My Lady Quicksilver

Page 44

The doors shut and the elevation chamber started upwards. “Byrnes,” she guessed.

“Byrnes is our biggest problem,” Garrett admitted. “Though not the only one. Doyle thinks you ought to be whipped.”

“How fortunate that you obey Lynch’s commands still.”

He met her eyes then. “I’m still undecided.”

“Rosa?” Jeremy asked. “What’s going on?”

She stilled him with a hand. Urgency settled heavily on her shoulders. She had to get Jeremy out of here. Then she could deal with Lynch. This was all starting to confuse her. Her nerves—which should have settled—were stretching tighter. What wasn’t Garrett telling her?

Once they reached the ground level of the guild headquarters, Garrett ushered them down several dark corridors and halls. She kept expecting Nighthawks to leap out from behind each corner, but the halls were strangely silent.

“Perry’s keeping the others busy,” Garrett murmured, pausing before a heavy-set steel-bound door. When he swung it open, sunlight flooded in, revealing the back entrance to the guild and the alley behind it.

Rosalind’s spirits lifted immediately. She looked at Jeremy and met his astonished gaze before giving his hand a tremulous squeeze. She was free and Jeremy was safe. Jack and Ingrid would be so happy. And she—her elation died slightly.

She would speak to Lynch. Last night had to have meant something, didn’t it? She wouldn’t let this be the end of it.

Jeremy dashed through the door, tugging her after him. “Come on, Rosa. Let’s get the hell outta here.”

But she paused in the alley and glanced back at Garrett, Jeremy’s fingertips sliding through hers.

“Tell him that I’m sorry,” she said. “And thank him for this.”

“I can’t.” Garrett folded his arms over his chest and stared at her. This was what he’d been waiting for, she suddenly suspected, from the hungry, desperate look he gave her.

The hairs along the back of her neck lifted. Something was wrong.


That stare. As if it tried to peel the protective layers off her. “I promised I wouldn’t tell you. But I think you should know. There was a price for this, Rosalind. And he is going to pay it.”

“I don’t understand. What did he do? What price?”

“The Council gave him three weeks to find Mercury. Or he would share Mercury’s fate.”

The world went white around her. She thought she staggered, but she wasn’t sure. No. No! “When?” A whisper.

“Today.” Garrett was merciless. “It was him. Or it was you.”

And that was when she finally noticed the gleaming epaulets of the Guild Master on his own shoulders.


Rosalind had never fainted in her life, but she came close that afternoon in the alley. Garrett’s words took her like a harpoon in the chest.

It was him. Or it was you.

Stupid, stupid man! This was exactly what she’d been afraid of. Not of loving—it was far too late for that, it had been for days—but of being loved so much that another man lost his life before hers.

She couldn’t do this. Not again. Clapping her hand over her mouth, she groaned in pain as she bent at the waist. Her fault. All her cursed fault. She couldn’t watch another man die for her. She wouldn’t.

Don’t be weak. Lynch needed her to be strong, especially now.

Biting on her fist, she swallowed the hard bubble of emotion in her throat. Distantly, she realized that Jeremy was patting her back, his voice rising in increments as he demanded to know what was wrong with her. And she was suddenly so grateful that he was alive and well—that Lynch had given him to her. Yet another debt she owed him.

Her brother was safe. She’d done what she came to do. And Jack… Ingrid… It was their turn to look after him.

She looked at Garrett, throat dry and hoarse. Focus. “What are you going to do to free him?”

“Nothing.” Garrett shifted. “If it were just I, I’d take the chance. But I’ve had it explained to me very clearly that if I make one move, then every Nighthawk under my command will be cut down by metaljackets. All the young lads in training… Doyle, Byrnes… Perry.” That last name seemed an oversight but the way his voice softened, she knew exactly which face he was picturing now. “I can’t undo this. Not without starting a war between the Nighthawks and the Echelon. Besides, I’m running out of time. They threatened to execute him today.”

“How long has he been gone?” she asked, thinking furiously.

“An hour. I came to wake you as soon as he left.”

Of course. Because Garrett’s hands were tied and hers were not. She knew what he was asking. All of this had been a ploy to test her feelings for Lynch, the length she would go to save his life.

“I want you to go home to Jack,” she said to Jeremy, the words sounding as if they came from mechanical lips. “There is something that I have to do.”

Jeremy grabbed her hands, panicked. “What the hell’s goin’ on, Rosa?”

“Your sister is going to help me rescue Lynch,” Garrett replied, his shoulders slumping in relief.

Jeremy shook his head. “Aw, no. Ain’t no way I’m letting you do this. You’re goin’ up against the Echelon, ain’t you?”

“You can’t stop me,” she said wearily. “If I need to, I’ll have Garrett put you back in the cell until it’s done.”

“Till what’s done?” he demanded.

She couldn’t tell him. Her eyes met Garrett’s and she glared at him. Don’t you dare.

“I’m going to free Lynch,” she said. His life or mine. Curse the man. Curse him for a fool. Why the devil hadn’t he told her what he was planning? Or had he suspected this might be her reaction?

Of course not. He’d doubted her, doubted everything that lay between them. But the only reason he wouldn’t have told her was if he was afraid that she hadn’t been lying about how she felt.

“How?” Jeremy demanded, his eyes narrowing. He looked so mature all of a sudden—a man grown, not a boy. Then his eyes lost their worldly look. “And why?”

“Perhaps if I give them what they want,” she suggested, pasting a smile on her lips. “Or some part of it. We captured Mordecai last night. In the wake of the opera attack, I’m certain they’ll be after blood. We give them what they want.”

It wouldn’t be enough—not if Lynch hadn’t tried it himself. But Jeremy’s narrowed eyes lost their edge. He believed her. She almost choked on the lie.

“I’ll go,” he warned. “I’ll tell Jack what you’re doing.”

Jack wasn’t nearly as easy to fool as Jeremy. Rosalind kept the smile on her mouth. “Of course,” she said. “Give him…give him my love. And Ingrid too.” Reaching out, she stroked her hand over Jeremy’s arm and the fine red hairs there. Tell them to forgive me. “I’m so grateful to have you back.” At that she couldn’t help herself. She dragged him into her arms and hugged him tight, the smile dying as she pressed her face against his chest.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“Love you too,” Jeremy muttered, clearing his throat and shooting Garrett an embarrassed glance.

She stepped back. “You’d best go. Before one of the other Nighthawks realizes you’re missing.”

“I’ll fetch Jack,” he warned again. Perhaps not entirely fooled at all. Then he backed away, glanced up over the grim building, and spun toward the mouth of the alley.

She watched him go, her fingers curling into small fists. The rush of feeling was sweeping back into her now. The breaking point.

When she thought she had herself under control, she looked at Garrett. “Well?”

“An excellent performance.” He bowed his head slowly. “I’ll keep the Echelon off their trail.”

“Thank you.” Her mouth was dry. “You play a dangerous game.”

“I wasn’t entirely certain,” he admitted. “Whether you cared enough.”

“And now you know.”

Garrett scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Now I know. And so will he.”

She swallowed. She hadn’t thought of that. Lynch was going to be furious. “He’ll hate you for this.”

“I know.” Garrett offered her his arm. “That is my price to pay. I intended to present Mordecai to the Echelon but…I don’t think it will be enough. I’m sorry to ask this of you.”

“You don’t have to ask,” she replied. “Just tell him that I made the decision myself as soon as I heard. Tell him… Tell him that what I said last night… I meant every word.”


The prison cart was stuffed with straw, a biting wind creeping through every minute crack. Rosalind found herself shoved up into it ungracefully and spun to bare her teeth at Byrnes. He arched a cool brow at her, met Garrett’s challenging look, then turned and strode out of view.

“Sorry,” Garrett muttered, reaching up to help her to her feet. “He’s a cold bastard, but he looks on Lynch like a brother.”

Rosalind shrugged, sinking onto the narrow plank of wood that served as a seat. Slowly, she looked up and met the eyes of the man sitting opposite her. Mordecai shifted in his chains, squinting at her through a blackened eye. His gaze dropped to her unbound wrists. Not quite sure what she was doing here.

Garrett shut the door and the light faded. By the time the steam engine throbbed to life, her vision had adjusted enough to make out Mordecai’s grim expression.

“So we’re both dancin’ today.” He smiled, revealing a split lip. “Guess we’ll be findin’ out soon if that brother o’ yours is still alive.”

She didn’t bother to correct him. Instead, she curled her hands into her lap and looked down at them. Her stomach was a mess of nerves. The thought of being executed terrified her. For a moment she thought was going to be sick and shifted in her seat, unable to sit still. Her lungs seized.

Don’t think about it. Shove it all in that nice safe box where you don’t have to think about it.

Mordecai’s hot gaze drilled into the top of her head. “How’d they catch you?”

She didn’t particularly wish to speak to him, but at least it took her mind off what lay ahead. The prison cart lurched forward and she grabbed the seat. “I let my weaker emotions get the better of me.”

He laughed softly. “Emotions? You don’t got none. Most coldhearted bitch I e’er met.”

“I wish that were true.”

Silence. “So they got you an’ they got me. Who’s left? I assume none o’ me boys made it out o’ the opera alive?”

“Some,” she admitted. “The Nighthawks had the place surrounded however.”

He grunted. “And that brother o’ yours?”

She didn’t want to think of this either, for this meant she’d failed. There was a reason she’d led the cause and not Jack. “He and Ingrid are still unaccounted for by the Nighthawks.”

“Don’t mean shit,” he snorted. “Jack talks a treat, but I know he’s hidin’ somewhat beneath them clothes of his. He don’t lead no action, far as I saw.”

“He can’t,” she said. “His entire body was burned with acid.” By Balfour. When she’d chosen Nate over him. By the time she’d woken with a new hand and a fever, it had been too late. Balfour’s temper had cooled and he’d actually admitted some remorse over the action, but the damage had been done. “His skin’s too tight now. It hurts him to move quickly, though he can if he needs to.”

“You think he and that verwulfen bitch can ’old it together?”

Rosalind looked up. “I thought you hated them?”

A slow shrug. “Never liked you lot much. Still don’t. But ’ere we both sit. Ain’t no more o’ my mechs. We went at ’em ’ard—’arder than you e’er did—but the truth’s the truth. All the ’umanists left belonged to you and I ’ate the Echelon more than I e’er ’ated you.”

So many times she’d fought and argued with this man.

“We both made mistakes,” she admitted. “I should have included you and your brother in my schemes when you asked.” She took a deep breath. “I let pride and mistrust make my decisions, instead of thinking them through rationally.”

Interest flickered in his dark eyes. “That an apology?”

“The only one you’ll ever get,” she replied tartly.

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