Former ballerina Callie Carlisle is determined to rebuild her life with her new mechanical limbs. She's just learned to accept the enhancements that saved her from certain death when she experiences uncontrollable twinges and flashes of light that obscure her vision. Terrified of literally falling apart, she resists telling her husband. Jasper's already vowed to keep her out of harm, and she doesn't want to worry him further.
When the War Office's General Black arrives with an urgent missionrescue the doctor who created Callie's enhancementsshe has no choice but to accept. A rogue agent and former patient of the scientist believes the biomechanical modifications he received are killing him, and he's out for revenge.
Callie must reach the doctor before it's too late. But with an overprotective Jasper at her side, and her alarming symptoms getting more frequent, will she be able to hold herself together long enough to save the doctor...and herself?
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The heavy clunk of her boots as she walked with slow, measured steps had ceased to bother her...except here in this particular room, where she'd once spent so much of her time. The wide-plank flooring and high ceilings magnified the sound and sent it back at her. In here, the battle she fought with her memories was always just a little bit harder.
Callie opened her eyes, only now realizing that she'd squeezed them closed and clenched her hand into a tight fist at her side. After a deep breath, she took another step into the ballroom. Bright morning sunlight shot through the wall of windows facing the east garden, throwing long rays across the smooth, polished floor and making the dancing dust motes look like tiny glittering snowflakes.
The room had never been used for parties and elegant dinners with the country set. But she'd spent many hours here doing pli s, lev s and ronds de jambe at the barre, or practicing leaps across the long expanse of floor.
Lifting her head, she heard the tinkling voices of the servants as they tidied up the breakfast dishes next door in the morning room, but in here there was nothing. The special gramophone Jasper had gotten for her two years ago, which played at the push of a button instead of having to be wound up, sat silent and dusty in the corner as if it were a child receiving punishment. Framed posters from her performances in London and Paris hung on the back wall, where a rack of costumes and a shelf of slippers waited for the dancer who'd once worn them to return.
But that wasn't going to happen. She was no longer the famous Calliandra, prima ballerina. This was the studio of a woman who didn't exist anymore...and the person who'd taken her place had been avoiding it too long.
Which is why she'd come here. To face her past before the servants took everything down. It was time to embrace the future.
It had always been her plan to one day retire from the ballet and settle down to grow round with Jasper's child. Her hand flattened over her empty belly. There was no chance of that now. She would never hold her own baby. Jasper would be denied an heir for the title that had been in his family for more generations than they could count. She'd received confirmation yesterday but still hadn't told him. In fact he didn't even know about the doctor's visit. She wasn't certain what would be worsethe look in his eyes if he learned she'd broken their mutual promise to keep no secrets, or telling him the truth and having all her worst fears come true.
Although Jasper made no sound as he stopped in the doorway behind her, she knew she wasn't alone any longer. His presence eased her melancholy. She squared her shoulders and breathed in deeply, letting the familiar combination of lemon-scented soap and the woodsy cologne she'd given him for his birthday wrap her in comfort like a warm blanket.
"What are you doing here? I thought you were going into town today." Her husky voice didn't crack on the words as they usually did. In fact, lately her throat felt less like she'd swallowed a handful of nails and almost...normal, but it was still a good thing she'd never been a singer as well as a dancer.