The Shocking Miss Shaw [NOOK Book]

Overview

Independent American Sierra Shaw sets out to shock London society in order to bring out the person who is blackmailing her stepmother, and spymaster Fitz Kent realizes he's met his match--in more ways than one. Fate intervenes when he discovers the man who killed his father and the blackmailer are one and the same. Victorian romantic suspense by Justine Wittich; originally published by Five Star
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The Shocking Miss Shaw

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Overview

Independent American Sierra Shaw sets out to shock London society in order to bring out the person who is blackmailing her stepmother, and spymaster Fitz Kent realizes he's met his match--in more ways than one. Fate intervenes when he discovers the man who killed his father and the blackmailer are one and the same. Victorian romantic suspense by Justine Wittich; originally published by Five Star
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940000105481
  • Publisher: Belgrave House
  • Publication date: 5/2/2003
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 583 KB

Read an Excerpt

Washington, D. C., January, 1885

Geoffrey Trowbridge did only one honorable thing in his life. Even though his body was never found, he was declared legally dead after the paddle-wheeler Charity exploded on the Mississippi River.

Now, two years later, Sierra Shaw wasn't surprised to learn he might not have had the decency to truly die.

"Five witnesses saw him at the rail before the boiler blew!nglishman received his remittance check he deserted his job to gamble until the money was gone. Which was how he had ended up on the Charity's last voyage.

A blessing, to Sierra's way of thinking. She paced the room so energetically that, to her ears, the rustling of her taffeta petticoats sounded like a bonfire. "Do you understand what the letter says? If you don't send him the only thing he bequeathed you, he threatens to come here for the certifica" her stepmother wailed, her soft voice plaintive. "He couldn't have survived."

"It wouldn't surprise me if that slick polecat wangled nine lives," Sierra responded, positive that her stepmother's first husband could have worked a deal with the devil to do exactly that.

She pried the crumpled letter from Melanie Shaw's fingers to smooth it against the polished surface of the parquet table beside the sofa. Gaslight refracting through the crysttes himself. Melanie, anyone in the world could have written this. He knows you'd be afraid of a scandal."

"But what if Geoffrey's truly alive? That would mean I'm a ... a bigamist! And your father ... his career..." Melanie crumpled into the corner of the sofa and crushed her handkerchief to her lips. Tears rolled down her pale cheeks. "You know how hecarries on..."

"For heaven's sake, don't tell him! Daddy's up to his suspenderal prisms of the overhead chandelier cast a flickering pattern on the creased parchment.

"Are you sure he wrote this?" Sierra asked.

Melanie closed her eyes helplessly and sighed. "It's been so long since I've seen Geoffrey's handwriting that I ... I'm not certain," she answered, spreading her arms in despair. "But I had the strangest feeling when I saw the London postmark. A part of me knew who it was from."

< buttons trying to preserve the treaties the government signed with the Paiutes. If he hears about this, he'll drop everything and set off for England, where he'll bluff and bluster until he starts a war." Sierra ceased pacing and parted the lace curtains to stare thoughtfully at the grimy piles of snow edging the sidewalk in front of their Georgetown home.

"I'll take care of it," she said. One more time, just one more time, she would smooth her father's path, as P>"Well, whoever wrote it seems to think you'll send him Geoffrey's railroad shares in the next post. Melanie, the man made you live like a squatter! I'd tell him to go to blazes, dead or alive. Ever since the Charity exploded, I've pictured him shoveling coal into the everlasting fires. It's my favorite fantasy."

"Those shares are worthless, Sierra. Your father checked for me. Why should I keep them?"

Sierra wanted to she had been doing ever since she became old enough to realize how much he could accomplish--if he were kept from leaping before he looked. After that, either Melanie could take on the task or her father would have to learn to control his rambunctious temper.

Her stepmother straightened her slender shoulders and squared her quivering jaw. "This is my problem, Sierra. I'll do just as the letter asks."

Sierra whirled, crying, "Don't you dare! Alive oshake her stepmother. The naiveté that was one of her father's second wife most endearing characteristics could also be frustrating.

"Geoffrey left them to you, Melanie. They're yours," she reminded the older woman. "Did it ever occur to you there might be some reason he'd held on to them?"

Sierra scanned the dashing script once more. "How did whoever wrote this letter know you'd remarried? You only married Daddy two months agor dead, do you think the demands will stop with some worthless stock? Blackmail never ends. When he discovers how afraid you are of scandal he'll ask for more, and then more after that. The crook thinks he's struck gold. My father's." She crossed the room to kneel and enfold her stepmother's icy fingers with her own warm, capable hands. "Write back. Try to sound helpless. Tell him you have to be sure he's who he says he is."

"How will that help?"

."

"Perhaps there was a story in the newspaper."

"Why would a British paper report on the second marriage of a United States Senator?" Sierra felt protective of her new stepmother. Melanie might be twelve years older than her own twenty-four, but her guilelessness sometimes gave the impression she was years younger. Sierra could only guess at what her life with Geoffrey had been like, but she knew a yellow-bellied crook when she met one, and the de

"It will buy me time to sail to England and find out if it was really Geoffrey who wrote the letter. I'd know that snake from a country mile away." Sierra swallowed compulsively. Being confined in a stateroom on a steamship would be the worst part of the scheme.

Melanie pulled her hands away. "Surely he'll disappear when he discovers you've come after him."

Sierra smiled impishly. "I'm still positive Geoffrey's dead. Whoever this bceased had qualified on every point.

The year before his death, Geoffrey had drifted into Paradise Valley selling fake gold and silver claims. Melanie's innocence and her unhappy plight as Geoffrey's wife had been apparent to all, but Sierra's father had not unmasked the Englishman. Instead, the Senator had hired him as a land agent, then sent him off to train with one of his reliable assistants.

Although Geoffrey learned quickly, each quarter when the Elackmailer is, he'll never suspect an empty-headed, social-climbing woman of being on his trail, and I intend to be very empty-headed." After she made her way to shore, she added silently. Thank God for the Shaw fortune. It should guarantee her a large suite with portholes.

* * * *
CHAPTER ONE

London, late March, 1885

"America has everything but titles, and I've anglishman received his remittance check he deserted his job to gamble until the money was gone. Which was how he had ended up on the Charity's last voyage.

A blessing, to Sierra's way of thinking. She paced the room so energetically that, to her ears, the rustling of her taffeta petticoats sounded like a bonfire. "Do you understand what the letter says? If you don't send him the only thing he bequeathed you, he threatens to come here for the certifica hankering to be 'Lady' something. So I'm here to catch me a husband." Sierra smiled brightly at the dozen or so well-dressed people regarding her as if she had just revealed a past career as a dance hall girl. From the horror she saw on their faces and the startled gasps that escaped their lips, her gauche announcement should spread through the social world like a prairie fire.

She surveyed the astounded group as if surprised. "Why are you folks so shocked? Lots oftes himself. Melanie, anyone in the world could have written this. He knows you'd be afraid of a scandal."

"But what if Geoffrey's truly alive? That would mean I'm a ... a bigamist! And your father ... his career..." Melanie crumpled into the corner of the sofa and crushed her handkerchief to her lips. Tears rolled down her pale cheeks. "You know how he carries on..."

"For heaven's sake, don't tell him! Daddy's up to his suspender wealthy American women have married titles. At least I'm announcing my intentions up front. And you needn't worry I'll stay here and embarrass all you fancy folks. I intend to take my man home to Paradise Valley and show him off."

"Scandalous," pronounced Lady Kingston, looking around for support.

Her response couldn't have pleased Sierra more. She noticed the Donningtons, an elderly couple she had met only minutes before, silently clutching the buttons trying to preserve the treaties the government signed with the Paiutes. If he hears about this, he'll drop everything and set off for England, where he'll bluff and bluster until he starts a war." Sierra ceased pacing and parted the lace curtains to stare thoughtfully at the grimy piles of snow edging the sidewalk in front of their Georgetown home.

"I'll take care of it," she said. One more time, just one more time, she would smooth her father's path, as ir empty teacups as if they planned to take them home with them. Ignoring the censure, she continued, "You English bring your daughters to London every spring to find them husbands, don't you?"

Her hostess, Margaret Worthington, wife of the American attaché, chuckled softly. "But English parents usually accompany their daughters, Miss Shaw. Or else a close friend or relative stands in for them. If your father were with you, that would make your intentions sshe had been doing ever since she became old enough to realize how much he could accomplish--if he were kept from leaping before he looked. After that, either Melanie could take on the task or her father would have to learn to control his rambunctious temper.

Her stepmother straightened her slender shoulders and squared her quivering jaw. "This is my problem, Sierra. I'll do just as the letter asks."

Sierra whirled, crying, "Don't you dare! Alive olightly less shocking to English society."

"Oh, Daddy was much too busy to jaunt over here. Politics, you know. In any case, he trusts my judgment. When I told him what I wanted he said to choose the pick of the litter," she lied, smiling as if her father's attitude weren't every bit as shocking as her intent.

She sensed, rather than saw, that the little circle had enlarged. Glancing to her left, she found herself under the intent scrutiny of a pair r dead, do you think the demands will stop with some worthless stock? Blackmail never ends. When he discovers how afraid you are of scandal he'll ask for more, and then more after that. The crook thinks he's struck gold. My father's." She crossed the room to kneel and enfold her stepmother's icy fingers with her own warm, capable hands. "Write back. Try to sound helpless. Tell him you have to be sure he's who he says he is."

"How will that help?"

of quizzical hazel eyes. Returning the look with equal interest nearly broke her concentration on the role she was playing. Flecks of gold, gray and green blended and merged in a gaze so sharp she had the unsettling feeling that the mind behind the startling eyes had just stripped every secret from her soul.

For one nervous second, she felt transfixed. Then the man smiled, and her heart set up a nervous rhythm beneath her breastbone. His teeth were very white against sun-kissed

"It will buy me time to sail to England and find out if it was really Geoffrey who wrote the letter. I'd know that snake from a country mile away." Sierra swallowed compulsively. Being confined in a stateroom on a steamship would be the worst part of the scheme.

Melanie pulled her hands away. "Surely he'll disappear when he discovers you've come after him."

Sierra smiled impishly. "I'm still positive Geoffrey's dead. Whoever this b, clean-shaven skin. With the spell of his scrutiny broken, she became aware of the rest of him. His hair was red! Not bright, orangey red, but the dark russet of wild sumac in autumn. His lashes and thick, arched brows were the same color. The man was handsome, but it was the "knowingness" about him that raised the skin on her nape.

"I don't believe we've been introduced," she said, taking the bull by the horns. She thrust out her gloved hand as if to shake his.very empty-headed." After she made her way to shore, she added silently. Thank God for the Shaw fortune. It should guarantee her a large suite with portholes.

* * * *
CHAPTER ONE

London, late March, 1885

"America has everything but titles, and I've a/P>

Margaret Worthington came to her aid. "I'm sure I've no idea where my manners have gone. May I present Fitzhugh Kent? Miss Sierra Shaw. Her father's a Senator from the state of Nevada in the United States."

"How clever of them to name a mountain range after you, Miss Shaw," Kent quipped as he turned her hand and lifted it to his lips.

As his mouth brushed her fingers, his warm breath penetrated Sierra's thin kid glove. The fin hankering to be 'Lady' something. So I'm here to catch me a husband." Sierra smiled brightly at the dozen or so well-dressed people regarding her as if she had just revealed a past career as a dance hall girl. From the horror she saw on their faces and the startled gasps that escaped their lips, her gauche announcement should spread through the social world like a prairie fire.

She surveyed the astounded group as if surprised. "Why are you folks so shocked? Lots ofe hairs on her forearm developed a life of their own. Resisting the urge to jerk her fingers from his, she retreated instead to the questionable safety of her new persona. So this was Fitz Kent. She smiled confidingly at those gathered around them. "You see? That's why I want to take one of your Englishman home with me. They pay such pretty compliments, and an American would never kiss my hand so gallantly."

A trickle of surprised laughter rewarded her. "I do believe wealthy American women have married titles. At least I'm announcing my intentions up front. And you needn't worry I'll stay here and embarrass all you fancy folks. I intend to take my man home to Paradise Valley and show him off."

"Scandalous," pronounced Lady Kingston, looking around for support.

Her response couldn't have pleased Sierra more. She noticed the Donningtons, an elderly couple she had met only minutes before, silently clutching theI'm going to have a wonderful time in London." She risked looking directly up into Kent's eyes as she answered his question, "I was born the day Nevada was declared a territory. The mountains had been mighty generous to my father, and he wanted to pay his respects."

His bright, intuitive eyes were mocking as he said, "I can't help but observe that Nevada's generosity also provided a Worth gown, Miss Shaw."

Sierra met the subtle challenge and ir empty teacups as if they planned to take them home with them. Ignoring the censure, she continued, "You English bring your daughters to London every spring to find them husbands, don't you?"

Her hostess, Margaret Worthington, wife of the American attaché, chuckled softly. "But English parents usually accompany their daughters, Miss Shaw. Or else a close friend or relative stands in for them. If your father were with you, that would make your intentions sengaged battle. "Aren't you clever, Mr. Kent! And so observant! I didn't want to look like an ignorant Yankee when I arrived in England, so I went to Paris first. Worth is a real fine little man. He reminds me of my grandfather."

Margaret Worthington subsided into a coughing spell. Recovering quickly, she cautioned in a strangled voice, "I must warn you about dear Fitz, Sierra. He's the perfect guest, perfectly dressed, perfectly witty and perfectly charming. Onlightly less shocking to English society."

"Oh, Daddy was much too busy to jaunt over here. Politics, you know. In any case, he trusts my judgment. When I told him what I wanted he said to choose the pick of the litter," she lied, smiling as if her father's attitude weren't every bit as shocking as her intent.

She sensed, rather than saw, that the little circle had enlarged. Glancing to her left, she found herself under the intent scrutiny of a pair e hears he has an obscure post with the government, although no one has ever actually seen him work. But you must never take him seriously or offend him. He wields a rather wicked tongue when he chooses."

Kent protested laughingly, "You wound me, Mrs. Worthington. Have you considered how many engagements I refuse just so I can attend your little gatherings to welcome American visitors?"

"You know I appreciate you, Fitz. Just be kind to Miss Shaw." of quizzical hazel eyes. Returning the look with equal interest nearly broke her concentration on the role she was playing. Flecks of gold, gray and green blended and merged in a gaze so sharp she had the unsettling feeling that the mind behind the startling eyes had just stripped every secret from her soul.

For one nervous second, she felt transfixed. Then the man smiled, and her heart set up a nervous rhythm beneath her breastbone. His teeth were very white against sun-kissedShe turned, directing a welcoming smile toward an overdressed middle-aged woman. "Lady Naismith. I'm delighted you could be with us this afternoon. May I present Miss Sierra Shaw from the American state of Nevada?" She turned to Sierra. "Lady Muriel Naismith."

The little group had grown, spilling over into the plant-filled bay separated from the left side of the room by velvet hangings held back by ornately tasseled cords.

Muriel Naismith's nasal, clean-shaven skin. With the spell of his scrutiny broken, she became aware of the rest of him. His hair was red! Not bright, orangey red, but the dark russet of wild sumac in autumn. His lashes and thick, arched brows were the same color. The man was handsome, but it was the "knowingness" about him that raised the skin on her nape.

"I don't believe we've been introduced," she said, taking the bull by the horns. She thrust out her gloved hand as if to shake his.< voice grated on Sierra's ears. "Isn't that in the western part of America, Miss Shaw?"

"Yes." Sierra anticipated the next question, and she wasn't disappointed.

"Then you must have seen Indians. Tell me, are they as dirty and ignorant as I've heard?"

Concealing delighted laughter, Sierra stepped to the edge of the velvet drape, touched the arm of the dark-haired woman intently examining a lush display of African viole/P>

Margaret Worthington came to her aid. "I'm sure I've no idea where my manners have gone. May I present Fitzhugh Kent? Miss Sierra Shaw. Her father's a Senator from the state of Nevada in the United States."

"How clever of them to name a mountain range after you, Miss Shaw," Kent quipped as he turned her hand and lifted it to his lips.

As his mouth brushed her fingers, his warm breath penetrated Sierra's thin kid glove. The fints, and drew her into view. "I grew up with Indians in Paradise Valley, ma'am." Smothering a smile of spiteful delight, she tucked her arm around the waist of her companion. "May I introduce you to my aunt, Dolores Shaw? She's here to chaperone me."

Muriel Naismith looked as if she had just swallowed a wiggling trout. Sierra knew her aunt's burgundy silk Worth creation was enhanced by her flawless carriage. With her high cheekbones and straight black hair neatlye hairs on her forearm developed a life of their own. Resisting the urge to jerk her fingers from his, she retreated instead to the questionable safety of her new persona. So this was Fitz Kent. She smiled confidingly at those gathered around them. "You see? That's why I want to take one of your Englishman home with me. They pay such pretty compliments, and an American would never kiss my hand so gallantly."

A trickle of surprised laughter rewarded her. "I do believe braided into a coronet, she was striking. Dolores Shaw's warm bronze face was composed, as if she were accustomed to the stares of rude white men and women.

"Oh, dear. Does she speak English?" Lady Naismith said loudly.

"Quite well, thank you. And my hearing is exceptional. Before you inquire, let me assure you I am enjoying my visit thus far and looking forward with pleasure to spending many afternoons exploring your fine museums and conservatoriesI'm going to have a wonderful time in London." She risked looking directly up into Kent's eyes as she answered his question, "I was born the day Nevada was declared a territory. The mountains had been mighty generous to my father, and he wanted to pay his respects."

His bright, intuitive eyes were mocking as he said, "I can't help but observe that Nevada's generosity also provided a Worth gown, Miss Shaw."

Sierra met the subtle challenge and ."

Dolores Shaw's diction and pronunciation were more elegant than those of seventy-five per cent of the English aristocracy, as was her composure, Sierra thought smugly. She glanced at Fitz Kent, surprising a tiny smile on his lips. He was enjoying Lady Naismith's discomfort, and as if to apologize for his countrywoman's rudeness, he asked courteously, "To which family of The People do you belong, Mrs. Shaw?"

"I am one half Shoshoni, a tribe oengaged battle. "Aren't you clever, Mr. Kent! And so observant! I didn't want to look like an ignorant Yankee when I arrived in England, so I went to Paris first. Worth is a real fine little man. He reminds me of my grandfather."

Margaret Worthington subsided into a coughing spell. Recovering quickly, she cautioned in a strangled voice, "I must warn you about dear Fitz, Sierra. He's the perfect guest, perfectly dressed, perfectly witty and perfectly charming. Onf the northwest. My father was a French explorer and trapper, and he and my mother traveled throughout the northern country. Both died when I was quite young. And before Mrs. Naismith inquires, yes, they were married." The twinkle in her dark eyes revealed her amusement at his presumption that she required rescue. "I was raised by Sierra's grandfather, a university professor in St. Louis."

"Aunt Dolores and Uncle Zephath were with my parents when they file claims in Ce hears he has an obscure post with the government, although no one has ever actually seen him work. But you must never take him seriously or offend him. He wields a rather wicked tongue when he chooses."

Kent protested laughingly, "You wound me, Mrs. Worthington. Have you considered how many engagements I refuse just so I can attend your little gatherings to welcome American visitors?"

"You know I appreciate you, Fitz. Just be kind to Miss Shaw." arson City,"

"Claims?" Fitz asked.

"Mining claims. They struck silver before unearthing a mother lode of gold."

"That went well, don't you think, Dolores?" Sierra snuggled against the velvet squabs of the carriage and met her aunt's gaze in the wavering glow from the lamps on either side. The unease on the older woman's usually composed features worried Sierra. "Did something upset you? I was so busy pretending to She turned, directing a welcoming smile toward an overdressed middle-aged woman. "Lady Naismith. I'm delighted you could be with us this afternoon. May I present Miss Sierra Shaw from the American state of Nevada?" She turned to Sierra. "Lady Muriel Naismith."

The little group had grown, spilling over into the plant-filled bay separated from the left side of the room by velvet hangings held back by ornately tasseled cords.

Muriel Naismith's nasalbe a brash American that I couldn't observe the other guests as closely as I'd have liked."

"I very much dislike hearing you flaunting your father's wealth. Otherwise, I saw nothing out of the ordinary, although Mr. Kent seemed to observe you with exceptional interest."

Sierra sighed. "We argued about this all the way from New York. I thought you understood. Since the blackmailer knows Melanie married my father, he'll wonder why I'm here. If voice grated on Sierra's ears. "Isn't that in the western part of America, Miss Shaw?"

"Yes." Sierra anticipated the next question, and she wasn't disappointed.

"Then you must have seen Indians. Tell me, are they as dirty and ignorant as I've heard?"

Concealing delighted laughter, Sierra stepped to the edge of the velvet drape, touched the arm of the dark-haired woman intently examining a lush display of African violeI appear to be nothing but a crass husband hunter, he'll think I'm harmless." She leaned forward to pat her aunt's hand.

"This has to be better than Daddy charging in with his sixguns blazing. That would send the blackmailer into hiding." She fingered the lace on her frivolous hat as she continued, "This way the only thing anyone will suspect me of is crudeness."

"I don't think Mr. Kent believes you," her aunt insisted.

Muriel Naismith looked as if she had just swallowed a wiggling trout. Sierra knew her aunt's burgundy silk Worth creation was enhanced by her flawless carriage. With her high cheekbones and straight black hair neatly/P>

"He's just afraid I'll replace him as the Season's most entertaining guest. You watch. Everyone will invite me to their lawn parties and dinners, in hopes I'll do or say something outrageous while I'm there. And to introduce me to their eligible sons," Sierra added shrewdly. "This town is overflowing with impoverished aristocrats. The Shaw money will compensate for nearly anything I decide to do ... even if I eat with my fingers. Besides, Fitz Kent looks as if he braided into a coronet, she was striking. Dolores Shaw's warm bronze face was composed, as if she were accustomed to the stares of rude white men and women.

"Oh, dear. Does she speak English?" Lady Naismith said loudly.

"Quite well, thank you. And my hearing is exceptional. Before you inquire, let me assure you I am enjoying my visit thus far and looking forward with pleasure to spending many afternoons exploring your fine museums and conservatoriesspends every waking hour worrying about his appearance. Have you ever seen anyone so ... so 'polished' looking in your life?"

She turned away from her aunt's perceptive glance. Sierra had needed only one look into Kent's hazel eyes to know he was capable of seeing through her masquerade. His bright, searching gaze took in every detail of each person and item in the room. She imagined him filing them away for future use. The perfection of his tailoring tended to dist."

Dolores Shaw's diction and pronunciation were more elegant than those of seventy-five per cent of the English aristocracy, as was her composure, Sierra thought smugly. She glanced at Fitz Kent, surprising a tiny smile on his lips. He was enjoying Lady Naismith's discomfort, and as if to apologize for his countrywoman's rudeness, he asked courteously, "To which family of The People do you belong, Mrs. Shaw?"

"I am one half Shoshoni, a tribe oract one's attention from the breadth of his shoulders and the wiry grace of his body. On the other hand, his elegant manners and apparent indolence seemed created for a drawing room; she couldn't imagine the man approaching an actual job with any competence.

His elegant grooming both attracted and repelled her. Then why did his faultlessly barbered and brushed hair make her want to rumple such perfection..." Good God! What am I thinking! "Only a f the northwest. My father was a French explorer and trapper, and he and my mother traveled throughout the northern country. Both died when I was quite young. And before Mrs. Naismith inquires, yes, they were married." The twinkle in her dark eyes revealed her amusement at his presumption that she required rescue. "I was raised by Sierra's grandfather, a university professor in St. Louis."

"Aunt Dolores and Uncle Zephath were with my parents when they file claims in Ctailor's dummy would wear such a relentlessly starched linen shirt and a matching cravat and pocket handkerchief so discreet they scream extravagance. And he's finicky. Did you see him adjust the crease in his trousers when he sat on the love seat? He nearly crooked his pinky!"

"A man who sees as much as he does could be dangerous, Sierra. You will do well to be on your guard."

The carriage rolled to a stop. Ignoring her aunt's warning, Sierra arson City,"

"Claims?" Fitz asked.

"Mining claims. They struck silver before unearthing a mother lode of gold."

"That went well, don't you think, Dolores?" Sierra snuggled against the velvet squabs of the carriage and met her aunt's gaze in the wavering glow from the lamps on either side. The unease on the older woman's usually composed features worried Sierra. "Did something upset you? I was so busy pretending to swiveled toward the door, which swung open as if by magic. "Caleb, if you continue to be such a perfect servant, Queen Victoria will attempt to hire you away from me." She smiled teasingly and placed her hand on the arm of the squarely built young man who had opened the door. Bringing her own groom and horses along had been a necessity. She and Caleb had grown up together, and he was trustworthy; Sierra wanted people she could trust at her back.

"No chance, Sierra. 'Dbe a brash American that I couldn't observe the other guests as closely as I'd have liked."

"I very much dislike hearing you flaunting your father's wealth. Otherwise, I saw nothing out of the ordinary, although Mr. Kent seemed to observe you with exceptional interest."

Sierra sighed. "We argued about this all the way from New York. I thought you understood. Since the blackmailer knows Melanie married my father, he'll wonder why I'm here. If ruther be back in Paradise Valley. This place gives me a hemmed in feelin'."

She patted his shoulder as he turned to assist Dolores to the cobblestones. "I know exactly what you mean. London's nearly as stifling as shipboard. The buildings are too close to each other." Standing in the comparative openness of the street, she suppressed a shudder. Steamship travel might be one of the miracles of the age, but throughout the voyage she had suffered twinges of claustrophobI appear to be nothing but a crass husband hunter, he'll think I'm harmless." She leaned forward to pat her aunt's hand.

"This has to be better than Daddy charging in with his sixguns blazing. That would send the blackmailer into hiding." She fingered the lace on her frivolous hat as she continued, "This way the only thing anyone will suspect me of is crudeness."

"I don't think Mr. Kent believes you," her aunt insisted.

Sierra looked up and down Adelphi Terrace. The address was convenient rather than fashionable, located far enough from Charing Cross railway station to be respectable, but close enough that she could be there quickly if she found it necessary to travel in a hurry. Mayfair and Belgravia, where society lived and entertained, were within a short carriage ride.

Russ, her father's assistant, had been fortunate to find them anything so acceptable, arriving as /P>

"He's just afraid I'll replace him as the Season's most entertaining guest. You watch. Everyone will invite me to their lawn parties and dinners, in hopes I'll do or say something outrageous while I'm there. And to introduce me to their eligible sons," Sierra added shrewdly. "This town is overflowing with impoverished aristocrats. The Shaw money will compensate for nearly anything I decide to do ... even if I eat with my fingers. Besides, Fitz Kent looks as if he he did when families were already moving to town for the Season.

She climbed the shallow steps, smiling wryly as Elkins, the starchy, elderly butler, opened the door at precisely the right moment. Although few well-trained servants were available at this time of year, she never questioned the wonders of unlimited cash.

As if thinking of Russ had materialized him, a tall, lanky figure called to her from the top of the stairs to the left of the narrow foyer. "ract one's attention from the breadth of his shoulders and the wiry grace of his body. On the other hand, his elegant manners and apparent indolence seemed created for a drawing room; she couldn't imagine the man approaching an actual job with any competence.

His elegant grooming both attracted and repelled her. Then why did his faultlessly barbered and brushed hair make her want to rumple such perfection..." Good God! What am I thinking! "Only a Thank God you're back early, Sierra. You need to hear this."

Sierra surrendered her pelisse to the butler and ran up the steps to join the gray-haired man. "News? Already? You're a miracle worker." Revealing Melanie's problem to Russ had not been a breach of trust. She'd known him all her life, and he was dedicated to the Senator's career.

"As soon as I arrived, I sent a detective to West Suffolk to the return address on the letter Melanitailor's dummy would wear such a relentlessly starched linen shirt and a matching cravat and pocket handkerchief so discreet they scream extravagance. And he's finicky. Did you see him adjust the crease in his trousers when he sat on the love seat? He nearly crooked his pinky!"

"A man who sees as much as he does could be dangerous, Sierra. You will do well to be on your guard."

The carriage rolled to a stop. Ignoring her aunt's warning, Sierra e received. The present occupants denied any knowledge of Geoffrey, even after my man claimed his inquiries had something to do with money. Since Geoffrey's boyhood home was less than twenty miles away, he made inquiries there. Geoffrey's father and his brother died a year ago in a freak hunting accident, and a distant cousin inherited the property in Suffolk, but very little else." He pushed his wire-rimmed glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "Sierra, the cousin claims he never knewswiveled toward the door, which swung open as if by magic. "Caleb, if you continue to be such a perfect servant, Queen Victoria will attempt to hire you away from me." She smiled teasingly and placed her hand on the arm of the squarely built young man who had opened the door. Bringing her own groom and horses along had been a necessity. She and Caleb had grown up together, and he was trustworthy; Sierra wanted people she could trust at her back.

"No chance, Sierra. 'D any of the Trowbridge family personally. His branch had been exiled to Australia."

"Then who else but Geoffrey would know enough to threaten Melanie? Could he truly be alive?"

ruther be back in Paradise Valley. This place gives me a hemmed in feelin'."

She patted his shoulder as he turned to assist Dolores to the cobblestones. "I know exactly what you mean. London's nearly as stifling as shipboard. The buildings are too close to each other." Standing in the comparative openness of the street, she suppressed a shudder. Steamship travel might be one of the miracles of the age, but throughout the voyage she had suffered twinges of claustrophobia.

Sierra looked up and down Adelphi Terrace. The address was convenient rather than fashionable, located far enough from Charing Cross railway station to be respectable, but close enough that she could be there quickly if she found it necessary to travel in a hurry. Mayfair and Belgravia, where society lived and entertained, were within a short carriage ride.

Russ, her father's assistant, had been fortunate to find them anything so acceptable, arriving as he did when families were already moving to town for the Season.

She climbed the shallow steps, smiling wryly as Elkins, the starchy, elderly butler, opened the door at precisely the right moment. Although few well-trained servants were available at this time of year, she never questioned the wonders of unlimited cash.

As if thinking of Russ had materialized him, a tall, lanky figure called to her from the top of the stairs to the left of the narrow foyer. "Thank God you're back early, Sierra. You need to hear this."

Sierra surrendered her pelisse to the butler and ran up the steps to join the gray-haired man. "News? Already? You're a miracle worker." Revealing Melanie's problem to Russ had not been a breach of trust. She'd known him all her life, and he was dedicated to the Senator's career.

"As soon as I arrived, I sent a detective to West Suffolk to the return address on the letter Melanie received. The present occupants denied any knowledge of Geoffrey, even after my man claimed his inquiries had something to do with money. Since Geoffrey's boyhood home was less than twenty miles away, he made inquiries there. Geoffrey's father and his brother died a year ago in a freak hunting accident, and a distant cousin inherited the property in Suffolk, but very little else." He pushed his wire-rimmed glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "Sierra, the cousin claims he never knew any of the Trowbridge family personally. His branch had been exiled to Australia."

"Then who else but Geoffrey would know enough to threaten Melanie? Could he truly be alive?"

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    irresistible Victorian romantic suspense

    In 1885 Washington DC, a distraught Melanie Shaw informs her beloved stepdaughter Sierra that someone is trying to blackmail her with her past ruining her second husband, a US Senator. Not wanting to disturb her father who is working to keep his country from violating a treaty with the Indians, Sierra decides to travel to England in order to ferret out the source of the extortion. Both Shaw females wonder if Melanie¿s first husband, declared dead from a ship accident, actually survived. <P>In London, the wealthy Sierra announces that she plans to go home married to a title. Spymaster Fitz Kent refuses to accept Sierra¿s seemingly guileless answer as he feels she is too beautiful and rich to marry just a title. He begins trailing her rationalizing that he needs to learn what her agenda really is though deep in his gut he knows he is attracted to the American. While they fall in love she needs his skills just to stay one step ahead of a dangerous blackmailer. <P>THE SHOCKING MISS SHAW is similar to many of the recent bookstore invasion of wealthy Americans and English aristocrats falling in love. However, the investigation into who is the blackmailer adds mystery elements that freshen up the story line. Though Sierra seems a bit too foolhardy and brave, she and Fitz make for quite a couple starring in an irresistible Victorian romantic suspense novel. <P>Harriet Klausner

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