My Lady Quicksilver Page 41


Rosa jerked, fighting his grip. “You did! I don’t belong to you anymore. I haven’t for years.”

“I made you,” Balfour said gently. “One only had to watch that fight to realize that you have forgotten nothing that I have taught you.” He took a step forward. “I thought I saw you earlier tonight, but you are much changed. It wasn’t until I saw you fight that I realized I wasn’t merely feeling maudlin.”

Rosa launched herself at him. Lynch swung her back behind him, stepping between the pair of them. He shot her a dark look. “No.”

“Stay out of this,” she hissed.

“He’s more than you can handle.”

“You don’t know what I can handle.”

The disturbing truth was that she was probably right. If she was Balfour’s—if she’d ever belonged to him—then she had been created to be a weapon. His gaze dropped to her hands and memory flickered. My hands…don’t touch my hands. What the hell had the bastard done to her?

“I can’t let him get away,” she whispered. “Lynch, please. He took everything from me.”

“You made your choices,” Balfour corrected.

Rosa glared at him. “I chose Nathaniel. And you killed him because you couldn’t bear for me to have loyalties to anyone else.”

A slight twitch on that expressionless face. Balfour tugged slowly at his gloves, as if thinking. The move was dangerously reminiscent of Rosa. “You should have known not to push me in that mood. I had given you everything…” His voice hardened. “And you threw it back in my face for that naive fool.” He clutched the gloves in one hand, finally meeting her eyes. “I gave you a new hand in the end.”

“You chained me to the wall, gave me a sword, and told me I had five minutes to save him.” Her eyes were wet with furious tears. She held up the gleaming steel of her fist. “You did this to me.”

“You did it to yourself,” Balfour replied. “I only gave you a choice. Him. Or me. You didn’t have to take it.”

Somehow she’d found a knife. “You broke your word. You said if I got there in time, you wouldn’t kill him.”

Silence. Lynch held a hand out, warning her not to do this.

“You were late,” Balfour finally said. “I gave you five minutes.”

Lynch saw the surge of fury in her eyes a second before she went for Balfour. He caught her. “Fifteen seconds!” she screamed, kicking and fighting in his arms. “Fifteen seconds late! You cut his throat in front of me!”

Balfour’s lips thinned. “You only have yourself to blame, Cerise—”

“I’m not Cerise! I’m not! My name is Rosalind.”

At that Balfour smiled. “Rosalind Hucker, the humanist’s wife? That was only a role, my dear. A mission I gave you.” He took another step closer, as if sensing that he’d beaten her. She was crushed by grief and rage, unable to do what she wanted so desperately. And Balfour, the viper, knew it.

He reached for her.

“Give me the knife,” Lynch murmured, taking it from her lax grip. He turned her, putting more distance between her and Balfour’s outstretched hand.

The prince consort’s spymaster noticed it. Those black, devil’s eyes lit on him as if marking him as a potential adversary. “Don’t do something you’ll regret, Lynch.”

He still had her knife in his hand. Easing her into a chair, curled up upon herself, looking so much like a lost child at that point, Lynch slowly straightened. “I never regret anything I do.”

In the next second, he had Balfour’s back to his chest, the knife against his throat. The falcon took a sharp step forward, then froze.

Lynch eyed him. “Don’t move or I’ll cut his throat.”

“It won’t kill me,” Balfour murmured.

The pressure of the knife increased. “Don’t ever doubt me, you smug bastard. If I want to kill you, then I’ll do it.”

“And what will the prince consort say?”

Lynch leaned close enough to put his lips to the older man’s ears. “I don’t see any witnesses, do you?”

“There are eyes on us,” Balfour replied. “Always.”

His own little network of spies. Lynch glanced at Rosa beneath his lashes. She stared up at him with wide, tearstained eyes, as if she’d never seen him before. As if he were something more than he was.

“Go,” he said softly.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

He didn’t have time for this. He could see the muscle working in the jaw of Balfour’s man. Only so long before the falcon came for him.

“Go,” he snapped.

She flinched, her gaze darting between the three men. “I’m sorry.” A whisper for him alone.

“So am I,” he replied, the words emotionless.

Then she was gone, disappearing through the back of the stage, her footsteps echoing in the darkened theatre.

“I never took you as a man who’d ever show a weakness,” Balfour murmured.

Lynch let him go and gave him a shove in the back. “I never took you as one either.”

Balfour didn’t bother to rub the thin line of blood at his throat. “What do you mean?”

“She might have belonged to you once, but you’ll never leash her again, Balfour. She was meant to fly free, and she’ll never succumb to your will this time. She hates you. You pushed her too far.”

Thought raced behind the spymaster’s eyes. “She was the most like me.” A faint tremor of pride traced his words.

“No,” Lynch replied. “She was nothing like you. You would never have cut your own hand off to save another.” He sheathed the knife at his belt before he was tempted to use it. “Let her go. If you have any sense of feeling for her, then let her be.”

“You’ll never have her either,” Balfour said. He knew. Knew that tomorrow Lynch would be called before the Council to either present Mercury—or himself.

Lynch nodded slowly. “You’re right. I won’t.”

“I could intercede.”

“At what price?” Lynch replied, knowing Balfour would ask for her. “You can’t buy me, Balfour.”

“That’s what makes you so very dangerous,” Balfour replied. He glanced down at the groaning mech on the floor by Lynch’s feet. “You do realize that this has nothing to do with the revolutionary?”

Lynch paused.

“You have four hundred and fifty Nighthawks,” Balfour murmured. “And you insist on doing the right thing, no matter who you defy. Some might say that’s a dangerous combination. Enough to make…certain people…fear you.”

The prince consort. “I would never have moved against him.”

Balfour smiled. “I know that. I never feared you, Lynch. You’re predictable. I know which way you’ll move before you even make it. Honor is such a weight around one’s neck.” He gave a terse nod, his gaze flickering to the door. And the pair of blue bloods who slid through it. Garrett and Perry. Balfour straightened, gesturing to his man to fall in beside him. “Even if you could somehow find Mercury by the morning, there would come another demand. And another. Until you eventually gave him an excuse.” Balfour saluted slowly. “I will see you in the morning, then?”

For a second, Lynch thought about using the knife. “You’re attending?”

With one last smile, Balfour gave him his back and smiled at Garrett and Perry as he passed them. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”


Lynch scratched out several words with the pen, then his eyes slowly lifted. The candle flame in front of him danced as if someone had opened a door somewhere.

Putting the pen down, he rubbed at the tired line between his brows and glanced at the clock on the mantel. Three in the morning. There was no point trying to sleep. He needed to put his affairs in order and see that certain events took place as he willed them.

A slight whisper of sound.

He cocked his head. Silence. Still, the unnerving sensation of a presence filled the room, itching over his skin. Lynch shoved to his feet and crossed toward his bedroom on quiet feet, the candle in hand.

Turning the handle, he edged it open. The curtains to his bedroom fluttered in the breeze, the window cracked halfway. Before he even took a step into the room he knew; he could scent her, clean and fresh, stained with the faint sickly sweet scent of the orbs. And then he could see her, moonlight gilding that porcelain skin with a loving touch.


“What the hell are you doing here?” he whispered harshly, bringing the candle up.

Rosa lifted her chin, staring at him as if she herself didn’t know. Long tendrils of coppery hair clung to her shoulders and hung around her tearstained face, the torn scraps of the gorgeous dress she’d worn still clinging to her legs. With her red hair and pale skin, she wasn’t the type of woman made for crying, but there was something about the defiance in her eyes that made his breath catch. “I wanted… I needed to speak to you.”

Lynch swallowed the hard ball of emotion in his throat and strode past her to the window, placing the candle on the tallboy beside his bed. “I believe everything that needed saying was said.” He peered out, hunting the shadows for hidden eyes. “Do you think I let you escape for nothing? Damn it, woman, I have no doubt Balfour has eyes on the guild. He’ll be expecting me to do something tonight.”

Slamming the window shut, he drew the curtains across with a harsh jerk and took a steadying breath. Hell, he hadn’t expected her here. His fingers trembled slightly on the curtains. A part of him didn’t want to face her.

“Why tonight?” she asked. A note of doubt crept into her voice. “Did he threaten you? What did he say?” The rustle of skirts swept closer. Then stopped. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

Would she care? His fingers tightened on the sill, then he slowly pushed away and looked at her.

A faint flush of color crept up her cheeks and her gaze dropped. Toying with the tips of her gloves, her shoulders slightly hunched, she managed to draw in a deep breath. “You shouldn’t have let him live.” Quiet words. “If you’d let me go, I could have—”

“Gotten yourself killed,” he replied, with just a touch too much vigor. Hell, if she knew what she was doing to him… His hungry gaze ran over her slender figure and despite himself, his body yearned for her. Just one touch. He knew if he went to her, she’d turn her face up to his eagerly, but would it mean anything? He didn’t know. He’d thought himself a great judge of character once, but now she’d shattered his perceptions with the web of lies she’d woven. He couldn’t see the truth anymore and it made him doubt each and every one of her actions.

“Why did you come here tonight?”

Rosa shrank a little, as if the weight of his gaze drove her shoulders down. “I wanted to say…I’m sorry.” That last was a whisper. “I couldn’t—I had to see you.”

Running his hand over the back of his neck, he crossed to the liquor decanter and poured himself a generous glass of blud-wein. Hell.

She took a deep, shuddering breath. “I know you won’t believe me. I can’t blame you for that, but I wish—I need you to know that I never meant any of this to happen.” She took a step closer, her skirts swishing. “I’m not good at this. I never have been. It was easier when I was Mercury, easier…as Mrs. Marberry.”

“Easier to lie?” he asked, tossing back the blud-wein.

“It wasn’t all a lie.”

Lynch put the glass down with a ringing sound. He turned—and then wished he hadn’t. Those vulnerable eyes burned him. He wanted to believe her. Gods, he hungered for it.

Just let go, whispered his darker side. Take what she’s offering. You’ll never get another chance.

And a part of him hated her for that, for the fact that his heart and body still wanted what it wanted, regardless of her betrayal.

“You should go.”

His quiet words lifted her head so sharply he might as well have slapped her. Determination stared back at him. “No,” she whispered. “I won’t. I know that I lied to you. I know you’ll never forgive me, but please, what I felt for you—”

He couldn’t stomach it anymore. Turning away, he crossed to the grate and stared into the ashes. Her letter was still there, a forlorn crumpled note in the powdery fine ash. “It meant nothing. I’ll forget it.” His own lie. “And no doubt you will too.”

“That’s not true.”

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