When Bertram Blackwood's father is attacked and injured, Bertie must take his father's place and travel to Japan where he hopes to obtain a contract for silk from the prince of the Kaiyo province.
But his rival, Felton Coleman, doesn't play by the rules.
Despite an attack on Bertie, and his right-hand man Tom, they still make it to the rendezvous in time to be taken to the palace.
When Bertie meets Prince Ichirou, friendship soon becomes something much more, but danger stalks Ichirou.
Bertie must battle with an ancient evil if he's to save his prince.
Be Warned: m/m sex
A hubbub outside the drawing room door, caused Bertie to hurry over to see what the commotion was about. Before he reached the door, it flew open and Tom stood there. His friend looked terrible—his face ashen, and a bandage was across his brow. Bertie caught a glimpse of his mother dashing out of the front door, Tom’s mother at her side, before he focused on his friend.
“Tom! What happened?” Bertie reached out to Tom, steadying the man as his step faltered.
“We were attacked. It seemed like some … some kind of … of … I dunno, an ‘arpy, I think. I saw a woman’s face, and … and claws.” Tom closed his eyes and shuddered. “She was so ugly. Don’t worry, Bertie. Your father’s going to be just fine.”
“Come and sit here.” Bertie helped Tom to a chair and then ran to the dresser on which were several elegant decanters. Selecting one, Bertie poured a generous measure into two glasses. On returning to Tom, Bertie handed him one glass, kept the other, and perched on the edge of the chair opposite Tom. “Drink it. Brandy’s good for shock. What happened to Papa?”
“He’s still in hospital. The surgeon wanted me to stay, too, but I thought I should get back to you as quickly as possible. The surgeon looking after Master Charles had your family mage brought in, so the Master has his own protection now. Between the ring I inherited from my dad, and the medallion the Master wore, the ‘arpy couldn’t directly hurt us. So, she overturned the carriage instead.”
“Are you sure Papa is all right?” The description of the attack made Bertie’s stomach roil. He took a healthy swallow of the brandy.
“His leg’s broken, but he’s more angry than he is hurt.” Tom’s tone became a mournful as his expression. “He won’t be on that airship, now. In fact, he won’t be going to Japan at all.”
“Just what Lalleyman and Willis would want. For us to be out of the running for the contract.”
“That’s exactly what Master Charles said.” Tom nodded, taking another sip of the brandy.
“They won’t get away with this.” Bertie stood up. “If Papa cannot go, I shall.”
“But the prince doesn’t know you.” Tom’s eyes grew wide and he rose shakily from the chair. “The Master won’t permit it.”
“Papa has no choice. I have the outfits I made, and the designs for the ballgowns, as well as men’s attire. He can give me a letter, proof of who I am. We need this contract. The silk is the best there is. And I will not allow Lalleyman and Willis to get away with this.”
“If you go, I’m going with you. I’ll not allow you to go alone.” Tom drew himself up to his full height and scowled down at Bertie.
A wave of affection, and relief, swept over Bertie. He and Tom had known one another since boyhood. Tom’s mother was cook for the household, and a close friend and confidant of Bertie’s mother. Tom had grown up as much a friend of Bertie’s as he had in service to Bertie’s family. His solidity and common-sense outlook were often invaluable to him.
“Then we must move fast to secure travel papers. You were accompanying Papa anyway, and there are two tickets. We just need to organize me. Let’s call a cab and go to the hospital. I need to talk to Papa and find out who we can call upon to assist in obtaining the correct papers to ensure I’m on that airship.”
“Then every minute counts.” Tom set down his glass. “I’ll call for a cab. The Mistress and my Ma took the cab I came here in.”
“I’ll be upstairs, packing.” Bertie set his glass beside Tom’s. “Call me the moment the cab arrives. I’ll have as much done as I can to save time.”
“Yes, sir.” Tom’s smile wasn’t as bright and heartening as usual, but it was a smile and it served to uplift Bertie’s spirits. That he’d never negotiated a contract in his life was something he’d have to deal with in due course. If he was lucky, his father would be able to pen something he could use, and he could always telegraph him for advice. It would have to do.