A Dangerous Collaboration (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery)
ALSO BY DEANNA RAYBOURN
Veronica Speedwell Mysteries
A Curious Beginning
A Perilous Undertaking
A Treacherous Curse
Lady Julia Grey Series
Silent in the Grave
Silent in the Sanctuary
Silent on the Moor
Dark Road to Darjeerling
The Dark Enquiry
The Dead Travel Fast
A Spear of Summer Grass
City of Jasmine
Night of a Thousand Stars
Far in the Wilds
(prequel to A Spear of Summer Grass)
Whisper of Jasmine
(prequel to City of Jasmine)
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Copyright © 2019 by Deanna Raybourn
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Raybourn, Deanna, author.
Title: A dangerous collaboration / Deanna Raybourn.
Description: First Edition. | New York: Berkley, 2019. | Series: Veronica Speedwell mystery series
Identifiers: LCCN 2018043155| ISBN 9780451490711 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780451490735 (ebook)
Subjects: | GSAFD: Mystery fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3618.A983 D36 2019 | DDC 813/.6—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018043155
First Edition: March 2019
Cover art and design by Leo Nickolls
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To all of the intrepid adventuresses just waiting for their journeys to begin . . .
Also by Deanna Raybourn
About the Author
London, March 1888
“What the devil do you mean you’re leaving?” Stoker demanded. He surveyed the half-packed carpetbag on my bed as I folded in a spare shirtwaist and Magalhães’s Guide to Portuguese Lepidoptery. It was a weightier volume than one might expect, featuring an appendix devoted to the butterflies of Madeira and certain flamboyant moths found only in the Azores.
“Precisely what I said. I am packing. When I have packed, I will leave this place and board a train for the coast. There I will leave the train and get onto a boat, and when it stops at Madeira, I will have arrived.” My tone was frankly waspish. I had dreaded telling Stoker of my plans, expecting some sort of mild explosion at the notion that I had at last secured an expedition, however minor, to which he was not invited. Instead, he had adopted an attitude of Arctic hauteur. I blamed his aristocratic upbringing for that. And his nose. It was very easy to look down on someone with a nose that would have done a Roman emperor justice. But I could not entirely blame him. As natural historians, we had balked at our enforced stay in London, each of us longing for the open seas, skies that stretched to forever, horizons that beckoned us with spice-scented winds. Instead, we had found ourselves employed by the Earl of Rosemorran to catalog his family’s extensive collections—interesting and modestly profitable work that stunted the soul if endured for too long. One could count only so many stuffed marmosets before the spirit rebelled. The notion that I was to escape our genial confinement whilst he labored on would have tested the noblest character, and Stoker, like me, bore a healthy streak of self-interest.
“At Madeira?” he asked.
“At Madeira,” I replied firmly.
He folded his arms over the breadth of his chest. “And might one inquire as to the expected duration of this expedition?”
“One might, but one would be disappointed with the reply. I have not yet formulated my plans, but I expect to be away for some months. Perhaps until the autumn.”
“Until the autumn,” he said, drawing out the words slowly.
“Yes. Look for me in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” I instructed with a feeble attempt at a smile. But even a nod to his beloved Keats did not soften his austere expression.
“And you mean to go alone.”
“Not at all,” I told him, as I tucked a large pot of cold cream of roses into my bag. “Lady Cordelia and I shall travel together.”
He gave a snort of laughter that was distinctly lacking in amusement. “Lady Cordelia. You know her only experience with shipboard life is the Channel steamer, do you not? Her notion of rough travel is not taking the second footman. And I do not even like to think of what Sidonie will have to say on the matter.”
I winced at the mention of Lady Cordelia’s snippy French lady’s maid. “She will not be coming.”
His mouth fell agape and he dropped the pose of icy disdain. “Veronica, you cannot be serious. I know you long to shake the fogs of London out of your clothes as much as I do, but dragging Lady Cordelia to some benighted island in the middle of the Atlantic makes no sense at all. You might as well haul her to the North Pole.”
“I should never attempt a polar expedition,” I assured him with a lightness I did not feel. “There are no butterflies to be found there.”
He gripped my shoulders, his thumbs just brushing the tops of my collarbones. “If this is because of what I said earlier today,” he began, “what I almost said—”
I raised a hand. “Of course not.” It was a pathetic attempt at a lie. The truth was that both of us, in an unguarded moment, had very nearly given voice to sentiments we had no business declaring. I could still feel the pressure of his hand, burning like a brand at my waist, as his breath stirred the lock of hair pinned