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Former ballerina Callie Carlisle is determined to rebuild her life with her new mechanical limbs. She's just learned to accept the enhancements that saved her from certain death when she experiences uncontrollable twinges and flashes of light that obscure her vision. Terrified of literally falling apart, she resists telling her husband. Jasper's already vowed to keep her out of harm, and she doesn't want to worry him further.
When the War Office's General Black arrives with an urgent mission—rescue the doctor who created Callie's enhancements—she has no choice but to accept. A rogue agent and former patient of the scientist believes the biomechanical modifications he received are killing him, and he's out for revenge.
Callie must reach the doctor before it's too late. But with an overprotective Jasper at her side, and her alarming symptoms getting more frequent, will she be able to hold herself together long enough to save the doctor...and herself?
Although Jasper made no sound as he stopped in the doorway behind her, she knew she wasn’t alone any longer. His presence eased her melancholy. She squared her shoulders and breathed in deeply, letting the familiar combination of lemon-scented soap and the woodsy cologne she’d given him for his birthday wrap her in comfort like a warm blanket.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were going into town today.” Her husky voice didn’t crack on the words as they usually did. In fact, lately her throat felt less like she’d swallowed a handful of nails and almost…normal, but it was still a good thing she’d never been a singer as well as a dancer.
“What are you doing here, love?” He moved closer. His hand caressed her arm, upward over the sleeve of her white lawn shirt to her shoulder, knuckles grazing the swell of her breast along the way. “John told me you asked him to find a trunk and pack up your studio to make way for new equipment.”
“Yes.” She sighed. Since returning home from Manchester, everyone had been treating her very…carefully. Including Jasper. He and their friends and all the servants seemed to think she was delicate and breakable.
“What kind of equipment do you plan to fill this room with, if you don’t mind my asking?” His hand curved over her shoulder and then slid into her hair, teasing her nape.
She tilted her head, telling him without words that she wanted more of his touch. “Some mats for the floor, mostly. But I also think it’s past time I put the clockwork automaton the general sent over to good use. While I won’t be dancing anymore, I need to find some way of staying active. I’m not used to sitting around with nothing to do.”
She didn’t use the word training, or tell him she was getting worried about General Black’s threat to send her into the field as an agent of the War Office. Every time she’d mentioned it, Jasper had thrown up a stone wall. Even now, his body tensed behind her just before she felt his lips purse in the tender spot at the base of her neck.
They hadn’t heard anything from the general in the three months since leaving Manchester, but as the days went by, the shadows in Jasper’s eyes got darker. Both of them seemed to be waiting for the axe to fall, and neither had been able to admit what would happen when it finally did.
The light stubble on his cheek and chin abraded her skin. When she shivered, he rubbed his face back and forth with a low chuckle. He’d recently expressed his appreciation of her shorter hairstyle, so she’d decided to flout convention and keep it short.
“You don’t need that machine for exercise—” he tasted her, sliding his tongue up the column of her neck, “—when you have me here. Ready…”
He traced her ear and then blew gently on the sensitive wet skin. She shivered yet again.
“…willing…” His hand closed into a fist and tugged gently on her hair until she let her head fall back with a low groan.
“…and able…” His other hand settled possessively on her hip as he pushed the hard evidence of his desire for her against the soft curve of her buttocks, felt keenly through the specially designed loose-fitting trousers she wore now, instead of the proper gowns that filled her closet. She’d tried to wear them occasionally, but the skirts tripped her up because she couldn’t feel them on her legs when they got in the way. Since she didn’t go out much in public in any event, there was really no one to care what she wore.
“…to attend to your every whim.”