Home > Talk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister #4.5)

Talk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister #4.5)
Author: Courtney Milan

Chapter One

Greenwich, November 1882

THERE WAS NO WAY FOR Miss Rose Sweetly to set down her packages. All six of them were balanced precariously under one arm while her free hand fumbled through her pocket. Her fingers encountered used pencil nubs and a letter folded in half; her burdens shifted slightly, sliding away… If that dratted key ring was not in this pocket, and in the opposite instead—ah!

Thumb and forefinger met cold metal. Rose was withdrawing her find in triumph when a voice interrupted.

“Good afternoon, Miss Sweetly.”

The sound of Mr. Shaughnessy’s voice—that lilting velvet—set the inevitable in motion. First the book wrapped in paper slipped; then, as she grabbed for that, her notebook began to fall. She could compute the physics of it in her mind, a cascading avalanche of packages resulting from too few hands and too much gravity. Rose had time to make only one decision: save her slide rule or save the shopping?

Her slide rule won. She grabbed hold of the leather case with her fingertips just before it hit the ground.

Her other burdens were not so lucky. Splat went the book. The shopping landed with a more complex sound—one that smacked of breaking eggs. Three oranges escaped the bag entirely and bounced crazily down the pavement.

Mr. Stephen Shaughnessy stood two doors down from her. His eyebrows rose at this minor catastrophe, and Rose felt her cheeks heat. But there was nothing to do now but brazen it out.

She gave him her most brilliant smile and waved her slide rule case. “Good afternoon, Mr. Shaughnessy.”

The case slipped slightly, but she managed to catch it before an even greater disaster ensued.

Mr. Shaughnessy had taken the house just down from her sister’s three months ago. In all that time, she’d never managed to shake the nerves she felt around him. He had never done anything to warrant that nervousness, unfortunately; he was unfailingly polite.

As proof, he didn’t abuse her for her clumsiness now. He didn’t even remark on it. He simply came toward her. He took three steps forward—and she drew back one—before she realized that he only intended to pick up her oranges.

Any other reason he might have drawn close to her? That was all in her imagination.

She set down her slide rule carefully and picked up her shopping bag. It was canvas, and most of the contents hadn’t spilled. The meat, wrapped in waxed paper, was still at the bottom. The eggs…well, she’d check them once they were inside, but she had a sneaking suspicion that she and her sister would be having omelets for dinner tonight. Only the fruit had truly gone awry. She picked up an apple, not looking in his direction.

But she didn’t have to look directly at him to be aware of him. Mr. Shaughnessy was a young man—scarcely a few years older than she. He was tall and built on lovely, well-muscled lines, the sort that young ladies who intended to stay innocent were not supposed to notice. He had a friendly smile, one that made a woman want to smile in response, and the faintest hint of an Irish accent. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and a much darker reputation.

But he picked up one of the offending fruits and smiled in her direction. “Why is it that the oranges bounced, but the apples did not?”

His smile felt like an arrow, one that struck her straight in the solar plexus. And so Rose adjusted her spectacles on her nose and said the first thing that came to mind.

Unfortunately, the first thing that came to mind was…

“It’s Newton’s Third Law. Upon collision, the apple exerts a force on the pavement, and so the pavement must exert an equal and opposite force on the apple. The structure of the apple is inelastic and so the apple bruises. The orange, by contrast…” She swallowed, realized that she was babbling, and shut her mouth. “I’m sorry, Mr. Shaughnessy. I don’t think that’s what you meant to ask, was it?”

He straightened. Oh, he was dreadfully handsome. He put a casual care into his appearance, and it showed. He was clean-shaven, even though it was three in the afternoon. His cravat looked as crisp as if it had been pressed just now, not at six in the morning. Nothing about Mr. Shaughnessy suggested that he was a degenerate of the first order. Nothing, that was, except his line of work and the persistent gossip in the papers.

“You don’t need to let me natter on when I get distracted that way,” she told him. “Everyone else stops me. In these parts, it’s considered polite to interrupt Miss Sweetly when she’s on a tear.”

“Nonsense,” Mr. Shaughnessy said. He took a step toward her, and then another. Her chest constricted—he was standing so dreadfully, deliciously close—and then he held out the oranges he’d gathered.

For one moment, as she took them from him, their hands brushed. Neither of them was wearing gloves: she, because she couldn’t have found her keys while wearing them; he because…well, the heavens alone knew, and she was not about to ask. His fingers were warm and pale against hers.

“I would never interrupt you,” he told her. “I love it when you talk Sweetly to me.”

She yanked her hand away. “You mustn’t say things like that, Mr. Shaughnessy. Someone might overhear and mistake your meaning.”

His eyes met hers. For the briefest second, she imagined a spark in them—as if some imp inside him whispered that anyone who heard what he’d said would understand it perfectly. He’d intended to flirt, and he knew precisely how he’d flustered her.

But he didn’t say that. He simply shrugged. “We wouldn’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

If there had been an ounce of sarcasm in his voice, she would have walked away right then and there. But there wasn’t.

“So let me say it better. If I didn’t want to hear you talk about your opposite and equal reactions, I wouldn’t ask about your star charts. What are you computing this time?”

“Oh, it’s not star charts, not today. It won’t be star charts for months. It’s the Great Comet now, and it’ll be the transit of Venus after that.”

His eyebrows rose. “There’s a great comet?”

“Do you not read any scientific papers? It may be the brightest comet ever observed. You can still see it with the naked eye against the sun itself.”

He glanced upward at the sun overhead, unobscured by any cometary tail. “If you can see it with the naked eye, how is it that I’ve never caught a glimpse of it?”

She huffed. “Because London is not in the Southern hemisphere. The visibility here is not as it is in Melbourne, for instance.”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology