“So you’re a pilot as well as an assassin.” Lady Wyre had traded in the slightly scorched gown for a high-waisted spotlessly delicate linen that made Sig shake his head. “What other talents do you possess?”
The linen was so fine and thin he could see the darker hint of her thighs despite the petticoats she wore. The hem and bodice were thickly covered with silver embroidery and pearls. On Britannia, she’d be the perfect picture of a genteel lady heading to her country house. She’s got a lot to learn about living on the run.
They slipped through the heavily armed Britannia shields using a tiny backdoor loophole he’d paid a small fortune to open. Breathing a little easier, he initiated the illegal contraband engine he’d acquired from a desperate Razari. It’d need a bit to warm up, but once charged, they’d hit Kali Kata in a matter of hours.
If one of Her Majesty’s ships happened to board him, they’d take one glance at that tiny crystal powering the ship to unheard-of speeds and throw him into the Tower before finding his female partner aboard. Luckily they won’t be able to catch us once we hit Razari speed. “Do you have any gowns a little less conspicuous?”
Up went her nose and she gave him that delightfully regal stare that somehow made him appear shorter than her slight five foot height. “A Duchess has a duty to always look her absolute best.”
As gently as possible, he pointed out the obvious. “You can’t be the Duchess of Wyre any longer, sweetheart.”
She sniffed and a sudden bolt of terror struck his heart at the thought that she might burst into tears. He hated crying. He’d actually botched a few marks in the past because he hurried up to silence all the moaning and messy sobbing. If she was a crier, it’d be damned tempting to slit her pretty throat and toss her into deep space.
“I hope you stocked tea on this miserable little boat. I need a cup. Badly.”
Suspicious, he risked a glance at her and thankfully found her eyes completely dry. “I’ve got a nice black from Zijin. Just whirl your chair around one eighty degrees and hit the replicator.”
She didn’t fuss about having to make her own tea or complain that a replicator’s brew wasn’t as good as the real thing, a pleasant surprise. After leading a life of privilege, she couldn’t be faulted for snobbish ways, as long as she wasn’t a bloody prig at the same time. That he couldn’t abide.
She surprised him yet again by handing him a cup, too and also asking—instead of ordering. “Where are we going?”
“It’s going to be hard to disappear off the grid, unless you leave Britannian space entirely. We’ll have to fuel up somewhere, so I planned to stop at the Colony. Then beyond, wherever you want to go.”
“Britannia space grows wider day by day. The Razari certainly didn’t expect a warship to show up on their front door.” She sipped her tea in silence for a few moments. “I’m not afraid of correcting my mistakes, Sig. As long as you’re not afraid to point them out to me.” She chuckled at whatever she saw on his face. “Besides, now I have a reason to go shopping again. What do you recommend?”
“Dark colors, simple utilitarian materials. No embellishments.”
When she pouted, he couldn’t help but laugh. “No silk?”
“Absolutely not. Only a woman of a blooded House would wear silk outside of Britannia. If you look like a lady, there will be questions.”
She blew out a long breath. “This is going to be harder than I imagined. I expected to live without servants, high fashion, and the tedium of Society. In fact, I relished the opportunity to live on my own for once in my life. But no silk? Oh dear. That might…” She sniffed and damned if her bottom lip didn’t quiver. “Break me.”
Dread chilled Sig’s stomach. Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. “Don’t make me toss you out the airlock, Charlie.”
She burst into laughter. “You should see the look on your face. Why, Lord Regret, I do believe you’re queasy. Are you by chance air sick?”
An alarm blared, cutting through her teasing. Instantly calm and alert, she set the cup of tea aside and took up position beside him.
He scanned the readings. “Unknown ship.”
Sig shook his head. “Not a warship. I’m also not detecting a merchant signal. Not good, not good at all. Someone was waiting for us to lift out of port, probably a bounty hunter. I need another five minutes before the Razari crystal is fully powered.”
“What kind of cannon do we have?”
He flashed a smile of appreciation at her. No questions, no panic. She leaped straight to the heart of the issue and prepared to blow them out of the sky. “Henry might be little, but our ship is loaded for bear.” He reached over and pulled up the armament program on her display. “Fire at will. We have plenty of ammunition.”
Concentrating on the controls, she still managed to quip. “You named your ship Henry?”
“Be nice to him,” Sig warned as he programmed in a zig-zag flight pattern with a little more zig than zag to hopefully buy them time. “He’s your ticket out of the Tower of Londonium.”
“Good boy.” She patted the dashboard and winked at Sig. “Fly faster, dear Henry.”
Taking return fire as quickly as she managed to get off a shot, the ship shimmied. Sig kept a wary eye on the shields, which were dropping at an alarming rate. Another hit and they might lose their port engine. Come on, Henry. Fire up that blasted engine so we can get out of here!
Lady Wyre whirled her seat around. “Where are my trunks?”
“You don’t have time to change your gown,” he gritted out. “I’m pushing the engines as hard as I dare to get us some breathing room, but I need you to keep them off my tail as long as possible!”
“Oh for goodness sakes.” She left her chair, stumbling against the panel when they took another shot that rocked the ship sideways. Fortunately, the panel she accidentally knocked open contained her precious trunk. She rummaged in it and quickly returned to her seat. “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, so to speak, Lord Regret. I can help with the shields and possibly…”
She plugged a slim stick into the panel and her dainty hands flew over the keyboard. “There. I can’t wait to get my hands on Henry’s nether regions to fully explore that Razari engine. All they brought to me to study was the crystal.”
Amazingly, the shields increased back to eighty percent capacity.
“You should have a bit more horses under the hood, too.”
Shaking his head, he increased the throttle and Henry leaped ahead like a charger taking the next fence. “My dear Lady Wyre, if we weren’t getting chased by a bounty hunter, I’m afraid I might have to kiss you.”
“Bloody hell,” she muttered, slamming her fist down on the panel.
Taken aback, Sig kept his gaze straight ahead. Stupid tongue. Too familiar by half and me out of Society for years. No wonder she’s offended.
“Oh don’t be a mamby-pamby. If you dare to steal a kiss, give me your very best effort and I may reward you with a bedding you’ll not soon forget. I’m frustrated because evidently I’m a wretched shot. If we survive, I want your solemn word of honor that you’ll see to it that I receive proper training on marksmanship.”
“Done and done.” Another blast rocked the ship, and this time poor Henry didn’t recover. He wallowed to the port side. Cursing beneath his breath, Sig hauled on the controls but the ship was sluggish to respond. “Damnation, we’re sitting ducks here. Don’t do this to me, Henry!”
“Incoming.” Her voice was tight and low but not panicked. “I’m trying to intercept. Hold on…”
The explosion sent the ship rolling back to starboard. Shrapnel splintered off the hull, jabbing into his left side and chest. He fought to bring the ship out of the roll, but pain choked him.
No. That was blood.
“The hull is compromised.” If anything, Lady Wyre’s voice became even more measured and calm as their situation worsened. “Redirecting shields with my device. Hold on, Henry…”
Sig glanced down. A long piece of twisted metal protruded from his chest. Once he pulled it out, he’d probably die in minutes. I have to find a place to land and fast. A place where we won’t fall into Britannian hands as soon as we try to dock.
There was only one blip on the radar that was settled but not firmly in Britannian control. Whatever she’d done with the shields had settled the ship’s roll, but the controls were still sluggish. He tried to plot the new course, but his fingers were numb. His hands felt like blocks of ice.
“Tell me what to do.”
“New course.” He tried to breathe shallowly to ease the pain. “Americus.” She said something, but pain blanketed him in a gray daze that words couldn’t penetrate. He couldn’t help but laugh, even though it sent shards of agony through his heart. I never thought I’d die in a shipwreck at the hands of a bounty hunter.