My Lady Quicksilver Page 24

Garrett fell into step beside him, or tried to, his breath coming harshly. “Probably a good thing it was me, sir.”

Lynch stopped in his tracks and cut a glare toward his second. “Why?”

Garrett arched a brow. “You smell like lemon verbena. If you want some advice, I’d wash before you see anyone else. Unless I assume wrong; unless you don’t want to keep this quiet.”

His jaw clenched. “I’ll take your advice then. But breathe a word of this and you’ll be back in the infirmary.”

Garrett’s mouth curled in a slow smile. “It’s about bloody time you had a woman.” A hint of his old humor surfaced. “Besides, if she takes the edge off you, maybe you’ll let up on the rest of us.”

“I wouldn’t presume so.”

“We’ll see, sir.”


Lynch sighted his prey as she stepped out of the jewelry shop, clutching a package in her mink-gloved hands. Her brisk steps swished her burgundy skirts around her ankles as she darted into the stream of pedestrians. A young mother pushing her perambulator glanced up, saw the woman’s eyes, and then jerked her child out of the way.

She was alone. Perfect.

“Thanks,” he murmured, passing a five-pound note to Meriwether, the young boy he paid to watch Mrs. Carver’s house. Shoving away from the corner of the building he was leaning against, he cut directly into the oncoming traffic. Striding in front of an omnibus, he ignored the blaring horn and curse as a pneumatic rickshaw tried to veer aside. The woman in front of him glanced over her shoulder just as he reached the curb and Lynch ducked behind a tall gentleman in a top hat.

He stalked her for several streets, keeping an eye out for her husband. Mrs. Carver might be dangerous, but at five and a half feet she was manageable. Her husband however was another matter. This was the closest Lynch had come to getting his hands on Mrs. Carver since her transformation a month ago.

It didn’t help matters that she’d once been Barrons’s ward. Taking on the newly minted verwulfen ambassador was one thing; going up against Barrons another. But she’d been in the tower the day the Duke of Lannister was murdered and the bomb went off, as had her husband. Of the two of them, he knew which one was more likely to talk to him about the identity of Mercury.

A steam coach idled by the curb ahead with the distinctive snarling wolf sigil of the new ambassador. A coachman lingered beside it, his hands cupped around a cheroot as he lit it. Towering over the crowd, his blond hair brushing the collar of his great coat, he bore faint traces of his Nordic ancestry. As he slowly shook out the flame on his match, his golden eyes watched the crowd with a hungry, cold look. One of the newly released verwulfen, no doubt. Trying to fit back into society and failing badly.

Lynch surged forward. If Mrs. Carver reached the coach, he’d not get his chance. And time was running out for him.

Sidestepping through curious onlookers, he grabbed her by the upper arm, his fingers sinking into the soft velvet of her coat. The muscle of her arm tightened and he bent low before she could react.

“Walk with me,” he murmured. His gaze met the coachman’s over the top of her head and the man stiffened. “I mean you no harm.”

Lena Carver shot him a lowered lash look, the bronze ring around her eyes catching the sunlight. The slightly flirtatious glance was entirely at odds with the tension running through her slight frame. “You wouldn’t want to, Sir Jasper. Max is recently come from the Manchester Pits. He made his living killing men in the ring.”

“Smile at him then. Before I’m forced to cut short his newly freed circumstances.”

She considered his entreaty, then graced the burly coachman with a smile that would have shaken any normal man’s wits. Sliding her hand over Lynch’s, she made as if they were any other couple, out for a stroll.

The bodyguard’s shoulders relaxed but his eyes never left them. Lynch turned her down a side street, toward a park.

“My husband will not approve of this,” she said. “He’s…protective.”

“He’s verwulfen,” Lynch replied, which meant everything. He let her go as they reached the park. Leaning back against the iron rails of the park fence, he stared at her. “I have questions for you.”

Those pretty brown eyes with their newly minted gleam widened slightly. “Questions? I’m afraid I know little of my husband’s work—”

He ignored her. “Questions about the package in your hands perhaps? No doubt if I look I’ll find a half dozen ruby rings filled with hemlock.”

The smile slid off her face as if it had never been. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“And I don’t care if you are carrying poison rings.” In a way, he approved. Mrs. Carver had once been a debutante, and as such, prey to the blue bloods that prowled the Echelon. Gossip had it that certain members of the younger generation thought it old-fashioned to take a debutante as their thralls, when they could take their blood by force. Only rumor of course and Lynch hadn’t had time to look into it, but if so, the sudden rash of poison rings on every debutante’s finger was something he was willing to turn a blind eye to.

“Firstly, I want to know if there are any verwulfen women in London,” he said. “There are none listed in the registry. I know. My men checked.”

Mrs. Carver’s anxiety faded a little, as he had intended. “Only myself. The rest returned to Scandinavia once the treaty was signed.”

Then where had Mercury’s verwulfen companion come from?

“Anything else?” she asked, fluttering her lashes.

“A month ago the Duke of Lannister was stabbed, shot, and partially decapitated in the Ivory Tower,” he stated, watching her reaction. Her sudden pallor took all the warmth from her pretty features. “I don’t care who stabbed him or tried to tear his head off—and mind you I have suspicions, considering the scent trail left in the room—what I’m interested in is the woman who shot him.”

“I’m afraid I know nothing about it,” she said quickly.

“I could make it my business to discover who decapitated the duke,” he replied. Mrs. Carver, he suspected, would run straight home to her husband if he made a threat against her. But if the threat were against her husband… It was all simply a matter of applying the right pressure points.

Of course, he could never follow through with the threat. Mrs. Carver had once been Barrons’s ward and he’d sworn an oath to the man that he wouldn’t reveal who’d been in the room that day.

She didn’t need to know that however.

Mrs. Carver’s lips thinned. “Why do you want to know?”

Relaxing slightly, he offered her his arm as a pair of elderly gentlemen strolled their way. Mrs. Carver took it, the unnatural heat of her skin permeating even through her gloves. He led her along the path, skirting a pair of squirrels chattering at each other near a park bench. “The explosion during the treaty signing was an attack by a group called humanists.” The lack of surprise on her face made his mind race, but he didn’t think she was involved. Will Carver wouldn’t have allowed that. Still… Thought for later. “They are led by a woman who calls herself Mercury. She is always masked and her identity is unknown. I need to find her.”

“For what purpose?”

“The prince consort has tasked me with delivering the revolutionary to him.”

“Where she’ll be executed.”

“The bombing cannot go unpunished, Mrs. Carver.”

Nibbling on her lip, she paused. “What if she had nothing to do with the bombing?”

Interesting. The precise same statement his masked nemesis had made in the enclaves. Lynch’s gaze sharpened on her. “Why would you say such a thing?”

“Keeping in mind that this is all supposition,” she replied, “perhaps you’re hunting for the wrong group? Perhaps there were humanists who broke from the revolution and decided to take matters into their own hands? Suppose she tried to stop them?”

The breath went out of him. “Dangerous supposition, Mrs. Carver.”

“Arresting the wife of the verwulfen ambassador is bound to incite tension between Scandinavia and Britain. I’m trying to cooperate as much as I can.”

She knew the rules of society well. The prince consort wouldn’t stand to have his new treaty smashed apart by Lynch. He wanted Mercury, but there were some prices he wouldn’t pay.

“You’re trying to protect someone. The interesting question is who. And why.”

“You know who,” she replied. “I’m prepared to reveal certain sensitive information, as long as I have your word not to move against me or my husband.”

“That depends on the information revealed.”

“Then I’m not inclined to be obliging.”

Lynch stepped in front of her. “I like your husband. Don’t force me to do something I don’t wish to.”

Mrs. Carver stared up at him for a long moment, searching his gaze. “You smell like desperation, sir,” she finally said. “Why?”

Lynch took a deep breath, trying to still the tension radiating off him. If Mrs. Carver—newly a verwulfen—could recognize his distress, then it must be evident indeed. “If I don’t get my hands on Mercury soon, then I fear the prince consort will resort to desperate measures.”

“You don’t think he’d send out the metaljackets in force?”

“I don’t know.” Blunt words but true. “He’s not acting entirely rational at the moment.”

Mrs. Carver sighed. “If I knew anything at all, I might suspect that what you were searching for can be found in Undertown.” She looked up. “I can’t say any more than that. I won’t.”

Lynch grabbed her arm as she turned to go, desperation driving him. “You know who she is.”

“She’s no friend of mine, though I wouldn’t wish her ill.” Mrs. Carver’s fingers curled over his own, the strength of her grip belying her small stature. “I have told you what I can, Sir Jasper. Though I fear you are hunting for the wrong person. You should be hunting for a group of escaped mechs.”

“The woman,” he snapped. “Who is she? Give me something, anything… A name?”

Mrs. Carver pried one of his fingers loose. The sudden blaze of bronze in her eyes warned him. “I am terribly sorry for your predicament, sir. But I have given my word and I won’t betray it. That is all I can tell you. Now get your hands off me before I am forced to call Max.”

Lynch stared through her for a second more then let her go. She staggered slightly, gave him a curt look, then straightened her skirts.

“War is coming, Mrs. Carver.”

“War’s already here,” she replied bluntly, then turned toward the park gate and hurried away.


Rosalind paced the hallway, clenching and unclenching her fists. The longer she’d waited for Lynch, the more she’d begun to question herself. In the heat of the moment, all she’d wanted was him. It was only after, as her body slowly cooled, that she realized how dangerous events had become.

Losing her head like that, losing control of the game… If she wasn’t careful she would find herself in deep water.

She’d had to get away.

Twitching aside the curtains, she glanced into the street. No one had followed her home. Not that she expected them to, but still… Today’s sudden interrogation made her wary. Did he suspect something?

I have four hundred and fifty Nighthawks, Mrs. Marberry. Don’t make me too curious.

Was his curiosity satisfied? She knew hers wasn’t.

“Have we got a problem?” Ingrid’s husky voice startled her.

Rosalind’s gaze jerked up as the other woman took a stealthy step into the room. “Are you trying to catch me unawares?”

“It’s been remarkably easy of late. You need to get your mind off whatever’s distracting you before Jack notices.”

She stared at her friend.

“You smell like a man’s cologne.” Ingrid folded her arms across her chest as if daring Rosalind to reply.

“Of course I do. I work in a whole building full of them.” Lifting her arm she sniffed at herself. “It’s most likely Garrett.” She ignored the way Ingrid’s expression didn’t change. Not fooled one bit. “No news?”

“No sign of Jeremy,” Ingrid replied.

Restlessness itched down her spine. Rosalind started working on her gloves, frowning worriedly. “I need to push plans. Lynch has nothing in his study about Jeremy or the mechs—the dratted man keeps it all in his head.”

Prev Next