My Lady Quicksilver Page 46

“Seize him!” the prince consort screamed.

Mordecai’s words echoed in the chamber, but she knew who they were aimed at. Use it. Use this chance. Do what neither of them had managed so far. His sacrifice floored her. He’d already been dead, but at least this way he earned them a chance.

The Coldrush Guards grabbed his arms and yanked him to the brass circle cut into the marble floor. His knees were kicked out from underneath him, the whites of his eyes flaring as they yanked his head back. Rosalind jerked, her fist tightening around Garrett’s. She couldn’t look away, couldn’t find that inner coldness that protected her at times like this. She felt it as the sword rasped over Mordecai’s throat, and swallowed hard against the lump in hers.

“Mount the head on the tower wall,” the prince consort said coldly. “Let the masses see what happens to those who dare defy me.” His voice rose. “Let them come at me and see how defiance ends! I will not be cast down. Not by you. Not by that horde of filthy unwashed humans! You are cattle!”

Then the sword slashed down, blood spraying over the marble floor. Mordecai’s body jerked, blood fountaining from his throat, then it hit the ground.

So quickly. Without even a formality. Rosalind stared at the spreading pool of vermillion on the alabaster tiles, as they dragged the body away. That could have been her. Should have been, except for this one small act of mercy—of heroism. Heat sprang up behind her eyes.

You won’t be forgotten, she vowed. And neither would her own pledge. He hadn’t given her this chance for nothing.

Garrett squeezed her fingers. She was shaking so badly she could barely stand. But Lynch was alive. And so was she and somehow they had pulled the wool over the prince consort’s eyes.

She could hardly breathe for the lump in her throat. And then she saw Balfour.

He watched her with those emotionless black eyes, his lashes so colorless they were almost white. Not a fool. He never had been and he knew; she saw it in him. He alone of the Council had watched her foot shift as she made to step forward, to claim the name of Mercury. She watched swift expression dance across his face as he made the connections. He was the one who’d sent her to spy on the humanists, on Nathaniel. After years of believing her dead, she had suddenly shown up, just as the name of Mercury was on everybody’s lips.

One word and he could condemn them all.

But he didn’t say it. The moments ticked by and he glanced down, toying with the signet ring on his finger. Strain tightened his face. He’d never once betrayed his prince, yet at what cost would this take? What would he demand of her?

She looked for Lynch, frightened and unsure. Their gazes locked and she knew that he understood her fear.

“You’re lucky your man has your best interests at heart,” the prince consort said to Lynch with an oily smile as he settled in his chair. “If he’d stayed his arrival another minute, he would have been able to cast aside the label of temporary Guild Master and replace it with permanent.”

“Perhaps you don’t understand loyalty then, Your Grace?” Garrett again.

Lynch cut him a look and shook his head in warning.

The prince consort stared at Garrett for an uncomfortable minute. “Oh, I understand loyalty.” His smile vanished. “Lynch, you may go.”

Rosalind let out a breath. Please. Let them get away from this awful place.

But Lynch paused, turning to face the council, his boots almost in the puddle of blood Mordecai’s body had left behind. “I do believe you promised something else, Your Grace. Some incentive, should the revolutionary be brought to justice.”


Barrons stepped forward, clad entirely in black velvet with a ruby dangling from his ear. “You swore that you would revoke Sir Jasper’s rogue status and name him one of the Echelon.”

The prince consort’s smile died. “So I did. Thank you for reminding me of that, Barrons.”

“My pleasure.”

“And so I declare it. Sir Jasper Lynch,” the prince consort called. “I officially revoke your rogue status and name you one of the Echelon.” A nasty little smile twisted his mouth. “As such, I strip you of the title of Guild Master of the Nighthawks. No blue blood could remain amongst the rogues.”

“I agree.” Lynch straightened.

He was up to something.

Drawing all eyes, Lynch took a step back, his boot heel cutting over the brass circle. Then another, until he stood fully within it. He met the Duke of Bleight’s gaze and gestured with a mocking little twitch of his fingers. “This has been a long time in coming, Uncle. I challenge you for the duchy of Bleight. First blood.”

The prince consort’s grip tightened on his chair, his face going white with fury. And Rosalind understood what Lynch had planned. Her heart leaped—then fell. If he won this fight, he became a duke and would join the council. There would be no place for her at his side.

But he would be free of the threat of the prince consort’s power. Safer perhaps with power of his own. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—deny him that.

The Duke of Bleight slowly levered himself to his feet, his ancient face expressionless. Most duels were to the death. Not only was Lynch offering a reprieve, but in the Echelon’s eyes, an insult. Would his pride overcome his fear of mortality? They all knew how uneven this match would be, even Bleight.

The rest of the council waited with bated breath.

“I accept, you little cur.”


Three days later…

The wind tore through her hair as she stepped down from the front door of the brownstone manor and Rosalind clamped her gloved hand to her hat. Her heart was still hammering in her chest. She’d done it. Without a shadow of a lie or even omitting a single detail. Everything she’d just won had been with the truth.

Her burgundy skirts flipping around her ankles, she crossed to the plain black steam carriage that waited at the curb. It was rented, of course. Jack blew warm air into his palms through the open hole in his respirator and then stepped forward to open the door for her. People stared. He’d tugged the collar of his coat up to hide the half mask, but still their eyes lingered and women grabbed their children by the arms and dragged them away as if afraid whatever contagion he had might spread.

Rosalind reached for him and squeezed his hand. Asking him to step out of the dark shadows he’d hidden in for the past eight years was an enormity she didn’t underestimate.

"So?” he asked, ignoring the crowd as if he didn’t give a damn.

“Sir Gideon has agreed to have lunch with me on Friday at the Metropolitan Hotel. He’s cautious, but he certainly seemed interested in what I had to say.” Excitement bubbled up in her chest. “Oh, Jack. You should hear some of his ideas. I always thought the Humans First party to be nothing but hot air but he’s not. He’s actually quite clever.”

“You think this will work then?”

For the first time in days, her smile softened, losing its hard, false edge. She hadn’t realized how unfocused her dream had been lately. Everything she’d done had become reactive, rather than taking initiative. She’d done what she had to, but she’d done it mechanically, without any real feeling for it. A chore. Something she owed Nate, for what she’d cost him. But now, a thousand ideas sparked through her breast. “I do. I really do. I had thought that giving up my plans would hurt more, but it doesn’t. We’re going to draft a bill to put before the Council about the increased rights for mechs. Mordecai’s Bill. That’s a start.”

“You think they’ll approve it?”

Her smile was vicious. “Of course not. Not at first. But unfortunately for the Council, I’m not going to go away. I’m going to keep at them until they are weary of my voice.”

Calculation gleamed in his gray eye. The other was covered by an eye patch. “I think you’ll have at least one of the Council votes in your pocket.”

The reminder shattered her smile. She’d been trying not to think about it ever since Lynch won the duel. There’d been so much to do and she’d gotten swept aside in the chaos after that swift battle. Standing in the doorway, watching as Barrons swept him up with a hard thump to the back, she’d slowly edged back through the door. He’d won. He was safe and the Duke of Bleight banished to a country estate, his titles stripped. If Lynch had wanted to see her, then she wouldn’t have sat up for the last three nights alone, watching her candle burn down as the night slowly passed.

“I wouldn’t presume,” she said stiffly.

“I would.” Jack tipped his head toward the open door of the carriage. “Perhaps you’d best step in.”

The expression on his scarred face was unreadable, but she could detect the faintest of lines around his eyes. A smile perhaps. Her eyes darted toward the carriage, her chest squeezing just a little tighter. That tickly sensation in her stomach multiplied a thousand times over, burning through her until she thought everyone would notice.

“Jack, what have you done?”

He held his hands up in surrender and stepped back onto the curb. “Why nothing, Roz. Some gent approached me and we had us a little chat.” From the sudden sharp gleam of his eyes, she had a feeling the discussion might have lasted at least one of the several hours she’d been inside.

It was then that she noticed the driver sitting up on the seat of the carriage. Perry glanced at her, a cap pulled low over her eyes. Rosalind swallowed hard. As much as she was blindingly desperate to see Lynch, she didn’t want to get in the carriage.

“Be brave,” Jack lowered his voice, taking her hand by the fingertips to help her inside. “You deserve to be happy.” A faint grimace. “Even if he’s what makes you happy.”

She thought that somewhat presumptuous. So much had happened between her and Lynch in the last week, yet nothing had been resolved. And he was a duke now. As the Master of the Nighthawks he’d been somewhat within her reach, but the Echelon would be expecting him to take a consort or begin making thrall contracts. No matter how much she loved him, she could not be a thrall.

“How are you getting home?” she asked.

“I’ve a mind to walk.” Jack shrugged. “See if I can convince Ingrid out of her sulk.”

Not all of them had been so happy to hear her confession about her feelings, both for the cause and for Lynch.

“She’ll come around.” Jack saw the expression on her face. “She loves you. She just doesn’t like change. And she’s scared that there’s no place for her here, out in the light.”

Rosalind nodded. The carriage door loomed open, revealing nothing but shadows within. Steeling herself, she gave her brother a kiss on the cheek, grabbed a handful of her skirts, and swept inside.

The sudden plunge into darkness left her blind. Jack slammed the door shut and somehow she found her seat, the shadowy shape of long legs starting to form in front of her. Following them up, she noticed the tight frock coat Lynch wore and the stark white spill of a cravat. Not his usual uniform then. It only reminded her of the distance between them and the small, hopeful part of her stuttered in its exhilaration.

Rosalind finally met his gaze, twitching at her skirts to straighten them. Beneath the dark curve of his lashes, his eyes gleamed an intense gray—watchful but giving nothing away. His only awareness of her showed in the stiffening of his body and the sudden clenching of hard muscle in his thigh. Seeing him again made her heart twist as though some enormous hand were squeezing it. She barely had the control to comport herself. She wanted to throw herself at him and drag his mouth to hers. To touch him. Assure herself that he was really there.

But why was he here?

“Hello, Your Grace,” she said quietly.

At that Lynch grimaced. “I’ve had enough of that to last me a lifetime.”

“You’d best get used to it as I believe you’re going to have a lifetime of it.”

A sigh. Then those canny eyes found hers again. “You’ve been busy.”

Rosalind folded her hands neatly in her nap. Nothing. The dratted man was giving her nothing. She was so tense she felt as if she were going to fly apart. “I’ve had nothing to do for three days.” Censure crept into her voice. “And someone once told me that I would never win a war, not in the streets.”

Lynch glanced toward the window and the brownstone, as the carriage lurched into motion. His fingers drummed a slow, steady beat on his thigh. Restless. “So now you’re going to go after them in their own hallowed halls. Beard the lion in its den?”

“I’m going to dabble in politics,” she said. “Sir Gideon Scott is interested in several of my ideas and I…” Her heart quickened. “I admit I’ve grown somewhat excited about some of his. He’s not the fool I took him for, but he knows how far he may extend at each step.”

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