His greatest creation could be the death of them both.
One woman swears to avenge the savagery of a ruthless killer loose on the streets of Lundun; if only she can stay one step ahead of an inventor who fears that his greatest work, a labor of love, has turned on humanity.
Grieving the loss of her beloved cousin, Ella Wilder is determined to catch the murderer. Infuriated by the fumblings of the constable, she seeks the assistance of a handsome noble who seems to be looking for his own answers, and whose reluctance tells her he has something to hide. Over time, hesitant intimacy grows into fiery passion but brings them no closer to finding the madman.
As the killer reveals darker inventions that blur the boundary between man and machine, Ella fights the fear he may be after her next. Can Ella trust her heart to the man who refuses to share his secrets yet swears to protect her? Will Bennett be able to choose between keeping terrifying family secrets…or losing Ella to the iron-hearted killer who stalks the night?
Product WarningsThis book contains a dirigible, flying machines, automatons, a sexy but secretive hero, a stubborn heroine, and a very determined killer.
Copyright © 2012 Leslie Dicken
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Bennett Pierce, Lord Barrington, watched out the window to see the district leaders gather on his lawn below. Several looked over to the dirigible, no doubt anticipating the ride planned for later.
Yes, he would show them his latest creations, bring them up in his father’s aircraft and none would be the wiser of the disaster in his soul.
His father, dead of pneumonia, had never permitted the Syndicate of Provinces to be held at Barrington Hall. Secrets. Shame. The reasons didn’t matter.
Bennett would change that. The Barringtons would not be judged by their silence or aloofness. Curiosity brought thieves and snooping. Neither of which he could tolerate. He needed privacy.
He breathed in the sheltered air, swept a mask of calm across his face. He remained in the small room, where extra chairs and tables were stored. He would wait until all had been seated at the table.
At long last he heard them shuffle about the large meeting room. Their voices carried to him on a wind of trepidation. He must be skilled, like a master player of cards. No one in that room should know of the dead girl who lay in his cellar.
Bennett pulled his shoulders back, cracked his neck. Loose of all tension, he scripted a smile and opened the door.
He ignored the murmurs as he swept by the other leaders and stopped only at the head of the table. His rightful seat.
Slowly he scanned the room, catching everyone’s gaze. Each district leader nodded back at him in turn. They said nothing but their gazes told him everything.
They questioned why his father had never opened their home and even more, why Bennett had decided to do so. He felt no compulsion to relieve them of this curiosity.
At long last, his gaze had circled the entire table. In the last seat, the one immediately to his right, his stare settled on brilliant green eyes. Miss Wilder. Leader of District Eight.
She looked back at him with an enchanting, if not treacherous glare. Her shoulders were forward, as if she were a moment’s notice from leaping from her seat.
She had something to say, this one. He sucked air between his teeth. Pray, let it not be about the dead body several floors below.
With a calculated move, Bennett brought his gaze to the sweet roundness of her bosom. He liked what he saw, but then, there wasn’t many a bosom he did not enjoy.
Only when he felt the fire of lust burning in his eyes did he return to her sharp glower.
He watched her breath still, a blush burn across her cheeks, and then, at last, she glanced away. Victory, however, remained to be seen once he spoke the next words.
“I am Bennett Pierce, Lord of Barrington, province leader of District Four.” He glanced about the room. It was protocol for him to next announce any issues or problems in his district. Something like an outbreak of disease, or a rash of robberies. Or a murder.
He would say nothing of the sort.
Each of the leaders stared back at him, waiting, as the silence festered in the room.
He drew in a deep breath and then, “There are no issues to report with District Four.”
Bennett lowered to his seat.
Instantly, Miss Wilder sprang from hers. Alas, his triumph was short-lived. “But what of the slain girl?”
A collective gasp went up around the room. Spikes may as well have stabbed his palms, but he did not blink. He would maintain control. “If there were a murder, I would know, Miss Ella Wilder.”
Her gaze narrowed. “Why are you hiding this?”
A revealing tic pulsed near his left eye, but otherwise he did not move a muscle. “We’re moving on.”
She turned from him to the rest of the table. “There is a killer in Lundun. This latest murder in District Four is actually the second death. If we do not act fast, others may fall victim next.”
The District Six leader, a large man with thinning hair and a red face, raised his eyebrows. “Two ratty commoners, streetwalkers no doubt, isn’t a reason for alarm, Miss Wilder.”
Her cheeks bloomed a brilliant shade of scarlet. “How could you say such a thing?”
The man shrugged. “One or two less to worry about, if you ask me.”
Shouts exploded about the room. Bennett quietly rose from his seat. The noise grated at his tenuous composure. He must leave this chaos immediately. And Miss Wilder would accompany him.
He reached for a silk-covered elbow.
“Miss Wilder, may I see you in private?”
Her intense glare settled on him. There was a dangerous purpose in her lifted chin. “Indeed.”