After enduring heartbreak at the hands of a dishonest woman, Edward Bailey lives according to scientific principles of structure and predictability. Just the thought of stepping outside his strict routine raises his anxiety.
Adding to his discomfort is Iris McTavish, who appears at his school’s faculty meeting in place of her world-famous archeologist father. Worse, the two of them are to pose as Grand Tourists while they
search for an element that will help harness the power of aether.
Iris jumps at the opportunity to prove her worth as a scholar—and avoid an unwanted marriage proposal—while hiding the truth of her father’s whereabouts. If her secret gets out, the house of McTavish will fall into ruin.
Quite unexpectedly, Edward and Iris discover a growing attraction as their journey takes them to Paris and Rome, where betrayal, blackmail and outright theft threaten to destroy what could be a revolutionary discovery—and break their hearts.
Warning: Allergen alert! This book was produced in a facility that handles copious amounts of wine, tea and baked goods. May contain one or more of the following: a spirited heroine, a quirky hero, clever banter, interesting facts both made-up and historical, and lots of secrets. It is, however, gluten free.
“What are they doing?” Professor Bailey asked.
“I don’t know.” Iris tried to angle herself to get a closer look at the proceedings, but she bumped her head on the window and rubbed her forehead. A thunk and other sounds above her told her someone climbed on the roof and walked across it. The crack of a steam rifle made her jump.
“Are we under attack?” Iris asked at the same time Bledsoe sat straight and asked, “What the hell…?”
More rifle shots made them all duck and cower below the window line so as not to be easy targets. Iris found her head cradled against Professor Bailey’s chest, which felt broader and stronger than she had estimated.
“Miss McTavish, your hair is tickling my nose,” he said.
“Stop complaining or I shall poke you with one of the pins from Bledsoe’s friend.”
“That would be worse,” he agreed. “No telling what diseases an actress’s pins harbor.”
“I can hear you, you know,” Bledsoe grumbled from somewhere near Iris’s bustle, and she became aware of the weight of his head on her hip.
After about twenty minutes of awkward silence during which Iris heard people moving around outside and a few more shots, the train moved forward again. Something crunched under the wheels.
The maid, unencumbered by the clawed device, wheeled a lunch cart into the room, and her eyebrows
raised when she caught sight of the three of them on the floor.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Miss, Professor and Maestro,” she said. “What are you doing on the floor? Do you need me to return later?”
“Certainly not.” Iris scrambled back onto the bench she had been sitting on, and the men did likewise. She narrowed her eyes at the maid, who looked like she tried not to laugh at them.
“What were you doing?” Iris asked. Both of the men looked at her, and she guessed they were irritated by her speaking first. It was bad enough her reputation would be at risk for traveling with the two of them unchaperoned, she didn’t need to be caught in any compromising positions. Therefore, she needed an explanation to put the situation in context.
“It’s the Clockmakers’ Guild, Miss,” the maid said. “They send little toys to crawl into Mister Cobb’s and other gentlemen’s trains to annoy them but also gather information. We take advantage of the stop for coal to clean ’em off.”
“How do they work?” Professor Bailey asked.
“Some of ’em have cylinders in them like player cylinders, but made of wax, that they transfer information on. It’s too complicated for me, but I’m sure Mister Cobb will be happy to explain on his airship. The blast from the steam rifles shuts them down, or we catch ’em with the claws and squeeze them out of shape so they can’t move anymore, and the train wheels grind them into uselessness.”
Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.
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