When technomancer Theo Whitfield joins forces with the insufferable, gorgeous Silas Kylock to find her missing sister, their heated exchanges turn from irritation to desire…
When technomancer Theo Whitfield’s sister goes missing, she’s forced to work alongside an arrogant prat she’s long despised, the tinker Silas Kylock. Her sister Ellie nicked his clockwork doll, and Theo needs his help to track the stolen merchandise and, by proxy, Ellie. However, the more time they spend together, the more she sees Silas as the man she’d run through the streets of Islington with and not the insufferable gentleman he’s become.
Theo’s not the only one afflicted. Silas never forgot the loyal, stubborn woman whose temper he can’t help but spark, and as their search grows more dire, her dedication to her family inspires him to make sacrifices of his own. So, when the hunt erupts into a deadly confrontation with the gangs of Islington, Theo and Silas aren’t just risking their hearts—their lives are on the line.
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Strong women. Strong words.
Katherine McIntyre is a feisty chick with a big attitude despite her short stature. She writes stories featuring snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes—high chance for a passionate speech thrown into the mix. As an eternal geek and tomboy who’s always stepped to her own beat, she’s made it her mission to write stories that represent the broad spectrum of people out there, from different cultures and races to all varieties of men and women. Easily distracted by cats and sugar.
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Theo Whitfield had been dreading this visit before she entered the building. Any one of an assortment of grisly jobs sounded more appealing than the task she faced now, whether it be sucking down clouds of noxious black steam while repairing an airship vent, or tromping through the sewage and muck in the Underground. Blazes, she’d even rather devour her mother’s charred attempts at supper, a feat that caused even the most ironclad stomachs to falter.
Yet, her sister Ellie had never come home last night, and Theo needed answers.
Theo swallowed hard as she stepped to the storefront and rested her knuckles on the freshly painted door. The polished bronze sign of Kylock Industries glared down at her from the overhang, and she gritted her teeth while gathering her courage. Autocarts rattled behind her while they raced along the cobblestones, part of the average hustle of Barnsbury. Each one that passed elicited a stream of curses from the street thugs who were half-rats by noon and reeked of gin.
She gripped the knob and turned it, entering the business.
The dim gas lamps in the entryway flickered their sallow light onto the tarnished floorboards. A woman sitting behind a mahogany desk stationed in the front of a sprawling parlor startled in her seat as if she’d been caught napping. Even with the posh and polished entrance of the shop, the scents of iron, steel and copper tickled her nose and made her fingers itch. For a technomancer like herself, the contraptions devised in this place were rife for exploration.
“How may I help you?” the attendant asked, smoothing her skirts before she stood from her seat.
“I’m here to see Silas,” Theo said, slipping her hands into the pockets of her trousers.
She didn’t miss the way the woman stared her down, lingering on her shocking attire. With her long black curls left free and wild rather than pinned back, and the lack of a corset to give her an unrealistic waist, Theo would never be mistaken for a lady. Though the populace’s judgment didn’t matter. As a technomancer in a city of industry, she would always, always find employment, whether she followed social norms or not.
“Mr. Kylock is occupied. Did you want to make an appointment?” the woman replied as she forced a smile.
Theo lifted an eyebrow. The high-and-mighty bastard’s too busy playing with his toys to spare a second? As if I’m surprised.
“He’ll see me now,” she demanded, her fingers itching all the more. Whenever her temper sparked—which happened often—the magic tended to flow with it.
The attendant bristled at her demand. Based on the sharp glint in the woman’s eyes when she opened her mouth, another denial was about to follow.
A fancy auto-stylus attached to a typewriter sat on the desk and bore Kylock’s tinker imprint—a K with a surrounding cog. The fancy piece of tech could imprint different fonts and handwriting onto letters and would sell for a high price in a lot of the upscale salons. That would do just fine.
Theo lifted her hand, and the conductive ring she wore nearly vibrated from the magic at her fingertips. Wisps of it condensed in the air, like tufts of cumulus clouds, at her will. She urged the energy onward with a twist of her wrist, and the buttons on the typewriter began to type. The stylus lowered to the blank pad of paper.
“I can send this machine into a frenzy in about three seconds,” Theo said. “I don’t suppose your employers will appreciate their fancy equipment getting broken. Now, take me to Silas.”
The stylus moved faster and faster, scribbling more furiously with every keystroke she manipulated from afar. Condensation filled the air with the outpouring of magic, like the steam that billowed out of the machinery in the city. The woman’s eyes widened and she threw her hands up in defense.
“Stop, stop,” she bit out, the fear illustrated by the pallor on her skin. “I’ll take you back to the workroom.”
Theo’s kind was rare enough that when they encountered normal folks on the street, respect or fear became common currency. After all, not everyone had the ability to manipulate mechanics with magic.
The woman led her through the fancy trappings of the parlor, from the bookshelves filled with leather-bound tomes to the mahogany table and chairs next to a cabinet displaying crystal glasses and decanters of fine liquor. This wasn’t the sort of place meant for ruffians like herself.
Theo’s footsteps echoed down the hall, her thick-soled boots made for stomping, unlike the quiet click of the woman’s heels while she guided her to a double door at the end of the main corridor. Her loose curls tickled her neck, annoying her enough to bat them out of the way before she came to a stop in front of the workroom doors. Her agitation threatened to bubble over the moment she stepped foot inside this place. The attendant bent forward, inputting a number sequence. A series of whirrs and clicks followed until the lock opened.
“Step along now,” Theo said, swerving past the woman’s petticoats to grab the knob. “I’m sure I can handle the rest.” For extra emphasis, she waggled her fingers in the attendant’s direction, which had the desired effect of sending her scurrying. If the ladies and gents were going to treat her like a freak, she might as well reap the benefits.
The door whispered as she pushed it open and stepped into the heart of rolling steam that kissed her cheeks and burning metal that tickled her nose. Absinthe-colored aether bubbled up in tubes lining the room. The power-source not only served as fuel but also cast rays of light to add to the meager flicker the dim overhangs offered. A large workbench spanned the entire back wall, and every spare inch of the monstrosity was covered in projects.
The tick-tick-tick of clocks echoed through the place, coming from at least six different sources, and scrolls of blueprints and designs covered entire shelves of the three bookcases that towered along the right wall. Gears, lavers, burnishers and drills lay scattered about, half on the floor, half on the table and in no particular order. Amidst the chaos of the room, one man hunched over the worktable, neck-deep in his latest project.
“Silas, I know where your missing automaton is,” Theo called out, her voice echoing through the room.
The man’s shoulders tensed, and he placed whatever he was tinkering with down before swiveling around on his stool to face her. His rust-red hair glowed in the wake of the sheer amount of steam pumping through the room, and he lifted his goggles with their magnifying attachments to rest them on his head. He smirked upon meeting her gaze, the sheer amount of arrogance in his dark brown eyes igniting her temper on the spot. The man was too pretty for his own good, yet Theo refused to be swayed.