Today I welcome Nina Rowan who is sharing an excerpt of a first meeting from her historical romance A Study in Seduction in which an intelligent woman makes a simple request of a viscount who turns out to be a little too curious.
Mathematician Lydia Kellaway is desperate to retrieve a locket that holds the key to a dark family secret. Only the handsome, arrogant Alexander Hall, Lord Northwood, is now the rightful owner of the locket after having bought it at a pawnshop. So Lydia visits Alexander’s townhouse on a secret, midnight mission…
He stood looking at her for a moment, so protracted she could almost see his thoughts shifting. Then he moved aside and held the door open.
Lydia stepped into the foyer, conscious of the fact that he did not allow her more space to pass, even as her shoulder brushed against his arm. The light contact made her jerk away, her chest constricting.
“What makes you think I have this necklace you seek?” he asked.
“I don’t think you have it, Lord Northwood. I know you do. You purchased it from Mr. Havers’s shop less than a week ago, along with a Russian icon.” Her chin lifted. “It was a locket my grandmother pawned.”
Pushing himself away from the doorjamb, Lord Northwood stepped forward. Lydia started before realizing he intended to take her cloak. She pushed the hood off her head and fumbled with the clasp.
He stood behind her, close enough that she could sense the warmth of his body, close enough that her next breath might have been the very air he exhaled.
“Come to the drawing room, Miss Kellaway. You’d best explain yourself.”
Lydia followed him into the room and sat on the sofa, making a conscious effort not to twist the notebook between her fingers. Lord Northwood lowered himself into the chair across from her. A stoic footman served tea before departing and closing the door behind him.
Lord Northwood took a swallow of tea, then put the cup on the table and leaned back in his chair. His long body unfolded with the movement, his legs stretching out in front of him. Although his outward bearing was casual, a tautness coiled through him. He reminded Lydia of a bird of prey elongating its wings, feathers ruffling, poised for flight.
“Well?” he asked.
“I found the ticket in my grandmother’s desk.” She leafed through the pages of her book before finding a small slip of paper. “I hadn’t known she’d pawned any of my mother’s jewelry.”
His hand brushed hers as he took the pawn ticket, the hard ridges of his fingers discernible even through the protection of her glove. She jerked away, curling her hand into a fist at her side.
“Your grandmother had a month to redeem her pledge,” Lord Northwood said after looking at the slip of paper.
“I realize that. And I would have attempted to do so on her behalf had I known about the transaction to begin with. I thought Mr. Havers might not have put the locket up for sale yet, or if he had, perhaps it hadn’t been sold. But when I arrived at his shop, he informed me he’d sold it last Thursday.”
“How did you learn the name of the purchaser?”
Color heated her cheeks. “Mr. Havers refused—rightly so, I suppose—to divulge the purchaser’s name,” she explained. “When he became occupied with another customer, I saw his book of sales behind the counter. I was able to…borrow it long enough to look up the transaction.”
A smile tugged at his mouth. She watched with a trace of fascination as a dimple appeared in his cheek, lending his severe, angular features an almost boyish glint. “You stole Havers’s sales book?”
“I did not steal it.” She bristled a little at the disagreeable term. “I removed it from his shop, yes, but for less than ten minutes. I gave a boy sixpence to return the book to its proper place without Mr. Havers seeing him. You were clearly listed as the purchaser of the locket. Do you still have it, my lord?”
Northwood shifted, his hand sliding into his coat pocket. Lydia’s breath caught in her chest as she watched him withdraw the silver chain, capturing the locket in his palm.
He studied the locket, rubbing his thumb across the engraving that embellished its polished surface.
“Is it a phoenix?” he asked.
“It’s called a fenghuang, a bird of virtue, power, and grace.”
He flipped the locket over to the design on the other side. “And the dragon?”
“When the fenghuang is paired with a dragon, the two symbolize the union of…of husband and wife.”
His dark eyes moved to hers. “Of male and female.”
END OF EXCERPT
See, way too curious for this girl’s good. What will happen next?
A Study in Seduction on Amazon – available in print and for Kindle
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Thank you, Nina, for visiting the First Sight Saturday blog! Readers, don’t forget to enter my Name that Holiday Tune Giveaway for a $20 gift card. Just click one the Giveaway link on the left side of the blog to enter.