The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Menace Page 17

“So you killed her?”

“As if I got my own hands dirty,” Rommell snarled.

That explained his alibi for the day Nelly went missing. He’d bloody paid someone else to do the job.

The other assailant, no doubt.

“How did you find out that Nelly’s heart lay elsewhere?” Thoughts raced through Garrett’s mind. Was it the posy of peonies that had tipped Rommell off? “You had someone in the theatre spying on her, didn’t you?” If so, then Rommell had put someone into the theatre only recently - as the first lot of peonies had come on Nelly’s birthday - and from the theatre records, only one man had been recently employed. “It’s Millington, isn’t it? You saw the peonies, and how much Nelly adored them, and so you set someone into the theatre to find out who had sent her the flowers. And he tracked Nelly back to James Hobb, didn’t he?” No doubt Nelly had gone to visit her brother, never knowing just what trouble was following her.

“Very well done, Reed,” Rommell’s voice was silky. “A shame you’re not going to be able to do anything about this information.”

“Lovecraft saw Hobbs die, and followed Millington back to the theatre, didn’t he?” Garrett continued, as though he’d said nothing.

“Actually, I walked straight into him as I were leavin’ Hobbs’ shop,” Millington offered. “Guess the filthy bastard figured out what had happened, and followed me.”

“I’m here,” Perry whispered, through the aural communicator. “Keep them talking. I’m going after Millington. His lordship’s holding that pistol like it’s a dueling weapon, but Millington’s creeping up on your left.”

Relief was swift. “Be careful,” he whispered, then lifted his head to call, “A shame that Millington wasn’t more thorough. You killed the wrong man. Hobbs was Nelly’s half-brother. Her lover is still alive.”

Silence greeted his response.

“What?” Rommell asked, in the kind of voice that indicated he had directed his words at Millington.

“Don’t move!” Perry’s voice rang out from behind them all. “You’re both under arrest for murder, and conspiracy to murder.”

A shot rang out, and Perry cursed. Three more shots fired in rapid succession.

That drove Garrett to his feet. “Perry?” he called, easing past the prop just enough to see. Was she all right?

Millington was dead on the ground at Perry’s feet, and she had her pistol trained on Rommell, who returned the stance.

Garrett eyed his lordship through his own shaking sights. “Drop your weapon, my lord. I won’t hesitate in shooting you.” A nasty little smile curled over his mouth. “Indeed, I’d quite enjoy it.”

Rommell stepped forward coldly, his pistol focused on Perry, and his eyes flickering to Garrett. “And now we face a conundrum, Reed. Because I’ll shoot the bitch, regardless of whether I go down too. I promise you that. Perhaps you should put your we–”

Perry kicked the pistol out of Rommell’s hand. She spun, drilling her knee up into Rommell’s balls, and then drove an elbow sideways into his ear when he crumpled with a scream.

“You, my lord, are under arrest,” she said, yanking the pair of manacles from her belt, and jerking Rommell’s arms up behind him with visible relish. She snapped the cuffs into place. “For orchestrating the murders of Nelly Tate, James Hobbs, and the man known as Lovecraft.”

“One crucial mistake, my lord.” Garrett gave a pained laugh. “You should never underestimate a woman with a gun.”

Rommell looked like he was crying. “You b-bitch! Don’t you know who... I am...?”

Perry stuffed her handkerchief in his lordship’s mouth, and gagged him. “Of course I know who you are. You’re the man who’s going to be decapitated for his crimes. It’s going to be all through the papers, so all of London society shall know who you are too.”

“Nice work,” Garrett said, leaning back against the wall, and pressing his hand against the bullet wound in his shoulder. Pain flared up his nerves, but he breathed through it.

“I just needed his attention focused elsewhere.” Perry gave a fluid shrug. “Thank you.” Then her eyes locked on him, her irises darkening as the hunger within her rose. “You’re bleeding.”

“I’ll live.” Garrett slid down the wall, his back pressed hard against the timber paneling. Bloody hell. His legs felt like jellied meat.

Stepping over Rommell, Perry hurried to Garrett’s side and knelt, the tight leather of her trousers straining over her lean thighs. “Are you all right?”

“Rommell’s about as good a shot as he is at seducing women.”

“Bad jests? I guess you can’t be that injured.” Still, she frowned. “Let me look at it.”

Garrett endured her poking and prodding. Her dark hair tumbled over her eyes as she bent her head closer to examine his wound. “Through and through,” she said, in relief. “By the time we get back to the Guild, it probably won’t even require stitching. It’s already healing.”

“Excellent.” He felt somewhat dizzy; just enough that he actually leaned toward her.

Perry slipped her shoulder under his. Vanilla oil flavoured the air he breathed, along with the faint scent of the soap she used. “Do you think you’re well enough to stand? I’ll need to contact the Guild so that they may fetch Rommell.”

The faint flicker of her pulse in her throat caught Garrett’s attention. His vision blackened out again, becoming nothing more than shadows as the hunger surged within him.

Garrett squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed. “Perry,” he warned.

She knew better than to come near an injured blueblood. Stillness radiated through her as Perry realized it. Feeling her gaze upon him, he opened his own eyes.

Hers were very big and gray, surrounded by thick dark lashes. She was so close, that if he wasn’t reigning himself in sharply, Garrett could have closed his fist in her hair, and dragged her head back to reveal that tantalizing throat.

And she knew it too. Perry’s startled outtake of breath dampened his lips. Her eyes widened even further, and for a moment he was lost in them, as blackness chased the color from her irises.

So close... And he wanted to do it, Garrett realized. Wanted to taste the sweet, cool slide of her blood. Every muscle in his core trembled from the sheer want of it. Hell. He turned his face away, letting out a shuddering breath.

“Here.” Perry tugged a flask of blood from inside her coat, and unscrewed the lid, her cheeks flushing with color. “Drink this.”

He could almost scent the heated blood in her veins, and his darkened gaze dipped to her throat once more, but Garrett forced himself to drink from the flask, sating some part of his dark hungers, at least.

A bloodletting was always an intimate event between a blue blood, and the woman he drank from. It was also highly pleasurable for both of them. His c**k hardened at the thought, and Garrett shifted his knee so that Perry wouldn’t notice.

Hell, if she even suspected where his thoughts were going she’d probably drive a knee into said balls. She’d never let him forget it either. Or no, he thought, glancing at the color in her cheeks - perhaps she would. Perhaps they’d both pretend it had never happened.

It’s not going to happen. Not her, he told himself angrily - or the darker, hungrier part that didn’t care that she was his friend and partner.

The hunger. That was all this was. Though he’d never felt its grip quite this tightly before.

You’ve never been shot before, either, he reminded himself.

“Thanks.” Garrett handed her the flask, and tipped his head back in a sigh. The burning sensation in his shoulder had lessened, and the room wasn’t swimming as much as it had been.

“Think you can manage?” she asked.

“I’m fine. I’ll keep an eye on Rommell.”

“Good.” Perry straightened. “I’ll go send a ‘gram to the Guild.”

Garrett watched her go, and breathed a little sigh of relief that she was no longer here to torment him.


LYNCH LEANED BACK in his chair, his fingers forming a steeple in his lap as he listened to their report. “The one thing I don’t understand is how Rommell thought he would get away with murdering two Nighthawks, let alone three other people?”

“It’s a particular failing of his,” Garrett replied diplomatically. “Rommell seems to think he can buy his way out of any problem.”

“His head is in his arse, sir,” Perry added.

Lynch’s firm mouth softened into a faint smile as he eyed them both. “Is that everything?”

“Yes, sir,” Garrett said, standing to attention. “Though Rommell’s demanding a trial before the Council of Dukes. Says no human murder is going to bring down a man of his standing, and that he didn’t get his hands dirty - that Millington planned it all.”

Lynch grimaced. “That’s going to be hard to prove.”

“Not impossible. We have bank records for Millington, proving a rather substantial sum was deposited there by Lord Rommell, plus Rommell’s stated confession to both Perry and I. And the murder weapon was discovered to have come from Rommell’s collection - he’s a weapons enthusiast, though he has more skill at collecting them, than using them. Both the Webley and the Colt are accounted for, according to his records, and Fitz is adamant that they were used in the murders.”

Lynch slowly nodded. “Good work. I’ll see if I can place some pressure on the Council to make the right choices. An example should be made. If the human classes realize that the Echelon is trying to hush this up, they’ll end up rioting.”

“Thank you, sir,” both Perry and Garrett echoed.

The chair creaked as Lynch leaned back in it. “And your argument? You’ve worked matters out between you?”

Without looking, Garrett knew Perry was blushing. “We have,” he told Lynch. “A minor disagreement, nothing else. It’s done.”

Or at least, he hoped it was bloody well done.

“This doesn’t happen again, do you both understand?” Lynch’s eyes were lazy and hooded, but Garrett knew that it didn’t make the guild master any less dangerous.

“It won’t happen again,” Perry said. The vehemence in her voice made him look at her.

“It won’t happen again,” Garrett agreed, in a quieter voice, though he was thinking of what had almost happened to her, rather than the argument.

That was over now. He had to keep telling himself that. Perry was safe, and now that she’d accepted the knife from him, he’d always have a way to find her if he needed to. The tracking device was a small, hard lump in his coat pocket, correlating directly to the beacon in the knife.

A crisp nod - the matter was evidently finished in Lynch’s eyes. “Dismissed, then.”

They both let out a sigh of relief.

Two days later...

The teahouse near the Guild was filled with the noise of teacups rattling against their saucers, and the dull murmur of conversation. Perry sank back into a studded, red leather armchair, and shook out the paper.

Garrett leaned on the edge of her chair, and peered over her shoulder, tugging at the top page. “Not even the bloody front page. How’s that for gratitude?”

“Lynch is trying to keep Rommell’s part in this quiet until the court case is finalized,” she said irritably, shaking the paper free of his grasp, and smoothing the crumpled sheets. “His house is a powerful one. The Duke of Morioch is his cousin, I believe.”

“Don’t know how you keep track of them all...” His voice trailed off, which was good, as she didn’t quite know how to answer that.

Lie to him about her origins? The thought made her feel uncomfortable. They rarely spoke about where they’d come from, and she was quite content with that. After all, what was she to say? Surprise, Garrett, I grew up with a copy of Lady Hammersley’s Guide to the Peerage in my hands. I know every lord in the land, and even their consorts and thralls - or I did once. I also know how to curtsy and dance, and play the pianoforte horrendously...

And I’m not quite as innocent as you presume.

After all, Perry knew what had put that look into his eyes that day in the theatre, when he’d been shot. The craving. It wasn’t the first time that a man had looked at her like that. She knew what it felt like for a man’s weight to press down over hers, his lips to brush against her throat, his blood-letting knife finding purchase there with a sharp sting...

Perry suppressed a shudder of mingled lust and fear. The duke will never find you. You know that. And you’re a blue blood now, not a frightened young thrall, with no allies, no one to turn to...

That girl is dead. You buried her - and the past - and no one is ever going to find out she still exists.

A part of her wished she believed the words she told herself.

The sound of heeled boots on the timber floorboards caught her attention. That, and the sudden stiffening through Garrett’s hard frame. Perry looked up, pushing away thoughts of the past.

Miss Radcliffe swirled her parasol on the floor, her lacy gloves tightening over her knuckles. She smiled hesitantly, dark eyes flashing over the pair of them. “I apologise for the interruption. I called at the Guild, but your friend, Mr Byrnes, gave me your direction here.”

She wasn’t speaking to Perry. Perry tried to sink into the armchair, but there was nowhere for her to go. She had a great deal of respect for the young lady. Miss Radcliffe had shown incredible grace during a difficult time; what with Nelly’s murder, the pressure of stepping into the lead role, and Rommell using Millington to try and scare Miss Radcliffe into his bed, with his fake-kidnapping attempt in the back alley, and the red roses from a ‘mysterious suitor’. That didn’t mean that Perry wanted to witness this conversation.

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