Authors: Karen Kincy
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy.Historical, #Steampunk, #Glbt
A Division of
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Cover Art by Eugene Teplitsky
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ISBN 978-1-62007-953-9 (ebook)
ity the clockwork dragon had been so violent.
Konstantin pushed his goggles over his head. Tugging off his leather gloves, he ran a hand over the clockwork beast’s crimson scales, cold and smooth under his skin. Scars marked the enamel, raw steel glimmering in rough arabesques. If only he had a bigger laboratory. The bulk of the dragon’s body rested on concrete, its head lying on a trolley, its tail looping among the wires powering the technomancy equipment.
Konstantin jumped. Tonight, he had been alone in the laboratory; the other archmages and engineers had gone home long ago.
When he identified the interruption, his heartbeat skipped for an entirely different reason.
Captain Theodore Himmel smiled with a wicked glint in his honey-gold eyes. He smoothed his waxed mustache with steel fingers, still outfitted with the mechanical arm Konstantin had built for him.
“Are you alone?” Himmel said.
“Yes, which is why you shouldn’t—”
Without any regard for who might walk in, Himmel marched over and kissed him. When Konstantin gasped against his mouth, Himmel growled out a groan as if savoring the taste of him. The captain tasted rather like peppermint himself, Konstantin noted absently, his mind not quite done cataloguing and analyzing.
His lips insistent, Himmel deepened the kiss, his tongue sliding into Konstantin’s mouth, shamelessly bold. Heat scorched Konstantin’s skin, his knees faltering as his muscles surrendered. Himmel supported him with his steel hand cradling his neck, the other gripping his hip. That was rather distracting.
Part of him wanted to seize Himmel, but the rest of him seized control.
He broke away, more than slightly breathless. “Theodore.”
Himmel grinned. “You were saying?”
“You shouldn’t startle me.”
“It was worth it.”
Konstantin licked his lips, tender from the kiss. “We can’t be seen.”
“Perhaps we should go somewhere more private.” Himmel had eyes of molten gold.
Desire muddied Konstantin’s thoughts. “I’m in the middle of an experiment.” That sounded feeble even to his own ears.
Himmel glanced at the workbench, strewn with notes and papers stained by countless cups of coffee. “Don’t you ever sleep?”
“Yes.” Konstantin blushed. “I have a cot in the back of the laboratory.”
Himmel’s eyebrows shot heavenward. “You haven’t been sleeping at the hotel?”
“The laboratory proved more convenient.”
Himmel laughed, shook his head, and advanced with a determined glint in his eyes. Konstantin backed against the workbench. Trapped by Himmel’s arms and the narrow press of his hips, he could feel the captain’s—
“Theodore.” He gasped. “Please.”
Himmel swept everything off the workbench. Papers cascaded down and fluttered to the floor; pens rolled out of sight.
Konstantin’s jaw dropped. “My research!”
“All over the floor, out of order, and—God, Himmel!”
Konstantin dropped to his knees and started stacking papers into piles. Luckily, he had clipped the most important documents together, so it wasn’t an utter disaster. He clenched his jaw and drew a calming breath.
Himmel’s hand settled on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“Is that all?”
“I didn’t know what you wanted.”
Konstantin gritted his teeth. “It took me days to write down all this data. I can’t afford to make any mistakes.” The biggest mistake of all would be to let Himmel take him to bed. God, why he couldn’t stop imagining him naked?
“Konstantin.” His name brought him back to reality. “What are you thinking? You have that faraway look again.”
“Like your head is in the clouds.”
Some of Konstantin’s anger slipped away. “You should know, as an airship captain.”
Himmel groaned at the pun, the sound reminiscent of how he had groaned during the kiss. Konstantin’s trousers became rather tight, though he didn’t dare correct that inconvenience here in the laboratory. How mortifying.
“Look at me.” Though Himmel’s command was gentle, Konstantin struggled to obey. His thoughts abandoned him and left him adrift. He hadn’t the slightest idea of what to do. “Your eyes are beautiful. Blue like the sky.”
No one had ever looked at him like this before. Remembering to breathe, he sucked in air. “You are the expert on atmospheric con—conditions.” He stammered at the stroke of Himmel’s knuckles over his cheek.
“Come to the hotel with me. I can think of a better use for your bed.”
Konstantin retreated from his touch. “I shouldn’t. I—”
“Stop working. For one night.”
He blinked fast, mind scrambling for words. “I can’t do this with you, Theodore.”
Himmel’s eyebrows descended. “Do what?”
“You—me—together.” If only he could stop spluttering.
“Why?” Himmel said it evenly enough.
Konstantin dusted off his knees, his heartbeat thundering, and stared at the scattered papers. “I never have,” he whispered.
“I’ve never been with a man. With anyone.” Konstantin blurted out the confession. “Please don’t laugh at me.”
Himmel coughed. “I’m not laughing.” Was that a hint of a smile? “Though I’m glad you aren’t angry at me for your paperwork.”
Konstantin scowled. “I didn’t say that.”
“Let me make it up to you.”
Himmel lowered his gaze. “I’ll take things slow.”
Stomach sour, Konstantin knew he must be cruel to a man who cared for him so much. “This is illegal,” he murmured.
Himmel barked out a laugh. “You think I don’t know that?”
The law in Prussia punished unnatural fornication with imprisonment. Austria-Hungary, Konstantin’s homeland, was no more forgiving. God, once, he had been naïve enough to scour the legal texts for loopholes, but even royalty and the rich suffered the consequences. Just thinking about it made him sick.
Konstantin swallowed hard. “I can’t risk my career.”
“I would risk mine.”
He stared at him. “Would you?”
“For a night with you.” Himmel sounded husky.
Konstantin stepped away, distancing himself from a future he could never have. “I wouldn’t.”
Himmel jerked back, as if slapped, before lowering his gaze. “Understood.”
Regret stung Konstantin. “Theodore.”
Himmel turned on his heel and strode from the laboratory, leaving Konstantin alone again. Alone like he had asked.