‘A Dangerous Invitation’
BOOK BLURB: One fatal mistake cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved, spiraling him toward drunken self-destruction. Now sober, he’ll have to prove he’s innocent of the murder he was accused of three years ago. But pistol-wielding Kate Morgan hasn’t forgiven his sins.
Torn from her privileged existence by her father’s death, Kate Morgan has carved out a new independent life in the Ratcliffe rookery as a fence for stolen goods. Daniel’s invitation to assist him jeopardizes her structured existence. Yet Kate can’t resist his touch, or the wicked desires he stirs within her.
As their renewed passions grow reckless, their investigation takes them through the darkest and most depraved areas of the City. To catch a killer, they’ll have to put secrets behind them and trust only their hearts.
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“What part of ‘I shall make you bleed’ did you not understand?” Kate kept her hands hidden behind the solid wood of the banister, preferring him to think she might be armed.
He rounded the last step, coming to a stop in front of her.
Kate retreated against the bannister, which came up to her hips. “Why are you here, Daniel? I already told you I wouldn’t help you.”
“I need to know.” Daniel took another step forward, effectively boxing her up against the bannister.
She leaned back further, unbalanced. What did he need to know? Who had killed Dalton? If she believed him? Or worse, if she still loved him?
Cold air swept in through a broken window on the first floor, ruffled the knotted ribbon of her straw hat underneath her chin. Her fingers clenched around the worn wood of the railing, gripped so tightly her knuckles became white.
She might never feel sure of her footing again.
“You let it pass for three years,” she charged. His urgency made no sense.
“I shouldn’t have. I won’t this time. Dalton deserves justice, and so do I. I’m going to investigate Dalton’s murder whether or not you help me.” Daniel brought his hand to rest on her arm, heat penetrating through her greatcoat. “But truly, I came back for you.”
He leaned his head down, so that their eyes met. His gaze pulled at her. Her body longed for his touch, craved it, as if he was the answer to every question she’d had in the past three years. He could not love a woman so wrecked.
She retreated back again. Bent against the bannister, it sagged against her weight and a threatening groan echoed from the wood. She didn’t move, knowing that if she did she’d be back in his arms within seconds.
He took one look at the bannister, then at her, and tugged her closer to him. His hold was strong, but not unrelenting. She was flush against him, so close she could feel the beating of his heart. Warmth replaced brisk wind, and his presence blotted out loneliness until she was part of something greater, something powerful beyond herself.
She feared that heady sensation. Passion didn’t stick to predetermined routes and checklists.
When he spoke, his breath tickled her skin. His voice rumbled in her ear. “I don’t want to lose you again.”
A tremble tore through her. In those few months after he left, she’d woken with those words on her lips, whispers from dreams wherein he’d fulfilled his promise to return for her. He was here, and she forgot the reasons why she should loathe him.
Everything but the smell of bergamot and cloves disappeared. An altogether familiar aroma, one intrinsically locked in her mind as his, yet different this time without the overlay of pine needles. It enveloped her, clouded her senses. She lifted her head from his chest.
She looked him in the eye. But that was a mistake, for his eyes shone with the same desire she kept trapped.
“If I didn’t know better, I might believe you.” She forced herself to step away from him. “I can’t be with you again.”
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He moved his thumb on the broadsheet to cover up the word “murder,” as if he could cover up the horrendous details if he didn’t allow Kate to see it. From the soft texture of the paper, she’d read the contents many times, the oils from her fingertips smoothing the print.
“Why did you keep these, Kate?”
She flushed, fists balled up at her side. “I kept them to remind myself of the truth.”
“Whose truth, Kate? The constable’s? Mine? Yours?”
She flinched, eyes narrowing warily. He’d struck a nerve. Woodenly, she sat down on the chair by the door and arranged her thick smoke-gray skirts. She looked down at her hands, examining her gloves. When she finally met his gaze again, the sadness in her eyes caught him off guard.
“I don’t even know anymore.”
“Then help me find Tommy Dalton’s murderer. We’ll find the truth together.” He sounded too earnest.
“Truth is a particular notion, Daniel. I have found it can be bent and twisted to fit the speaker’s best interests.” She laid her head back against the chair, arm draped across the side, appearing to all others like she could not be bothered to care.
But he knew better. Life might fatigue her, but she’d fight and crawl her way to the top.
He held up the purse, giving it a shake. The coins tinkled. “So twist the truth for our benefit. I’ve got a list of names from Atlas to go over. Have a look and tell me if you recognize any of them.” He went for the foolscap on his bedside table.
“Very well then,” she nodded. “We’ll start with why you were too foxed to remember a damn thing. What in your life was so bad you had to drink it all away? Was it me?”
“God, no.” The words came out quickly. “You were the only thing in my life that made sense.”
How could he explain to her the pressure from the long hours at Emporia, the newness of their love, constantly feeling like he had to prove himself? She’d think him mad, or worse, weak.
He would be a better man if it killed him. With Kate facing him, disbelief struck upon her pale, thin face, it just might.
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AUTHOR INFO: Erica Monroe writes romantic suspense set in 1830’s London. Her debut novel, A Dangerous Invitation, Book 1 of the Rookery Rogues series, will be out in December 2013.
She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina, and the Beau Monde Regency Romance chapter. Erica can also be found blogging every other Saturday at Teatime Romance.
When not writing, she is a chronic TV watcher, lover of pit bulls, and shoe fashionista. She lives in the suburbs of North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, and a cat.
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