Ether & Elephants

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

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
on the waist holster Tom handed her and carefully tucked the ESD into it. “Now, gentlemen, let’s try to reach Devon before the entire household is asleep.”

Chapter Three
     
    Nell was engaged ? To be married ?Tom couldn’t wrap his head around the idea.
    Sure, it’s what he wanted for her. And this Braithwaite fellow seemed perfectly unexceptionable. Still, the whole notion made Tom queasy. Nell with someone else? In another man’s bed, raising another man’s children? He swallowed a mouthful of bile and nudged his horse ahead of the others. “I’ll ride a bit ahead, just to keep an eye out for trouble.” He hoped neither heard the quaver in his voice.
    “Won’t that mean he’ll be more at risk alone?” Braithwaite whispered.
    “Lesson number one about my family, Roger,” Nell said as placidly as if she were discussing a piano arrangement. “Some of them have special…talents. Tom and Papa, in particular, both have unusually acute hearing and sight. He’ll be fine.”
    Tom resisted the urge to ride far enough ahead that he couldn’t overhear. That would mean leaving them vulnerable. Instead he kept his face forward, pretending not to hear the conversation behind him.
    “But I thought you said none of you were related by blood?” Braithwaite said. “How can talents run in an adopted family?”
    Nell chuckled. “In our case, Tom’s similar talents were what brought us to Papa’s attention. Papa knew Tom’s father and recognized a kindred soul.”
    Tom snorted. His father had married in secret and died before he could do anything about it. Tom had been raised as a bastard until his mother died, leaving him on his own at the age of ten. The only father figure he’d ever known was Merrick.
    “By the way, Roger…” Nell’s tone sharpened. “You rather jumped the gun, didn’t you? I hadn’t agreed to marry you. I only said I’d think about it. That didn’t give you the right to claim yourself my fiancé, especially to my own family.”
    She wasn’t engaged? But she was thinking about it? Tom’s heartbeat stuttered as waves of unwanted emotion crashed over him—relief, hope, fear, despair—one after another.
    “I’m sorry.” Genuine contrition filled the man’s tone. “I just thought that if I were traveling with you, it might be less damaging to your reputation if we were engaged. And, well, it also occurred to me your brother might be less likely to shoot me on sight.”
    Nell chuckled. “You’re probably right about that. You’re forgiven.”
    Even Tom had to acknowledge the logic of the man’s reasoning.
    “Besides,” Roger said, “you went along with it. So I suppose I was right in the end.”
    “I guess you were,” Nell said, testing the feel of her idea as she spoke the words. “I think we are engaged. I’m not ready to marry yet, though. I hope you understand that I need some time.”
    “I’d rather marry tomorrow,” Braithwaite said. “But if you want a long engagement, I suppose I’ll take what I can get.”
    Ah, shite, the poor bugger was in love with her. That was good, right? As long as she felt the same? Hell, Tom was no expert. They were really betrothed? An ache centered itself at the base of his skull and it had nothing to do with the rough gait of his rented horse.
    “Good gracious, I’m engaged to be married. That’s quite another shock for today. You know, my family is going to be thrilled to meet you. Right, Tommy-boy?” Nell didn’t even raise her voice, letting him know she was aware he was in earshot.
    “Whatever you say, Nelly-belly.” He sucked in a breath and managed to keep his voice light. Even before his fall from grace, Tom had known, somewhere in his soul, that he didn’t deserve Nell. He’d done dark things back in Wapping to survive, and later, even as a Knight, he’d fought and killed. Nell was too kind and empathetic to be stained by all that. Hopefully Braithwaite deserved her. Otherwise Tom might have to kill him.

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