My Lady Quicksilver

Page 47

“It’s a dangerous path,” Lynch said bluntly.

“Less so than my previous one.” She took a deep breath. “Do you remember that boiler pack I was trying to smuggle from the enclaves?”

He nodded.

“It’s designed to power an automaton. We call them the Cyclops. They’re built large enough for a man to sit inside them and manipulate them and they’ve enough firepower to handle four of the Echelon’s metaljackets.”

Lynch’s eyes narrowed on her. “How many do you have?”

“Not enough. Not yet,” she admitted. “And most likely I won’t pursue the project. You were right. This can’t be won by outright war.”

He scraped a hand over the back of his neck. “That doesn’t ease my mind one whit.”

“What would you suggest? That I pursue a hearth and home, perhaps take up knitting?”

The sudden smoky intensity of his gaze unnerved her. “That’s not quite what I had in mind. Besides, you would probably stab someone with your knitting needle.”

Rosalind couldn’t help herself. Her heart began to quicken, her fingers toying uselessly with each other. Her gaze dropped to them. Damned hands. Always betraying her. “I see. And what did you intend for me?”

“Damn it, Rosa. Do we have to be so formal?”

Again she lived in uncertainty. Looking up, she found the hard line of his jaw clenched. He had never been a man given to much emotion, but she saw it, gleaming in his pale eyes and pinched nostrils. A man holding himself so tightly he was afraid to let go.

But one of them must. Or they’d exist in this exquisite politeness until the carriage pulled up and then he would help her down and offer some platitude and she would probably accept it, watching as he left.

To take that next step scared her. But she wasn’t as afraid as she had been. She’d thought once that to love again would be the worst that could ever happen to her, but it wasn’t. To come so close to losing him had shown her how small such a fear could be.

“I waited for you for the last three nights,” she said in a small, choked voice. “I was so certain you would come for me. But you didn’t. I had to do something with my time. I was going out of my mind—”

“Hell, Rosa. I wanted to come. I thought—you weren’t there. When I turned around you’d gone and… There were things I desperately needed to take care of.”


“Balfour,” he said gruffly. As she stiffened, he reached out and took her hand. “He won’t bother you again, Rosa. Indeed, he has no desire to hurt you. He’s almost as intent as I in seeing that the prince consort never hears the truth of Mercury.”

Heat flashed through her. “Why?”

“I believe he regrets what happened. No matter what you may feel, he seems fond of you and quite proud.”

Rosalind tore her fingers from his. “It’s a ploy.”

Reaching out, Lynch tried to touch her again but she was too agitated. What was he saying? That in his fury, Balfour had done something he’d regretted? She shook her head. No. He’d killed Nate and crippled her brother. That was unforgivable.

“If it is a ploy, then I am prepared for him,” Lynch said quietly. “You mentioned that he asked you to assassinate several persons for him. I would like the details, when you are ready. I want to prepare a full case against him, in case he decides to manipulate you. I’ve spoken to Barrons about it and he’s prepared to press the case for me.”

“Blackmail?” she asked, swallowing the hard knot in her throat. “I would never have expected it.”

“Leverage,” he corrected. “Balfour once said I am predictable. Maybe I was. But not anymore.” His expression darkened. “I have had enough of being manipulated by those in power. I won’t be threatened anymore—and I won’t have those I consider mine threatened either.”

The look he gave her left her in no confusion as to whom he referred to.

“And us?” she whispered. “What of us? You said—”

“I know what I said.” His face darkened, his eyes going black with heat and need. “Rosalind… When you walked into that chamber…” He shuddered, each word said so precisely that it was clear he was barely holding on. “I know what you intended. I could see it all over your face. Don’t you ever do that again.”

“What was I to do? Let you die in my place? It nearly killed me when Garrett told me what you were planning.” Everything that she’d been holding inside for the last few days boiled up. Heat raced behind her eyes. “You stupid man! You should have told me what the prince consort was demanding! I can’t believe you… You—you didn’t even say good-bye…”

She couldn’t help herself. She was so angry. Or hurt. Or…something she couldn’t quite explain, even to herself. Leaping toward him, Rosalind balled her fist and drove it into his arm. Lynch caught her wrists, dragging her forward.

“Damn you,” she snapped, then his mouth took hers and the words were lost.

She slid her hands into his hair and yanked his face closer to hers. The hard edge of violence rode him, the muscles in his arms quivering with restraint as she raked her hands down them. She didn’t want restraint. She hated it, hated the distant politeness, the way her emotions sat in a hard ball in the center of her chest. She let it all out, biting at his tongue just enough to sting.

As if the move goaded him into action, he growled deep in his throat, one hand fisting in her hair as he arched her back, his other hand grabbing a handful of her arse and hauling her closer. Rosalind’s knees drove into the hard leather seats, her skirts bunching between them as he settled her firmly in his lap. Too many damned skirts. She caught a fistful of them and wrenched them out of the way, and then she could feel the hard steel of his erection between them, separated from her own flesh by his trousers and the barest silk slither of her drawers.

Lynch swept her bustle out of the way, and then his hand drove low between the back of her legs, fingers sliding over the delicate puckered rosebud of her bottom and deeper still, where the silk pressed wetly against her flesh. Rosalind’s head spun, a gasp tearing from her bruised lips.

“Oh God,” she whispered, grinding against him. Suddenly she couldn’t hold herself back anymore. She needed to feel him against her, feel his cool-as-silk skin, taste it on her tongue. Shaking fingers found the buttons on his black waistcoat and then Rosalind was tugging, frantic in her haste, buttons tearing free from the lush velvet—hot and shivery and so close to coming apart that she couldn’t breathe.

The fingers between her thighs slid mercilessly between the thin slit of her drawers. Against her wet flesh. She groaned, grabbed a handful of his waistcoat and tore it open.

“Easy, my love, easy…”

Rosalind kissed the smile from his lips. She didn’t want easy. She wanted now. Somehow she had his shirt open and then she was dragging her mouth down his throat, her teeth rasping against the flat disk of his nipple. Lynch’s hand fisted in her hair, and he sucked in a sharp gasp. He couldn’t quite reach her now, his other hand clenching in the mound of her arse. She needed the respite. She wanted him to be with her this time, and if he kept it up, she’d have come in seconds.

Her hand slid down between them, grasping the straining length of his cock through the tight material of his trousers. Kissing her way down, Rosalind started tugging at his laces, her lips brushing through the line of hair that arrowed south from his navel…

“Enough,” Lynch rasped, grabbing her hips and swinging her around so that she straddled him backwards.

Shoving through the layers of skirts, he found her wet and wanting. One hard jerk and her drawers were gone. Then he fumbled between them and suddenly she could feel the silky-soft brush of his erection. Grabbing her by the hips he eased her back, sheathing himself inside her with one firm thrust.

Rosalind threw her head back, biting her lower lip until it hurt. Her bottom nestled against his lap, his breath harsh and cool against the back of her neck. Firm hands caught her hips, eased her into a rocking motion. Then they were sliding up, cupping her breasts from behind, thrusting them high.

“Faster,” she whispered, her thighs burning as she rode him. Strands of her coppery hair tumbled down around her face as her head fell forward, her lip held fast between her teeth.

Lynch’s fingers found her and she cried out, her body slowing on his, unable to move, her thighs quivering as she hovered there. It was too much. She grabbed at his knees, holding on, his hips moving beneath her…slowly…torturously… As if he wanted to feel every last second of this.

The world went white. Rosalind jerked, her body clutching at his greedily as pleasure washed over her.

She couldn’t hold her balance anymore. All she wanted was to wilt over him like a flower, bonelessly, blissed out on pleasure. He wouldn’t let her. One hand thrust out, shoving aside the small curtain, and then she could feel cold glass beneath her touch, fingers spread and grasping for something—anything—to hold on to.

“I missed you,” he whispered in her ear. “I was so angry at you, yet the thought of not having you… It did something to me. Tore something deep inside.”

His words set off another cascade of pleasure within her—this time of the soul.

“I missed you,” Rosalind admitted. “But I couldn’t stand it anymore. I needed you to know the truth.”

“Aye.” He kissed her shoulder, slowly grinding against her again. “I’m glad you told me.” She felt his lips twitch against her skin. “Though the timing could have been better.”

Another slow grind. Rosalind shifted, rolling her hips. Pushing away from the window, she arched her back and lay back against his shoulder, sliding a hand up his throat. Clenching her inner muscles, she heard him curse softly, under his breath.

“You like that?” she whispered.

“Minx.” But his hands were quivering on her hips and he urged her faster. Each squeeze drew a sharp intake of breath from him. “You drive me insane.” He groaned and pressed his lips to her shoulder. Teeth sank into the soft muscle there as he thrust hard against her. Hoarsely, “Want you so much, so damned much…”

He pressed her against him, one hand on her abdomen as he gasped. Rosalind squeezed hard, feeling his body shake around her as he climaxed. She loved this feeling, the power she had over him, the way the world seemed as though it belonged to just the two of them.

Lynch collapsed back against the seat with a groan, dragging her with him. Long minutes ticked by as she lay back in his arms. She didn’t want this to ever end.

“I never thought I’d miss the mask,” he murmured, kissing a blazing trail across her trapezius. “But I like this too. Having you so vulnerable beneath me—atop me. Knowing that it’s you. That it was always you.” His teeth sank into her skin and she gasped.

A little uncomfortable now. “It wasn’t always me. Not… Not the true me.”

“You don’t think I see her?” he whispered, nuzzling her throat. “The true Rosalind? Cerise?”

Rosalind pushed away from him, turning in his lap to face him. “I’m not Cerise.”

“She’s as much a part of you as Mrs. Marberry was. Or Mercury. I can see pieces of them all in you. You shouldn’t be ashamed.” His hand came up, cupped her face, his thumb stroking over her mouth. Those glorious gray eyes dropped too. As if he were thinking of tasting it again. “All of those pieces are you, Rosa. They made you what you are. Even Cerise…the girl who hurt…the girl who didn’t want to exist anymore… You wouldn’t be you, who you are, without her.”

Tears stung her eyes that he should see it so clearly. She swallowed hard, wanting to kiss him again. But that was the coward’s way out. A way to hide herself, to express herself without speech. “I wanted to destroy her,” she whispered. “Because she didn’t deserve to live after what she’d done. I wanted to be Rosalind. A new start. Away from all of the guilt. All of the hurt. If I finished what Nate started… It was a way to make things right, to find…forgiveness…”

That cool hand cupped her face, made her feel safe. So safe. Rosalind tilted her cheek into the touch, like a cat. Nothing had ever felt better than this, than being in his arms. A wet tear slid down her cheek.

“He forgave you,” Lynch said gently.

“You don’t know that.”

“I do.” He insisted. “That is what it means to love another.”

The words stole her breath. With them came hope. Then his arms crushed her against him, holding her so tightly it were as if some part of him were afraid she’d be torn from his grasp.

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