My Lady Quicksilver

Page 25

“Then you may as well abort the mission.”

“No.” She dropped her glove on one of the frilly little table covers that haunted the room. Every inch of space was taken up with knickknacks and lamps and lace doilies. “I’m learning too much and I’m in the perfect position to hear the latest news from the Echelon.”

“And if he discovers you?”

“He won’t,” Rosalind affirmed.

Ingrid growled under her breath. “So what next?”

Rosalind paused by the liquor cabinet and unstoppered a decanter of whiskey. She poured the pair of them a generous shot. “Lynch needs to find the humanists who bombed the tower.”

“Hardly news.”

“So I’m going to point him toward the mechs. I think it’s time Mordecai had a taste of what it’s like to look over your shoulder.”

Ingrid took her glass and clinked it against Rosalind’s. “I’ll drink to that.” She threw the glass back. “How do you propose to do that without blowing your cover?”

Rosalind swirled the contents of her glass in the lamplight, watching the play of light. Exhilaration beat in her breast and lower—a longing unfulfilled. “I’m not. Mercury is.”

Time to take a risk.

And time to assuage the restless ache inside her. She threw the whiskey back, feeling it burn all the way through her.


Feeling thwarted, Lynch sank under the waters in the pump room, the biting hot bringing a flush of warmth to his flesh. Scraping his hands over his tired face, he surfaced, blinking through the water droplets.

Steam lingered on the surface of the bathing pool and clung to the stone pillars that supported the heavy domed ceiling. The drone of the enormous furnaces and the pumps that drove water throughout the building echoed in the walls. Years ago, Fitz had taken one look at the plumbing and devised a system of hot water that not only supplied the entire guild but ran heated pipes through the stone floors too; the by-product of that bit of genius was this. The heat from the furnaces had to go somewhere, Fitz had said. Why not use it for a bathing room, much like the ones the Romans built centuries ago?

If there was one indulgence Lynch owned, it was this.

Easing against the edge of the pool, he shut his eyes and let his body float. His cold blood made him crave the heat like one of the mythical dragons the Chinese Empire spoke of.

The steady throb of the pump engines filled the room, vibrating against his skin. Lynch let his mind float free, trying to forget about the afternoon and the incident with Mrs. Marberry. She hadn’t been here when he returned and guilt added a sour flavor to his mouth. Did she regret what had happened? Perhaps it was for the best. He couldn’t imagine what he was going to say to her on the morrow. Seducing his own employee…

Water rippled against his chest, gentle little waves that lapped at his skin. Lynch scraped his wet hair back and then froze.

There was nothing to stir the water but his own body.

He cracked his eyes open and stared at the shadow-wreathed figure on the other side of the pool. She knelt at the tiled edge, steam obscuring her face as she traced her fingers through the water.

His body screamed its awareness as Mercury smiled at him. Her eyes were covered, this time with a leather half mask that reminded him of Carnevale. Brass studs curled up one side in decoration and the thin gleam of her eyes watched him through the cat-slit eye holes.

“Why look,” she drawled huskily, “it’s me Lord Nighthawk…in the flesh.”

The double entendre stirred through his gut with hot fingers. Lynch lowered his hands slowly, relaxing his arms back on the edge of the pool. A muscle ticked in his jaw. She’d come here on purpose, no doubt to disarm him.

She would learn. He was never disarmed, never anything short of lethal and right now his temper was roused.

Barely eight feet of water separated them. He could cover that distance in a second, but from the way she edged onto the balls of her feet, she was expecting that. No doubt there were more than a few weapons hiding under that overwhelming brown coat.

And she wouldn’t have come here without reason. His curiosity was aroused.

Lynch forced his body to relax, though it was hard. Mrs. Marberry had destroyed him this afternoon and he could barely gather his thoughts—or his rampant lust—long enough to deal with the revolutionary. “You do realize there are over a hundred Nighthawks in this building?”

“And yet not one of them noticed me.” Her smile taunted him. “Not even you.” Pointing a forefinger at him, she made a shooting gesture that wasn’t lost on him.

His gaze hooded. “If you wanted me dead, I would be.” He’d give her that. “I just didn’t realize you wanted me naked.”

“All the better to seduce you, me lord.”

That made him laugh. “So you can overwhelm me again? I think not. I make mistakes, my dear, but only once and only rarely.”

“So I’m a mistake, am I?”

“I don’t precisely know what you are. But I will.” He let his own smile edge over his lips. “I never intended it to be difficult to get into the guild. Getting out is another matter.”

Mercury slowly unfolded herself, revealing dark red skirts hooked up just enough to reveal a flirtatious froth of petticoat and a bronze corset-style bodice that thrust her pale breasts high. The same brass studs that decorated her mask ran along a heavy belt that held her pistol and her dark hair curled over her shoulder. It wasn’t coincidence that her coat had fallen back, barely clinging to her pale shoulders.

His throat went dry. He’d never seen a woman dressed like that before. It was indecent. Scandalous. And he wanted her more than ever.

His dreams lately had been of another woman, but right now, temptation roared. His slender secretary who liked to drive him wild, or a woman he barely knew, his sweetest obsession?

“You’ll lemme go,” she said with a careless shrug. The coat slipped a fraction more, revealing her rounded shoulder. “The alternative’s the Echelon’s dungeons and I ain’t thinkin’ you want that.”

“What I want doesn’t always matter.”

“Don’t you ever give into your urges, me lord?”


“You should.” Another slow suggestive smile that sunk through his gut with iron-tipped claws. “Why don’t you come out of the water?” She kicked the toe of her boot through the surface, sending a shower of droplets toward him.

“Why don’t you come in?”

“I wouldn’t want to get meself wet.”

Lynch pushed away from the edge. He kept his eyes on her, not trusting her an inch. Steam curled around him as he stood, shaking off the water.

Mercury took a wary step back. “I’ll get your towel,” she said, dragging it off the hook it hung on. Turning, she held it out, staying a good five feet away from the water.

Lynch found the steps that led out of the bathing pool and ascended with cool disregard for his nakedness. Water sluiced down his skin, steam rising from his bare arms as he lifted his hands and raked his wet hair back. When he glanced at her, the little smile had died, replaced by something far more watchful.

He took his time, flicking off water droplets before holding his hand out. “The towel?”

A husky laugh greeted him. “Now, why would I want to do that?” Another slow, heated look that caressed his body. “Me lord Nighthawk, imagination does you no justice at all.”

“I would like to be able to say the same.” He stepped closer.

Her smile remained, but he sensed the coiling of muscle within her at his abrupt nearness. So she was not so certain of his intentions? Good.

“I’d like to indulge,” Mercury replied, her iron hand clenching in the toweling. “But I think we’d both prefer it if I kept me mask. Adds a little, what’s them Frenchies say? Jay nay say—”

“Je ne sais quoi.” A certain little indescribable something. An edge. For the first time, he had the impression that she was toying with him. She knew exactly what she meant to say. He frowned slightly. The cockney was distracting, which was precisely the point, he imagined.

Who was she? His hands ached to remove the mask, to reveal her identity to him. He could do it too, before she even knew he’d moved.

And then?

She was right. He liked the mask, the mystery. It drove him to distraction and yet he was not quite prepared to solve the puzzle of her identity. To do so would mean he had to act on it and reluctance sat heavily on his shoulders.

Lynch grabbed her hands where they clenched the towel and dragged them around his waist. The soft toweling brushed against his groin as Mercury landed flush against him, her sharp intake of breath telling him he’d succeeded in disarming her.

“Desire cuts both ways, my dear.”

She looked up, her corset pressed flush against his chest. The angle thrust her breasts into smooth globes he ached to touch. “So it does.”

Letting go of her hands, he drew the ends of the towel tight and tucked one edge into the other. Mercury’s hands trailed over his hips, her head lowering in curious exploration and Lynch suddenly understood her. Whatever had happened between them in the enclaves—whatever he thought he had lost—she had lost too.

“So what makes you think I won’t just hand you over to the Echelon?” he asked.

Her fingertip trailed down the smooth trail of hair beneath his navel, tangling in the dark strands. It brushed the edge of the towel and hooked against the fabric as she tugged, just gently enough to be suggestive. Lynch sucked in a sharp breath.

“I think you want me for yourself.”

“That’s a dangerous assumption to make considering where you are.” She seemed so certain he wouldn’t hurt her.

Could he? That shadowed gaze met his behind the mask. He couldn’t see her eyes, but he felt the connection as their gazes locked. It ran a hot hand through his body, wrapping tightly around his cock. His erection stirred against the toweling and Mercury noticed. She wet her lips, her finger sliding more securely behind the towel.

“Did I presume wrong?” The mask challenged him; he desperately wanted to see behind it.

And just as desperately did not. A hollow feeling pooled in his gut. Instinct. Whatever her secret was, a part of him didn’t want to know it.

Why? His expression turned hard. He’d learned to trust that instinct over the years, but what was it telling him?

“No,” he said softly. “You didn’t presume wrong.”

The air between them changed. Stillness radiated through her as if he’d surprised her. Lynch’s gaze dropped to her mouth. He knew he was going to do it. Call it madness or insanity, he couldn’t help himself.

One hand slid around the curve of her nape, cradling the stark line of her skull. The edge of a wig cut into his hand and his mind filed that away for future pondering, even as his mouth descended on hers.

The moment their lips touched he felt the spark of it all the way through him. He wanted her. Not to capture her, not to turn her over to the prince consort, but just to have her. As his.

The thought was madness. There could be no future in this, nothing behind the heat of sex and hunger. Mercury was a shadow; he knew nothing about her. But she was his shadow, his challenge, his obsession. Mrs. Marberry was a temptation he couldn’t afford, a dream of something he’d long since thought gone, but this…this was safe enough to risk.

Violent need swept through him, ignited by passion and frustration. He growled deep in his throat and slid a hand down the smooth curve of her back to the full flesh of her arse. Pressing her against him, he sucked in a sharp breath as his hips rode against the soft juncture of her thighs.

Lynch squeezed his eyes shut, sensation spearing through his groin with white-hot abandon. Her tongue darted into his mouth and he crushed her against him, trying to drink her all in, to take everything he could of her. Lifting her against him, he drove her back against one of the marble columns, her thighs locking around his hips and her skirts riding up between them. A little gasp drove from her throat, then she was kissing him again, her iron hand sliding over his nape as she rolled her hips, straining against him.

Lynch tore his mouth free, gasping as his hips pinned her to the column. He didn’t think. Couldn’t. Need was a vicious beast within him, so hungry for release that he could barely see through the gray haze of his vision. Somehow his hunger had risen and he grabbed her wig and wrenched her head back, his lips sliding over the smooth skin of her throat. The heady kick of her pulse vibrated against his tongue and Lynch bit down, his teeth sinking into the soft flesh with a warning.

Mercury stilled, her iron fingers curling in his hair, just this side of painful. Her heart thundered like a panicked animal in her chest, her breath coming in little gasps that punctuated the air.

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