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Authors: Cindy Spencer Pape

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Moonlight & Mechanicals

BOOK: Moonlight & Mechanicals
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Moonlight & Mechanicals
By Cindy Spencer Pape

London, 1859

Engineer Winifred “Wink” Hadrian has been in love with Inspector Liam McCullough for years, but is beginning to lose hope when he swears to be a lifelong bachelor. Faced with a proposal from a Knight of the Round Table and one of her closest friends, Wink reluctantly agrees to consider him instead.

Because of his dark werewolf past, Liam tries to keep his distance, but can’t say no when Wink asks him to help find her friend’s missing son. They soon discover that London’s poorest are disappearing at an alarming rate, after encounters with mysterious “mechanical” men. Even more alarming is the connection the missing people may have with a conspiracy against the Queen.

Fighting against time—and their escalating feelings for each other—Wink and Liam must work together to find the missing people and save the monarchy before it’s too late…

74,000 words

Dear Reader,

I love October because it’s the perfect month for my favorite season: fall. I adore the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the fall season. Pumpkins and straw bales, colorful mums and burning woodsmoke. And the crisp, cool weather that’s perfect for sitting on the porch and reading a book while sipping hot apple cider.

This month, we have an excellent variety of books perfectly suited to this very thing, starting with
All He Ever Desired,
Shannon Stacey’s latest Kowalski family contemporary romance. As always, Shannon delivers a captivating romance with just the right touch of light humor. Joining her in the contemporary romance category is HelenKay Dimon with
Lean on Me,
the second book in her trilogy. Make sure to check out her first Carina Press title,
It’s Not Christmas Without You,
and look for
We’ll Be Home for Christmas,
coming in December 2012.

If you’re gearing up for Halloween and are in the paranormal mood, check out Regan Summers’s newest novel,
Running in the Dark.
Debut author Bryn Donovan offers a wonderful paranormal romance in
Sole Possession,
while Diana Copland’s male/male paranormal romance
A Reason to Believe
will haunt you long after you’ve read the last page. And joining Diana with a male/male release is L.B. Gregg and her rerelease
Men of Smithfield: Seth and David.

Fans of steampunk romance will be thrilled to see new releases from two of our favorite steampunk authors: Cindy Spencer Pape and Jenny Schwartz. Look for
Moonlight & Mechanicals
and
Courting Trouble
to release in mid-October. And as an aside, can I tell you how much I love Jenny’s series name of The Bustlepunk Chronicles? It’s a perfect fit for this series about a spunky young woman in steampunk Australia.

I’m thrilled to welcome Val Roberts to Carina Press with her newest science-fiction romance novel,
The Valmont Contingency.
Val and I worked together in the past and I love her voice! And returning to us with another release in the fantasy romance genre is Karalynn Lee. If you’ve never had the pleasure of immersing yourself in one of Karalynn’s worlds, now’s the time to check out
Heart of the Dragon’s Realm.

My team is especially excited about this next book from Julie Rowe. As fans of
Downton Abbey,
they fell in love with the first book in her new historical romance series set during World War I,
Saving the Rifleman.

If you’re wondering where the romantic suspense is, not to worry, Kate Sherwood offers up a spine-tingling suspense,
Shadow Valley.
And mystery author Janis Patterson returns with her newest novel,
Beaded to Death.

To round out the month of October, we have two spicy erotic romances to tempt you. With
No Reservations,
Lilly Cain kicks off her new erotic series, Bad Girls Know. Last, but definitely not least, the book from Christine d’Abo’s Long Shots series I’ve been waiting for. Mouthwatering sex club owner Josh is finally going to get his own happily ever after and you don’t want to miss the mind-blowing chemistry Christine has written to get him there in
Calling the Shots.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

This one is for my cousin Carol Spencer, PhD,
the little sister I never had, who now has an e-reader,
so she can read my books.

Acknowledgements

As usual, I need to thank the Untitled Writers’ Group and Anny Cook for their critiques and support. Thanks also to my agent, Evan Gregory, and my editor, Melissa Johnson, along with the amazing staff at Carina Press, who help keep things moving in my world. I’d also like to thank the Lolitas of the STEAMED! blog for welcoming me into their midst, along with the supportive authors and readers at Here Be Magic and Romance Books R Us. Finally, as always, I need to say thank you to my husband, Glenn, who not only puts up with my quirks, but is even willing to dress in silly costumes and go to steampunk and science fiction conventions with me. I’m also lucky to have my long-suffering offspring who seem to take my weirdness in stride without displaying too much embarrassment. Thank you all.

Prologue

London, June 1851

Winifred Carter, almost sixteen, barely dared to breathe for fear that something would ruin the moment as a burly dark man and a fair-haired faerie-tale princess said their wedding vows in the garden of a duke.

Cor, an honest-to-bloody-goodness duke.
He was old, as was the duchess, but they’d been kind to Wink and pretended they didn’t notice when her speech slipped back into the cant of a Wapping pickpocket. Everybody at the wedding also pretended not to see that both the bride and groom had been recently injured, and still sported a bandage or two beneath their silks and satins. Wink bit her lip.
Wounds they got saving my sorry hide.

In the space of the last two months, Wink’s world had turned upside down and inside out. There she’d been, fighting vampyres in a stinking Wapping alleyway with her friends, like always, and along had come this man. He’d helped slay the monsters, and he’d let Wink, Tom and the others run away before the coppers came.

Of course Wink had hidden to watch. A toff, helping the likes of them? It didn’t make any sense. Neither did the young constable with the curling black hair and twinkling dark eyes, who’d winked at her, but not given her away to the other coppers. Constable McCullough had been the handsomest thing she’d ever seen, though the older man—Sir Merrick he’d called himself—wasn’t exactly an ogre. Once the night was over, Wink never expected to lay eyes on either of them again.

But Sir Merrick came back to Wapping and told Tom a story. What if, he’d said, King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table had never disappeared? What if their descendants were still alive, still in Britain, protecting people from the monsters, bloodsucker and human as best they could? Even stranger, what if Tom were one of them? Wink had to admit, Tom’s senses for finding monsters and his skill at hunting them was unusual, as much so as her facility with machines or Nell’s gift for seeing ghosts. When Sir Merrick had offered Tom the chance to come live in his posh Mayfair mansion and train to be a Knight, Tom had refused. Not unless the others come along, he’d said. Tom was a good sort like that. Wouldn’t let the little ones down.

Wink still couldn’t believe Sir Merrick had said yes. Now the five street rats from Wapping were living it up in Mayfair, the wards of a baronet. Of course they ran amok. Who wouldn’t? Soon, a governess came, Miss Caroline with her ready smile, bright green eyes and
cor,
pointed ears. Next they found out Tom wasn’t a bastard, but the heir to another baronet. Tom’s grandfather was too sick to take care of him, but he sent papers proclaiming Sir Merrick as Tom’s legal guardian, and one day Tom would have a huge house and the title
Sir.
Wink’s head had barely stopped spinning from that, when the bloodsuckers and their human friends had kidnapped her to make a machine that would allow them to pass as human. Sir Merrick, Miss Caroline and the dashing Constable Liam had all rushed to her rescue.

That’s when she learned Constable Liam was a werewolf. Not that it mattered. Wink had gotten used to strange things early in her life, even back before Wapping. Furry by moonlight or not, he still made her heart flutter and something strange twist in her stomach.

Now Miss Caro and Sir Merrick were married. Wearing her hair up and her first long skirts to mark the occasion, Wink clapped as loudly as anyone, just barely refraining from whistling or whooping in her joy. Instead, she hugged George, her brass clockwork mastiff, who’d been decked out with a blue ribbon for the occasion.

“I know this isn’t a traditional part of the wedding ceremony,” Sir Merrick said to the crowd. “But we have something else we’d like you all to witness.”

Then, right there in the duke’s garden, in front of half the Order of the Round Table, a Lord Justice and all sorts of other toffs, Sir Merrick and Caroline signed papers, adopting Wink, Nell, Piers and Jamie. Tears leaked down Wink’s cheeks. She was Miss Hadrian now. They were a
real
family. She hugged Sir Merrick—
Papa—
and her new
Mum,
who also had tears in her eyes. They dragged Tom in, too, never mind that his new name was Devere, not Hadrian. He’d always be her brother.

At the wedding breakfast, Papa Merrick opened a letter from the Queen herself and things got even stranger. He was a baron now, Lord Northland, and Wink was officially the
Honorable
Miss Hadrian. She exchanged stunned looks with Nell, now her legal sister and not just the sister of her heart. Still trying to catch her breath, Wink hugged little Jamie on her other side and looked over at Constable Liam.

He was younger than Papa, just out of university, so only five or six years older than Wink. Not too old. His dark brown eyes crinkled a little when he smiled and applauded along with the rest, but there was something else there too. Wink wasn’t as good at reading people as she was with machines, but even she could tell there was some sadness behind his genuine happiness for his friend. He looked…lonely. While everyone else was here with a husband or wife or family, he stood all by himself and something twisted in Wink’s heart.
He needs somebody too.

She hoped he’d wait for her to grow up.

Chapter One

London, June 1859

“Any questions?” Winifred Carter Hadrian looked around the room full of the august gentlemen—and very few ladies—of the Royal Society, and straightened her spine. She’d just finished presenting her paper on the beneficial properties of wind and electric power over coal. The members of the Royal Society remained unimpressed. Whether mustachioed, mutton-chopped or rice-powdered, nearly every face regarded her with a unified disapproving frown.

“What does a young
lady
like you know about steam engines?” She couldn’t identify the voice—it came from a shadowy corner of the room. Snickers and rude noises erupted in its wake from throughout the so-called genteel membership. The acoustics in the room were impressive. Not only could the audience hear her, but she could hear them more clearly than she’d have liked. The front row, made up of Wink’s family and friends, swiveled and glared at the crowd. Most of the hecklers shut up.

Wink remained polite. “Are there any further questions?” Not a single hand was raised.

“The problem, missy, is that our economy is built on coal. Reducing its use costs jobs.” She couldn’t see the owner of that particularly patronizing tone either, but it obviously met the approval of the audience, because another round of boos and jeers broke out. At least they weren’t throwing anything. Yet. That wasn’t unheard of.

“I’m aware of the monetary value of coal to the empire,” she said. “If you’d read my paper, you’d see I propose to train displaced miners—”

“Go back to your needlework, girl. It’s where you belong.”

Wink’s adoptive father, Sir Merrick Hadrian, Baron Northland, rose and whirled on that voice, fists raised. So did his wife, Caroline, though she lifted her parasol. Merrick’s aunt, Dorothy, simply gave the man a death glare.

“Better yet, on her back. She wouldn’t be too hideous in the dark.” The speaker didn’t shout that remark, but a coincidental lull in the other noise made it stand out like the smell of dead fish. In the back row, Lord Eustace Irons, son of a marquess and a coal heiress, laughed at his own so-called joke. Wink wasn’t surprised. He also had a tendency to grope during waltzes. When he saw that he’d been heard, his pasty skin paled even further and he mumbled an apology as he looked wide-eyed at an angry Lord Northland.

Meanwhile Sir Thomas Devere, Wink’s foster brother, and his closest friend, Sir Connor MacKay, began to bolt from their seats toward Lord Eustace. Another man, one whose presence had caused Wink’s heart to flutter, caught the two younger men by their coat collars and hauled them back into their seats. “Remember, I’d have to arrest you both for assault. Let’s just get the hell out of here.” Inspector Liam McCullough shot Wink an imperious glance as if commanding her to leave the stage.

She seethed at being told what to do, but he was right. Retreat was in order. She gave him a nearly imperceptible nod and then smiled at the audience with exquisite politeness. “Thank you, my lords, ladies and gentlemen, for your time. My thesis is, of course, on file at Lovelace College, Oxford, if you care to refer to it at a future date.” With that, she gave a hint of a curtsey and stepped away from the podium, her spine straight and her starched crinoline petticoat rustling.

As she left the stage, she looked back at Lord Eustace and felt his oily grin skimming over her curves—or lack thereof. Next to him stood another man, one Wink had never seen before. His leer wasn’t as overtly slimy, but somehow, his intense and calculating stare made the back of her neck itch. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tom mutter a quick spell under his breath. Eustace seemed to hit a slick patch on the floor and went flying, landing on his arse on the marble. His friend tripped over him and fell as well.

Both Tom and Connor had moved to the door, so neither Eustace nor his oily friend saw a thing. Wink turned her head and hid a grin. It was fun to have sorcerers in the family. The Knights of the Round Table were all trained in simple spells.

Wink couldn’t wait to get home to Hadrian House and change out of her ridiculous full hoopskirts, back into her comfortable coveralls. Ignoring the crowd and the continued catcalls, she slipped out the side door, whisked open by Connor and Tom as she approached.

Out in the hallway, she breathed deeply and smiled up at her rescuers. “Thank you, lads. That was not my finest hour.”

Tom gave her shoulder a gentle punch. “They’ll come ’round, ducks,” he whispered in the street cant they’d used, growing up together in the back alleys of Wapping.

“I think you were splendid.” Connor took her hand and bowed over it. He never failed to treat her as if she was a real lady, though his family was one of just a few who knew her true origins. Before Wink’s adoption at age fifteen by Merrick and Caroline, she’d been a daughter of impoverished gentry until she was nine, then nothing more than a street rat. Thanks to their protection and support, she’d been re-educated as a lady, her history hidden. Not a single soul in that audience of stuffed shirts had any clue about Wink’s real history, or ever would. They simply saw a young woman of moderate looks, hazel eyes that changed from green to brown depending on her clothing and unfashionable copper-colored hair. Mostly people noticed a female who’d broken tradition to study at Oxford and then dared lecture them on the way they managed technology. It didn’t matter that she was the Honorable Miss, now that her father was Lord Northland, rather than the girl who had fixed laundry machines for a room and fought vampyres in the streets. She was female, twenty-four in two weeks and a trained engineer. That was more than enough to make her suspect among “serious” scientists.

Connor offered his arm. “Tom is right. They’ll come around. You’ll see.”

“Thank you, Connor,” Wink said. He was a dear friend, tall and broad-shouldered with dark auburn hair and lovely pale blue eyes. Like Tom, he looked utterly proper in his charcoal and dove-gray morning suit, with a striped ascot at his neck. In fact, the two men could almost pass for brothers. Tom’s sandy hair had darkened to a rich golden brown now that he was grown and his freckles had faded. His blue eyes were a darker shade than Connor’s, a deep azure that bordered on indigo. Furthermore, both of them, like Merrick, and Connor’s father Sir Fergus, were Knights of the Round Table, and therefore among the most dangerous men in Britain. Connor’s bluff manner and cheerful smile provided effective camouflage, making him seem harmless as a toy bear. He leaned down and swept her into an enthusiastic hug.

“You were brilliant, darling.” Caroline joined the embrace, hugging Wink from behind. “They’re a bunch of nodcocks, but we knew that.”

“Thanks, Mum.” She blinked back a tear. Despite having been adopted so late in life, she’d taught herself to think of them as her parents, partly to avoid confusion for the younger children, and partly because they deserved it. Merrick and Caroline had saved Wink’s life, risking their own. They’d taken in a pack of street rats and claimed them, with the nominal explanation to others that the children were the orphans of childhood friends. The motley collection of Hadrians might not be blood, but they were very much family.

“Let’s get home, shall we?” Tom picked up his top hat while Connor handed Wink her gauze shawl. “There’s ice cream and chocolate cake. That always cheers you up.”

“Well then, of course I’ll be fine.” Wink glanced at Caroline. “Is it all right if I ride home in the runabout with the boys?”

Caroline—Mum’s—green eyes were misty with concern, but she smiled. “Why wouldn’t it be? We’ll see you at the house. But no stops. Remember it’s your party.”

“We’ll be home before you are,” Tom assured his foster mother. Because of his own baronetcy, he was the only one of their crew who hadn’t been legally adopted by the Hadrians, but he was just as much a brother to Wink as any of the others. He took one of her arms and Connor took the other as they escorted her out to Tom’s runabout.

Wink was relatively tall for a woman, at five foot six in her heeled boots, but she was still dwarfed by her escorts, both of whom were well over six feet. The boys handed her into Tom’s steam-powered motor car, partially designed and mostly built by Wink herself. It burned paraffin oil, which gave off far less soot and smoke than the conventional coal. The roof folded down into the boot, but no one in their right mind would keep the top down in the city—the air quality truly was that awful. Ducking to protect her fashionable little hat, she slid into the back seat. She only whacked herself in the face with her skirt hoops once—practically a record.

Her sister Nell slid gracefully into the seat beside her, not mussing her skirt once. Then she leaned over to give Wink a hug. “Sorry, love. I’ll help you kill any of them if you like.” Her big black eyes, courtesy of the Indian sailor who’d been her natural father, were bright with love and anger.

“Thank you, but no.” Wink squeezed her sister’s hand. “Just teach me that trick you did with your hoops, and we’ll call it square.”

Something bumped her knee and Wink sighed. Waiting on the floor of the runabout, as always, was her eternal companion, George. Though the clockwork mastiff was made of bronze and copper, gears and wires, to Wink, he was as real as either of the young men in front of them. Absently, she patted George, gaining comfort just from touching him.

They moved out into the dim haze of traffic. Coal smoke clogged the air of London until almost every building façade was black. Blight stunted the trees and even in Green Park and Kew Gardens, there was precious little green to be found. Hawkers still cried their wares from street corners, but now they kept scarves over their faces, or air masks if they could afford them. Every day, Londoners too poor to employ air filters in their homes died of black lung, and other respiratory illnesses as if they were coal miners. Couldn’t the blighters in the Royal Society see the urgency of the problem or the elegance of the solution? Electrical power was the stuff of the future. Wink would stake her favorite wrench on it.

Was their disinterest based upon not caring about the poor, or the other living things in the city? Or was it simply because the paper had been presented by a woman? Her gender had made great strides since Ada, Lady Lovelace, had turned the world on end by writing the code to operate Lord Babbage’s miraculous analytical engines, but most men still looked upon professional females as suspect and considered them lacking in intellect compared to their male counterparts.

Bother.

“At any rate, you’ve done what you can for today, planting some seeds if nothing else.” Tom shouted over the hiss and roar of the engine and other traffic. “Tomorrow, you can get back to working on what you’re actually being paid for.”

Wink managed a grin. “You’re just saying that because you want me to install an analytical engine terminal in your office.” Despite society’s horror that a well-heeled lady would actually hold a paid position, Wink was employed as a technical consultant to the Order, and her current task was improving the system the Knights used to keep track of vampyres, magick wielders and other potential threats to the Empire. When she was done, all the desks in the building would be connected to one another and the enormous computing machine in the basement, forming a virtual network of information. Some day, she hoped to connect the Knights’ home machines as well—at least those in the Greater London area, possibly using the newly installed telephonic speaking wires that had begun to lace city streets as well as the countryside.

At least the Order took her seriously. While they’d yet to admit a female Knight, the oldest and most hidebound institution in Britain now accepted female employees.
It’s a start.
The refrain was a familiar one in the Hadrian household.
Move on from here.
This afternoon, she had work to accomplish. Tonight she had to attend the Duchess of Trowbridge’s ball, which meant even larger hoops and a tighter corset.

She stroked George’s shiny brass head and briefly wished she could return to Northumberland tonight with her parents. Her youngest siblings, Merrick’s and Caroline’s natural children, hadn’t come down from the country for her talk. She missed them. By morning she could be reading stories to her little sisters, Sylvia and Rose, who were seven and three, holding Vivienne, the newest baby, or playing soldiers with five-year-old Will. After that, she could hole up in the workshop her father had built her, tinkering with her latest designs. Either way, she could hide from the embarrassment of today’s debacle.

Unfortunately, she had work to do here in London. She’d chosen to take a paid position, and now she had to cope with it.
Bother.
Sometimes being an adult wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

* * *

Inspector Liam McCullough stood in his superior’s office at Scotland Yard, frowning. “With all due respect, Superintendent, I don’t believe I’m the right officer for that particular task.” It had already been a long, annoying day, and he had work to catch up on after taking time off for Wink’s speech. He still regretted not being able to shove Eustace’s teeth down his throat.

“Knew you’d say that.” Superintendent Jack Dugan, the man in charge of a small, select unit within the Yard, stroked his bushy mutton-chop whiskers and exchanged glances with the Duke of Trowbridge, another fifty-something gentleman with iron-gray hair and a tidy Van Dyke beard. “You owe me a bottle of French brandy, your grace.”

“Hmmph. Not yet.” The duke’s eyes twinkled at Liam even while his face remained impassive. As head of the Order of the Round Table, the duke had the power, both political and magickal, to back up his aura of command. “We need you, lad. Buck up and do your duty and all of that.”

“But—” At nearly thirty-one, Liam didn’t often think of himself as anyone’s lad. However, considering the duke had a son who was a good friend of Liam’s, and a bit older, Liam supposed Trowbridge was allowed the term. Liam looked from one determined face to the other, and let his tense shoulders relax. He was outmatched. “Of course I’ll be at her grace’s party tonight. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” So much for a nice quiet night in his own home, with a cigar and a good book. “I still don’t believe I’m the right man for the rest of it, though.”

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