My Lady Quicksilver Page 30

“They took your pistol, didn’t they?” he asked. “Do you have anything at all that might be used as a weapon?”

Only herself and her training, but he could not be allowed to know that. “No. I’m sorry. I’ve got nothing to fight them with.”

His expression tightened. He cursed under his breath and looked around. “Are your manacles fastened tight? Can you get free?”

His urgency burned through her. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“Just answer the damned question!” he snapped.

It shocked her. He’d never once been frightened. And that was what she recognized in his clenching fists as he strained against the manacles.

Rosalind licked her lips and looked up. “Maybe,” she admitted. “I have several pins in my hair. I might be able to pick the lock on these.”

“Do it.”

Pressing her lips tightly together, she put all her weight onto her right wrist and reached up to grab a loop of chain with her left. Her iron hand clutched tight around the links and she hauled herself up, high enough to dig her right hand into her hair. Her fingers finally locked around the edge of a pin and she tugged it free with a gasp, her body weight tumbling back against the manacles. This would have been easy ten years ago, but she no longer trained every day as she had under Balfour’s care. Then she’d been fit and limber and far stronger than she was now.

“Got it,” she gasped, her shoulders aching against the swing of the manacles.

Voices sounded in the corridor outside the cell. Their eyes met.

“You need to get out, Rosa,” he said. “Pick the lock and get out. Get as far away from here as you can.”

A laugh outside. Her gaze jerked that way as someone yanked open an iron trapdoor in the door.

“Give ’er me regards, Sir Nighthawk.”

Rosalind flinched as something was thrown into the room. The iron ball was barely the size of Lynch’s closed fist and it rattled across the stone floors, bouncing off the far wall before spinning to a halt in the center of the room. It looked almost like the clockwork tumbler balls that children played with in the alleys aboveground, chasing them until they finally wound down. Like one of the balls they’d found in Falcone’s dining room.

She stared, cold sweat lining her lip. What the devil was it? And why was Lynch staring at it as one would eye a live snake? He strained against the manacles, a silent snarl on his lips as he jerked and twisted.

“I’d love to stay and watch the final test,” the stranger called. “But you cravers don’t take kindly to being locked up. We’ll be nearby…for when it’s over.”

The iron trapdoor slammed shut and then the laughter was edging away.

“Lynch,” she whispered, fear knifing through her. “What’s going on?”

The iron ball quivered, a thin line becoming apparent around its circumference as though some internal pressure fought to force it open.

“This is what they did to Falcone,” Lynch snarled. He fought furiously, twisting his body up to try and wrench the manacles from the ceiling. “I’m sure of it. You have to get out.”

What they did to Falcone… She stared at him for a long moment as his words penetrated. He’d known. Somehow he’d known what was to come—just as he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from hurting her.

She saw the truth in his eyes as he flailed helplessly, then fell still, panting hard. He couldn’t free himself. He had been weakened by the hemlock until he was almost human in strength, but if the bloodlust hit him the way it had done to Haversham or Falcone or his cousin…he would be unstoppable. That’s why he’d asked her if she had anything on her that might be a weapon. It wasn’t to use against the mechs. No, it was to use against him.

The heat drained from her face, her hand tingling with numbness.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” She looked away, frightened by the defeat in his eyes. “I’m not going to let you kill me.” She sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Think, damn you. She’d survived worse than this. If there was one gift that Balfour had ever given her, it was this—the urge to survive against all odds.

The ball started shaking so hard it quivered across the floor. Almost open.

“I want you,” she said slowly, “to think of buttons.”

Lynch’s gaze shot to hers. “What?”

“My buttons, to be more specific.”


“I’m going to escape,” she added. “But I’ve heard that a blue blood has strong… urges. Strong hungers.”

He caught her meaning. “The bloodlust is stronger.”

“We’ll test that theory as a last resort,” Rosalind replied, her fingers tightening around the pin in her hand. “You want me, my lord. So think about my breasts, which you can never quite take your eyes off, and that afternoon in the library where you left me quite unsatisfied.” Kicking her legs up, she locked an ankle around one of the chains, her skirts falling over her head.

The iron ball popped apart with a hiss, steam pouring through small vents around its middle.

Lynch coughed. “Hurry!”

A sweet scent caught her nose as the cloud of steam drifted across the cobbles, hanging low for the moment. It wound around Lynch’s dangling legs and for a second she saw his fear again.

He couldn’t give into the fear. If he did, then he would be lost completely.

Rosalind swallowed, her pin sliding into the lock. Success. She let out her breath. “You never asked,” she said, forcing her voice to remain calm.

“Never asked what?”

“Whether I obeyed your final instruction in the observatory that day. Whether I waited for you.”

For a moment Lynch’s gaze locked on hers. Shadows flickered through his eyes, stealing the color from them. He shut them tight. “This isn’t helping.”

“You’re going to lose control,” she said bluntly. “Try and think—”

“I am not going to lose control,” he snapped, a muscle in his jaw tightening. “I can’t. I won’t.”

The steam writhed around him with hungry tendrils. And Rosalind finally understood him. The reason he had never taken from the vein and strictly controlled his intake of blood. This was his greatest fear—the loss of control, the bloodlust. For the first time, she realized what it would be like to be stricken with the craving, to fight against instinct and need, when it would be so much easier to give into it.

“I know you can fight this.”

“Don’t trust me,” he gasped. “Get your hands on a weapon—anything—and don’t be afraid to use it.”

The steam rose, obscuring her view of his body. Lynch strained, trying to lift himself above it.

Rosalind turned her attention to the lock. She slid the pin inside it, fumbling blindly in the near dark.

The lock finally clicked.

Wrenching the manacle open, she flexed her steel fingers, then gripped the chain above her right hand. She didn’t have time for finesse. Instead, she yanked hard, her bio-mech hand breaking the links of the manacle.

“Bollocks!” Her eyes flew wide as she started to fall. Hitting the ground hard, she lay for one panicked, breathless moment.

“Rosa? Are you free?”

“I’m free.” She rolled onto her hands and knees with a wince. Steam obscured the room and she coughed as the cloying, sticky-sweet smell of it clotted her lungs.

“Can you… get out?”

Feeling along the wall, she saw the bright bands of light against the foggy darkness. The door!

Lynch was a dark shadow in the mist. Rosa kicked the iron ball away into the corner, stilling when she saw his gleaming eyes lock on her. Like prey.

“Did you?” he gasped, clenching and unclenching his fists. A shudder ran through his body.

“Did I what?”

“Did you wait?”

She backed away from him as his eyes turned black with fierce need. He clenched them tight, trying to hold on to himself.

“I waited,” she whispered. “I’m still waiting.”

Slowly, she reached out behind her for the door, feeling for the lock in the darkness. Her pin had twisted. She’d need another. But she couldn’t, for the moment, take her eyes off him. Steam obscured him completely and he jerked, still fighting, even now, not to lose control of himself.

Rosalind could barely see him. But she heard a low hiss of breath, a sound that terrified her, despite her intentions. And then the sound of metal straining as he tore at his manacles.

“Run,” he pleaded. Another strained laugh, as if he fought to hold it back. “For God’s sake, run!”

Rosalind turned and jammed another pin into the lock, her heart rabbiting in her chest in terror.

He’d just lost the battle.


The door opened and Rosalind didn’t waste time to see if he’d gotten himself free. She could hear him straining, a low growl of frustration echoing in his throat as he fought the manacles. The steel wouldn’t hold him in this state. Not for long.

Shoving her shoulder against the door, she staggered into the tunnel—looked like an old maintenance tunnel of some sort, with a pair of torches burning steadily in their niches.

Grabbing a handful of skirts, she started running.

Behind her, a thwarted roar echoed as she escaped. The sound sent a chill down her spine, her footsteps lengthening in response. Had to get away. If he caught her—

The door at the end of the tunnel was locked. Rosalind jerked at the knob, then slapped her steel hand against it in frustration. “Damn you!”

Behind her silence fell.

Rosalind turned slowly, the hairs on the back of her neck lifting. At the end of the tunnel, a dark figure stepped free of the cell, moving with an eerie, predator grace. He stopped and stared at her, his eyes black with fury and need and hunger.

Rosalind yanked a pin from her hair and spun around, jamming it in the lock. “Come on,” she murmured, jiggling it until she felt it catch. “Come on!” A glance over her shoulder showed him stalking toward her, taking his time, knowing she couldn’t escape. Rosalind slammed her fist against the door, dinting it. By some stroke of luck the lock clicked. She yanked at the door, sucking in a frightened hiss of breath between her teeth as it opened.


Lynch’s scream of rage echoed in the tunnel and Rosalind barreled through the door, slamming it behind her. There was a key on a hook beside the door and she thrust it into the lock and twisted it, staring through the thin window slit as Lynch thundered toward her.

“Damn you, come on!” The lock snicked and Rosalind staggered away from the door as he hit it.

The hinges screamed in protest, dust shaking off the stone walls. Rosalind met his eyes and saw nothing human there. Not the man she knew. Not the man she cared for. Here was her own secret fear, staring at her with cold, hungry eyes.

His fists wrapped around the bars and he wrenched. The iron screamed, bending like Indian rubber. Rosalind turned and ran up a flight of stairs.

Behind her, an enormous crash echoed.

Faster, her lungs screaming for air. She threw a glance over her shoulder and saw something move in the shadows behind her.

A door appeared in the wall. Rosalind crashed through it, slamming it shut behind her and locking it before she turned and collapsed against something in the dark. Her fumbling fingers found a smuggler’s lantern and a packet of matches. Striking one, she lit the lantern’s wick with shaking fingers.

Something hit the door. Rosalind jumped. A table stood in the center of the room, with benches around the sides. She hurried behind it, though the table would be small help.

Crates of iron balls gleamed in the flickering light, with little clock faces strapped to them. Rosalind ran her fingers over one, feeling the thin seam that ran around the middle. There had to be dozens here. Enough to drive a whole horde of blue blood’s mad. Just what were the mechs planning?

Another jolt shuddered the door. Rosalind spun, her gaze raking the room for anything to help her. Metal tools hung on the wall, signs of a mech’s trade. She grabbed a file and clenched it in her fist, hunting for something sharper. A rack of bottles lined the far wall, the glass gleaming as she lifted the lantern and brought it closer. Taking out the cork, she sniffed at the colorless liquid. The same sickly sweet scent she’d recognized in the cell made her jam the cork back in.

A deafening silence fell, making her heartbeat thunder in her ears.

Then a fist came through the door.

Rosalind screamed, dropping the lantern on the bench and spinning to face him. Her gaze fell on a pile of goods on a small table near the door. A dart gun with the bright blue feathers of a hemlock dart.

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