slavery and servitude. No more blood taxes or blood slaves. No more armies of metaljacket automatons to keep them suppressed.

A bold plan.

If it had succeeded.

For a moment Rosalind almost wished she’d thought of it, but the group of mechs she’d rescued from the steamy enclaves to work steel for her a year ago had gone behind her back. For the past six months, she’d urged for patience while the mechs had whispered that she was too soft, not merciless enough to lead the humanist movement. In the end, they’d taken matters into their own hands. Rosalind tried to stop the bombing attempt before it was too late, to try and save her younger brother, Jeremy. Instead, the mechanists had used him, seducing him with grand stories and sending him to deliver the bomb himself.

It had been a catastrophe. The Echelon now understood the threat the humanists posed. Rosalind had been forced to scatter those still under her command as martial law settled its heavy weight over the city and the Echelon put a bounty on their heads. She and her older brother, Jack, had gone into hiding while they tried desperately to discover any word of Jeremy.

Of the mechanists who’d betrayed her and the rest of the movement, there was no sign. All she had left of them was the rancid taste of guilt in her mouth. She knew Jeremy had been fond of their leader, Mendici, and his brother, Mordecai, but she hadn’t stopped the hero worship. She’d been too busy with the cause and her own personal project to see what was happening within her family.

Steel screamed as it rang against stone. Rosalind spun on her heel and looked around, fists clenched protectively in front of her. Her gaze raked the shadows. He wouldn’t have followed her here, would he? The enclaves were dangerous for a creature of his ilk.

Nothing but stillness greeted her questioning gaze. Sparks sprayed in the distance from a steam-driven welding rig, but there was no one in sight.

Didn’t mean he wasn’t there.

Easing a foot behind her, she stepped back slowly, watching the shadows. The feeling of danger was a familiar one. She’d been a child spy, an assassin, and years of such work had taught her when she was being watched and when she wasn’t.

“You’re clever,” a cool voice said behind her.

Rosalind spun with her fist raised. The Nighthawk caught her arm in a brutal grip, barely flinching at the blow.

“But I expected that,” he murmured, looking down at her from his great height. His fingers locked on her right arm in a cruel grip.

“I’d return the compliment,” she snapped breathlessly, forcing her voice lower. Where the hell had he come from? “But I don’t think it very clever for a man like you to ’ave ventured ’ere.”

She jerked against his grip but it was immoveable. Harsh red light lit his face, highlighting the stark slash of his brows and his hawkish nose. He looked like the Devil’s own, his lips hard and cruel and his eyes glaring straight through her. A hard black leather carapace protected his chest—the body armor of the Guild of Nighthawks.

“You and I both know I could kill any number of mechs if they come running.” His voice was soft, she noticed, a low, gravelly pitch that one strained to listen to nonetheless. He’d be someone who didn’t bother to raise it often. Someone who expected his word to be obeyed and wasn’t often disappointed.

“Aye,” she agreed, curling her middle finger and twisting the tip of it. The thin, six-inch blade concealed in the knuckle at the base of her hand slid through the glove silently, one of the many enhancements to the joint she’d received. Punch a man like this and she could skewer him. “But I weren’t speakin’ o’ them. This is my world, not yours.”

Rosalind stabbed hard, stepping forward with her body to give strength to the thrust. Lynch caught her wrist, jerking to the side so that the blade skittered across his ribs and not through them. Shoving away from her, his fingers came away from his side sticky with black blood. In daylight, there would be a faint bluish-red tinge to it—the color gave the blue bloods their name.

He looked up, his pale eyes burning with intensity and the promise of revenge. The blood in Rosalind’s veins turned cold at the sight and she snatched the knife from her boot, feeling its familiar weight in her right hand.

Lynch sucked in a sharp breath and looked away from his bloodied fingers. “That wasn’t very wise.”

Shadows moved. Rosalind shifted, striking up with the knife to where she thought he would come at her. A hand caught hers, thumb digging into the nerve that ran along her thumb.

“Damn you,” she swore, as the knife dropped from her suddenly useless hand. She knew a hundred ways to disarm a man. But her arm was yanked hard behind her, and as the Nighthawk spun her, shoving her face-first against a brick wall, she realized none of them would matter. For he knew them too.

His strength terrified her, even as it exhilarated. Here was a match, she thought with a shiver. An enemy she just might not be able to vanquish.

Shoving her between the shoulder blades, he jerked her arm up behind her back. Black spots appeared in her vision, but she didn’t cry out. Instead, she relaxed into it, the pain slowly softening, much like digging a thumb into a hard knot of muscle. She knew pain; it was an old friend and she’d faced far worse than this in her time. Pain didn’t scare her. No, indeed, she welcomed it. The physical ache was something that she could fight, unlike the gut-wrenching, hopeless fear that assailed her whenever she thought of her missing brother.

Lynch’s firm body pressed against her, one knee driving into the back of hers. There was nowhere to move, nowhere to go. He had trapped her quite neatly. But then, she had a surprise up her sleeve, one last ace to play.

Lynch paused. Then he caught her wrist and peeled her mech hand off the wall, examining it. The useless fingers splayed wide as he touched a pressure point in the steel tendons, turning it this way and that. Hatred burned within her.

“Aye,” she murmured. “I’m a mech.”

His thumb ran over the shiv where it erupted through the glove, revealing just a hint of the gleaming steel of her hand. She hadn’t bothered with the synthetic flesh some used to conceal their enhancements. They were never real enough, never the right color or consistency. And she didn’t want to conform to the Echelon’s demands. Damn them. She was human enough, with all the rights a human should have, no matter what they said about mechs.

Lynch found the catching mechanism and the blade slid back within the steel. “Very clever, lad. No wonder you hit like Molineaux.”

“Let me go and I’ll give you another.”

Silence hung between them. Then Lynch laughed, a short, barking cough of amusement that sounded as if it had been a long time since he’d found anything remotely amusing.

The laughter died as swiftly as it had appeared. His pressure on her arm relaxed, and Rosalind slumped against the brickwork as her injured shoulder protested.

“No doubt you would.” Grabbing a handful of her coat, he spun her around, one fist clenching the shirt at her throat. “And perhaps you’d overwhelm me eventually, but I don’t care to test the theory. You’re bound for Chancery Lane.”

The Nighthawk Guild Quarters. Once there, she’d never see the light of day again. Except for a brief view of it on her way to the scaffold.

“I’ve got a better idea,” she said recklessly. The ace up her sleeve… “You and I…we could come at some sort o’ arrangement.”

Those cold gray eyes met hers. She could see them more clearly now that her sight had adjusted to the hellish red glow, but her perception hadn’t altered. Lynch would give his mother to the law if she broke it.

There was always a way to manipulate a man though. Even Lynch had to want something, to desire it…She just had to work out what it was.

“You’re trying to bribe the wrong man,” he said coldly, shoving her arms out wide.

A cool, impersonal hand ran along each arm, under her armpits and lower, to her hips. His hard fingers found the small pouches attached to her belt—powders and poisons that specifically injured a blue blood. Their eyes met and Lynch jerked hard on her belt buckle. The belt slithered through the belt loops on her breeches with a leathery slap, and Rosalind sucked in a sharp breath.

“Every man can be bribed,” she said. “What is it you want, Lynch? Money? Power?” She saw the

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