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"McMaster's characters are beautifully drawn and the tension between them is completely smoking... [a] dark, menacing and strangely beautiful world." - RT Book Reviews
Determined to destr...
"McMaster's characters are beautifully drawn and the tension between them is completely smoking... [a] dark, menacing and strangely beautiful world." - RT Book Reviews
Determined to destroy the Echelon she despises, Rosalind Fairchild is on seemingly easy mission. Get in. Uncover the secrets of her brother's disappearance. And get out.
In order to infiltrate the Nighthawks and find their leader, Blue Blooded Sir Jasper Lynch, Rosalind will pose as their secretary. A dangerous mission, but Rosalind is also the elusive Mercury, a leader in the humanist movement.
But she doesn't count on Lynch being such a dangerously charismatic man, challenging her at every turn, forcing her to re-evaluate everything she knows about the enemy. He could be her most dangerous nemesis—or the ally she never dreamed existed.
A stunning, action-filled paranormal romance, Bec McMaster's London Steampunk novels will appeal to fans of Gail Carriger, Kristen Callihan's Darkest London series, and the Blud series by Delilah Dawson.
RITA finalist Bec McMaster's London Steampunk series:
Kiss of Steel, Book 1 – Honoria's last hope is the most dangerous man in London's underworld, and she may be his last hope as well
Heart of Iron, Book 2 – Will would do anything to protect Lena, including fighting his love for her, but seducing her may be the only way to save her
My Lady Quicksilver, Book 3 – Rosalind risks her life, and her heart, to get close to the one man who could find and free her brother. But will he?
Forged by Desire, Book 4 – RITA finalist, When Perry fled her thrall contract and joined the Nighthawks, she thought she would be safe, but danger is stalking her again
Of Silk and Steam, Book 5 – Mina has sworn revenge for her father's death, but the man she plans to destroy could be her own undoing, or the salvation of all London
What readers are saying about My Lady Quicksilver:
"twists and turns, vampires, revenge, passion, suspense and romance"
"If you enjoy Steampunk, romance and paranormal romance than you are in for a real treat."
"Full of action and intrigue, this story is perfect!"
"humor and red hot romance"
What reviewers are saying about My Lady Quicksilver:
"Rich, dramatic, romantic, and dangerous..." - Publishers Weekly
"wildly imaginative, richly textured world building… the perfect choice for readers who like their historical romances sexy, action-packed, and just a tad different." - Booklist
"The blend of steampunk, paranormal, suspense and romance is so well crafted into a riveting story" - Delighted Reader
"a taste of paranormal, shifter, steampunk and romance all stewed in a recipe to be savored and not rushed through. " - Coffee Time Romance
"beautifully crafted and immerses the reader in a fantastic story." - Worlds of Words
What everyone is saying about Bec McMaster:
"a must read for paranormal fans and steampunk fans alike. 5/5 Stars, Reviewer Top Pick" - Night Owl Reviews
"richly imagined, gritty and dark, and full of hot heroes and hot sex… utterly delicious. " -Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
"Action, adventure, steampunk, and blazing hot seduction...Bec McMaster offers it all."—Eve Silver, author of Sins of the Flesh
“You have three weeks to find Mercury…or I swear you’ll share his fate…”
Smoke belched with a coughing roar from a distant furnace as Sir Jasper Lynch...
“You have three weeks to find Mercury…or I swear you’ll share his fate…”
Smoke belched with a coughing roar from a distant furnace as Sir Jasper Lynch leaned against the edge of a chimney, staring through the smoky gloom, the echo of the prince consort’s words ringing in his ears.
His gaze tracked the foggy streets below, hunting for any sign of movement as he slowly stretched cramped muscles. As Master of the Guild of Nighthawks—thief-catchers and trackers—he’d spent the last week hunting for leads on the mysterious revolutionary leader, Mercury, whose humanist movement was plaguing London.
And now he’d found one.
No mention of the name Mercury, but Lynch’s instincts were on fire at the rumor of a shipment that was due to be smuggled out of the steamy enclaves on the edges of the city—a particular shipment that was received every month at this time, though his informant hadn’t known what it was.
Easy enough to guess. The enclaves were both jail and factory, where the mechs within were forced to work steel in repayment for their mechanical limbs. This particular enclave was responsible for manufacturing mech parts for the automaton army that protected the aristocratic Echelon.
In the distance, chimneys lurked in the smog like little watchtowers. A foghorn echoed mournfully as the boat slowly traversed the Thames. The world seemed unnaturally silent beneath its ethereal blanket, but for the faint whisper of movement in the shadows.
“Here,” someone murmured in the alley below him. “Is that them? Someone give ’em the signal.”
Lynch’s head snapped up.
Tendrils of fog eddied around a man on the other rooftop, licking at his legs and cloak—Garrett. Making a sharp gesture with his fingers, Lynch silently directed his lieutenant. There were four other shapes in the dark, but he couldn’t see them, only hear a faint scraping sound that whispered on the tiles through his aural communicator. Made of fine brass pieces and leather, it fit in his ear perfectly, a transmitter receiving every whisper that Garrett made. Garrett’s matching piece could relay his commands no matter where they both were.
The sound of iron scraping over cobbles echoed in the still night. Someone hissed a warning and the sound cut off. Lynch leaned forward, cocking his head to listen.
“Quiet.” This was a voice of command, cool and low. “D’you want the world to ’ear us? Remember, the friggin’ bleeders can ’ear for miles.”
Lynch crouched low on the edge of the tiled roof, his heart fluttering in his chest with anticipation. Darkness swallowed him as he leaned over the edge, his eyes picking out his prey immediately. One of the benefits of the craving virus that afflicted him was superior senses. A blue blood could see on the darkest of nights and hear the faintest whisper, though that barely made up for the fierce hunger he could never quite assuage, the unrelenting craving for blood…
A trio of cloaked figures hovered in the alley, a phosphorescent flare stick shielded by one of their cloaks. One was a tall man, with broad shoulders beneath the concealing cloak and pockmarked cheeks. He knelt and dragged a heavy crate out of the open sewer grate in the cobbles.
Lynch’s eyes narrowed. There were men within the sewers, but he couldn’t tell if they were from the enclaves or more of this mysterious group.
Holding up a hand to counteract his previous command, Lynch melted back into the shadows to listen. If the mechs were using the nearby sewer systems to smuggle metalwork out of the enclaves, then the prince consort needed to know.
A month ago, the humanists had tried to bomb the Ivory Tower, the seat of the Echelon’s power. The handling of the bombing had been a disaster, with half the aristocratic Echelon trampling through his evidence and only one witness, who sullenly refused to talk, in custody. The only piece of evidence Lynch had was in his pocket: a piece of leather that had torn from a woman’s cloak in one of the antechambers. A humanist, he suspected, and one involved in the bombing. The scent of her was long faded from the worn leather, but if he closed his eyes, he knew he could bring her scent to mind. It filled him, branding his memory as if he could never escape her.
Maybe she would be below? His blood fired at the thought. He wanted to find her—he needed to. Though sometimes, in the dark of night, he wondered if his reasons for this madness were the same as the prince consort’s.
Swallowing hard, Lynch forced the thought of the mysterious woman from his mind. He had a job to do.
What could the humanists be doing here? Were they after explosives? Or maybe a weapon to counteract the heavily armored metal automatons that patrolled the streets?
He needed to get his hands on that crate.
“Hurry,” the leader snapped. “We’re already behind schedule.”
A man grunted. “’S bloody heavy, you know?”
“Steel often is,” came the reply.
“What’s that?” someone hissed.
Silence fell. Lynch faded back against the brickwork of a chimney.
“Thought I saw somethin’ movin’,” the same person murmured. “Up there. On the roof.”
“’Urry it up,” the leader snapped. “We need to move. Now.”
Lynch scowled as one of the Nighthawks darted between chimneys. Too late. They’d been seen.
Lynch stepped onto the incline of the roof and rode it to the edge, leaping out over nothingness. He saw Garrett and the others moving at the edge of his vision, then he landed in the swirling fog that clung to the cobbles below, his knees bending to absorb the shock.
A man in a rough jerkin, with shoulders the size of a pugilist’s, staggered to a halt in front of him, his mouth gaping in shock and both of his arms missing from the elbows down. He wore instead the heavy hydraulic arms of a mech, the work crude and rudimentary, without even the synthetic flesh the Echelon’s master smiths could create. Enclave work.
“Nighthawks!” the man bellowed, the hydraulic hoses in his steel arm hissing in the night as he swung a blow at Lynch.
Grabbing the man by the wrist, Lynch kicked his feet out from under him and drove him onto his face on the cobbles.
A shadow shifted in the fog. Lynch caught a glimpse of a dark-hooded cloak and a pistol gleaming in the weak, phosphorescent light of a fallen flare stick. “Let ’im go,” the leader commanded in a low voice. He thumbed the hammer on his pistol back.
Lynch could see little of his opponent beyond the cloak and a gaping blackness where his face should have been. A black satin mask covered his entire face and throat, leaving not an inch of skin visible. And he suddenly knew.
“Mercury,” he said, staring down the barrel of the pistol. Hungry exhilaration leaped through him, shadows sweeping through his vision as the hunger of the craving momentarily overtook him. The bastard was right in front of him.
He heard the click a moment before the gun barrel coughed.
Lynch flung himself into a roll as the gun retorted with a hollow thunk. A Nighthawk appeared behind him and stiffened, a tiny blue-feathered dart sticking out of his chest. Lewis Hicks, one of the novices. He staggered forward, gave a little sigh, then crumpled at Lynch’s feet.
Hicks’s eyes remained open and he trembled on the cobbles, rigid as a board, momentarily paralyzed.
Lynch looked up. The new hemlock darts the humanists were using to bring down blue bloods made him wary. The poison paralyzed a blue blood for a good five to ten minutes, leaving them at the human’s mercy. As a predator, the sudden sense of vulnerability unnerved him.
Mercury’s shoulders stiffened but he wasted no breath. Instead, he turned and bolted down the alley, his cloak swirling the remnants of the fog and his shadow lengthening.
“Scatter!” someone yelled.
Men poured out of the sewers, scrambling past the Nighthawks. Garrett had a man shoved up against a wall and slapped cuffs on him. The humanists fled like mice, darting down alleys. There weren’t enough Nighthawks to catch them all, but Lynch only needed one. Oh yes. Cut off the head of the snake and you had them all.
“He’s mine,” he snapped to Garrett, leaving his lieutenant with the rest of them. Sprinting down the alley, he swiftly gained on the revolutionary, making a snatch at the man’s cloak. It tugged for a moment and Mercury spun with a vicious left hook that smashed Lynch across the face. Pain slashed through his cheekbone, leaving his vision white for a second. There must have been something in the revolutionary’s hand. Brass knuckles perhaps.
Whirling, Mercury tore free of the cloak and bolted, leaving Lynch with a handful of fabric and the elusive scent of gunpowder.
Curse it. Lynch started after him with deadly focus.
The alleyway was running out, the stone walls that surrounded the enclaves rearing up into the night. Lynch slowed to a halt as Mercury spun, staring at him through the thin gauze of his eye slits.
“Don’t come any closer,” the revolutionary leader warned, lifting the pistol again.
“The problem with the new make of recoil dart gun is that it requires manual reloading. You appear to be out of darts. Or you would have used it on me already.” He had no doubt of that.
Mercury’s chin tipped up as the pistol lowered. “That don’t make me no less dangerous.”
Lynch rubbed at his jaw and the bruise that was no doubt starting to form. “I never expected it to. What did you hit me with?”
“A love tap, milord.” The words were laced with sarcasm. “Come closer and I’ll give you another.”
They stared across the expanse of cobbles. Lynch frowned at his enemy’s choice of words, something about the situation stirring unease through his gut. Behind him came shouts. He sensed Mercury’s attention shift over Lynch’s shoulder and then the revolutionary took a hesitant step backward, hitting the wall.
“Nowhere to run,” Lynch said softly. “Nowhere to hide.”
“There’s always somewhere to run. Au revoir, sir.” Tossing the steam pistol aside, Mercury whipped a heavier gun from the belt at his hip, with a sharp four-pronged hook at the end of it.
For a moment, Lynch thought the revolutionary was going to fire it at him, but then he pointed it into the sky above and pulled the trigger.
The grappling hook soared into the darkness with a hiss of rope trailing behind it. Metal clamored on stone far above, then the revolutionary jerked on the rope. It held and he pressed something on the side of the grappling gun.
“No—” Lynch snapped, leaping forward.
His fingers grazed the toe of Mercury’s boot as the revolutionary sailed into the air. Laughter rang down through the darkness, thick with huskiness. Lynch snarled and slapped a palm against the stone. He’d had him. In the bloody palm of his hand and he’d lost him.
Looking up, he bared his teeth. It was risky for a blue blood to enter the enclaves. Recent mech riots had seen dozens of mechs trampled in the streets by the metal Trojan cavalry. There was no love lost for a blue blood—or a craver, as the mechs called them.
His eyes narrowed. He was dangerous too. And he’d spent over a year hunting the bastard, only to have Mercury slip through his fingers. The prince consort’s warning rang dire in his ears. Bring me his head. Or share his fate.
Not bloody likely. Looking around, Lynch shoved his boot into a crack between the stones in the wall and hauled himself up through sheer strength, biceps straining.
It was the last thing Mercury would expect.
Steam hissed as the enormous piston rolled through its rotation. The woman known as Mercury hurried past, her breath hot and moist against the silk mask over her face and her eyes darting.
Here in the enclaves, hot orange light lit the steel beams of the work sheds and enormous furnaces. The place was riddled with underground tunnels where the workers lived, but aboveground, the work sheds dominated. It wasn’t quite a jail—mechs earned a half day off a fortnight—but it was close.
Metal ingots glowed cherry red and the air was thick with the smell of coal. Men worked even at night to keep the furnaces hot, silent shadows against the shimmering heat waves. Rosalind slipped past a mech in a pitted leather apron as he shoveled coal into the open mouth of a furnace, the blast of heat leaving a light sheen of perspiration on her skin. Droplets of sweat slid beneath her breasts and wet the insides of her right glove. She couldn’t feel the left. Only a phantom ache where the limb used to be and where steel now stood.
Damn it. Rosalind tossed aside the spring-recoil grappling gun and started tugging at her right glove. Her heart wouldn’t stop rabbiting in her chest, her body moving with a liquid anticipation she knew well. Foolish to relish such anticipation, but the danger, the edge of her nerves, were a drug she’d long been denied.
She couldn’t believe her bad luck. The Nighthawk himself, in the flesh.
A man of shadow and myth. Rosalind hadn’t gotten a good look at his face in the darkness, but the intensity of his expression was unmistakable and she’d felt the heavy caress of his gaze like a touch upon the skin. Her most formidable opponent, a man dedicated to capturing her and destroying the humanists. The shock of his arrival had thrown her, and Rosalind wasn’t a woman who was surprised very often.
She slipped between rows of fan belts with heavy metal automaton limbs on them. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She’d known it was risky, making this one last trip, but she didn’t have any choice. Martial law had choked the city ever since the bombing of the Ivory Tower and she needed the parts the mechs had promised her.
The bombing had been a mighty blow for the aristocratic Echelon. Every major blue blood lord in the land, including the prince consort and his human queen had been gathered. If the attack had succeeded, it would have wiped out nearly all of the parasitic blue bloods, leaving the working classes—the humans—to cast off the yoke of slavery and servitude. No more blood taxes or blood slaves. No more armies of metaljacket automatons to keep them suppressed.
A bold plan.
If it had succeeded.
For a moment Rosalind almost wished she’d thought of it, but the group of mechs she’d rescued from the steamy enclaves to work steel for her a year ago had gone behind her back. For the past six months, she’d urged for patience while the mechs had whispered that she was too soft, not merciless enough to lead the humanist movement. In the end, they’d taken matters into their own hands. Rosalind tried to stop the bombing attempt before it was too late, to try and save her younger brother, Jeremy. Instead, the mechanists had used him, seducing him with grand stories and sending him to deliver the bomb himself.
It had been a catastrophe. The Echelon now understood the threat the humanists posed. Rosalind had been forced to scatter those still under her command as martial law settled its heavy weight over the city and the Echelon put a bounty on their heads. She and her older brother, Jack, had gone into hiding while they tried desperately to discover any word of Jeremy.
Of the mechanists who’d betrayed her and the rest of the movement, there was no sign. All she had left of them was the rancid taste of guilt in her mouth. She knew Jeremy had been fond of their leader, Mendici, and his brother, Mordecai, but she hadn’t stopped the hero worship. She’d been too busy with the cause and her own personal project to see what was happening within her family.
Steel screamed as it rang against stone. Rosalind spun on her heel and looked around, fists clenched protectively in front of her. Her gaze raked the shadows. He wouldn’t have followed her here, would he? The enclaves were dangerous for a creature of his ilk.
Nothing but stillness greeted her questioning gaze. Sparks sprayed in the distance from a steam-driven welding rig, but there was no one in sight.
Didn’t mean he wasn’t there.
Easing a foot behind her, she stepped back slowly, watching the shadows. The feeling of danger was a familiar one. She’d been a child spy, an assassin, and years of such work had taught her when she was being watched and when she wasn’t.
“You’re clever,” a cool voice said behind her.
Rosalind spun with her fist raised. The Nighthawk caught her arm in a brutal grip, barely flinching at the blow.
“But I expected that,” he murmured, looking down at her from his great height. His fingers locked on her right arm in a cruel grip.
“I’d return the compliment,” she snapped breathlessly, forcing her voice lower. Where the hell had he come from? “But I don’t think it very clever for a man like you to ’ave ventured ’ere.”
She jerked against his grip but it was immoveable. Harsh red light lit his face, highlighting the stark slash of his brows and his hawkish nose. He looked like the Devil’s own, his lips hard and cruel and his eyes glaring straight through her. A hard black leather carapace protected his chest—the body armor of the Guild of Nighthawks.
“You and I both know I could kill any number of mechs if they come running.” His voice was soft, she noticed, a low, gravelly pitch that one strained to listen to nonetheless. He’d be someone who didn’t bother to raise it often. Someone who expected his word to be obeyed and wasn’t often disappointed.
“Aye,” she agreed, curling her middle finger and twisting the tip of it. The thin, six-inch blade concealed in the knuckle at the base of her hand slid through the glove silently, one of the many enhancements to the joint she’d received. Punch a man like this and she could skewer him. “But I weren’t speakin’ o’ them. This is my world, not yours.”
Rosalind stabbed hard, stepping forward with her body to give strength to the thrust. Lynch caught her wrist, jerking to the side so that the blade skittered across his ribs and not through them. Shoving away from her, his fingers came away from his side sticky with black blood. In daylight, there would be a faint bluish-red tinge to it—the color gave the blue bloods their name.
He looked up, his pale eyes burning with intensity and the promise of revenge. The blood in Rosalind’s veins turned cold at the sight and she snatched the knife from her boot, feeling its familiar weight in her right hand.
Lynch sucked in a sharp breath and looked away from his bloodied fingers. “That wasn’t very wise.”
Shadows moved. Rosalind shifted, striking up with the knife to where she thought he would come at her. A hand caught hers, thumb digging into the nerve that ran along her thumb.
“Damn you,” she swore, as the knife dropped from her suddenly useless hand. She knew a hundred ways to disarm a man. But her arm was yanked hard behind her, and as the Nighthawk spun her, shoving her face-first against a brick wall, she realized none of them would matter. For he knew them too.
His strength terrified her, even as it exhilarated. Here was a match, she thought with a shiver. An enemy she just might not be able to vanquish.
Shoving her between the shoulder blades, he jerked her arm up behind her back. Black spots appeared in her vision, but she didn’t cry out. Instead, she relaxed into it, the pain slowly softening, much like digging a thumb into a hard knot of muscle. She knew pain; it was an old friend and she’d faced far worse than this in her time. Pain didn’t scare her. No, indeed, she welcomed it. The physical ache was something that she could fight, unlike the gut-wrenching, hopeless fear that assailed her whenever she thought of her missing brother.
Lynch’s firm body pressed against her, one knee driving into the back of hers. There was nowhere to move, nowhere to go. He had trapped her quite neatly. But then, she had a surprise up her sleeve, one last ace to play.
Lynch paused. Then he caught her wrist and peeled her mech hand off the wall, examining it. The useless fingers splayed wide as he touched a pressure point in the steel tendons, turning it this way and that. Hatred burned within her.
“Aye,” she murmured. “I’m a mech.”
His thumb ran over the shiv where it erupted through the glove, revealing just a hint of the gleaming steel of her hand. She hadn’t bothered with the synthetic flesh some used to conceal their enhancements. They were never real enough, never the right color or consistency. And she didn’t want to conform to the Echelon’s demands. Damn them. She was human enough, with all the rights a human should have, no matter what they said about mechs.
Lynch found the catching mechanism and the blade slid back within the steel. “Very clever, lad. No wonder you hit like Molineaux.”
“Let me go and I’ll give you another.”
Silence hung between them. Then Lynch laughed, a short, barking cough of amusement that sounded as if it had been a long time since he’d found anything remotely amusing.
The laughter died as swiftly as it had appeared. His pressure on her arm relaxed, and Rosalind slumped against the brickwork as her injured shoulder protested.
“No doubt you would.” Grabbing a handful of her coat, he spun her around, one fist clenching the shirt at her throat. “And perhaps you’d overwhelm me eventually, but I don’t care to test the theory. You’re bound for Chancery Lane.”
The Nighthawk Guild Quarters. Once there, she’d never see the light of day again. Except for a brief view of it on her way to the scaffold.
“I’ve got a better idea,” she said recklessly. The ace up her sleeve… “You and I…we could come at some sort o’ arrangement.”
Those cold gray eyes met hers. She could see them more clearly now that her sight had adjusted to the hellish red glow, but her perception hadn’t altered. Lynch would give his mother to the law if she broke it.
There was always a way to manipulate a man though. Even Lynch had to want something, to desire it…She just had to work out what it was.
“You’re trying to bribe the wrong man,” he said coldly, shoving her arms out wide.
A cool, impersonal hand ran along each arm, under her armpits and lower, to her hips. His hard fingers found the small pouches attached to her belt—powders and poisons that specifically injured a blue blood. Their eyes met and Lynch jerked hard on her belt buckle. The belt slithered through the belt loops on her breeches with a leathery slap, and Rosalind sucked in a sharp breath.
“Every man can be bribed,” she said. “What is it you want, Lynch? Money? Power?” She saw the contemptuous answer in his eyes as he discarded her belt with a jerking toss.
“Nothing you can give me. If you move your hands, I’ll break them. Even the steel one.”
With that, he knelt, sliding his hands down the inside of her legs. His palms were cool and impersonal, but Rosalind jerked at the touch. No man since her husband had touched her there and the feeling unnerved her.
There was another knife in her boot. He took it, tucking it behind his own belt as he started the return journey. Smooth hands slid behind her knees, the pressure just firm enough to make her breath catch. Higher…higher…then shying away just before he cupped her arse.
“You missed somewhat,” Rosalind forced herself to say as he straightened. To escape, she would have to outwit him and for that she needed his senses dulled.
His fingers lingered on her hip. “Where?”
“’Igher,” she whispered, tilting her head back to look at him. The smooth leather of his gloves slid over the rough linen of her shirt. “It’s me greatest asset.”
His thumb splayed over her ribs, beneath her breast. So close. Though she’d wanted to keep her sex a secret, men often underestimated a woman or were fooled by the flirtatious bat of her eyelashes. She had nothing but contempt for those who’d fallen to her knife for that mistake.
“’Igher,” she dared him. Her stomach twisted in anticipation, unexpected heat spearing lower, between her thighs. Rosalind licked dry lips. Don’t think about what he is. Use him; use your body.
Lynch’s hand slid over the faint, unmistakable curve of her breast, his eyes widening. They were tightly bound, so as not to interfere with her movement, but he was a man. He knew what it meant.
“Surprise,” she whispered.
“Bloody hell.” He yanked his hand back as if burned. His eyes narrowed, but she could see thought racing behind them. “You! You were in the tower. With the bomb.”
One hand curved around her skull and he grabbed a fistful of her hair. Rosalind snatched at his cloak as he dragged her head back, exposing her throat.
Stubble rasped against her cheek and Rosalind’s gut turned to ash as his jaw brushed against the smooth skin just below her ear. No! She flailed wildly, her iron fingers wrapping around his wrist, knowing even as she grabbed him that she couldn’t stop him. Not if he wanted her blood.
“You are her,” he whispered.
And she realized that he was inhaling her scent.
He wasn’t going for the vein after all. Rosalind’s body trembled as it relaxed, her stomach quivering. Lord have mercy. She was safe from that particular violation.
Then her mind started racing. “Who?” How had he known that she was in the Ivory Tower the day the mechs had bombed it? The day the Duke of Lannister had died? Did he suspect her hand in that?
Lynch lifted his head, his hand cradling her skull. She saw his eyes and stilled. Dangerous.
He dragged a scrap of leather from his pocket and held it between two fingers. “You left this behind. I could smell you all over the leather. You, two other people—and gunpowder.”
A perfectly innocuous piece of leather, its absence barely noticed. “And you’ve been carryin’ it around all this time? How touchin’.”
“In case I forget the scent.”
Rosalind stared into his eyes, her mind making one of those insane leaps of intuition it sometimes did. Lynch wanted her. His own personal obsession, she realized. A mystery—one that appealed to his intellect as well as his desire.
“And now?” she whispered, knowing she had him. This was his weakness, right here. “Ain’t there nothin’ I can bribe you with now?”
He understood her meaning, his pupils flaring as he jerked away from her. Rosalind tumbled against the bricks, her hand splayed to catch herself. If she were a lesser woman, she might have known some prick to her conscience at the rapid rejection. But she’d searched his eyes as she said the words; this wasn’t repulsion. For a moment, interest had flared there.
“You shot the Duke of Lannister and tried to blow up the court. If you think I’ll make any sort of arrangement with you, you’re a fool.”
“I shot the duke,” she admitted. “A woundin’ blow only. ’E was tryin’ to strangle an acquaintance of mine.”
“You deny being behind the bombing attack?”
“I tried to stop it.”
“Do you take me for a fool?”
She dared to take a step toward him. “If I thought it would ’ave worked, then I would ’ave led the action, but this were no plan of mine.” No, she’d gone to find Jeremy.
“No?” Lynch loomed closer, his nostrils flaring. “Then what were you doing tonight? Just what are you up to?”
“You tell me.” She looked up through the gauze of her mask’s eye slits.
Lynch caught her chin, his finger stroking over the black satin. His thumb slipped beneath the edge of the mask, lifting it over her mouth and higher. “I want to see you.”
Her hand caught his. “No.” Rosalind took a chance and darted her tongue out, licking the edge of his thumb.
Lynch jerked his hand back, heat smoldering in his gaze. “You disappoint me. Nothing you say or do will change my mind. You’re under arrest, petticoats or not.”
He reached for her wrist and she twisted, capturing his own. The tendons in his arm tensed, but Rosalind slowly brought his hand up, keeping her gaze locked on his the whole time. She pressed the palm of his hand against her cheek, turning her lips into it. Lynch returned her stare with cool disinterest, but the pulse in his throat had quickened.
Rosalind licked his palm, tracing her tongue slowly across the seam there. “Don’t it excite you?” His gaze flickered to hers and she stepped closer, turning his hand over to trace her lips against the tender flesh between the back of his fingers. “You,” she whispered. “Me. Two enemies finally come together.” Palm out, she pressed her other hand flatly against the rippled abdomen of his body armor and flexed her fingers. The leather was polished with age and use. Impossibly smooth. Like his skin.
The thought took her by surprise. In all her years, she’d only ever felt such a curiosity stirring within her once, and that had been for her husband, a man she admired and respected. Lynch was worthy of neither in her eyes.
Or was he?
She’d learned enough about him in recent months. Testing his weaknesses, discovering what type of man he was—what type of enemy she faced. The answer made her nervous. Cold and implacable, people whispered. Ruthless. Even the Echelon called him Sir Iron Heart, but never to his face.
The man in front of her was hard. She could sense that innately. But the look in his eyes…Oh no, that was not cold. Not cold at all.
“All these months you’ve been chasin’ me, Lynch.” The words were a caress, but her mind raced. “And now you’ve caught me. Ain’t you curious? Don’t you want just a little taste before you turn me over to the prince consort?”
Her own trembling thoughts used against him.
“No.” His head tilted toward her, his breath coming harshly.
Excitement thrilled through her. Anticipation. It was the only time she ever truly felt alive these days. As if she’d been sleepwalking for so long, Lynch’s presence was like an icy dash of water to her face. Sliding her hand over each ripple of leather, Rosalind let her fingers pause on the edge of his belt and looked up, beneath her lashes. “Liar.”
Furious color flushed the stark edges of his cheekbones. Lynch glared down at her, but the cool disinterest in his eyes had burned away. The blackness of his pupils overwhelmed his irises until she stared into a demon’s eyes, his rational thoughts obliterated by hunger, by desire.
She had him.
Rosalind lifted onto her toes, sliding her iron fingers through the inky black strands of his hair. Her lashes half lowering, she dragged his head down with a fistful of his hair and guided his mouth to hers.
She’d kissed men in the line of duty, seduced them with a flirtatious smile that barely touched the cold, hard ball of emotion within her. It had never meant anything to her. Yet she trembled now, her hand stroking the hard, leather-clad body, feeling the buttery soft texture of his armor beneath her gloves. Her words hadn’t only seduced him—she felt the truth of them herself. The excitement of something forbidden.
His cool breath brushed against her sensitive lips as they caressed her own. Lynch resisted. “Take off your mask,” he said hoarsely, his own fingers stroking the trembling flesh of her jaw.
She could feel his body leaning away from her as he fought for his senses. In desperation, she reached up and opened her mouth over his.
A shudder swept through the massive frame enveloping hers. He stiffened in shock and she drank of his mouth, her tongue caressing his with a dare and her hands sliding lower. That hard body melted against her and she felt the moment he stopped fighting his inclinations. Hands cupped her face and he kissed her as if he were a desperate man, passion rising up within him so swiftly that it shocked her. She tasted loneliness in his hunger, and something flared to life within her, something foreign and dangerous. A yearning that ached like a fist in her stomach, an echo.
Rosalind turned her face, gasping into his hair as she sought to pull herself back from that. The moment she could breathe the sensation lessened, but she didn’t immediately kiss him again.
His hand cupped her nape and he grabbed a fistful of hair, dragging her head back. Cool lips slid over her chin and lower, across her throat. Rosalind clutched his shoulder, wary of her vulnerability but it didn’t return. If she concentrated on the feel of him, on each delicate sensation as he licked at her throat, then she could manage to hold on to herself.
A blue blood. But he felt like a man beneath her questing hands, and he tasted like one as he returned to her lips, his breath sweet with his evening wine. The kiss deepened, his tongue forcing her lips apart, taking no prisoners. Hungry. Her body ached, the throb between her legs so long denied. Eight long years since Nathaniel died, and she’d never once regretted not taking a lover. Never found a man who even tempted her. But danger was its own addiction and a part of her thrilled at the man in her arms. The Nighthawk. Her dearest enemy. A shadowy entity she’d taken great pleasure in thwarting for the past six months.
A man she was about to thwart again.
Her back hit the brick wall. Lynch’s mouth slid up her throat and claimed her lips again. She barely had time to snatch a breath or even a fistful of his shirt before his tongue rasped over her teeth. A thousand impressions leeched into her; the chafe of her nipples against the linen that bound them; the taste of his mouth; the drugging scent of him; and the gravely rasp of his knuckles on the brick as he caught her beneath the arse and dragged her legs around his hips.
Rosalind’s nails curled into his shoulders, padded only by the single glove she wore. Sweet lord… She was losing herself again… She kissed him, biting at his mouth, drawing his lip between her teeth and nibbling on it. It would be so easy to forget herself, to let herself surrender until she was lost…
Hands caught her own, pinned them to the wall. But she needed them free and she fought him.
Her head spun. “Let me—let me touch you. I want to touch you.”
The words stilled the violence of his passion. Rosalind bit her lip, catching a glimpse of those dark eyes. She wasn’t the only one fighting this attraction. And if she let him go—for just a second—then she’d lose him.
Never. Rosalind surrendered, rocking her hips against his, feeling the hard steel of his erection between her thighs. She let her body ride against his, her hands sliding over his shoulders and luring him closer as she threw her head back and gasped.
Lynch slammed one hand against the wall beside her head, shuddering. “Curse you,” he whispered. Then his mouth bit at hers hungrily and he was lost in her again.
Rosalind slid her hands over the corded muscle of his throat, linking them behind his neck. It was a simple matter to tug the glove from her mech hand. Dropping it carelessly, she groaned into his mouth as his hand slid over her arse, tugging her against him hard.
A twist of the knuckle on her mech ring finger and a sharp needle slid from the interior. Rosalind tasted his breath and realized that she was stalling. She slid her hands over his shoulder, the rasp of his stubble scraping her jaw.
Just another moment.
Her hips rode his and she threw her head back, eyes glazed with passion. “I almost wish…” she gasped, “that I didn’t ’ave to do this.”
Then she slid the needle into his neck and injected the hemlock straight into his body.
Lynch stiffened, spasms racking him. “No.” Slumping against her, he clawed at the wall to hold himself up, his knees giving way.
Rosalind landed lightly on her feet, the hard body pinning her to the wall. It was a good thing, for she wasn’t sure her own knees would support her right now. She caught Lynch under the arms as he gurgled something in his throat. Words she probably didn’t want to hear.
Laying him on the ground, she stepped back, capping the needle neatly within her metal finger and twisting the knuckle back into place. A sensation almost like guilt licked at her.
A stupid thought. A dangerous one. Sentiment had no part in her world. Nor emotion. Either could get her killed in an instant.
Her knives were tucked behind his belt. Lynch’s gaze locked on hers and she realized what he was thinking.
Cut his throat now and there’d be no more Nighthawks on her trail, no more martial law. This would be a devastating blow to the Echelon that they might not recover from.
Her fingers slid over the knife hilt as she took it, familiarity molding it into her hand. Rosalind’s fingers clenched unconsciously as she stared at him. It wouldn’t be the first blue blood she’d ever killed.
Come on, my little falcon. Do it. You are what you are, after all. What’s one more death?
She could almost hear Balfour whispering in her ear. Lust died a quick death and bile rose in her throat. No. She wasn’t his to command. Not anymore. She’d freed herself the moment she’d cut her hand off.
It doesn’t matter. His whisper sickened her. I made you what you are. And you can never escape that…
“No,” she whispered. Metal clanged and she realized she’d dropped the knife.
Lynch twitched, a gurgling snarl in his throat. She couldn’t tear her gaze from his. He knew, she realized. Knew that she couldn’t do it. No, not couldn’t. Wouldn’t.
Fool. She shook her head and took a step back, her boots crunching on old metal filings on the ground. She’d regret this. Tactically this wasn’t the right choice. All of her training screamed at her to finish the job.
Lynch’s fingers twitched. How long had he been down for? One minute? Two? The amount of time the hemlock would paralyze him depended on how high his craving virus levels were. If his CV levels were high, then he might begin to regain control of his body before she’d fled the scene. Not a thought to relish, especially with that look in his eyes.
Rosalind snatched her knife up again and sheathed it in her boot. Sparks sprayed off a welding rig nearby. She crouched low, looking to see if anyone had seen. If they had, then Lynch’s life would be in danger.
You don’t even have to wield the knife. Just walk away and leave him here. Defenseless.
One second of hesitation. It would be so easy…but something stopped her. A hitherto unknown sense of mercy. This was the second time in as many months where she’d allowed someone to live whom she probably shouldn’t have. Rosalind cursed under her breath and bent low to grab his wrists. Dragging him behind a boiler, she hid him from sight.
“I want you to know that you were beaten,” she murmured, kneeling beside him. His eyes glittered in the shadows, red furnace light flickering over their dark depths. A promise of vengeance. She nodded slowly, acknowledging it. This—what she had started here tonight—would not end until one of them had the upper hand.
“I’ll come…for you…” He could barely speak, but the words sent a shiver down her spine.
A vow. A deadly promise.
Anticipation flared as she turned and walked away. The world was bright with color, her body still dancing with energy. Awake. “I’ll watch for you then.”
“I’ll watch for you then.”
A hand curled around his shoulder and Lynch jerked awake, the shattered remnants of the dream slipping from his mind as his study came to life around him. Blinking, he looked down at the mess of paperwork he’d been leaning in and the ink that stained his hands. There was crusted blood under his fingernails, where he’d tended the wound in his side. Though it had already healed, courtesy of the blood-craving virus that made him a blue blood, the action had weakened him.
Garrett stepped back, arching a brow. “You need to go to bed.”
Scraping a hand over his tired face, Lynch shook his head. “I need to find Mercury. The analysis on the crate?”
With a scowl, Garrett strode across the room and knelt by the fire. He teased the meager coals to life again with the bellows, then added a stick of kindling. “Where’s Doyle? He should be looking after you better than this.”
Lynch scraped his chair back from the desk and stood. “He’s already been in here nursemaiding me. I sent him away. The crate?”
“The steel within appears to be some sort of steam-driven part. A boiler pack, Fitz suspects. Could be used for all manner of machinery.”
Fitz would know. The young genius had never met an invention that didn’t fascinate him. Lynch’s lips thinned. “Useless then?”
“Not quite. I’ve sent Byrnes to the enclaves with some men to inquire of the make.”
“They’ll find nothing,” Lynch stated, turning toward the liquor cabinet. “The mechs in the enclaves are remarkably closemouthed these days.”
“Ever since the prince consort set the Trojan cavalry on them two months ago,” Garrett replied.
Lynch poured himself a snifter of blood, measuring it carefully. He screwed the lid of the flask back into place. “Be careful where you say such things.”
“We’re in the guild headquarters.”
“And no doubt the Council has at least three spies in here.” Lynch lifted the snifter and drained it, the cool blood igniting his senses. His vision swam, painting the world in black and gray for a moment. Slowly he put the glass down. He wanted more; he craved it. And just as certainly wouldn’t allow it.
“You think they’ve got men inside the guild?”
“I’m certain of it.” The Council knew too much of his affairs for it to be coincidence. Lynch swiftly changed topics, to one he wanted to pursue. “There’s been no sign of the woman?”
Garrett leaned back against the desk, his arms crossed and his gaze neutral. Too neutral. Lynch hadn’t asked how much he had heard through the aural communicator; its range was limited, but Garrett had found him quickly enough to have been in the vicinity.
“The men returned. No sign of her. The scent trail ended near Piccadilly Circus. One of those chemical bombs the humanists use to obliterate all scent had been dropped.”
Clever girl. Lynch’s eyes narrowed. He’d fallen for her ruse like a green schoolboy and the thought rankled. She was out there somewhere, no doubt laughing behind his back. The worst of it was that his men had found him before he’d recovered, lying on his back still partially paralyzed. Garrett had covered for him, sending them after the fleeing revolutionary, but they’d seen enough.
“I’m still not quite sure how she gulled you. You’re no pigeon, ripe to be plucked.” Though Garrett’s manner of speech was so precise as to mimic the Echelon, sometimes his base roots showed in his language choice.
“That makes two of us.” Lynch’s voice was hard and dry. A warning for Garrett to drop the subject.
The encounter frustrated him. Sex and the female form were distractions he’d long since thought himself invulnerable to. That she’d gotten under his skin so quickly and easily chafed at him.
Sex was just another need, another form of hunger, and he thought he’d controlled those needs well. He strictly controlled the amount of blood his body required and bedded a woman when he felt the urge arise. Not once had either need ever overruled him. Until now.
And all it had taken was that little whisper of sin in his ear, her knuckles stroking down over the leather carapace of his abdomen. He’d barely seen her face, just her lips beneath the edge of the mask as she tempted him with her offer.
Sensory memory flooded through him: the faint hint of her breast in the cup of his hand, her long legs locking around his hips as she arched against him, the exhale of her breath burning against his lips…
Damn her. Even now his body stirred and he knew why.
A body was never enough. He’d seen and slept with some of the most beautiful women the Echelon had to offer and rarely remembered their names. But this one haunted him. A mystery. A challenge. A part of him hungered for the next encounter, longing to take it further. This time he’d have the upper hand and he intended to make full use of it, to pay back every ounce of humiliation on her flesh and leave her gasping for more.
He couldn’t wait.
Closing his eyes, Lynch forced his body to cool. The thoughts were madness—the hunger speaking, his own personal demons. He was the Nighthawk, damn it, and when he got his hands on her, he’d arrest her and hand her over to the Council.
When he opened his eyes, Garrett was watching him, entirely too perceptive. Chestnut colored hair swept over his brow, a drawcard for women’s eyes everywhere. Or perhaps that was the smile Garrett flashed at them. He had his uses, despite his weakness for anything in a petticoat. Put him in a room with a woman who refused to say a word, and before five minutes were out, he’d have her signed confession and every intimate detail of her life.
Garrett knew women inside and out. And he knew when a man had been bested by one.
“If you breathe a word of this…”
A slow, stealthy smile crept over Garrett’s mouth. “I wouldn’t dream of it, sir.”
“The world is darkly compelling and sophisticated, the characters as unique as they are dangerous, and their stories a complex tapestry of grim threat, fragile hope, and steely determina...
“The world is darkly compelling and sophisticated, the characters as unique as they are dangerous, and their stories a complex tapestry of grim threat, fragile hope, and steely determination. I'm a big fan. I want to be able to continue to be for a long time coming. ” - One Good Book Deserves Another
“Easily the best paranormal romance I’ve read this year!” - The Blogger Girls
“One of my top books of 2013... just amazing. ” - Royal Reviews
“One of the reasons that I love this series is because there is a perfect balance of adventure and romance. The romance is always in the forefront (it IS a romance after all) but there is enough action for readers who enjoy that also. ” - In the Hammock Blog
“The dynamic of the relationships and characters in My Lady Quicksilver are complex and perfectly executed.” - Booked and Loaded
“I would be remiss not to mention my deep and abiding love for the world that Ms. McMaster has created... A wonderful, exciting, sexy read, and it is firmly on my keeper shelf.” - The Romanceaholic
“A fabulous steampunk romance with complex world-building and interesting, multi-dimensional characters... If you haven't read this series, what are you waiting for?” - Book Lover and Procrastinator
“Bec McMaster's Steampunk series has become one of my favorites... A terrific book, worthy of multiple reads. ” - Star-Crossed Romance
“Well written with engaging and intriguing characters. A great read! ” - My Book Addiction Reviews
“The best in the series, this book is NOT TO BE MISSED! Can't wait to see what's next!” - Love Affair with an eReader
“This is steampunk romance at its best and much recommended.” - Nocturnal Book Reviews
“I am fascinated with Ms. McMaster’s London... I can’t wait to see how this story evolves. ” - The Good, the Bad and the Unread
“McMaster has created a unique and addicting world that is sure to captivate readers. ” - Fall Into Books
“With each book the story gets more fascinating as we become entrenched in the beautifully glamorous yet dark and dangerous world... I can’t wait to read more in the series.” - Under the Covers
“A fun, appealing tale...” - Romance Junkies
“It's sexy, it's sensual and it's romantic. ” - Debbie’s Book Bag
“As this series progresses, it just gets better and better... The blend of steampunk, paranormal, suspense and romance is so well crafted into a riveting story.” - Delighted Reader
“Drama-filled, laden with intrigue, and emotionally complex. ” - She-Wolf Reads
“Action packed, emotional, unique, with great characters and a fantastic interesting story... A fantastic whirlwind of a ride. ” - Where the Night Kind Roam
“Plenty of action... at the core is an emotional story of two damaged people finding each other in the midst of chaos.” - Historical Hilarity
“A taste of paranormal, shifter, steampunk and romance all stewed in a recipe to be savored and not rushed through.” - Coffee Time Romance
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 10.40 oz
Page Count: 448 pages