Midsummer moon, p.39
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       Midsummer Moon, p.39

           Laura Kinsale

  A harvest moon hung full and heavy over the garden, sending cool light to turn the gilded furnishings to silver. Merlin stood at the window of the darkened bedchamber. She crossed her arms, draped in Ransom's borrowed dressing gown because she'd managed to mislay her own so badly that even the maid couldn't find it.

  She heard him move behind her and turned.

  "Aren't you cold?” she asked, eyeing his unclad figure in the moonlight. “It's November, you know."

  He put his arms around her and pressed against her back. “Do I feel cold, Wiz?"

  She leaned against him. “Not in some places."

  "Mmm.” He brushed aside her loosened hair and kissed her neck. “What are you doing staring out the window, Mrs. Duke?"


  He groaned. “About what?"

  "Things.” She twisted a little, looking up at him. “What happened to our speaking box?"

  "Ah.” He rocked her gently. “I'm afraid it's been swallowed up in the Admiralty's confidential files."

  "Was it never put to use?” she asked in disappointment.

  "It's the Admiralty's secret. It may be we'll never know."

  "I'll wager you know,” she said wisely.

  He raised his eyebrows. “Do you care so much what happened to it?"

  "Well ... I hoped that it would do some good. You said it would."

  He kissed her nose. Then he ran his forefinger down it and gave her a subtle smile. “Nelson won at Trafalgar, did he not?"

  Merlin tilted her head. Her lips curved upward in an answering smile. “Ah. I probably saved thousands of lives,” she said. “I'm good at that.” She settled back against him and watched the moonlight. “I'm rather glad that you arranged for Mr. Peale to get away. I shouldn't have liked for him to be hanged."

  "Merlin,” Ransom said patiently, “I wish you will not say that I arranged for him to ‘get away.’ Not in public, at any rate."

  "I won't,” Merlin promised.

  His low chuckle vibrated against her back. “The incident did have a nice Falconer twist, I must say. Full confession of activities and a list of members in his spying ring in return for dropping charges of treason. How was I to know there was a Navy press gang prowling just outside the door as he left?"

  "Hmmpf,” she said. “You always know."

  "Oh, always. I'm infallible.” Ransom nibbled at the curve of her ear and then said softly, “I do have one question, though, Wiz,"


  His arms tensed a little around her shoulders. He laid his cheek on her hair. “Merlin, when are you going to start working to rebuild your flying machine?"

  "My flying machine?” She half-turned in his arms. “Oh, I wasn't going to rebuild it."

  He held her away from him and peered into her face. “You weren't?” There was the faintest trace of hope in his voice.

  She shrugged. “I'm finished with that. I said I would build a machine that would fly, and I did. I flew. I've forgotten that first time—I never can seem to remember anything about that day at all—but you and I flew in a machine that I designed."

  "And that's it?” He sounded stunned. “That's all you wanted?"

  She nodded.

  "You're sure?"

  She nodded again.

  "Thank God.” Air came out of him in a whoosh. He drew her close and hugged her. “Oh, Merlin, thank God for that. I was going to try not to interfere; I swear I was, but I've been dreading it worse than death by slow degrees."

  She smiled. She could just see his eyes in the moon-shadow, pale gold in the metallic light. She stood on tiptoe and met his kiss, felt his arms grow taut around her. For a long, long moment all she thought of was Ransom, of his body and his arms and his kiss—all pressed hard against her—and the assurance of pleasures to come that those things promised.

  When he let her go, she turned around in his arms to look back out the window at the sky. She tucked his hands up between her own and intertwined their fingers. She liked the feel of him at her back, solid and warm, so much larger than herself. He tightened his hold, exerting a steady pull on her to draw her toward the bed.

  She patted his hand. “No, you have nothing at all to worry about. I'm quite done with the flying machine. I have something else in mind."

  He squeezed her. In a husky murmur, he said, “So do I, Wiz."

  She relaxed in the velvet strength of his hold, allowing herself to be pulled along backward on her heels. “Yes,” she announced complacently as she was towed across the floor. “Now I'm going to start building a rocket to reach the moon!"

  Author's Note

  The battle of Trafalgar predates by a century both Reginald Fessendon's radio broadcast from Brant Rock, Massachusetts, on Christmas Eve, 1906, and the Wright Brothers’ controlled flights in Glider Number Three at Kitty Hawk. In light of these facts, Merlin's achievements may seem wildly unrealistic. But in 1805, the elements of radio communication and heavier-than-air-craft flight existed. An electric current made magnetic fields. The wind provided lift for birds’ wings according to the laws of aerodynamics. Countless amateur and professional scientists dreamed dreams and flew models and sent currents through the wires.

  The names we remember today—Wright, Marconi, Morse, Cooke, and Wheatstone—are legend. They had genius, and more than that: the luck to have it at the right time. In the shadows behind them stand all those who tried and failed ... or tried and might have succeeded, only to be ignored by a complacent world.

  In 1816, eleven years before Cooke, Wheatstone, and Morse entered their claims of inventing the electric telegraph, a young aristocrat named Francis Ronalds sent a memorandum to the Lords of the Admiralty. He offered them his plans for the first practical, effective electric telegraph, which he had erected in his garden. After being denied an interview with Lord Melville, Ronalds received a letter from the Secretary of the Admiralty, which stated: “...telegraphs of any kind are now wholly unnecessary, and no other than the one now in use will be adopted."

  I like to think the Lords had their reasons ... concealed deep in the Admiralty's secret files.

  Ad astra per aspera.


  * * *

  Visit www.ereads.com for information on additional titles by this and other authors.



  Laura Kinsale, Midsummer Moon



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