The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Menace Page 18

Garrett straightened. “Miss Radcliffe, you’re doing well?”

Perry dragged the newspaper up in front of her face, in lieu of escaping.

“I-I hope you don’t think me forward.” Miss Radcliffe sounded breathy. “I thought perhaps you might care to... to take a stroll in the park? Or perhaps that play we spoke of?”

Every muscle in her body locked up tight, and Perry flipped the page, trying to focus. She’d made a promise to herself to guard her emotions better. It was harder to keep than she’d expected.

Garrett hesitated, then let his weight sink back onto the edge of the seat. “Some other time, perhaps.”

It was a clear dismissal. Perry shot Miss Radcliffe a shocked glance, then looked away swiftly, knowing that guilt drove him. Miss Radcliffe would never grace Garrett’s bed, because he’d never be able to look at her without thinking of Perry’s near-drowning.

Perry tried not to listen as Miss Radcliffe stammered her goodbyes. It didn’t matter if he said no this time. There’d always be another Miss Radcliffe. Another blonde, or brunette, or redhead, but it wouldn’t matter, because it would never be a young woman with dyed black hair, and the harsh black leather body armour of a Nighthawk.

It would never be her.

“What’s wrong?”

Perry looked up, hot blue eyes meeting hers. There was nothing of guile about his gaze. Perhaps that was what she admired most about Garrett. What you saw was what you got. He truly cared for people, and was astonishingly perceptive toward their moods. Particularly hers. “Nothing,” she lied and tried to paste a smile on her lips. “You should go after Miss Radcliffe,” she made herself say. “The case is over and she... she has my approval. She’s much nicer than your usual standard of conquest.”

“Is she now?” He grimaced. “No. I don’t think I will.”

“You deserve to take some time off after such a case. A walk in the park would do you good.”

“No, Perry.” His expression twisted. “My heart’s not in it. Besides, I had something else in mind.” Reaching inside his jacket, he produced a pair of tickets. “‘A Lady Well Educated.’ It’s playing at the Royalty this evening. Not quite the tragedy you prefer, but I’m told it’s hilarious. Somewhat risqué perhaps.” His shoulder nudged hers, his gaze a challenge. “You might enjoy it. Care to join me?”

Perry stared at the tickets, her heart starting a slow kick in her chest. It means nothing. And perhaps it would be good to do something together. Something that would reaffirm their friendship, and place this whole mess in the past.

A truce.

“I’d much rather see something like a ‘A Gentleman Well Behaved’,” she drawled, “but why not?”

“A well-behaved gentleman is a rather boring affair.” He caught her fingers and dragged her to her feet, the paper tumbling to the floor. “And good, for they cost me a small fortune. Best seats in the house... and I don’t just do that for anyone, luv.”

His wicked smile turned her heart, but Perry ruthlessly fought it down. It was past time to put aside her hurt feelings - and these newer, troubling ones that afflicted her. Time to bury them for good, for nothing could ever come of them.

“Aren’t I special then?” she said, and knew the words meant nothing.