Chapter 1

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Every Tuesday at precisely fifteen o'clock, Mrs. Evelyn Remmington met her sister, Mrs. Drucilla Blakely, at a tiny little tea shop at the corner of Piccadilly and Bond Street. The price of the tea was dear, and the dry cakes served with it left much to be desired, but they never once veered from tradition. Dru could ill-afford such an extravagance but had too much pride to suggest a less fashionable venue. Once, Evie had offered to pay for them both—for her, money was no object—but she never would again. Dru had been furious and humiliated.

So Evie pretended she didn't notice that her sister wore the same remade walking gown every Tuesday. In turn, Dru never mentioned the weight Evie hadn't needed to lose or her birdlike appetite. Neither ever brought up the other's husband, except to ask about his health. Instead, they spoke of nothing, exchanging pleasantries about the weather and the latest intrigue from the scandal papers. They'd never been particularly close, sharing little else in common besides their blood. Dru was fair and voluptuous, with the face and figure of an idyllic milkmaid. Evie was dark as a gypsy and bone thin, though she used to be pleasingly slender. No one would guess they were sisters. And ever since their respective marriages, they'd become little more than strangers. Their twice monthly get-togethers continued only out of a sense of familial obligation.

And yet, despite the distance between them, Dru was the closest thing to a friend Evie had. Her sister's goodbye kiss on the cheek was the only real affection she'd get this week.

Evie's autowheeler was waiting for her right outside the tea shop, letting out puffs of steam. The aether-powered vehicles had been introduced just over a year ago, and already, more than a hundred had been sold for a small fortune. Meanwhile, her husband's fortune had doubled, much to his delight. If he hadn't been before, now he could truly be counted among the richest men in England. And with every extra farthing he added to his coffers, he grew a little more arrogant, a little more overbearing.

As a woman, legally, Evie was not allowed to drive the autowheeler. But Evie didn't give a damn, and, as long as she took care to be discreet, neither did her husband. Besides, she'd invented the damn things, so she was better equipped to drive than anyone.

Normally, Evie enjoyed driving, but the fog was particularly heavy today, an intermittent drizzle making the roads slick and her clothes damp. Not for the first time, she wished she'd designed the autowheeler to be enclosed. But practicality was not her strong suit, and all she'd thought about was what the wind would feel like against her skin. It felt like freedom.

The traffic on Regent Street moved at a crawl, a combination of horse- and steam-powered vehicles. Hers was the only autowheeler, and if the weather were nicer, she would have drawn spectators. By the time she reached Regent's Park, a suburb that catered to the tastes of the nouveau riche, the skies had opened up and rain was coming down in sheets. Evie's clothes were soaked through, her once elegant coiffure plastered to her head. Her teeth chattered so hard they rattled her skull.

Bernard would be displeased. Her husband dressed like a dandy, spending more on his toilette than most men spent on their entire wardrobe. Evie was frequently disheveled, a hazard of her occupation. It drove Bernard wild when she emerged from her laboratory covered in soot or oil, the antithesis of the perfect aristocratic wife. But Bernard hadn't married her for her poise or beauty; he'd wanted her brains. And she'd made him very, very rich. In exchange, he let her tinker with her inventions to her heart's desire. It wasn't a partnership of equals, exactly, but it worked.

Davenford House sat on an enormous plot of land in the middle of Regent's Park. Owned for generations by the Viscount Wentworth, Davenford was the grandest home Evie had ever lived in. Her husband had bought it from the current viscount shortly after her first invention had taken off. It was a great scandal at the time; Bernard Remmington was not a member of the peerage, nor was his wife. The haute ton accepted them—with Bernard's money and influence, London's upper crust had no choice—but their presence was merely tolerated. Oh, they were invited to all the balls and soirees, but none of the ladies had ever made an earnest attempt to befriend Evie, and Bernard had cultivated his reputation as an eccentric too well. The men admired his genius, but never invited him into their confidence. They remained outsiders looking in.

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