Could the handsome Peter Smythe be the one? Elizabeth is mightily attracted to the dedicated and brave journalist and faces the struggle of balancing her duty to save the empire with nurturing a budding relationship.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is on the brink of finally bringing her arch nemesis Vladimir, the Russian agent responsible for her husband’s death, to justice. But the past has a habit of nipping at her heels and with it the risk of bringing everything she has achieved crashing down.
Set against the backdrop of a steam-driven world, our story begins with an airship-led commando raid and takes Elizabeth along a twisted path of betrayal and villainy.
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Looking Glass Foes (Elizabeth Hunter-Payne Steampunk Adventures 8)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Mikala Ash
The general and I were standing on a raised platform by the East London Water Works, a half mile north of Grove Hall with the railway between. I gasped in wonder as the airship restarted its engines to combat the wind and maintain its position over the asylum. Tiny shadows emerged from the airship’s grey hull like ants hurrying from their nest. The dozen members of Her Majesty’s Royal Aerial Marines took to the ropes and descended with consummate skill toward the sleeping asylum. It took them no time at all to reach the sloping roof, and a dozen heartbeats later the uppermost windows of the institution’s main building.
While the airborne assault had been making its indefatigable progress, elements of the Queen’s Light Infantry, with silent efficiency, barricaded the surrounding streets and encircled the asylum, while specialised ground forces made their way across the darkened grounds ready to breach the doors at zero hour.
The general checked his watch. “Only a minute now.”
The enterprise had taken the general an amazingly short time to arrange. Of course, the military had been in a state of readiness for months given the threatening situation across the channel. Russia was ever threatening after the humiliation the Czar had suffered in the Crimea, Napoleon the Third of France was in an expansive mood after his success in the same conflict, and the Austrian Empire was mobilising, watching our global trading empire with envious eyes and dreaming of world domination. The prospect of all-out war had been building like a storm cloud, and the expected deluge would be heavy indeed.
Such was the backdrop of our world in 1860. It was only the scientific and technological advances such as the airship Prince Albert that we had made over the last decade which kept our homeland and empire safe. Our ambitious competitors were catching up. However, their endeavours had taken a darker turn, as evidenced by the horror of the patchwork man, and the use of soporific gas that could confuse and render harmless a whole city.
Vladimir was just one of our malevolent foes. The question this morning was how violently would he and his murderous minions resist capture? I said a silent prayer for the Queen’s men risking their lives tonight. I had brought them here, and I would bear responsibility for whatever happened. That was a heavy thought indeed.
Butterflies, the flighty children of fear, skittled about in my belly causing me to doubt the success of our enterprise. For reassurance I glanced over my shoulder. Standing behind the general and I were men on whom I placed the greatest of trust. Felix, who helped Archie at my Investigations Bureau, but was much, much more, and my fellow Agents of the Queen, Bisby and Oxley.
Missing this momentous morning was Archie, my husband’s batman, and the son we never had. He was at home caring for Marianne, his fiancé of only a day. Brave Marianne had been instrumental in bringing us to Vladimir’s den, risking her life and had, for her impetuousness, been held hostage by a patchwork man. Not surprisingly she was having trouble dealing with the horror that had so nearly cost her life, her exhausted sleep racked by night terrors. Archie chose, and rightfully so, to remain at her side.
Felix, his handsome face hidden by the upturned collar of his coat and scarf, noticed my gaze, for I saw his gleaming teeth as he offered me a supportive smile. My body responded instinctively. How often had he given me that smile as he lifted my body to the heights of sensuality with gentle and expert caresses I could not tell. His natural allure, together with the skills gained from his experience as a prostitute, had attracted me like a flower lures a bee.
My first sight of him had ignited the dormant woman within, as if my true self had fallen into a sort of death with Jonathan’s passing. For five years I had been a walking corpse, cold and withered, but with hot blood still bubbling deep within, demanding expression. Felix possessed the key to its release. Meeting him had been a striking revelation. I immediately longed to have his arms about me, desired his lips upon mine, needed his fingers stroking my flesh, and demanded his hardness within. Though I felt guilty, as if I were betraying Jonathan with this almost uncontrollable craving, I hired Felix as my tutor in bedroom diversions. With tender care he resurrected my carnal nature. Though my desire was strong, he coaxed me out of my initial timidness and skilfully guided me, transforming me from cold widow into a true wanton, where I became the uninhibited leader taking us both to exquisite release. Though it had been months since our last intimacy I still longed for his sultry gaze...