Can Elizabeth assist a strikingly handsome doctor in solving the mystery of a gruesome murder?
Not a day has passed since the affair of the Turquoise Spider, and Elizabeth Hunter-Payne and members of her EHP Investigation Bureau have already launched into another do or die case, this time involving murder, deceit and airships.
What is Torbernite, and why is it so important? What has it to do with airships? Follow the indefatigable investigator as she tracks down the clues in her own impulsive style while falling for the charms of two virile lovers, all set against the backdrop of a dangerous steam-driven world.
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The Torbernite Imperative (Elizabeth Hunter-Payne Steampunk Adventures 2)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Mikala Ash
For the life of me, I couldn’t decide. It was extraordinarily vexing.
For the sixth time in an hour I repositioned Jonathan’s portrait on my desk. It was a small oil, a representation of him made shortly before his departure for the Crimea. It was a good likeness, capturing his strong well-defined jaw, generous lips, his slightly bent nose, the result of a fall from a horse, and his piercing blue eyes.
My darling Jonathan, I missed him so. I longed for his kiss, his gentle touch, his passion. My God, I missed his passion. There was more to him than his ability to raise my carnal desires to fever pitch, driving me over the cliff edge of sensual experience -- he was, and always will be, the bedrock of my life.
I forced myself not to go down that road again. The past is past. I knew I should keep it locked up in the box of my heart, like a treasure, and only let it out to comfort me on those long lonely nights, not indulge in its warm glow during broad daylight where there is a life to lead.
Yet I could not hide his portrait. I gazed into his eyes and sighed wistfully. It was the slant of those fine blue eyes that were causing me particular difficulty this morning. I had tried the portrait twice each on the left side, then the centre, and finally the right side of the desk. From that last position it seemed he gazed at me in an approving fashion, from the centre he seemed sceptical, and from the left there was a hint of criticism.
I made a sudden decision, and put Jonathan’s portrait on the left side of my desk because at that moment I felt the legitimate focus of criticism. For what I had done last night, made love to a man I’d known only a few hours, I deserved all of Jonathan’s censure.
Felix. From the moment I saw his bare chest and tight buttocks I’d been experiencing a range of inappropriate, lustful fancies about sex. Even ridiculous mechanical men mimicking fornication had fuelled the sensual fires which had lain dormant inside me since Jonathan’s death.
At the desk opposite mine, Archie, my late husband’s young batman, had his head down busily entering some receipts into the accounts book. With a satisfied smile he closed the accounts book with a thud.
“Are we in the positive side of the ledger?” I asked jokingly, knowing that we were well and truly solvent. Yesterday’s business had grossed us three thousand pounds, an enormous sum which I still had trouble believing.
“We are indeed, ma’am,” he said. “Oh, our new business cards have arrived.”
I clapped my hands like a child and giggled. “How exciting.”
There was a brown paper packet on my desk which I had not noticed amongst the general disorder. I slit the ends with my letter opener and revealed the stack of gold-embossed cards.
“The emblem came out marvellously well,” I said.
The letters EHP were in lovely gold surrounded by an intricate design of cogs and gearwork, the inspiration of the printshop, Kellar and Bryan -- Engravers to Her Majesty, the Queen, to signify our rapidly changing world.
I selected a few and put them in my reticule. I stood up and straightened my day dress. I had taken some considerable time that morning in choosing something flattering. Truly, I felt like a schoolgirl. Even Marianne my housemaid had noticed, and had complimented me as we gazed into the mirror. She did not know anything about Felix, and said that she was pleased the previous day’s adventures had not dampened my spirits. The reason behind my fluttering stomach was that Felix had promised he would visit the office after midday, and the noon hour was long beyond that already.
I tried to put my perverse excitement aside by considering clothing in a general way. There had been several times during yesterday’s actions that I’d wished I’d been dressed more practically. There had been much ado in society over the last several years about the Mrs. Bloomer kerfuffle coming from America. I liked current fashions in the social realm, and though getting dressed could sometimes be an ordeal, I did flatter myself that my corset and crinolines created a pleasing silhouette. However, running about and struggling with ruffians with guns was a completely different arena. More comfortable clothing might be advantageous. Men, I thought, have it considerably easy.