Chapter 4

3.6K 318 65

The Earl of Westmorland had everything Evie's husband ever wanted: fame, fortune, and a noble title to go with it. The straw that broke the camel's back was that the earl didn't give a damn. He disdained society and never attended ton functions—at least none to which the Remmingtons were invited. To Bernard, who aspired to reach the highest society circles, the earl's indifference to his position was the height of arrogance.

Evie had only ever met the earl once before, but he was the sort of man that left an impression. Bernard had introduced them at a Royal Society event, some three years past. The event was a grand fete held in the North Wing at Somerset House, the magnificent Neoclassical building in central London where the society made its headquarters. As was tradition, the society affair commenced with a guest lecturer—in this instance, Bernard. Evie had spent weeks on his speech, an account of her preliminary research on the practical applications of aether. Aether, she contended, had the potential to supplant steam-powered engines, boasting more horsepower for less fuel.

Everyone wanted to speak to Bernard and compliment him on his (Evie's) brilliant lecture—except for one man, who stood at the outer perimeter of the expansive hall, quietly observing. Westmorland.

At the time, Evie recognized the earl only by reputation. In spite of his efforts to avoid the haute ton – or perhaps because of them – society was fascinated by him. He was titled, rich and by all accounts, devilishly handsome. The scandal sheets lovingly described his chiseled features—faultless but for the fact they were too stern—"midnight" black hair and eyes "like cloudless skies." And of course, they had to remark on his scar, a deep slash across his left cheekbone that gleamed silver-gray, not white. Why he'd chosen to graft metal to his skin was a great mystery, as was the source of the scar itself.

None of those details were what captured Evie's attention; what interested her was his genius. Westmorland was Bernard's only true rival for the unofficial title of England's greatest inventor. The ton loved a good rivalry and did all they could to fan the flames of competition. Evie thought the whole nonsense was ridiculous. Though they were both scientists and inventors, their areas of focus were completely different. Evie made machines and gadgets, fascinated by motorized engines and innovative ways to fuel mechanical power. Westmorland specialized in bionics and nanotechnology, the human body his primary source material.

Bernard neither understood nor cared about the distinction, leaping eagerly into a one-sided rivalry with Westmorland. Emboldened by the positive response to his lecture, he'd marched right up to the reclusive earl, dragging Evie with him. "Westmorland," he'd said importantly, with a stiff little bow. "May I introduce my wife, Mrs. Evelyn Remmington."

Curtsying, Evie said in all honesty, "It is an honor, my lord."

As she spoke, the earl's gaze skimmed over Bernard and locked intently on her. His blue eyes were cold and intelligent, studying her like one of his nanomolecules under a microscope. She nearly jumped when his gloved hands wrapped around her fingers, bringing them to just below his mouth. He kissed the air just above her knuckles, as propriety dictated, but Evie felt it as though he'd put his mouth to her bare skin. For a moment, the cold bled from his eyes, and then it returned just as quickly. He dropped her hand as though scalded.

"Interesting speech," he said to Bernard, his voice a low rumble. Pleased, Bernard puffed up his chest and started to thank him. Westmorland held up his hand. "But your conclusion is wrong."

"It is not!" Evie blurted out before she could think better of it.

The earl spared her a thin smile. "It is good of you to support your husband, Mrs. Remmington. But he made a critical error nonetheless."

GeniusRead this story for FREE!