Excited to announce my latest release to be published by Crooked Cat Books
London, May 1816.
Esmie Elstone is thrown into panic when she hears of Captain Rockford’s return. But she is determined that the days of him interfering with her life are over. Destroying her chances of a happy future on his last visit, had resulted in her being foisted on her Aunt for a third pointless season in London.
To alleviate the boredom of society life, Esmie helps run a discreet betting enterprise under the guise of a sewing club. But there are some things you just shouldn’t wager on, and Esmie’s integrity is soon put to a dangerous test.
Richard Rockford had known Esmie almost all her life. As neighbours, Admiral Elstone had depended on Richard to keep an eye on his daughter when he was away at sea. The responsibility he had always taken on willingly. But her cruel and thoughtless actions, from the day he had left four years ago, had shaken him. Now he was back and wanting answers.
But when Esmie tumbles into a treacherous conspiracy, can he really turn his back on her?
“Lady Danby, good evening.”
Esmie jerked bolt upright as Rockford’s unmistakably smooth voice floated down. He was standing in front of her aunt. How on earth did he get there without her knowledge? Had he climbed through a window, or lowered himself from a chandelier? He certainly had not entered through the main double doors. Dash it, the man had never been straightforward.
“Ah, Captain Rockford, I see you are back from your travels,” her aunt replied, squinting at him through her pince-nez, with only slightly hidden delight. He had always been a favourite of hers, but especially since he had been elevated in society and wealth by his uncle’s death.
“Indeed, Lady Danby. I hope you are well. You are looking radiant tonight. The shade of your turban is especially becoming.”
Her aunt beamed, and her hand went up to pat her elaborate head-piece.
Oh no. Esmie froze. He had been in her presence for seconds and already causing her misdemeanour with the giant feather to be revealed. But her aunt’s hand was deftly collected in Rockford’s as he bent down, raised it to his lips, and kissed her glove. Esmie thought she detected a malignant smirk on his lips. She lowered her eyes to study the highly-polished buckles of his shoes. The underhanded fiend must have been secretly observing her for several minutes.
“And, Miss Elstone. It has been far too long.”
Reluctantly, she levelled her gaze. Stormy green eyes devoured her whilst his face remained set in a mask of polite indifference. He gave her a short bow, but thankfully made no move to take her hand or compliment on her appearance. His eyes were an even darker shade than she remembered, and Esmie was sure the look of disgust that he had left her with still lurked behind that deadpan expression. Lady Danby, however, continued to prattle amiably to him, not at all aware of the invisible wall of ice that lurked between them.
“I wonder, Lady Danby, if I might engage Miss Elstone in a dance.”
Dance. Esmie tried to swallow the lump of terror in her throat. “Actually, I am feeling quite unwell at the moment, and was about to retire.”
“Nonsense! Esmie, what sort of welcome home is that for the Captain? Of course, she will dance with you, Rockford. I am sure she has spaces on her card.”
Esmie gritted her teeth. Here we go again: poor Rockford; jolly good Rockford; thank heavens for Rockford. Surely he must appear to sprout a halo and wings to her peers.
She handed him her card as if it was the executioner’s axe, and watched him enter his name against the supper dance. “I will count the minutes,” he said softly, to reach only her ears, before he returned the card and walked away.
She watched him head towards the sugar-coated Julia Grant. Well, she was welcome to him; in fact, maybe he would become so infatuated with her beauty that he would completely forget the terrifying appointment now documented and hanging on Esmie’s wrist. Unease stirred in her belly.
He had not forgotten or forgiven.