First Page: Untitled Steampunk Romance
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David banged the knocker against the brass plate on the door. Within moments, the butler opened it.
"Lord Blackburn to see Lady Georgia Devane."
"Is milady expecting you?"
"I will see if she is available."
He was shown to a fussy, if cozy, parlor. Doilies decorated every flat surface.
To his surprise, it wasn’t the butler who returned, but the lady herself. "No, I will not marry you. You can leave now."
Her brows beetled. "Who were you expecting?"
He held up the vial he’d concealed in his pocket. "I was told you would be able to analyze this for me. It is a matter for Queen and Country."
Georgia blinked. The man, lord, who stood before her dressed completely in black. She’d heard of Blackburn, of course. A famous recluse, she had assumed he was a doddering fool sequestered on his estate by embarrassed relatives. At least, that was the story circulating around Society.
She frowned at the blue vial he continued to hold up. He’d positioned it perfectly in the ray of sunlight sneaking between the drawing room’s curtains so it appeared to glow from within. A few steps separated them. She held out her hand, forcing him to cross to her. A corner of his thin lips tilted up, but he closed the necessary distance and passed the vial to her.
The cork stopper resisted but a moment before releasing. She waited, but no fumes rose from the bottle. Waving it under her nose produced nothing of note. She frowned. Due to the color of the vial, she could not discern the color of the liquid either. She replaced the stopper and put the vial in her pocket.
She looked back at Blackburn. "You may return in a week for a report."
"I am afraid I will need the identification by this evening."
Georgia frowned at his impudence. He had come to her. "I must have adequate time to run a full battery of tests."
"And I am afraid, my lady, you underestimate the urgency of the situation."
"I don’t see how as you have come to me. Doing so indicates you are aware of my conditions. You were informed, were you not, Lord Blackburn?" She met his darkening mien with a steady look of her own.
It would not do to show this man, this…hunter, submission.
"The person who gave me your address indicated you might be a trifle imperious, but also said you have worked well in the past on projects such as this one."
She rose a brow at that. "A person? Does this person have a name?"
"I am not at liberty to impart that information."
At his attempt to wrest control of the conversation from her, she let a snort sound in her mind. "Very well. You may accompany me to my laboratory. This way." She didn’t bother to verify whether or not he followed, despite the lack of sound as she passed through the marble-tiled entrance. Blackburn radiated his presence to fill any space he occupied. She wagered she would be able to pick him out of the deepest shadows in an alley on a moonless night.