath upon her neck, his bare flesh against hers.
He carries her to a far corner of the room, to a basin of water on the floor. “Shall I bathe you?”
She laughs. “If you must.”
He gently sets her in a basin. Sponge in hand, he kisses her. The heat of his mouth offsets the cold of the water trickling down her shoulders, back, and breasts. He touches the wet sponge to her goosebumps.
With a curious smile, she asks, “When did you freshen the water?”
“Last night. I anticipated you might need cleansing when you returned. And a warm fire.”
“You think of everything, apparently.”
“When it comes to you, yes.”
“I fear you think of me too much.”
He sets the sponge aside and finds a towel. He wraps it around Anna as he lifts her once more. When she’s dry, she tells him, “You should lie back down.”
With an impish smirk, he leaps onto the mattress and covers his lower body with blankets. The youthful, supple lines of his chest and arms tease her to rejoin him under the covers.
She smiles. “You should sleep.”
“I’d rather watch you dress.”
Anna avoids his gaze while she ties herself into her garments. Whether his feelings for her are genuine and hers for him are not, or her feelings for him are sincere and she fears to accept them, Anna can’t say. She’s not yet ready to address either possibility. Once she’s dressed, she tells him again, “You should sleep,” then leaves the room.
The clinking of tools and the orange light of candles trail from the workroom in the back of the shop. Anna enters the space through the open curtain. She knows full well it is Josef working within. Expecting to see him hovering over Duke Brunner’s heart, she’s surprised to find the clockmaker tinkering with Joop instead. He’s inserting the Rainbow Moonstone-and-marble balls into the vacant eye sockets. Anna’s own eyes tighten to squeeze back tears. The dear, insufferable man. Having come to know him so well, she knows that, in Josef Kronecker’s unique way, he is apologizing.
The clockmaker leans back and moves a burning candle from one side of Joop’s head to the other. He steps back. “Come see,” he says.
Anna moves to Josef’s side—close to him, but not too close.
“They catch the light with such brilliance,” he says. “So much more lifelike than what I first imagined.” He returns the candle to its place on a shelf. “Thank you, Anna.”
She gives him a smile.
“You were right about something else, too,” he says.
“I do need to start over. The duke’s heart is a mess.”
“That is no doing of yours. The one you’re making for him will be a vast improvement.”
Josef laughs. He reaches for her hand, yet she finds herself pulling away. Piano music comes from the other side of the shop and hovers between the two of them. Josef gives a curious look.
“Pascal is here already?”
“Actually,” Anna says, “he came by last night…and never left.”
Josef turns to her, taking in the warmth she emits like a gently burning hearth. “I see.” He turns away.
“I’ll bring you a cup momentarily.”
He nods then disappears into the darkness of the shop.
Anna moves closer to Joop and rests her left hand beside him. To get a better look into his newly acquired eyes, she lowers herself to a stool, which creaks under her weight.
“Oh, Joop. What have I done?”
The boy stares vacantly back as a tear rolls down her cheek.
“I killed a man. He was so very horrible—a demon—but who am I to pass judgement and execution? My vengeance has made me no better.”
Another tear falls.
“I’m worse, even. For I’ve gone and lain myself with a man I do not love.”
One of Joop’s hands slips from his lap and rests upon hers. The comforting, humanlike gesture from the unhuman boy sparks a faint grin on her lips and then a flood of tears.
“And worse still…I want to again.”
Meet the Author
Gordon Gravley has been making up stories all his life. As a child, they would take the shape of rudimentary comic books, and Super-8 movies. As he was drawn to stage-acting in high school his stories became one-act plays, and then feature-length screenplays – none of which ever saw the light of the big screen.
It wasn’t until his thirties that he finally decided to take the plunge, and like a real writer he made his stories into, well…stories. And just like a real writer, his efforts garnished multiple rejection letters. Twenty years later, those efforts would culminate into his first self-published novel, Gospel for the Damned.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Gordon moved around – California; Colorado; Alaska; Northern Arizona – before eventually settling in Seattle, Washington. Having called the Northwest his home since 1998, he doesn’t expect to be moving elsewhere anytime soon. There, he continues to make up stories, write novels, and live with his wife and son.
Subscribe to the author’s monthly newsletter, “from…Another Writer”, via his website www.gordongravley.com.a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js
Pine Enshrined Reviews
Click Here for All Social Media Links through Linktree
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and if clicked and a purchase is made, I may receive a small commission to help support this blog. This does not cost you anything, it just helps pay for all those awesome giveaways and upkeep of the blog!