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A LSO BY R EGINA M C B RIDE The Marriage Bed The Land of Women The Nature of Water and Air. For Miranda, with love. P ART O NE The Coast of Rain and Shadows. P ART T WO The Spanish Ships. P ART T HREE The Ice Barge. P ART F OUR Beyond the Horizon. WESTERN COAST OF IRELAND C OUNTY D ONEGAL Late Sixteenth Century. W hen I was seven years old, my. Heck, Jackson oppa is one entire embodiment of the golden-spoon life. But this, though. This is a whole new level of batshit crazy rich. They present the RSVP invites by the front door, to the student-looking stewardess who barely bats an eye at Dahyun and instead, ogles and winks at the hunky guy behind her, also known as Jackson Wang.

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More than anything, she wanted to let the words sink in to repair the frayed strands of their relationship. However, the sensation of tilting end over end as her carriage crashed to bits, kept her from feeling the joy she’s always expected would come at this moment. “For this? For deliberately deceiving the Dowager Duchess of Heathcoat and ruining my chances for a suitable match?”

Her mother was still smiling, bright tears shining in her eyes as she pressed a kiss to her cheek. “No, my dear girl, for rushing headlong into certain disaster, no matter the consequences.”

Emma blinked. Was that supposed to make her feel better? Or make any sort of sense at all?

Before she could ask, her mother released her. Then, together, her mother and father headed toward the door. “We’ll leave you alone to sort out the details,” her father said.

Her mother wiped away a tear. “You’re finally coming out of your shell. I’m so happy for you.”

The door closed.

Coming out of her shell?
Coming unglued was more like it.

Emma made her way to one of the windows that banked the fireplace on the far side of the room.

“You’ve agreed, then?” Rathburn asked, never sounding less certain to Emma than he did at this moment. “It’s difficult to tell. Your parents seem to think you’ve made up your mind; however, I’m still waiting for a definitive response.”

“I can’t believe we’re even discussing this,” she said in disbelief, staring outside. A row of daffodils lined the narrow path between the house and the garden wall. New glossy shoots of ivy climbed up the rust-colored brick. The world outside was bright and blooming, not a cloud in the sky. It seemed unfair, really. Her mood all but demanded a rumble of thunder and dark, threatening clouds. “You realize, don’t you, that you’re ruining my chance for a normal, happy marriage?”

“We’ll make sure it doesn’t go that far.”

We’ll make sure
, as if they were in this together.
Ha!
She turned to face him. “How?”

He stared down blankly toward the Axminster carpet, his brow furrowed as if he’d been wondering the same thing. Then suddenly, he looked up, his eyes alive with fresh perspective. “Perhaps we won’t even have to attempt a mock betrothal. We’ll simply have an understanding. Or, at most, be formally engaged for the duration of her stay. Then, after a time, we’ll have a disagreement that separates us.” He brushed his hands together as if the entire ordeal were a pile of crumbs easily dislodged. “Simple as that.”

Hmph.
If only.
“Since you seem to have this all figured out, what happens if she wants to wait until
after
we are married before she hands over your fortune?”

She expected to see all the color drain from his face at the prospect. Instead, he held up a finger and grinned. “I’ve thought of that, as well. We’ll simply get an annulment. I’ll settle a small fortune on you for a trip abroad. Then, when you return, it will be like nothing ever changed. You’ll procure a husband readily enough, I’m sure, once they realize you are wealthy.”

“Precisely what I’ve always wanted. To be loved for my money.” Oh no, she was starting to sound like her father. His exact reason for keeping her dowry so low was to keep fortune hunters away. She’d always felt cheated because of it before. Yet now, when threatened by the probability of having a man marry her for her money, luring him in such a way seemed tawdry.

Rathburn didn’t respond. Not that she’d expected him to. He was still waiting for her answer.

Emma drew in a deep breath as if preparing to dive off a cliff into dark, murky water. “You’re confident this ruse won’t get that far?”

He nodded. “We’ll make it perfectly clear that we’re incompatible. That scenario shouldn’t be too difficult to present.”

“True.” Was she actually considering this? Perhaps insanity did run in the family. Although, if everything went as planned, it wouldn’t be too terrible a venture. After all, she finally had her parents’ approval, a feat indeed. In addition, Rathburn had come to her—
her
—for help. How could she turn her back on him?

Still, if this had been anyone other than
him
. . . “I don’t know why I’m doing this.”

“But you are . . . doing this?”

She closed her eyes, knowing that if she agreed there would be no turning back.

After a moment, Emma met his gaze and nodded.

His shoulders sagged in visible relief and he tilted his head back as he let out a breath. The tight cording of his throat bunched as he whispered his thanks to the ceiling. His Adam’s apple lifted above the knot of his cravat and then disappeared beneath it. For reasons she couldn’t fathom, the sight held her attention. Her own hand lifted to her throat as she swallowed, leaving her to wonder why her pulse was suddenly so quick.

When he resumed a proper stance and regarded her with a wide grin, she quickly averted her gaze and lowered her hand. “Then it is settled.” He strode forward, his pleasure in the outcome of their conversation evident in each confident step. “Shall we shake hands to seal our bargain?”

Not wanting to appear as if she lacked confidence, she thrust out her hand and straightened her shoulders.

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Fourth

He chuckled, the sound low enough and near enough that she could feel it vibrating in her ears more than she could hear it. His amused gaze teased her before it traveled down her neck, over the curve of her shoulder and down the length of her arm. He took her gloveless hand. His flesh was warm and callused in places that made it impossible to ignore the unapologetic maleness of him.

She should have known this couldn’t be a simple handshake, not with him. He wasn’t like anyone else. So, why should this be any different?

He looked down at their joined hands, turning hers this way and that, seeing the contrast no doubt. His was large and tanned, his nails clean but short, leaving the very tips of his fingers exposed. Hers was small and slender, her skin creamy, her nails delicately rounded as was proper. Yet, when she looked at her hand covered by his, she felt anything but proper.

She tried to pull away, but he kept it and moved a step closer.

“I know a better way,” he murmured and before she knew his intention, he tilted up her chin and bent his head.

His mouth brushed hers in a very brief kiss. So brief, in fact, she almost didn’t get a sense that it had occurred at all.
Almost.

However, she did get an impression of his lips. They were warm and softer than they appeared, but that was not to say they were soft. No, they were the perfect combination of softness while remaining firm. In addition, the flavor he left behind was intriguing. Not sweet like liquor or salty like toothpowder, but something in between, something . . . spicy. Pleasantly herbaceous, like a combination of pepper and rosemary with a mysterious flavor underneath that reminded her . . .
of the first sip of steaming chocolate on a chilly morning
. The flavor of it warmed her through. She licked her lips to be certain, but made the mistake of looking up at him.

He was staring at her lips, his brow furrowed.

The fireflies vanished from his eyes as his dark pupils expanded. The fingers that were curled beneath her chin spread out and stole around to the base of her neck. He lowered his head again, but this time he did not simply brush his lips over hers. Instead, he tasted her, flicking his tongue over the same path hers had taken.

A small, foreign sound purred in her throat. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. Kissing Rathburn was wrong on so many levels. They weren’t truly engaged. In fact, they were acquaintances only through her brother. They could barely stand each other. The door to the study was closed—
highly improper
. Her parents or one of the servants could walk in any minute. She should be pushing him away, not encouraging him by parting her lips and allowing his tongue entrance. She should not curl her hands over his shoulders, or discover that there was no padding in his coat. And she most definitely should not be on the verge of leaning into him—

There was a knock at the door. They split apart with a sudden jump, but the sound had come from the hall. Someone was at the front of the house.

She looked at Rathburn, watching the buttons of his waistcoat move up and down as he caught his breath. When he looked away from the door and back to her, she could see the dampness of their kiss on his lips.
Her kiss.

He grinned and waggled his brows as if they were two criminals who’d made a lucky escape. “Not quite as buttoned-up as I thought.” He licked his lips, ignoring her look of disapproval. “Mmm . . . jasmine tea. And sweet, too. I would have thought you’d prefer a more sedate China black with lemon. Then again, I never would have thought such a proper miss would have such a lush, tempting mouth either.”

She pressed her lips together to blot away the remains of their kiss. “Have you no shame? It’s bad enough that it happened. Must you speak of it?”

He chuckled and stroked the pad of his thumb over his bottom lip as his gaze dipped, again, to her mouth. “You’re right, of course. This will have to be our secret. After all, what would happen if my grandmother discovered that beneath a façade of modesty and decorum lived a warm-blooded temptress with the taste of sweet jasmine on her lips?”

She was saved by another knock, this one on the study door. Parker entered the room, a burnished bronze salver in hand. By this time, they were a respectable distance apart and her expression was back to its usual cast of disapproval. The butler presented her with an invitation. “This just arrived, Miss.”

“Thank you, Parker.” And when he exited, he left the door open.
Bless his soul.

Apparently, Rathburn found that amusing as well. “That will be an invitation to tea from my grandmother. Her seal’s on the back.”

Tea with the dowager. Engaged to Rathburn. Could her day get any worse?

Before she could open the missive, he took her hand and bowed over it, lifting his head just enough to wink at her as he pressed his lips to her knuckles. “Until tomorrow, Emma—”

She yanked her hand out of his grasp. “If you call me Emmaline after what I’ve done for you, then so help me, I’ll toss this invitation into the fire.”

He laughed, the rich sound tingling inside her ears and along the soles of her feet simultaneously. The sensation took her by complete surprise and left her staring after him as he walked toward the door.

Before he left, he turned and bowed once more. “Until tomorrow, Emma—
mine
.”


C
HAPTER
F
IVE

“W
hat do you mean, you’re not going?” Emma said, the following afternoon.

Her mother pushed away a fall of hair from her forehead. “My muse is calling me.” Then she turned and took a sharp, scoop-shaped tool from the tray and scraped the clay off her sculpture. As she moved around the unidentifiable mound, long beige ribbons fell to the floor, where she stepped on them, much like Emma’s hopes for an ordinary day. “The purpose isn’t for the dowager to learn more about me, anyway. She wants to size you up and see if you fit the proper mold.”

It was difficult for Emma to remember back to a moment ago—the moment before she’d opened the parlor door to find her mother with her face spotted with bits of dried clay, her smock and apron in even worse shape—when she’d actually thought that having tea with the dowager wouldn’t kill her. After all, she’d worn her most sedate day gown, a lovely wheat-colored muslin. In addition, she’d fashioned her hair in braids to frame her face and pulled them together in a twist in the back. All in all, she’d felt quite good about her chances of having the dowager find fewer things wrong her.

If only
.

“Of course she does,” Emma said, unable to hold back her exasperation. “But you didn’t think I’d want support?”

Her mother stopped and stared at her. “From me?”

Was that so difficult to believe? “Yes, from you. You are my mother, after all. You did help me into this mess. The least you could do would be to help me through it.” She closed her eyes.

“Emma, I’ve never heard you say such things before.”

That’s because I’ve been holding them in for years. Some of them were bound to bubble out eventually.
She shook her head and drew in a breath. Clearly, the Danverses’ insanity was starting to affect her too. She must work harder to rein it back in. “You’re right. I’m sorry, Mother. It must be my nerves—”

“No, don’t apologize.” Her mother’s face broke into a grin. “I like it. We’re finally talking. Of course, we used to talk all the time when you were little. We used to sit and draw pictures for hours on end, chatting about this and that.” As if they were playing a parlor game of copying each other’s gestures, her mother shook her head and drew in a breath. “But every girl needs to separate from her mother in order to find the woman within.”

Emma relaxed. “Then you’ll go.”

“No, dear,” she laughed and went back to her sculpture. “You don’t need me to face the lioness in her den. This tea is all about testing your mettle.” She pointed the scraping tool at Emma and smiled as if she had every confidence in the world. “Well, let them test you and find that you are the genuine Emma Danvers.”

Didn’t her mother realize that she was the only person in the room who possessed that confidence? “But—”

“You’d best not be late, dear. It will take Maudette an age to get from the door to the carriage and then to the door of Rathburn’s townhouse.”

Emma started counting in Latin before she left the room.

T
he entire mock courtship was a disaster waiting to happen.

In his own defense, Rathburn had never thought Emma would agree in the first place. Quite honestly, he thought she had more sense than that. He’d counted on it. Because if she’d have refused, he would have been forced to find another way out of this predicament.

Not that he’d had other options. He’d gone over all the possibilities until every single one was eliminated. Every option, except one: his sham betrothal to Emma Danvers.

The Transvection Machine
A Carl Crader Mystery
Edward D. Hoch

FOR

BARBARA DEBEER

AND

NANCY SCHICK

—A CONTINENT APART

Contents
1 VANDER DeFOE

H
E HAD ONLY JUST
reached his desk in the Cabinet Wing of the New White House when Maarten Tromp bustled in, carrying the Monday morning Space Dispatches, an expression of presidential consternation mirrored in his face.

“Vander, the president is quite displeased today.” When Maarten Tromp made an appearance it usually meant the president was displeased, because his job as special assistant was to keep the world and Washington and especially the New White House running smoothly. If there was no crisis, Defoe rarely saw Maarten Tromp. He was likely to be off playing aqua-golf with the speaker of the house, or spending a quiet weekend overseas with his latest London mistress.

Vander Defoe, used to it all after only five months on the job, sighed and asked, “What is it this time, Maarten?”

“More trouble on Venus. A man named Euler Frost, an exile, has escaped from the maximum security prison there. They think he may be headed back to Earth.”

Defoe blinked and thought about it. “But how does this concern me? The secretary of extra-terrestrial defense can hardly bother himself with the doings of one man, even if that man is a dangerous criminal.”

“Frost has ties to the Russo-Chinese,” Tromp explained patiently. “And to a revolutionary group here on Earth. He was exiled to the Venus Colony ten years ago, and we don’t want him back now.”

“He should be easy enough to keep out,” Defoe replied. “There’s only one ship a week from Venus to Earth.”

Maarten Tromp drew himself up, seeming to grow taller as he took on the authority for his next pronouncement. In that moment, Defoe could almost believe that he really was a direct descendant of Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp, a seventeenth-century Dutch admiral who sailed with a broom at his masthead in token of his ability to sweep the seas. Both the insolence and the fatuousness of the act were in keeping with the Tromp that Vander Defoe knew so well.

“You’ve forgotten the transvection machine,” Maarten Tromp announced.

Defoe glanced down nervously at his hands, playing with the coins he always carried, making them multiply or disappear for his own amusement. He had indeed forgotten the transvection machine, the invention that had brought him from a tiny laboratory at the Kansas Research Center to his present position as secretary of extra-terrestrial defense. “Of course I haven’t forgotten it,” he grumbled defensively. “But the model on Venus is for test purposes only. You know it hasn’t been used to transvect a human being as yet.”

“But this man Frost could use it if he had to, couldn’t he? You told the president it was almost operational.”

Vander Defoe breathed a long sigh, deciding that life in the middle of the twenty-first century had problems all its own. “By almost operational, I simply meant that it was functional. I did not mean to imply the use of the word in its military sense—that is, on active service. The transvection machine on Earth has been used for a few experiments, but we have not yet transvected anything across outer space. As you’ll remember, a human being thus far has been transvected only a distance of 8,084 miles—from Washington to Calcutta—and even that was on an experimental basis. Millions more need to be spent before the transvection machine is in regular use.”

“But
could
he use the machine to escape?”

Defoe shook his head. “No. Tell the president there is no danger. First of all, our machine on Venus is not in the hands of the Russo-Chinese. I hardly think they would risk an extra-terrestrial incident simply to get one of their friends back to earth.”

That seemed to satisfy Tromp for the moment. He shuffled his feet uncertainly. “Very well, Vander. I knew you’d have an answer for him. I wasn’t really worried, but you know how I’ve backed you up through all this. It was I who got the president’s ear about the transvection machine in the first place, after I witnessed the test with the girl, and I who arranged for a test machine to be placed on Venus for your experiments. And you have the transvection machine to thank for your position in the president’s cabinet.”

“I know, I know,” Defoe replied with a tired voice. He was bored with the constant homage to Tromp’s position at the president’s ear.

Maarten Tromp started for the door. He paused with his hand on the push-plate and said, almost as an afterthought, “Maybe we can get together for a game of aqua-golf some weekend, Vander.”

“That would be fine, Maarten.”

“I’m shooting in the low hundreds now, you know. Beat the secretary of state last weekend.”

“Good for you.”

The door closed behind Tromp, and Vander Defoe sat for a long time in his chair, staring at the glowing radiant ceiling of his office. There was much to be done, and he knew he should be summoning secretaries and aides, but just then the powers of a presidential cabinet member seemed very far away indeed. He got up from his desk and walked to the wall, where a ten-color map of the USAC was prominently displayed. The United States of America and Canada—sixty-one states—comprised everything north of Mexico, with the exception of the tiny independent nation of French Canada. It was a vast land, almost as vast as Russo-China, and he was perhaps one of the twenty most important men in this land.

He’d come a long way from Kansas to Washington, a long way in a very short time. He wondered if he could ever go back. And wondering, felt the first faint cramps in his lower abdomen.

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2 GRETEL DeFOE

S
HE ROLLED OVER ON
the wide white bed, propped herself up on one elbow, and studied the naked man kneeling above her. Hubert Ganger was far from being the greatest lover she’d known in her thirty-one years, but he would do. His slim body was still firm, without any of the middleaged flab men past forty so often acquired, and with his close-cropped blond hair and beard he looked no older than her own age. Best of all, he knew how to please a woman—something so many twenty-first-century lovers had forgotten. Yes, she decided, he would do. He could be trained.

“How was that?” he asked, with a scientist’s critical eye toward his performance.

She smiled and allowed her eyes to close, purring softly. “Very good, Hubert. Now we’ll try it again, and I’m sure it will be perfect.”

“Again?” He frowned uncertainly. “I don’t know if I …”

She rolled off the bed and padded softly across the thick carpet to the closetier. In a moment she returned with the electric lance. “Here,” she told him, holding it out. “Put this on.”

“My God! I didn’t think anyone used these outside of male whorehouses!”

She smiled at his naiveté. He had so much to learn. In a way she pitied the former wife she’d never met. The poor girl must have had a boring marriage. “In fact, my dear Hubert, these are used in all the most sophisticated circles. Let me take my laudanum tablet and we can begin again.”

She swallowed the tablet with half a glass of water, watching with some amusement while he strapped on the electric lance. Then, stretching out on the bed once more, she allowed the drug to work its wonders. First, as always, came the agreeable, pleasant sensation about the region of her stomach, followed by a feeling of gay good humor. She was serene, she was assured, she was relaxed.

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“Now!” she commanded the waiting man. “Now, now!”

Her mouth was dry, and warm. Her skin shimmered as if efflorescent, as if about to burst into a thousand blossoms. She was riding the crest of a great wave, feeling the fullness of supreme bliss. He was bringing her to a completeness, a passion, she’d rarely known before. In that instant all the nights of her life seemed to telescope into one. She remembered the first boy in high school, and the male prostitute in New York, remembered her wedding night with Vander, and the first affair afterwards. She remembered Hubert, and the other two, and all the ones between, remembered them now in a single blinding orgasm that made her cry out in pain and fury and delight.

Later, when the tide of the drug had subsided and a bit of reason had returned, Gretel looked at him over the dull landscape of the sheets and said, “I do love a man with a beard.”

“I’m glad.”

“Now suppose we talk about killing my husband.”

Gretel had met Vander Defoe when she was just out of college, at an age when the glamour of being a scientist’s wife was still capable of making a profound impression on her unworldly self. Defoe was twenty years older than she and perhaps a half-century wiser, but each of them seemed to fill a need in the other. For Gretel it was the exposure to a world of science and invention, the knowledge that she was sharing her bed and body with a man who had visited the Venus Colony last year, had dined with the president last month, had sipped cocktails with a Nobel Prize winner just last night. For Vander it was, perhaps, the eternal attraction of a young and vigorous female—someone to rescue him from the deepening depressions of middle age. His first wife had died in a freak accident on the sea-rail to Jamaica, and he was ready to marry again. More than ready, he needed to marry again.

There was no problem about children, because she fully shared Vander’s support of government child clinics. Their life during those first few years had been all she’d dreamed it would be. Once, on vacation, he’d taken her to the Moon Colony for a week, as guests of the technician general at the laboratories there. She’d talked about it for a month on her return, filling endless boring luncheons with descriptions of the bleak lunar landscape and all that was being done by the USAC technicians to improve it.

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And then there had been Hubert Ganger and his ideas for a transvection machine. Ganger and Defoe met at a seminar in Krakow on the subject of improved transportation methods, and they became immediate friends. Vander Defoe liked the theory behind the transvection machine—the idea of transporting objects and animals, and ultimately humans, through the air at the speed of light. It was a theory, he’d told Gretel, that could revolutionize transportation. It could even revolutionize warfare.

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Defoe and Ganger had formed a corporation together, working out of leased space at the Kansas Research Center, and gone to work on the practicality of the invention. With colonies on the Moon and Venus, the government was especially interested in whether humans could be transvected not only between points on Earth, but through outer space as well. Defoe maintained they could be, while Ganger felt that his system was still theoretical, especially regarding outer space.