Read The Lady Machinist (Curiosity Chronicles Book 1) Online

Authors: Ava Morgan

Tags: #Curiosity Chronicles, #Book One

The Lady Machinist (Curiosity Chronicles Book 1) (20 page)

BOOK: The Lady Machinist (Curiosity Chronicles Book 1)
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“You’re getting off topic, Rhys.”

He took her hands. “I know you’ve had more than your fill of agreements these past months, but what would you say to just one more? A binding one?”

“I don’t know. My experiences so far with negotiating these agreements haven’t been the best. What are the terms?”

“They involve a church, a shared home by the sea in Wales…and three automatons.”

She all but sputtered. “What in the world do automatons have to do with this binding agreement?”

He gave a rakish smile. “Seeing as how three members of my last crew defected, I want to avoid that happening again on future voyages. Automatons are immensely loyal, even if they make a mess of their surroundings.”

She relaxed, laughing. “On one condition. You use the smaller, safer second-issue models that I’m currently designing. And you take me to Aspasia twice a year to visit my parents.”

“That’s two conditions, but I will honor both. Does that mean you consent to the full agreement?”

She put a finger to her cheek, pretending to be deep in thought. “You should know that I no longer have a place in line for the Aspasian throne.”

“Royal clout is not required for this agreement.”

“How long do you intend for it to last?”

He leaned in close. “For as long as we live.”

She put her arms around his neck. “In that case, I consent. But I expect this agreement to go into effect as soon as possible.”

He kissed her. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”




A Sneak Peek at
The Armored Doctor


Curiosity Chronicles, Book Two


Coming February 2014




Abigail’s reaction to the gas was worse than Jacob thought.

“What a funny picture.” Voice inordinately high and giddy, she giggled at a painting of a pastoral landscape hanging on the wall above his desk. “The leaves on the trees look so crinkly. Did you paint it yourself?”

He knew he should never have picked her out from the audience as a volunteer, but how could he ignore her when she pumped her hand in the air and stood on tiptoe? He reasoned that letting her assist him would cause less of a scene than her attempting to leap over the heads of the other lecture attendees.

How wrong he was. She hit the wrong button on the gauntlet gun and sent the whole lecture hall into a cloud of nitrous oxide. Students fled the hall, leaving books and overturned chairs in their wake. Judging from the cacophony of chortles outside due to the laughing gas, it would be several minutes before another COIC agent could reach his office. Surely by then he could get Miss Abigail Benton to stop giggling.


“Miss Benton, I think you should sit down.” Jacob pulled out one of the chairs in front of his desk.

His words dissipated in the air as she didn’t hear him in her induced state. She kept her gaze transfixed on the painting. “Those branches look like squirrel tails. Bushy squirrel tails.” She let out a loud snort while tottering on her feet. One hand came dangerously close to knocking a glass globe off his desk.

Jacob held his breath as the globe wobbled on the edge. “Miss Benton, if you would be seated, please. I insist.”

She seized upon the globe like a cat pawing a ball of yarn. “What’s this? Is it a child’s toy?”

“It most certainly is not. That was given to me by the Cambridge Dean of Medicine. Put that down.”

She gave it a shake. Her green eyes widened as the tiny snowflakes swirled inside. “Why, it’s Christmas inside.”

“Put that globe down and sit in this chair now.” Jacob hoisted the chair off the Indian rug and set it down with a thump. “I shan’t say it again.”

“I shan’t say it again.” Abigail dropped her voice an octave. “Well, alright, then, since you asked so nicely.” She set the globe down. It promptly rolled off the desk and cracked once it hit the floor. “Oops.”

Jacob gritted his teeth. Oops couldn’t begin to summarize this continuing debacle of his latest model prosthesis unveiling.

Instead of walking to the chair, Abigail plopped herself on the desk, oblivious to the stacks of papers that went spilled under her. She wobbled, her shoulders tilting. “Oh, my, I feel quite dizzy.”

“Remain still.” Jacob went to her and steadied her with one hand while touching her forehead with the other. “You’re a bit warm. You’re experiencing a side effect of the gas.”

“You have lovely eyes.” She raised her chin and gazed at him with large, dilated pupils. “They’re light blue and clear as icicles.”

“I—” Jacob pushed his spectacles higher on the bridge of his nose. “Icicles?”

“You really shouldn’t hide them behind those spectacles.” Abigail swiped at them with a clumsy hand, leaving three fingerprints on the lenses.

“It’s not something that can be helped.”

“I can help. Allow me.” She tugged the spectacles off his face.

“Give those back.”

Shaking her head with a lopsided smile, she him them behind her.

“I am not in the mood for games, Miss Benton. Ouch.”

She caught a portion of his hair between her fingers and tugged. “How peculiar your hair color. You’re too young to be gray.”

Jacob winced as she tugged again, attempting to keep his neck straight. “That hue is the result of a trauma experienced during the field campaigns in India. As is the scar over my left eye.”

Her features contorted as sympathy competed with the residual giddiness on her face. “You poor man.”

Despite the effects of the gas, Jacob sensed that her response was genuine. To which, he didn’t know what to say.

“I find your hair quite fetching.” Her fingers glided through the strands to land gently on the scar over his eye. “And your scar.”

He closed his left eye and froze as her warm touch caressed his brow and slid down the length of his scar to his cheek. She hadn’t the foggiest idea what she was saying. His injuries made him repulsive, not fetching. And the ones hidden underneath his layers of clothing were far worse. “Miss Benton, I think that you ought to lie down until the effects of the gas wear off.”

He took her hand from his face. She found the lapels of his coat to grab instead. With surprising strength, she pulled him down for a very passionate and unexpected kiss.

Abigail’s kiss was just as warm and fevered as her brow. Her soft lips moved under his as she pulled him further down. Jacob caught the edges of the desk before he could fall on top of her. Unaware of his flailing, Abigail continued to press her mouth against his, still holding him by the lapels in an iron grip.

Her scent enveloped him in soft vanilla. Jacob found his eyes closing, his tactile senses coming alive as he felt her creamy-soft skin and the tickle of her hair against his cheek. He had been without the touch of a woman for so long that he almost believed that Abigail’s contact was real, that she welcomed him with open arms.

But her embrace was only the nitrous oxide talking.

Jacob broke free and came up for air. “Get a hold of yourself.” He said it for himself as much as he did for her.

Abigail threw back her head. Auburn hair, loosened of its severe knot, tumbled over her shoulders in tangles and embedded pins. Hardly a caption of pre-Raphaelite glory, but the absence of structure lent a playful edge to her refined glow. A tawny blush crept onto her cheeks.

“You need a glass of water.” Jacob extended his right arm to grab hold of the pitcher on a side table.

“Such a gentleman,” she uttered before slumping against his shoulder.

“Miss Benton?” He shook her. Her cheek squashed against the epaulet of his coat as she sank against him. Her eyes may as well have been welded shut. She passed out like a furloughed sailor on a pub crawl.

Jacob grabbed her around the waist and supported her weight as he pulled her off the desk. His right leg buckled under their combined weight, but he retained balance as he backed up to the armchair by the curtained window. The COIC Secretary’s alarmed voice sounded at the door.

“Valerian, what in heaven’s name are you doing to that woman?”




About the Author



Ava Morgan loves history, retro style, and reading everything she can get her hands on, especially steampunk, fantasy, and old pulp fiction. The Curiosity Chronicles series came from her affinity for the romance of history as well as its quirky anachronisms. When Ava isn’t planted in her writing chair, she can be found sampling mead and turkey legs at a Renaissance Festival alongside her husband or running up a tab at the local coffeehouse.

BOOK: The Lady Machinist (Curiosity Chronicles Book 1)
3.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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