The Invisible City
An Iron Seas Epilogue Novella
Does this novella stand alone?
This is a difficult question for me to answer, so I asked 10 readers who had never read the Iron Seas books to read the novellas. Here are their responses: Part 1 | Part 2 (coming)
Eight months after The Iron Duke, can their marriage survive a new danger?
“Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City”
A TALE OF THE IRON SEAS
When newly-married Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth is called to investigate a bounder’s murder, she doesn’t expect the mysterious machine she finds…or the danger that leads back to her husband.
Meljean’s Note: This is an epilogue novella. The story is a full-length novella, with its own plot — but although I’ve written it to stand alone as much as possible, there are strong references to The Iron Duke, particularly in regard to Mina and Rhys’s relationship.
This novella is available in print in The Iron Duke mass-market reprint edition, ISBN 978-0425244265.
The Iron Duke
After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power — and fear — of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession. Read more –>
READ AN EXCERPT
***This is an excerpt from Chapter Two. Mina and Rhys have just heard that an acquaintance of theirs has been killed, and are traveling to the site in a two-seater balloon.***
He climbed into the front, waited until she’d settled into the seat behind him. Muller tossed off the tethering cables, and the rattling frame lifted off the ground. Rhys eased open the propeller valve, lowered the flaps. The balloon flew forward, quickly gaining speed as they rose into the air. The Thames served as the perfect guide to the heart of London, several miles west of his estate. On the roads below, the lanterns from carts and coaches showed the haphazard tangle of traffic. Full-sized airships weren’t allowed over the town, but two-seater balloons were becoming more common—though not nearly as common as in the New World. Most people didn’t have enough money to buy the vehicles, and those who did had difficulty finding room to keep one.
He felt Mina’s hands on his shoulders as she leaned forward and called out, “Did Redditch seem at all concerned or upset when he was at our dinner last night?”
Not that Rhys had noticed. He shook his head.
“I didn’t think so, either!”
She leaned back again, and he knew that she was reviewing every moment of their dinner, wondering if she’d missed some sign, any indication that the man might have been in fear for his life.
A bounder who’d recently relocated to England from Manhattan City, Redditch had contacted Rhys several times, trying to drum up support for his labor initiative to reward factories that didn’t install fully automated machinery, putting manual workers out of a job. After Rhys had become active in Parliament, society dinners became an unfortunate necessity—and the night before, he’d invited Redditch to hear what the man had to say. At the end of it, though Rhys agreed that protecting the laborers was a fine notion, he thought Redditch’s initiative was the wrong way of going about it, and would eventually cripple England’s industries. When Rhys had told the viscount that he wouldn’t support the bill as it was currently written, the man had been disappointed, but not angry—and he hadn’t seemed concerned about anything else, either.
Ten minutes later, Mina leaned forward again, pointed past him to a circle of stone rubble that had once housed a bevy of Horde officials, and was now home to urchins and anyone else that cared to stake a claim on it. “There’s Grosvenor Square!” she called. “Portman Square is just north of it.”
That square had fared better during the revolution. All of the buildings still stood, and had become a preferred location for many of the bounders returning from Manhattan City. They’d replanted the small park at the center, poured money into the houses. Columned facades looked out over the square, freshly repainted and the windows all replaced.
Rhys lifted the flaps, opened the steam valves to stop the engine, and gently set the two-seater down outside the southeast edge of the park. He hopped out and tethered the balloon to the park’s wrought-iron fence before giving his hand to Mina. Her slim fingers folded over his as he helped her out—not that she needed help. He just couldn’t pass up any opportunity to touch her.
Thank God, her faint smile said the same.
Her gaze met his for a moment before searching the row of houses. “His is number thirty-eight. There.”
She nodded at a five-story house at the center of the southern row. Rhys scanned the lane that circled the square; he didn’t see her assistant’s police cart.
“Newberry hasn’t arrived yet,” Rhys said. “The traffic was locked up on Oxford Street. He might be some time.”
Even though her Horde blood no longer inspired as much hatred from Englishmen—and was hardly an issue for many bounders—he knew she still didn’t like going into the scene of a murder alone, preferred to have someone watching her back. He also knew she hated waiting.
“Yes,” she said, and before he could offer, added, “Will you come in with me?”
Rhys would do anything she asked, but he was surprised by her request. Aside from his front steps the night they’d met, he hadn’t yet been to a site of a murder with her, not while she was on the job. And though Mina hadn’t said as much, he understood that she needed to keep the Iron Duke out of her investigations. He couldn’t walk into a room without people looking to him as an authority; when Mina was investigating, she should be the authority. A ship didn’t run smoothly under two captains—and she couldn’t escape her own celebrity, but she could try to separate it from his, to the point of calling herself Detective Inspector Wentworth while she worked instead of taking his name or title. She had asked him once whether that bothered him, but of course it didn’t. That was her title, hers alone and appropriate for the job—and just as appropriate as when she filled her role as a duchess and signed her name Wilhelmina Anglesey on social correspondence.
By any name, she was his. That was all that mattered to him. And if she wanted him at her side, he’d be there. Hell, he’d have always been there if his presence wouldn’t have interfered with her work. There was nothing he wanted more than to protect her—but when Mina was on the job, she relied on Constable Newberry for that.
Rhys couldn’t even be jealous of the giant red-haired constable. He was too damn grateful Newberry was always there with her.
“I’ll protect you.” As if he would ever do anything different. “But I won’t be as useful as Newberry.”
“If I wanted you to be useful, I would have brought a police kit and ferrotype camera for you to haul around—though I suppose the magnetized iron might stick to your hands instead of creating a photograph.” God, but he loved how her eyes narrowed slightly and her incredible mouth thinned when she suppressed her humor. “Just be with me. And don’t touch anything.”
Rhys laughed. He’d listened to her rage about the destruction of a scene too many times to need that warning. “I won’t.”
He started across the lane with her, looking forward to seeing her in action. When they’d first met, her inspector’s mind had immediately fascinated him—all of that intelligence, the flat gaze that saw everything, the confidence in her own abilities . . . her refusal to bend to his will. Yet he’d also been frustrated by his difficulty reading her expressions and his inability to fathom the sort of woman she was. In time, he’d found that the cold, inscrutable inspector was also strong, passionate—and to see her on the job now, knowing Mina as he did, she was beyond fascinating.
She was incredible.
Rhys had grown up hard and received nothing for free, and he’d given the same back. Though an earl’s daughter, Mina hadn’t had it any easier—and in some ways, she’d had it worse. Except for her family, almost everyone in England had looked upon her as if she were shit, simply because she resembled the Mongols who’d once occupied the country. Yet she still fought for Englishmen. Sought justice for them. She gave back more than they deserved.
Mina gave him more than he deserved. Rhys didn’t fool himself on that point. And he wished to God he knew how to be more for her than a terrified husband who feared for her life every goddamn day.