Home > Soulbound (Darkest London #6)(10)

Soulbound (Darkest London #6)(10)
Kristen Callihan

A moue of distaste marred Mab’s cool beauty. “No. It is the demon’s doing.”

Eliza’s shoulders hit the cushioned squabs. “He did this to me?”

“You are essentially GIM without the disgrace of a clockwork heart. No doubt, he thought to do you an honor.” Mab’s eyes darkened in disgust. “Or perhaps he figured that, as you were already chained to his side, he did not need to control you by means of your heart as well.”

Eliza stared blindly down at her lap. Her hands, covered by the finest kidskin gloves money could buy, were clenched into fists. GIM, but not. She wondered if her spirit could leave her body as well, but did not want to try it. Horrible visions of being unable to get back into her flesh made her breath quicken. He’d made her as he was?

“He’s never tried to find me,” Eliza blurted out. Because Mab had been insistent that Adam would try. It was the sole reason Eliza was constantly watched by one of Mab’s servants whenever they went out. Only now Eliza knew that to be a grand lie. How could he come for her when Mab already had him?

Across from her, Mab showed not the slightest hint of discomfort. She merely shrugged. “Demons are mercurial beings, pet. Best not to dwell on it.” She gave Eliza a bright smile as she leaned in and squeezed Eliza’s hands with just a bit too much force. “You have my word that he will never touch you again.”

It was easy to bite her lip and nod, affecting the countenance of a girl much relieved and not a little frightened. Easy, Eliza thought, to lie.

“Come now,” Mab said brightly. “Enough talk of distasteful things. We are here, and we shall have a lovely time at this party, meeting new people and eating sweetmeats, just as you wanted.”

Eliza hadn’t wanted to go to this garden party. All the tittering and social niceties made her head ache. It had been Mab’s suggestion. Hadn’t it? Frowning, she let herself be handed out of the carriage by a liveried footman and took a deep breath of smoky London air. Her bodice squeezed back in protest. Eliza smoothed a hand down her skirts, made of pure white silk foulard. The fabric cost more than most laborers made in a year.

“Eliza, dearest.” Mab gave her a small smile, the gesture managing to look both welcoming and impatient. “Let us join the party.” She turned, without waiting to see if Eliza followed, her grass-green skirts swaying as she made her way up the front stairs of the grand town home.

Follow Eliza did, she had little choice. Endless parties. New gowns. And Eliza falling deeper and deeper into Mab’s debt. Was that what Mab wanted? For Eliza to be beholden to her. Well, she already was, now wasn’t she?

It was difficult to stand idle when everything inside of her screamed to turn and run, to get away from Mab, from London even.

Damn the demon, he had put this suspicion and fear into her. Her agitation did not improve as they made their way through the fine London townhouse and into the garden, a lovely English garden with meticulously trimmed hedges and beds of newly blooming flowers marching in orderly rows.

Around her, women swarmed and converged into little groups to chatter. Mab loved this, the attention, the laughter and adulation. Eliza had long since noticed that Mab seemed to soak these things in as a flower might the sun. Oddly, when it was all done, Mab would return home and indulge in her more private proclivities. It was as if these social outings gave her the energy to fuel her hidden cruelties.

Run away. That is what Adam had advised. Eliza did not want to believe Adam. Not truly. And yet she felt ashamed. She knew precisely why she stayed with Mab. Until this moment, her entire life had been composed of “have nots,” forced to live on meager sums, clothes that needed constant reworking, winter nights that left her shivering because coal supplies had to last for months, until, finally, she’d been too poor to feed herself and she’d done unforgivable things. Deep inside of Eliza, there was a hateful, shameful lust for luxury.

From an early age, she’d coveted fine things. Sparkling jewels, silky textiles, luscious foods, costly items that she could never hope to possess, all called to her. Mam had called her a magpie. She used the moniker with affection. But Grandda Evernight had always frowned upon her roving eye. Only once had she heard him mutter that Eliza was too much like her grandmother. As she’d never met the woman, Eliza couldn’t feel offended on her behalf, but it stung nevertheless. It made her feel wrong and unsettled.

Was Mab truly her grandmother? And the fae queen to boot? Eliza snorted softly to herself as she walked along the shadowed path, the air fragrant with the scent of loam and sunshine. It all seemed so normal here. When her life had become anything but. Fairies, demons, men who could raise the dead, and men who could turn to shadows. Tales, if told around normal folk, that would have her packed up and sent to Bedlam. And yet she’d seen it all with her own two eyes.

As she drifted past the gentlemen’s beverage table, laden with all the tempting drinks deemed too strong for weak women, Eliza plucked up a glass of champagne and drank it down, letting the cool, tartness of it sooth her parched throat, not caring if anyone saw her do it.

“Swallowing nearly an entire glass of champagne?” said a male voice at her side. “I’m shocked.”

Eliza knew that voice and found herself smiling. St. John Evernight returned it. “And in public, no less.” He glanced around, taking in the crowd, all dressed in their finest as they ate their picnic food off of china plates and used silver to cut their fruit. “What will these crows think?”

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