The Iron Duke

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook Read Free Book Online

Book: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook Read Free Book Online
Authors: Meljean Brook
surprised him in return. Still, he offered her nothing else. Protecting his people? She could not decide.
    “Tell me, sir—how long has Mr. St. John been a member of your staff?”
    This time, he said, “Three days.”
    So the new steward hadn’t known better, and contacted the police rather than letting Trahaearn deal with the corpse in his own way. “And if I have questions to ask of him in three more days’ time, will I find him still in your employ?”
    “That depends, inspector. If you discover that he knew the man under the sheet, then you will not find him.”
    Had he just promised to kill St. John if the steward was connected to the dead man? Anger began a slow burn in her chest.
    “And if he doesn’t know him?”
    “Then St. John will be here.”
    But less eager to talk to her, Mina suspected. So it would have to be now. “I’ve finished here. If you’ll arrange for my use of a room, I would like to speak with your staff.”
    His gaze ran over her before he nodded. She preceded him into that tiny lift again—though it would not have seemed so small and crowded if the Iron Duke had not taken up so much room. With so little space between them, she was aware of his every breath and movement, the faint scent of smoke and cedar that clung to his overcoat. Pressing back against the side of the cage, she focused at a point beyond his shoulder and ignored the uneasiness gnawing at her nerves.
    Trahaearn pushed the lever forward, and the lift began a smooth, slow descent. “So he was thrown from an airship.”
    “That conclusion is premature. We’ve seen no concrete evidence of an airship, only the suggestion of one.”
    He frowned. “His bones are shattered, yet you must see an airship to know what happened to him?”
    “I must see evidence of an airship,” Mina repeated, controlling her irritation. “Most likely, the body will give that evidence to me. But it requires further examination before I will say definitively that he was thrown from an airship, because I have seen other bodies similarly damaged by pulverizing hammers. And if I draw conclusions too hastily, I risk overlooking information that points to his murderer—or making assumptions that will lead to the wrong man. I will accept neither of those outcomes.”
    His gaze searched her features. Finally, he gave a short nod—as if she needed his permission to proceed. He certainly had a high opinion of himself. Unfortunately, everyone else in England shared that view.
    But aside from his arrogance, Mina could not pin him at all. Meeting his eyes, she said, “I was called away from a ball that was partly in your honor.”
    He smiled slightly. “Yes.”
    And that was all he had to say? It told her almost nothing. She tried again, this time hoping to get a rise from him. “Did you choose not to attend, Your Grace? Or perhaps you did not receive an invitation.”
    “I received several.”
    Humor had touched his eyes. And so he was amused rather than offended—but she could not determine if he laughed at the question or at her .
    The lift reached the main floor, stopping with a clang and a jolt. The duke looked down at her for another moment before sliding open the gate. She swept past him into the parlor, thinking aloud.
    “You are well-loved in this town, yet a corpse falls on your steps.” She turned to face him. “Perhaps it is not a threat, but someone trying to get your attention.”
    “They should have chosen another method.”
    Not even amusement now—just detachment again. Mina frowned at him.
    “Do you care that a man is dead, sir? Beyond the possible threat to you, or the insult, or whatever motive his murderer had—do you care that a man is dead?”
    He met her gaze squarely. “I don’t know him from a Castilian trapping for furs through American forests or a Hindustani enslaved by the Horde in India. Do you weep over the fate of every man you don’t know?”
    She wasn’t weeping over this one, but she did feel the

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