Ether & Elephants

Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cindy Spencer Pape
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Steampunk
happily give her the home and family she craved. More importantly, Roger would never stray. Nell knew that down to her bones. She swallowed hard. She and Tom were never going to be together, not now, not ever. It was time for her to let go of that final trickle of hope. Maybe an ordinary life with Roger was the best chance she had for happiness. At worst, he’d provide a buffer between her and Tom for part of the ride toward London. “Well, we hadn’t made a final decision yet. I wanted him to meet Mum and Papa first.” She stared at Roger while she spoke. Somehow Tom could always tell by her face when she was lying.
    Roger blinked twice, burst into a broad grin and wrapped Nell in a bone-squeezing hug. “Anything you wish, darling.” He kissed her once, briefly, with enthusiasm she couldn’t quite match.
    Tom jerked his chin in a parody of a nod. “Of course.” Belatedly he held out his hand to Roger. “It seems congratulations are in order. Welcome to the family and all that. But you can’t come with us.”
    “No, I think he should.” Nell stared Tom down. Roger’s bravery in coming after her had proven his devotion, and that was something she craved deeply. She was going to give Roger a real chance, see if he could hold his own in her world. “Roger won’t be a liability. He was a soldier before he was a scholar. He’s smart and he knows how to ride and shoot. Plus, if he’s going to be a member of our family, he’s going to have to know…things about us. It’s only fair that he understands what he’s getting into.”
    “That’s not your call to make, Nell.” Tom crossed his arms again.
    She snorted. “You want me to telephone Mum and ask? Papa? Or His Grace?” The Duke of Trowbridge was an old family friend, as well as the head of the Order. Tom knew as well as she did that Nell was something of a pet to the others, doted on and pampered far more than was necessary.
    “Fine.” Tom heaved a sigh. “Come on along. Just try not to have an apoplexy along the way—assuming Nell didn’t already tell you all about our family.”
    “No. Not all the details.” Nell had never mentioned seeing ghosts, for example. “He knows you and Papa work for the crown.”
    “Well, this ought to be an interesting trip.” Tom rolled his eyes. “Think there’s an inn here in the village where we can put up? Or shall we press on in the darkness?”
    “There’s enough moonlight if we stick to the main roads. We’re less than two hours from Black Heath,” Nell said. The home of her friend Melody and Mel’s husband, the Earl of Blackwell, was a big, brooding manor set on the Devonshire cliffs. “From there, we can probably get an airship to come pick us up in the morning. That way we can get to London ahead of Charlie and his abductors.” It had been hard, going back to Black Heath, where Tom had confessed his marriage. Over the last three years, though, Nell had overcome her reluctance. Among all her friends and family, only Melody and Victor were close enough to visit on a day trip from the school, so Nell often spent her time off visiting them there.
    “A good point, except we don’t know that we are going to London,” Tom reminded her.
    “I don’t mind a late-night ride,” Roger said as he boosted Nell into the saddle. “Sure you’re up for it dearest?”
    “I’ll be fine.” She repeated one of her earlier thoughts. “Something you need to know about me, Roger, is that I’m tougher than I look.”
    “She’s not fibbing. Which reminds me…” Tom fumbled in his saddlebag and handed a small pouch to Nell. “Papa brought this from London. Apparently Wink thought you might want it.”
    Nell lifted out her favorite weapon, one of Wink’s modified electrical stunning devices. The ESD, as they called it, carried enough electrical charge to knock an assailant unconscious without killing him. Wink had specifically altered this one to better fit Nell’s smaller hands. “Perfect.” She belted

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