contemptuous answer in his eyes as he discarded her belt with a jerking toss.

“Nothing you can give me. If you move your hands, I’ll break them. Even the steel one.”

With that, he knelt, sliding his hands down the inside of her legs. His palms were cool and impersonal, but Rosalind jerked at the touch. No man since her husband had touched her there and the feeling unnerved her.

There was another knife in her boot. He took it, tucking it behind his own belt as he started the return journey. Smooth hands slid behind her knees, the pressure just firm enough to make her breath catch. Higher… higher…then shying away just before he cupped her arse.

“You missed somewhat,” Rosalind forced herself to say as he straightened. To escape, she would have to outwit him and for that she needed his senses dulled.

His fingers lingered on her hip. “Where?”

“’Igher,” she whispered, tilting her head back to look at him. The smooth leather of his gloves slid over the rough linen of her shirt. “It’s me greatest asset.”

His thumb splayed over her ribs, beneath her breast. So close. Though she’d wanted to keep her sex a secret, men often underestimated a woman or were fooled by the flirtatious bat of her eyelashes. She had nothing but contempt for those who’d fallen to her knife for that mistake.

“’Igher,” she dared him. Her stomach twisted in anticipation, unexpected heat spearing lower, between her thighs. Rosalind licked dry lips. Don’t think about what he is. Use him; use your body.

Lynch’s hand slid over the faint, unmistakable curve of her breast, his eyes widening. They were tightly bound, so as not to interfere with her movement, but he was a man. He knew what it meant.

“Surprise,” she whispered.

“Bloody hell.” He yanked his hand back as if burned. His eyes narrowed, but she could see thought racing behind them. “You! You were in the tower. With the bomb.”

One hand curved around her skull and he grabbed a fistful of her hair. Rosalind snatched at his cloak as he dragged her head back, exposing her throat.

Stubble rasped against her cheek and Rosalind’s gut turned to ash as his jaw brushed against the smooth skin just below her ear. No! She flailed wildly, her iron fingers wrapping around his wrist, knowing even as she grabbed him that she couldn’t stop him. Not if he wanted her blood.

“You are her,” he whispered.

And she realized that he was inhaling her scent.

He wasn’t going for the vein after all. Rosalind’s body trembled as it relaxed, her stomach quivering. Lord have mercy. She was safe from that particular violation.

Then her mind started racing. “Who?” How had he known that she was in the Ivory Tower the day the mechs had bombed it? The day the Duke of Lannister had died? Did he suspect her hand in that?

Lynch lifted his head, his hand cradling her skull. She saw his eyes and stilled. Dangerous.

He dragged a scrap of leather from his pocket and held it between two fingers. “You left this behind. I could smell you all over the leather. You, two other people—and gunpowder.”

A perfectly innocuous piece of leather, its absence barely noticed. “And you’ve been carryin’ it around all this time? How touchin’.”

“In case I forget the scent.”

Rosalind stared into his eyes, her mind making one of those insane leaps of intuition it sometimes did. Lynch wanted her. His own personal obsession, she realized. A mystery—one that appealed to his intellect as well as his desire.

“And now?” she whispered, knowing she had him. This was his weakness, right here. “Ain’t there nothin’ I can bribe you with now?”

He understood her meaning, his pupils flaring as he jerked away from her. Rosalind tumbled against the bricks, her hand splayed to catch herself. If she were a lesser woman, she might have known some prick to her conscience at the rapid rejection. But she’d searched his eyes as she said the words; this wasn’t repulsion. For a moment, interest had flared there.

“You shot the Duke of Lannister and tried to blow up the court. If you think I’ll make any sort of arrangement with you, you’re a fool.”

“I shot the duke,” she admitted. “A woundin’ blow only. ’E was tryin’ to strangle an acquaintance of mine.”

“You deny being behind the bombing attack?”

“I tried to stop it.”

“Do you take me for a fool?”

She dared to take a step toward him. “If I thought it would ’ave worked, then I would ’ave led the action, but this were no plan of mine.” No, she’d gone to find Jeremy.

“No?” Lynch loomed closer, his nostrils flaring. “Then what were you doing tonight? Just what are you up to?”

“You tell me.” She looked up through the gauze of her mask’s eye slits.

Lynch caught her chin, his finger stroking over the black satin. His thumb slipped beneath the edge of the mask, lifting it over her mouth and higher. “I want to see you.”

Her hand caught his. “No.” Rosalind took a chance and darted her tongue out, licking the edge of his thumb.

Lynch jerked his hand back, heat smoldering in his gaze. “You disappoint me. Nothing you say or do will change my mind. You’re under arrest, petticoats or not.”

He reached for her wrist and she twisted, capturing his own. The tendons in his arm tensed, but Rosalind slowly brought his hand up, keeping her gaze locked on his the whole time. She pressed the palm of his hand against her cheek, turning her lips into it. Lynch returned her stare with cool disinterest, but the pulse in his throat had quickened.

Rosalind licked his palm, tracing her tongue slowly across the seam there. “Don’t it excite you?” His gaze flickered to hers and she stepped closer, turning his hand over to trace her lips against the tender flesh between the back of his fingers. “You,” she whispered. “Me. Two enemies finally come together.” Palm out, she pressed her other hand flatly against the rippled abdomen of his body armor and flexed her fingers. The leather was polished with age and use. Impossibly smooth. Like his skin.

The thought took her by surprise. In all her years, she’d only ever felt such a curiosity stirring within her once, and that had been for her husband, a man she admired and respected. Lynch was worthy of neither in her eyes.

Or was he?

She’d learned enough about him in recent months. Testing his weaknesses, discovering what type of man he was—what type of enemy she faced. The answer made her nervous. Cold and implacable, people whispered. Ruthless. Even the Echelon called him Sir Iron Heart, but never to his face.

The man in front of her was hard. She could sense that innately. But the look in his eyes…Oh no, that was not cold. Not cold at all.

“All these months you’ve been chasin’ me, Lynch.” The words were a caress, but her mind raced. “And now you’ve caught me. Ain’t you curious? Don’t you want just a little taste before you turn me over to the prince consort?”

Her own trembling thoughts used against him.

“No.” His head tilted toward her, his breath coming harshly.

Excitement thrilled through her. Anticipation. It was the only time she ever truly felt alive these days. As if she’d been sleepwalking for so long, Lynch’s presence was like an icy dash of water to her face. Sliding her hand over each ripple of leather, Rosalind let her fingers pause on the edge of his belt and looked up, beneath her lashes. “Liar.”

Furious color flushed the stark edges of his cheekbones. Lynch glared down at her, but the cool disinterest in his eyes had burned away. The blackness of his pupils overwhelmed his irises until she stared into a demon’s eyes, his rational thoughts obliterated by hunger, by desire.

She had him.

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