From London, With Love by Bec McMaster

It was a little eerie how well-aligned their thought processes were. Though he had completed her training. “Sir Gideon mentioned the same.”

“Which gives us a ten-minute window between the queen accepting the cordial and rumor spreading.” Gemma’s eyes narrowed. “Only the guards witnessed my assault on the queen, and you had the room locked down.”

“So there was either someone watching—our poisoner, we may presume,” Byrnes broke in, “or someone in the ballroom was aware of what was about to happen.”

“Obsidian and I will reinvestigate the queen’s antechamber to see if there are any hidden niches one can observe from.” Gemma pushed away from the table. “Byrnes, I want you and Charlie pursuing the kitchens lead. Find that cyanide for me.” She seemed to notice Malloryn was still there. “Unless Your Grace has another preference?”

He waved her away. “You’re in command.”

She arched a brow. “I hate you sometimes.”

“You were born for this role,” he replied. “And I enjoy seeing you in action.”

“Fine.” Gemma brushed nonexistent lint from her sleeve. “Then I’m going to set you and your wife into action too. None of us can question the occupants of the ballroom. Foreign princes aren’t likely to respond to servants like us—”

“I ain’t a fuckin’ servant,” Kincaid growled.

“In their eyes you may as well be,” Malloryn murmured. He nodded. “Sir Gideon heard the rumor from Lady Baumbury. I’ll set Adele upon her and see if we can trace these whispers back to their source. Anything else, my Lady Rogue?”

Gemma stuck her tongue out at him. “Don’t tempt me.”

“My search has been unfruitful,” Adele told him several hours later as she dumped her reticule on the table. “Lady Baumbury heard it from the Countess of Wessex, who heard of it from Lady Hendricks, who was in a circle of ladies when it was first mentioned, though she cannot recall where it originated from.”

“Which ladies?” Malloryn murmured.

Adele pinched the bridge of her nose. “Lady Boxden, Princess Imogen of York, two of the Russians—though Lady Hendricks mangled their names so badly I couldn’t confirm their identities—and Lady Abagnale.”

“Hmm.” He eased away from the table. Rumors were difficult to trace, though Adele had done better than he expected. “There are five female members of the Blood court here in London currently.”

“You favor the Russians?”

“Lady Boxden is a wealthy widow who lost her cruel husband in the revolution, thanks to the queen. She’s barely shed a tear for him. Princess Imogen is a snake, but she’s the queen’s cousin. She likes the comforts such proximity affords her. And Lady Hendricks might have the capacity for such maliciousness, but she wouldn’t be able to keep word of it to herself. I don’t know the Russians, but the Blood court is infamous for poisonings.”

“But why would they go to so much trouble when one of their princes is courting the queen?”

Malloryn smiled. “Why, indeed?”

Sir Gideon snapped his pocket watch open and then shut again. Five hours and no word. He trusted Malloryn’s capabilities, but this was beginning to seem nothing short of torture.

The queen’s head was bent over a book. She hadn’t spoken a word to him since he’d arrived and made that statement. To force the issue meant breaking his word; and he was loath to do that, especially to her.

He flicked his thumbnail under the pocket watch’s edge, popping it open again as he strolled toward the window.

“Good grief.” The queen slapped the book flat in her lap. “Can you stop doing that?”

He stilled. “Doing what?”

“Checking your bloody pocket watch. If you wish to leave so dearly, then leave. I have guards at the door.”

Sir Gideon straightened and popped the watch in his pocket. “I’m not going anywhere. And I don’t wish to leave. I was merely wondering what was taking Malloryn so long.”

“Malloryn is no doubt stirring a hornet’s nest,” the queen replied. “It’s what he does best.”

“You almost sound as if you admire him.”

She paused. “Few have been as loyal to me over the years. And while his methods may frustrate me at times, I do remember that.”