Chapter 8

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Evie did not get a chance to ask the earl more questions about magic and what the bloody hell it had to do with Bernard's death. Westmorland decided that the hour was officially too late (as if it hadn't been before) and the rest of their conversation could wait until the morning.

"You will sleep here," he told her imperiously.

Evie bristled at his tone. "I am not a child," she said. "I have my own bed in my own home. I will sleep there, and if you are amenable, I will return here tomorrow at a more conventional hour."

She started to rise from the armchair, but he shoved her back down. She yelped in surprise and glared up at him.

He continued to loom over her, gripping onto the arms of her chair. He was too near, his big body blocking the light. "Don't be a fool, woman," he snapped. "Your house is not safe. You will stay here until I say otherwise."

Evie's mouth dropped open. How dare he! "You do not own me, my lord. I am not a servant or wife you can just order around."

He brought his face closer, until they were practically nose to nose. "And I thank God for that," he sneered. Then he abruptly let go of his tight hold on the armchair and stepped back. "Mrs. Remmington, I will not lie. I do not give a damn about you, and I could not stand your husband. I offered you a room in a rare moment of kindness. You are, as you said, a grown woman capable of making her own decisions, however foolhardy they may be. Come back here in the morning if you wish. Or don't. It doesn't matter to me."

"You have made your position perfectly clear," she said stiffly. "I'll show myself out."

A thunderous look crossed his odd face, the metal flesh creasing into deep furrows like ordinary skin. Some of her own anger cooled as she watched him, fascinated. She was no less curious about what had happened to him than when he'd first stepped into the light. Was it science or magic? He never explained much of anything.

He must have caught her staring, because he flinched and angled himself away from her. He pointed towards the laboratory door where they'd first entered. "The exit is that way."

Evie rose to her feet and swept into a deep curtsy. "Thank you, my lord," she purred, enjoying the earl's bewildered expression as he tried to figure out whether she was sincere or mocking him. She knew, somewhere deep, deep down, that she was foolish to antagonize the only man who believed her innocent of Bernard's murder, but he was an arrogant ass, carelessly upsetting her entire world as though her world were worth nothing. She would need him tomorrow—or was it tomorrow already? Tonight, she would sleep under her own roof, away from him and his magic.

"Goodnight, Mrs. Remmington," he said coolly.

"Goodnight, my lord." And then she marched out of his laboratory without looking back once.

The hackney she'd hired was still waiting for her outside Westmorland's home. The carriage wasn't steam powered, but at least the horses were iron, and the coachman was an automaton. Some automatons were programmed to talk to their passengers, but this one was blessedly silent.

Evie would have taken the autowheeler, but it was too loud and conspicuous for secretly dropping in on earls in the middle of the night. She didn't want to wake the servants when she returned either. Henrietta had probably convinced most of the staff Evie was guilty of murder. It wouldn't help her cause any if they caught her sneaking into her own house at half past one in the morning.

Evie sighed and leaned her head against the carriage window. She was an idiot. Why hadn't she taken up the earl on his offer? She was going home to a houseful of servants who wanted to see her hang. They were really Bernard's servants. He was gregarious and charming, and, for all his faults, he never talked down to the people who served him. They loved him, but their affection had never extended to his wife. Her, they would happily betray for a pound or two. She should fire the whole lot of them.

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