Treasure Me (Legend Hunters Series #3)by Robyn DeHart
The Legend Hunters . . .
The Men of Solomon's meet in secret, their very existence only a rumor among the best of Victorian society. They are treasure hunters, men of wealth and title, seekers of myths and legends. And no legend is as captivating as the Loch Ness monster . . .
Graeme Langford, Duke of Rothmore, has always been torn between his/em>… See more details below
The Legend Hunters . . .
The Men of Solomon's meet in secret, their very existence only a rumor among the best of Victorian society. They are treasure hunters, men of wealth and title, seekers of myths and legends. And no legend is as captivating as the Loch Ness monster . . .
Graeme Langford, Duke of Rothmore, has always been torn between his beloved Scottish homeland and his duty to the English Crown. Yet his is truly an adventurer's soul-and he's determined to find a long-lost stone hidden near Loch Ness.
Bookish Vanessa Pembrooke heads to the Highlands to prove the existence of the legendary beast. Instead she finds the first man who has ever shared her hunger for adventure. Soon Graeme and Vanessa are fighting a dangerous battle as well as their own simmering attraction. As their passion grows, so does the danger. Ultimately, they must risk everything to keep the cursed stone out of a murderer's hands. But can they survive without losing the greatest treasure of all-their love?
DeHart delivers plenty of adventure and suspense along with the romance: secret passages, ancient encoded texts, and a double helping of theft, blackmail, kidnapping, and murder."—Publishers Weekly"
DeHart has continued her series with a book chock full of fun and adventure, not neglecting steamy, tender (and sometimes hilarious) love scenes."—FreshFiction.com"
We have a winner! A perfect 10. I wouldn't change a thing. This is truly one of the most delightful tales I've read in years."—TheSeasonFor Romance.com"
Spine-tingling adventure and sexy secrets! Robyn DeHart's vibrant characters sweep the reader into a clever and sensual romp that is not to be missed."—Julia London, NYT bestelling author on Seduce Me"
With its wonderfully matched and equally stubborn protagonists, captivating plot, and subtle wit, the first in a new series, based on lost legends, by rising star DeHart is a genuine treasure itself."—Booklist on Seduce Me"
Sizzling...believable and enticing."—Publishers Weekly on Seduce Me"
A rousing and rollicking romantic adventure! Robyn DeHart proves that falling in love is the greatest adventure of all."—Teresa Medeiros, New York Times bestselling author of Some Like It Wild, Teresa Medeiros, NYT bestselling author on Seduce Me"
Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft in DeHart's pulse-pounding adventure romance. With strong dialogue and fast pacing, her intricate plot is brought to life by characters that leap off the pages."—Top pick! 4 1/2 stars, RT Book Reviews on Seduce Me
Meet the Author
As a lifelong lover of stories and adventure, Robyn DeHart felt she had to either become a stuntwoman for the movies or experience adventure from the safety of her pj's and computer. She chose the latter and couldn't be happier for doing so. Known for her unique plotlines and authentic characters, Robyn is a favorite among readers and reviewers. Publishers Weekly claims her writing is "comical and sexy," while the Chicago Tribune dubs her "wonderfully entertaining," and Kathe Robin says, "Like Amanda Quick, DeHart [will] keep you up all night." Seduce Me, the first in her Legend Hunters series, won an RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award as well as the RomCon Readers' Crown. A self-proclaimed movie junkie, Robyn knows more worthless entertainment trivia than anyone has a right to; in fact she's the reigning champion of name-that-voice-over-on-that-commercial game, which, incidentally, she plays alone. She lives in Central Texas with her brainy husband and two very spoiled cats.
You can learn more at:
RobynDeHart.com or JauntyQuills.com
More from this Author
Read an Excerpt
By DeHart, Robyn
ForeverCopyright © 2011 DeHart, Robyn
All right reserved.
Loch Ness, Scotland, 1881
Thunder crashed and fat, heavy raindrops pelted Graeme Langford as he plunged the oars into the cold, murky depths of Loch Ness. The muscles in his arms burned from rowing, and despite the chill in the air, sweat beaded down his back. The storm made the loch choppy and his trek more difficult. Still he rowed.
Through the sheets of rain, he could see the rocky beach ahead in the distance and the hills that rose behind the shore. Somewhere in those hills, he’d find the abbey. A foolish wealthy American had recently purchased the crumbling estate and intended to restore it to its former glory. They were supposed to start construction next week, so Graeme had to hurry and find what he sought before it was too late.
The small boat rocked against the angry waves, and Graeme fought against the current. His progress was slow, and he was damp to his bones. The newly formed blisters on his palms ached. Eventually he made his way to the beach. He jumped out and pulled the boat onto the shore, cursing his aching muscles. Clearly life in London was making him soft.
The last ribbons of light were partially hidden behind the storm clouds, compromising his visibility greatly. But he’d climbed enough hills throughout Scotland to know that he would be able to traverse these in limited light. He secured his bag across his body and started up into the hills. The highlands weren’t mountains; he’d seen true mountains in Spain. Still, the rocky hillsides were treacherous on their own account, so he minded his steps carefully. The rain slowed, and the thunder softened as the storm faded into the distance.
The crisp autumn air filled Graeme’s lungs as he climbed up the hill. As raw and untamed as parts of Scotland remained, he loved this land. Loved the history and the rough terrain, loved the people and their lore. Half of him rightfully belonged here by his mother’s blood, but it was his father’s English blood that ruled his life. Four years earlier, when his father had fallen ill and died, Graeme had taken his place as the Duke of Rothmore. And he did his duty as an English lord, although he longed for time to spend in his beloved Scotland.
The pull from his Scottish heritage was what drove his quest, his burning desire to find and restore what rightfully belonged to Scotland—the Stone of Destiny, a biblical relic that held mysterious powers. It had belonged to the Scottish monarchy for hundreds of years before it had been stolen by the English. Or so everyone had thought. Graeme had recently come to believe that the stone taken by the English was counterfeit. He intended to be the one to locate the original stone.
According to his latest research, there was a book that he needed to complete his quest. It lay somewhere within the dilapidated walls of this old abandoned abbey.
As if his mind had conjured the image, a massive stone building suddenly lay before him, nestled into the next hill. Arches towered over crumbling stone, like the ribs of some enormous animal picked clean by vultures. Only the building at the main entrance remained. Graeme stepped through an opening in the wall that had once protected the monks, but he was not alone as he’d expected. The workers for the reconstruction were already here, or at least their equipment was, as it littered the hillside. They were early, which meant that he just might be too late.
With night falling, it seemed unlikely that the men would still be working, so Graeme crept closer. He listened intently for the sounds of voices, but heard nothing. Finally he reached the inner sanctum of the abbey. He pulled at the huge arched wooden door, and it opened with an echoing creak. Darkness surrounded him.
From his bag, he withdrew a simple beeswax candle and lit it. He unfolded a map and glanced at the rendition. The candlelight flickered as he studied the drawing, an illustration of this very structure—or more precisely, what lay beneath it.
Graeme stood in what had once been the chapel. Time and thieves had stolen the stained glass from the windows of the once glorious room. Tools and other construction supplies lay up against the wall. He crossed into the next room and found scaffolding between two pillars there.
He moved past the large columns, through the arched doorway, deeper into the ruins. Most of the stone floor remained in decent repair, though there were intermittent holes. When he’d heard someone had purchased the old building, Graeme had wondered if it was for residential purposes or if someone else sought the treasures that were believed hidden beneath. All the construction efforts he saw led him to believe that the new owner planned to live here.
It had been nearly a hundred years since monks had lived in this abbey, perhaps longer. Legend had it those men of the cloth had once been guardians to many of the church’s ancient treasures—lost canons, the Spear of Christ, and the item that Graeme now sought: The Magi’s Book of Wisdom, an ancient text rumored to contain the most accurate description of the Stone of Destiny.
Hot wax dripped onto Graeme’s hand, burning and then congealing on his skin. The hall narrowed, then ended at a staircase. Graeme wound down the spiral stone stairs. He ended up in another hallway that revealed several smaller arched doorways. The hidden chamber still lay another level beneath the abbey, dug deep into the bowels of the hill.
Graeme walked through the sleeping quarters, one room leading to another, twisting and turning through hallways until he came to a dead end. He knew he needed to go down below this level of the abbey, but he hadn’t come across any stairs. Damnation, he must have made a wrong turn somewhere along the way.
He pulled out the illustration again and studied the image. His destination was a large room filled with books and treasure, where monks had once guarded the entryway. He’d found this bloody picture in the journal of a dead village priest who’d had a penchant for ancient folklore.
A short burst of wind swirled around him. His stubby candle died. Darkness enclosed him. He dug into his bag to retrieve another, then struck a match on the stone wall. The match flickered to life with a spark, and the new candle illuminated the space in front of him. Then the flame died as if someone had blown it out. There was air coming from somewhere.
He leaned against the wall, moving his hands against the cold stone, but found nothing. This entire search might prove futile. He moved his feet, and his boot touched something protruding from the wall. He knelt and ran his hand against the protrusion. It was a lever. He pushed it, shoving it flat against the stone. Something below him shifted. The floor separated and then he was moving downward. It was a lift. Evidently the monks had been rather advanced in their technology. He just hoped this ancient thing worked as well going back up.
The stone chute surrounded him, scraping against his shoulders as he continued to descend, but in the darkness, he still could see nothing. Chains creaked and groaned beneath him. Then the platform jerked to a stop.
Graeme waited until all the noises ceased before he stepped forward. He relit his candle, and to his right, he found a wall sconce with a tallow-dipped torch. Once lit, it illuminated the area around him. He stood on a dirt floor and directly in front of him laid a deep chasm; an underground gorge.
It was far too dark to see what lay beyond the gorge, but if the illustration was correct, then across the expanse he would find a chamber. He stepped to the edge of the cliff and stared out into the dark abyss. How was he to get across? He moved slowly to his left, searching for any sign of a bridge. When his boot scuffed over something, he kicked the dirt out of the way and found a rope stretching out from his feet across the canyon. There was another rope above his head attached firmly to a metal loop anchored to the stone wall. He pulled on it, and it slackened, lowering the rope until it was about chest high. The two-rope bridge provided one rope to hold on to, and one to walk on. These had been ingenious monks.
He inhaled slowly. This was not the sort of bridge that he’d been hoping for. He hated heights. Having nothing but an aged rope between him and the nothingness below did not evoke confidence. But he was running out of time. The American who had bought this place would certainly discover this area eventually. If Graeme didn’t find that book now, it would likely be lost forever.
It would be impossible to cross the rope bridge while holding the candle, so he pinched the wick between his fingers and dropped the candle in his bag. The torch lit the area behind him, but once he stepped out onto the rope, he’d be shrouded in darkness. He checked his bag to make certain it was secure, then he put one boot onto the rope. It gave beneath his weight, but held firm to the anchor on the other side.
He took a step with his other foot and grabbed hold of the balance rope. Slowly he began his way across, sliding his left foot and then following with the right. The rope swayed and moved, jostling him around as he crossed over the canyon. What the hell had these monks been thinking? Evidently they’d guarded some valuable pieces to go to such lengths to protect them.
His eyes tried to grow accustomed to the blackness around him, but with no light to be found, he still could see nothing. He kept moving. Finally his foot hit against the rock on the other side. He’d made it.
Graeme stepped onto the ledge. Quickly he relit his candle and found a series of torches along the wall that illuminated a hallway. He crouched as he moved through the space, his height a hindrance in the small area. He lit more torches along the way.
A room opened before him, and Graeme stepped down into it. A large, not-quite-circular space, it was filled with trunks and chests and stone tables covered with a variety of items from goblets to jewels. Alcoves carved into the stone wall held other, smaller trunks. He began his search, opening the lid of every trunk and rummaging through their contents, going over every surface and examining each item. If the rest of these priceless treasures remained, then certainly that book was here somewhere.
One of the smaller trunks contained every gemstone he could imagine, and another overflowed with gold pieces. If the American owner became aware of these treasures, his wealth would more than double overnight. Graeme pulled a trunk out of one of the wall niches. A series of high-pitched screeches filled the area, then bats flew at him. He ducked, but one of them smacked into the top of his head, then kept flying. Dammed vile creatures.
Inside this trunk, he found a map, which he tossed in his bag in case it might prove useful. He searched one trunk after another until he finally came to one that was filled with books. He squatted and picked up each book, carefully checking the titles as well as glancing at the inside texts. He came across two that might be of use to some of his friends at Solomon’s and shoved them both in his bag. Then he saw it, a small leatherbound volume encrusted with jewels. Inside he found Ancient Persian text. The Magi’s Book of Wisdom.
He took one last look at all the glittering treasure, then extinguished the torches before stepping back onto the rope bridge. It was difficult to leave all of the antiquities behind, but he couldn’t excavate all of that alone. He would notify Solomon’s and they could send a group in to remove all the historical treasures, but he’d found what he’d come for. The rope beneath his feet wobbled. Somewhere to his right, he heard metal scrape.
Then the rope fell away beneath his feet. He gripped the balance rope firmly as he dropped. It felt as if his shoulders were being ripped from his body at the sudden shift of all his weight, but he would not let go. As quickly as he was able, he started moving to his left. One hand moved painstakingly over the other.
He listened as he moved, waiting to hear the sound of fraying rope, but all he could hear was his own heavy breathing. His heart pounded. Sweat coated his hands, and he prayed that he wouldn’t lose his grip. He slowly drew closer to the light from the torches to his left.
Finally he reached the other side. He fell onto the dirt floor and lay there, feeling grateful he hadn’t fallen to his death. He was one step closer to finding the Stone of Destiny.
Vanessa Pembrooke crept down the staircase, careful not to make a noise. She would marry in two more days, and thoughts of the ceremony plagued her mind, keeping sleep at bay. It would take hours for her mother and her army of servants to primp and curl and shine every last inch of Vanessa’s person. Not to mention the dress that she was expected to wear: She’d be head-to-toe ruffle and lace; a doily with feet. Needless to say, all these wretched thoughts left her wide awake. Currently she tiptoed to the library to find something to occupy her mind.
The house sat void of sound, the servants all off to bed, her family long ago retired. Her fiancé was staying in the house, but he had gone to bed early with a sour stomach. So at this late hour she would have the library to herself. All those books waiting just for her. She’d already read the latest scientific journal from front to back. Perhaps she’d pick up a history text.
A soft noise caught her attention and she paused at the door. She turned behind her, but saw no one there. Perhaps her nerves about the wedding were making her more jittery than usual. With a silent turn of the knob, she opened the library door.
Vanessa paused just short of entering the room when she caught sight of something, or rather someone, on the floor in front of the fading fire. Naked limbs writhed around one another, glistening with sweat. The man groaned, and the woman, who sat atop him as if riding a horse, whispered a series of soft yesses again and again.
In all her imaginings, Vanessa would never have guessed that couples could copulate in such a manner, having only been told of the traditional man-on-top-under-the-covers-in-the-dark position. Vanessa wondered what might compel two people to do such a thing in a public room. It was rather scandalous, and were her mother to discover such activity, she would have the servants fired immediately. But then the woman leaned back, giving Vanessa a clear view of the man’s face—Jeremy, her fiancé.
Vanessa knew her mouth had fallen open, and protocol demanded that she turn away and leave him to his transgression. It was precisely the advice her mother would have given her. Turn your head and look the other way. Pretend as if you don’t notice.
She knew men strayed from marriage, but it was that long blond hair about the woman’s shoulders that gave Vanessa the longest pause. She knew that hair. It belonged to Violet, her younger sister.
Anger coiled inside her. Vanessa didn’t know how long she’d stood there, but eventually they finished what they were doing. Violet rolled off of Jeremy and lay to his side. They murmured to one another, soft whispers between lovers, their heads leaning close together. It was then that Vanessa stepped into the room. She cleared her throat, and upon seeing her, Jeremy reached for the nearest piece of clothing to cover himself. This happened to be Violet’s shift, making him look utterly ridiculous. But Vanessa could find no humor in the situation.
“Vanessa!” he said. “I, uh, we—” He had the decency to blush under her scrutiny, the rosy hue staining his cheeks and neck.
“I can see what you were doing,” Vanessa said. She steadied her breathing and selected her words carefully. “You said you were not interested in that sort of relationship. You said you did not believe in passion.”
He looked at Violet, then back to Vanessa. “That was before.” His eyes cast downward.
“Before this?” She motioned to the floor where they sat. “Before tonight?”
“Well, before I met Violet.” He winced, clutched the shift to his chest.
Had they been together the entire six weeks Jeremy had been in London? Vanessa longed to sit down, to take several slow breaths and think on the situation until it all made sense.
“We’re in love, Vanessa.” Jeremy shook his head, his expression moving dangerously close to pity. “I’m sorry. It happened so unexpectedly.”
Vanessa shifted her stance, crossing her arms over her body. “In love. Another thing you said you did not believe in. And when were the two of you going to tell me this bit of news?” She took another step forward. “On our wedding day?” Anger, like a spool of thread wound too tight, unraveled. “After the wedding? Or were you planning to simply ignore it and hope I wouldn’t notice?” she asked, knowing her voice was rising.
All the while Violet simply sat there, not saying anything, nor did she even have the decency to blush. She would not, however, meet Vanessa’s gaze.
“I don’t know,” was all he said.
Vanessa didn’t wait for further explanation. Instead she simply turned and left the room. She didn’t know which one of them had angered her more. She was fond of Jeremy, but she’d thought their relationship had been built on mutual interest and respect. As for Violet, they shared blood, a childhood, memories. Granted those things were the extent of the commonality between the two sisters, but she was family.
Vanessa entered her bedroom and closed the door behind her. Without another thought she opened her trunk, already partially packed with her wedding trousseau, and started tossing clothes into it. Violet was the youngest of the three Pembrooke sisters and undoubtedly the most attractive. Also the most gregarious. She was vibrant and spoiled, and people, mostly men, loved her.
Vanessa loved her, too. Although they were different, they were sisters, and this was the ultimate betrayal.
Three hours later when the carriage finally rumbled down the London street, Vanessa did not dare glance out of the tiny curtained window for fear of seeing her mother’s stricken face, or worse, her would-be groom’s relieved expression. She was officially a runaway bride.
No one would realize that she’d gone until morning. She removed her spectacles and cleaned the lenses on her skirt. Oh, the scandal this would cause. She sighed heavily. So often it was the man who committed the indiscretion, yet it would be the woman’s reputation that lay in tatters.
Well, it could not be helped. Vanessa carefully placed her spectacles back atop her nose. She straightened in her seat. Jeremy P. Morris. She’d carefully selected him as her future partner. An American scientist in need of money for his research—her dowry would have set him up nicely. Together they could have made great scientific discoveries.
She pulled a stray thread off her bodice and wound it around one finger. He’d seemed perfect. Level-headed, analytical, intelligent, and not at all moved by the frivolities in life that consumed most people these days—love and lust and whatnot. He’d agreed completely with her thoughts on those matters. She unwound the thread and balled it between fingertip and thumb. Jeremy had seemed a perfect match for her.
She had even come to terms with copulation with him. They wouldn’t be plagued with passion and delusions of love. Instead they’d share relations for reproductive purposes. He’d have made a fine father, being able to teach their children about all the meaningful things in life. But now she’d caught Jeremy in the arms of her sister. A passionate embrace, with nude limbs and moans of urgency. She shook her head to dispel the image.
If anyone could bring about a passionate response from Jeremy, it would have been Violet. What choice had that left Vanessa? She could have gone through with the wedding, married the man whom she’d thought was her perfect match. Then her sister would have been miserable. As her husband would have been. And where would that have left Vanessa?
Clearly the two of them had found something special together. Whether it would last any longer than a shooting star, Vanessa had her doubts. But who was she to stand in the way of two people who had deluded themselves into believing they’d found love? At least she’d discovered the truth before it had been too late.
Besides, this had conveniently opened up her own schedule to allow for a most important trip. She clenched her fists to stop her hands from shaking, all the while telling herself this was what was important. Her research. This was what she cared about. Thank goodness she’d had a modest stash of money hidden away. It had been intended to purchase hair ribbons and the like, but she’d simply tucked away those funds every time her mother had doled them out.
Once the carriage stopped, she’d board a train that would take her to Scotland. All the way to Inverness, to Loch Ness, where some most unusual finds had recently surfaced. Of course, those with limited imagination saw the fossil as merely a standard bone—they were speculating a bovine of some sort. But Vanessa thought better of it.
Mr. Angus McElroy had unearthed evidence of the legendary creature that supposedly dwelled beneath the murky depths of the loch. She believed the locals called it a water kelpie. Had William Buckland not proved the existence of such massive creatures, though on land? Why would it be such a stretch in reality to believe there were those creatures who lived in water?
But the paleontology community had scoffed at the Scotsman’s claims, and her fiancé—rather her former fiancé—had led the charge. He’d even published a paper refuting the find and claiming it as nothing extraordinary. She should have known then that Jeremy was not the right man to marry.
He was narrow-minded and lacked creativity. Thank goodness, she would not be passing those qualities on to any future progeny. Worse still, his ideas were scientifically unsound. In short, he was wrong.
And she intended to use her time in Scotland to prove precisely that.
On the other side of London in a darkened carriage, Niall Ludley, Earl of Camden, took a shuddering breath. “I’m getting close. I know I am. I merely need more time.” His voice shook with anger or fear. He was not certain which.
He was not accustomed to being questioned so. Under normal circumstances, he would be the one in charge. Not only that, but sitting in the darkness unnerved him. He didn’t like being unable to see with whom he was speaking. What kind of man entered into a bargain with someone he didn’t know? A desperate man. A man who had no other option.
“More time,” the man said, his voice completely void of emotion. A crack of a match, then the small flame held to a cigar. A deep inhale, then a puff of smoke. The scent of sweet, spicy tobacco filled the small space. “How much more time?” the man asked.
Niall shook his head, although he knew the man could not see him. “I don’t know. Two weeks. Perhaps longer.” The truth was he had no idea. Hell, he’d been searching for the treasure of Loch Ness for nearly six years, and he still hadn’t found it. Only recently had he discovered that there was another group of caves beneath Urquhart Castle. He’d searched the known ones, but hadn’t been able to get into the ones that reached beyond the fallen rocks that barricaded the rest of the caves.
“I can be a very patient man,” the stranger said. “I inquired a very long time about this particular treasure, and I was told you were the expert, the man who knew the most and had gotten the closest. But my patience only goes so far. I could have done what you’re doing in half the time.”
It was on Niall’s tongue to inquire why he hadn’t. This wasn’t the first time the man had mentioned such a thing. He’d said something very similar on their first meeting. Niall had asked some questions that day and received few answers, and then the man had evaporated as if he’d never been in the room. But he’d said something about how he couldn’t be seen in public anymore, that there was a bounty on his head.
So this was what Niall had been reduced to. Bargaining with a man whose identity he did not know but who was undoubtedly a criminal. Not just bargaining with. Pleading with.
“I will find the treasure. I promise.”
“Of course you will.” Niall could hear a smile in the man’s tone. Not a cheerful, encouraging smile, but a sadistic, cruel smile. “You know the consequences if you don’t.”
“Yes, I know,” Niall said.
“Do you know what they call me?” the stranger asked, then inhaled slowly on the cigar.
“You told me your name was David,” Niall said.
“It is. No one calls me that anymore. I have a much more interesting moniker.” He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees, and Niall got the first glimpse of the man’s face. It was barely an outline, a fraction of a view highlighted only by the lamplight on the street outside. It was then that Niall noticed the pistol encased in his left hand. “My associates call me The Raven.”
Niall’s blood ran to ice, and his hands clenched into fists. He had heard the name on more than one occasion. At Solomon’s. Other members had had run-ins with a man known as The Raven, a ruthless treasure hunter that had a proclivity for theft, blackmail, kidnapping, and murder. Niall tried to keep his breathing under control. Panic would not save his wife and son. He had to be strong for them, keep his temper under control, and do whatever this bastard wanted so he could get his family back.
Graeme Langford swirled his glass of scotch as he listened to Fredrick Rigby regale him with the story of how he found the ancient scrolls of some obscure Byzantine king. Graeme took a sip of scotch, then rolled his eyes. As he stretched his legs out in front of him, the wool of his trousers felt heavy and oppressive against his skin. He knew it was time to go to Scotland. He was feeling the need to don his kilt and walk on the Highlands.
It had never been his intention to join the ranks of Solomon’s Legend Hunters, but when the invitation had come, he’d readily accepted. Most of the time, he enjoyed his association with the club, as the majority of the men were good blokes. But there were a scattered few who were just plain peculiar.
Nick Callum caught his glance from across the table and gave him a look of pure exasperation. Nick leaned forward and set down his glass, then laid his head on the table. Graeme swallowed a smile. Whenever Rigby was in the club, no one could have a conversation of their own. The damned bastard spoke so loudly and addressed the room like an assembly so everyone was privy to his stories.
“He’s never going to shut up,” Nick said.
“Move to the main room?” Graeme suggested.
“Definitely,” Nick said as he came to his feet.
When they entered the main room, Graeme immediately saw Max Barrett, Fielding Grey, and the newest Solomon’s member, Justin Salinger, seated at a table. He and Nick made their way over. Nick turned his chair around to straddle it.
Graeme watched his friend. “It’s a compulsion with you to be different.”
Nick cursed Graeme in response, then gave him a toothy grin.
“Children,” Max said with feigned annoyance.
It was much quieter in the main room despite the number of people. Once Rigby realized the larger crowd was in this room, he’d move in here. If they wanted to have a conversation, they’d have to do it fast. “How goes the Atlantis search?” Graeme asked Max.
Max shrugged. “New research of late, but I’m not certain it will lead to anything.”
“He got shot,” Justin added from behind his hand.
“Not the first time,” Fielding said.
Max laughed. “I forgot I told you that story.”
“It was a woman that shot him,” Justin said with a smirk.
Max had a way of getting himself into trouble. The fact that it had been with a woman didn’t surprise Graeme in the least.
“Who was it this time?” Fielding asked.
“What the devil, Salinger, if you tell all my bloody secrets, I’ll tell yours,” Max said.
“Hello, darling,” Esme Grey said as she swooped down to kiss Fielding’s cheek.
Graeme had been of assistance to both of them when they’d gotten into some trouble with Pandora’s box, not to mention a well-known criminal who happened to be Fielding’s uncle. There were those that didn’t believe either one of the Greys should have been granted admittance into the club, but Graeme hadn’t been one of them. Fielding had almost single-handedly saved the crown, and though Esme was the only female member of Solomon’s, she was smart and as much an authority on their subject as he was on his.
Nick swiped a chair for her from an adjoining table.
“Thank you,” she said as she sat next to her husband.
“Did you spend all of our money?” Fielding asked.
“Perhaps,” she said sweetly. Then she began pilfering through her shopping bag. “I know you will all be delighted to know I have purchased a new pair of gloves,” she placed them on the table, “a new hat,”—again, it went onto the table—“and some fancy face crème.” She set the jar down as well.
“I knew if we allowed a woman in our midst, she’d start bringing in fancy-smelling whatnots,” Nick said dramatically.
“I’ll have you know that none of this is for here. This is all for me,” Esme said emphatically.
Max grabbed the jar of facial crème.
“See there, you’ve already ruined Lindberg,” Nick said.
Max shook his head. “Did you buy this at the little shop in Piccadilly Square?”
“Yes,” she said with a slight frown. “A friend suggested it, said it’s all the rage right now. It’s supposed to remove unwanted lines from one’s face.” She smiled. “Perhaps we’ll use some on you right here.” She rubbed the skin between Fielding’s brows.
He swatted at her hand. “Those lines make me look distinguished. Otherwise I’d be just as pretty as Nick here.”
“Why do you ask?” Esme turned to Max.
“I had the opportunity to meet Miss Tobias recently,” he said.
“Isn’t she utterly charming and so beautiful?” Esme asked.
“Charming and beautiful?” Justin asked. “You never mentioned that.”
“So she’s the lass who shot you?” Graeme asked. He laughed at his friend.
Excerpted from Treasure Me by DeHart, Robyn Copyright © 2011 by DeHart, Robyn. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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