She veered right, and with a tremendous heave, went up and over the outer wall, just clearing the ramparts with her back paws. She landed, stumbling only slightly and zipped away, impressed with herself, only to skid badly on the looser dirt of the promenade. She scrabbled and managed to stay on four feet, wondering how much longer she would have them. It was very dry in India so her tether to Uncle Lyall was most likely longer than the equivalent in London. But she was about to test those limits.

It turned out to stretch pretty far. She almost made the ship before the tether snapped.

Then poor Quesnel found himself sitting on top of a very naked, very human Rue in the middle of mudflats.

Rue said, the instant she recovered her voice, “You aren’t shot?”

Quesnel seemed to be less concerned by bullets than by decency. He proved himself uninjured by leaping off her as if she had stung him. He took a few steps, resolutely facing away. Then remembered manners and returned to help her stand. Then clapped one hand over his eyes.

Rue started to laugh. He looked as near to nervous hysteria as she had ever seen. “Stop. You’ll do yourself an injury.”

He faced away and began backing towards her, breathing deeply. “Mon petit chou, it is not that I am not impressed, but I seem to lack the resources to cope with this particular situation.”

Rue’s laughter turned to snorts. “Give me your coat, silly man.”

Rue had hoped it would be under more romantic circumstances that Quesnel would rip off his jacket with enthusiasm and speed. Truthfully, she had hoped to be naked with him in a more intimate setting. And not covered with foul-smelling mud. Sadly not the case.

Heads poked over the rails of her ship.

She could tell, even in the dim of evening, that Primrose was frowning. Percy too, probably.


She pulled on Quesnel’s frock coat and stood with as much dignity as possible under the circumstances. Her legs were showing like a French dancer’s but – and Rue could be proud of this – she had rather nice legs, even covered in mud. She felt a certain satisfaction in the way Quesnel’s breath hitched and the small side glances he kept sneaking despite himself. Then again she was practically naked – perhaps any rake would do the same in a similar position. Rue chose to be flattered.

Spoo ran down the gangplank and over to them.

“Lady Primrose sent this.” The deckling shoved one of Rue’s voluminous robes into her hands. “Lady Captain, that was aces! I didn’t know you could be all over wolf and such.”

“Thank you, Spoo.” Rue pulled on the robe over Quesnel’s coat.

Spoo said, “Can you teach me?”

“Afraid not. You have to be born this way.”

“Well, can I ride sometime, then?” Peppery as all get-up, was Spoo. “I’m sure likely to be better at it than him. Jiggling all over the place and falling off like that.”

Quesnel recovered some of his faculties. “Now wait just a moment there, you scrubber!”

Rue thought about Uncle Lyall’s recent advice. Teach her crew to ride, should she? “Sometime, Spoo, sometime soon.” With which she lead Quesnel, still pale with shock, and Spoo, ginning hugely, back aboard the ship.

The riflemen, having run down the stairs, through the yard and out of the barracks the regular way without supernatural speed, arrived at the promenade in time to see a very odd-looking family boarding their even odder-looking ship. The mother wore a robe, the man had only a shirt and waistcoat, and the child was dressed like a sailor. Assuming they were circus performers, the soldiers turned away to look for the werewolf intruder with the ruffian rider.

Rue instructed Quesnel to give the book to Percy to investigate and ignored the twins’ disgusted expressions.

“I may have to send ’round to the werewolf pack for the remains of my dress,” she said to Prim.

Prim sniffed. “Why bother?”

Quesnel looked crestfallen. “Not your dress and my hat? I hope that book was worth it.”

Rue patted at her head. Miraculously, her own hat had made it all the way through. Small blessing. Feeling buoyed by its survival, Rue scooped up her trailing robe and glided queen-like towards her quarters, leaving muddy footprints on the nice clean deck.

“I’m exhausted,” said Rue. “I believe I shall retire for a nap. Rouse me if anything interesting happens.”

“Rue,” said Primrose. “Do take a bath first, won’t you?”

Rue hadn’t been completely lying. It felt as if she hadn’t slept a wink since they landed in Bombay. She was dozing off when a knock came at her cabin door.

Groggy, she went to open it and found Percy, head down, absorbed in the book they’d so recently liberated.

“Yes, Percy?”

“Oh, good afternoon, Rue.”

“Night, I think it still is?” corrected Rue.

“Yes, well, what did you want?” Percy was staring at the book.

“You knocked on my door.”

“I did? Oh yes. I know who might have kidnapped that bridge’s wife, Mrs Flibbertyblue.”

“Brigadier’s wife, Mrs Featherstonehaugh. She wasn’t kidnapped – at least, we don’t think so any more. And, Percy, I don’t think it proper for you and I to be alone together in my boudoir.”

Percy looked at her, genuinely bewildered. “Worried you might be overcome and take advantage of me?”

“No, Percy, not exactly. Strangely enough, I seem to be one of the few women in existence able to resist your copious charms.”

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