Read an Excerpt
Sins of Midnight
By Kimberly Logan
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Kimberly Logan
All right reserved.
Even the most difficult case can be brought to a close if one employs reason and perseverance.
"They say she was once a stage actress, you know."
Standing in the shadows of the terrace, Connor Monroe looked up from his brooding contemplation of the moonlit landscape beyond the balustrade at the sound of the feminine voice. Cool and disdainful, it drifted through the open French doors from the ballroom, cutting across the pleasant waft of orchestra music with the sharpness of a knife.
"Well, I heard she was a gypsy who put a curse on Lord Albright and refused to remove it unless he agreed to wed her."
The round of high-pitched titters that followed that statement had Connor wincing.
Dousing his cheroot and sending it arcing out into the darkness, he unfolded his broad frame from his casual slouch against the railing and turned to face the house just as a group of young ladies swept out onto the veranda.
Just bloody wonderful, he thought, stifling a growl. The last thing he needed was to get caught out here by a gaggle of gossiping chits just barely out of the schoolroom.
Where the hell was Tolliver?
Connor had lost track of how long he'd been waiting here for the BowStreet Runner to return from wherever it was he had disappeared to. It seemed as if it had been hours, and he was fast running out of patience.
From the moment he and Tolliver had arrived at the luxurious mansion on Park Lane in the midst of a ball they obviously hadn't been invited to, Connor had felt as restless and out of place as a virgin at a Bacchanalian revel. At nearly thirty years of age, he might have been part owner of a prosperous shipping company, wealthy and well respected in his own right, but he had never been one to mingle with the titled and aristocratic members of the ton. Though the Runner had assured him that the person they'd come here seeking tonight could possibly be of great help to their investigation, Connor had trouble believing that anyone who belonged to such a golden and glittering world could offer any insight whatsoever into Stuart's death.
Or who was responsible for it.
For a fleeting instant, an image of his friend and partner, slumped over his desk at the shipping office, eyes wide and unseeing as blood spilled from the gaping knife wound in his throat, flashed across Connor's inner vision. But he pushed it away and forced himself to focus on the chattering females who had so unexpectedly joined him.
Fans waving wildly and heads bent close together, the little assemblage had come to a halt and formed a loose semicircle just in front of the French doors, unaware of his presence in the gloom on the far side of the terrace.
One of them, a striking blonde with an air of icy superiority, spoke in an imperious tone that could easily be heard over the babble of the others around her. "My mother told me that Lady Albright behaved like a hoyden whenever the pair of them were in the city. Once, Mama even saw her galloping her horse across Hyde Park, riding astride like a man. Can you believe such a thing?"
"Of course." This from a tall, thin stick of a girl with a long, angular face and rather pinched features. She was clad in a hideous shade of pastel pink that clashed with the bright red tresses piled high in an elaborate coiffure. "What else can you expect from a woman of such common origins? I understand she was quite the accomplished flirt, as well. There were rumors that she'd had affairs with half the men in London. One can only believe that Lord Hawksley did the poor marquis a favor when he . . . well, you know."
There was a general murmur of agreement.
"Such a scandal!" another young lady piped up. "The woman was an absolute disgrace."
The redhead gave a sage nod. "And Lady Jillian has caused her own share of gossip. After that whole debacle with Lord and Lady Ranleigh's heir three Seasons ago, I'm surprised her father even allows her to show her face in town. I know I certainly have no wish to associate with her."
Connor frowned and shifted with impatience, longing to escape, yet unwilling to risk drawing their attention by attempting to do so. Damnation, but he had no desire to linger here and listen to these spiteful cats rake some poor soul over the coals, and he couldn't help but feel an uncustomary nudge of sympathy for the unfortunate young lady they were maligning in such a vicious manner. Was it any wonder he avoided society misses like the plague?
The blond-haired girl shuddered. "Who could blame my darling Shipton for changing his mind about offering for her? She cares not at all for her family or reputation. One never knows what sort of outrageous stunt she may pull next. Why, I caught her strolling about Lord and Lady Fitzwater's estate at their house party last year barefoot and wearing breeches, of all things!"
"I can't understand why the Dowager Duchess of Maitland seems to have taken Lady Jillian -under her wing and insists on inviting her and her family to functions such as this," one of the others interjected with a sniff.
"Well, her father is a marquis, and it is my understanding that Her Grace was a good friend of the late Lady Albright." The blonde tossed her artfully arranged curls in a studied manner that had a quietly observing Connor restraining the urge to roll his eyes in disgust. "And we all know that the dowager duchess is considered to be more than a trifle eccentric herself since the death of the duke. I believe that she has agreed to act as a sponsor of sorts for the debut of Lord Albright's middle daughter, Lady Maura." One corner of her mouth curved upward in a condescending smile. "One can only hope that the girl makes a better job of it than her older sister."
Excerpted from Sins of Midnight by Kimberly Logan Copyright © 2006 by Kimberly Logan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.