Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers

BOOK: Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers
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Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers
By Kim Knox

Book three of Agamemnon Frost

Edgar Mason is losing Agamemnon Frost despite everything they’ve been through—the passion, the torture, the heat. Frost’s fiancée, Theodora, is back, and Mason can feel his lover gravitating toward her. Every day he sees them together, it tears at his heart.

Frost feels raw himself. His brother and sister-in-law are missing, and his guilt about failing to save Theodora from Pandarus eats at him. His feelings for Mason, whom he has put through hell twice already, just twist the screws tighter.

On top of that, Pandarus and the Martians are back to make their final push to Earth, and Frost and Mason are duty bound to fight them. People are vanishing. Bodies are turning up burned beyond recognition in the slums. The bleak, human-less future Frost and Mason saw in the hollow ships has nearly come to pass.

And in order to prevent it, each man will have to make a final choice: lose his lover or doom the world.

Find out how it began in
Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death
.

32,000 words

Dear Reader,

It’s possible I say this every year, but I love October. To me, this is the month that signals the start of a season of hot apple cider, evenings by the fire, and curling up on the sofa with a good book, dressed warmly in sweatpants and a comfy shirt and snuggled under my favorite fuzzy blanket. We at Carina Press can’t provide most of those things, but we can provide the good books, and this month we have more than a few good books!

In
Running Back
, the highly anticipated sequel to Allison Parr’s new-adult contemporary romance
Rush Me
, Natalie Sullivan is on the verge of a breakthrough most archaeology grad students only dream of: discovering a lost city. Her research points to a farm in Ireland, but to excavate she needs permission from the new owner:
the
Michael O’Connor, popular NFL running back.

If you’re like me, there are certain tropes in romance that you fall for every time. One of mine is the main theme of Christi Barth’s newest book,
Friends to Lovers.
(Gee, can you guess what it is?) Daphne struggles with revealing her longtime lust for Gib, sparking it all off with a midnight kiss on New Year’s Eve—only Gib doesn’t know it’s Daphne he’s kissed! Also in the contemporary romance category is
First and Again
by Jana Richards, which has a special place in my heart because this emotional story takes place in my home state of North Dakota.

For months, this Red Cross head nurse has been aiding Allied soldiers caught behind enemy lines, helping them flee into the neutral Netherlands. It’s only a matter of time until she’s caught in
Aiding the Enemy
, a historical romance by Julie Rowe. If you’re a fan of
Downton Abbey
, be sure to check out the rest of Julie’s historical romances.

We have two mysteries for readers to solve this month. British crime author Shirley Wells returns to the sleepy northern town of Dawson’s Clough with her popular Dylan Scott Mystery series in the next book,
Deadly Shadows.
And in Julie Anne Lindsey’s
Murder by the Seaside
, counseling is murder, but it’s never been this much fun.

Erotic romance author Christine d’Abo brings us the story of Alice’s obsession with a brooding lawyer at her firm, which takes Alice on a journey of self-discovery through the rabbit hole and into the world of BDSM in
Club Wonderland.
Also this month, the
Love Letters
ladies, Ginny Glass, Christina Thacher, Emily Cale and Maggie Wells, round up five sizzling-hot stories to finish off their sexy stampede through the alphabet with
Love Letters Volume 6:
Cowboy’s Command.

Edgar Mason is losing Agamemnon Frost despite everything they’ve been through—the passion, the torture, the heat. Frost’s fiancée Theodora is back, and Mason can feel his lover gravitating toward her. Every day he sees them together, it tears at his heart. Don’t miss
Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers
, the conclusion to Kim Knox’s male/male historical science fiction trilogy.

Because October is the perfect month for the paranormal, we have a wide selection of fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal to share with you. In Jeffe Kennedy’s fantasy romance,
Rogue’s Possession
, neuroscientist Gwynn’s adventures in Faerie continue in the long-awaited sequel to
Rogue’s Pawn.
And in the sequel to
Soul Sucker
, a powerful magic user is stealing people’s faces in San Francisco, and empath Ella Walsh and shifter Vadim Morosov have been called in to investigate in
Death Bringer
by Kate Pearce. Also returning with another book in her Blood of the Pride series is Sheryl Nantus, with her paranormal romance
Battle Scars.

Combining futuristic fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy,
Trancehack
by Sonya Clark is a compelling cross-genre romance. In a dystopian future where magic is out in the open and witches are segregated, a high-profile murder case brings together a police detective and a witch with unusual powers that combine magic and technology. But dangerous secrets, a political cover-up, and the law itself stand between them. Don’t miss this exciting new world of witchpunk!

Carina Press is pleased to introduce three debut authors this October. Science fiction erotic romance author Renae Jones gives us a
Taste of Passion
when lust strikes hard for Fedni, an empath who can taste emotion, but her off-worlder neighbor is horrified by the caste system that the former courtesan holds dear.

Two urban fantasy authors debut with us this month. In Kathleen Collins’s
Realm Walker
, a realm walker hunts a demon intent on destroying both her and the mate who left her seven years ago. Also debuting in urban fantasy is Joshua Roots with his book
Undead Chaos.
When warlock Marcus Shifter performs a simple zombie beheading, he soon finds that the accidental framing of an innocent necromancer, falling in lust, and burning down a bar are just the beginning of his troubles.

Regardless of whether you’re discovering these books in October or in the middle of summer, any time is the perfect time for reading, and I hope you enjoy all these titles as much as we’ve enjoyed working on them.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To all the people who’ve been with me on this journey

1. St. Valentine’s Day

Liverpool
,
1891

Mason took a steadying breath and pushed open the door to the library. He set the tray piled with cups, saucers, a teapot and that morning’s ironed papers on the small table beside the fireplace. He was Agamemnon Frost’s valet. His sometime partner in their fight against their Martian enemy. And nothing else. Absolutely nothing else.

Some days it was hard to live with that fact. This was one of them.

The familiar smells of the library hit his sharpened senses. Dried paper and the old leather binding the books that filled the mahogany shelves. The stink of brass cleaner and black from the fireplace, cutting through the hint of ash, coal and wood from the morning fire. Another smooth breath brought the lingering touch of Theodora’s floral perfume, blending in the warmed air with the scents of sandalwood, vanilla and macassar oil that marked out Agamemnon Frost.

The latter caused Mason’s pulse to jump. He never tired of those scents, despite the strangeness grown between Frost and himself. Mason was his valet. But that morning, Frost had seen to himself, washed, shaved and dressed before he found his way, as usual, to his library.

The chance to touch Frost, to brush lather against his skin, shave him, stroke lotions into the line of his neck, the straight line of his brow was something Mason treasured. Or had. Now they burned. Frost taking over
his
duties was possibly a relief to both of them.

The teapot rattled and hissed steam, breaking into his thoughts. Its dial hovered around the hundred degrees centigrade mark. Optimum temperature. He poured steaming water into a cup. “Your morning constitutional, sir.”

Frost turned in his chair, away from his desk, and his gaze narrowed. The little spark of sin, the one that always forced Mason’s mechanical heart to miss a beat, flared. His lips twitched. “Hardly that, Mason.”

Mason hadn’t meant to almost...flirt, but they could slide easily into the familiar play of words. Innocuous enough. It disguised what he at least wanted and could never have. Theodora and the law stood squarely between them.

Mason offered the cup and saucer, and willed his breathing to even as Frost drew his fingertips over Mason’s knuckles before taking the cup. It wasn’t an accepted touch. Not one that could be explained away, such as shaving him or straightening the hang of his coat. The illicit stroke—so rare since their hurried time together—branded him, firing the sensitivity that came with being an automaton, a bastard mix of man and Martian mechanics.

Frost held his gaze and the seconds slowed, the heat and want fierce. What had brought this on? Mason fought not to wet his lips or to fist his hands. The sudden sharp ache in his flesh caught him, held him, and only deepened as Frost put the china cup to his mouth.

The remembered taste of Frost burned anew on Mason’s tongue, and the urge to pull the man to his feet and shove him against the nearest wall beat with every fast thump of his heart. Because they could. Because the power in their alien-made flesh meant they could satisfy every craving...

But even in the empty library they were not alone. The clatter of working maids in the adjoining room pricked his enhanced senses. “Do you require anything else, sir?” Mason heard the rawness in his own voice and held down a wince.

Frost smiled around the rim of the cup. “I’m satisfied with this, thank you, Mason.”

Mason turned back to the tray, willing his heart to slow. “I thought Theodora would be here.”

“She will be shortly.” He put down his cup. “Was there anything in the despatches about the Crown of Towers?”

England’s war against the Martians was a secret known only to a privileged few, so as well as being Frost’s valet, Mason had slipped into filling the role of the man’s secretary. Every morning he signed for the despatches, scanning through them for vital information. The clue handed to them the month before had become a daily priority. “Not a sniff. As usual.”

Frost glanced back to the folded papers still sitting on the silver tray. “Then what’s today’s news?”

Scouring the morning and evening papers—local and London—for any clue to the activities of the missing alien Pandarus was Frost’s new obsession in the moments he wasn’t caught up with Theodora. Pandarus and his creatures had to be stopped before the whole world fell before them.

Mason handed him
The Times
. “There’s still no sign of the Bishop of Oxford.” Lord Dunstone had vanished a week ago. His housekeeper had found the bishop’s bed slept in, his clothes and sundries in place, but no other trace of him. Many newspapers were still running the story. “There are reports of an addled brain taking him out into the night.”

Station X—the secret government department that employed both Frost and himself as Agents Achilles and Patroclus—was located in the bishop’s Buckinghamshire parish. Therefore they were taking a keen interest in his disappearance. “With the south still snow-swept, they’re reporting now he might have fallen into a snowbank and perished.”

“I’m not convinced he’s dead.” Frost waved his hand to the cabinets lining a shadowed alcove. “I met him once. His mind wasn’t failing him then. That was, however, over ten years ago.”

Mason glanced over the row of cedar cabinets, each drawer labelled with known or suspected officers of their Martian enemy. It was packed with documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, anything that added in the hunt for his creatures—the
kardax
, automata, and the hollowed-flesh
koile.
Identifying them was difficult. They were designed to mimic humanity, to slip into the lives of the skins they wore. The few Station X were sure of were those Frost had identified, including his own brother.

Mason pulled Lord Dunstone’s drawer free of the cabinet and set it beside Frost on his wide desk. “You know he’s going to be on a steamer to South America.”

The man snorted. “With some pretty bit of silk on his arm?” He levered open the metal securing the file and spread clippings and other papers before him. “Could Pandarus hollow out so old a man?”

“You think him
koile?

Frost shrugged as he flicked through the reports from Station X. “He’s what? Seventy-two?” He paused at a photograph agents had no doubt taken from the bishop’s palace. “He’s unlikely to survive a hollowing.”

“And a transfiguration into an automaton?”

Frost picked up the bishop’s photograph, the light from the gasolier gleaming against the paper. “No amount of Martian science could make that face handsome.” He dropped it back to the bundle of other papers. “And they do like their perfection.” He opened and refolded the broadsheet to the relevant article. “But still we must investigate his disappearance.” He frowned at the tight columns of print. “Amongst other things.”

“Your brother.”

Frost tensed. “Has there been news of him?”

The whereabouts of Frost’s brother, Menelaus, was always Mason’s first task as he scanned through the morning despatches. Even as Frost dreaded his report.

“Agents reported him back at Dyrford Park midafternoon yesterday,” Mason replied. Menelaus—believed to be one of the first automata Pandarus created—often simply vanished. They never knew where. Menelaus Frost was the enemy now, but he was still Agamemnon’s older brother. The fear was always with Frost that one day Menelaus would disappear completely. That Pandarus’s use for him would end. Whilst he was alive, there was the hope—one day—that Frost could save him. “From what they can trace, he appeared in his Belgravia town house Thursday night and ordered his pair-landau to drive through the early hours.”

Dyrford Park—the seat of his wife’s family—was a place of safety. He always travelled out from there by conventional means. The fact eased Frost’s mind.

Frost pushed out a slow breath. He traced his finger down the latest article chronicling the disappearance of the bishop. “Is this related? Yet...I can’t see what use an old man would be.” Frost looked to him. “Are they connected?”

Mason blinked. He was asking
him?
He didn’t have a quarter of the man’s brilliant mind. “I’m simply a tin soldier. I don’t have your skill.”

“Mason...” Frost dropped his newspaper to the table and sank back into his chair. “You have insight. An ability to make intuitive leaps.” He stood and Mason fought not to take a back step. “You feel.” Frost pressed his hand to Mason’s chest, and he drew in a tight breath, his heart beating hard. Frost was mere inches away, crowding Mason’s senses. “Feel in a way that I cannot.”

The familiar ache that had burned in Mason for over a month flared. Frost’s hand, still firm against his chest, lifted with his every breath. Mason could almost feel the heat of his heavy palm through the smooth material of his waistcoat and shirt, and the familiar scents of Frost wrapped around him.

A dark smile pulled at Frost’s mouth, the little spike of devilment making Mason need to taste him, to kiss away that touch of pure sin. “I would—” Frost stopped and his fingers curled into a hard fist. He stepped back and all promise of something more fell away. “We have company.”

The library door opened and Theodora swept into the room, her expression bright, her fingers turning a slim box over and over, fiddling with the tied ribbons and smoothing over the white tissue paper. Her smile grew as her gaze fell on Frost. “Good morning, Agamemnon.” Her attention shifted to the orderly arrangement of papers on his desk and a frown creased her mobile face. “Have you been here
all
night?”

“An hour.” He nodded to Mrs. Forsythe, who slipped silently into the room to take up her usual place in a chair before the fire. The matron had been drafted in from Station X. A woman who could be trusted with Theodora’s secret and would give society the impression that the engaged couple were acting appropriately. “Only that.”

Theodora’s dark eyes narrowed on him and the line on her brow deepened. “Agamemnon...”

Frost grinned, something warm and easy, and it tightened Mason’s heart. “Can I distract you with a present?” He rose from his chair and moved to pick up a large box, wrapped in red marbled paper and bound in a profusion of ribbons and lace. He deposited it on the table beside Mrs. Forsythe’s armchair. “A present within a puzzle.”

Joy bubbled over, Theodora’s body almost shimmering with movement, and her smile lit up her face. “I
adore
puzzles.” She pulled in a breath and lifted her chin. Her gaze flickered to Mrs. Forsythe, who gave a slight nod. “I have a present for you.” She blushed and stepped forward. “Mason was kind enough to advise me on what you would especially love.”

Mason’s gut twisted and he hoped the heat that flared within him didn’t show on his face. Theodora had bustled up to him earlier in the week with a bundle of pound notes and the knowledge that appearance was everything to Agamemnon Frost. He himself had picked out the gift at the jewellers...and he didn’t want to dwell on the hard pleasure buying a Valentine’s gift for Frost had brought him.

He stepped back, moving closer to the door of the room where the maids were still working. This was Theodora’s moment. Not his.

She had lost her family, her home,
herself
because of what Pandarus did
.
Her mind had been wiped clean, holding no memory of herself as a mechanical soldier, a
kardax
for her Martian master. She deserved what scraps of happiness she could find, what future she could grasp.

Mason’s insides cramped and he hated the wrench of jealousy that soured him. Theodora was Frost’s fiancée. He had known that for more than a month. Accepting it was an entirely different matter.

Frost took the box. “Thank you.” His gaze slid to Mason, and the look caught in his chest. “Thank you, both.”

He teased open the ribbon and uncovered the slender leather box. He pushed back the hinge to reveal a golden cravat pin decorated with a sapphire. “Mason, if you would...” Frost picked the pin from the box, its precious stone sparkling in the golden light of the gasolier. His request forced Mason forward.

His hand was steady as he eased free the pin already holding Frost’s grey silk cravat. He tucked it into his waistcoat pocket. Frost’s gaze pricked against his skin, but Mason dared not look up as he repinned the silk. His pulse thudded. Mrs. Forsythe watched them. Her disapproval stabbed the back of his neck. Whether it stemmed from the easy familiarity of master and servant or the way the air could crack between them, he didn’t know. Probably both.

“Is it straight? You know I can’t
abide
a crooked cravat pin.”

Mason glanced up, Frost’s fashion-plate mask always drawing him. His lips twitched into a smile. “Straight as a rule, sir.”

“Thank you.” The words were softer than they should be and held a warmth that tugged at Mason’s guilt.

“Can I break the puzzle,
please
, Agamemnon?”

Mason pulled in a tight breath and quickly fell back to his previous position beside the open door. Theodora stood next to the large box. Excited heat reddened her cheeks and her fingers stroked over the fine blue wool of her dress. Never still, always moving with nervous energy.

“Enjoy your gift, Theodora.”

She matched his grin with a brilliant smile of her own, before her mobile hands moved over the paper, tracing patterns as she murmured snatches of words. Her delight was obvious. Mason risked a glance to Frost and found him watching the young woman, a shine of delight in his eyes.

Mason stared at the pattern of the ornate rug, happily willing himself out of the library. This was his future, a witness to their lives, and he hated his own bitterness. They deserved to be happy together.

The voices of the maids in the adjoining room caught his keen hearing. He clung to the distraction.

“So did you dream at all?” The little scullery maid, Alice, shovelled coal from one scuttle into another. Whoever she was with made no reply, but she carried on. Mason held back a wry smile. It was difficult to stop the girl talking at the best of times. “Me? St. Valentine’s eve and not a peep. Dead to the world I was.” With a groan, Alice pushed the shovel in and dug out more coal. “Not one flicker of that new lodger at Mam’s, Mr. Herbert Edward Chase.” His full title came out on a sigh.

BOOK: Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers
11.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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